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Comics A.M. | Alibi witnesses testify in Michael George trial

Legal

Legal | Defense testimony began in the Michael George trial  Monday after the judge denied a motion by the defense to order an acquittal. George’s daughter Tracie testified that she remembers her father sleeping on the couch in his mother’s house the night in 1990 when his first wife Barbara was shot and killed in their Clinton Township, Michigan, comic store. Another defense witness, Douglas Kenyon, told the jury he saw a “suspicious person” in the store that evening and that Barbara George, who waited on him, seemed nervous. [Detroit Free Press]

Conventions | Last weekend’s Alternative Press Expo inspired Deb Aoki to offer a burst of suggestions on Twitter as to how it could be made better. Heidi MacDonald collected the tweets into a single post, and the commenters add some worthwhile points (including not scheduling it opposite the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival, which attracts much of the same audience and is free). [Deb Aoki's Twitter, The Beat]

Awards | Ian Culbard’s adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness won the British Fantasy Award for best comic/graphic novel, presented Saturday by the British Fantasy Society. [The British Fantasy Society]

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R. Kikuo Johnson (finally) announces follow-up to 2005′s Night Fisher

After bursting onto the scene full-formed with 2005′s Night Fisher graphic novel and scooping up the Russ Manning Most Popular Newcomer Award just a year later, it’s taken a while for R. Kikuo Johnson to work up his feature-length follow-up.

But now we know.

Jumping from Fantagraphics to New Yorker art director Françoise Mouly’s Toon books, Johnson is passing off the art chores in favor of writing for artist Trade Loeffler, who drew the Zig & Wiki series for the publisher as well. Details are non-existent on the book itself, but now we know what to look for.

Although it’s been six years since Johnson’s last major book, he’s kept busy doing magazine illustrations and short comics for a variety of outlets including Marvel’s Strange Tales anthology, The New York Times and The Believer.

Carry a Toon (book) in your pocket

Little Mouse Gets Ready, and he teaches French as well!

Toon Books, the early-reader comics imprint helmed by Francoise Mouly, is relaunching three of its iPhone apps: Silly Lilly and the Four Seasons, by Agnes Rosensteihl; Jack and the Box, by Art Spiegelman, and Little Mouse Gets Ready, by Jeff Smith. Yes, you can get comics by the creators of Maus and Bone for free! All are worth a look on their own merits, and they also make an excellent distraction should you find yourself in the company of bored, fidgety children.

Of course, the free app is just the start—as soon as you open it up, you get the option to purchase an audio version in English or a variety of other languages.

I looked over the Little Mouse app, and it looked good, although the automated page turns are a little disconcerting. (You can turn that off from the start menu but not once you are reading the book.) All three books were originally published in a landscape format so they fit nicely on the screen, and the resolution is good even when blown up to double size for the iPad. And compared to $12.95 for the hardcovers, the free app is a steal.

“This doesn’t exist, but I can make it happen”: Françoise Mouly explains it all

To paraphrase Mary McCarthy, every word in Françoise Mouly’s interview with CBR’s Alex Dueben is fascinating, including “and” and “the.” It’s a marvelously insightful look at nearly every aspect of the legendary RAW, New Yorker, and Toon Books editor’s multifaceted career: The status of Toon Books, the challenges of producing educational books for children that are also fun to look at and read, her personal history with comics, the importance and legacy of her and husband Art Spiegelman’s seminal alternative-comics magazine RAW‘s production values, the shift among underground/alternative cartoonists’ careers from character-focused (a la Zippy, Jimbo, and Adele Blanc-sec) to creator-focused, her duties and work style as The New Yorker‘s art editor, working with visual artists from across the comics and illustration spectrum, her dream of an increased presence of actual comics in the magazine, R. Crumb’s apparent New Yorker beef, Toon Books’ upcoming slate…pure gold from one of comics’ most influential figures.

