15: We're Flying Now...

The last few weeks have been absolutely surreal. I think it’s the contradictory realities that on one hand, everything is starting back up again, while on the other, I’m still basically trapped in my Brooklyn apartment.

There’s more momentum on the work front than I think anyone has expected, which has been invigorating. What I understand about the FOC numbers for Batman and Something is Killing the Children have, frankly astonished me. I think the real fear was that we were going to come back in June dead on arrival in comic shops. That doesn’t appear to be happening. It feels like there’s a hunger out there for content. Like the comics market is all pent up and ready to explode. In a good way. Hopefully.

It’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about… 

There are two elements that I think people are underestimating, in how they could shape the comics business over the next year. For the last decade, we’ve had a robust slate of Superhero and geek movies every single year, demanding our pocket change at 15 bucks a ticket and climbing. We’ve also had a growing calendar of geek conventions operating in every region of the country and beyond, not to mention the big cultural geek meccas of ECCC, NYCC, and SDCC. Ticket, travel hotel prices for these shows can rack up hundreds of dollars. Comics are coming back. Movie theaters and Conventions will be much slower to return. The whole fall television season is probably going to be delayed to spring at the earliest.

Comics, for the first time since the 90s, are going to be the only place you can get a steady fix for new geek entertainment.

And that’s potentially true for the rest of the calendar year, and beyond. Now, I bet that we’re going to see the big corporations cook up some clever ways to repackage content to keep getting in our pockets (when film production started shutting down, I remember telling a friend that I bet the Snyder Cut was actually going to happen now, because there’s not much else for the SFX companies to work on until filming starts again, but I wasn’t expecting CW to pick up Swamp Thing from DC Universe), but I think the larger point is true and we frankly shouldn’t pass up the opportunity.

Maybe that’s a bullish perspective, and to be frank, I could be totally, totally wrong. 

Embarrassingly wrong, even! 

But I can feel a kind of pent up energy out there. It’s hard to put it into words. People want the escapism comics offers, they want the community it offers. Looking around the comics internet, I see people discovering new comics, discovering old comics, and making connections between them that they hadn’t made before. And that’s exciting! The conversations I’m seeing every day are really exciting! I think the audience we’re going to get back in stores is going to be more discerning about the kind of product they’re offered, with a clearer idea of what they’re looking for… A lot of them have actually read all the books in their pull list they hadn’t caught up on in months, if not years. And now they’re going to come back into shops all hopped up on comic books, ready with a few new favorite writers or artists, and they’re going to be looking to see what else those creators are up to, or where a side-character from a series a few years back landed, if anywhere… 

I think we’re going to be seeing readers with questions, looking to engage in the material they’re reading, and I think retailers are going to get asked the question, “What are YOU excited about?” I think the retailers with good answers to that question are going to have the real advantage. People want new stuff to get excited about right now.

And really, maybe I’m just talking about myself. What I’ve been feeling, and what I know I’m craving in a comic shop experience right now. I’ve been going down such a rabbit hole in Alternative Comics and 1980s/90s Indy Black and White Comics that for the first time in ages I have a list on my desk of comic books I’m looking to acquire. Some of them are weird horror anthologies from back in the day, or limited run comics that I wish I knew I was looking for when I had Desert Island as a resource in Brooklyn to check every single week. I’ve been emailing comic shops around the country looking for those titles, and scouring what pops up on eBay. It’s been fun! Collecting comics is fun! And I don’t think I’m the only one… I see people discovering me, on Twitter. Making connections. People who hadn’t learned my name until I got on Batman have been checking out my Detective Comics runs. People who pretty much only tweeted to me about my superhero stuff have been checking out Something is Killing the Children, Memetic, and The Woods… 

Obviously, it’s anecdotal evidence, and I want it to be true, so maybe it’s more of a hopeful dream than something actually real, that’s actually going to have any effect out there…

But I do think there’s SOMETHING happening in our weird little corner of geekdom. We’re seeing more and more creators find more new platforms to reach out and engage with their readers, and sell them their work. Obviously, I’m not the only one with a newsletter. It feels like you can get a weekly dose of most of your favorite comic writers on here. We’ve got Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman getting podcasts up and running. I spent my last Friday with Tyler Boss’ Twitch channel, listening to him shoot the shit with a bunch of really cool artists, up on my TV while I was cleaning around the apartment. Michael Walsh created a website for him to draw his nightmares. I saw Gleb Melnikov post a character he created on Twitter, and get her stories up and running on Line Webtoon in what seemed like a couple of weeks. And we have the big crowdfunding successes of the last couple months, most notably 3.5 million dollars raised for a new Spawn action figure packaged with a reprint of the original Spawn #1. I ordered the classic version, and eagerly await its arrival.

I’m about 2 hours into a four hour Cartoonist Kayfabe interview on YouTube with hosts Ed Piskor, Jim Rugg and the legendary Stephen Bissette. That led me into Piskor’s Patreon page, where I started reading his still-in-development exploitation horror comic, Red Room. I’m already adding other episodes to my YouTube watch list.

It feels exciting.

It feels like a generation stepping up and deciding to make things for themselves, first and foremost. I think, sometimes, we forget what comics is, and what comic shops are for. We start thinking that comics is the weekly release of Big Two superhero titles, on a set schedule, with the same characters doing roughly the same thing every two or four weeks. We think we’re beholden to the publishers, and beholden to the patterns we’ve operated in for decades, but none of those patterns are necessary. The patterns only started because people were copying the things readers were getting excited by, and then they made those patterns into rules rather than exciting opportunities, and then they kind of just set… I think we’re ready for new ideas in formats, not just in the indy space, but at the Big Two… I think we’re ready for new characters. That’s why I think Something is Killing the Children has hit as hard as it has. That’s why I created Punchline, and Clownhunter and the next few characters I’ve been pitching the Bat-Office. I also think we’re ready for new platforms to acquire and read comics, which is what PROJECT NIGHTMARE is all about.

Comics is about cool weird shit we share with our friends. Comic Shops are where we FIND that cool weird shit to share with our friends.

It’s about deciding that some weird side character is your favorite character, and going into the back-issue bins and finding all of their appearances. It’s about finding a creator that resonates with you, and hunting down all their work. It’s about a constant back and forth of discovery and excitement, and when that excitement gives way to perfunctory, repetitive, corporate driven storytelling? We lose readers and we lose the opportunity to capture a moment like the one I think we’re about to enter. We need to look hard at the sort of books we’re creating and why. We should be riding the excitement of fans and collectors and keep feeding this weird, wonderful industry. We need to make more weird shit! This is the EXACT moment to throw a bunch of weird shit at the wall and see what sticks, and what can move us forward as a business.

I think the results of that pent up energy unleashing itself on the market is going to be REALLY interesting, and the pent up creative energy that’s about to be unleashed to meet it is going to be equally interesting and defining. I’m not saying it’s all going to be sunshine and rainbows. There are a lot of factors that are going to make the next couple years very hard for people in our industry, on all levels, and I think there are wounds that some companies have gotten that they might not be able to recover from, even if it’s a while before thats apparent to all of us.

I just want to be clear… This next bit isn’t going to be easy. 

But it feels like there’s a momentum building, creatively and otherwise. A generational shift ready to happen and I’m just fucking excited by it. I can’t help it. And I can’t wait to see what crazy things people cook up to play into that momentum, and capture its energy in the best possible way.

What new paths forward are we going to find together? What kind of better comic book industry can we build for ourselves?

New comic books are coming out. Some of them came out this week. More will come out next week. And the week after that. And the week after that. And after that.  

I’ll be buying, them, reading them, and selling them to you as long as I can.

PROJECT WINGBOY

So, let’s talk about WYND. 

This is the comic I originally referred to Project Wingboy when I kicked off this newsletter at the end of last year, for those keeping score.

I got into some of the nitty gritty back when we announced the project in January. Wynd was announced as a three book OGN series, a Young Adult Fantasy adventure. And that’s the form it had existed in for the most of the last two years, until early last week when I got wind (hahaha) that we were changing course, and we were going to be launching the book as a limited series.

Here’s the cover for the first issue, below! I use a dressed copy (with the logo) since it’s pretty obvious the logo is meant to be part of the design and it seems kinda empty without it. But yeah! The first issue of Wynd is now coming out on June 17th! 

But that’s the last week. Wynd has been in development for a long time before that. 

A REALLY long time. 

This has been my dream project since I was a sophomore in high school, carrying around a thick three ring binder in my backpack with drawings of each of the main characters, and detailed descriptions of their backstories. I had three novels outlined, and prequel stories and sequel trilogies… They’d change every time I read something new. You could tell I’d read Sandman by the time I wrote about what would happen in the third book because it included the Gods Thanatos and Morpheus, Death and Dream. Every single one of my close real life friends, and my internet friends had counterparts in that binder.

It contained all of my teenage angst and longing and was the biggest idea I had ever had in my life.

Now… The book that’s about to come out doesn’t have all of that. There’s no thinly veiled Sandman characters. I’ve divorced the fictional characters from the people they used to represent from my real life. Thomas Wynd has become simply “Wynd,” and a much more straightforward sword and sorcery universe has become something a little more modern. A setting more out of Final Fantasy than Lord of the Rings. But the bones are still very much the same, in a way that I find deeply interesting. I’ve lost almost all of the original notes. One of my goals this Summer was to go up to the family storage unit and see if I can find any of them (and I still might, if that becomes safe to do).

I DID find a document on my computer last week dated 2011, but I’m pretty sure I actually wrote it in a different file format around 2005, rescuing it off my old home desktop. 

It started with Mattias Oak waking up Thomas Wynd for another day working in the tavern they call their home. There’s only one page of it, but I find it interesting that over a decade later, without referencing any previous version of the source material, I started the real book almost the exact same way. Oakley comes to wake up Wynd from a bad dream, because it’s time to start the work day. It’s funny how ideas have kept their shape from half my life ago.  

The whole three volume OGN series is roughly what I outlined as the original Book One in the series. I started talking about it with Boom! Studios about two years back. They were interested in some new titles from me, and had wanted to revisit the title, SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN. They also wanted a long-form title, like THE WOODS had been… But I said I wanted something a little different.

I’ve always kind of resented single issues.

