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Faith Erin Hicks shows off the pitch that failed

afterlife incFaith Erin Hicks is on top of the world these days, thanks to her critically acclaimed graphic novels (Friends With Boys, Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong), as well as her game tie-in series for Dark Horse, The Last of Us, and the collected edition of her webcomic The Adventures of Superhero Girl. And yet, she admits, there’s a comic even she can’t sell.

Hicks described the project in July during her spotlight panel at Comic-Con International, where she told Bone creator Jeff Smith that she had pitched the book to First Second, publisher of Friends With Boys and Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong, but the imprint had rejected it. “It is my most-rejected pitch,” she said. “It is this extremely weird story about work, and about people who work in this office, but it is literally an office that is a way station for dead people, and so it’s all about having a crappy office job but with this insane supernatural bent and it is a ridiculous story, but the thing is, it has been rejected everywhere.”

“So your coworkers are all zombies?” Smith responded. “That sounds like real life to me.”

A few weeks ago, Hicks was rummaging through her hard drive and found her pitch for the comic, which she posted on her blog. The response was so enthusiastic that she posted more of the pitch the same day. The comic is called Afterlife, Inc., and while Hicks admits it may not make a good graphic novel, she does say, in the second post, “I think this story would make a good webcomic or floppy comic (maybe at somewhere like Image), because it’s very meandering and would benefit from serialized storytelling to build the weirdness of the world its set in. Plus, the web LOVES weird stuff!”

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Voting opens for fourth annual Shel Dorf Awards

saga12The nominees have been announced for the fourth annual Shel Dorf Awards, named in honor of the late Detroit native and founder of Golden State Comic-Con, which grew into Comic-Con International.

ROBOT 6 is among the nominees for Comic Blogger of the Year. Online voting is now open. The winners will be presented Oct. 25 at Detroit FanFare. The nominees are:

Writer of the Year
• Brian K. Vaughan
• Dan Slott
• Mark Waid
• Robert Kirkman
• Scott Snyder

Penciler of the Year
• David Aja
• Fiona Staples
• Greg Capullo
• Jim Lee
• Ryan Stegman

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Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc. branches out into webcomics

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Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc., the company founded by the creator of Tarzan and still run by his family, has begun publishing webcomics based on six of the author’s most famous creations. Roy Thomas and Tom Grindberg (who have been producing the Tarzan comic strips since 2012) continue creating new stories featuring the ape man, while Chuck Dixon and Tom Lyle explore the Earth’s Core world of Pellucidar. Writer Martin Powell is joined by four different artists on the remaining series: Carson of Venus (with Thomas Floyd and Diana Leto), The Eternal Savage (with Steven E. Gordon), The Cave Girl (with Diana Leto), and The War Chief (with Nik Poliwko).

The ERB Inc. website has samples of each series for free, and readers can then subscribe to all six for $1.99 a month. Each series updates weekly, so that’s about 24 pages for just $2; a great deal.

I had some questions about the initiative, so I contacted Powell, who was extremely helpful. For one thing, these webcomics don’t affect Dark Horse, which still holds the license for printed Tarzan comics. He also explained why there’s no series for John Carter: “I originally auditioned for John Carter of Mars, but Disney/Marvel still has a hold on it. Still, ERB Inc. was apparently impressed enough that they offered me Carson of Venus and allowed me to assemble my own art team, which I’ve done for my other four ERB comic strips as well. So, you could say in a sense that I am Carson … we both aimed at Mars and ended up on Venus!”

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Ryan Sohmer on Kickstarting ‘The Gutters’

Gutters RisesThe Gutters is a thrice-weekly webcomic about the comics industry, with insider humor about the characters, both fictional and real life, that make up the world of the comics fan.

It’s also a great showcase for established and emerging artists: Ryan Sohmer writes the comic but he brings in different artists to illustrate each page, so the style of the comic varies quite a bit from day to day, depending on who is being skewered.

