18: Razorblades: The Horror Magazine

As of today, I add another descriptor to my name. I am no longer just James Tynion IV, comic book writer. I am James Tynion IV, comic book publisher!!

Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!

RAZORBLADES: THE HORROR MAGAZINE IS HERE!

WAIT A SECOND, I THOUGHT THIS WHOLE NEWSLETTER WAS GOING TO TELL ME HOW TO BUY DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH PINS?!

Okay, Jeeze! I have officially launched a Tiny Onion Studios webstore, which is now stocked with the second batch of DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH pins! Retailers have already claimed half of this 500-copy batch of pins, but the rest are available now! There will be future printings if the demand for the pins continues.

But buy your pins here. And then come back so I can tell you what ELSE you should buy off my webstore.

OKAY, PHEW. I’VE GOT MY PINS! NOW… TELL ME… WHAT THE HELL IS RAZORBLADES: THE HORROR MAGAZINE?

This is the comic I have been calling Project Nightmare in my last few newsletters. It is a 76-page self-published horror anthology book, curated and co-created by myself and Steve Foxe. It is the first book wholly published by my production company, Tiny Onion Studios.

I came up with the name Razorblades. Steve came up with the best justification for the name. Razorblades is meant to evoke a collection of small, sharp things, that can cut you. The goal here was to create a modern horror anthology, with a focus on the most exciting young voices in the comics and horror art communities.

The cover illustration is by the amazing Trevor Henderson, creator of Siren Head, and a whole host of amazing horror illustrations. You should all go follow him here.  

The issue features comic features by Me & Andy Belanger, Sam Johns & DaNi, Steve Foxe & Michael Dialynas, Marguerite Bennett & Werther Dell’Edera, Lonnie Nadler & Jenna Cha, Michael Walsh, and Trung Nguyen. There are Ilustrations by Brian Level, Francine B/WitnessTheAbsurd, Nick Robles, Aaron Campbell, and Jock. There is a prose short story by Danny Lore, and I have an in-depth interview with Scott Snyder about horror as a genre.

The first issue sees the start of one incredible serial feature, A DREAM OF TIME, by Ram V & John J Pearson. It also sees a 2-page preview advertising my upcoming serial feature, THE ADVENTURES OF KILLBOY, by myself and Ricardo Lopez Ortiz.

Razorblades was lettered by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou, Aditya Bidikar, and Serge Lapointe, and designed by Dylan Todd.

I have two stories in the book:

THE WASHING MACHINE

Andy Belanger and I have been talking about doing a horror comic together for ages. I think the first time I pitched him on doing an anthology book with me was back when I was on Talon. I absolutely love Andy’s work. The story comes from a real place. Well… Real to an extent. It’s based on the most horrible nightmare I’ve ever had. The down-in-your gut horror at what I thought I did has always stuck with me. And so, I processed it the best way I know how, by turning it into a comic book, and convincing Andy to draw what I am proud to say is the most disturbing image in the entire first issue.

THE ADVENTURES OF KILLBOY

Killboy, in my head, is the mascot of Razorblades. I was chatting with Matt Rosenberg the other day and I described the feature as I see it as “Johnny The Homicidal Maniac, if it were a Shonen Manga.” I’ve already laid out the first full length feature, which will run in the Halloween issue, and when I sent it to Steve Foxe, he responded with a very simple “Jesus Christ. What are you trying to work through with this?!” This is the most obscene violent thing I have ever conceived, and I fucking love it. I cannot wait to bring you the Halloween gift of Ultraviolence. I’ve loved Ricardo’s work for years. I actually have a comic I bought off him at Mocca back around 2015/2016? I’m thrilled I get to work with him on this… I might have a second RLO project in the works, but that’s still very top secret. But we’ve got big plans for Killboy.

Sincerely, we have big plans all around (The above pages are by Trung Nguyen, and John J. Pearson). Razorblades is not a one-and-done project. As I said before, we’re going to be releasing the book Quarterly and we’ve got the first year mostly already lined up. We’ve have some incredible horror creators from all corners of the comic book and horror art community lined up to create some truly stellar issues for you. Now that the project is out in the public, I’ll probably start teasing these out more in the lead-up to Issue #2.