I always want more pages. No matter how under deadline I am, I am always fighting my editor for more pages for literally every project I work on. And even then, i run out, and want more… If I was going to do the equivalent of The Woods… a three year, and nearly 800 page comic book, I wanted to come at it from a different angle. I wanted the room to decompress, and pace it like I saw fit. My biggest frustration with The Woods is still how compressed the first issue is… I want time to do long scenes, and setting work, and dig into the angst and soap opera… But in single issues, you usually can’t do that. You can’t get away with the story not starting until Issue 4. 

So I said, Boom! I will give you your three year comic book, but only if I can release it as a series of thick original graphic novels! This conversation would have been at Emerald City Comic Con in 2018. Matt Gagnon was intrigued and asked what story I wanted to tell in this format. I told him I had a fantasy story I cooked up back when I was in High School. One month later, I was at a convention in Thessaloniki with my Woods artist, Michael Dialynas and that’s where I pitched him the story for the first time. 

It’s also when the story started to change into its final form. We discussed the feel we wanted, the tropes we wanted to avoid… We came up with the idea of the little natural spirits, the embodiment of Magic that the humans in the series are terrified up. We came up with the name Sprytles for them, and Michael drew a few of them in his notebook, which you can see here… I also wrote my first descriptions of the four main characters in their new forms. I came up with the name The Bandaged Man for the primary antagonist of the book. We built the world of Pipetown.

Later that summer, around the time I was at San Diego Comic Con, Michael sent me this Picture…

But this is the one where the style of the character and the feel of the book really started to come together… This is the first time I saw WYND and understood the character as we were about to bring him to life.

I started writing the script early in 2019, and finished writing it in January of this year, because I am also writing about a thousand other books at any given moment. I was extremely proud of what we had made, and I knew we had something special. I write a lot of horror, and the world gives me plenty of horror inspiration, but raw emotional coming of age stories are my other favorite type of fiction. I love writing teenage characters and tapping into their deeply powerful emotions. Nobody feels ANYTHING as hard as a teenager does, and I freaking LOVE it. When Michael turned in the final revisions of Book One last Monday morning, it was an incredible feeling. I’d be doing the last letter corrections later that week, and start working on Book Two… 

But Book One was WRAPPED. It was over and done with! I could happily check it off my to-do list! That’s always a great feeling, and I had already send Michael a congratulatory message. 

And then everything changed.

It was only about 30 minutes after Michael sent that email that I got a call from Matt Gagnon saying that Boom! Publisher Ross Richie was about to call me because he had a crazy idea. You see… The first rounds of FOC sales numbers were coming in post-Covid, and they were stronger than anyone had expected. Ross told me retailers were asking him for books they could sell, and in the midst of all of this, Ross had read my newsletter where I talked about how I was excited about the people who were making bold, exciting moves. And he had an idea… 

What if they could surprise drop a book into June right before its FOC? 

But where would they get a finished comic book they could send to the presses by the next week! Hey, didn’t the very same author of that newsletter have 200 pages of finished comic book, ready to head off to be an original Graphic Novel?! He sure did!

It was a good phone call. I DO genuinely like exciting moves like this, and I love when the excitement for a series is closer to the actual release date of the series, rather than months ahead of time. Ross’ enthusiasm had me hyped, and I was excited to have the full might of Boom! publicity at our backs for the launch. I had seen how strongly they were able to get the world excited about Something is Killing the Children, and now I wanted to see if they could repeat the trick, and get everyone excited about Michael and my weird fantasy epic.

But still… 

We had deliberately paced this thing out to NOT fit neatly into 20 page chunks. If you cut the story right around page 20 or 22, you would only just be introduced to half of the main characters, and none of the central threat of the story. So I realized we were going to need roughly 40-50 pages an issue to tell this right, and laying down a whole printed copy of the book on the ground in front of me, I realized that we were going to need to add content to give some of these issues more of a narrative shape and heft, to give readers a complete experience with every bite. 

This is where it comes back around to the bit where I always want more pages. When I was putting the final touches on the script I was already worried that the end felt a bit compressed compared to the beginning, and there were a handful of scenes that I had originally imagined that didn’t make the final cut of the script. In hindsight, I saw where each of those scenes could go, and how much they would enhance the final product. But you let these things go. When a book is finished, it’s finished. It’s not like I could go back and ask for 30 more pages to do it right.

Unless the Publisher calls up and asks you what you’d need to do to pace the story out in single issues, and the answer really IS fleshing out a few beats to let them breathe. And these new beats are going to make the final collection immeasurably better. So Michael and I made our demands and Boom! met every last one of them.

AND it creates a new format for me with the publisher.

I remember the first time texting my editor Eric that I think we needed roughly 48 page issues to pull this off correctly, and he said “I think we can do that.” and I warned him that this was going to be a “If you give a mouse a cookie” scenario. I’ve always thought single issues needed to be meatier. That they need to offer you more, and that’s what we’re giving you here. Twice the content for the price. And THAT makes me REALLY excited…

In general, I think we as an industry need to consider the value of the single issue, and how to make it a better experience for readers. I think we all love the tactile feel of a floppy issue, but I think we’ve all had an experience where we feel a little cheated that we only got part of a thing, rather than a thing that has inherent value in and of itself. I think more content is a big part of this, and it’s something I’ve been pushing for in all corners of my comic book making life. 

If you want more comics made like this, beefy monthly comic book issues, support this book. I want to prove the people who disagree with me that I’m right. Which is why I do most things, I guess. But for serious, if I can get away with 48 page issues on a monthly series to be collected as a big, thick graphic novel at the end? That would open up a lot of creative doors for me. They’re already doing it at DC Black Label with superhero comics. I would love to see more of it in creator-owned.

What does this mean for WYND books Two and Three? They’re still contracted and they’re still going to happen. If this is a successful format, I wouldn’t be surprised if they repeat it for each book. And I wouldn’t be surprised if I fight for even MORE pages next time around. 

If it isn’t, we’ll release them in the OGN format they were originally announced in… But I’m getting the sense that we’re picking up momentum. We just got an ask in for another retailer exclusive cover, already passing the number we had for SIKTC #1… So it feels like the buzz is good! FINGERS CROSSED.

There’s been a lot of WYND art posted around the last few days. You can read the first batch of pages HERE. And here are the variant covers available… One from Peach Momoko, and one from Dan Mora. Both of them are GORGEOUS. I’ll be promoting the store exclusive variants when we get closer to release, but they are ALSO very beautiful and cool (And if you’re a retailer and you’re interested, I don’t think you’re out of time to get your own - Just reach out to Boom!) 

Tonally, I’m trying to match the feel of a BONE, or AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER. It’s definitely for a younger audience than my other work on the stands right now. If Something is Killing the Children is for 17 and up, and Batman is targeting 15 and up, I’d say Wynd is a 13 and up. Think HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN, in terms of appropriateness for children… There’s violence in the book, and crushes. We make you care about characters and then kill them. But there’s a larger message at play, and it’s a story that I hope readers of all ages can enjoy (I feel like I’d be picking it up if I wasn’t writing it, but hey, I’m biased). 

Wynd is the story of a world in which Magic exists, and it can CHANGE you. If you go out into the world, you’re likely to come back with a bit of the world stuck onto you. You might have grown a few branches, or have a bit of bark on your skin. The humans of this world are terrified of that magic, and they’ve outlawed it in the Human city of Pipetown. They won’t even let trees or grass grow wild, in case it infects them with the magic of the natural world. 

Wynd, the character is a boy, with a bit of magic in his blood, who worries every day that he’s going to grow up into some horrifying monster. He knows the magic will spread and change him as he gets older, but he wants to stop it by any cost… He wants desperately to be normal. He has a crush on the Groundskeeper’s son, who works the Gardens up at the castle, and he dreams of a world he didn’t have pointed ears where he could go and talk to him. But life has other plans for him.

His journey will teach him that it’s not so scary to let the world change you. That it’s all part of growing up. Which doesn’t mean it isn’t hard. 

The FOC for Wynd is on Monday. If you’re a retailer, I hope you bet on this series. If you’re just a fan, I also hope you bet on the series (and the best way to do that is to let your retailer know that you’re going to want a copy). If you’re a creator friend and you want to read the first issue, and talk it up on social media before Monday, hit me up and I’ll send it over.

I’ve been waiting for this to exist for half my life, and I can’t believe it finally does. 

BATMANNERY

Last week was a big Batman week, with the reveal of Clownhunter… 

I don’t really have anything new for you on this front. I’ll have another big bit of of a push with the September Solicits and the announcement of the Joker War Zone one-shot next month, which should happen right in tandem with me releasing Batman #92. I hope they release the image of the Variant cover with the solicit, so you can all see why I’m so excited. Speaking of Variant Covers. They released this incentive variant for Batman #96 with the Clownhunter design… It makes for a good pair with the Batman #92 incentive variant with the Punchline design. 

I freaking LOVE these design variants. I think such a big part of superhero comics is the thought that goes into designing these heroes and villains to make them exciting to look at. They feel like cool artifacts. And they show off how freaking awesome Jorge Jimenez’s work is. I did want to post a few of these super cool sneak peaks at Joker War art that Jorge has been posting on Twitter, because it’s cool hints at what’s coming in the comic, but also because I absolutely love how he’s treating his inks before he puts them out there. They’re little art pieces all unto themselves.

I think DC should put out t-shirts in these bright colors, how Jorge’s been posting his excerpts on Twitter… Particularly that Clownhunter piece. Isn’t that gorgeous? I would freaking love to just have some cool comic book art in bright colors that I can wear day-to-day. I know a bunch of people who work internally at DC read my newsletter to make sure I don’t say anything I’m not allowed to say… 

So hey! DC! how can we make some cool t-shirts with Jorge Art?! Let me know!

HOUSEKEEPING

This is already way too long, so I won’t keep you much longer. I think this already might be out in the world, but BOOM! and I took a look at the covers for Something Is Killing the Children, and decided to move the #8 cover up to Issue #7, the first issue back in stores, out the same day as Batman #92. We felt that we wanted to put the best foot forward, with a cover featuring Erica Slaughter, to see if anyone who comes in to check out Punchline might also want to check out SIKTC. It’s a real beauty, by Werther Dell’Edera…

The FOC for the GREEN LANTERN 80th Anniversary Special is on Monday. This story might get a bit of news, and I’m excited to talk about it in more detail when it’s released. It’s an Alan Scott story. And yes, that is, in fact, Doiby Dickles in the artwork below. Your eyes do not deceive you, Doiby Dickles fans! This story would have been before he moved to Planet Myrg with his beloved Princess Ramia. (You do not need to know or care about any of that to enjoy the story, btw, I am just a big fucking nerd). 

