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In honor of International Clown Week, a look at clown comics

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Did you know that Aug. 1-7 was International Clown Week? On Aug. 2, 1971, President Richard Nixon issued a proclamation to honor those who “go into orphanages and children’s hospitals, homes for the elderly and for the retarded, and give a part of themselves.” It also states that clowns are “as vital to the maintenance of our humanity as the builders and the growers and the governors.” And thus International Clown Week was established.

Perhaps you knew nothing of this strange little proclamation, nor of this week’s significance. Or perhaps you did know, and you’ve been hiding under your sheets all week to stave off imaginary Pennywises and Captain Spauldings.

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In ‘Blindsprings,’ a princess has become unstuck in time

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I wonder whether the Harry Potter formula has supplanted the Tolkien formula as the most relatable template for Joseph Campbell’s “hero’s journey.”

Consider this: At the time of The Lord of the Rings, most of the world’s population lived in rural areas. That’s not the case today. Who’s going to be a more relatable character for young readers? The hayseed pig farmer, or the school kid trying to find his place in the world? Tolkien’s stories are defined, in part, by long-distance journeys over remote landscapes. While still thrilling, perhaps much of its mystery has been stripped when the same countrysides in real life can be crossed easily by highway. The real thrills are poking at the small spaces in the world you know. Perhaps there are centaurs in the nearby woods or a three-headed dog living in the basement.

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Anthony Clark and KC Green got ‘Back’

Screen Shot 2014-08-03 at 9.28.36 PMI have a long list of webcomic creators that I wish were household names, and Anthony Clark and KC Green are right at the top. Their comics never fail to make me laugh through their general air of affable goofiness.

Clark first won me over with his 200 bad comics, a challenge to create a series of hastily drawn strips. The liberating freedom from making anything “good” turned out to be a successful improv exercise. Clark generated a series of hilarious non sequiturs through uncomplicated gags and simple, cheery drawings. His regularly updating webcomic Nedroid is also filled with cute characters; there’s a bear that’s an oval with stick arms and legs, and a similarly crudely drawn bird. The designs look like they were mocked up by a child, but the layouts have the surefooted mark of an experienced artist.

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Comics A.M. | ‘Ganbare Goemon’ creator Hiroshi Obi dies

Ganbare Goemon

Ganbare Goemon

Passings | Manga artist Hiroshi Obi, whose best known work is the Shonen Jump series Ganbare Goemon, died Sunday at age 54. His most recent project was a Yatterman remake, Yatterman Dengeki Daisakusen!, and he also taught in the manga department of Tokyo Kogakuin College of Technology. [Anime News Network]

Publishing | Filip Sablik of BOOM! Studios talks about marketing Lumberjanes on Tumblr, and how Beware the Valkyries, a group of women who work in comic stores, helped promote the comic with a special “Lumber Day.” [ICv2]

Creators | Mike Donachie profiles Canadian creator Diana Tamblyn, who’s nominated for a Shuster Award for her graphic novel From the Earth To Babylon: Gerald Bull and the Supergun. [Metro]

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‘Brawl in the Family’ to brawl no more

imageVideo-game webcomics tend to gravitate toward the same crew of characters in general. Most everyone is going to do a comic about Mario, which also means that most everyone will eventually do that comic where Mario is a delusional plumber on mushrooms who gets stuck in a pipe.

Beyond that, however, it’s usually a roster of other visually recognizable characters: Pokemon, Kratos from God of War, Master Chief from Halo, Big Daddy from Bioshock, whoever is in Assassin’s Creed this year. These are the characters that populate the tribal knowledge of gamer culture. In a way, it’s not unlike superheroes. There are hundreds of pieces of fan art, video tributes and articles focusing on Batman, but who;s going to devote much time to, say, Silver Sable?

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Revisiting ‘Sin Titulo,’ the ‘Lost’ of webcomics

2007-06-17(SPOILER ALERT for Sin Titulo, Lost, The X-Files and probably iCarly.)

Cameron Stewart has a clean, distinguishable artistic style, with a hint of a manga influence, but with panel-to-panel transitions that are more delicate and subdued. His art has become quite popular, with his redesign of Batgirls costume creating something of an Internet sensation. While his artwork lends itself easily to all-ages comics, he’s frequently collaborated with Grant Morrison on such titles as Seaguy, Seven Soldiers and Batman & Robin.

However, his art has also appeared in strange psychological thrillers. In 2010, his webcomic Sin Titulo won the Eisner Award for Best Digital Comic, after it had already won the 2009 Shuster Award in the same category.

