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Comics A.M. | ‘Jihad Jane’ faces lengthy sentence for cartoonist murder plot

Colleen LaRose

Colleen LaRose

Crime | Federal prosecutors are seeking a lengthy prison term for Colleen LaRose, who was convicted, along with two other people, in a foiled 2009 plot to kill Lars Vilks, a Swedish cartoonist who drew a caricature of the Prophet Mohammed. LaRose, who goes by the online name “Jihad Jane,” could face a life sentence, but as she assisted U.S. authorities with several terrorism investigations, they are merely asking that she spend “decades” behind bars. LaRose’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for Monday; her co-conspirator, Mohammad Hasan Khalid, will be sentenced on Tuesday. [The Guardian]

Creators | Neil Gaiman, who maintains a highly visible presence on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr — he has 1.8 million followers on Twitter alone — is taking a six-month “sabbatical” from social media to focus on his writing. “I feel that I’m getting too dependent on phones, on Twitter,” said Gaiman, who began blogging in 2001. “It’s a symbiotic relationship. That instant ability to find things out, to share. I want to see what happens when I take some time off.” [The Guardian]

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Comics A.M. | Rare comic goes on display at Ohio store

Detective Dan: Secret Operative No. 48

Detective Dan: Secret Operative No. 48

Comics | Rupp’s Comics in Fremont, Ohio, will display a rare comic this weekend as part of the store’s 22nd-anniversary celebration: Detective Dan: Secret Operative No. 48, published in 1933, is the first comic book to contain a single original story (as opposed to several strips, or a compilation of reprints from newspapers). The new format was not an immediate success, and the series was canceled after just one issue. [The News-Messenger]

Creators | It’s old but it’s good: The Comics Journal dips into the archives for a 1989 interview with Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson. [The Comics Journal]

Creators | John Porcellino reflects on 25 years of King-Cat Comics. [du9]

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Bitstrips, aka those annoying DIY comics invading Facebook

Bitstrips-Corey-Robot6

And the Eisner for Best Bitstrip goes to…

Comics are truly entering the mainstream: They’ve become an annoying Facebook app.

Bitstrips allows its 20 million users to create comic strips of themselves as status updates, with a friend or as a greeting car; they can then be shared via the Facebook app or the new mobile app. And no, “20 million” is not a typo. Potentially some 20 million people are interacting with the language of comics in a way  most never do – trying to create and clearly tell a story. Sure, that story is usually the equivalent of an inane status update, and “creating” is used very liberally here, as users choose from a finite number of backgrounds and settings that they customize.

Despite looking like a cross between Bratz dolls and Wii avatars (ie, bright and garish, squarely aimed at pre-teens), Bitstrips sprung forth from a comic artist. According to Know Your Memes, the mysterious Ba (surname unknown) was tired of re-drawing characters for a comics project, so he created a system where he could re-use customized characters and settings instead of drawing them from scratch every time. He teamed up with four other guys — graphic designers and comic fans — and launched Bitstrips at the 2008 South By Southwest in Austin. Bitstrips for Schools launched soon after as an educational tool, but things didn’t start to take off until 2011, when they caught the attention of Cartoon Network.

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The Fifth Color | Comic connectivity and you

Captain Marvel #17Here I am, like so many of you fine, wonderful people, relaxing at home instead of walking among the majestic masses of Comic-Con International in San Diego. Comic Book Resources and Robot 6 are keeping we homebodies abreast of all the news from this year’s mega-super-hyper event, so it’s kind of nice to be able to sit in a comfortable chair while still keeping informed and not having to pay $9 for a burrito.

Sure, it’d be nice to be there, wouldn’t it? To stand in line and take your chance at a microphone to tell the House of Ideas your opinion, ask questions of your favorite creative teams and get attention from the editorial team? Good news! That’s what social media can do for you! We live in an amazing time where a tweet to your favorite artist could be replied to with casual familiarity or a Tumblr post could get you a sneak peek at exclusive artwork. Marvel Executive Editor Tom Brevoort has a Formspring account (now moved to Tumblr here) so you can ask him any question at any time of night. The people who produce comics are surprisingly at the hands of their public, which for Marvel, isn’t that new of an idea.

