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.


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.


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 >:)


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?!


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.


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

10: The War of Jokes and More Jokes

I’ve been sitting at my computer for a good twenty minutes now trying to find my way into a few big ideas that have been at the back of my mind for a while now. 

I think I’m just going to stumble, messily, through them and see what comes from it, so bear with me.

Yesterday, a couple of friends took Sam & I on a journey into Long Island to visit the Round1 Arcade in Hicksville. For those of you who don’t know, Round1 is a Japanese chain. They have bowling alleys and karaoke rooms, claw machines that you can actually win things from, and lots and lots of arcade games.

It’s a geek space. Effectively, it’s a geekier Dave & Busters. It was a lot of fun, even though I am terrible at everything that isn’t a racing game. Thankfully, my broken wrist and messed up knee saved me from having to embarrass myself on anything as daring as a Dance Dance Revolution machine… So I was mostly just having a few beers and enjoying the ambiance of the place. I especially enjoyed how busy it was on a Saturday night, forty five minutes outside of Brooklyn, in the New York City suburbs. They did not have a Batman photobooth, but they did have one of these…

And as Sam racked up slots on the leaderboard of Big Buck Hunter HD, I was looking around at the people who would come to this kind of place on a Saturday night. And to be honest, it was a very familiar crowd. It’s a crowd I see often. At every comic book signing. At every comic convention.

These are the folks who have probably watched a cartoon in the last year. Who have bought a handful of video games. Who have a favorite horror movie, and a favorite superhero movie and who could tell you why. They are mostly in their late-teens to early thirties (effectively, post-high school, pre-having children). They probably have a few fun party games at home, in the mode of Cards Against Humanity.  There were guys with ponytails waiting in line for DDR. Girls with blue hair and nose rings waiting for a chance to play the claw machine that might nab them an Evangelion statuette. Folks considering whether to spend their tickets on a Pickle Rick neck pillow or a Nightmare Before Christmas hat. Or a few Funko Pops. They are probably all a little bit intense about the things they like, and while they’re not necessarily collectors of physical objects, they are collectors of interests. They choose their specialties, whether it’s Magic Cards, or Harry Potter, or what have you, and in their friend group they are the person who knows the most about that. 

These are the geeks. 

These are OUR people. These are the folks we want to come to the comic shop every Wednesday and pick up our comics. 

But they don’t. 

Not most of them, anyways…. 

I’d bet you a lot of the people in that Round1 have read a couple comics or manga, recommended by a friend, but I’d also bet you that most of them haven’t been to a dedicated comic shop. If they’ve been, it’s only maybe once a year. Maybe once every couple of months in very rare cases. And they’re more likely to buy a toy or a deck of Magic cards than a comic. They may have been to New York Comic Con once or twice, but more to experience a kind of Geek Mecca, than to specifically support comics. And when they go to New York Comic Con, they normally go knowing what they want to get. 

If they are a Deadpool fan, they are showing up to get a totem of their Deadpool fandom, and then they are going home.

I’ve been having a conversation with some of my comic creator friends for a while, where I ask them to picture the bookshelf of the average Geek. Someone in that 18-35 range. Someone who has a bit of a disposable income, but nothing crazy… I’m not talking about the die-hard collectors who have bookcases and bookcases, I’m talking about the much more common occurrence where there’s one bookcase, and more commonly, one shelf of “geek stuff” in the whole house. It’s the shelf they’ll decorate with a couple (and only a couple) of action figures or funko pops. But let’s be generous, and say that they have a whole geek bookcase, four shelves high, and they’ve put their video games, DVDs, board games, and Harry potter books on three out of the four shelves, and they’ve dedicated one full shelf to comic books.

One shelf. Let’s call that twenty-five trade paperbacks, total. 

Let’s get a few classics up on that shelf. Let’s say they get a copy of Watchmen, V For Vendetta, the one volume edition of Bone, Batman Year One, and The Dark Knight Returns. That’s close to a mainstream comics starter set, and are perennial best sellers. So, one fifth of that shelf are the classics. Let’s say on top of the classics, this person is a die-hard Batman fan. So they go a step further with Batman. They get Court of Owls, Hush, Black Mirror, Arkham Asylum, and The Long Halloween. That’s 10/25. They like the Marvel movies, so they pick up five contemporary trades from Marvel (since Marvel tends not to keep the classics in print), pushing them to 15/25. They’re a connoisseur now, so they pick out an Image title that catches their attention (Maybe The Walking Dead, since they’ve heard of it as a TV show), and pick up five volumes of that, or they pick up five volume ones of different books. And then because they want to show the folks at the comic shop they’ve got some breadth to their tastes, and don’t JUST like the mainstream stuff, they pick up a few artsy Graphic Novels. Let’s call them Persepolis, Fun Home, Maus, Black Hole, and Jimmy Corrigan. These are the “See, Ma? Comic books are art!” books.

Now, the sets might be different. Might have random DC rather than Random Marvel. Deadpool might be their diehard favorite rather than Batman, or they might go for a block of Rick and Morty trades. They might pick a favorite writer or artist instead of a favorite character. They might have a YA block of five rather than the literary block of five… But that’s twenty five books.

And that’s their shelf, full. 

If they’re really hooked, they get to work filling a second shelf, and maybe they try to follow a few monthly comics if they have extra money floating around. They probably can’t keep it up if they start having kids and extra costs, and they phase out, and choose to revisit their shelf when they want that fix. Maybe they cycle one or two books off their shelf per year after that.

And those are the DREAM customers 

More often? The folks in that Round1 only have a couple of comic trades on that geek shelf, and because they started with ones that didn’t connect with them, they don’t go beyond two or three. 

Or they have 25 volumes of manga on that shelf, because it’s easier to understand where to start without somebody telling you. It used to be, even just 10 years ago, that certain fans couldn’t fill those shelves with books that reflected who they are, but even that’s started to change. The folks who want 25 queer comics of all shapes and sizes, can fill a shelf today like never before. But once they fill it, it’s filled.

If they go to a comic convention, they might broaden their collection by buying a book and getting it signed, because then it doesn’t go on a shelf, it goes in a frame. It’s a totem of fandom like a Deadpool print or a Joker Funko Pop, rather than a book on a shelf. But it’s treated like that, too. They get slabbed or framed and serve a wholly different purpose than readable entertainment.

But our dream audience has 25 slots on a bookshelf, and most of the lists they find online about how to fill those slots will recommend they fill more than half of those shelves with comics that came out 30 years ago. Every book we make is fighting for space on a shelf against Frank Miller, Alan Moore, Grant Morrison and every great creator that followed. 

Our entire industry is built on the people who decide to branch out beyond the first shelf, but exponential growth isn’t possible. It’s only the rarest cases when people can have a Beauty and the Beast style library. And this also goes for the people who pick up single issues… Once you have a stack of longboxes, the moment is going to come where you have “enough” comics, and every new comic that comes out needs to be better than the ones in those boxes in order to be worth it. And as tastes change, you’re more likely to prefer to go back and read old favorites than read something new. 

So every year, comic creators are fighting for shelf space against every comic that has ever come out (especially since so many continue to be in print), and every comic that CONTINUES to come out. And comic shops are fighting against the fact that everyone can fill up those 25 slots on Amazon or at Barnes & Noble. 

I think about this a lot when I’m writing Batman. 

Because holy shit are there a lot of Batman comics out there! If you’re just doing what’s been done a hundred times before, you’re not going to get on that shelf. They can GET the book you’re riffing on and put it on the shelf. So it takes something crazy or innovative to catch a reader’s attention, and decide whether it deserves one of those five Batman slots. And that’s just the comics….