The story is called “Dark Things Cannot Stand The Light.” For the moment, here’s a little glimpse of the colored art. I still can’t believe I got to work with the incredible Gary Frank on this story. When I first asked my friend and editor Andrew Marino if he thought we could get Gary for this, I never in a million years thought he’d say yes… And just look at this incredible work. Colors by Steve Oliff. It’s a beautiful piece and I’m very proud of it. 

After a few emails with Image Comics earlier in the week, PROJECT DALLAS is suddenly very much alive, and much more alive than I honestly expected. I’ve got some logistics left to iron out, but I think you all might be finding out about that project sooner than I would have guessed a few months back. PROJECT NIGHTMARE continues chugging along on the backburner, but I won’t let you in on that particular secret until I’m ready… I’m also gearing up to write the first issue of PROJECT LAKEHOUSE in the next few weeks. That one you probably won’t find out about until the end of the year, but the artist just turned in a stunning design of the “villain” of the story, and I am positively giddy about it.

I’ve been getting questions about signings, given the state of conventions, and I don’t have a firm answer yet, but I am planning on signing books that will be available through Midtown and Dynamic Forces, and I’m organizing a private mail-in signing that will offer grading through Scott’s Collectables. Stay tuned. More to come on that front.

Highlights of the week’s reading list have been Al Columbia’s Amnesia: The Lost Films of Francis D. Longfellow, Julia Gfrorer’s Black Is The Color AND Laid Waste, and Ezra Claytan Daniels and Ben Passmore’s BTTM FDRS. My copy of Big Numbers #1 arrived in the mail, but #2 is taking the scenic journey. I hope to get it soon, so I can read both of them, and the third issue available only in black and white xerox online… 

ANYWAYS. Enough newslettering. I need to finish this Batman script or my holiday weekend is going to be a full-on work weekend. 

Go make some cool comic books! Stay safe out there!

James Tynion IV
Brooklyn, NY
5.21.20

14: Enter Clownhunter

I slept for almost ten hours last night. I feel like I deserve some kind of reward. Or that I should be arrested for being some kind of sleep pervert.

My sleep patterns have been absolutely nonsense since all of this started. I’ve been using all-nighters to reset my sleep clock once or twice a week for the last month. Which I know I should say isn’t great, and isn’t healthy, but I honestly love a good productive all nighter. There’s something about being exhausted at four o’clock in the morning where you’re not second guessing anything you’re writing, and you’re just churning out pages. They might need editing the next day, but when you’ve done all your work for the day the night before, that’s easy!

But there is always a bit of a cost to an all-nighter. The zombie days that follow aren’t worth much of anything, and the things you read or watch in that space end up kind of beiging themselves into mediocre, forgettable media experiences, even if the works themselves aren’t. Sometimes you get a fun manic zombie day where you can accomplish a big home task that doesn’t require any creative thinking, but those are few and far between. Usually I just end up working from the couch those days, half paying attention to emails coming in, half paying attention to whatever’s on the tv, and trying to will myself not to nod off until the appropriate moment that evening. 

Sometimes I wish I could get the deep night rush of productivity without the zombie day that follows it, but that would require going to bed at 8AM or so, and sleeping until it’s almost dark out again, which gets really depressing really quickly. Human beings eat sunlight with our skin, so it is good to go outside during sun-times, and also good to be by windows during the sun times. Otherwise we start going feral, which has definitely happened to me a few times in all of this.

I don’t know. I have a natural bent toward the night time. I like being awake when everyone else is asleep and doesn’t need anything from me. Getting to write or read or watch things for as long as I feel like doing it. There’s always this sense of time as infinite during those late night hours, even when you run out of them, it always feels like you’ve been working for days on a thing at your own pace. I like chasing that feeling because I am some kind of broken adrenaline junkie seeking the rush of different kinds of sitting down at my computer.

If I’m being wholly honest, the main reason I’m not fully nocturnal is I usually talk to Scott Snyder in the mornings about the projects we’re working on together. Working with someone with young children is a good way to stop yourself from becoming a dracula person. 

But I do appreciate the days I get up around 8 and have some time to breathe before the first phone calls and emails of the day. If I’m allowed to start going back to my office space soon, this is my commute time, where I take in a podcast or some music and start thinking abstractly about what needs doing. Here in the indoor times, it’s the shower and a cup of coffee time, and the time I spent typing on the couch before I move my laptop and charger into the home office to start the work day in earnest. 

It’s a different kind of quiet infinitude than the late night version, but I do appreciate it. 

I didn’t read as much this weekend as I would have liked. I think the back-half of Goodnight Punpun started looking more like an obligation than a treat and I started scrambling toward other, stranger shores to rest my weary mind. This is also what happened with the last third of my Stray Bullets Omnibus, which I have to work through. Which isn’t a slight against either book, I am loving both of them dearly… They are just both very emotionally bleak works and it’s hard to sit down and knock back issue after issue, or volume after volume. I keep telling myself with Stray Bullets that I want to do one issue a day in between my other projects… But then that starts feeling like homework, too and I turn away from it. I just need to finish work early one afternoon and power through.

The two clear winners this week were UPGRADE SOUL by Ezra Claytan Daniels and SLASHER by Charles Forsman. Both of those comics exist in that perfect sweet spot in between the mainstream direct market aesthetic and the literary comic aesthetic, and since that’s the sweet spot I’ve been trying to roll around in all quarantine, I ate them both up eagerly. UPGRADE SOUL in particular really sat with me, because it’s just such an unsettling, eerie read. It gets right up under your fingernails, with deep humanity AND inhumanity on display. But I can feel my momentum slowing with the comic book intake. I’m starting to wonder if it’s time to switch it up and spend a few days trapped in a prose book. I have Michael McDowell’s The Elementals staring at me from a shelf…

But then again, I finally bought the first two issues of BIG NUMBERS, and know the third is out there, somewhere… So I bet that sends me back down a few comic book rabbit holes. I “read” the most by walking or driving around, listening to audiobooks, and since I haven’t been able to leave the apartment much, I haven’t been giving them their due.

I also haven’t really been binging any movies or television during this. I did a bit the first week, I guess, by finishing HALT AND CATCH FIRE, but that was me wrapping a pre-quarantine viewing project (I do DEEPLY love that show though, and watching it helped me crack a comic concept that I won’t get to write for probably two years, but I am very excited about). I still have to watch the whole last season of BETTER CALL SAUL. I think my next binging project when I pull together the willpower will be THE LEFTOVERS… But I keep feeling like I should be more productive with my quarantine time, which is why I keep reading these comics.

I think my goal is to keep building my reading stack until my comics start coming back out in stores, so I can unveil a stack of books I’ve read taller than myself, but every time someone points out that we’re likely not going to really reopen until later in the summer, my growing stack of books stops being a fun project, and starts just being “a pile of every book in the house” - There will come a point where my desire to reorganize my bookshelf will overpower my desire to put every comic I read in a giant pile, and I will abandon my reading stack. I promise that there will at least be a photo taken before that happens.

This week has been fucking insane in ways that will become apparent to you next week, I think. I don’t even really know how to allude to what’s happened without saying it outright, but in short, I have an unexpected announcement coming next week, that reshuffles some of my year. I hope that this will be an exciting announcement! I am excited about it! But that’ll be next week. 

This week, we have OTHER comics to talk about.

BATMANNERY

So, Monday is the Final Order Cutoff for the first issue of Batman back in stores since the start of quarantine. Issue #92. That’s the one that brings Punchline into the story as a key character. It’s her first encounter with Harley Quinn, and the first major step toward Joker War. We’ll definitely be banging the drum a bunch in the next few days, getting you hyped about picking up that comic book. But this week ALSO happens to be the week that we’re releasing the August solicitations. That means the solicits for Batman #96.

Which means that it’s time to introduce you all to CLOWNHUNTER. 

Now, when I first thought up the name Clownhunter, I was thinking about a story that was going to follow Joker War (I don’t even think Joker War was called Joker War at that point). There was a story that was going to come out of the event, and I wanted to create this mysterious clown hunting character… And then Punchline happened, and the particular story I was introducing Clownhunter for evaporated, and I was looking at my plans for Joker War and noticed that I was missing something pretty big in the story.

There wasn’t a POV character on the ground in Gotham City, seeing the city go to hell around them. Joker War is meant to represent a shift in how Gotham sees itself, and be a catalyst for a bold new Gotham City that’s building in its wake… I needed a character who represented that change. A character who takes things into his own hands because he sees the city needs it, but not by Batman or Joker’s terms. A supporting cast member that wasn’t part of the Arkham Rogues, or part of the Bat-Family. Something new and different.

And I went into C2E2 with that problem in my head, and then I actually saw the response to Punchline in person, and it confirmed something that I’ve been suspecting for a while, but has become clear ever since I started both Something Is Killing The Children and my Batman run… I think the current generation of comic book reader is HUNGRY for its own generation of comic book characters. Characters they get to participate in the introduction of, and they get to learn the origin of, and see how other characters react to them… Characters that haven’t appeared in multiple video games, and tv-shows, to the point where there are five competing canons that exist for them. 

The comic book readers want to own these characters and know the most about these characters, and if they show up down the line in other media, they’re the ones who were participating in their introduction from the beginning. And that’s an exciting place to be! So Jorge and I got to do that with Punchline, which seems to be going over very well… and It’s served me well in creating Erica Slaughter over in Something Is Killing The Childrn

So It felt like I should weaponize that POV character that I saw Joker War needed, and take the cool name from the defunct project, and create a new Clownhunter character to introduce in the book. So I wrote a quick scene in issue 96, the second part of Joker War… And I realized I had something interesting. So with permission from my editor, I reached out to Jorge to help bring together all my crazy ideas for this new character and build something new from the ground up… 

And this is where we landed.

I desperately want a statue of him wailing on a Clown Gang member, so I hope you all like him as much as I do, and we can will that statue into existence. I deeply, deeply love the design Jorge gave him, and how unlike any other Bat-character he looks. He’s exactly the kind of crazy element I want to introduce into the Gotham books to dial up the possibilities of stories we can tell in their pages.

CLOWNHUNTER is a quiet, weird kid who lives in the Narrows. He mumbles jokes to himself under his breath, but doesn’t speak up in class or while he’s gaming late at night. When he was a kid, he saw his parents killed by the Joker, and his life was saved by Batman. He idolized Batman for years. But when Joker War starts, and Batman can’t stop it out the gate, he picks up a baseball bat, hammers in the Batarang Batman gave him as a kid, and goes out to start killing the Clown gang members terrorizing his neighborhood.

