25: 2020 Wrap-Up - Part Three

Okay, so… I have one more screed to leave you with before the end of the year. There’s one big lesson I’ve learned in this weird, weird year, that I hope I can take to heart and carry with me every year going forward.

The most important thing I can do in my creative life is indulge my curiosity.

And I don’t use the word indulge lightly here. The best moments of my year have been when I let myself go down a rabbit hole. It’s the big picture version of back when I would go down Wikipedia holes back in the pre-Social Media days on the internet. And there’s a lot of rabbit holes I went down this year, but let me lay out the most consequential one I found.

It started with reading From Hell. And then reading about From Hell online, and then deciding to buy a full set of the anthology series that spawned From Hell on eBay. So, then I had a full set of Taboo in front of me, and I loved reading Steve Bissette’s commentary in every issue so much, that I went out and bought a few issues of The Comics Journal (once again on eBay) that featured long-form interviews with Steve Bissette. While I was waiting for those to arrive, I listened to the four hour Cartoonist Kayfabe interview with him, and picked up some of the other horror anthologies he was a part of, and I picked up a whole set of his unfinished dinosaur comic, Tyrant. The Comics Journal issues pushed me toward the whole storied history of Tundra, and I picked up a few of the books that were published under that label which sent me down a whole separate Al Columbia binge. I started filling a shortbox in my office with old comics that I was reading for the first time, most of which have never been collected in trades, and I never really had access to in my comic reading life since I didn’t have regular access to comic shops until I got a car in my Junior year of High School, around 2004-2005.

That’s the curiosity spiral that led me down the road that would create RAZORBLADES: THE HORROR MAGAZINE… And it didn’t stop there. I started picking up other independent horror anthologies from the pre-Image creator owned era, and that led me down a path that ended up with me picking up a whole buttload of the Epic Illustrated Hellraiser anthologies, and the Eclipse published adaptations of the Books of Blood short stories. While simultaneously my kick of reading The Comics Journal issues finally unleashed me on my partner, Sam’s bookshelf and all of the classics from Fantagraphics and Drawn & Quarterly and a number of indy alternative press books that I had only read before in scattershot doses. 

And it branched out further from there. Thinking about From Hell got my brain geared up thinking about what it would be like to try and build a comic out of a non-fiction, or pseudo-nonfiction event, and I had been listening to the full library of LAST PODCAST ON THE LEFT episodes to refresh myself on a lot of esoteric knowledge as a part of the development of The Department of Truth, and I started imagining what it would be like to try and do a direct adaptation of the experiences of Betty and Barney Hill… So I went online and ordered an old used copy of “THE INTERUPTED JOURNEY” – the original non-fiction accounting of those events. From there I started seeing all of the early UFO non-fiction books mentioned in the footnotes in and around that title, and I ordered a handful of those books as well. I ended up plugging a lot of that research into The Department of Truth, and you’ll see that pay off a bit in Issue #7, but there’s a shelf growing in my apartment and I do think there’s some kind of UFO project that will take shape in the coming years… When I have time to do all the research.

The important caveat is a lot of the above happened in April-June of this year, when I was ahead of my deadlines, but the future at DC was still unclear, I didn’t know for sure when DOT was dropping, and all conventions were cancelled. I had work that needed doing, but not as much of it as usual and I was trapped in my Brooklyn apartment trying not to go insane. I’ve kept going down rabbit holes as my work schedule picked back up again, and I had less time to just absorb media. In a lot of ways, I am still riding the high of that indulgence early in the year… I’ve had other, shorter bursts of indulgence later in the year… I started rereading a lot of classic Jim Lee Marvel Comics (I got that X-Men XXL book and I was studying that think like a bible early in the year – I remember a night where Tradd Moore came over for drinks on our rooftop in the early fall and we kept flipping through the book looking at the incredible, iconic full body shots of all of these amazing X-Characters and I started talking to him about how I wanted to approach Batman next year with a similar visual language), that led to me doing a big revisit of my favorite Barry Windsor Smith X-Men and Wolverine comics… 

And I’ve been on a big Frank Miller kick for months now. I’ve read his Daredevil, Batman: Year One, and DKR more times than I can count, but it’s been revisiting books like Ronin, the Martha Washington books, Sin City, and Hard Boiled that have been getting my gears turning… All supplemented with some of the Frank Miller Comics Journal interviews from when he was working on all of this stuff.