I was talking to Scott Snyder about the difference between when he started on Detective Comics, and me starting on Batman (2011 v 2020). When Scott started there had only been Two theatrical Batman movies in the previous decade, and Four Animated Movies. 

In the following 9 years, there were Five movies featuring Batman or Bruce Wayne, a staggering Thirty-Eight Animated Movies Featuring Batman (and I’m probably miscounting on Wikipedia, there may be more). There was A five season Gotham TV show. Appearances and mentions on various other TV shows, live action and animated. Not to mention a decade of Scott Snyder Batman comics, and a bunch of Tom King Batman comics, and all the other Batman comics that have come out, including my own. And Video Games! And more!

So I’m not just fighting the comics, I’m fighting a multi-media Batman empire, for limited shelf-space. And I’m trying to figure out what I can offer that isn’t being offered elsewhere.

This is a long way to get to there’s a huge incentive to create something new like Punchline. Create a compelling character with a cool design that readers can ONLY get from your comic. If you can make a new character their favorite character, you might get some shelf-space… And if their favorite character is The Joker? Maybe you can pull together a bunch of cool Joker elements in a configuration they haven’t seen before and do something Shelf-worthy. 

And that’s on the most salacious comic book character that exists. That’s Batman. Everyone and their mother know who Batman is. For other characters, folks might only give them ONE slot out of 25. And it’s probably already filled.

But the readers exist. The geeks are out there.

One thing I found interesting going to Round1, as opposed to the Barcades that have popped up everywhere, is that there weren’t a lot of classic arcade games. There were a few, sure, and a couple of remixes of old games, but there was a startling amount of new and different games. Folks weren’t there to revisit something from their childhood, they were there to have fun in the moment. They weren’t there for nostalgia or reflection, they were there to be entertained in the here and now. 

And I wonder if that’s what we’re missing. If we’re spending too much time navel-gazing. 

I predict there will always be a market for Batman comics, just like there will always be a market for Sherlock Holmes. Or Peter Pan. Or Dracula. The great characters stick around, they outlast us all, even if they come in and out of popularity in waves… But for the Sherlock Holmes fan, it would take a very daring, surprising take on Holmes to let that take find its way onto to their shelf, let alone to push off one of the Arthur Conan Doyle classics. 

Shouldn’t we be trying to create our own new characters? Heroes of all stripes, not just Superheroes. Dynamic characters with vibrant personalities and cool looks, that readers want posters of and want to commission artists to draw? Shouldn’t we be creating whole new mythologies for readers to get lost in, rather than crowding old mythologies with more story? Are we drowning the Superhero genre with a glut of content, when we’ve already hit critical mass?

I think that’s the secret of Manga’s success in the US, and it outstripping western comics globally. They aren’t singular. They don’t cannibalize each other. If your favorite thing is Death Note, you start with volume one and you keep reading until it’s over. You don’t get an unlabeled volume that requires you to know 30 years of convoluted, contradictory continuity. Which doesn’t mean they don’t want the things that made us love superhero comics to begin with…

They want the soap opera, the big characters, the big stakes, the action, and the stunning art. They want a bit of sex and danger. They want worlds they can get lost in, and fall in love with the characters, and feel and think things they don’t feel and think in their day to day lives. Any trappings standing in the way of that are a barrier. 

Manga’s success is entirely because we’ve created like a hundred barriers to protect a certain way of doing comics. They are a mass market product, with thick 200 page black and white volumes that sell for the cost of two of our 20 page floppy single issues.

Sometimes it feels like rather than fighting for the mass market, fighting to get those 25 slots, we’re staking everything on the rare readers who give comics multiple bookcases. The ones who have a few hundred trades, and come to shops a few times a month or even weekly. And we’re missing out on the larger geek audience that exists.

Which isn’t to say we SHOULDN’T make stuff for that smaller audience, but we need to recognize its size and its limitations.

If you’re a high schooler, and you grew up with Raina Telgemeier, and you’re ready for comics. You’re in college or just out of it, or working, and you finally have your own space with a bookshelf you choose to fill however you want… You are a geek, and you want to find your own unique set of 25 comic books that represent the kind of geek you are… 

What are WE doing as creators and companies to get you to choose our books, rather than ones from decades ago, or ones made on the other side of the planet? How are we holding the door open to you, and giving you something that isn’t just the same thing your dad grew up with, or your grandpa, or great grandpa? 

How do we create the new characters that break through the noise, characters who haven’t made the jump to other media, how can we make readers fall in love with the new, and convince them to lend us some shelf-space?

I think these are questions a lot of creators and companies need to be asking themselves. 


So, on that note, let me try and sell you some comic books. 

DC Solicits for May came out this past week, and the JOKER WAR I’ve been hinting at (er, directly referring to) for a while just got officially announced. It’ll be running in Batman from issues #95-100. There’s a very dramatic hook at the end of #94 (and not the one hinted at on the cover), and that dramatic hook is going to invert the usual dynamics of a major Joker attack on Gotham. Joker’s got the resources to attack the city and Batman beyond anything he’s had before. 

Jorge Jimenez will be main artist of Joker War, and the pages he’s turning in are absolutely phenomenal. I can’t wait to show off more, but I should wait until we get a little closer… Before then, you’ll get a taste of Jorge’s Gotham in the pages of Batman #90, out in just a couple of weeks. He helps us tell a story in the past, which is why we got to use my favorite Catwoman costume ever. He will also be giving us an in-depth glimpse at the big bad of Their Dark Designs… THE DESIGNER, himself…

The Solicits also mean you can order this amazing Artgerm variant cover to Batman #94. Featuring everyone’s favorite new character they haven’t met yet, PUNCHLINE. Did I post that in this newsletter yet? Because it’s fucking awesome.

I thought for this newsletter, I might show you the original email I wrote to Jorge back in early December, when we officially signed him on to the project, and asked if he could design two brand new characters for us…


First off, I just want to say, I am insanely excited to work with you on BATMAN. It’s been a long time since we’ve gotten a chance to do something solo together. I’m still so happy whenever a fan brings up a copy of Amazing X-Men #13.

I’m excited to get your first script over to you later this month, but in the meantime, Ben, Dave and I were hoping you could take a crack at designing two big new Batman villain characters. And to do that, I wanted to pass over some thematic thoughts about what we’re doing in this run. I’ll go in a bit more depth at the start of the first script, but I wanted to give you a little to work with.

The two words I keep using to describe this run is “Action Horror.” We’re doing big scary vehicles, a bloody joker, and letting the villains be as scary as they can be, but all in a kind of over the top fun way… After the Pathos of the Tom King run, we’re trying to do something with a lot more energy. Our colorful characters are going to do horribly violent and colorful things, and we’re going to make that fun to read. We want to scare people, and have them cheer a bit. We’re introducing exciting new vehicles, and as you’ll see below, new villains.

We’re not going camp or tongue-in-cheek, but I think the key is tapping into the fact that people love the horror side of Batman stories and not enough comics tap into it. It’s being a bit grindhouse. Leaning into the blood and sex and vehicles and gadgets. Big scary colorful villains, doing big scary colorful things. Not in a gross, exploitative way… But also not in a deconstructed, meta way that saps the life out of it. Joker’s going to be doing all of this in a bright purple suit.

I hope that all makes sense. Basically, it’s supposed to be a fun, scary superhero comic book. Fun being the key word. 

Okay, onto the characters.


This is the big villain of the first arc of the story, “THEIR DARK DESIGNS.” The gist is that he was a master criminal, who operated around the world, and is an urban legend among thieves and criminals. 