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Talking Comics with Tim | Renée French

H Day

There’s a horrific beauty to the art of Renée French. With her most recent work, H Day (published by Picturebox and set to ship on October 15), the beauty is built on pain, given that the book’s creation was partially fueled by French’s struggles with migraines. The last graphic novel that both challenged and engaged me in such a manner as H Day did is likely Joshua Cotter‘s Driven by Lemons. I’ve been interviewing French for a number of years, and I never tire of discussing her craft with her. Back when I last interviewed her, we briefly discussed a (then upcoming) project, Towcester Lodge, and I was glad to find out the fate of that project (as well as how H Day grew out of that creative effort). French is one of the special guests at this weekend’s APE 2010. My thanks to French for her time, and to Robot6 6′s own Sean T. Collins as well as Picturebox’s Dan Nadel for helping make the interview happen.

Tim O’Shea: How early in the development of H Day did you realize the bed scenes would play such a pivotal part?

Renée French: I’d been doing line drawings and diagrams of the inside of heads, sort of diagrams of the pain that comes with a migraine, and once I decided to try to draw the stuff I visualize when I’ve got a headache, (the city drawings) the diagrams progressed into the sequence that is in the book (the bed drawings). How confusing is that?

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Comics college: Art Spiegelman

Maus Vol. 1

Maus Vol. 1

Comics College is a monthly feature where we provide an introductory guide to some of the comics medium’s most important auteurs and offer our best educated suggestions on how to become familiar with their body of work.

Today we’ll be traipsing through the body of work of one of the most significant (if not exactly prolific) American cartoonists of this modern age, Art Spiegelman.

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Comics A.M. | The comics Internet in two minutes

IDW's Transformers app

IDW's Transformers app

Publishing | BusinessWeek looks at how companies like Marvel, Panelfly, ComiXology and Graphic.ly are promoting comics apps for Apple’s just-released iPad, and notes that a cautious DC Comics is still “assessing that tablet and other devices.” It’s a general overview, touching upon the “Is it a game-changer?” theme, but it offers one tidbit I don’t recall seeing previously: Apple takes 30 percent of sales, leaving publishers with — in the words of Panelfly’s Wade Slitkin — “the lion’s share” of revenues from comics purchased through iPhone apps.

The magazine also reports that Apple may have sold as many as 700,000 iPads in the debut weekend, more than double early estimates. In other iPad news: The Marvel Comics App, officially announced on Friday, is ranked at No. 14 on the list of free apps offered through Apple’s iTunes store. And on Saturday, IDW Publishing announced its entry into the iPad arena with four free apps. [BusinessWeek]

Legal | Bestselling Japanese author Manabu Miyazaki, son of a yakuza boss, last week sued police in Fukuoka prefecture for asking stores to remove underworld comics and magazines from their shelves. The police request was meant to enforce an ordinance designed to curtail the influence of the crime syndicates. [New Straits Times]

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This contest is totes awesome

R. Sikoryak's Strand bag

R. Sikoryak's Strand bag

Get it? I said “totes” and it’s a tote bag contest! Oh, I slay myself.

Ahem. Anyway, The Strand Bookstore has teamed up with Fantagraphics, Drawn and Quarterly, Toon Books and the School of Visual Arts to offer the Strand Tote Bag Design Contest. All this month, until March 31, aspiring artists are encouraged to send in their design for famed New York book shop’s next “artist tote bag.  Judges for the contest include  previous bag designers Art Spiegelman, Adrian Tomine, R. Sikoryak, Françoise Mouly and Steven Heller.

The prizes are pretty impressive. The grand prize winner not only gets to see their art printed on the store’s bag, but also gets: an afternoon with Mouly; D&Q’s complete set of books from 2009; $450 worth of recent Fantagraphics books; a complete set of Toon Books; and more.

Second prize nets you a class at SVA, a collection of signed D&Q books; more comics from TB and Fanta, and a $100 coffee gift card. Third prize is the same, but less so.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tempted to enter by just drawing a couple of stick figures.

Rules and details for the contest can be found at that fifth link. A look at past Strand tote bags can be found here.

Robot reviews: Two from Toon Books

bptoy_sample_01

Benny and Penny in The Toy Breaker
by Geoffrey Hayes
Toon Books, 32 pages, $12.95

This is my favorite of the Benny and Penny books so far. It isn’t that I’ve disliked the previous two books in the brother/sister series as much as this new entry, about an unruly cousin that comes over to play, seems a bit more lively and playful, both in the layouts and in the art itself, which has a frenetic and loose — but never sloppy — quality. It’s a pretty energetic and fast-paced book, even by young reader standards. You sense Hayes had a lot of fun putting this together and his good humor is infectious. Obviously it’s not going to challenge anyone over the age of seven, but I’d easily recommend it for it’s intended audience.