I’ve reread Elektra: Assassin about three times now in the last month because there’s something beating at the heart of that book that taps into what I’m trying to say in Department of Truth, AND in my upcoming Joker book, and it is a gift that keeps on giving.

Reading so many great comics this year deepened my love of this industry in immense and powerful ways. I feel more in love with comics than I have in years, in a way that I frankly needed. The corporate side of the industry had been burning me out for a long time, and wearing me down, and I needed to inject some pure comics directly into my heart and my brain and get me thinking again, and filling my head with new ideas for new stories. And now my mind is teeming with ideas, for my current projects, and for new ones down the pike. 

It’s so easy to think of this stuff as a waste of time. There’s so much work that needs doing in comics, particularly when you’re as prolific as I am. There’s even more when you’re doing an Image book and even more than that when you’re trying to self-publish a quarterly horror anthology. And that’s without all of the human stuff you have to prioritize even living in quarantine. But you need the inspiring creative inputs to get inspired creative outputs. And even more than that, I think the most important thing all of this has done is keep me humble. 

I can’t pretend that I’m not having a very, very good year professionally. My work is connecting with readers, and my audience is growing, but I still look at the luminaries of our field and I see how much work I have left to do to try and make comics that measure up to them. I don’t mean that in a self-depreciating way, but in a way that feels inspiring to me. There’s a lot about this craft and the underlying math that I think I understand now and that means I can engage with the stuff that’s much, much better than anything I have done with clearer eyes and see what they are made of. And then I can challenge myself to try and improve based on what I see. I don’t want to live in an echo-chamber of my own making in my own small corner of the medium. I want to challenge myself to make better and better comic books, while reading more and more good comic books.

But it’s all about leaning into your curiosities. Fall in love with doing research for your projects. Fill your brain with a million interesting things. People ask writers all the time where do ideas come from, and you find them at the bottom of these kinds of rabbit holes, and you almost never find them at the bottom of the one you expected.

Now, onto some specifics…

20 THINGS THAT INSPIRED ME IN 2020

Some of these things debuted in 2020, but most of them did not… This isn’t really about making a best of the year list, but rather just recording the sorts of things that stoked the embers of my love of the comic book medium and fueled me creatively over the course of the year. It is, of course, more than 20 things, because I can’t stop myself. 

But if you were looking to unpack why I’m thinking in certain directions, and what I’m trying to draw from in the work that I’m trying to do… Then this might answer some of those questions for you.

1.     FROM HELL by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell

I’ve been talking about the impact of reading this comic in this newsletter for months now. I deliberately held off on reading From Hell for years so I would still have a great Alan Moore comic to read on a rainy day, and when the world started raining Covid-19, it was time to break the emergency glass and pull it out. It is, quite simply, one of the greatest works of the comics medium. My year would be tangibly different if I hadn’t sat down and read this book.

2.     SABRINA by Nick Drnaso

I really can’t oversell this book. It is harrowing and horrifying and personal and unlike anything else I’ve read this year. There are bits of this that helped inspire moments in SIKTC and DOT3, reflecting the calm, steady bleakness that feels authentically like the dull ache of the real world. This is the book that reminded me that the cutting edge of the comic book medium is happening in every corner of the field. The fact that Drnaso is still in his 20s and he created such a sophisticated work is thrilling thing. I can’t wait to read his next projects. 

3.     HICKSVILLE by Dylan Horrocks

One of these days, I’m going to write up all my feelings about Wizard Magazine and all the things it ingrained in the industry right as I was first falling in love with comics, and the after image of what it ingrained all these years later. But honestly, maybe I’d be better served trying to get more of you to read Hicksville. When I was going down my rabbit hole in early summer, this came at the recommendation of one of my favorite editors, Chris Conroy, and I’ve revisited it a couple times since then. It really captures my feelings about a maximalist, all-inclusive love of the comic book medium and its potential, and the ways we fail ourselves when we close off from all its myriad wonders.