They called him the greatest criminal mastermind of the 20th century. His identity was a mystery. He would create “Puppets” of people he could control and kill remotely to perform his crimes, and never get caught. He’d be old… In his 60s when he first came to Gotham, but he is a very in-shape 60-year old.

In our story, we’ll learn that years ago he recruited Joker, Penguin, Riddler, and Catwoman to help him perform his big final act. The biggest heist in all of history. But when they realized he planned to kill them, they killed him first. And then he starts to make his play in the present day, and the Bat-villains need to figure out how the hell that’s possible.

In terms of his look, I’m going to throw a lot of contradictory ideas at you and see what you come back with… I’m more trying to evoke the spirit of the character. You should take all of it as inspiration, and see what you cook up.

If they did a Metal Gear Solid x Final Fantasy x Silent Hill crossover game, and the villain of that game was meant to be The actual, honest-to-god Devil… That’s the kind of character I’m looking to create here. This should be a character with some complicated costume elements (to counter the simplicity of the Gotham Villains). He is not simple, he is ornate. And he should be scary.

When I picture him, he has a mask not unlike the mask of “Friend” from 20th Century Boys (seen below). A white cloth mask over his face (not a mummy bandage wrap like Hush). There should be a symbol on his face… Maybe an ornate gothic “D” in red.


His costume should look like an ornate general or emperor’s military uniform that simultaneously looks like it’s from a hundred years in the past and a hundred years in the future. Ornate armored shoulder plates… An ornate scarlet cape. Maybe some black feathers coming out from under the shoulder plates. He has a giant sword, but also a few guns in ornate holsters on his chest. A little bit Sephiroth from Final Fantasy VII, a little bit Edea from Final Fantasy VIII, a little bit Auron from Final Fantasy X… But with a final dash of Metal Gear Solid militarism, and a bit of horror.

The feel should be that THE DESIGNER is walking out of a different kind of comic book into Batman, a different aesthetic world entirely. There should be something eerie about The Joker, and The Penguin existing in the same space as this character. Something inherently WRONG about it. He is a different level of evil.

The key is for the first part of the year, regardless of the final reveal, is that this story should feel like Batman vs. The Devil. 


This is a fun one, and I think could have the potential to be a real breakout character if we handle her correctly. 

She is, essentially, Joker’s new girlfriend. And she is Harley Quinn’s polar opposite.  She is Joker’s #2… A silent, terrifying serial killer, sexy as hell. All of his henchmen are terrified of her and they should be. Imagine Joker being Joker and torturing a hostage, and then he gets tired and sighs, handing the scalpel to Punchline, who slits their throat.

We don’t want to base her costume off either Joker or Harley’s too much, but there should be a bit of a clown component to her. Maybe she has a porcelain mask, but that might be too cheesy. We don’t want her to just be anti-Harley Quinn, and we don’t just want her to be female joker. We don’t want to evoke The Batman Who Laughs or the Dark Multiverse with somebody who looks like she steps out of Hellraiser. 

When she smiles, it’s scary. It’s not a toothy smile, it’s a closed mouth grin. She is a sadist. She enjoys killing people. She is talented at killing people. The Joker calls her the funniest person he’s ever met in his life. She is a physical character, and she should be sexy. Sexy in a slinkier, darker way than Harley, who is all pep and energy.

I think her primary weapon should be her knives and her fists. I see her colors being purple and black.

Like in the fucked up Archie Comics where The Joker is Archie, and Harley Quinn is Betty, then Punchline is Veronica. If Harley is the Angel on The Joker’s shoulder, Punchline should be the devil.  


Okay. See what you cook up based on that, and Ben and Dave, please pipe in if there are any questions or concerns!

From that email, Jorge delivered these two beauties…

I don’t think there’s a better feeling in the world than getting a character design in your inbox… And I don’t think either Jorge or I expected Punchline to hit as hard as she has… The fact that we’ve seen a dozen or so cosplayers tackle her already is just incredible.

And then there’s the fact that BATMAN #89 and YEAR OF THE VILLAIN: HELL ARISEN #3 have both sold out before they come out… A partial appearance, and her full-body appearance, those two coming out in the next couple weeks. Fair warning, she’s operating in the background as a secondary figure these next few issues, and comes to the forefront in BATMAN #92. From there she becomes the real underboss to the Joker, and will be key in Joker War, not only in the Batman title, but across the line. I think you can already see her on the cover to May’s Nightwing.

I saw some grumbling about playing to speculators, but the honest truth is I've created a shit ton of characters for DC, and have never had this kind of response! This caught everyone off guard, but I’m grateful to Ben Abernathy and the Bat-Office for seeing that we were onto something and doubling down, helping make her break through.

I’ll be revealing her origin, so-to-speak, in the Joker 80th Anniversary Special coming out in April. Which is also where you’ll learn her real name.

Real Talk - If you show up at my table at a convention this year as Punchline or Erica Slaughter, (or honestly, any of my characters), I will give you a free thing from my table!

Batman is a whole big crazy beast, and it’s been a wild ride so far, but the response from all of you has made it worth it. I’m working my ass off to give you a book worthy of the shelf-space I talked about in the previous section.


Art by Carlo Pagulayan & Danny Miki, and Guillem March
Colors by Tomeu Morey
Letters by Clayton Cowles
Edited by Ben Abernathy & David Wielgosz
Cover A by Tony S. Daniel
Cover B by Francesco Mattina

This one has already sold out on the distributor level, so you might want to get to your comic shop early… Beautiful, beautiful work in this one by Carlo, Danny, and Guillem, all colored masterfully by Tomeu, and lettered expertly by Clayton Cowles. All the words in the balloons and captions are unfortunately my fault. This features your first glimpse of not only PUNCHLINE (just a glimpse), but also your first look at THE DESIGNER in the story.

Guillem’s been posting some of the amazing Harley/Catwoman team-up pages, and they are just stunning, so I’m stealing his instagram picture to post it here. . I love writing Harley and Selina together. Harley is VERY VERY good at Banter. This banter and the banter in 92 is probably my favorite in the run so far.

Fun Fact: Tony drew the cover to this issue when the story was still a bit in flux, and him drawing Harley on the cover without asking is what gave me Harley for the arc, improving it immeasurably! Thanks Tony!


So, I’ve got too much on my plate, and I broke my wrist in Grenada, so I’m more behind than I would care to be. That’s why it’s been two weeks since the last of these. Some quick updates…

Something is Killing the Children #5 came out last week, which means the whole first arc is now in stores, and you should hunt them down and read them all because it is a very good book I am very proud of, and holy shit is it beautiful. I talked it up on Twitter because I didn’t get a chance to write one of these newsletters, but you should still go hunt down a copy and read it if you haven’t. There’s a page in there that sets up the whole larger world of the book, and I am wildly excited to share it with you.

I need to put the final touches on Wynd this week before Michael runs out of pages to draw, but holy shit this book is just phenomenal. I just approved layouts for the whole first issue of PROJECT DALLAS this past week. I also sent in character concepts and design thoughts for PROJECT LAKEHOUSE. These two are my next big projects I’ll be getting off the ground this year… I am very excited about both of them.

In all of these books I’m trying to follow the lessons I described at the top of the newsletter. Time well tell if I did it well.

Okay. That’s plenty for this week. If you are buying my books, you are my valentine and I love you.

Two weeks until C2E2! Hope to see some of you there.

James Tynion IV

9: Wingboys, Magic, and Monster Hunters

One week from right now, I am going to be on a beach. My phone is going to be off, and I won’t have opened my laptop since I landed on the island a day prior.

The next few days, consequently, are going to be a bit of a gauntlet.