After three years, however, The Gutters isn’t turning a profit, so Sohmer, who is also the writer of the webcomics Least I Could Do and Looking for Group, has turned to Kickstarter to basically pre-fund the next year. As he explains on the Kickstarter page, he pays the artist an average of $300 per comic, which comes to $15,000 per year for a comic that updates once a week. The campaign reached its initial goal this week, and Sohmer will add another weekly update for each additional $15,000 raised. I asked him why he was taking this route, and why he is doing things the way he does.

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Webcomic find: ‘The Adventures of Painless Parker’

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Hey, who wants to read a webcomic about a 19th-century dentist? Wait, let me try again: Who wants to read a webcomic about a 19th-century dentist who wore a necklace made of teeth he had extracted, once treated an elephant for an abscessed tusk, and had his name legally changed from “Edgar” to “Painless” to evade regulations on false advertising?

That’s more like it!

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Winners announced for ninth annual Joe Shuster Awards

underwater welderThe winners of the ninth annual Joe Shuster Awards were announced Saturday in Toronto during a ceremony held in conjunction with Fan Expo Canada. The awards are named in honor of Toronto-born artist Joe Shuster, co-creator Superman. The full list of nominees can be found here. The winners are:

Artist
Isabelle Arsenault: Jane, le renard & moi (La Pastèque)/Jane, The Fox and Me (Groundwood Books)

Cartoonist
Jeff Lemire: Sweet Tooth #29-40 (DC Comics), The Underwater Welder (Top Shelf)

Cover artist
Mike Del Mundo: A+X #2B, Amazing Spider-Man #678-679, 683B, Incredible Hulk #4B, Ka by Cirque de Soleil #1, Marvel Zombies Destroy! #1-5, Max Payne 3 #3, New Avengers #24B, Scarlet Spider #1B, 4B, Uncanny X-Men #17, Untold Tales of Punisher Max #5, Venom #16-17, 20, 22B, Wolverine #314-317, X-Men Legacy #1-2 (Marvel)

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Raina Telgemeier’s comic about ‘Barefoot Gen’ translated into Japanese

beginnings1As we reported Sunday, the school board of Matsue, Japan, has restricted students’ access to the manga Barefoot Gen, which is based on author Keiji Nakazawa’s own experiences during and after the bombing of Hiroshima. The book will remain in elementary and junior high school libraries, but only teachers can check it out — not students.

The official reason was the level of violence in the books, although the initial complaint about the book was that it depicted atrocities that the person who filed the complaint alleged had not happened.

This reminded Drama creator Raina Telgemeier of her own experience of being disturbed by the book as a child. As she said on her blog, “If you’ve ever seen me talk, you might know that Barefoot Gen is one of my seminal influences as a cartoonist, and I hold its creator Keiji Nakazawa in the highest regard.” And many years ago, she drew a short comic, Beginnings, about the effect that Barefoot Gen had on her nine-year-old self.

There’s a bit of the comic at right, but what’s cool is what happened after the book was banned: A Japanese father, who was unhappy about the banning, contacted Telgemeier and asked if he could translate Beginnings into Japanese, so his daughter could read it and share it with her friends. Telgemeier assented, and the translated version is now up on her website as well. There’s something wonderfully circular about that.


Nominees announced for 2013 Ignatz Awards

heads or tailsThe Small Press Expo has announced the nominees for the 2013 Ignatz Awards, the festival prize named in honor of the brick-wielding mouse in George Herriman’s Krazy Kat comic strip.

Nominees are selected by a panel of five cartoonists — this year it was Lisa Hanawalt, Dustin Harbin, Damien Jay, Sakura Maku and Jason Shiga — and then voted on by SPX attendees. The winners will be announced Sept. 14 during a ceremony at the Bethesda, Maryland, convention. The nominees are:

Outstanding Artist

  • Lilli Carré, Heads or Tails
  • Michael DeForge, Lose #4
  • Miriam Katin, Letting It Go
  • Ulli Lust, Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life
  • Patrick McEown, Hair Shirt

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Exclusive: ‘PhD Comics’ arrives on Tapastic

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Jorge Cham’s PhD Comics takes a wry look at the vagaries of life in academia, mostly from the point of view of a handful of long-suffering graduate students. He also has a feature, “Two Minute Thesis,” in which he summarizes real research in a comic or video; it’s sort of the comics equivalent of a TED Talk. It has built quite a following over the years (as a former grad student, and the wife, daughter and sister of college professors, I find it irresistible), so it’s big news that Cham is bringing PhD Comics to the webcomics site Tapastic. Or, part of it: PhD Comics will continue to run on its regular schedule on its original site, and Tapastic will carry a curated selection of Cham’s strips. I talked to Cham about PhD Comics, and the Tapastic move, and he drew a special cartoon just for us as well!