4.     UPGRADE SOUL by Ezra Claytan Daniels

Probably the most unsettling horror comic I read this year. Upgrade Soul exists at that precise middle ground between the Indy-Alternative market and its storytelling priorities and pacing, and that of the direct market. It was one of my first stops in that artful and strange middle ground that I’ve spent my year obsessed with. I don’t want to spoil the contents of this book, but there are threads of science fiction and body horror pulled off with such deliberation that every moment in the book hits hard. I’ve filled my head with a LOT of horror comics this year, and there is still so damn much. 

5.     ON A SUNBEAM AND THE WORK OF TILLIE WALDEN

We spent the first four weeks of quarantine away from my book collection, dealing with a non-Covid related family issue, and I spent the first three of those weeks neglecting the pile of comics I had brought along with me… But the one that really kicked me off in the ravenous reading spree that lasted into the summer was ON A SUNBEAM. I’d been aware of Tillie’s work before, and had been on a panel or two with her in the past, but sitting down with ON A SUNBEAM just blew me away. I love stories about teenagers, but too often when I sit down with YA fiction it feels like the rough edges have been sanded away… On a Sunbeam is all rough edges. It’s all longing, and I can’t imagine a more teenage feeling than longing. It’s just such a sophisticated piece. When we got home, I ordered literally everything else she has ever written and drawn, and I devoured all of it as it showed up in my house.

6.     THE WORK OF ADRIAN TOMINE

There are a lot of things I could call out from reading through my partner Sam’s shelf at home. Jesse Jacobs’ work in particular really spoke to me once I was able to really tune into what it was trying to do… But maybe the most rewarding thing I did was read through the entire Adrian Tomine catalog of books. I’d read bits and pieces of it before, but it was reading it through more or less consecutively and seeing how his style and form and story priorities developed that I really connected. I really enjoyed his latest, THE LONELINESS OF THE LONG-DISTANCE CARTOONIST, but honestly it’s the work from the middle of his career, just telling self-contained human stories, that spoke out to me the most. Understated and masterful. Just proving the power of the medium even with all the more typical genre trappings stripped away.

7.     THE WORK OF FRANK MILLER

Now, obviously I’ve read and appreciated a lot of Frank Miller comics before, but I think this was the first year I engaged with his catalog of work in and of itself rather than look at it as it sits in the canon of Daredevil and Batman. I started down that path with Ronin, a book I’ve had on my shelf for years but had never given a series go before. I think Frank Miller is probably the greatest living comic creator, particularly in regards to our corner of the comic book industry. The work he was doing in the 80s and 90s was always interesting, and always deeply considered, and always masterful. Reading more about why he was making the moves he did, particularly in building out Sin City, helped open my mind to what he was looking to accomplish in the comics field. I finally sat down and read the Martha Washington books for the first time, and Ronin… And most crucially, I finally sat down with Elektra: Assassin by Frank and Bill Sienkiewicz and was able to fully engage with it in a way I wasn’t ready for when I first tried in my early 20s. I felt like I was learning secrets of the medium with every book of his I read this year. And with all of that in mind I want to revisit the Frank Miller books I’ve read hundreds of times before with the same eye, and I see what I can learn from them.

8.     LITERALLY EVERYTHING ED BRUBAKER HAS BEEN UP TO THIS YEAR

If you pointed a gun to my head and told me that I can only ever read new comic books from one creator for the rest of my life, I would pick Ed Brubaker’s work. His work with Sean Phillips this year has been transcendently good. From wrapping up the most recent run on Criminal, to Pulp, to Reckless, each collaboration between these giants has been awe-inspiring. Reckless in particular has been sitting with me, and I plan on reading it again when I get back home next week. The big surprise to me was the release of Friday with Marcos Martin on Panel Syndicate, a story that taps into the “boy detective” genre I’ve always loved. I am very excited to keep reading everything Ed and his incredible collaborators have on the docket in 2021 and beyond. More than anyone in his peer group of creator, I feel like Ed is still reaching new heights and refining his craft in the way I hope to be when I’m a few decades into my comic book writing career. 