He’s a different sort of vigilante. Vigilantes in Gotham normally come with high tech costumes and gadgets. He’s more lo-fi, and more willing to cross the lines that the usual vigilantes don’t. There’s a dark, young city brewing underneath Batman’s feet in Gotham… On one hand we have Punchline, who represents a new kind of villain, a kind of young person radicalized into believing something deeply dangerous… On the other hand, we have Clownhunter, who sees himself as a hero, but has tossed out the entire moral playbook of Batman, and doesn’t respect his old ways of looking at the world.

As Joker and Batman go head to head as Gotham turns into a War Zone, we’ll see that Clowns are terrified to go to the narrows, all because of this kid who isn’t afraid to kill them. There’s a Clownhunter story in a one-shot coming out in September with an artist that I am flipping out I get to work with, and he’ll continue to play a key role in the book after Joker War. That’s the big thing I want to hammer in with both Punchline and Clownhunter, I have real plans for these characters, and we want to see if you’ll fall for them, too. These are not meant to be flash in the pan sales points, these are new characters that open up stories to tell that we couldn’t tell with other characters in the Batman Mythos. And I’ve got plans to tell those stories.

I keep saying he’s one part Kaneda’s Gang from Akira, one part Casey Jones from TMNT, and one part Deadpool (in terms of a kind of amused detachment from reality). His first appearance is in Batman #96 (and that is his ACTUAL, 100% first appearance, no minor appearances in the background of a previous issue - He shows up for the first time from whole cloth in #96). 

He and Punchline are the first children of a new Gotham City Jorge and I are building in the pages of Batman. So far it seems like you’re along for the ride, but I hope you stick with us. I have lots of even bigger, even crazier plans to come, and I can’t wait for them to come to light.

Also: People have been asking me for ages for an official Joker War checklist, and I saw one flash across the screen when I was on a Retailer Q&A earlier this afternoon, so I asked if I could share it here. So here it is! All the comics that tie into Joker War! You only NEED to read the titles you already do to follow the action, but there’s cool stuff happening in every book across the line, so I hope you check some or all of them out…

I am especially excited to talk about JOKER WAR ZONE, but I’m going to have to wait until that’s up in the next round of solicits. I have two big stories in that one, including the Clownhunter story… But I think it’s the other story in that one that you’re all going to get REALLY excited about. I shouldn’t give details yet… But I think you all know how I feel about Batgirls… ANYWAYS.

SECRETS SECRETS ARE NO FUN…

Okay, so, as I alluded to at the top… On Monday, I got a message that the Publisher of one of the companies I work for wanted to have a conversation. I got on the phone with him later that day. On the call, he told me that he had a crazy idea. That he had read my newsletter before the weekend, in which I had said that I was excited about people who were trying big things in the face of the Coronavirus Crisis, and it got him thinking about what the company could do. And so he pitched me a crazy thing about one of my projects. And then I spoke to my co-creator, and let the company what we would need to make it work. And then they said yes… And then we were off to the races.

I have a feeling you’re not actually going to believe how quickly this came together when it gets announced. That you’ll think there was a longer gestational move, but honestly, what’s about to happen is exciting to me on like six or seven levels. And I’ve already warned my editor over there that they have created a “if you give a mouse a cookie” situation when it comes to the format the series will be released in. I’m not going to tell you which of my projects it is (it is one that I’ve already discussed here), or the format it’s going to come out in, but we’re hoping it’ll give more people a chance to see this series, and help elevate it, right when shops are looking for exciting new books to sell.

There’s a whole other thing that’s been happening this week, that I won’t be able to talk about for months if at all, that coupled with this has made my brain ready to leak out of my ears, especially when I think about my workload this fall. But I am very excited about all of the projects I’m working on right now, and I am excited that people seem to be excited about them, too. Oh shit, I set all the wheels in motion for PROJECT NIGHTMARE in the last few weeks, didn’t I? Hahahahahahahahaa… Oh boy.

Anyways. Expect a lot more about it next week. 

HOUSEKEEPING

They announced the first two tie-ins for DEATH METAL today, LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHTS, and the DEATH METAL GUIDEBOOK, and I’ll be doing stories in both of them. My first big solo-written Death Metal tie-in issue is coming out in September, so I can’t talk about it yet. I think I’ll write up a whole big Death Metal thing as we approach the first issue, and the solicitation of that issue.

Obviously, selfishly I’m promoting Batman and Joker War first and foremost because this is my newsletter I want them to do very well… But Death Metal is the culmination of my last few years at DC Comics, and I’ve been involved every step of the way. From the first crossover, to It’s a celebration of DC lore that takes all its craziest pieces and mashes them together in a rock opera for the ages, that really ties a bow on a lot of big DC pieces that haven’t connected over the last few years. I’m proud of the book, and I’m so happy to be part of it, and I can’t wait for you to have it all in front of you.

The first Metal also launched in a kind of dark moment, and it felt like the exact right jolt of insane energy the world and our industry needed, and I hope it connects in the same way this year. Sometimes people need to be reminded of the limitless possibilities of abject comic book lunacy, and that we can take these toys and have some real fun with them. Having read all of Death Metal, I promise you that’s what Scott and Greg are delivering yet again, and having worked closely with them, I’m eager for everyone to see the big underlying message of the beast.

Our fearless editor Marie Javins got Warren Ellis to write about an evil Robot Dinosaur Batman for a few pages, so that means you have to buy these comic books. That’s just comic book law.

Anyways… There’s also an undercurrent to all of this that I just want to say directly. This is a promotional newsletter, and I’m going to be out here every week I can, banging the promotional drum for the books that are coming out. That’s the whole purpose of this thing. But I know the world’s still in a state of crisis, and I’m very sensitive to that fact, and I’m living in it too. I think promoting my books is me reaching for a sense of normal that obviously doesn’t exist right now. But I know I’m promoting these comics into a weird world. I know that in a lot of places, your comic shops might not be open yet, and might not be fully open when these books start come out.

I hope, if you’re the sort of person in the nitty gritty of comics enough to follow a comic book writer’s newsletter, that you already know if your LCS is open, if they’re doing curbside pick-up, mail order, or having some other kind of limited way to get your comics, but I think it’s a good time to reach back out and check in on your shop. As some of the guidelines are laxed in different spots in the country, there are going to be more safe ways to pick your books up or get them shipped to you, and it’s good to let your local shop know whether you’ll still be buying comics when you have the chance. I know I’m shooting off an email right when I’m done with this to set up a mailorder pull list with one of my favorite shops. There are lots of great ways to get these comics in your hands. If you want them, and feel safe getting them, I hope you’ll choose to pick some of mine up.

I think summer is going to be a weird in-between time, where things kind of half-open, but we’re going to need to be vigilant to stay safe and healthy. Take whatever precautions make you feel safe, but since most of us can’t gather in big groups yet, I hope these comics can be a comfort, and give you cool stuff to read and get excited about before the world fully reopens. I know I’m going to keep picking the titles I’m excited about.

Anyways. I hope you all have a nice weekend. Next week is going to be nuts.

James Tynion IV
Brooklyn, NY
5.14.20

13: The Great Machine Is Rumbling

You can hear the gears creaking and moaning as it slowly comes back to life. The hum of the machine isn’t quite what it should be, it hasn’t gotten back to full steam, but after a few months of silence, it is undeniable that it’s moving again.

The comics industry, despite reports to the contrary, is alive, and new comic books will be returning to their natural platforms as we kick off the summer. Now, does that mean we’re all out of the woods? No. Of course not. But as much as comics was hurt by the fast shuttering of the country (and the world), I think we’re also going to benefit from being able to open our doors faster than other establishments.

Even if it’s just for curbside pick-up, mail-order, or if it’s just letting a few people inside at a time. Bookstores and Comic Shops are going to be able to get back to functioning long before Movie Theaters or Restaurants. And since people still can’t go out in groups, there’s a pent up demand for home entertainment.

People want stuff to read. So, let’s give it to them.

And sure, this is all a bit bullish, but for the sake of my mind, I have to think a bit bullish right now. I might be trying on a bit of forced optimism. I’m writing this from my couch in Brooklyn, NY, right at the heart of America’s very-own epicenter. I’ve got my stack of masks by the door for when I walk our dog, and I’ve got an extra bottle of hand sanitizer for my pocket when I go out into the world. NYC is probably going to stay shut down longer than anywhere else in the country (and with good reason). My summer remains a massive question mark. I’m not saying that the coming months aren’t going to be hard, but I can’t help but be excited about an influx of new comic books to read.

Which isn’t to say I’m not expecting our little world to change.

We’re already seeing moves in the middle of the pandemic that I think will be echoing forward for a long, long, time. The comic book industry is no longer operating with a single distributor, with the birth of UCS and Lunar. Marvel is moving some of their titles to digital rather than bring them back in print. DC has fast-tracked a whole new digital slate. There are other moves I’ve been seeing and participating in behind the scenes that are equally fascinating. I know these moves have freaked a lot of people out, but like I said in the last newsletter, I appreciate the people who are trying shit out in the face of all of this. I even appreciate the messy solutions that don’t work! Most new ideas don’t work! But that doesn’t mean they’re not worth exploring and debating. I hope we see more ideas as things continue, and the country starts reopening.

The hope is that a pause in a system can reinvigorate it. That it can remind us what we love about our little corner of the world, and solidify what we don’t in a way that lets us cast out the bad and elevate the good. I think the roaring universal stress of this moment in time is going to keep us from TRUE enlightenment, but I have found my brain bending and twisting into new shapes in the face of this crisis in a way I hadn’t expected it to. I have to hope that’s happening elsewhere, and I’m eager to see the works and business solutions that arise from it. I’m eager for all new ideas about how to keep and ultimately grow our audiences.

In my last newsletter, I was a little too optimistic about how often I’d keep writing these while the world was on pause.  But every week I just felt like I had nothing more to say. Part of the fun of this beast is getting you all riled up and excited for the new comics on my horizon, and when there were no new comics coming, it felt bizarre trying to give you that hard sell. I didn’t want to try and get you excited about “Clownhunter” in Batman, without being able to call your shop and put in an order for his first appearance (Which is in Batman #96, which is now tracking for an August release).