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‘Weapon Brown,’ the ol’ blockhead on steroids

imageMash-ups are pretty easy to come by in the Internet Age. Flash as a Ingmar Bergman movie? Of course that exists. Hello Kitty as Darth Vader? Hello, new cosplay idea. Optimus Prime as a My Little Pony? I’m … I’m pretty sure that’s an official IDW thing. Everything’s a mash-up these days. In fact, you might be a bit sick of it. If I mention, for example, the phrase “Charlie Brown in a post-apocalyptic future,” you cannot be blamed for rolling your eyes so hard that your pupils disappear into your hear, resembling the blank ovals of Li’l Orphan Annie.

But what if I were to tell you it was also rather good? Jason Yungbluth’s Weapon Brown was something of a hit among the snarkier fans of comics strips, i.e. those of the Comics Curmudgeon variety. You know, the kind who enjoy taking a bite out of obsolete zombie comics that populate the funny pages, but deep down have a strong affection for them and an appreciation for the hard-working creators who made them. The comic was originally serialized at whatisdeepfried.com. After “one of the most successful comic book Kickstarter campaigns of 2013,” Weapon Brown was collected into paperback and hardcover earlier this year. On Aug. 13, Yungbluth will be on hand at Forbidden Planet in New York City to sign copies of his book.

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‘As the Crow Flies’: loneliness in the great outdoors

Screen Shot 2014-07-19 at 7.00.57 AMMountains seem to have been big theme among Eisner nominees this year. In High Crimes, the ever-looming presence of Mount Everest reminds the readers of the upcoming dangers posed by nature.

A similar thing happens in Melanie Gillman’s Eisner-nominated webcomic As the Crow Flies, although not to quite as perilous an extent. There’s no immediate danger here; the mountain is an expanse of wilderness that stretches as far as the eye can see. Long, wordless passages pause to explore the borders, which seem to stretch beyond the page to show that there is no visible end. No tiny towns dotting the landscape, no tiny outposts of civilization beyond a small camp. Just rocks and trees. While there might be a wild animal in that tangle of leaves and branches, that never poses an immediate threat.

No, the biggest danger in these woods is loneliness.

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SDCC | Fantagraphics to publish Liz Suburbia’s ‘Sacred Heart’

SacredHeartCoverFantagraphics announced today at Comic-Con International that it will publish Liz Suburbia’s webcomic Sacred Heart as a one-shot graphic novel.

Sacred Heart is set in a small town where all the adults have mysteriously disappeared and the teenagers rule. The situation is not total anarchy, and that’s one of the things that makes it so interesting — order has broken down in some ways but not in others. It’s been running online for a number of years, but Suburbia is completely redrawing the comic and Fantagraphics will publish it in a single volume— although the cartoonist says there will be more to come.

ROBOT 6 spoke with Suburbia about Sacred Heart and how it has evolved so far.

Brigid Alverson: Sacred Heart is about a town that seems to be full of high-school kids but no adults or younger children. Can you give us an idea about what’s going on?

In the first draft (the one that’s online) it’s kind of a secret, but in the final print version it’s more clear that their parents left almost four years ago and promised to return in about four years’ time.

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SDCC | Where to find digital comics and webcomics

comic-con-fridayI’ve never been to a comics convention, but I can imagine it can be overwhelming — Comic-Con International especially, with its enormous exhibition hall, packed programming schedule and multiple venues. There’s a webcomics presence, but it remains something of a niche. A quick scan of events, for example, turns up more presentations on how to become big on deviantART than anything directly connected with webcomics.

There’s a powerfully strong digital comics representation, however. Perhaps this indicates a swing from the independent, comic strip-influenced world of webcomics to the formalized, floppy-inspired format of digital. Shoot, Publishers Weekly even arranged a panel to discuss that very thing on Friday morning with “Behind the Digital Line.” Mark Waid has an entire panel devoted to pitching ideas to Thrillbent. Monkeybrain Comics will have a roundtable about the benefits of publishing digitally. And on Sunday, “Digital Comics: Going Beyond the Page” will feature a discussion with a panel that includes Waid (Thrillbent) and Ron Perraza (formerly of comiXology and DC’s digital division).