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SDCC ’13 | Bennett & Guinan on digital debut of ‘Heartbreakers’

Heartbreakers #1

Heartbreakers #1

Writer Anina Bennett and artist Paul Guinan join the Monkeybrain Comics line with today’s digital re-release of first episode of their creator-owned Heartbreakers, which originally appeared in Dark Horse Presents #35 in 1989.

The sci-fi adventure has gathered has gathered a growing following over the years, and as it turns out Monkeybrain Co-Publisher Chris Roberson is one of those longtime fans.

Bennett and Guinan spoke with ROBOT 6 about the history and influence of Heartbreakers, its digital debut, and why they partnered with Monkeybrain. To learn how real-world events helped to change the direction of Heartbreakers makes me even more interested to see how Bennett and Guinan plan to observe the comic’s 25th anniversary next year.

If you’re attending Comic-Con International in San Diego, be sure to visit Bennett and Guinan in Artists Alley at Booth CC-01.

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Grumpy Old Fan | ‘B&B,’ and bridging the fan/pro divide

The great stone face

The great stone face

After four installments, Comic Book Resources’ monthly “B&B” feature, in which DC Comics Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras and Editorial Director Bobbie Chase answered questions from readers and CBR’s Josie Campbell, is no more. Jerry Ordway’s work situation, and controversies generally, were apparently to blame. Of course, DC is free not to participate in such things, and CBR is likewise free to investigate such controversies on its own. Still, the whole thing only highlights the problems DC has had in connecting successfully with fans.

Now, it may be more accurate to say DC has had problems connecting successfully with fans who are vocal about their negative opinions of the company. For all I know, DC may be quite popular with whatever audience it has targeted. Regardless, despite its constant PR presence, today’s DC seems a lot more guarded than it has been; and I think that can only hurt it in the long run.

Ironically, part of the problem is the corporate-comics news cycle. Each week’s worth of DC books has a couple of promotional features, namely the “All Access” editorial and the new “Channel 52″ two-pager. Beyond that (and probably more frequently than once a week) the company issues press releases and facilitates interviews for various news sites. Furthermore, each month’s solicitations advertise what’s coming out at least two months in the future; and during convention season the company can manage its particular messages in person. That’s a lot of information for a company whose bread and butter come from a few dozen monthly 20-page story installments.

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So you’re considering sending a death threat to a comic creator …

Amazing Spider-Man #700 Marcos Martin Cover

Amazing Spider-Man #700 - This Too Shall Pass

I love comic books, too. They’re awesome. I get plenty worked up sometimes about what goes on in the pages of my favorite books because they’re not doing it right! I get it. I’ve devoted countless hours to these characters. Heck, I’m the guy who ran a New Warriors fan site for years, tracking the chronological order of every random appearance, no matter how minor. And I did it completely without irony! So I get the emotional investment we have for these characters.

I also get how fun it is to use social networks. I use Facebook a lot, and Twitter, too, and it’s easy to get riled about something you see posted there. There’s no ‘dislike’ button to click so sometimes you just have to vent. And sometimes it feels like a regular old “how could you?!” just isn’t enough, that it just doesn’t get across how deeply you disagree with a plot development.

Regardless, none of that justifies sending threats. Dan Slott has received some extreme reactions to the leaked details of The Amazing Spider-Man #700 that go so far beyond normal fan griping that I wondered just what could’ve provoked such a backlash. So I reviewed the leaked information, and I have to say my response was, “That’s it?

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Kelly Sue DeConnick is writing a comic for you to draw

Collaboration

The writer of Captain Marvel and Ghost explains the whole story on her blog — and you should read it because it’s very sweet and she tells it much better than I’m going to — but the digest version is this: This year at Heroes Con, Kelly Sue DeConnick met a young girl named Winter who likes to draw ninjas. When Winter declared that she and DeConnick should make a ninja comic together, the writer agreed, for reasons the writer explains in her post. Seriously, go read it.