9.     WITCH HAT ATELIER by Kamome Shirahama

When I started my huge reading spree early in the summer I felt certain that I was going to shift into a major Manga binge when I wrapped up my binge through the Indy Alternative comics, but unfortunately that never came. I got too buried in work again, and even failed to finish reading through the absolutely phenomenal Inio Asano’s GOODNIGHT PUNPUN, and Nagabe’s THE GIRL FROM THE OTHER SIDE (both of which I loved – I just need to sit down and finish). So, I am heading into 2021 with a deep and powerful need to just spend a month reading piles and piles of manga and letting all of it seep into my brain. I already have the piles and piles of Manga waiting for me, and that’s not even counting all the manga I’m due for a reread (I want to revisit MONSTER in particular, as I continue working on Joker). But I had a special moment early in the summer where I was reading a lot of really harrowing, emotionally dark work. I was reading Sabrina and Goodnight Punpun and all of this horror back-to-back, and I needed to inject myself with something else… And I finally picked up the first volume of Witch Hat Atelier, and it was everything I needed. First off, I can’t overstate how beautiful it is… and also how NICE. It is a good-hearted book. It helped refresh my spirit in a way that I needed. I still need to read more volumes to get up to date, but I am eager to do it in the new year.

10.  KILL A MAN & BARBALIEN

Sometimes I sit back and remember what a desert the comics market used to be for queer content. I’ve always loved comics, but particularly as I came of age in the mid 2000s, there were not a lot of gay characters, and there was even less gay content. Now, there’s finally a real onslaught of queer content out in the market, but it’s still mostly in the YA Book Market space. There are so many queer books that I love, but there aren’t enough queer books that do the sort of things that I look for comics to do, in all its myriad genres. Two books hit the mark for me on that note more than any other this year, and they each deserve their own space on this list, but I’m rolling them up into one thing here because I’m insane and am trying to fit like one hundred things into a list of twenty things because I think I’m trying to kill myself with these newsletters. KILL A MAN is by Steve Orlando, Phillip Kennedy Johnson with Alec Morgan. For a long time I thought of it as Steve’s “Gay Rocky” comic, but it’s a lot more than that. It’s violent and human, and tells a layered, human type of queer story that I’ve seen much more of in the real world than I have in fiction. I’ve been friends with Steve and PKJ for years, but this is my favorite work from the both of them. It’s just powerfully human and emotional and just outright powerful. BARBALIEN: RED PLANET is by Jeff Lemire, Tate Brombal and Gabriel Hernandez Walta is a latecomer in the year, and full-disclosure, I managed to get my hands on the full miniseries so I’ve gotten to digest it in one huge piece. It’s such an impressive book, and layers in queer history into the kind of superhero story I wish we got a lot more of. This was the first work I read by Tate, and probably one of the most impressive debuts I’ve seen for a writer in the last five years. I can’t wait to read what he puts out in the world next.

11.  MR. BOOP by Alec Robbins

I think Mr. Boop is the defining comic book of 2020. Its unrelenting strangeness, mundanity, and perversion shifting into outright horror feel more 2020 than anything else I’ve read all year. It’s subversive and fucked up and it’s also been a strange comfort during our year in quarantine. It has kept going long beyond you’d think what should have been a one-note joke could go, and it’s kept twisting and evolving into new shapes. I hope it wins all the Eisners next year, and no I am not joking. 

12.  WHITE NOISE

At this point I hope you all know that one of the secrets to finding the newest and best comics coming out of the direct market is to add everything that the White Noise team is doing to your pull-lists. These four writers out of the UK: Ram V, Alex Paknadel, Dan Watters, and Ryan O’Sullivan are consistently putting out some of the most forward looking work in our corner of the comic business. I’ve been bullish on White Noise for a while now, which is why I hand-picked Ram V to step in and take the reins of Justice League Dark when I had to drop the book. It’s also why all of these writers have stories either already in Razorblades, or coming up in Razorblades. It’s been a banner year for White Noise, with Ram V and Anand RK knocking all of our collective socks off with Blue in Green. Dan Watters and Caspar Wijngaard launched the absolutely gorgeous Home Sick Pilots. Alex Paknadel put out two home runs this year with GIGA with John Le, and Redfork with Nil Vandrell. Ryan O’Sullivan and Andrea Mutti returned to the world of Fearscape with A Dark Interlude… I also have to credit these guys for bringing the incredible letterer Aditya Bidikar into my life, without whom The Department of Truth or Wynd wouldn’t have nearly as much character. I love the spirit of their work, and their collective creativity, and I could keep listing all their great comics, but all I’ll say is you really have to go out there and hunt them down.