This first issue, which I am extraordinarily proud of, was first and foremost to prove that we could do it, and pull a full-sized anthology project together. Now the goal is to keep the beast alive. And what this beast needs to live is some money.

So, let’s talk a bit about how you can buy Razorblades.

WHERE IS RAZORBLADES: THE HORROR MAZAZINE?

Surprise! You can buy Razorblades from my new Tiny Onion Studios webstore, where it is available in two formats:

THE DIGITAL EDITION – Inspired by Panel Syndicate, this is a Pay-What-You-Want digital copy of the full 75 page PDF of Razorblades: The Horror Magazine #1. We hope that if you support the book, and want there to be more issues of Razorblades in the future, that you throw down some money for a copy, but if you’re tight on cash, we still want to provide you with that horror fix. That’s right! You can get the dang thing for free if you want to! BUY THE DIGITAL EDITION HERE.

THE PRINT EDITION – We’re making 500 copies of an EXTREMELY LIMITED Print Run of Razorblades: The Horror Magazine available to purchase direct through the Tiny Onion Studios webstore. Due to the size of the book, and the low print run, these are going to run you $20/pop. The current plan is that when these sell out, we will not reprint the book. We expect these are going to disappear fast, so if you want your hands on a physical copy, get one today. BUY THE PRINT EDITION HERE.

BUT WHAT ABOUT COMIC BOOK RETAILERS? HOW CAN I GET ALL THIS COOL STUFF IN MY LOCAL COMIC SHOP?!

Hey! Comic Book Retailers! I made a section of this newsletter just for you!

If you are interested in a bulk order of RAZORBLADES: THE HORROR MAGAZINE #1, of 5 copies or more, I am going to lower the $20 price to $10/issue, just for you. Email TinyOnionStudios@gmail.com to put in your order while supplies last!

I am also still offering a special Retailer rate for our remaining DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH pins! $5/pin on any order of 5 or more pins. The sooner you folks sell me out, the sooner I’ll get the third batch of pins up and running.

WHY IS RAZORBLADES: THE HORROR MAGAZINE?

Like many things in the last 30 years in the comic book business, Razorblades wouldn’t exist without Alan Moore.

Specifically, it wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t made the decision in college not to read FROM HELL. I didn’t do this because I had anything against the book, I had just finished reading his entire bibliography, and I wanted there to be one great Alan Moore comic I hadn’t read on my shelf. Something I could call upon in a moment of need to bestow upon me great wisdom and inspiration. I almost relented a few times over the years, especially once I started working full-time in comics, but I had an almost supernatural aversion to sitting down and reading it. It followed me on my shelf through four New York City apartments, and a house in Los Angeles. Waiting for the right moment.

The moment would come in late April. Nearly a month into the shutdown of the American Comic Book industry, and the country due to Covid-19.

The funny thing is that this all happened because I was, for once in my career, ahead of schedule. I had kicked my ass in the first quarter of the year, getting on top of each of my series, knowing that I had a gauntlet of conventions coming up this summer, and a new series with Image Comics gearing up into development. Suddenly I had an enormous amount of time, and shockingly little to do. I wasn’t even sure whether Department of Truth would come out in 2020. Deadlines quickly became more of an existential quandary than hard, fast dates that needed to be hit. I was stressed all the time, doomscrolling through twitter, with no place to go, but occasional and frightening trips to the grocery store.

I started stacking comics on a pile on our dining room table. The rule I made for myself was that I wasn’t going to go back and reread old favorites. I wanted to read a bunch of comics that I had never read before. Many of those comics were from the real independent, alternative side of the comic industry, but after deliberation, I moved From Hell off my shelf to the top of that stack. I could feel it in my gut. It was time. The rainy day was here.

I wish I could bottle the manic episode I had reading that book over the course of a long weekend. I think you can get a whiff of it in the newsletter I wrote shortly thereafter. It was like a second engine in the back of my brain, revving to life. There are so many obvious ways that that book is a work of absolute genius, but the simple fact that it existed was wondrous to me. That an acclaimed, but very mainstream writer, at that point best known for his DC Work, paired with a man best known for self-published black and white autobiographical comics, and created one of the best works of comic book art ever put to the page. Read the first issue, and imagine any contemporary publisher putting it out. No, there would need to be a stronger hook, a more direct evocation of Jack the Ripper from the start. It would need to consider the page restrictions, or the number of issues. Unless they were just making it themselves, it wouldn’t happen.