I’m just back from two days in Burbank working on a very exciting secret DC project with some very exciting collaborators, and two more days in Philadelphia at the American Library Association event there, working with Boom! Studios to get folks excited about the upcoming collection of SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN.

I was thinking about not writing my newsletter this week, but I really can’t get away with that. We’ve just had a few big announcements, and I want to talk about them with you. There’s also an important goodbye to write, and hints at what’s to come.

But I wasn’t joking about having a million billion things to write. So I’m going to keep this “brief”. Which is mostly to say I’m not going to write a personal essay on top of everything else.


My first new creator-owned announcement of the year landed on Tuesday. This is the project I’ve been referring to as PROJECT WINGBOY here in the newsletter. It’s called WYND. It’s what I’ve been working on with Michael Dialynas (my co-creator of The Woods) in secret over the last year. It’s a project I actually cooked up when I was in high school, and have been tinkering with on and off for literally half of my life.

It’s a YA Fantasy series of Original Graphic Novels. We have a three book deal with Boom! Studios and the first will come out this November.

You can read more about it at the Hollywood Reporter. Here is some art. There is more at the link. It is all very very pretty, and colored by Michael himself. The book will be lettered by the amazing Aditya Bidikar, but first I need finish writing it.

I wrote the following last summer as the preamble to a pitch that wasn’t really a pitch. It wasn’t really a pitch because the series had already been approved, Boom! just wanted to have some kind of proof on paper that I had the story in my head and wasn’t just playing a very clever shell game with them.

Because it wasn’t designed to SELL the series, just explain WHAT it was, it ended up being much more of an emotional document and world-building guide. And I started it off with an appropriate bit of navelgazing… I’ll be pulling from that document over the next ten months to show you how I’m bringing this book to life.

When I was in high school, I used to dream that I could fly.

That I would wake up one morning and find that I had shed my awkward teenage skin and grown incredible, fluffy white wings. That I would step outside my window and take to the skies, finally having become the kind of person I always knew I was, deep down. In class, I would sketch little images of a transformed version of myself, confident and strong with those perfect, angelic wings. One day, after drawing my way through a class I ought to have been paying more attention to, I wrote a word under the picture.


That’s where this story began. For the rest of my high school experience, I kept a three ring binder in my backpack. I would write story notes and character descriptions, and draw elaborate sketches in various notebooks, then transfer them to the binder between classes. Refining the story, and the world. I wanted to create a story that spoke to the kind of longing I felt as a teenager. What it was like to be a young queer kid, trying to understand what I was with my friends, forging in the fire of the drama of our lives.

It’s the story that, more than any other, I started taking writing classes to learn how to write. I knew it was a big, ambitious thing, and that it couldn’t be my first project. But after writing workshops pointed me towards short form story, my mind moved away from the project. It seemed to wrapped up in the emotions of that period of my life, and I was too precious to carve it up into what it would need to be for someone else to feel what I felt when I worked and lived in that world.

But still, from time to time, even on panels as I started my career, I would draw a winged boy on a sheet of paper, and label it “WYND”. From time to time, I would start writing a pitch document, debating if there was time. And then, at the start of this year, as I entered conversations with Matt Gagnon about following up The Woods, I started thinking of that winged boy again.

Then I went to Greece, and through some long conversations, the work began in earnest. This story has changed a lot in the last 15 years. But it’s still a part of me, and something I have been desperate to bring to life for a very long time.

Like I said, it was a bit much. More LiveJournal post than proper pitch document, but I was trying to get into the right mindset. Gotta get that adolescent angst on tap when you’re writing YA.


I love this page, even if it got me into a little bit of trouble.

It got me in trouble because in an issue where I stuffed four pages of action into two pages, I gave a splash page to Wonder Woman sitting at a bar with a chimpanzee. I went with a passive image, not action. Setting and mood, rather than forward momentum.

But that was the point. It was more important to the spirit of the book than a splash page of action. The world of DC Magic is a weird, strange world, and It was crucial to me that we set the stage for it. That we linger in the quiet moments, before the epic, world threatening magic shenanigans took hold.

I own that page. I have it framed, and in a couple weeks it’s going to be on prominent display in my office.

Tomorrow, my last issue of Justice League Dark arrives on the stands. That fact breaks my heart, but I’ve been dancing around the truth for a while now, and the truth is that #19 is my last issue.

Back when I accepted the gig of Batman, as many of you remember from the press-release, it was supposed to be switching to a monthly title. My plan then was to keep writing Justice League Dark until the end of the story I set out to tell. I thought I would be able to land two planes at once. But once the decision was made to keep Batman biweekly, and suddenly I needed to get a whole story machine up and running in a bigger, bolder way… I knew I needed to step away from this book, or risk it becoming less than it should be.

I had brought in the writer, Ram V. to co-write the Annual last year because I had been so impressed with his Vault series, These Savage Shores. And he did such an incredible job writing the story of the King of Petals that I knew I wanted him back on the book, if I had to step back from it. I think Ram’s going to be one of the best writers of this next decade of comics, and so I left the job to him to figure out how to tie up all of my loose ends.

I have passed over all my spellbooks and grimoires, and the guide to magic in the DC Universe that I desperately hope they print in the back of a big hardcover collection of this run someday. Ram is his own kind of Wizard, but I’ve seen his plans, and he will be continuing the larger story of the Upside Down Man and the Otherkind, and will write the epic conclusion that I’ve been laying out the pieces for over the last 19 issues.

I've said this in loads of interviews, but DC Magic is my favorite corner of the DC Universe, next to Gotham City. It’s built from a rawer kind of magic than its Marvel counterpart. It’s built from myth and horror. It’s been written by the finest writers and wizards ever to shape our medium. I set out to tie together all the corners of DC Magic I always knew belonged together, and I think I did a pretty good job.

There are for sure stories I didn’t get to tell that I would love to get back to some day. I think there’s a whole larger DC Camelot epic to be written with Etrigan and John Constantine at the center… But maybe that’s another book entirely, to be written another time. It’ll go hang out in the back of my head along with all the unwritten years of my Detective Comics run. Maybe the stories will meet in those strange back corners of my mind and breed into something new.

I also want to talk about Alvaro Martinez Bueno. He has been my brother in arms on this series from the very beginning. He was my ONLY choice for artist on the book. I think the way that I put it was if they didn’t give me Alvaro, I wasn’t interested in writing the book in the first place. Obviously I’m biased, but I think Alvaro is one of the secret weapons of the DC Comics bench. Few artists can handle a comic with a large cast of characters. Fewer can do it while giving each figure a vibrant personality, and make every setting feel real.

It’s rare to find a perfect chemistry between artist and writer, and going back to our work on Detective Comics, I have always known that Alvaro won’t just settle for what I put on the page, he’ll take it and elevate it into something more. I’m thrilled we were able to do the majority of the issues of this series together. Alvaro working alongside the phenomenal inker Raul Fernandez, and the always stunning Brad Andersen helped make this book look better than anything on the stands every week it came out.

If you can’t tell… I’m going to miss working with Alvaro. It feels like I would never have stepped off this book without knowing what I’d be working on with him next! HMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!

Okay, so this last point is a little disappointing, but important. It also comes with some spoilers for the issue, but we pretty clearly set the stage for those spoilers in the LAST issue, so I hope you won’t be TOO upset with me.

If you read JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK in print, some of the pages are in the wrong order this week. I’ve been told it’s been corrected in the digital version, but basically there is a beautiful montage page in the issue that looks like THIS…

…and it should come BEFORE the two pages in the silvery Collective Unconscious version of the Moon, not after. I’ve been told that you can still make sense of things in the flow the other way, but I’d prefer you to read it in the correct order.


