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Reminder: ‘Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle’ airs tonight

pbs-superheroes

It’s been a while since the announcement, and subsequent postponement, of Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle, so it’s worth noting that the documentary will air tonight on PBS as part of a three-hour block of programming called simply “Superheroes Night.”

Hosted by X-Men Origins: Wolverine actor Liev Schreiber, the documentary by Michael Kantor feature interviews with the likes of Stan Lee, Adam West, Lynda Carter, Michael Chabon, Jules Feiffer and the late Joe Simon and Jerry Robinson, and chronicles how comic books “were subject to intense government scrutiny for their influence on American children and how they were created in large part by the children of immigrants whose fierce loyalty to a new homeland laid the foundation for a multibillion-dollar industry that is an influential part of our national identity.”

You can read a description of the three one-hour episodes below. Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle premieres tonight at 8 ET/PT on PBS.

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Comics A.M. | Dark Horse turns to Random House for bookstores

Dark Horse

Dark Horse

Publishing | This may seem a little inside-baseball, but it’s actually pretty significant: Dark Horse will switch from Diamond Book Distributors to Random House for book-market distribution, effective June 1, 2014. The publisher is sticking with Diamond for comics, but a lot of its line has appeal outside the direct market — the Avatar graphic novels, the Zelda guide — and Dark Horse wants to expand its presence in bookstores. This also makes for an interesting consolidation of manga distribution, as Random House also distributes Kodansha Comics (with which it has a strong business relationship) and Vertical books. [ICv2]

Comics | Superheroes may rule on television and in film, but comics continue to be a niche medium. The Associated Press reporter Melissa Rayworth talks to a comic-shop owner whose customers skulk in on the down low, an opera singer whose friends are surprised she reads comics, and Comics Alliance writer Chris Sims, who does a good job of putting things in perspective. [ABC]

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The leaders aren’t leading

batman-and-ironmanAfter the last week or so of “We don’t publish comics for kids” and “[Depicting rape] is the same as, like, a decapitation” and “comics follow society, they don’t lead society,” among other chestnuts, I’ve been thinking about the mentality and philosophy that produces those positions, and how it reflects on the state of comics.

Reading those quotes in a vacuum, you would think the last 10 to 20 years of progress in comics never happened. They did, of course; it’s just not easy to tell sometimes.

All of the creators involved in the unfortunate remarks come from the so-called “mainstream” of comic books. While Todd McFarlane and Mark Miller are more well-known for their creator-owned comics, they still play within the superhero genre primarily defined by DC and Marvel comics to the majority of the populace. They may not be actively steering mainstream comics these days, but many of the actions of those that do reinforce the same disappointing opinions. There are plenty of beacons of hope in nearly every other sector of the industry, and even a scattered few pinpricks of light within the superhero mainstream, but the makers of our highest-profile genre are still holding back the slowly improving public perception of comic books.

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Batman tops YouTube’s list of most popular superheroes

Adam West In 'Batman'

Despite competition from cinematic upstarts like Iron Man, Wolverine and Captain America, Batman reigns as the most popular superhero on YouTube, with more than 3 billion views of a staggering 71,000 hours of video. But the character at No. 2 may surprise fans, and undoubtedly please Marvel Studios. Verily.

That’s according to research released today by the video-sharing website as part of its “Geek Week” celebration. The breakdown is based on keyword searches since 2008 for everything from film trailers to fan originals to video-game play.

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Comics A.M. | Singapore cartoonist apologizes, charges dropped

Leslie Chew cartoon

Leslie Chew cartoon

Legal | Singapore cartoonist Leslie Chew apologized today for four comic strips that were formerly posted on his Facebook page Demon-Cratic Singapore. In a statement released by his lawyers, Chew said, “I accept that (the) comic strips had misrepresented to the public that the Singapore Judiciary administers differential treatment to individuals based on their nationality, social status and political affiliation, and that there have been specific criminal cases in which decisions were made by the Singapore judiciary on the basis of the above factors rather than on the merits.” In light of the apology, and the fact that the strips have been taken down, the Attorney-Generals Chambers has dropped contempt of court charges against Chew. The cartoonist was also charged with sedition in April, but those charges have been dropped as well. [Straits Times]

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Talking Comics with Tim | Joshua Williamson on ‘Captain Midnight’

Captain Midnight 1

Captain Midnight 1

Dark Horse has been making a concerted effort over the past year to develop its superhero line, with titles like Ghost, X and The Victories. On Wednesday, the lineup expands further with the launch of the Captain Midnight ongoing series, written by Joshua Williamson and illustrated by Fernando Dagnino.