Robot 6: How long have you been drawing PhD Comics, and how did you get started with it?

Jorge Cham: I’ve been drawing PhD now for almost 16 years (!). It started as a hobby at first, as a way to procrastinate from my studies. I saw an ad in the student newspaper at Stanford University, where I was going for grad school, calling for submissions for their comics page. My brother suggested there should be a comic about grad school because they are usually ignored on campus, so on a lark I sent in some samples. At the time, I had a full course load and was working two jobs teaching and doing research, but it really seemed like something that needed to be done. Grad school had been a really intense, often bizarre, ego-crushing experience for me, and I had found it really useful to learn that others were going through the same thing, so it seemed important to record it and share it with the world.

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Comics A.M. | Digital’s role in ‘resuscitating’ comics industry

comiXology

comiXology

Digital comics | Financial-services company The Motley Fool touches upon how digital has helped to boost the comics industry, rather than undermine print sales as some predicted it would. “Digital has not to anyone’s observation pirated the sales of comics. It looks like just the opposite,” writer and charts-watcher John Jackson Miller tells the website. And then, because it’s The Motley Fool, the story veers off into what investors can learn from digital comics — specifically, “three forces [that] conspired to transform digital from a threat into a catalyst”: quality, format and access. [The Motley Fool]

Creators | Brian K. Vaughan talks about producing the CBS sci-fi thriller Under the Dome and writing Saga as well as his digital comic The Private Eye. His take on Saga: “I definitely wanted to write about the experience of fatherhood and parenthood while also recognizing that’s extremely boring for most people. How do you talk about these mundane topics in an exciting way? Hopefully setting this story in a wacky sci-fi fantasy universe has given us room to tell this story with some visual spectacle and just Fiona Staples being awesome.” [USA Today]

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Aaron Renier, Trubble Club take ‘Infinite Corpse’ to the people

Infinite Corpse by Jim Rugg

Infinite Corpse by Jim Rugg

Inspired by R. Sikoryak and Art Spiegleman’s Narrative Corpse, The Unsinkable Walker Bean creator Aaron Renier started The Infinite Corpse, a “chain” webcomic in which various creators tell the story of a skeleton’s crazy adventures by building off the three panels of the cartoonist who preceded them. The chains aren’t exactly linear, with the final website being more of a “choose your own adventure” story with branches going off in different directions.

“Each additional artist became a branch off of the original group … until it just became a fog of story lines a gigantic 205 artists were included when the website went live,” Renier explained on his blog. “And now, only a few months later we have over a hundred new artists sending in art. It’s open to submissions, just like the dry erase comic. It’s open to everyone who wants to do it. And open to all of those who already have gone before.”

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SDCC ’13 | ‘Homestuck’s’ Andrew Hussie signs with Shiftylook

Fans line up at the Homestuck booth in the Shiftylook Freeplay Arcade

Fans line up at the Homestuck booth in the Shiftylook Freeplay Arcade

Shiftylook, Namco Bandai’s webcomics venture, has inked a deal with Homestuck creator Andrew Hussie to create a dating-sim game, Namco High, that will allow players to mix and match characters from the different Namco Bandai games in a high-school environment.

There’s a pleasing symmetry to this alliance: Homestuck is a webcomic designed to look like an old computer game, complete with a cheesy home page that would be right at home on Geocities, and Shiftylook is a webcomics site that commissions writer-artist teams to make webcomics about characters from vintage Namco Bandai games from the 1980s and 1990s. I talked to the Shiftylook brass about their strategy at New York Comic Con; basically the idea is to build up a following for the characters and then bring them into other media, such as games and music.