I started writing a newsletter a few times in the early weeks, but I kept finding that I didn’t have much to say other than the same mundane observational shit about how much it sucks to stay inside all the time and not see your friends or do anything.

I’ve done Zoom birthday dinners, and Zoom family dinners, and Zoom family birthday dinners, and a Zoom wedding. I had a video call with my friend Alex Paknadel yesterday where he pointed out the bizarre existential surreality of effectively being as far away from me as his mother-in-law, five minutes down the road… Which got me thinking about my stepbrother, a few Brooklyn neighborhoods away, and my Dad and stepmom in Manhattan, but they’re no closer to me than my Mom and sister down in Miami. It’s a strange time.

I will say, this whole experience has not made me any fonder of video conferencing? I like to pace when I talk on the phone and I don’t like feeling quite so visible so constantly on group video calls. I think maybe it would be better if it didn’t show me to myself while I’m talking? I feel like I just stare at my own hideous face as it looks more and more nervous until the conversation ends.  I would still much, much rather just talk on the phone. But I do admit seeing other people is better psychologically? I’ll submit myself to the horrors of video conferencing technology a bit longer, but my eye starts twitching when people suggest that it’s going to continue when the world gets back to “normal.” I should probably just start becoming the “audio only” curmudgeon now before it gets too late.

Anyways, that’s what you’ve been missing out on. My very exciting opinions on video conferencing technologies. Aren’t you sad that I haven’t been churning these out every week? I think we’re all becoming a bit boring while we’re trapped inside. There’s a monotony to the world when you’re not really looking forward to things, because you don’t know when they’re coming, or what shape they’ll take. So I hope the fact that comic books are going to start coming back out is a comfort, and gives you cool shit to look forward to. It also means I’m going to have more stuff to show off to you…

So… I’ll get to the part where I talk about the comics you’re going to be able to start pick up and reading next month, but DID YOU KNOW there are a bunch of comics that exist in the world that you can read RIGHT NOW?!

Here, let me tell you about a few.

WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN READING, JAMES?

One of my favorite comic book things in the indoor life of the Coronavirus times has been #NTYCBD, which is “New To You Comic Book Day.” I made suggestions in my last newsletter of the different reasons you can hunt down comics while locked at home, but this sums it all up much more nicely. It’s basically a challenge to find and read comic books you haven’t read before, and prioritize them over your usual reads or rereads (particularly while the world is still shut down).

I think a lot of us have been catching up on the monstrous piles of comics that live in our house, and for me, I’ve been raiding my partner’s Bookshelf. Sam has always lived in the mythical borderlands between the mainstream direct market comics, and the indy world of zines, Fantagraphics, and Drawn & Quarterly. It’s a world I’ve explored a little bit in the past, but my reading list from that corner of comics had gotten pretty long, and I usually just picked up another Image trade when I was reading outside my usual pull-list. But I’ve been peppering these books in alongside the manga, and YA Book market comics, and direct market comics, and it’s been helping paint this incredibly beautiful large-scale picture of what this medium really is. And it has really reinforced how small a window I usually look at it through.

Honestly, the whole process has been creatively invigorating. I definitely plan on taking a big, big picture of my stack of books when the crisis is over, for my records, bragging rights, and for the sheer madness of reading them all in quick succession… But here’s just a little taste:

On A Sunbeam – Tillie Walden
Sabrina – Nick Drnaso
Hicksville – Dylan Horrocks
Goodnight Punpun – Inio Asano
From Hell – Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell

These five have been my favorites, none of which I had read before the world shut down. Each of them have wormed their way inside of my head and danced around in it. Reading these over the course of a few weeks made me want to stick my head out the window and shout “Did you know that ALL these things are comics?! DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU CAN DO IN A COMIC BOOK?!” Because holy fucking shit this medium is absolutely incredible in a way that makes me have to sit down reeling sometimes. There is no medium in the world I love more, and I am so fucking honored and inspired that I spend my life making them.

The most surprising book on that list that definitely sent my brain into a manic kind of overdrive was From Hell. I say it’s surprising, because it’s the book that’s the closest to the comic industry that we recognize over in the direct market. I deeply love Alan Moore, so I should have read it years ago. But for a long time I told myself I wanted to have a great Alan Moore comic tucked away for when I needed it. I’ve read the rest of his work, but I knew there would come a time that I would need to break the emergency glass and take it out and bask in its brilliance and revel in the creative powers it riled up in me.

So I read it, and it DID rile all those powers up, and got me into a two week manic frenzy that I’m only just starting to come out of.  Reading the comic led me to eBay where I finally did something I’d been considering for a long while, and bought every issue of the 1980s and early 90s horror anthology, Taboo, in which From Hell used to run as its own serialized story. You can read up on the trials and tribulations of that particular anthology magazine, and some of the lost stories inside (I’m more heartbroken than ever at the unrealized Neil Gaiman/Michael Zulli Sweeney Todd that only exists as a prologue), but honestly, I was profoundly inspired more than anything else.

A lot of what inspired me is the intersection of Eddie Campbell and Alan Moore, who feel like they would exist in two wholly separate comic book industries if they had come up together in the modern day. It would be like if Jeff Lemire and Adrian Tomine came together and wrote a giant true crime masterpiece, only to go back into their separate camps when it was all over. There’s something just inherently special about the fact that book exists, and it feels like it was only possible because there was this weird period in the late 80s and early 90s when there were no walls between the different corners of comics, and everything was inspiring everyone.

Focusing on that moment of time and the books it created really points to this weird missing leg in the table of the comics medium in the present day. This middle ground that used to exist between the world around superhero comics (and the creator owned titles that are closer to Superheroes in tone than anything else), and the arthouse indy comix with an x.  In the 80s and early 90s, it was the black and white self-published books. Taboo, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Cerebus, Bone, Strangers in Paradise, Stray Bullets, and a whole lot more. They were making commercial content, more directly applicable and influential to the superhero comics that dominated comic shops, so it opened those conversations, but the self-published lo-fi aspect of them kept them in conversation with the weirder underground alt comics, and helped all those worlds stay in touch with each other, and inspire each other. Down to the fact that one of the predecessor stories to Charles Burns’ Black Hole can be read in the first issue of Taboo.

These were comics made from sheer force of will, not because they were commissioned or sanctioned by a publisher. There is always something special about the purity of expression in a project like that. Comics that were meant to be comics, that people were going to fight to get on shelves by any means necessary. Now, there’s a bit of undue romance in looking at all of them, and I recognize that. I wasn’t there to see the failures of that system, only the books that survived to the modern day.

But fuck it. I DO love the romantic vision of that era, and I DO wish that there weren’t these giant walls between the different corners of comics, where every community is functionally insular. Where mainstream superhero creators aren’t reading Manga, or Webcomics, or Indy Comics, or YA book market comics, and so on… Where the luminaries of different corners of the field are only vaguely aware of each other, if at all. And maybe that’s always been the case, and it’s probably the same in film and television and drama and art and prose, but I do dream of the kind of comics that would be born from a true interplay of ideas from the greatest comic book minds.

How many more From Hells could we find in the borderlands?

This has all been a giant mash of words to say that comics is so much fucking bigger than I tend to think it is. I get caught up in my immediate surroundings, and comfort myself with the little I do know about comics. I need to do better to remind myself that there are so many phenomenal stories told in this form, and I need to keep reading them to keep my love of the medium alive.

Comics are so fucking good, and so fucking vibrant and alive, and they will never die. There are enough comics to keep reading and exploring them for a lifetime… I think we all have our preferences, and we all have the sorts of stories we know we love to read, but there’s a real magic when you check out something you don’t know if you’re going to respond to, and then it hits you from an angle you never expected.

Direct market comic books are coming back. All your favorites will start making their way back to shelves. Depending on what State you’re in, you’ll be able to pick them up in person, or by curbside, or by mail order. We’re all excited for our favorites to come back. But I hope that the spirit of #NTYCBD stays alive in the new world. I’m going to try to keep living in it, for sure.

I still have a stack of books left to read, even bigger than the one I started with… And I add to it with every great book I read. I’m eager to wrap my work for the day and dig in. My weekends have been my big read-a-thons, and I’m looking to dive into more manga this weekend (including FINISHING Punpun, which I am admittedly only three volumes into).

I can’t wait to find more books that send my brain down more rabbit holes, and I can’t wait to see what all these comics do to my writing.

COMICS COMICS COMICS

Okay, so let’s get down to business. The Comic Book Machine has been reactivated and I have comics coming out again. Not just yet, but soon. That second week of June is going to be an absolute James Tynion IV juggernaut of a week… The DC Comics will be out on Tuesday, June 9th, and the Boom! books will be out on Wednesday, June 10th. Let me give you the full rundown…

The first out of the gate is going to be the JOKER: 80TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL, which has its FOC on Monday. This is going to feature a story that reveals Punchline’s secret origin (spoilers: she is an original character, and wasn’t any of the older characters you’ve been tweeting at me asking if she is). Mikel Janin drew the story, and did a fucking phenomenal job, and I am very very excited for you to read it. This whole book is going to be something twisted and special, and highlight the greatest villain in all of comic bookery.

The next on the docket is BATMAN #92, which I know folks have been waiting for FOR A WHILE. It’s new FOC is coming up, but just to remind you why you all were so excited about it the last time around. This issue is drawn by the incredible Guillem March, and features Punchline meeting Harley Quinn for the first time. It’s the moment I’ve been waiting for as Punchline moves from a character cameoing in the background of Batman and Hell Arisen, and joins the main cast of the book, in the lead-up to Joker war. This issue also features two variant covers… One of them is the knock-out amazing Artgerm cardstock variant… And the other is the Jorge Jimenez design variant, showing off the final design sheet Jorge did when we were creating Punchline. When these were up for FOC last time around the design variant was catching lots of people’s attention, so I think we’re going to line up some more. Stay tuned!

Now, on TOP of all that fun, Erica Slaughter is coming back to town in SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #7. I’m really happy and excited that a bunch of people seem to have been picking up the first trade of the book while we’ve been under quarantine, and I hope you stick with the title as we head deeper into the second arc. This comic has become something more wildly and deeply personal than I ever imagined it being, and I am very, very excited for you to see what we’ve been building while the world’s been shut down. There’s the main cover for issue #7 by Werther Dell’Edera, and a stunning variant by Pretty Deadly’s Emma Rios.