I can’t help but be excited by the potential appeal for this new series, which throws the World War II scientist-hero into the present day — particularly after Williamson praised James Robinson’s Starman: ”It’s one of the few books that — it made me cry.” My cautious optimism for the series was cemented in the midst of my interview with the writer, when he said of the Dark Horse superhero approach: “There is a subtle way to handle the superhero universe, and that’s what Dark Horse is doing.”

Once you’ve read the interview, be sure to enjoy the preview the publisher offered for Captain Midnight #1, on sale Wednesday.

Tim O’Shea: You leap right into the action with Issue 0, in which Captain Midnight lands in the present day, after just having been in the midst of World War II. What does it say about the character that he wasn’t thrown by being flung into the future?

Joshua Williamson: We knew that we wanted to separate Captain Midnight from other time-lost characters and set up two aspects: 1) He was disappointed by the future; 2) He was not surprised by time travel. Midnight was a genius first and a superhero second.

Midnight is a very interesting character in that he is no-nonsense and has such a black-and-white outlook on the world — very matter-of-fact. We wanted to get that across to our readers quickly in the zero issue and found that was the best way to do it.

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PBS chronicles birth, evolution of superheroes in new series

adventues of superman

X-Men Origins: Wolverine actor Liev Schreiber will host the upcoming Superheroes: A Never-Ending Story, the upcoming PBS documentary series examining the dawn of the comic-book genre and the evolution, and impact, of some of the most memorable characters. The show, which premieres Oct. 8, received a sneak peek last week at Comic-Con International in San Diego.

Featuring interviews with the likes of Stan Lee, Adam West, Lynda Carter, Michael Chabon, Jules Feiffer and the late Joe Simon and Jerry Robinson, Superheroes: A Never-Ending Story chronicles how comic books — considered “disposable diversions” — “were subject to intense government scrutiny for their influence on American children and how they were created in large part by the children of immigrants whose fierce loyalty to a new homeland laid the foundation for a multibillion-dollar industry that is an influential part of our national identity.”

On Oct. 1, a week before the premiere, Crown Achetype will release the companion book Superheroes!: Capes, Cowls and the Creation of Comic Book Culture, by series co-write Laurence Maslon.

You can read a description of the three episodes below. Superheroes: A Never-Ending Story premieres Oct. 8 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on PBS.

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Comics A.M. | ‘Superman Unchained’ #1 locks in $1.25M at retail

Superman Unchained #1

Superman Unchained #1

Comics sales | ICv2 reckons that at $4.99 a copy and more than 250,000 copies sold, Scott Snyder and Jim Lee’s Superman Unchained #1 brought in $1.25 million at retail. John Mayo has additional sales analysis at Comic Book Resources. [ICv2]

Creators | Stan Lee shows off his office, which is pretty darn nice. [CNN iReport]

Creators | Writer Steven T. Seagle talks about the genesis of his new graphic novel, Genius, which started with his wife’s revelation that her father was in on one of the secrets of the century. [Hero Complex]

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Comics A.M. | Jeff Robinov to exit Warner Bros. amid shakeup

Jeff Robinov

Jeff Robinov

Business | Following weeks (if not months) of rumblings, Warner Bros. has made it official: Jeff Robinov, the Warner Bros. Pictures Group president who oversaw the 2009 restructuring of DC Comics into DC Entertainment, will leave the studio following a reorganization that establishes a new leadership team: Sue Kroll, president of worldwide marketing and distribution, Greg Silverman, president of creative development and worldwide production, and Toby Emmerich, president and chief operating officer of New Line Cinema. It doesn’t appear as if Robinov will be replaced. DC Entertainment President Diane Nelson, who initially reported Robinov, presumably will answer directly to Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara; following a shakeup last month in the television and home entertainment division, Nelson reported to both Robinov and Tsujihara. [The Hollywood Reporter]

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Comics A.M. | ‘Digital is the newsstand of yesteryear’

Titan Comics digital

Titan Comics digital

Digital comics | Despite all the talk about digital comics lately, Paul Delos Santos finds plenty of ink-on-paper comics, as well as creators and fans, at last weekend’s Amazing Las Vegas Comic-Con. “Digital is the newsstand of yesteryear for people that are new to comics that are discovering that way,” said Ralph Mathieu, owner of Las Vegas’ Alternate Reality Comics. “Then (they are) going to comic stores and getting the physical format.” [Las Vegas Sun]

Superheroes | Looking at the lineup of Marvel and DC Comics adaptations, Frank Hagler argues, “It is far past time for Hollywood to release a comic book movie based on a minority comic book hero where the characters race is central to the theme of the story.” [PolicyMic]