Cripes. This was supposed to be me writing a SHORT newsletter, not a long one. I’m going to bullet point this, because mostly I just want an excuse to brag and show you some pretty pictures.

Issue One of SIKTC is going back to print (for a SIXTH PRINTING) with this amazing Adam Gorham cover.

Issue Two of SIKTC is going back to print (For a FOURTH Printing) with this amazing Jim Towe cover.

Issue Three of SIKTC is going back to print (For a SECOND printing) with this amazing Eryk Donovan Cover!

Issue Four of SIKTC is going back to print (For a SECOND printing) with this amazing Werther Dell’Edera cover

The continued support for this book is blowing me away, and I love all of you. There is a LOT more Erica Slaughter coming your way in 2020.


I screwed up last week and posted the second to final design for Punchline, rather than the FINAL FINAL design for Punchline, which Jorge Jimenez tweeted out into the world. I wish I could show you this variant cover with her on it for #94… Maybe once the May Solicits are out I can get actual permission.

You got enough behind the scenes stuff in this weeks newsletter, so more Bat-Stuff next time around.


Justice League Dark #19
Written by Me
Pencils by Alvaro Martinez Bueno
Inks by Raul Fernandez
Colors by Brad Anderson
Letters by Rob Leigh
Cover A by Yanick Paquette
Cover B by Gerardo Zaffino

I talked this up a bunch before, but I am very proud of where we leave Circe at the end of this storyline, and I very much hope that folks pick it up from here.

Something Is Killing The Children #5
Written by Me
Art by Werther Dell’Edera
Colors by Miquel Muerto
Letters by Andworld Design
Cover A by Werther Dell’Edera
Cover B by David LaFuente

The End of the First Arc… The first glimpse of the House of Slaughter. Very excited to talk all of this up as we enter the next arc with #6.


My inbox is filling up with art for PROJECT DALLAS, and my brain is filling up with ideas for PROJECT LAKEHOUSE. More to come on both as the year moves forward…

I have a truly stupid number of script pages to write this week, so I better get back to them before my editors come attack me with knives and dogs, as they do from time to time.

James Tynion IV
Brooklyn, NY

8: Here Comes The Punchline

So much of writing is just engaging in what I'm curious about at any given moment. 

It’s about indulging myself, and not getting afraid of going down rabbit holes. Because the moment you find the intersection between two or three rabbit holes is usually when you find the seed for an idea.

And then you water that seed by continuing to bury yourself in stories, non-fiction, and art that you think might nourish it, and help it grow into something more substantial. A story worth telling. Sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t, but even when it doesn’t, the journey usually teaches you a few things.

At least it does for me.

I usually struggle with the question, “Where do you come up with your ideas?” I think most writers do. Our job is ideas, and especially in comics, when we’re working so fast pace on so many projects at once, it feels like the ideas just flow naturally and constantly. If I’m honest, I always have too many ideas. Most of them end up on the cutting room floor.

But honestly, this might be the skeleton key to my answer next time I get asked the question (which I usually get via text or email or in person a few times a week). My answer is that you have to immerse yourself in everything you find interesting, following every rabbit hole of interest, and at the end of your journey, see what sits with you. Let yourself be curious about anything and everything. Always want to know more. 

I’ve been on a hybrid kick of Satoshi Kon anime, UFO stories, and mid 00s Wildstorm comics. It's been putting my brain in weird, interesting places. Some of those places are where I wanted my brain to go. Some of them aren’t. Both of those results are fascinating to me.

I had a very very raw idea for a thing the other day that I probably won’t be able to write for years, but I’m kicking its tires to see whether it’s actually a project I have any interest in pursuing. That specific idea-seed came to me when I was thinking about a one-shot connected to PROJECT DALLAS, while also thinking about the Tou Ganabe Lovecraft adaptations, and the power of working from source material… Maybe it’ll come to be something and maybe it won’t. But I’m enjoying the discovery process.

There’s this gut feeling when you know you’ve got something REAL. That’s what I’m chasing. It’s what I’m always chasing.

Early in my career, spending hours talking story on the phone with Scott, I started thinking of it as if the stories we were trying to tell already existed in the ether. We weren’t writing them, we were discovering them. We’d bang our head against the wall over and over, and then we’d discover the turn that let us see the full thing, as if it had always been there, obscured by some kind of mist. Coming up with new projects is exciting, because it’s like stumbling your way through that mist, trying to find big shapes that feel solid. That’s the weird contradictory thing about writing, on one hand, you need to accept that there is no such thing as a right answer, and you can’t polish and tweak a thing forever seeking the “correct” form… But sometimes you do stumble into a RIGHT answer, and it’s right because it feels right, even if you can’t explain why. 

Those moments where you look at an idea sideways, and suddenly, it has a full shape, and depth, and you understand exactly what it is and what you’re going to use it to say. It feels like a full body rush. Like you’ve just cracked a code, and you’re about to uncover something TRUE.

So all this digging, all this reading and watching… it’s chasing those kind of moments. The moments where a bunch of disparate thoughts come together and you have a living, breathing story idea, and you know how to make it work.

I find myself wanting a more visceral reaction from the narrative art I take in, lately. 

I want simple, powerful stories that hit you in your gut, more than the sorts of work that are in conversation with themselves on six different layers. I’ve been shit-talking nostalgia on twitter a bit, and it’s gotten me in a little bit of trouble, but I think a huge problem in comics is that a lot of books all feel like they are referencing other comics, rather than just expressing something directly.

It feels like a product of the algorithmic decay of society. Like somehow we’re meant to give people the road map to deconstruct our stories in a thousand different ways, to feed a whole geek media infrastructure hungry to break it all down… It feels kind of backwards to me.

Like building a car where every piece of the car is meant to evoke a different car from the past. Every component, rich with meaning and reference, and each of those references could be talked about in a million different ways. Picked apart on Podcasts and Youtube videos and Twitter feeds, discussing whether the hubcaps should have referenced a hubcap from the fifties, or a more modern hubcap. But to people who don’t know cars, it looks like a jumbled mess of a thing, and they don’t give a shit what the hubcaps are referencing. It just feels unapproachable.

That’s a terrible metaphor, but you get the point, right? Everything feels like its in conversation with everything. And you might appreciate it intellectually, the craft of which they layered in all the references and homages and what have you… There is obviously phenomenal work that’s pure commentary. The entire era of Alan Moore as a pop culture deconstructionist led to some of the greatest comic book writing of all time. But I’m not reading a lot of things on that level anymore. It’s become the reclamation of deconstruction after the reconstruction of what was deconstructed. And all those layers of commentary muddy the waters. Ultimately, they usually don’t hold a candle to the pure emotional reaction you get from seeing a simple story told well by creators who know exactly what they’re doing.

I think the best example right now is CRIMINAL at Image by Brubaker/Phillips. It’s a crime comic that’s not ABOUT crime comics. It’s not trying to make a meta statement. It’s using all of the tools at the Crime genre’s disposal, and using them expertly to tell good, powerful human stories. Just masterful work. They just built a really good car in a style that has always looked good, but they did it so well, that it feels revelatory and new. I feel like I’ve been studying that book lately, and others like it.

I feel like, as an industry, we need to get back to our fundamentals. Build from the foundation up again, rather than starting a new structure built on the eleventh floor of a hundred-year-old building.

Culture is so loud right now. We’ve got it blaring in our ears and eyes every day, and there’s too goddamn much of it. The idea of reading a comic that makes you think about a thousand other comics is overwhelming. To get absorbed, you want silence. You want a story to exist in and of itself. You want to be in a one-to-one conversation. Comic and reader.

