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True Believers Comic Awards announce 2014 winners

true believers logoHawkeye and its writer Matt Fraction and Saga and its artist Fiona Staples led the inaugural True Believers Comic Awards, winning in a combined 10 categories. Hawkeye colorist Matt Hollingsworth also won in his division.

Presented Saturday in conjunction with London Film and Comic Con, the True Believers Comic Awards are a successor to the long-running Eagle Awards. Established by Eagle co-founder Mike Conroy and his daughter Cassandra, the awards were selected through online nominations and voting.

IDW Publishing was voted Best Publisher, while Gail Simone was named to the Roll of Honor. Comic Book Resources was selected as Favorite Comics-Related Website. The full list of winners can be found below in bold.

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‘The Last Mechanical Monster’: No country for old villains

Screen Shot 2014-07-09 at 12.59.20 AMVirtually every year, there’s a high-concept Eisner nominee that utterly baffles me. In 2009, it was Speak No Evil, the undocumented-immigrant parable where a guy has a hole for a mouth, and last year, it was the weird Ant Comic. This year, it’s probably going to be Brian Fies’ The Last Mechanical Monster.

It’s based on Fleischer Studios’ 1941 animated Superman short “The Mechanical Monsters,” probably best known as the first time, in any medium, Clark Kent stepped into a phone booth to change clothes. The first few pages of Fies’ comic look like screen shots of the original cartoon. After that intro, the the story picks up 60-plus years later. We’re already in some strange territory: a fan fiction is now in Eisner Award consideration. Only … this isn’t fan fiction about Superman or Lois Lane; it’s about the villain.

We’re also informed that “The Mechanical Monsters” is in the public domain (a factoid that took me back to when I first watched the cartoon, on a VHS purchased for cheap at Woolworths that stopped functioning after two viewings). That gives the comic an added layer of trickiness, but maybe this is as legit an adaptation as, say, CBS’s Elementary.

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‘Creep’: I don’t belong here

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Before you ask: Yes, Kayla Miller’s Creep does throw in a Radiohead reference. Our superhero, named Creep, gives his own version of the song when he’s confronted by reporters. In a way, Creep is a pretty good song for a superhero. There are lyrics about wanting a perfect body, having control and pining for someone who doesn’t notice you. Shoot, that’s, like, Marvel in the 1960s. Put that jam in the Spider-Man movies, Mark Webb!

Creep, though is less of a Spider-Man and more of a Hulk. Or a Stephan Urquel, or The Mask. His origins mix a dash of Silver Age craziness with modern indie-comic cartooniness. Riley Russell is a mild-mannered modern teen who’s a bit of shrinking violet. He prefers to never come into contact with his parents, and he’s too chicken to even approach Holly, the girl of his dreams. He is the keyboardist in a band that no one goes to see, however, so there’s probably some opportunity for him to venture out of his shell.

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‘The Intrepid Girlbot’: raccoon hoarding of the future

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Diana Nock’s The Intrepid Girlbot is set in a world without dialogue. There are no word balloons, and thus no interaction with other characters in a traditional sense. There are some sound effects: Robots ping and clang, animals snarl and growl. But there is no talking. It’s the webcomic version of a silent movie, with a vaguely sepia-toned color palette to match.

There’s hardly any emotional cues as well. Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin could, at least, convey the enormity of their shenanigans through a double take or a shocked expression, completed with bugged eyes. The Girlbot, on the other hand, has a permanent look affixed on her face: the blank “o_o” emoticon. She is, after all, a mechanical person. She’s not the only one either. Other robots have faces that smile and are more pleasant. And yet, these robots are creepier than the Girlbot, mainly because their expressions refuse to change as well. They go about their daze with a smile on their face, even when there’s danger. Deep down, their emotions are a mystery behind a painted facade, like the creepy, unblinking doll head that we glimpse from time to time.

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Todd Allen on his ‘Economics of Digital Comics’ Kickstarter

todd allenWhat a difference seven years makes! When Todd Allen published the previous edition of his book, the title reflected the digital comics scene at the time: The Economics of Web Comics. Even more tellingly, he didn’t produce an eBook version — it was print -only.

The world of digital comics has spun around on its axis several times since then, and Allen, who writes about digital comics for The Beat and has taught e-business courses at Columbia College in Chicago, is now working on a major revision of his book, now titled The Economics of Digital Comics. And this time, he’s funding it through Kickstarter, another major force in the comics industry that didn’t exist seven years ago. We asked Allen how he constructed his Kickstarter, what his plans are for the book, and where he thinks digital comics are going.