I was desperate to understand how a book like this had come to exist, and why there wasn’t anything like it being made in our corner of the industry anymore. I would have been able to tell you, as a piece of comics trivia, that From Hell started as a serialized story in a horror anthology called Taboo, but I had never really considered what that meant. And so I ordered a full set of the series on eBay for $100, and I started researching.

In the late 80s, there was a whole generation of comic creator that had been raised on the classic horror anthologies, and they had come of age, but the horror anthology hadn’t. Most of the books out were trying to capture the feel of old EC Comics. Very little had the bite that something like Alan Moore, Steve Bissette, and John Totleben’s Swamp Thing had. And so, Steve Bissette and John Totleben decided to create a platform that did just that, with Steve taking point from the second issue until the last. They sought to  create a home for vibrant, contemporary horror by the up and coming voices of the day. The people who did not want to recreate the trappings of the old generation of horror, but to embody the spirit of them. To push new boundaries and break the taboos of the day in an industry still by and large in the stranglehold of the comics code authority.

The truth is, you can feel the ambition of Taboo when you hold it in your hands. Taboo is a phenomenal book. Which isn’t to say every story is phenomenal, or even scary. But there’s a Charles Burns short in the first issue that you can immediately tell is a predecessor to Black Hole. There’s the first chapters of From Hell and Lost Girls. There’s an incredible Moebius/Jodorowsky contribution in Issue 4. Beautifully disturbing early work from Phil Hester. A short by Greg Capullo in the last issue. The Through the Habitrails stories were a particular favorite of mine. There’s even power in the one chapter that exists of a Neil Gaiman/Michael Zulli take on Sweeney Todd, clearly their answer to From Hell, which was tragically never continued past its prologue. It gives the whole horror anthology a proper ghost to be haunted by.

Mind you, I say this with all the authority and conviction of someone who was just shy of his first birthday when the first issue of Taboo hit the stands, but oftentimes the myth of a moment is more important than the facts of it. And the way those myths can inspire fools like me, 30 years later. There’s an incredible ambition to it, in the way it asserts that all of these very different, smart comics belong in the same magazine together. Really, at the end of the day, the defining feature is the incredible curation by Steve Bissette, one of the true legends of the comic book industry. After burning through all 9 issues, and the special, I topped the experience off by ordering an almost full run of DEATH RATTLE and GORE SHRIEK from the same era. Both feature some great horror work, but nothing matches the boundless ambition of Taboo.

And really, Taboo was only a platform. A brilliantly curated platform, that acted as midwife to some truly great works of comic book art. But it wasn’t created eyeing From Hell on the shelf. That wasn’t a goal, merely a byproduct. Taboo was created to put together a bunch of the vibrant voices of the day and let them unleash their talents, without worrying about breaking taboos that would make other publishers nervous. And those principles created a platform on which great art could be created.

There are different taboos in the modern comics industry, and I’m not even talking the taboos of politics. In a world where the creator-owned side of the direct market has become dominated by IP generators, the potential for a long profit tail always wins against artists and writers just wanting to explore an idea or a feeling or a moment for the sheer art of it. And even the places that let you hold onto the rights are still curated with the tastes of a generation that’s been around and making comics for a good long while. In some cases, as long as I’ve been alive. And they’re still trying to make the kinds of comics they liked making ten, twenty, thirty years ago.

We live in a comics industry that is more disconnected than it has ever been before. The Young Adult Book Market feels like a foreign country to the Direct Market and neither of them seem to know what’s happening in the exploding Webtoon/Webcomic space. The most popular superhero comic of the last decade is a Manga that most big two superhero editors have never heard of. The mainstays of indy alternative comics are putting out phenomenal work by young creators like Nick Drnaso, but most of his contemporaries in the superhero space don’t know who the hell he is. There are hundreds upon hundreds of young illustrators dabbling in pseudo comics and pin-ups living off pins and artbooks they self-publish and distribute. There is a thriving, growing horror art community, and I keep following more and more of them every day.