And then you want ONE OR TWO absolutely bizarre elements they haven’t seen used in that type of story before, to make the whole thing memorable…

But that’s a whole different essay.


So, turns out you folks really like Batman!

Sincerely, from the bottom of my heart… Thank you.

You cannot imagine how worried I’ve been over the last six months. You always hope that you have your finger on the right pulse, you want to know that you’re going to deliver the type of comic that people want to read. But you never REALLY know until it’s in stores and in people’s hands. Especially given the breakneck pace of a double-ship comic? By the time this issue came out we’re already deep into the future of the book, and there’s not much time to right the ship. So… You liked where I started things. Now let’s see if I can keep it up.

This week sees Guillem March’s real debut on the book (after a few stunning codas), and I am very very excited for that. My first ever ongoing series at DC Comics was Talon, and that was the last time that Guillem, Tomeu Morey, and I collaborated on a comic book. Guillem’s the primary artist for the next three issues, and I really can’t say enough good things about them. He absolutely captures the Action Horror spirit I envisioned for the book since I took it over, and the life he’s breathed into these characters is absolutely stunning… Look at these preview pages, and imagine how hard my jaw dropped when they came in.

As you can see… This is also the issue where all those big bad Gotham Villains start to show up. Penguin and Riddler enter the fray here, and will remain key figures through this entire arc. But hey, there’s some other news on the horizon, isn’t there?

With the release of the April 2020 solicits… There’s some news on the horizon. My first story, THEIR DARK DESIGNS, runs from 86-94… My second story starts with 95… And we’re calling it JOKER WAR.

You’re going to learn more about it in next month’s solicits, but this is the story that started in the epilogue to Batman 85, and will be the biggest Joker story since Batman: Endgame back during the New 52. This story is going to have huge, huge ramifications for Gotham City. You’ll see all the seeds planted for Joker War in the background of THEIR DARK DESIGNS, especially as it hits its climax in April, but the big story starts in May.

It is going to be a very, very scary story. I can’t say much about it yet, other than you should probably read it and order lots and lots and lots of copies, just incase you get too freaked up and tear one of them up from the excitement.

ALSO: Who is this character on the amazing Yasmine Putri BATMAN #92 cover?! (I referred to her as the character to Batman’s left on twitter, and people are still giving me crap about it, but also giving OTHER people crap about it which seems weird to me - stop fighting in my mentions!) I obviously meant the brand NEW character… The lady about to stab Batman! To the left of him in the image, not in relative space.

But WHEN does she appear for the first time? Is it BATMAN #89? Is it YEAR OF THE VILLAIN: HELL ARISEN #3? Am I writing her origin story in the JOKER 80th Anniversary Special? Is she Joker’s new girlfriend? Is she a part of JOKER WAR??! Who the heck IS this Punchline, and why does she want to stab everyone?!?!?!?!?!?!

Wait, I’m not supposed to say that’s Punchline yet, am I? I’m not supposed to say ANY of this! And what about this incredible character design from Jorge Jimenez…? Well, while we’re here… Maybe I’ll let you be the first to meet her.

I am VERY excited for her to start showing up in the books.

Spoilers. She is not a nice guy.


Art by Guillem March
Colors by Tomeu Morey
Letters by Clayton Cowles
Cover A by Tony S. Daniel
Cover B by Francesco Mattina

I talked about this plenty above, but I just want to reiterate how freaking excited I am for you to see what Guillem March has brought to the table. This is the year he becomes one of your all-time favorite Gotham City artists. Also: I haven’t spoken a lot about the rad Bat-Vehicles we’re introducing in the run because I don’t want to be overkill, but The Bat-Shot in this issue? It might be my favorite. We want this book to be a high octane thrill ride, and this issue keeps those thrills coming… And we’re still just revving up the engine. We’ve got a lot of ground we’re going to cover in the next couple months. Stay tuned.

Art by Steve Epting and Javi Fernandez
Colors by Nick Filardi
Letters by Travis Lanham
Cover A by Steve Epting 
Cover B by Riccardo Federici

Honestly, one of my favorite parts of writing this series was getting to write Mercy Graves as a character. She comes into the story this issue, and I love having someone who can banter back and forth with Lex. She is great, and other people should use her more often, particularly in Lex Luthor stories! I HAVE SPOKEN! In all seriousness, I think we’ve lost the art of supervillains having a strong Number Two. Somebody they can yell at, and grandstand to, and helps them with stuff. It’s almost like that line of thinking may have led to the creation of another character I may have previewed above… HMMMMM. In this issue, Lex beats the crap out of a bunch of infected superheroes, because he is very smart and and has lots of ways to beat the crap out of superheroes, even if his new powers don’t work on them. It was very very fun to write, and I hope it is just as fun to read.


As always, if you’d like to see your letter show up in one of these bad-boys, drop me a line at TinyOnionStudios@gmail.com with “NEWSLETTER” in the header. I’ll pick one or two per newsletter!

Dear James,

I have been a batfan since Returns premiered decades ago and have enjoyed your previous takes on the Batman mythos in the past ( the backup stories from Batman #14's Death in the Family onwards showing the inner machinations up to the main event was very detailed, and I heavily admire that Penguin in #14 was no slouch either,) and I have been following my two favorite Rogues - Penguin and Riddler on their countless schemes. So imagine my excitement - like HOLY FREAKIN' METHUSELAH - when I first read that not only you were going to tackle the diabolical duo again, but they were going to have MAJOR arc time in the upcoming story you have planned for Batman #87 and beyond. I was stunned because to my knowledge they haven't shared a major arc together since Gotham Underground in 2008 (if you want to be more precise, Gotham in 2019) and there has always been a certain kind of rarely tapped chemistry they have always had in their appearances together (from the aforementioned Underground that concludes on a deeply bittersweet moment or in Gotham where *Spoilers for anyone who hasn't seen it yet* they breech on the concept BEYOND friendship with them,) which make them a deviously cunning and deadly eccentric powerhouse duo that I have seen reflections with in Ivy and Harley.

Ok, so thousand questions time: I am wondering how much will they interact again in this new arc and what versions of each character did you pull for inspiration (Forever, Returns, Gotham, ect.) What is also the mindset you have to approach formalizing a partnership/relationship/ect. between them as well? Since this is a continuation from King's run, will we also breech the past each character shared on opposing sides during the War of Jokes and Riddles as a topic?

Thank you for taking your time out to read this humble ask that me and my friends are curious about from your upcoming run.


Hey Victoria!

Thanks so much for reaching out! I’ve ALWAYS loved the scenes where the villains bounce off each other. I’m happy you called out my Backup stories on Death of the Family back during the New 52, because that’s when I really fell in love for the first time. Each of Batman’s primary villains are different reflections of Bruce himself, but when you get them in a room together, you get dynamics that you rarely get to see play out on the page. Riddler and Penguin in particular are great, because they have been around for virtually the full history of Batman.

They’ve both appeared in different media, and they’re about to pop up again in the next Batman movie. I always love the characters who have been interpreted so many different ways, because you can kind of triangulate the heart of each of the characters. You want a Riddler who is as true to the Frank Gorshin as to the Animated Series as to the Jim Carrey production… And then you want to bring a little to him yourself. And Penguin is the same… You want the Aristocrat of Crime mashed up with a bit of the sewer dwelling Danny Devito take. And then when you put them together, and you can comment on how they’ve changed, from extreme to extreme, you get a sense of their relationship. I don’t know that they think of each other as friends, in the way that emotionally healthy people think of each other as friends, but the nice thing is that even if both of them got what they wanted (Everyone in Gotham to recognize Riddler as the smartest man alive, and Complete control over the criminal underworld for Penguin), it wouldn’t threaten the other one. So they can collaborate without being at each other’s throats, which is a fun dynamic.