Robot 6: First of all, congratulations on exceeding your goal! You started with a very modest goal of $500, and as of this writing your backers have almost tripled it. It doesn’t seem like a lot of money — what will you use it for?

Todd Allen: I definitely took the minimum-costs route on this. I need to set up a couple files with my print-on-demand provider. I may or may not upgrade some software — I’ll worry about that when I’ve got everything written and am ready to go into production. Could I have counted my labor for the book and time spent running a Kickstarter toward the cost and put the goal at something like $12,000? There’s a case to be made for it. I’m doing a Kickstarter Campaign Diary over at Publishers Weekly, and this week’s installment is about setting the pricing and goals.

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Comics A.M. | A nonprofit alternative for some publishers?

SLG Publishing

SLG Publishing

Publishing | Spurred by the GoFundMe campaign launched last week by Dan Vado to get SLG Publishing “back on its feet,” Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture author Rob Salkowitz wonders whether a nonprofit model might make sense for some indie/niche publishers: “Contrary to popular perception, however, being a non-profit doesn’t mean you can’t make money. Lots of successful non-profits generate revenues in the millions and pay their staff, executives and contributors salaries comparable with those in the private sector. They can also pay contractors and contributors like performers or creators full market rates. They just don’t pay shareholders, and they plow any excess revenues back into their operations.” [ICv2.com]

Passings | Michael Cavna rounds up tributes and remembrances from the colleagues of the editorial cartoonist Etta Hulme, who died last week at age 90. [Comic Riffs]

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Isabel Kickstarts ‘Pole Dancing Adventures’ print edition

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[Editor’s note: Every Sunday, Robot 6 contributors discuss “The best in comics from the last seven days” — from news and announcements to a great comic that came out to something cool creators or fans have done.]

While I am no master of the vertical pole, and while I’m sure that attempting something like “The Superman” would result in several slipped disks, a concussion, and a few suspicious bruises, I quite liked Leen Isabel’s webcomic Pole Dancing Adventures. It explored pole dancing from the point of view of someone who sees it as an athletic activity, breaking down popular perception that it’s something anyone should be ashamed about. It also provided some nifty tips and tricks — again, something I and my ungrateful 200-pound frame would never attempt. Still, an enjoyable peek into the finesse involved.

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‘Skadi’: barbarians at the table

2014-01-23-ChimeraLast year pretty good year for Katie Rice, who won Penny Arcade’s Strip Search reality show competition. Her all-ages webcomic Camp Weedonwantcha, which follows a bunch of big-headed scamps as they try to survive the perils of camp living, appears in a prominent location on the Penny Arcade website, next to the highly trafficked main comics. Rice was one of the most experienced members in the contestant pool, having worked in animation doing design and storyboards, and her well-honed artistic skills definitely show.

In addition, she already had some experience in creating a webcomic. I first came across Skadi many years back. Developed with the aid of fellow artist Luke Cormican, it was (and still is) hosted at webcomic collective site Dumm Comics. Along with 1930 Nightmare Theatre and Big Pants Mouse, Skadi had given the site a strong old-school stylistic presence … namely through John Kricfalusi-style visual cues.

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Music, sound and comics

a4171370003_2Soundtracks have become an integral component of movies, television shows and video games. How important is a great soundtrack? There’s a video online that removes John Williams’ from E.T., leaving the triumphant moment at the end feeling lonely and empty. Swells and the rhythm of the full orchestra pull you in emotionally.

Can music be added to a comic? Years ago, that would have been a silly question, conjuring images of opening the book and hearing a tinny tune playing like something out of a greeting card. But now that comics are online, in a digital realm where greater integration between different kinds of media? It not as ridiculous a prospect as it sounds. Besides, it’s already being done.

Music and sounds are more prevalent in Flash-style webomics. Stuart Campbell’s Nawlz uses a futuristic electronic soundtrack to create a palpable sense of unease. It’s almost as if there’s something buzzing at all times to subconsciously frazzle your nerves. As you search the page to figure out what to click on next, you feel on guard. Will this next click bring the music to a halt? Is this comic setting me up to be frightened by a loud noise? It’s weird how much a soundtrack can ratchet up the anxiety. The effect is not unlike watching a horror movie, where more than half of the frights are due to sounds and music.