It’s a wonderful story, but it doesn’t end there. DeConnick is going to write the story a panel at a time and will tweet the descriptions with the hashtag #winterstale. That’s how Winter will get her instructions, but it’s also how you can get yours, because she and DeConnick are opening the project up to anyone who wants to join in. You, your kids, your parents, whoever. Simply reply to any #winterstale panel description with a twitpic or a link to your drawing and DeConnick will repost them to the Winter’s Tales Tumblr page. If you don’t have a Twitter account and don’t want one, you can play along via Tumblr instead.

DeConnick’s plan is to print her and Winter’s comic as a “punkzine style” minicomic to sell at next year’s HeroesCon, with all proceeds going to Winter’s college fund. If you turn your own pages into a minicomic, she’ll swap with you.

If you’d like to know a bit more about what you’ll be drawing, they’re calling the comic Ninja Princess Zombie Rockstar and, per Winter’s drawing interests, will fill it with the following:

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Creators, fans redraw classic manga

Panels by "Naruto" creator Masashi Kishimoto (left), and "JoJo's Bizarre Adventure" creator Hirohiko Araki

Ordinary fans, voice actors and famous manga-ka are all taking part in a unique social-media event in Japan: They are redrawing individual panels from Yasuhisu Hara’s historical manga Kingdom to promote the upcoming television anime adaptation. A number of well-known creators, including Masashi Kishimoto (Naruto) and Eiichiro Oda (One Piece), are taking part in the project, but anyone with a Twitter or Facebook account can join in. More than 1,000 panels are being redrawn, and the organizers of the project, which has been dubbed “Social Kingdom,” plan to submit it to the Guinness Book of World Records as the manga created by the most people.

Steve Niles looks for artist, hints at new project

Writer and champion of creator-owned comics Steve Niles is using Twitter and other social media to find an artist to partner with on his next big project. He describes it as an historical drama about the Romans, druids and one of the greatest women warriors in history, so he’s looking for a professional-level artist who can draw historically accurate armor and action. Those interested can send submissions to him at steve@steveniles.com.

Alhough he’s being understandably close with the details, the setting and mention of an historical woman warrior suggest that the story could be about Boudicca, the Celtic warrior queen who led an uprising against the Romans around AD 60. IDW announced a Queen Boudicca comic by Niles and the artist known as Milx back in 2003, but it was never published. I’m just speculating, but perhaps this is a new attempt to bring that to life? If so — actually, even if it’s not — it sounds awesome.

Talking Comics with Tim | Paul Maybury

D.O.G.S. of Mars

Artist Paul Maybury‘s latest collaboration (with writers Johnny Zito and Tony Trov), D.O.G.S. of Mars, is poised to be released on May 2 by Image. This 120-page/$15.99 story, pitting Captain Zoe and the Mars Base Bowie crew (at Earth’s first Martian colony) against nocturnal monsters, marked Maybury’s return to long-form work since 2008′s Aqua Leung (and was originally released digitally by Comixology in 2011). We discuss it–and he was kind enough to share some preview pages (as well as video showing his process inking some of the pages). After you read this interview, be sure to check out the interview that my Robot 6 boss, JK Parkin, did with the creative team, back in January 2011.

Tim O’Shea: This project originated on Comixology back in January 2011–was it always important to you to see it released in the traditional sense (via Image) or would you have been fine if it had remained as a digital release only?

Paul Maybury: It was definitely a personal goal of mine. I think Comixology is a great format, but it’s definitely hard to stand out under the creator-owned section. There had been talk about going with another publisher that was cautiously approaching the idea, but wasn’t completely sold. Somewhere around the release of issue three I decided to send a pdf copy out to a few trusted people and one of them was Erik Larsen over at Image. I wasn’t really looking to get it published over there, but Erik really took the time to set me back up with Stephenson, who I hadn’t spoken to in a few years. In the end it feels pretty comfortable as Image has been publishing my work here and there since the Belle and Sebastian anthology back in 2004.