As it did last year, Shiftylook set up shop across the street from the San Diego Convention Center for Comic-Con and offered an arcade where visitors could play Namco Bandai games for free. There was also an Adventure Time booth, selling merchandise from the popular animated and comics series, and a Homestuck booth, where Hussie himself made an appearance to sign autographs.

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SDCC Exclusive | Fantagraphics to publish ‘Megahex’ by Simon Hanselmann

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Fantagraphics Books announced today at Comic-Con International in San Diego that it will publish the work of Australian cartoonist Simon Hanselmann, best known for his ongoing series of “Megg, Mogg and Owl” strips that he now releases on his blog Girl Mountain.

Titled Megahex, the hardcover will feature than 200 pages of Megg and Mogg comics, including 70 never-before-seen pages. It will debut in summer 2014.

For those that aren’t familiar with Hanselmann’s work, Fantagraphics’ press release aptly sums up its unique appeal:

Megg (a green-skinned witch), Mogg (a black cat), and Owl (an anthropomorphic owl) are a trio of ne’er–do–well roommates cohabiting in a suburban flop house. Megg and Mogg spend most of their time smoking pot and having sex while Owl works various office jobs and usually comes home to find himself the as the butt of every joke. Behind the fart jokes and stoner humor are the depressed and misanthropic lives of these characters. Each possess their own tragedy which weighs on their shoulders, keeping them from escaping the nihilistic pit into which they’ve fallen.  Equally funny and melancholic, Hanselmann is able to evoke empathy for his characters, making it easy for readers fall in love with this disdainful bunch. Part Ernest Hemingway, part Johnny Ryan, Megahex will make people laugh, cry, and then take a shower.

“This is literally a teenage dream,” Hanselmann goes on to say. “Fantagraphics has been my favorite/the best comics publisher since forever. I’ve had a Fantagraphics poster hanging over my bed since I was fourteen. My brain is doing confused celebratory cartwheels.”

This is indeed excellent news. As anyone whose read Hanselmann’s comics knows, he’s one of the most interesting cartoonist to come out of the Internet in recent years. While taking the basic template of your average stoner comedy (albeit with some fantasy and funny animal elements), Hanselmann isn’t afraid to take his characters into some very dark (and given their recreational habits, logical) places. It’s emotionally powerful, raw and uncompromising work that also happens to be really funny.

You can read the full press released after the jump, along with a short Q&A I conducted with Hanselmann via email.

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‘Hawkeye’ and ‘Saga’ lead Harvey Award nominations

hawkeye1Hawkeye and Saga lead the ballot for the 2013 Harvey Awards, tying with nominations in seven categories, including best new series, best continuing series, best writer (for both Matt Fraction and Brian K. Vaughan) and best artist (for both David Aja and Fiona Staples).

ROBOT 6 was nominated for best biographic, historical or journalistic presentation, alongside Alter Ego Magazine, Jack Kirby Collector, Team Cul de Sac: Cartoonists Draw the Line at Parkinson’s and Marvel Comics: The Untold Story.

Named in honor of the late Harvey Kurtzman, the cartoonist and founding editor of MAD magazine, the awards are selected entirely by creators. Voting is open now through Aug. 19. The winners will be presented Sept. 7 during Baltimore Comic-Con.

The full list of nominees can be found below:

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SDCC ’13 | Friday programming schedule released

comic-con-fridayAnd just like clockwork, Comic-Con International organizers have rolled out the programming schedule for Friday, July 19.

On its second day, the San Diego convention kicks into high gear, with publishing panels from Dark Horse (including one dedicated to Joss Whedon’s titles, and another to Star Wars), DC Comics, IDW (including the Hasbro licenses), Marvel (including the perennial “Cup O’ Joe”), Oni Press, Titan Comics and UDON, retrospectives devoted to ElfQuest, Walt Kelly, Aspen and Strangers in Paradise, and tributes to the late Carmine Infantino and Kim Thompson.

Oh, and don’t forget the Eisner Awards ceremony, which caps off the day.

Check out some of the comics-related highlights below, and visit the Comic-Con website for the full schedule:

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