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‘Cucumber Quest’: Destiny is fickle

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Gigi D.G.’s Cucumber Quest is one phenomenally goofy webcomic. All the characters are bunny people adorably rendered like plushies. Seriously, their heads are so round and fuzzy I wannna squeeze them until they pop. As if they weren’t cute enough, a lot of the characters are also dressed up like foods. Princess Parfait is covered in strawberries, Sir Carrot sprouts orange roots and Sir Bacon has wavy brown hair that looks like savory foodstuffs. Later, they encounter characters who are festooned with seashells or have mouths as wide as cymbals.

The bright, candy-colored look makes it easy to dismiss Cucumber Quest as baby stuff. The comic is all-ages, true, but it’s also brimming with the sort appeal that made Adventure Time and The Powerpuff Girls such a hit with adults. The comedy tickles in its cheerfulness and its lack of cynicism.

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Comics A.M. | Wizard World Philadelphia’s $5.9M economic impact

Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con

Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con

Conventions | While the South Jersey Times and Philadelphia Inquirer focus on the fans who turned out over the weekend for the 14th annual Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con, Philadelphia Business Journal zeroes in on its economic impact: an estimated $5.9 million, which seems like a lot, until you compare it to the expected $16.2 million impact of the 6,000-person American Industrial Hygiene Association conference. [Philadelphia Business Journal]

Conventions | First-timer Michael Smith reports on the Amazing Las Vegas Comic Con. [Liberty Voice]

Creators | John Romita Jr. talks about moving from Marvel to DC Comics to draw Superman and about comics being his family business; and his father, John Romita Sr., chimes in as well. [The New York Times]

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‘Unsounded’: The ties that bind

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Note: This contains spoilers for Unsounded: Chapter 9, “Wherein Family Ties Chafe the Throat.”

In a way, the recurring theme of Ashley Cope’s Unsounded is breaking ties.

The most obvious example of this is the zombie Duane, who was ripped from his old human life when he and his daughter were murdered by an invading force. Now doomed to live his existence as one of the walking dead, he is bound to his young companion Sette because of his compassion for children. He is thrust from his noble position and his loving family, and becomes a shambling servant of a criminal family.

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‘Broodhollow’: Head like a hole

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It’s my experience that there are some comics you shouldn’t be reading past midnight on the flickering glow of your tablet. You’re never more vulnerable than in that moment when the veil between reality and dreams are the most thin. As you drift off, strange images fill your mind, only intensifying to heart-palpitating levels when, say, your desktop computer suddenly powers on and wakes up from sleep mode for no reason. It’s moments like this when you realize perhaps you really should have reviewed Wuffle: The Big Nice Wolf instead.

Funny thing is that despite its horror trappings, Kris Straub’s Broodhollow doesn’t look like the sort of webcomic that could scare a fly. It’s more quirky than anything: An encyclopedia salesman finds himself living in a town where the locals have silly traditions. Characters are rendered in that recognizable Straub style, where noseless people sorta look like hedgehogs. I was a little ambivalent toward the comic after its first chapter; things pick up considerably in Chapter 2, though, with the introduction of a murder mystery.

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Comics A.M. | Stan Lee greeted in Sydney with ‘Captain Australia’ shield

Stan Lee (via The Daily Telegraph)

Stan Lee (via The Daily Telegraph)

Creators | Stan Lee arrived at Sydney Airport for the Supanova Pop Culture Expo and was immediately presented with a “Captain Australia” shield, colored gold and green rather than red and blue. The Supanova Pop Culture Expo kicked off today, and continues through Sunday. [The Daily Telegraph]

Comics | Hussain Al-Shiblawi says he doesn’t usually mind the pamphlets he regularly receives from the local Bible Baptist Church in Roanoke, Virginia; even though he’s Muslim, he finds them inspirational. But he takes strong exception to the latest one, a Jack Chick tract titled Unforgiven, which claims that all Muslims are going to hell. The pastor, who declined to go on camera, says his church doesn’t create the pamphlets, it just distributes them, but he’s willing to meet with Al-Shiblawi to discuss the comic. [WDBJ News]

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‘Castle Vidcons’: Lords of video games

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E3, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, runs this week, and video game news sites and fans have been poring over every announcement with the delicacy of a sledgehammer. One thing that has become clear: The so-called “console wars” is still on. Devotees line up behind their game system of choice to cheer or lambast the latest news. That was most apparent last year during the unveiling of Sony and Microsoft’s next-generation consoles, when the wild rhetoric between console partisans was indistinguishable from political rallies.

Webcomics have a long history with video games, with one webcomic (Penny Arcade) launching a popular convention circuit centered on gamers. Anthropomorphizing game consoles is hardly new. Few, though, have taken the concept as far and as creatively as Tyler Rhodes’ Castle Vidcons.

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