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Comics A.M. | Alcaraz’s ‘Hate City’ cartoons spark legal threat

One of Lalo Alcaraz's cartoons about the protests in Murrieta, California

One of Lalo Alcaraz’s cartoons about the protests in Murrieta, California

Editorial cartoons | The public-relations consultant hired by the city of Murrieta, California, after residents protested the arrival of refugee children to be processed there, told cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz that referring to Murietta as “Hate City USA” was “actionable.” “There IS a fine line between your constitutional right to draw cartoons and expressed (sic) your opinions,” Hermosillo wrote in a comment on Alcaraz’s Facebook page, “and falsely, deliberately, and maliciously labeling and attacking an entire community as racist or as ‘Hate City.’ You are working overtime to damage Murrieta and such a false premise is actionable. There’s a fine line between humor and stupidity. You may have crossed that line at your own peril.” Murrieta spokesperson Kim Davidson walked that back, however, saying the city has no plans to sue Alcaraz. [The Press Enterprise]

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‘Quantum and Woody,’ ‘Hawkeye’ and ‘Saga’ lead Harvey ballot

quantum-woody1Quantum and Woody leads the final ballot for the 2014 Harvey Awards with nominations in six categories, including best new series, edging out Hawkeye with five and Saga with four. Quantum and Woody‘s James Asmus also received nods for best writer, most promising new talent and the special award for humor.

Named in honor of the late Harvey Kurtzman, the cartoonist and founding editor of MAD magazine, the awards are selected entirely by creators. Online voting is open now through Aug. 18. The winners will be presented Sept. 6 in a ceremony held in conjunction with Baltimore Comic-Con.

The full list of nominees can be found below:

Best Writer
James Asmus, QUANTUM AND WOODY, Valiant Entertainment
Matt Fraction, HAWKEYE, Marvel Comics
Matt Kindt, MIND MGMT, Dark Horse Comics
Brian K. Vaughan, SAGA, Image Comics
Mark Waid, DAREDEVIL, Marvel Comics

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‘The Oatmeal’: an Eisner surprise

imageI’m not sure why I was so surprised that Matt Inman’s The Oatmeal received an Eisner Award nomination this year, but judging from some other online reactions, I wasn’t the only one.

It’s not like it doesn’t deserve it. The Oatmeal easily has a larger following than the other nominees. How many copies does a print copy have to move these days before it’s considered a success, 100,000?

The Oatmeal has hundreds of times more than that — 5 million unique readers according to a 2010 Seattle Weekly article. It’s even hugely profitable. That same article mentions Inman’s take-home pay in 2010 was a half-million dollars. A huge part of it is Inman’s expertise at SEO, which just means he played the same game that made BuzzFeed the household name it is today.

The Oatmeal covers a variety of subjects. Some of the entries have intentionally inflammatory subjects, such as ‘“How to suck at your religion” and “What it means when you say ‘literally.’” Inman tackles these subjects with the burning righteousness of an angry political pundit, depicting the wrong as googly-eyed fools and leaning heavily on the bold and italicized font settings. I thought for sure those would be the most popular strips on his site.

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Webcomics, the awards and you

eisner sealsThe Eisner Awards, arguably the most prestigious in the comics industry, will be presented July 25 during Comic-Con International. Among the assortment of awards given to artists, writers and colorists, there’s an odd little thing that’s a relative newcomer: the Best Digital Comic Award. Here’s the criteria: “The best digital comic category is open to any new, professionally produced long-form original comics work posted online in 2012.” They have to have a unique domain name, and they have to be “online-exclusive for a significant period” before being available in print.

Rather odd, considering that many of this year’s nominees barely qualify under those parameters. A “long-form comic” suggests an extended, dramatic story. The Oatmeal doesn’t really qualify (unless you consider the bid for a Tesla museum to be a real-life epic). High Crimes technically has a domain name, but it directs you to comiXology for digital download. It’s all part of the challenge in determining what, exactly, a “digital comic” is.  Looking at previous nominees, there are several that don’t fit neatly within the rules.

Comic book awards. You can’t live with them, you can’t live without them. On the one hand, there are several challenges to clear. Who’s worthy of nomination? If it’s “Best Digital Comic,” what are you awarding it for — the way it takes advantage of its online environment, or the content? Generally, it’s the content, but if that’s the case, shouldn’t it be competing in the existing comic categories rather than be banished to the sidelines? (Several webcomics, including The Adventures of Superhero Girl, have been in contention in other categories … but only after their digital content has been converted in the traditional currency of ink and pressed wood pulp, as God intended.)

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‘Charles Christopher’ is anything but ‘Abominable’

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There’s been some criticism that the Eisner Award for Digital Comics tends to favor established creators from the print industry over those who made their names online. Or, in the case of Sugarshock … c’mon. Did you really think Joss Whedon wasn’t winning an award? You’d probably be struck down by lightning or something. (Incidentally, I tried to see whehter that comic was still online. I’d forgotten that it was on MySpace. Oh, man … the nostalgia.)

However, I think that, by and large, the winners have all been very good.

Karl Kerschl’s The Abominable Charles Christopher was one of the webcomics that made a splash among readers before it attracted award attention (a Joe Shuster Award in 2010, an Eisner Award nomination in 2010, and a very deserved Eisner win in 2011). What made The Abominable Charles Christopher stand out from the pack?

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