When you go to your local store (or digital provider) you’ll find that nearly all of the comics are lettered using a computer. That’s obvious, right? But there are a relative few creators who still prefer, and advocate, hand-lettering to digital methods, and one of those is Image Comics co-founder and Savage Dragon creator Erik Larsen.
With very few exceptions, every issue of his Savage Dragon series for the past 20 years has been hand-lettered by Chris Eliopoulos, Tom Orzechowski or Larsen himself. But recently on Twitter, Larsen began talking about a switch to digital lettering — and for those attuned to the craft, that’s something major. So we asked him for more information.
“In this case it was simply timing,” Larsen told ROBOT 6. “Tom Orzechowski was booked.”
While that might seem trivial, the central point Larsen had is that the time involved — inked pages are shipped to the letterer and then shipped back once lettering is complete — was adding a significant wrinkle to Savage Dragon‘s production schedule. With digital inking, you can send the files to the letterer in a matter of minutes (depending on your scanner and Internet bandwidth), with the production time for a letterer drastically reduced by the use of a computer.
There’s more to superheroes than those residing at Marvel and DC Comics. Sure, they might dominate the market, but that doesn’t mean they’re by default the best.
Outside the realms of the Big Two, superheroes are thriving on the more independently minded scene. From a mixture of throwback superheroics to off-beat adventures, and even some superheroes who are willing to go where DC and Marvel wouldn’t let their own properties, there’s a cornucopia out there for readers. And now, we’re spotlighting six standouts in that superhero mix in this week’s “Six by 6.”
After launching its Long Box skateboard line last month with an Erik Larsen-illustrated Savage Dragon deck, Freak Show has announced the addition of an Atomic Robo design by co-creator Scott Wegener. They’ll ship in mid-September, with the company offering a limited number of decks signed by Wegener and his Atomic Robo collaborator Brian Clevinger.
Unsigned Savage Dragon decks sell for $59.99, plus $5 shipping; presumably it’s the same price for Atomic Robo.
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly look at the comics, books and other things we’ve read this week. Today our special guest is Jason Green.
Jason Green is the editor of comics coverage for the St. Louis-based pop culture website PLAYBACK:stl, and a writer and editor for the comics collective Ink and Drink Comics, whose fourth release (a Western anthology titled Off the Wagon) will debut at this year’s C2E2.
To see what Jason and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of Image Comics, the company formed by a group of artists who left the security of work-for-hire comics to create and own their own comics. It’s been 20 years of ups and downs, but one thing that has remained consistent is a focus on creator-owned work.
With 2011 in the history books and their big anniversary kicking off with the first Image Expo, a new ad campaign and high-profile series by big-name creators like Brian K. Vaughan, Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, Jonathan Hickman, Nick Spencer and many more, I thought it was a good time to chat with Publisher Eric Stephenson about the state of the company, the year that was, their upcoming plans and anything else he was willing to talk about. My thanks to Eric for taking the time to answer my questions.
JK Parkin: Thanks for agreeing to do this interview, Eric. Incidentally, another feature we’re running as a part of our anniversary bash is one where we asked various comic industry folks about what they’re looking forward to in 2012. I got one back yesterday where the answer was basically “everything from Image Comics.” I find that interesting, because there’s a lot of diversity in Image’s line and although I think you guys probably publish something for every kind of taste, I wouldn’t think that every title would appeal to every comic reader. And yet I also find myself checking out at least the first issue of everything you guys have done lately. So from your perspective, what’s the unifying factor (or factors) right now among your titles, if there is one?
Stephenson: I think the main thing is that we’re moving forward and creating new things. We’re not content to just recycle the same old ideas month in and month out and then market it all as brand new. If this was another publisher, we’d be debuting our latest spin-off of The Walking Dead in March, but instead, we’re launching a new series by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, a new series by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra, a new series by Joe Keatinge and Andre Szymanowicz, and so on. For 20 years, Image has put its faith in creative people, and it’s the power of their imagination that links all our titles together, now more than ever.