There need to be more platforms that try and remind all of us that ALL these things are the same thing. And my generation, the rising Millennials entering our (no longer young) adult lives need to stop waiting for the older generations to present those platforms TO us. We need to make them ourselves. And to be fair, that’s exactly what I keep on seeing. More and more of us aren’t waiting for someone’s permission to make comics. We’re just making them ourselves. Folks in the Alternative space never STOPPED doing this. I’m sure they’d roll their eyes at me, the superhero kid, discovering the power of zines… But you know what? Fuck it. Zines are great. Self-published comics are great. I want more weird self-published shit by the big guns of the direct market comics industry. I would fucking love to see what weirdo comics some of my favorite writers and artists would make for themselves, with no interference.

But mostly I want to see what my peers create. The people who grew up with the same movies and influences as I do, who love the same comics as I do, who have the same frustrations I do about the industry as it exists today. I want to know what the young creators would make if they had total free reign to make exactly the kind of comic books they want to make, fueled by stupid enthusiasm, and sheer creative joy. Those of us who like to write stories about people in costumes punching each other forget that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was started as a self-published black and white indy comic.

Creator-owned comics needs to reclaim its independent roots, and in doing so build some new platforms, some new pathways, and new connections between all the disparate “cousin” industries that can all call themselves comics. I would love to have had a hand in creating the platform in which a twitter horror artist connects with a great writer from the YA Book Market space and creates something beautiful and surprising and new that couldn’t have happened with their worlds separated. I think horror is a great genre, and one that often pushes creative people to do their best work. To one-up each others’ imagery, to find something perfectly unsettling in a way they’ve never seen before.

Also, Horror is fucking great. I obviously love horror, and I plan on writing horror for my entire career. Of course if I have some money that I want to throw at comic creators, I’m going to have them cook up something spooky.

Which is all a lot of rambling to say that in co-founding Razorblades, I set out to create a cool venue for cool people to make cool scary shit. I think there need to be more platforms that allow for the intersection of disparate creators, that pits all of them against each other to try and come up with the most frightening stories they can imagine, in a bit of fun competition where we all win, because we all get some really fucking scary comic books.

I’m paying for it out of pocket, which I can’t do forever and can only do to a point (as much as I would love to be Tundra Publishing , and funnel millions of dollars into this endeavor, I regret to inform you that if I make a million dollars I’m going to buy a house before I start funnelling it into independent horror comics). If you want Razorblades to exist, and you have some money to spare, please share it with the cause. I’m not expecting to make a lot of money with this endeavor, but with your help, I can make sure I’m not losing money.

I get that it’s a privilege to be able to afford to do a project without a publisher, and it’s a privilege I have, so I want to share that privilege the best I can and help some people who I think are capable of making some great comics, make some great comics. In doing that, I don’t want to become what I’m saying we need to spend more time rejecting.  To that end, Razorblades will always be a wholly creator-owned endeavor. The magazine reserves no rights to the work, save a right to reprint. All Steve and I own is the name and the logo. That’s core to the ethos of the project.

And hey… Maybe this all crashes and burns in a couple of issues, and spend the rest of my life warning others not to follow in my footsteps (much like Steve Bissette did many times in all these Comics Journal and Cartoonist Kayfabe interviews…). Maybe somebody smarter than me sees all the ways in which I’m doing it wrong, and tries to one-up me with their own better self-published platform. Or maybe it works beyond all our wildest dreams, and we help lead to the creation of a whole bookshelf of seminal comic book classics…

But either way, I hope we create something that people find frightening, and enjoy reading as much as I’ve enjoyed putting it all together.

This is an experiment, and it’s just getting started. I hope you’ll come along for the ride with us.

HEY! WHY AREN’T SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN BANDANAS AVAILABLE ON YOUR WEBSTORE?!

Because they have been officially been licensed to the amazing folks at THE AFFIRMATIVE CLOTHING COMPANY!

But they are on sale now, and available to order! These are a little more functional than the Bandanas we gave out at NYCC last year. So if you’re looking to be decked out like Erica Slaughter while you move, masked through this bizarre year, we’ve got you(r face) covered.

From what I understand, these will be available through Diamond, too, if you’re a shop and want to put in an order. Stay tuned for more news from Boom! Studios.

HOUSEKEEPING

In summation, Please buy Razorblades: The Horror Magazine, and all of my other products and comics, so that I can keep making comic books forever and ever.

Thank you.

James Tynion IV
Brooklyn, NY
7.30.2020

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