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Quote of the Day | Neil Gaiman on serialized storytelling

sandman overture1“I started to feel an enormous amount of sympathy and empathy for Charles Dickens, because he was doing the same thing – a serialized story. And I started reading Dickens in a very, very different way. While writing The Sandman I’d go, ‘Ah, this is part of the big plot that you absolutely know what you’re doing, and this bit is you going, “I’m not quite sure what I’m doing here, so I’m gonna busk a little bit. And this is you just bringing on a character and just going I know I’ll find a use for you somewhere down the line.”‘ These days, probably the nearest thing to it outside of comics would be serial television, if you had just had one writer. [...] But the one thing that TV has is the same thing wonderful thing that Dickens had, and same thing that I had – to be able to take stock of what you’re doing and what’s working as you go, to the point where you bring on somebody who was a little better than an extra and you go, ‘Actually, everybody really likes that guy and we like that guy! Let’s bring him back and have him do something else.’ And by season two he’s one of the stars and nobody actually remembers that he wasn’t even in the original outline. There were definitely things when I was writing Sandman that were like that. And in a peculiar way, there are moments when I’m writing Overture where I get to do little things that set up for later things that I wasn’t expecting.”

Neil Gaiman, reflecting on writing The Sandman on a monthly basis, in an interview with RollingStone.com

Vertigo keeps on Vertigoing: A survey of some of its latest titles

vertigo adDC Comics’ Vertigo imprint has been the subject of a lot of speculation over the past year or so, due to  a variety of portents: the departure of founder and longtime executive editor Karen Berger; the end of the imprint’s longest-running title Hellblazer, with the character reclaimed by the DC Universe in Justice League Dark and Constantine; the debut at Image Comics of several comics that, not long ago, likely would’ve been pitched to Vertigo; and the launch of the offbeat Dial H, by none other than acclaimed author China Mieville, in the New 52.

There was the perception that the imprint’s branding had become confused, with books that used to fall under to the dissolved WildStorm imprint (and seem like better fits for the DC brand) appearing under the Vertigo banner (superhero comics Astro City and Tom Strong, movie adaptation Django Unchained). And then there were the low sales and cancellations.

Well, Vertigo’s still around. It launched The Wake, a limited series by American Vampire and Batman writer Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy, and the imprint has plans for a new Sandman miniseries and a Sandman spinoff.  And in the last few months, it has launched enough new series to be considered a wave.

So what does that mean for the future of the imprint? I’ll be damned if I know. However, I do know it’s not the most important question in my mind. Of greatest import to me, as always, is whether the comics are any good. So let’s take a look at the the beginnings of  Vertigo’s latest crop, excluding The Wake, which I think it’s safe to assume will find an audience.

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Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean on the birth of ‘The Sandman’

Sandman Overtures #1 Cover for the 25th-anniversary story Neil is currentlyI like this too-brief piece for The Guardian in which writer Neil Gaiman recounts the beginnings, and the “end,” of The Sandman and artist Dave McKean recalls the evolution of the comic’s distinctive covers.

“I’d been keeping it secret that the story would one day end. But, around issue 30, I began dropping hints,” says. “And it was explained to me that this couldn’t happen: with a successful monthly, when a writer leaves, a new one comes in. I decided not to argue. But in every interview I did, I said I hoped they would stop it when I left, because if they did I would keep on working for them. That percolated into the world and one day I got a call from Karen [Berger] saying: ‘You know, we really can’t keep this going after you’re done.’ That was the biggest thing Sandman changed: DC’s most successful comic was stopped because the writer was done. Otherwise, the brand would have been tarnished.”

As a nice bonus, there’s also a gallery of McKean’s favorite Sandman covers, complete with commentary. The Sandman: Overture, by Gaiman and J.H. Williams III, with variant covers by McKean, debuts Oct. 30.

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DC brings collections lineup to comiXology and Google Play

dc logoDC Entertainment announced today that it’s making nearly 100 graphic novels and collected editions, ranging from perennial bestsellers like Watchmen and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns to New 52 releases like Aquaman and Dial H, available for download from comiXology and Google Play.

Although the offerings are heavy on Batman and Superman, readers can also find such Vertigo titles as American Vampire, The Sandman, Punk Rock Jesus and The Unwritten, and recent DC Universe collections of Wonder Woman, Animal Man, The Flash and Catwoman. You can see the complete list below.

“This expanded distribution furthers DC Entertainment’s goal to offer our readers convenience and choice,” DC Entertainment Co-Publisher Jim Lee said in a statement. “ComiXology is a clear leader in delivering digital comics, while Google is one of the biggest mobile content brands in the world. We’re very excited to bring bestselling DC Comics and Vertigo graphic novels to their customers.”