13.  ALL THE COMICS I BOUGHT ON EBAY

This is less about the specifics, a lot of which I got into above, and honestly more about the habit I’ve gotten back into this year which is collecting comics. There’s something magical about hunting down books that are difficult to find in the modern day, it’s like a kind of cultural anthropology, trying to piece together moments in the comics market and try and see the big picture. I’ll roll the Comics Journal into this as well. By the time I started reading comics, TCJ had stopped covering a lot of direct market comics, but going back to the pre-Wizard, pre-Image days, it’s thrilling to see a platform that covered comics as a whole, looking at every strange corner. Reading the in-depth interviews there are powerfully inspiring. My latest eBay purchases? A full run of Evan Dorkin’s DORK and a full run of Greg Capullos’ THE CREECH. I can’t wait to curl up with both when I get back to Brooklyn.

14.  COMIC BOOK ARTISTS AND ILLUSTRATORS ON TWITTER AND INSTAGRAM

One of the best things I’ve done all year is massively retool the kind of people I’m following on Social Media, in service of Razorblades: The Horror Magazine. As I realized what I wanted Razorblades to be and the sort of illustrators I wanted to bring in to showcase, I started following dozens and dozens of artists in various different styles, and since then, I’ve been following my favorite artists that those artists are retweeting. The amount of illustration and comic book talent out there online is staggering, and the diversity of style and content is absolutely inspiring. Within the horror illustration community alone, I’ve been blown away. Folks like Trevor Henderson and David Romero and the work they trumpet on their twitter pages has opened my eyes to a whole world of art that was invisible to me before. I’ve been trying to get my favorites to contribute to Razorblades, and others I’ve been pocketing for consideration for covers down the line… But honestly the most inspiring thing has been seeing how the art community has taken the power in their own hands in the middle of Covid. One of my favorite things to do on a Friday Night this year has been watching Soo Lee’s twitch stream with a bunch of the creators repped by Modern Mythology and their pals, including Ricardo Lopez Ortiz, Tyler Boss, Josh Hixson, Adam Gorham, Sweeney Boo, Tom Reilly and more and see them joke around and draw together. There is a communal part of art that I find unbelievably inspiring, and this year has made me tremendously excited to see what all of these talented people do next.

15.  HALT AND CATCH FIRE

Similar to Manga, I really expected this to be the year that I sat down and binged through a bunch of television that I had been meaning to watch for ages, but for whatever reason that never really happened. There have been shows that I really enjoyed this year, and one new show I deeply loved, but the only one that got me so worked up that I was sneaking episodes in the middle of my work days and staying up late at night to binge was HALT AND CATCH FIRE, which is how I spent my first weeks of the covid life, back when we were cancelling conventions but hadn’t really changed that much of our day-to-day living. There is so much style and energy and character in this show, and I fell in love with all of it. One of the show’s co-creators, Christopher Cantwell has spent the last year diving into the comics world full force and the industry is richer for his contributions, but the power of Halt and Catch Fire and the deft way it approached the PC revolution was one of my favorite media experiences of the year.

16.  TED LASSO

There’s a decency at the heart of Ted Lasso that broke me down and had me sobbing when I watched through it for the first time. This year has been so unrelentingly dark and depressing, and there have been moments that I have been embarrassed to be an American in the larger scope of the world… But Ted Lasso’s celebration of a kind of contemporary American decency, and its portrayal of masculinity and power dynamics, and the importance of collaboration were just staggeringly powerful in their simplicity. It’s a toxic world out there, and it can break people, and we all need a little more Ted Lasso in our lives, even if it’s just a fantasy. This was one of my favorite treats of the year.

