15: We're Flying Now...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Embarrassingly wrong, even! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

It feels exciting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PROJECT WINGBOY

So, let’s talk about WYND. 

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

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

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

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

A REALLY long time. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ve always kind of resented single issues.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then everything changed.

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

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

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

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

But still… 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BATMANNERY

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

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

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

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

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

HOUSEKEEPING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James Tynion IV
Brooklyn, NY
5.21.20