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Comics A.M. | Jeff Smith on CBLDF; Archie’s ‘hardcore horror book’

Jeff Smith

Jeff Smith

Creators | Jeff Smith, who was named last week to the board of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, talks briefly about the importance of the organization, and the 2010 challenge to his all-ages graphic novel Bone in a Minnesota school. [Comic Riffs]

Comics | Archie Co-CEO Jon Goldwater, writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and artist Francesco Francavilla have a few things to say about the new zombie series Afterlife With Archie. “We are taking a series of characters known to be lighthearted and young adult-oriented and doing a horror comic with them, so the mood, atmosphere, and setting are very important to make this a believable horror and not a comedy horror,” says Francavilla, who’s also the creator of The Black Beetle. “Fortunately, I am really good at making things dark and ominous.” [The Associated Press]

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John Constantine creators won’t see money from new TV deal

constantine1While the announcement of a Constantine series on NBC may be good news for Warner Bros.’ DC Comics-based television plans — the project joins Gotham and the Arrow spinoff The Flash on the agenda — it won’t mean immediate financial benefit for the creators of the fan-favorite character. It seems those media rights are part of an earlier deal.

“As of this morning, it appears there will be NO payment to the Constantine creators for this series,” Stephen R. Bissette, who created John Constantine with Alan Moore and John Totleben, wrote Monday on his Facebook page. “This option apparently rolled out of the already-paid-for option for the Constantine movie in the 1990s. Thus, we’ll only see $$ waaaay down the road, it appears, IF this series makes it to being a series. If it makes money. If it trickles down.”

The movie Bissette references is actually the 2005 supernatural action-thriller that starred Keanu Reeves as the cynical occult detective. Although the adaptation was lambasted by many fans for its casting of the American Reeves as the English Constantine and the liberties taken with the source material, it managed to gross more than $230 million worldwide on a reported $100 million budget. Its option apparently included sequel and television rights.

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Six things DC Comics is doing right

AdventuresofSuperman1DC Comics hasn’t had a particularly good run of things lately. To be frank, the publisher has done blown it a number of times over the past few years. But don’t worry, DC fans — I’m sure it’ll soon be Marvel’s turn, as the two rivals seem to trade off every five years or so.

I’ve been calling out DC for the past couple of weeks, but that doesn’t mean everything it does strikes me as wrong. It’s important to declare shenanigans, but it’s also important to recognize when a publisher does something that’s good for comics.

So here are six things DC is doing right:

1. Digital comics: Legends of the Dark Knight and Adventures of Superman are digital-first anthology series that feature some excellent creators (from Jeff Parker and Chris Samnee to J.M. DeMatteis and Jeff Lemire) producing completely accessible and entertaining stories that stand on their own; no college course on the New 52 or Crisis on Infinite Earths required. Yes, these stories are out of continuity — so for a percentage of readers, they don’t count. That’s a mistake, because there’s nothing wrong with a straight-up superhero tale that exists on its own terms. These two anthologies are the gems of DC’s digital-first line-up, but Batman ’66 and Batman: Li’l Gotham also offer fantastical takes on the iconic Caped Crusader that are bright and fun. For those exhausted by the angsty versions of serious stories, you owe it to yourself to check these out.

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Comics A.M. | Gilbert Hernandez wins PEN Center USA award

Bumperhead

Bumperhead

Awards | Gilbert Hernandez is the recipient of the 2013 PEN Center USA award for outstanding body of work in graphic literature. Drawn and Quarterly announced the honor along with news that it will publish Hernandez’s next graphic novel, Bumperhead. [The Comics Reporter]

Conventions | “SPX is all about the hugs,” says Heidi MacDonald, who relegates her business piece on the Small Press Expo to Publishers Weekly and turns to her blog to discuss not only her impressions but what folks were saying on social media. [The Beat]

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Murderer’s Row of creators sink their teeth into ‘American Vampire Anthology’

AV_ANTHOLOGY-tease

While American Vampire is currently on hiatus, creators Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque have killed time until its return by releasing various specials. Earlier this summer we saw The Long Road to Hell, and this past Wednesday brought the American Vampire Anthology, featuring vampire tales by Becky Cloonan, Francesco Francavilla, Gail Simone, Greg Rucka, Jason Aaron, Gabriel Ba, Fabio Moon, Jeff Lemire, John Paul Leon, Declan Shalvey and many more.

Anthologies can be hit or miss from story to story, but how did this one do? Here are a few reviews from around the web:

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‘Collider’ publisher touts victory against DC in ‘battle’ over title

colliderThe Irish company that prompted Vertigo to change the title of the new series by Simon Oliver and Robbi Rodriguez from Collider to FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics is now hoping to exploit the situation to its own advantage.

Trumpeting its victory in “a battle against DC Comics/Vertigo,” the Dublin-based beActive issued a press release Tuesday promoting its own Collider while gently chiding the American publisher for its lack of diligence. “The Irish company published the COLLIDER comic book series worlde [sic]  in 2012, therefore claiming ownership of the brand,” the release states. “In January 2013, COLLIDER even made the TOP 5 on Comics Plus, the largest online comic book store in the U.S.”

While it’s not unheard of for a publisher to change the name of a comic before publication because of a trademark conflict, in this instance, the announcement came more than a week after the release of Collider #1.

As Oliver recounted last week to Comic Book Resources, “The first issue’s printed and being loaded on the trucks and we get a call from legal to tell us that someone else, on the other side of the globe says that they have creative dibs on the name ‘Collider’ and we have to change our title.” The second issue, out Aug. 28, will bear the title FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics.