And this whole crew, there’s NOBODY they hate more than Joker. Joker is just this pure chaotic element who is just as likely to kill half the city as he is to put a whoopee cushion under all of their seats. If he’s involved, they’re uneasy. They know they’re effectively in danger from the moment he’s involved. The only person they might resent more than Joker is Catwoman… Because she used to play for THEIR team, and now she’s working on the other side…

I would bet Penguin calls Riddler for help decoding a message from a rival crime family from time to time, and Riddler does odd jobs for Penguin to keep himself funded and off Batman’s radar. I like thinking about the ecosystem of relationships between the different Bat-Villains.

So, the long and short of it is that if you’re looking for Villains interacting, particularly Penguin and Riddler, I hope you’ll like this next issue, and you should for sure enjoy this upcoming arc!


Sorry for missing the last Newsletter! It’s been a hectic couple of weeks. And it’s GOING to be a hectic couple of weeks. I’m at ALA next weekend, and in Burbank later this week… Florida end of next week and then off to a warm beach. I’m going to try to keep these things weekly, though, I swear!

Project Wingboy is getting announced this upcoming week, and I am very excited about it. I think you can all see that my work has been skewing toward the adult, and I’ve been very very excited to develop something in the Young Adult space. We’ve been cooking this for about two years, and been working in earnest for about a year. I’ll be talking about it a lot more in the next couple of newsletters. 

There’s also a lot of stuff cooking in the background. Some point in the next month, my full year and part of 2021 should be more or less set. There’s a LOT of cool stuff coming. I think generally, I’m not going to give DC projects “Project” names, but I’m a part of a few cool things that should be announced in the next couple months. And then I’ll be part of things that won’t be answered for a long while after that…

The long and short of it is that I have enough projects cooking that all my editors and collaborators keep asking me if I’m okay, which has to be a good sign, right? That they care that much? Hahaahahahahahahahahaha.

I’m going to Grenada in a couple of weeks and am going to do my best to have four straight days of radio silence, but we’ll see if I succeed at that. 

Be well!

James Tynion IV
Brooklyn, NY

7: Bright Cities, Dark Knights

It was late 2011. 

I don’t remember exactly how late, but I’d guess it was late November, early December. I was working at a social media advertising startup in SoHo, writing tweets and facebook quiz games. It wasn’t quite my birthday yet. I was twenty-three years old.

My business card called me a “Creative Writer” which I enjoyed. We’d been in college through the Great Recession, and my peers Sarah Lawrence undergraduate writing program used to joke that we were going to be very prepared for the job market because it’s not like there were EVER jobs in “Creative Writing” writ large. There was no job out there with that title. But it said so on my business card. It had this super thick paper stock with a neon orange rim, and it was the most grown-up I had ever felt in my life.

But almost every night I would go home from that job and get on the phone with one of my former writing professors. Scott Snyder had just launched Batman at the start of the New 52, building from his powerhouse run on Detective Comics. The book, a few months in, was picking up steam. Fans adored The Court of Owls. I’d been something of a sounding board since I had taken his class three years prior, in the first semester of my Junior Year. We’d talk through the next scene he needed to write in the next issue, or I’d read the latest draft of this comic or that comic. I was moonlighting as a defacto writing assistant for the biggest book in comics and I fucking loved it.

Scott knew I did not want to be writing tweets for make-up brands and premium cable channels. I liked the stability of a job with a salary that could pay my rent in NYC, but advertising had never been my endgame. I’d been showing him pitches for creative owned titles I was hoping to pitch to Vertigo, since I still knew editors there from when I had been an intern. (One of those was an early pitch for what would become THE WOODS). I was getting better at pitching, and I had started running little spec scripts for comics that would never happen by him to get his input. And Scott had been gracious, talking me up to the Batman Group Editor at the time, Mike Marts. It got to the point where Mike asked if he could read something I’d written. So, I put a script together, just for him.

It was called BATMAN: BRIGHT CITY. If you’re interested, you can download it here. It’s never been released in any way… But it’s also never GOING to be released as an actual comic book. So hey! Here it is. Enjoy.

It was a one-shot set in the future of Gotham, starring Commissioner Dick Grayson, and a Cyborg Tim Drake. It was more sentimental than anything. And sad. I just reread it tonight, and I’m still very proud of it.

It’s too dense, a bit too obvious, and I had no idea how much dialogue you could fit in a single panel (some might say I STILL have no idea how to do that). The first draft was 24 pages, and if I had to re-edit it today, I would put those four extra pages back in there to let it breathe. I’d also put in a bit more action. Hell, give me 38 pages to do it RIGHT. But as an artifact, it’s fascinating. I put a lot of sweat and tears into this script, going through about nine drafts with Scott before sending it in to the Bat-Offices. I wanted to give a kind of mission statement that showed I knew the world and the dynamics and the characters, but that I could also take those pieces and do new, strange stories with them. 

If you decide to read it, you can see bits and pieces of a lot that I would come back to the following 8 years, in the hundreds of Batman comics with my name on them… The role of Tim Drake is particularly interesting, because it totally ties into what I did in my final Detective Comics arcs, which is bizarre, because I have not read this script in years. 

It’s wild how much of my Gotham is in that weird, sad one shot… 

But anyways… About a month after I send this in, some time before my birthday, I got a text from Scott during the day. This happened sometimes. I couldn’t just go talk Batman or DC for an hour or two in the middle of a work day, but I could sneak in a ten minute conversation every now and then and help talk through a stubborn action sequence or line of dialogue. I was a smoker at the time, which helped keep me out of trouble. So, I walked out onto the balcony of the Euro RSCG building on Hudson and King and took the call.

Batman, at that point, was already an outsized success. And it was growing momentum, even as the rest of the New 52 was starting to settle. So DC had decided that there should be eight extra pages in every issue of Batman (and a number of other high profile books). They had asked Scott to write the Backups, but at that time he was working on Batman, Swamp Thing, American Vampire, and an American Vampire spin-off miniseries… So he asked if he could bring me in to co-write with him. 

And since Mike had read my Bright City one-shot, he said yes.

I’ll be honest, I thought I was going to die when Scott told me. Like straight up, I could not process what I had just been told. I both wanted to cry and wanted to start working immediately. I had wanted to be a comic book writer since I was thirteen years old, and it was finally going to happen. It wasn’t the door into the business I was looking for, but it’s the door I found. And somewhere in the back of my mind a very bizarre fact hit me.

My first published comic book was going to be Batman.

It scared the crap out of me. I still had a day job. It was easy being the walking DC Encyclopedia Scott could call when he needed to talk through some odds and ends, and suggest what I would do with this character or that. Hell, it was even easy on some level to write what essentially a standalone future elseworlds one-shot just to give a flavor of what I wanted to do.

It was another thing to put my nose to the grindstone and write something that people were going to read… And if they didn’t like it, my first published book was going to be Batman, but it might have been my last, too. I didn’t have anything creator owned to rest my laurels on. Nothing that showed why I deserved to have this shot. The pressure was on.

I’m still really proud of that first run of backups. The Fall of the House of Wayne. I have the splash page that ended Issue #9 on the wall behind me as I type. That gig got me the Batman Annual, and Talon, and started my entire career.