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Benny and Penny, Little Mouse and Stitches win Youth Media Awards

Benny and Penny in the Big No-No!

Benny and Penny in the Big No-No!

Three graphic novels were honored at the Youth Media Awards, presented this morning during the American Library Association’s midwinter conference in Boston.

Geoffrey Hayes’ Benny and Penny in the Big No-No!, published by TOON Books, received the (Theodor Seuss) Geisel Award, which recognizes authors and illustrators of books for beginning readers. Jeff Smith’s Little Mouse Gets Ready, also from TOON, was one of four Geisel Honor Books.

David Small’s Stitches: A Memoir, released by W.W. Norton & Company, earned an Alex Award, given each year to 10 adult books that appeal to young-adult readers (ages 12 to 18).

Spend some time with Toon Books

Panel from 'Zig and Wikki'

Panel from 'Zig and Wikki'

Speaking of kids comics, Toon Books has a few news items worth noting. First of all, the company has upgraded their Web site, adding a number of interactive features, including Toon Readers, which features creators like Jeff Smith reading their books aloud as you virtually flip through the pages; and Cartoon Maker, which lets you build your own comic using the Benny and Penny characters.  (via)

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OMG, I think I might squee

Little Mouse Doll

Little Mouse Doll

As part of their ongoing promotion of Jeff Smith’s first children’s book, Little Mouse Gets Ready, publisher Toon Books has made an exclusive plush doll, created by dollmaker Sabrina Cho. It retails for $75 and comes with a certificate of authenticity and a copy of the book signed by Jeff Smith. Also: It’s too cute for words.

Found via Comics Worth Reading

Comics A.M. | The comics Internet in two minutes

Yaoi Press

Yaoi Press

Legal | Yaoi Press Publisher Yamila Abraham was arrested Monday in Las Vegas on federal fraud charges related to online sales of an “herbal” alternative to recreational street drugs. Authorities claim the product contained no herbal supplements and was actually composed of dextromethorphan hydrobromide (DXM), the active ingredient in over-the-counter cough suppressants. The charges date from 2005 and 2006, when Abraham operated the mail-order website Pleasureherbs.com.

If convicted, Abraham, 34, could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each of the seven counts of mail fraud, up to one year in prison and a $250,000 fine on one count of misbranding a drug, and up to two years in prison and a $250,000 fine on one count of introducing goods in domestic commerce by means of false statement. She also could be forced to forfeit property from the proceeds of the crime up to $186,680 and any equipment used to make the drugs.

On the Yaoi Press blog, Abraham asked for everyone to “please keep a cool head, and have faith. This situation is not going to end Yaoi Press. Don’t believe the hype.” She stressed that she will continue to appear at conventions, including this weekend’s OtakuMex in Albuquerque, New Mexico. [Las Vegas Sun]

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What Are You Reading?

The Photographer

The Photographer

We have a very special edition of What Are You Reading this week, as our guests are none other than the legendary Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly. Spiegelman, you know, no doubt, as the author of such acclaimed books as Maus, Breakdowns and In the Shadow of No Towers, while his wife Mouly was co-creator and editor of Raw Magazine, art editor at the New Yorker and is spearheading the new Toon Books line of children’s comics.

To see what’s currently in their reading stack, just click on the link below …

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Robot Reviews: Kids’ comics roundup

littlemouse_sample_02

Little Mouse Gets Ready
by Jeff Smith
Toon Books, 32 pages, $12.95.

Children’s comics don’t get more basic than this. Little Mouse wants to go play in the barn with his brothers and sisters, but first he has to get dressed. He does so step by step showing readers important things like how to button your shirt (and illustrating a narrative sequence of events). Then there’s a punchline and rimshot, the end.

Smith’s art is lush and spry here. I especially liked Little Mouse’s Warner Brothers-style reaction at the end. There’s no denying it’s a cute book, made by an extremely talented guy. But this is really a book for preschoolers and those just learning to read. If you know someone like that, then Little Mouse will make a great gift. But older Bone fan, even those still in elementary school, aren’t going to get too much out of this, beyond a chuckle or two at the end.

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