Speaking of that first volume… Okay, so right now, there is a special SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN Volume 1, with the Jenny Frison cover, available exclusively in the direct market in what Boom! Studios calls their “Discover Now” variant. It’s a beautiful, beautiful book. And this is your last chance to get it. For those of you unfamiliar with the “Discover Now” program, it’s a limited release cover that ultimately gets replaced by the mass market version… And that’s coming in early June, right in time for the series to return to shelves. So if you want to get the Jenny Frison cover to the first trade, now is the time to reach out to your comic shop and tell them you want it. Otherwise, we’ll be sticking with the also-stunning Werther cover as the series becomes available in bookstores and comic shops!

THE CHOICE IS YOURS! But let your Local Comic Shop know which of these you’re going to want to buy! I know the whole pre-ordering side of comics has always been a little wonky, but I do think retailers are eager to know that fans still want these books. So let your LCS know that you’re interested and you’re still going to want to pick all these bad boys up, and find out how best to get them into your hands, based on when your state is reopening.

WHAT’S IN THE WINGS?

In next week’s newsletter, I’m going to dig into JOKER WAR, and I think I finally have the go-ahead to reveal the Clownhunter design, as DC releases revised solicits for July and August. I’m extra excited to brag about who we’ve got doing a Clownhunter short in one of the Joker War related issues later this summer. I’m ALSO going to be able to talk a bit more about my involvement in DEATH METAL, and its supporting material. I’ve been working on a LOT of super cool comics and I am excited to be able to talk about them and get them in your hands as the year goes on.

We’ve ALSO got some cool things coming up via Boom! Studios, that we’re doing in response to the Covid pandemic. I’m going to be promoting some cool stuff as the year goes on, so I am excited and eager to be able to announce all of these things as we move forward. One of those in particular, I’ve been hoping to make happen since the crisis started, and I know there’s a good demand for them. Speaking of demand, I’ve been having people reach out asking how to get comics signed or CGCed given the likelihood that there won’t be any more big conventions this year. I’m arranging some ways you’ll be able to participate in a private signing by mail, and I’ll be able to get you all of that information very soon.

Which is all to say that I better keep doing these newsletter, because there IS going to be a lot of news and announcements in the coming months.

WYND – Michael just finished the first volume, and we’re putting the final touches on it to lock the book this month and send it to the printer. I’m going to be gearing up the whole crazy machine to promote this thing as the year goes on, but for the moment, we’re still on track to release this November. I’m in the process of outlining the second volume, and am going to try to write it out in the next few months. In the meantime, I’ve been running pages from my previous series with Michael, THE WOODS, over on Twitter, and you can start here. I think I’m going to wind that down when my comics arrive back in shops on June 9th, but that’ll mean you can read the first three issues of The Woods for free on my twitter! If you dig them, I recommend asking your LCS for a copy of the first Yearbook Volume, collecting the first twelve issues!

PROJECT DALLAS – Martin Simmonds is hard at work on the second issue of my unannounced Creator owned title, and I’m starting work on the third script. I have a fully designed first issue on my laptop, and it’s the first published work to bear the Tiny Onion Logo, even if it doesn’t end up being the first thing RELEASED with that logo. I think issue 1 is gorgeous, and issue 2 has some of the most frightening sequences of anything I’ve written. Given the state of the world, I have no idea when this will be announced or released. Hopefully will have some discussions with its Publisher in the next month to help cement that. My hope is that it will make it out sometime later this year, but we’ll see if it sneaks into 2022. In any case, I’m keeping the project moving in the meantime.

PROJECT LAKEHOUSE – I have driven the artist of this project mad by asking him to design an impossible house that will feature in the book, and now I think he’s going to hunt me down and kill me. This will heighten the horror of the book, I’m sure. Gearing up to write the first issue now, and am very very excited about this title.

PROJECT NIGHTMARE – Okay, so I’m sure I’m not the only person who has somehow manifested a new project out of thin air in the middle of quarantine. This is a weird project, that I’m planning on releasing differently than my other books. Weirdly, that means it’s likely to be the first of my creator owned projects to end up in the world… Stay tuned. Lots more to come on this front.

HOUSEKEEPING

Okay. Now that there’s a steady flow of information to deliver, I’m going to try and get this up and going more regularly. If you want to drop me a line or ask a question that I might answer in a future newsletter, email me at TinyOnionStudios@gmail.com

James Tynion IV
Brooklyn, NY
5.8.20

12: Dispatches from Limbo

I’ve been putting this off a few weeks now, with the whole world seemingly under Coronavirus Quarantine, until I had something REAL to say… But I don’t know when that will be and maybe it’ll be easier to just free associate until I have something substantial enough to ship off to you all as a newsletter. 

You are all my guinea pig therapists right now. Prepare for my mighty existential angst! But really, It all boils down to a pretty simple emotion…

This sucks. This whole thing fucking sucks. 

It’s like there’s a constant scream underlying everything, and the best you can do is just sort of ignore it until you can more or less pretend you can’t hear it anymore, but then when things get quiet, ALL you hear is the scream. That’s a bit melodramatic, and I know it, but it’s true. This whole thing is exhausting in a way a convention is exhausting. Being a creator at a con, you basically have to be “on” twenty-four hours a day, trying to make sure everyone has a good experience at your table, trying to sell books, trying to pitch projects, trying to catch up with friends, trying to get the right networking in, etc etc etc. There isn’t a moment where you can just take a deep breath and detach from everything so you can regroup before you have to re-enter the world. This feels weirdly similar, despite being holed up away from people. It’s that omnipresent scream demanding attention. It is an effort to listen to the scream and acknowledge it. It is an effort to not listen and turn away from it. Everything is effort. Nothing is easy.

Especially writing.

I write by finding a kind of rhythm to the language and ideas I’m working with and just flowing with them, but I haven’t been able to find my flow in the last couple weeks. To do that means focus, and focus feels next to impossible. I’m more or less on top of all my projects, so I can AFFORD to kind of stare off into space a bit, which almost makes it worse. I think having the gun-to-my-head that is an imminent deadline would get me off my ass and working more steadily. I guess I have that to look forward to. The fun thing about deadlines is that if you ignore them they all become imminent pretty quick, and none of my too-many projects are pencils down, as of yet. But I also have no idea when the next issues of anything are going to get into your hands, and where they will come from.

I wish I could tell you that I knew of some big secret plan that was going to make everything better in the world of comics. For most of the last couple weeks, all the messages I’ve been hearing have been a full on Direct Market Apocalypse on one hand, and that I should keep working as if nothing has changed on the other. The answer is clearly going to be messier and in the middle. This is going to hit our industry hard, and it’s going to take creative solutions to weather it. A creative  stopgap solution was presented this week, but time will tell if that’s the one publishers, retailers, and distributors jump for. I appreciate creative solutions, though, and I hope they keep coming. 

My desperate hope is that no matter how harrowing this is, that we come out of it a stronger industry with new tools to reach a larger audience. All I want is to sell and promote my comics to the most people possible. I have a lot of stories I am only beginning to tell. My goal in 2020 was to establish myself in a bigger bolder way than ever before and reach as many fans as possible. To use Batman as a beach head while I continued telling exciting stories in my creator owned. That’s why I started this newsletter. 

I’ve started building a lot of bridges to the next stage in my career and while the fog means I can’t exactly see the land on the other side right now, I have to believe that the land is there. That there are just as many readers tomorrow as there will be today. I think there may need to be adjustments to story and scale of ideas to help bring people to the table, but I need to believe that anyone who cares enough about comics to follow this newsletter is going to be eager to keep reading comics when the floodgates open again and product starts hitting the market, in whatever shape it takes.

Maybe that’s stupid, but I have to believe it to keep pushing forward, because I desperately WANT to keep pushing forward.

I am excited about tomorrow. The high concept tomorrow. Not like… Friday. I spent yesterday morning discussing my plans for Batman into 2021. I spent the afternoon talking about some cool projects that will branch out of Death Metal. Right now I have lettering for a Green Lantern 80th Anniversary Special Alan Scott story with Gary Frank art that I keep having to pinch myself to remember that it’s all real, and a lettered copy of Batman #95, the start of Joker War. I have, in a folder on my desktop, the full first issue of PROJECT DALLAS. I have in my inbox, the contract for PROJECT LAKEHOUSE. Wynd and Something is Killing the Children pages keep on coming in.

But it’s scary! Today was supposed to be a very different day. Batman #92 was going to hit stands, with its Artgerm and Jorge Jimenez variants. I heard the original FOC numbers for this issue and they were staggering. And the sense I’ve gotten is the series numbers got a big lift directly following it… And that’s all BEFORE we launched a massive Joker event. A lot of what I’ve been trying to build on that book is momentum I’m desperate to keep carrying forward, but as of right now, I have no idea when Batman #92 will be in stores or out digitally or any of it. Let alone Joker War. So I don’t exactly know how best to carry that momentum forward. 

I look forward to clarity. I look forward to knowing when you can read my comics, and I can start hinting at the cool new Bat-Characters I’m going to introduce in late 2020 and 2021. I have big plans! I am excited about them! I want to get you excited about them, too! Punchline, Clownhunter, The Designer, Gunsmith, Mr. Teeth… Those are just my first two arcs. I’m trying to build cool new toys for all of you to play with. And there are the classic Bat-Characters I’m dying to get my hands on too…

There’s a whole crazy world of comic books I’m creating for you, inside and outside of Gotham, and I’m eager to find out when I can show them to all of you. In the meantime, I need to keep my head down, and read less twitter. Read more books. Sleep more, and try to make peace with the everscream…

There was a moment in Week One of Quarantine I was thinking I’d use all this spare time to cook up a pilot script or a screenplay. There’s an idea that’s been brewing in the back of my head that feels more suited for the screen than for comics, and I thought I’d take the opportunity to flesh it out. A horror story that plays with the early days of the internet.

Maybe next week I’ll get used to all this lunacy and knock out another couple comic scripts and make it happen. 

Or I won’t!

TELL ME WHAT TO READ, JAMES! OH GOD, I NEED THE COMIC BOOKS!!

Similar to my screenplay/teleplay instincts, there was a moment in week one where I thought about trying to pull together a zine I could print and ship from my apartment, or maybe start up a webcomic, but then I remembered that my contracts haven’t been paused and I can’t do that right now…

But there are plenty of comic books to read. Do you have any idea how many comic books come out in a given year?! I think even the most voracious comic book reader has a giant stack of comic books they haven’t gotten to yet. So first step is to use the break to catch up. Read big stacks of cool comics. Stay up late catching up an exciting run, like I did the other week with Daredevil and Immortal Hulk. But let’s say you’ve did that in the first few weeks of quarantine, and you’re hungry for more, but don’t know where to start! Decisions are tough in the face of Coronavirus! So here’s some thoughts.