But there was nothing scarier than that weight. The trial of fire that was taking part in the flagship title of the company. This is BATMAN. This is the book that pretty much needs to, by law, be the coolest, biggest comic book you can get your hands on. I remembered when that weight had hit Scott, when he realized he wasn’t going to be writing Dick Grayson Batman anymore, and that he’d be writing the second ever Batman #1 in the history of the company.

He knew the responsibility of that book, You could do an arthouse thriller like Black Mirror in the pages of Detective, but Batman needed bombast, and action. You needed to bring all of the smarts to the book, but you also needed muscle. How do you keep something smart and layered while you’re showing off incredible gadgets and action month in and out? With great difficulty and deliberation. The math was radically different on Batman, and it needed to be respected to deliver something exceptional. 

We would spend hours trying to crack it, like weird story mathematicians, trying to find the perfect formula of flash and substance. I’ve been thinking back to all those conversations a LOT lately. I’ve also, you know, cheated, and talked a lot to Scott about this directly.

Needless to say, I’ve been feeling the immense weight of the book, myself. 

It’s a book that’s going to be read by nature of what it is, and the onus rests on the creator to rise up and meet the responsibility of the job. To tell a new and daring story in the face of nearly a century of the greatest pop fiction icon that has ever existed on the printed page. 

I know how to write a Batman comic. Eight years of doing it, I fucking better. I know how to put the pieces in the right order to show you a good time. But in a world where you have all of Scott’s trades, all of Grant’s trades, all of Tom’s trades, and a whole lot more great Batman stories… The job is more than giving you something you like pretty good. I want to deliver something that demands a spot on the shelf with your favorite Batman comics.

Batman #86, if it does the job for you I hope it does, will start to show you why I think it deserves that spot. And then will continue showing you two times a month for as long as I get to write this book. So, let’s see if we can add a few new ideas to the conversation of Batman, and add a few toys to the toy chest and see if they stick.

I’m proud of this book. I’m honored I have been able to spend this first long era of my career in Gotham City. I still can’t believe how fucking lucky I have been. 

Scott used to say this amazing thing at Batman panels during his run, and he’s said it since, but now I think it’s my turn to say it… 

You all are Gotham. You are the reason I get to write this book. It is your trust and support that lets me tell the stories I’m setting out to tell. 

So, thank you. And I’ll see you under the red skies and police blimps on Wednesday.


Pencils by Tony S. Daniel
Inks by Danny Miki
Colors by Tomeu Morey
Letters by Clayton Cowles
Variant Cover by Francesco Mattina 
Coda by Guillem March & Tomeu Morey

So, you might have picked up on this. Batman #86 comes out on Wednesday. I’ve been talking a lot about it over the last month. I’ve gone on and on about action horror, and gadgets, and bad guys. Now you get to see them for yourself. I’m thrilled I got to start my run with such phenomenal collaborators. 

I’ve loved Tony’s work for years, and I think this issue features some of the best of it I’ve seen. He perfectly captured the feel of Gotham as I saw it, and set the stage for THEIR DARK DESIGNS. Paired with the phenomenal Danny Miki and Tomeu Morey, this is a gorgeous book.

Also: You knew there was a coda in #85, but hey! There’s a coda in #86, too! I’m going to be talking up Guillem March a lot in the next few newsletters as we approach his first issues on the series, but holy moly, does he do creepy horror well.

I got some great questions over the weekend on twitter, and more in my Newsletter Inbox over the holidays. Reminder, if you want to get a letter answered in the newsletter, email TinyOnionStudios@gmail.com with Newsletter in the headers. There were plenty of questions I can’t answers, and plenty more that I won’t answer, but I liked these two in particular.

Hello James,

I'm interested in whether you have any thoughts about Hush as a character? I'm kind of fascinated by him, he's got a great design and some strong story hooks, but the original story is so damn convoluted regarding what his deal is supposed to be that I feel like no one has really nailed down a definitive blueprint for the character. Yet that story seems to be a perennial TPB seller for DC, and he's probably one of the better established new Bat-characters post the new millennium. I know he was in Batman Eternal, but I'm not sure how involved you were with those particular issues of that series. 

Best regards (and thanks for a lot of enjoyment and great stories!), Jakob

Hey, Thanks for the question! Honestly, I love Hush as a character. I’ve loved him since I first read the original Hush series (and I had that Jim Lee Batman on a Gargoyle cover as a big poster framed in my Middle School bedroom). 

You’re right that the focus of a mystery is never fully defined in their first appearance. I think there’s a whole series of stories that followed the original that played out in Paul Dini’s Detective Comics and Streets of Gotham. 

Heart of Hush and House of Hush are some unsung classics. They got overshadowed a bit by what Grant Morrison was doing on the core Batbooks at the time, but if you love Hush and you haven’t hunted those stories down, I highly highly recommend them. 

Thanks for the question!

Hello Mr. Tynion IV,

My name is Nathaniel and I live in Ames, Iowa!

Anyway, love your comics, big fan and all, but my question is: what is the most brilliant thing you’ve seen a horror comic accomplish in the last decade? Sorry to lay that on you, it’s a big one to ponder and you probably have work to finish. More important work that is. Well, you’re not getting paid for the blog directly, so is this really work for you? Does any of what you do truly classify as work? After all, you love it right? Plus, do you even read these emails first, maybe someone reviews them beforehand? All I’m trying to say is, keep writing comics.

Oh boy, That is TOUGH.

I mean, on one hand there is an easy answer. THE WALKING DEAD transformed a black and white horror comic into the most successful comic book of the modern age, turning Robert Kirkman into an outright Mogul. When we go to Pennsylvania to visit Sam’s family, and her mom and teenage brother know characters from a black and white indy horror comic? That’s fucking impressive. That’s the biggest accomplishment any horror comic has had in the last 25 years.

But in terms of craft, it’s tough. I think horror comics have been in a lull for a while, and are just coming back to life at the end of the decade. There were great horror comics in the interim. Wytches and Revival were some of my favorites… But now we have the incredible artistic symbiosis between Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino in Gideon Falls. We have the entire Hill House line of books. We have The Plot and These Savage Shores, and so much more… 

And now all of Junji Ito’s Manga is in print and in english, and we’ve got the Gou Tanabe Lovecraft adaptations? 2019 was the best horror year in comics in living memory. 

And yes. Comics are work. I did four all-nighters in December to get you monsters some neat comic books to read and I paid the price for it! There are days comic books make me want to set my beard on fire and run off into the woods and be a hermit.

But I can’t imagine doing anything else!


I am very excited about a lot of things right now. I have a bunch of projects that are evolving beyond vague notions and turning into things that will probably become actual comic books you can read in the next couple of years!

PROJECT CHAOS took a big step forward over the break. That book is going to be to 2020, what PROJECTS WINGBOY, DALLAS, and LAKEHOUSE were to 2018-2019. Which is to say that I’m going to be developing it on the backburner, with an eye to releasing it the following year.  There’s a secondary project that I might explore releasing in a different media that I’ll call PROJECT FLAGON that’s in a similar boat.

DALLAS is about to gear up into production in a big way. I had a big brainstorming moment about LAKEHOUSE over the weekend that I think will shape how I write that book later this spring when I start scripting. PROJECT WINGBOY is about to be announced, and about half the art is done. 

Like I’ve said before, some of these are deep backburner projects that won’t see the light of day for years… But some of them are closer than you think. And arc two of SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN is shaping up to be something very, very special. I am excited to explore more of this strange world I’m building. There’s going to be a cool outlet for you to find out more about that book soon. 

Anyways. Buy a few dozen copies of Batman 86 this week, so I can spend the next few years writing all the big ideas that have been bubbling up in the back of my brain. 

And buy a few dozen of those, too! 

James Tynion IV
Brooklyn, NY

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