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Comics A.M. | HeroesCon doubles exhibition space

HeroesCon

HeroesCon

Conventions | HeroesCon, which begins Friday in Charlotte, North Carolina, will double in size this year, with the exhibit area increasing from 100,000 to 200,000 square feet. “There’s a whole lot more of everything,” says founder Shelton Drum. Including people? Last year’s convention drew in 17,000 attendees, and Drum thinks this year’s event will attract more newcomers curious about the source material of their favorite movies. [Winston-Salem Journal]

Creators | Peter Bebergal talks with Alan Moore about Jerusalem, magic, comics, and the tendency to conflate gods with superheroes: “It is contrived, because they’re not at all the same. Superheroes are the copyrighted property of big corporations. They are purely commercial entities; they are purely about making a buck. That’s not to say that there haven’t been some wonderful creations in the course of the history of the superhero comic, but to compare them with gods is fairly pointless. Yes, you can make obvious comparisons by saying the golden-age Flash looks a bit like Hermes, as he’s got wings on his helmet, or the golden-age Hawkman looks a bit like Horus because he’s got a hawk head. But this is just to say that comics creators through the decades have taken their inspiration where they can find it. Before I was interested in magic as a viable way of life, I was certainly aware of the occult, and wouldn’t be above taking names or concepts or ideas from the occult.” [The Believer]

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Taiwanese animators recreate Hollywood superhero brawl

civil-war-next-media

If you were left confused this week by reports of a brawl breaking out among costumed heroes on Hollywood Boulevard left you confused — two Captain Americas vs. one Spider-Man? — TomoNews US is on hand to sort things out with a typically absurd animated recreation of events.

If the work looks familiar, it’s because these are the folks at Next Media Animation, the Taiwanese studio that previously brought us such gems as explanations of Miles Morales as the new Spider-Man and the insanity of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. This video isn’t nearly as outlandish as those — sorry, no depictions of a Taiwanese wall-crawler strangling a panda — but it does envision what the fight at the Madame Tussauds kiosk might’ve looked like, complete with blood spurting from an unnerving mouth on Spider-Man’s mask.

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‘Civil War’ breaks out among Hollywood’s costumed heroes

hollywood-civil-war

In retrospect, the Superhuman Registration Act doesn’t seem like such a bad idea after all: First there were reports of assault, and theft, by Spider-Man, and then there was that late-night attack by She-Hulk. Now Civil War has broken out among costumed heroes on the streets of Hollywood.

According to CBS Los Angeles, Spider-Man and two Captain Americas (perhaps one was that crazy Cap from the 1950s) came to blows Wednesday afternoon on Hollywood Boulevard, near the Dolby Theatre. The cause? A turf war among superhero impersonators — who, like their Marvel Universe counterparts, operate with little regulation — and accusations of harassing tourists.

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Preschool bans kids from playing superheroes

Man of Steel

Man of Steel

Once more, it appears, Fredric Wertham may have been right.

For the latest evidence, look no further than a Philadelphia preschool, which has purportedly banned “wrestling, Super Hero play, and Monster games,” because they’re resulting in injury.

Reddit user Oremar posted a May 17 letter (below) brought home by his son that states, “Recently it has come to our attention that the imaginations of our preschool children are becoming dangerously overactive causing injuries within our pre-k community. Although we encourage creative thinking and imaginary play, we do not promote out [sic] children hurting one another. Wrestling, Super Hero play, and Monster games will not be permitted here at [name redacted]. In addition, please monitor the different media that your children may view. The re-enactment of televisions [sic] shows/movies are being done during active paly [sic] times in school.”

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Comics A.M. | Why aren’t there more Canadian superheroes?

The Vindicator

The Vindicator

Superheroes | Writer Jim Zubkavich tackles the burning question of why there are so few Canadian superheroes: “We don’t have a long standing superhero tradition in this country. We don’t have a long-standing focal point character people recognize (I like Captain Canuck, but the average person on the street does not know who he is). We’re not a country galvanized by heavy-duty patriotic pride that lends itself to a Superman, Captain America or even a Batman. We don’t have the kind of rampant crime that ‘needs’ a heroic symbol to fight back against.” [Zub Tales]

Digital comics | The first issue of Mark Millar’s Jupiter’s Legacy sold more than 100,000 copies in stores, but was that because he refused to allow it to be sold in digital format the same day? Steve Bennett is doubtful, because so many people (including himself) didn’t realize until the last minute it would be print-only for now. [ICv2]

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