  1. Comfort - Re-read the comics that made you love the medium. For me, I burned through Planetary on week one of the Quarantine, and I’m rereading Nextwave right now. I’ve got my eyes on Bone in the coming weeks. Also maybe Pluto by Naoki Urasawa. Find the book you loved the most, but haven’t read in ages, and plug it into your brain for that sweet sweet rush of joy.

  2. Enrichment - If you love a writer or artist and haven’t had the time to read through their backlog, or if you love a character like Batman or Spider-Man, but haven’t read all the classics… This is a perfect time to dig back and enrich your love of the current books by exploring the past.

  3. Experimentation - Go outside your usual safety zone of comics. If you only read western comics, get your hands on some Manga. If you only read superheroes, pick up some independent titles from Image, Boom!, Vault, Dark Horse, etc. If you only read DC, pick up some Marvel trades. If you only read mainstream, direct market comics, try some books out from the super indy side of the business. If you only read adult comics, see why the kids are lapping up every Raina Telgemeier volume they can get their hands on. There are LOTS of amazing weirdo comic books in the world and you can put them in your head. We’re all trapped in our houses, and you might find that bold new stories and modes of storytelling help escape better than the familiar. If I wasn’t a comic book evangelist, I would also be suggesting you read a regular book, but we all know books are better when they have pictures in ‘em.

  4. Read MY Books - Hey bozos, this my newsletter that I made to sell you my comics, and I know I write in a bunch of different corners of the business. I did a whole Twitter thread earlier this week with a run-down of my independent work, like The Woods, Memetic, and Something is Killing the Children. If you only read Batman, I hope you check some of those books out. On the flipside, if you only discovered my superhero work recently, you should go check out the Rebirth Detective Comics run, Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Justice League Dark, and Constantine: The Hellblazer!

How to pick those up? If you’re in a state that hasn’t locked down yet, and you’re comfortable swinging by your LCS, I’m sure they’d love the business. But in more and more places that isn’t an option, and I also don’t want you risking your health by encouraging you to go places outdoors. Thankfully, a lot of people are doing a lot of work to help comics get to YOU.

There are also a LOT of comic shops that are offering mail order right now, even in the current shutdown. Give your LCS a call and see if they offer mail order right now, and if not, maybe look to one of the other shops offering it… Third Eye Comics is one of my favorite shops in the country. There are also the obvious answers of Digital Comics, and the major online retailers, but I will say that if you have a good relationship with your local comic shop, they could use your help right now a lot more than Amazon. So if you’re in a position where you can help your LCS, they would very much appreciate it.

Now, I agree with all the twitter threads that this is a profoundly stressful time, and you shouldn’t feel the burden of a project, but if you love comic books enough to follow this newsletter, I do recommend you find some time to rekindle your love of this medium. Find books that speak to you, now that the faucets of new content have been turned off for a minute. Find books that you connect with in the same way you did with the books that got you reading in the first place.

I believe, with all my heart, that comic books are the most exciting innovative storytelling medium that exists on the planet. I think they capture your heart and attention better than any other kind of story. They are special, and beautiful, and there are mountains of great comics you haven’t read yet.

Go exploring.

SOMETHING FOR YOU TO CHEW ON…

So, my original plan was to show off the Clownhunter design, and talk a bit about the character and how he’ll appear in issue #96, and how I’ve already seen the first variant with him on it and all that cool shit. But I’ve been asked to hold back on that until we’re back in a world where you can actually order your books, and we know, generally WHEN Joker War and all of that is going to come out. Which is FAIR.

But I still want to give you something new and exciting to chew on…

So how about the first four panels of my Green Lantern 80th Anniversary story, featuring Alan Scott, with art by the incomparable Gary Frank!

And check out this jaw-dropping splash page from SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #7, with art by Werther Dell’Edera, and colors by Miquel Muerto!!

And what about this contextless black and white page from my unannounced PROJECT DALLAS?! With art by the phenomenal Martin Simmonds! Have I said that Martin and I have a book together?! I guess I’m saying it now! And look how freaking gorgeous it is!

AND WHAT ABOUT THESE COLOR PAGES FROM WYND?! Art by Michael Dialynas! Look at our babies!!

Pretty cool, huh?

I am very excited about all of these comic books and I am ludicrously excited to sell them all to you in the next year. All of these trains are barreling forward, even in the face of limbo.

When the floodgates open again and comics start heading back into shops, I’ll be beating the drum hard to get you all excited for them. Honestly, I am most excited to share what we’re building in Batman. While writing this I got the lettering for 96 in as well, and I am VERY excited for you to read it.

HOUSEKEEPING

I’m going to try and keep this going, and maybe I’ll pull a Rick Remender and start pulling out some old rejected pitches and documents that I can show you. I’ll figure something out. My weekly newsletter is turning into a monthly newsletter, and I don’t want that. Honestly, writing all this has helped me get out of my head a bit.

Hopefully we also start getting clarity on when I can get you some of these comic books to read, and you get clarity on when you can order them. Then I can start being my cheeky self and start drumming the beat to all things Joker War, and all the things that tie-in to Joker War, and all the things that spin OUT of Joker War

And I REALLY want approval to show you all what I’m doing with Clownhunter…

James Tynion IV
Johnstown, PA
4.2.2020

11: Punching Onions

Fuck, I’m tired.

There’s the obvious, macro cosmic exhaustion of living in 2020, with the election, coronaviruses, and big shake-ups in the hierarchy of the company I do most my work for. There’s also the micro side, where I had to get up almost two hours before I usually do to bring my dog to the vet so she can have a growth on her belly removed. I’m using the head start on the day to finish the newsletter I started in fits and bursts yesterday. Forgive me if any of this doesn’t make sense. As I said… I’m tired.

Turns out, writing a weekly newsletter is about as tough as it sounded when I first set out to do it! Weirdly, it was easier in the chaos of the early year when I was wildly behind my deadlines on pretty much every front. My brain was running at full speed and I was knocking out scripts and pitch documents left and right. I needed a release valve and this was it. A cure to writers block and anxiety (or at leave a salve). But it’s been a wild few weeks and there’s been a lot cooking in the back of my brain. I’m going to ramble a bit in a few directions, but it’s all going to come back to this image…

But I’ll get to that in a second. I said a few things on a panel this last weekend in Chicago, and they’ve been sitting with me ever since I’ve gotten home.

It was a panel for the ALA  (the American Library Association), and it was about stocking and shelving comic books in libraries (which, if you’re not a librarian or a comic book creator, you should know is a huge part of what keeps this business alive). There was one question, and I wish I could remember it exactly, but the question essentially asked if we considered what age group we were writing for as we were creating new things. But it was framed in broader terms… It was about what audience we write for.

I was honestly a little worried about the panel, going into it. I am a difficult comic creator to shelve. I don’t stick to any single age group or genre. Backstagers is Middle Grade fantasy adventure. The Woods is, more or less, a Young Adult  Science Fiction book. My Apocalyptic Trilogy (Memetic, Cognetic, and Eugenic) is straight horror with no cursing, and Something is Killing the Children is straight horror WITH cursing. And this was the question I was kind of dreading, because I knew my answer was essentially that I DIDN’T consider my audience when I was creating, except that was wrong, too. My oeuvre is, more or less, just a reflection of my taste in fiction.

But there’s a cool moment when you’re writing or public speaking where you kind of start building a bridge to nowhere without any real answer to the question at hand, and find yourself somewhere interesting after all. Sometimes that’s just bullshitting, but sometimes bullshitting is a good road to revelation. I started by saying that the audience, first and foremost, was me. And not just the me that exists now, but the me that existed in middle school and high school and was falling in love with comics as a medium. I am trying to capture the spirit, and feel of the books that made me fall head over heels in love with comics and decide to spend my life making them.

And then I started talking about Steven Spielberg. Now, I’ve always loved Spielberg, which feels a bit like saying “I like Pizza” or “I like Ice Cream”, but is undeniably true. Close Encounters of the Third Kind is one of my favorite movies. I could rewatch Raiders of the Lost Ark every day for the rest of my life without getting bored. But there’s something more… There’s this commonality of spirit across all media he’s helped bring into the world I find really admirable, and fascinating. It’s difficult to put your finger on it, but it’s always there. You look at what he was up to in the early nineties, where he was working on Schindler’s List at the same time as Jurassic Park, while also helping bankroll the creation of Tiny Toon Adventures and Freakazoid. You look at the 80s, where he was helping make An American Tail, Poltergeist, and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. There’s an Amblin spirit to his work. A collection of themes and interests that feel primarily interesting because they reflect him entirely, from his Jewish Identity to his Genre Roots, but despite that… He’s a kind of Mass Market auteur, because he’s tapping into his own intensely personal pure joy and creativity, and broadcasting it to the masses.

And I think the commonality in all of this is that he’s trying to capture the wonder and joy that made him love movies, from roughly that same time in his life. Even his most adult pictures still have an eye for the adolescent audience, it gives them a way in. He never makes something alienating. He wants people to feel what movies make him feel. And that’s what I want to do with comics. Which is either a more or less rambling version of the answer I gave on that C2E2 panel.

Now, I’m no Spielberg. I don’t have that Spielberg polish (I wish I did). I’m not claiming that in any way that I’m on that level, but I do think there is a baseline connection between what he does on the big screen and what I’m setting out to do in comics. People talk about a story having an Amblin feel (for Spielberg’s production company), and usually they just mean his 80s work, particularly when talking about a movie like Super 8, or a tv show like Stranger Things… But I think there’s a larger Amblin feel. A childlike sense of wonder that you can even feel in a movie like Lincoln, that ties it all together. And I’ve been working to distill what that feeling is in my own work, and give it its own identity.

My two audiences are myself, and everyone else. Or maybe it’s more that my product is myself, and my audience is everyone else. Or it’s both of those things at the same time.