I’ve been friendly with Joe Keatinge dating back to his days managing PR & marketing for Image Comics. When it was revealed back in October that Extreme Studios was relaunching the line–with Keatinge writing Glory (with Ross Campbell on art), I started generating questions for an interview. In addition to discussing Glory (which relaunches with Glory #23 on February 15, 2012), Keatinge opens up about Hell Yeah (Image), his creator-owned collaboration with artist/co-creator Andre Szymanowicz that premieres on March 7, 2012, as well as another upcoming 2012 project, Brutal, in collaboration with artist Frank Cho. My thanks to Keatinge for this email interview. After reading this piece, be sure to check out CBR’s Joe Keatinge coverage for more insight into the busy writer’s upcoming work.
Tim O’Shea: Did Rob Liefeld approach you to work on the Glory relaunch? Was Ross Campbell already committed to the project when you joined?
Joe Keatinge: While Rob was certainly involved with the process, I was actually approached by Image Comics Publisher and Extreme Editor, Eric Stephenson, almost a year ago now. At the time they had nailed down the idea of the line and I believe a couple of the other books may have had writers, but it was still in the very early stages. After that was the process of giving a quick pitch, which was virtually instantaneous to Eric asking if I wanted to do it, to developing a longer pitch, to Eric and I bringing Brandon Graham on board for Prophet, to discussing Glory with Brandon, to Brandon suggesting Ross Campbell, to seeing Ross’ amazing work and me asking him if he wanted to come on board. He did a few samples which blew away both Eric and Rob. We’ve been working on it ever since.
Welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading. JK Parkin is off in San Diego trying to get that Elvis Stormtrooper’s autograph, so I’ll be your host today. Our special guest this week is George O’Connor.
O’Connor is probably best known as the author of the ongoing Olympians series of graphic novels, which attempt to retell classic Greek myths (the latest, Hera, just came out from First Second). He’s also the author of such books as Journey Into Mowhawk Country and the children’s picture book Kapow, as well as the artist of Ball Peen Hammer, which was written by Adam Rapp.
To see what George and the rest of the Robot 6 crew have been reading …
Never one to shy away from politics or controversy, Erik Larsen will bring Osama bin Laden back from the dead as an irradiated giant green monster in October’s Savage Dragon #177.
It seems that after the body of the al-Qaida founder was dropped into the ocean from the U.S.S. Carl Vinson, it came into contact with radiation, bringing the terrorist to life and transforming him into a literal monster — Godzilla-like, even — hellbent on destroying America. Unless Dragon’s children Malcolm and Angel can stop him.
“Radiation is the cure-all. You get some of that stuff and life is good. In the real world, you get diarrhea and your hair falls out. But in comics — boom! — you’re brought right back to life,” Larsen tells USA Today. “”There’s not really going to be anybody going, ‘Whoa, don’t hit him!’ He’s kind of a (jerk), let’s throw that out there.”
Savage Dragon has famously featured appearances by Hitler, former presidents George W. Bush and George Bush, candidate Barack Obama, President Obama, and even God and the Devil. But is five months a little too soon to bring back bin Laden? Larsen fully expects some criticism.
“It’s not like this is ancient history and we’re looking at pictures and most of the people are dead and gone,” he tells the newspaper. “This guy did evil crap recently.”
Publishing | Marvel’s Fear Itself #1 topped Diamond Comic Distributors’ April charts with an estimated 128,595 copies, the highest monthly sales for a comic since X-Men #1 surpassed 140,000 copies nine months ago. Retail news and analysis site ICv2 sees the strong debut of that crossover and the performance of DC’s Flashpoint prequels as signs “that this summer’s big events may be able to reverse the downward sales trend in the first quarter of 2011.”
Retailing | The bankrupt Borders Group reportedly has been unable to find a buyer for its entire business, which could signal the end of the second-largest book chain in the United States. The company filed for bankruptcy protection in February, and is closing about one-third of its locations. [Detroit Free Press]
After a stellar run as the back-up story in Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon, the Michel Fiffe-edited series Twisted Savage Dragon Funnies is making its way toward the bookshelf with a collection that boasts some amazing extras.