17.  THE ELEMENTALS, BY MICHAEL MCDOWELL

I think it’s a byproduct of how many comics I read, but I have been going through a real dry run when it comes to prose fiction for the last few years. Really since around 2016. I read or listen to a lot of non-fiction books and audiobooks about all sorts of subjects, but I keep losing my focus on prose fiction and finding myself back with a book of non-fiction or a book with pictures in it in my hands. But every year there’s an exception that holds my attention entirely and presents me with a world and characters that I get lost in. I’ve been recommended The Elementals for years and years now by dozens of friends, but it was going on summer walks in NYC trying to get out of the stuffy apartment with nowhere to go that I started my journey to Beldame. The book is stunning, and isn’t celebrated nearly enough. I want to keep going on a journey through McDowell’s library, when my brain finally switches gears and starts letting the prose fiction back in, but for now I’ll savor this particular Southern Gothic flavor.

18.  DEFUNCTLAND

I’ve been a fan of Defunctland for ages, but seeing it grow more sophisticated in its third season this year has been an absolute treat. It’s youtube series structured like a lot of non-fiction podcasts, about the history of now defunct rides in popular theme parks. Or at least that’s where it started. The third season was a complicated and sophisticated history of American Theme Parks and the life and influences of Walt Disney ending with the most comprehensive take on his true dreams for EPCOT that I’ve ever seen. 

19.  ROBSERVATIONS

Yes. The Rob Liefeld podcast. I’ve been evangelizing this podcast to my friends since that amazing run of shows about the Heroes Reborn era earlier in the year. There is nobody like Rob Liefeld in the history of the comics medium, and he’s basically writing his memoirs into a microphone, with all of his trademark energy and an amazing Todd McFarlane impersonation. I wrote a bit in one of my early newsletters that the history of the comics medium tends to end in 1990, and it’s heartening to see one of the giants of the 90s put his own history down on the record for everyone. I don’t agree with everything Rob says, or all of his priorities, but he is one of the best showmen in comics, in the tradition of Stan Lee himself, and the energy of each of these podcasts is contagious. This has been a year where my number one priority has been selling comics, and sometimes it’s powerful to hear someone who has such a powerfully commercial sensibility and yet is absolutely uncompromising in who and what he is. Sharing the slot here is also the Cartoonist Kayfabe Youtube series and podcast which has been running for a while now, and seeing Jim Rugg and Ed Piskor talk about 1980s Manga and 1990s superhero comics all the while doing some of the best interviews in the business has been incredibly enlightening. These podcasts are scratching the same itch in the present day that the old Comics Journal issues have been scratching for the historian in me and have been instrumental in my appreciation of the comics I’ve been reading. 

20.  THE MUSIC I SHOULD HAVE GOTTEN INTO IN MIDDLE SCHOOL

Look, I was never a cool kid. I never listened to the cool kids music. I listened to Broadway Musicals and movie soundtracks in middle school and high school, and occasionally whatever my friends asked me to listen to when I drove them around. It’s only been in the last few years that I’ve started plugging into the music that I wish I had opened my mind to when I was a kid. I went on a whole Nine Inch Nails kick back when the quarantine started, and I can’t really overstate how many times I listened through The Downward Spiral. It is a stupid number of times, really. But it captured a kind of caged energy and darkness I was feeling at the start of quarantine and I needed an outlet for. From there I burned through all of the NIN catalog for the first time in context, album to album. And then I went on from there, going down a shorter series of rabbit holes than my comics discovery, but finding more music I liked to help me process what I was feeling day to day. I finally had my My Chemical Romance kick sometime in July, too, which was admittedly less revelatory to me than the NIN deep dive, but still valuable. Music is neat! I want to consciously take more of it in, rather than use it as a background for other creative work which is really the utility it’s served for me over my career.



Hahaha, wow. Okay, I think I need to make my first real New Years Resolution. I need to write shorter newsletters. I honestly started out just intending to write up five things, and then ultimately decided 20 fit the year better.

Oh, well… Let’s actually get into what I came here today to talk about, which is my slate of creator-owned titles. I will try not to go on too long. I want to actually finish writing this and send it out before 2021 starts.