And what I’m after is capturing a kind of spirit… or maybe the better way of saying it is that I’m trying to capture a kind of “id.” A pure emotional reaction, the inner child… I keep calling it an “inner 13 year old.” That is who I am trying to write comics for. Even my most adult comics, I want to capture how it felt as a high school freshman reading my first Vertigo Comics and seeing the potential of storytelling. But with my Batman, it’s that dialed up to eleven. I’m operating with the kind of math that says “if this wouldn’t feel cool to thirteen year old James, what’s the point in doing it?” Like, look. I know there’s a lot of chaotic elements happening in my Batman run right now. Disparate pieces flying at you from all directions. I’ve got lots of Bat vehicles, and new characters, and classic characters, and literally Batman hasn’t been out of costume for a single panel of it. Now, I think with #90, you’re starting to see the ideas underpinning all of that, because they DO exist as a compass guiding me, I don’t want you to think it’s all just on the fly for the hell of it. But I DO want it to capture a kind of pure expressive joy that hits all of us RIGHT in our id. I want you to feel “holy crap, that’s a cool vehicle.” I want you to ask yourself “who is this new character, and how could they change the story that’s being told?”

I’m trying to let my gut guide me in the right direction, which is the same thing I do in Something is Killing the Children, which feels like a polar opposite book in some ways, but is honestly trying to do the same exact thing. SIKTC is the reason Punchline exists. I know from Erica Slaughter there’s a hunger out there for new characters. The audiences in comic shops want the comics to be special. They want to be the first ones to meet the characters who might appear in TV or film years from now, and they want to own them and think about them and draw them. It goes beyond superhero comics… I did a really cool thing in February, which is probably the most in depth interview I’ve ever been a part of in PanelXPanel #32, which you can buy HERE.

There’s a line in there I like a lot in there, that encapsulates a lot of how I’ve been thinking about the market and my place in it…

I think there’s been an element missing to the last generation of creator owned titles. Like a bunch of people writing Transmetropolitan, but forgetting to create Spider Jerusalem. Mainstream, mass market comics have always been driven by iconic characters, with iconic visuals.

Seriously. Read the interview. It’s got a lot of really cool, in depth stuff on the creation of SIKTC, including the original pitch document and pieces of script. The link, once again is HERE. And while you’re at it, go order these awesome longform essay novella things PxP is putting together. BUT the larger point is that I want to create new shit that hits you right in the gut, and I want to do it in a way that can capture all of your attention, and try to create figures that stick in your mind. Iconic characters that intrigue you and make you want to read more comics. I know you’re not going to like everything I’m going to make, but I hope you do.

Anyways, the big reason I created this newsletter was because I am currently standing at the bully pulpit of the American Comics Industry. I am writing Batman. I am also writing other books, like Something is Killing the Children, Wynd, and projects that I’ve only started hinting about that will be coming from a variety of publishers over the next few years. And I want you to read those other books, if you like reading Batman. Since they’re at a number of different publishers, and being made for a number of different age ranges, I know that I am the central thing they all have in common. But like Spielberg and Amblin, I want to give you a way of thinking about them, all together.

I called this newsletter the Empire of the Tiny Onion, because my company is called Tiny Onion Studios. Tiny Onion Studios is the entity that DC Comics has under an exclusive contract to write a few comic books a month. Tiny Onion Studios is the entity that owns Something is Killing the Children and all my Boom! creator owned work. It is also the entity that will be releasing a book with Image Comics later this year. And so I decided that it was time to give it a logo…. And here it is again.

The name Tiny Onion comes from all of the mispronunciations of my last name, amalgamated into one turn of phrase. Tinny-Un. Tiny-On. Tin-Yun. Tinny-Yun.  When I asked Dylan Todd to design it, I said…

Looking for something graphic and simple here. The feeling is, for a lack of a better word, being presented with something unusual. Like a hand that has picked up a bizarrely tiny onion and now wants to show it to you. I also like the idea of using the hand to help indicate the scale of the tiny onion in question. But I might be coming at it all a bit too literally…. I know the two key words I’m giving you aren’t cool, but I think there may be something in presenting something mundane with a bit of frivolous extremity. Like we took the style of a company called DEATHBLADE Comics and took that spirit and injected it into these mundane words. I think there may be something in the juxtaposition. Something that says something roughly similar to what I was suggesting with the tiny onion in hand. Presenting something extraordinary and strange in an unusual, unassuming package.

When you look at the sum total of what I’ve created… Punchline. Erica Slaughter. Wynd. The Colony and The Victim Syndicate in Detective Comics. The Sloth from Memetic. The kids from The Woods. The kids in The Backstagers… I want you to see think about that Tiny Onion as the cosmic force binding it all together.

Or, if you don’t want to do that, I hope you still pick them up and read them.

BATMANNERY

Okay, so the Punchline stuff has been nuts, right? Like sincerely, sincerely nuts.

Batman 89 sold out. Year of the Villain: Hell Arisen 3 sold out. Batman 90 sold out. I know a bit from my bosses about what’s happening to the sales for the following issues and I don’t want to spoil you… But folks seem really excited, and I could not be more grateful for the buzz and excitement. And the Artgerm variant for #92 (which used to be the #94 variant) is definitely lighting the world on fire a bit… And you can see why!

And they just announced the super rad new Mattina variant of 94….

And those are just the covers I can show you! I saw a Joker 80th cover last week that made my brain explode. It’s all incredibly exciting. Particularly all of the fan-art and cosplay that’s been flowing through my timeline on Instagram and Twitter the last few weeks. That is an EXTRAORDINARILY gratifying feeling. It means we hit a bit of a nerve with this character and there’s some genuine excitement about them, just as a cool looking figure they want to learn more about!

BUT, I also know there are folks out there getting burned. Readers of the book who can’t get their hands on a copy of 89 or Hell Arisen. Retailers upset that DC didn’t let them know that it was coming. Everybody upset with me for tweeting that a certain issue was a “real first appearance” but not meaning that literally. And I understand where everyone is coming from (especially regarding my dumb tweet). So I apologize if Punchline mania has gotten you down, and I hope the reprints coming help calm that a bit. But I want you all to know what’s up and how all this happened.

So, back in December, when discussions were starting about Joker War, I knew I needed Joker to have a lieutenant in that war. A Number Two. We started cooking up the idea of a polar opposite to Harley Quinn, and Jorge designed Punchline. The design was fucking awesome and I didn’t want to wait to use her in a comic.

I had written in some generic gangsters helping out Joker in Hell Arisen #3, so I emailed my editor on that book and said that rather than a generic person in a clown mask, let’s slip Punchline in there. Then I realized that she was going to appear in Hell Arisen #3 a full month before she showed up in Batman, which wasn’t going to happen until issue #92. Thanks to the joy of double-ship comics, #89 hadn’t been written yet, so I decided to slip her in there, because it felt weird for her to pop up in an event mini that didn’t really tie directly into Joker War. So we snuck her in a couple panels to set her up in Batman first and foremost, in issue 89. Then I got permission to post her design online, and everything went nuts. Books started selling out, and I made the dumb comment that I was excited for her REAL first appearance in 92 (by which I only meant her entering the story and interacting with the other characters), and then folks were saying I was trying to say Hell Arisen wasn’t her first appearance, so on and so forth.

The real truth is that new characters don’t always equal buzz. I think it’s the power of the design, the power of a dark new rival for Harley, and the excitement for a Joker story where readers don’t know what’s going to happen, because now there are new elements in the mix with the potential to change everything. We weren’t expecting it, but we’re thrilled it’s captured folks attention and interest.

And now the responsibility is on US to make her matter, to make her a character worthy of all that attention.

But honestly, that’s what I am MOST excited about with Punchline. It’s all the incredible story potential I get to tap into in the book. It’s how she changes the dynamic of a massive Joker attack on Gotham City and Batman. It’s her first encounter with Harley. Her first encounter with Batman. Her first time on the page interacting directly with The Joker. All of that is why I was excited to create the character in the first place… And I am VERY VERY excited for you all to read her origin story in the Joker 80th Anniversary special. Mikel Janín knocked it out of the park. (Don’t tell anybody I showed you this…)

And I promise, in the future, we’ll be more upfront when we’re about to introduce someone new we think is really cool.

SO ANYWAYS…

Jorge and I just created a new character named CLOWNHUNTER, who shows up in Batman #96, part two of Joker War. I am very, very, very excited about him, and the absolutely brutal wrench he’s going to throw into the mix of that story.

More to come in the next newsletter… Maybe I’ll even get to show you a design >:)

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN  

A few things on this, but mostly I am going to let the pictures do the talking. Boom! Studios does a neat thing where they release “Discover Now” editions of some trade paperbacks to give the direct market a head start selling comic book trades. So you can get this, with an amazing Jenny Frison variant cover, from your Local Comic Shop now. If you’ve been tradewaiting this, let your LCS know you want a copy! The regular edition doesn’t hit bookstores until May!

Issue #6 starts the next arc, and is out the week after next, and I am just posting the main cover and the Jenny Frison (?!?!?!) variant because they are fucking beautiful.

How am I so lucky?!

FULL PROJECT RUNDOWN

WYND - Michael is chugging along on pages, and I finally finished the whole first volume, so he can draw the whole dang thing. I need to cut TWO MORE pages out of it, and start doing letter edits. And then I need to start breaking down Book Two. Ahhhhhhhh! IT’S REAL!

PROJECT DALLAS - Holy shit, I want to show you the cover to this, but I really really can’t yet. But I promise you it looks so cool. SO SO COOL. Hoping I can start talking about this series in earnest in the next few months.

PROJECT LAKEHOUSE – Getting ready to enter active production. Character development is starting for real. Artist is about to be free. This’ll be my next big thing in the direct market after Project Dallas.

PROJECT TEETH – Finally in for a green light. Cross your fingers. Don’t let me bite them.

PROJECT CHAOS – The first Character designs are in… They are fucking rad. I’m hoping for this to come out mid 2021, but we’ll see how we can get it all moving forward.

PROJECT GUNHAND – Artist conversations moving forward, and a publisher has been informed it exists. Probably going to spend a few years on the backburner, but it’s alive!

I’m forgetting something… But that just means it’s a bit further on the backburner than the others.

HOUSEKEEPING

I announced yesterday that I will no longer be attending ECCC, given the current state of affairs. I’m sorry to miss it, because it is one of my favorite shows every year.

I’m in discussions for a few signings the next few months if you’re in the east coast, so stay tuned there. My next domestic comic convention is SDCC in July. My next international show is MCM London in May. More info to come on both.

I need to go pick up my Dog from the Vet soon. Everybody hug your dogs! They’re good!

James Tynion IV
Brooklyn, NY
3.6.20

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