The collected Twisted Savage Dragon Funnies is scheduled to hit this July as an over-sized 144 page book, collecting all 12 back-up stories as well as some new material from the likes of Tom Scioli, Jim Rugg, Jasen Lex, Paul Maybury, Zack Soto and others.
If you missed it in singles, this collection is worth a flip through. You have to admire Larsen’s agreeance to allow Fiffe and his team of creators to do this liberal a take on his characters. It really allows each of them to play to their strengths, and wish more creator-owned cartoonists would consider giving over the reins of their characters like this.
Welcome to What Are You Reading?, where we talk about what comics and other stuff we’ve been reading lately.
Today’s special guest is Joe Keatinge, writer and co-creator of the upcoming Image comic Brutal with Frank Cho. He’s also the writer of the final “Twisted Savage Dragon Funnies” installment in April’s Savage Dragon #171, drawn by Savage Dragon creator Erik Larsen, Billy Dogma’s Dean Haspiel, Nikolai Dante’s Simon Fraser, Parade (With Fireworks)’s Mike Cavallaro, The Transmigration of Ultra Lad’s Joe Infurnari, Fahrenheit 451: The Authorized Adaptation’s Tim Hamilton and Olympians’ George O’Connor. He’s also executive editor of the PopGun anthology, he’s got an ongoing series coming soon that he can’t say anything else about and with his fellow studio members at Tranquility Base, regularly beats up on 13 year olds at laser tag.
To see what Joe and the Robot 6 crew have been reading lately, click below.
This weekend’s HeroesCon will feature an art auction, and artist Jim Rugg is showing off his submission — featuring everyone from Lobo and Hellboy to the friggin’ Road Warriors — on his blog.
On an unrelated note, why the hell do I not have this convention in my travel plans every year?
Conventions | A labor union that represents hotel workers embroiled in a fight with Disney hotels has warned organizers of Comic-Con International that if they move the convention to Anaheim, they could find their “future events caught in the middle of a bitter labor dispute that could jeopardize their success.” Unite Here Local 11 has been been in a standoff with Disney over the company’s proposal to increase the amount hotel workers contribute to health-insurance coverage to a level that would represent a week’s pay for employees who make $11 an hour. [LA Weekly]
Passings | Mark Evanier reports that Howard “Howie” Post, a mainstay of comics and animation, passed away last week, reportedly due to Alzheimer’s. He was 83. He wrote and illustrated funny-animal comics for DC beginning in the 1940s, and is often credited with helping to create Spooky, Hot Stuff the Little Devil and other characters for Harvey Comics. He worked for Marvel in the 1950s and again in the ’80s, drawing titles like Heathcliff and Strawberry Shortcake for the publisher’s Star kids line. Post also created the comic strip The Dropouts, which was syndicated from 1968 to 1981. [News from ME]
DC had Bizarro Comics, Marvel had Strange Tales, and now Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon has secured an alternative comics-style tribute of his very own. Starting with May’s Issue 160, Savage Dragon will run a series of “Twisted Savage Dragon Funnies” back-up strips by an array of indie cartoonists. The project is spearheaded by Act-I-Vate‘s Michel Fiffe, and the full line-up for the first year or so — including Vito Delsante and Rachel Freire, Hyeondo Park, Andrew Dimitt and more — can be found on the blog of contributor Chris Sinderson.
Fiffe’s press release is below:
Artist Joe Infurnari shares some artwork he did for a back-up story that’ll appear in an upcoming issue of Savage Dragon.
“It’s my contribution to a story written by Joe Keatinge and illustrated by Mike Cavallaro, Simon Fraser, Tim Hamilton, Dean Haspiel, George O’Connor and the man himself, Erik Larsen,” he says on his blog. “Fans will recognize Caveman Dragon and Dino Dragon featured prominently. Other incarnations will appear on other pages. It’s all part of a series of backups featuring indie cartoonists edited by comics scholar and genius, Michel Fiffe. Keep your eyes peeled!”