THE DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH

I spent so much of this year so freaking terrified that this book wasn’t going to happen, or that it was going to crash and burn into the abyss. This whole newsletter, more than anything, was designed to help try and prop up this book. I had no idea whether it was going to connect. Its subject matter fascinated me, but it was a bleak book, darker than most I’ve written, dealing with all the muddy grays of humanity… And I was dropping it in the middle of a bleak year, doing a book that dealt with politics in the run-up to an election, and I was poking prodding the live wires of QAnon and Crisis Actors and Birthers with abandon… 

But I was doing it in service of a bigger idea, and I am so fucking grateful that that idea has connected with readers and that people are liking and reading this book. We got the news early in December that sales actually went up from issue 3 to issue 4… And this is all before we get our first trade paperback out in the world, having launched the book at a staggering 100k copies out in the wild. All of that gives me the confidence that we’re going to be able to take the time to delve into all the weird corners I want to delve into with this book. Every issue I do research and that research gives me ideas for new stories and new characters within the Department of Truth mythology. January is going to end the first story-arc, and introduce us to the primary antagonist of the series. The opposite number to Lee Harvey Oswald, leading the Black Hat organization. His name is Martin Barker, and by the time this series is over, I hope he’s one of the scariest characters you’ve come across in comics… There’s going to be an arc down the line that unpacks his history that I’ve been waiting to write for over two years.

After that, we’re going to have two chapters that deviate from the present-day story, and bring a handful of incredible artists to the book. These stories continue forward from after the assassination of JFK, with Lee Harvey Oswald trapped in the Department of Truth headquarters, learning about the department and its predecessors. These one-shots establish and expand the scope and the story of the Department of Truth and begin to give a sense of its history. 

First comes the incredible ELSA CHARRETIER alongside MATT HOLLINGSWORTH with Issue #6, which will unpack the oldest document in the Department of Truth’s archives. An account from a Monk in the Black Woods in the year 1000 AD. It’s a story about time, and calendars, and my favorite obscure conspiracy theory – The Phantom Time Hypothesis – Which suggests that Charlemagne was a fiction created by the Pope to give mythic credence to the new Holy Roman Empire. It’s about writing and changing history, and the balance of power in the world. Elsa’s art for the issue is beyond stunning. 

Following that comes TYLER BOSS alongside ROMAN TITOV for Issue #7, which is going to reveal the origin story of “Doc”, the tin-foil wearing scientist working in the Department of Truth archives in the present day. It’s also the first time we’re going to talk about UFOs and the Men in Black in the series, both of which are crucially important concepts for what we plan on building down the road. Tyler’s pages here are similarly astounding, and I can’t wait for you all to get a sense of what we’re building here.

There’s a story being told over these interstitial issues which will be collected further down the line when they’re joined by interstitial issues between later arcs and the full story is revealed… But as of right now these issues are only going to be available in single issues, and will give the readers of our single issues a secret understanding that Trade Waiters might not get to see until we collect all of these into Volume 4 or so of the series. You’re not going to want to skip out on these issues, I promise.

And then my co-creator Martin Simmonds will come back with Department of Truth #8 to start our second arc in earnest and introduce one of the other top agents of the Department of Truth, who just might be the character I am most excited to write in 2021. His name is Hawk Harrison, and he is the resident magician of the Department of Truth, and he is a fucking asshole. That second arc is going to continue to unpack Cole Turner’s history and the nature of the Star-Faced Man, and how Black Hat is trying to tip the balance of the world. It’s a big, dangerous story I am very, very excited to write.

And THEN there’s the biggest piece of news connected to The Department of Truth that I can’t even begin to hint at yet. There’s been a whole exciting thing happening behind the scenes for months now, and I hope we’re going to be able to discuss it publicly very soon now.

I’m so happy to be on this journey with my co-creator and artist Martin Simmonds, our phenomenal letterer Aditya Bidikar, our designer extraordinaire Dylan Todd, and our fearless editor Steve Foxe. This is just the beginning of the journey and I hope you stick along for the ride. It’s going to go to some weird and wild places.

WYND

I don’t think it’s hit me yet that the book that I’ve been imagining since I was 15 years old is real and it’s out in the world. My favorite thing about Wynd is that in a year where I’ve had a lot of loud books, Wynd has been quietly growing in esteem. There’s a huge fantasy audience out there in the world, hungry for new content and I think this is the first time I’ve fully tapped into that audience. I love to see the Wynd fans out there. All of my babies are special, and I love them all equally, but there’s nothing like seeing more and more people discover this world that has been living in my head for half of my life.