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Comics A.M. | Marvel, DC join Google+; Susie Cagle on her arrest

Google+

Publishing | Marvel and DC Comics are among the first companies to join Google+ as a part of the Google + Pages initiative, along with other early adopters like the WWE, Angry Birds, The Muppets and Pepsi. Companies that initially joined Google+ back when it first launched had their accounts shut down as Google worked on “building a similarly optimized business experience for Google+” like they had for individuals. Google+ Pages launched yesterday. [The Source, Marvel.com]

Creators | Cartoonist Susie Cagle shares her account of being arrested last week during Occupy Oakland. [AlterNet]

Digital | Digital comics distributor iVerse Media has received a $4 million private-equity investment for the expansion of marketing and product development for its Comics+ app. [TechCrunch]

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What not to do on Facebook

This is not the Kodansha Comics Facebook Page

Some manga publishers do social media very well. Others don’t. Kodansha Comics took forever to even put up a website (and the one they have is pretty bare-bones—I think they just added a “News” section this week), and they told fans at San Diego Comic-Con that they expected to have Facebook and Twitter accounts by the end of the year—hardly an ambitious schedule. So an impatient fan has done it for them, creating a Kodansha USA fan page on Facebook, complete with logo and the note “I’m hoping if we can make a good fan page it will inspire the real Kodansha Comics USA will make one for them self.”

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Comics A.M. | Superheroes’ big-screen struggle for diversity; Z-Cult FM returns

Green Lantern

Movies | National Public Radio commentator John Ridley critiques Hollywood for being even less diverse than the Big Two when it comes to diversity in lead characters, and demolishes their blame-the-audience theory that white people won’t go to see a movie with a black lead by pointing to a study by Indiana University professor Andrew Weaver: “Weaver found that white audiences tended to be racially selective with regard to romantic movies, but not necessarily when it came to other genres. So, sorry, Hollywood. You can’t blame it on the ticket buyers.” [NPR]

Piracy | Comic-book torrent tracker Z-Cult FM, which was threatened with legal action by Marvel in 2007 and eventually shut down in 2009, has re-opened its virtual doors. [Facebook]

Creators | Becky Cloonan talks about the joys and the hardships of being a full-time comics creator: “Comics are hard work. Comics are relentless. Comics will break your heart. Comics are monetarily unsatisfying. Comics don’t offer much in terms of fortune and glory, but comics will give you complete freedom to tell the stories you want to tell, in ways unlike any other medium. Comics will pick you up after it knocks you down. Comics will dust you off and tell you it loves you. And you will look into its eyes and know it’s true, that you love comics back.” [Becky Cloonan: Comics or STFU]

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Talking Comics with Tim | Lance Sells

Thwipster

Social media and e-commerce is ever-evolving as all of us can easily attest. In the past month or so, I became aware of Thwipster, an online enterprise with the slogan “Daily Deals for your Inner Geek.” The enterprise describes itself as follows: “At the core of Thwipster is a daily deal website that offers a little bit of everything for the person who loves their geek culture. Simply put, it is the daily deal site for your inner geek. We are striving to make Thwipster a destination that will make your quest to score the world’s finest graphic novels, toys, games and assorted geek culture items a more rewarding experience in a multitude of ways. We are also taking a very hands on approach to the selection of the materials we sell, so you can trust us to provide only the highest quality geek culture related items.” To better grasp the game plan for Thwipster, I recently caught up with Lance Sells, co-founder and director of Thwipster. In addition to discussing Thwipster, we also delve into his work in motion graphic novels (via Motherland).

Tim O’Shea: How did you initially conceive of Thwipster and how long was it in development before it launched?

Lance Sells: My brother Chad and I would talk on the phone and he would consistently bring up his thoughts about opening a comic store down in his area. He’s someone that goes to his local comic shop to hang out and talk where I’m someone who orders mainly online and have a pretty big interest in startups and technology. So from there we merged our interests, buying habits and tastes and came up with this idea to do a Daily Deal for geek stuff with a strong focus on graphic novels. As far as development time it was pretty fast from concept to launch. We talked mid-February and launched late April so it was about 10 weeks from idea to fruition.

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