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People seem to be flipping for Jeff Lemire’s ‘Trillium #1′

Trillium1

Jeff Lemire’s next big project for Vertigo, following his run on Sweet Tooth, kicked off this week. Trillium #1 sees Lemire return to both writing and art duties after a few months of focusing just on the writing half of the equation with comics like Green Arrow and Animal Man. Reuniting with colorist Jose Villarrubia, who worked with him on Sweet Tooth, Lemire “combines rich historical adventure and mind-bending science fiction into a sprawling, unconventional love story.” Plus, it’s a flipbook!

What did people think of the first issue? Here are a few thoughts from around the web.

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Comics A.M. | Boston Comic Con expected to draw 15,000

Boston Comic Con art by Tim Sale

Boston Comic Con art by Tim Sale

Conventions | Boston Comic Con is coming this weekend, and founder Nick Kanieff talks about how it has grown from 900 attendees at the first con, in 2007, to an expected 15,000 for this year’s event, which was rescheduled because of the Boston Marathon bombings. [MetroWest Daily News]

Publishing | Denis Kitchen discusses the return of Kitchen Sink Press to publishing as an imprint of Dark Horse. It kicks off in December with an anthology, The Best of Comix Book. [Publishers Weekly]

Creators | Peter Steiner’s cartoon, captioned “On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog,” is the most-reproduced cartoon in the history of The New Yorker. On the 20th anniversary of its publication, Steiner looks back on its creation, which came about almost by chance, and the ways the world has changed in the interim. One interesting nugget: The most-reproduced cartoon in The New Yorker has brought its creator a total of $50,000 in royalties over the past 20 years. [Comic Riffs]

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Comics A.M. | Singapore cartoonist’s arrest part of crackdown

Leslie Chew cartoon

Leslie Chew cartoon

Legal | Kevin Lim and Evaline Danubrata add some context to the story of Singaporean cartoonist Leslie Chew, who was charged Thursday with contempt of court for several cartoons critical of the Singapore courts that appeared on his Facebook page Demon-cratic Singapore. This isn’t the first time Chew has run afoul of authorities; he was charged with sedition earlier this year for alleging official discrimination against the Malay population. Singapore recently enacted a law requiring licenses for news sites that report regularly on the country, a move that critics of the ruling People’s Action Party see as an attempt to silence dissent. [Reuters]

Retailing | Comic-store owners in the Tampa Bay area agree that sales are up, but they differ on the reasons why. [The Tampa Tribune]

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Dave Johnson reveals the ‘100 Bullets’ omnibus cover montage

100-bullets-montage-header

Even before Vertigo was Vertigo, it had a distinct policy of signing great cover artists for the long haul for ongoing titles. I fondly remember Dave McKean on The Sandman and Hellblazer, Simon Bisley on Doom Patrol, Brian Bolland on Animal Man and Brendan McCarthy on Shade, the Changing Man. This is a policy that has continued on to the present day: Yuko Shimizu has produced amazing covers for The Unwritten since its debut; king of the good girl artists Adam Hughes has been providing Fairest with the best work of his career so far; and Fables had a long outstanding run by James Jean, before he ceded the job to Joao Ruas. As much as I love the work of J.H. Williams III, it was seeing McKean’s cover for The Sandman: Overture #1 that made the project feel real.

In terms of total commitment to a book, however, no one can match Dave Johnson on 100 Bullets. He drew covers to all 100 issues, shifting styles for each story arc. He drew the covers to all 13 trade paperbacks, and now he’s providing the ones for the eight-issue sequel-of-sorts Brother Lono. On Tuesday he posted this image to his assorted social media feeds: the covers to the five omnibus editions, which together create an extended frieze.

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SDCC ’13 | There’s got to be a morning after

Comic-Con International

Comic-Con International

As the Comic-Con International hangover sets in and the industry goes silent while creators, editors, publishers and publicists stagger home from San Diego, we’ll take a few minutes to try to collect the comics-related highlights of this year’s event. We’ll attempt to update as more panel reports appear and other information trickles out.

• Saga by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples, Hawkeye‘s David Aja, and Building Stories by Chris Ware were the big winners at the 2013 Eisner Awards.

At Diamond Comic Distributors’ Retailer Appreciation Lunch, Marvel teased the arrival of Marvelman — it’s been four years since the publisher revealed it had acquired the rights to the property — and, scheduled for January, a new wave of Marvel NOW! titles. In convention panels, the company announced: Wolverine: Origin II, by Kieron Gillen and Adam Kubert; the return of Nightcrawler in the first arc of Amazing X-Men, by Jason Aaron and Ed McGuinness; the November debut of Longshot Saves the Marvel Universe, by Chris Hastings and Jacopo Camagni; “Afterparty,” a two-issue arc of Young Avengers that celebrates Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s first year on the series; Steve McNiven will join Rick Remender in November on Uncanny Avengers; Cataclysm: The Ultimates Last Stand, a Galactus-focused Ultimate Universe event by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley; and the January-launching Revolutionary War, in which writer Andy Lanning and “various superstar artists,” will resurrect some of the Marvel UK characters.

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