For a lot of the people who read it, Wynd is their favorite thing I’m doing right now, and that’s not lost on me. I think this book is going to keep finding a growing and growing audience once it come out in a collected edition, and comes back around for its second volume this summer. Meanwhile, my inbox is filling up with the most beautiful pages that my friend and co-creator Michael Dialynas have ever sent me. Our second year is going to introduce a handful of new characters who are going to help change the dynamic of the book… I figure I’ll spend the next few months introducing you to them, but I thought I’d get started on that today.

Meet the Vampyre General Zedra. She is going to pick up where The Bandaged Man left off in the first volume, as our heroes escape into the wider Esseriel. Michael made the Bandaged Man a truly terrifying and dangerous force in the first book, and our goal with Zedra is to leave him in the dust. It’s always fun to take a character who would feel more in place in an outright Horror series and put them into a Young Adult book… We’re ready to scare some folks moving forward… Wynd first and foremost among them.

Meanwhile, I want to point your attention to the limited edition hardcover collection of WYND: VOLUME ONE, coming out in March! This will only be available for a limited time, before the book market paperback edition is released alongside Wynd #6 in May. This hardcover is our treat to the early adopters out there, and only available in comic shops, not bookstores! Don’t miss out on it!

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN

I think of “The Empire of the Tiny Onion” as the house that Erica Slaughter built.

I wrote back when I started this newsletter that looking back, I’d see the start of this phase of my career as beginning with the release of Something is Killing the Children #1, and I think that’s held true. Miraculously, this series keeps finding a larger and larger audience. Our 11th Issue outsold our 1st including all its printings, and it feels like it keeps finding more people as we get more trade paperbacks out in the world, in multiple languages… And this is only the beginning. There are a few SIKTC related announcements coming in 2021 that will show the scope of what SITKC has the potential to be in the comics market and beyond. I can’t hint at it all more than that. 

Something is Killing the Children wasn’t the book I planned it to be. It was going to be an exercise in doing something different from the sort of work I had been doing at DC. But it had its own intentions and its own notion of what kind of comic it wanted to be. I just put the final touches on Issue #15 before the holidays (Actually, if I’m being honest, over the Holidays), which draws the whole Archer’s Peak saga to a close. When we first talked about expanding SIKTC past 5 issues, this was going to be the finale for the whole series… But the growing interest in the book, and the ideas I had about the larger mythology around Erica meant us reconsidering the series and its longevity. But no matter what, I knew that Issue #15 had to be an ending. I want you all to look at the first fifteen issues of SIKTC as the first Erica Slaughter novel… We’re going to have a surprising intermission, and then we’re going to start the second Erica Slaughter novel. I’ll be talking a lot more about all of that as we head into the next year.



I hope that I’ll be writing Erica Slaughter comics for years to come, working with my phenomenal co-creator, Werther Dell’edera, the phenomenal Miquel Muerto who keeps our blood neon red like it’s supposed to be, and the amazing Deron Bennett and Andworld Design for making sure my dialogue flows on each beautiful page. 

And I also want to give a shout-out to Eric Harburn and Gwen Waller who edit both SIKTC and Wynd. I’ve been working with Eric for my entire professional career and these books wouldn’t be nearly as good without his tireless assistance and guidance. I couldn’t be more grateful and glad to keep working with him, and the whole Boom! Family.

HOUSEKEEPING

There’s a lot more I can say. I could start hinting at the projects that are coming further down the road, I could keep dancing around the secret stuff I’m not allowed to talk about yet, I could talk more about my personal goals and theories about the industry… But I think, like 2020 itself these newsletters have gone on long enough. I wanted to make up for falling off the map after October, and I think I did that.

I’m going to try and keep to a more or less biweekly schedule for these suckers into the new year. If I’m honest, I think my goal in 2021 might be to leave twitter behind and use my newsletter as my primary outlet. I’ll have exciting news and special covers to sell and all sorts of fun things to come in future months.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for supporting my books. Thank you for letting me have this incredible, strange career.

Here’s to the dream of a better year.

Happy New Year, everyone!

James Tynion IV
Johnstown, PA
12.31.20

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