16: Dispatches From The Bad Month

I really did mean to get back to writing these weekly, I promise. 

The real world keeps being an absolute, unrelenting bastard and getting in the way. In so many ways, this year feels like it never started, and yet so much keeps on happening, and time feels like it’s getting faster. A few days ago, I tweeted about how much I missed those early days in April when it just felt like time was infinite. Obviously those days were terrible in a lot of ways, but there is a strange peacefulness to them that I look back on fondly. 

There was a weekend I read ten incredible graphic novels, and did literally nothing else! But now my stack of read comics in quarantine is taller than I am, and I’ve been slowing down my intake. I haven’t traded it in for anything… The home projects I convinced myself that I’d be keeping myself busy with remain undone. The stack of prose books remains unread. I made a few loaves of sourdough the other day after a week of coaxing my starter out of a slimy half-life, and it felt like I was trying to capture a feeling already lost. 

I wonder what it will be like to remember this time. Will it all blend together, or will it feel like it lasted an eternity? I literally haven’t spent this much consecutive time at home since I started regularly attending comic book conventions eight years ago. I do wish there were more options to vary my days. I understand that New York City will be one of the last places to return to normal, but god do I miss people, and movie theaters, and bars. I go on walks out to the parks near us in Brooklyn, and watch people from a distance. We’ve had a few distance hangouts, and I hope to do more soon. I’m grateful I have Sam, and our dog Khaleesi, otherwise I would have gone hopelessly insane, a long time ago.

My sleep hasn’t gotten any better. I’m getting more of it, for sure. I haven’t done a FULL all-nighter in weeks, but I do still find that I’m getting my best writing work done after midnight, when the world gets a little quieter. So there are more days of sleeping from 8AM to Noon. Which probably isn’t the healthiest thing, but it seems better than the outright all nighters I was utilizing through most of May.

June has been a nightmare. For many reasons, many of which are still unfolding. It’s been paralyzing in a lot of ways, the way a different facet of reality seems under siege every day, on repeat. The world can be so ugly, and people can do such ugly things. The systems that should protect us are often so entrenched in their ways that they’d rather protect themselves than change. The people who should be our champions are often the ones who feel like they’re twisting the knife in our backs.

And I’m angry. 

I think June has had that effect on lots of us. It’s hard not to read the news or scroll through twitter and not want to scream at the top of your lungs.

I wish the generations that came before us left us a better future. They sure talked a good game, and I do believe they thought they cared about us. But thoughts and words are cheap. Actions always speak louder. And their actions built the world we live in today.

I think as every generation comes of age they have a choice of whether to reform and rebuild the systems they live in to make things better for the next, or whether to hoard their gains for themselves and their closest friends. I hope the rising generations make better decisions, and become better role models. The people who came before us, largely, decided on themselves. I hope we can decide on each other. I hope we’re willing to dispose of systems and practices that have proven time and time again to hurt people, and try new things. 

I’ve been writing in general language, because I feel much the same about my country as I do about my profession. I’ve always been skeptical of ordered systems. Entropy is too powerful. The center does not hold. And yet we live in a society and an industry where power insulates and resists change to the point that it can’t function. We’re operating in systems that are decades out of date, that we cling to out of familiarity. It’s time for more new ideas, new ideas of how society can function, and how comics can function. And it’s up to the rising generations more than any other to provide those ideas and put their heart and soul into them and make them real. To stop being beholden to the way things have been done. Roughly, the same people are in charge of the country and the comics industry as when I was born. A thirty year reign. 

I think we as the rising generation need to own more of our own ideas, and better control the means of getting them into the world. I think we need to experiment more, and try the strange and exciting. If we’re not able to explore our creativity in its exuberant youth, we’ll shave off our rough edges most capable of hurting and changing the systems we live in, or we’ll allow others to shave it off for us for the sake of something more easily packaged with the other VC-friendly intellectual property that will never fully belong to us. We need to stop self-editing to placate the gatekeepers, and tear down the old stogy gates.

I hope ten, twenty, thirty years from now I’m not working in a comics industry with the same systemic problems as exist around us today. And I hope I’m not living in a country with systemic problems that exist today. I believe women. I believe black lives matter. I believe trans people are who they say they are. And I hope beyond hope that I get to grow old in a world where the platitudes don’t matter, because everyone has their space and the means to live a full, fulfilled, and happy life.

But I can’t just hope. I need to act. I need to do what I can in this moment. I saw the tweet going around of Gen Z-ers mocking my fellow Millennials, and I couldn’t help but cheer them on. We need the kick in the pants, and stop thinking of ourselves as living in perpetual adolescence. Millennials are in our thirties now. We’re adults, and we’re getting boring like all adults do, but we can’t start failing the next generation just because we’re exhausted fighting for elbow room at the dinner table with our elders. 

We need to be better, starting now. 

I hope you all are taking care of yourself and the people you love. I hope you are all listening to the grievances being aired in the world, and letting down your guard a minute to actually hear them, with empathy and compassion. We are all in the middle of one of the strangest years in human history and we are all experiencing it together. Question authority, and the people telling you that we’re not all in this together, and that you don’t have a responsibility to listen and to act. They’re the ones who continue to benefit from our inaction.

Anyways. I swear I didn’t set out to write a manifesto. I came here to sell some comic books…

DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH

So, more than anything, I’m excited to pull the veil back on another one of my unnamed projects, just announced in Entertainment Weekly, with an exclusive preview at the link!

This is PROJECT DALLAS, which I once erroneously referred to as PROJECT OSWALD for what should now be fairly obvious reasons. DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH is a story about conspiracy theories. It is the story of a young man named Cole Turner recruited into a shadowy organization within the United States government that makes sure that conspiracy theories stay conspiracy theories, a job that will push him to his own limits as he grapples with the nature of truth, history, the human condition, and the American dream. It is a conspiracy thriller, told with a horror edge.

The first issue will be oversized, with 32 pages of comic content. There are preview pages at the EW link, but here’s a little taste of the gorgeous Martin Simmonds work you’ll find inside. Every issue will build on the last, but is meant to be read standalone as well. Each will highlight a different conspiracy theory. The first issue deals with Flat Earth Theory. The second with the Satanic Panic of the 80s. The third deals with False Flag conspiracy theories. I’ve got big plans for a lot of conspiracies, from UFOs and Chemtrails, to Reptillians and Atlantis, and obviously, the assassination of JFK. I’ve done more research for this book than any I’ve written in my career. The books I’ve bought, and the podcasts I’ve listened to have almost certainly put me on a dozen government lists, and I’m sure I’ll be on the rest of them by the time the series is done.

It is written by me, with art by the phenomenal Martin Simmonds, letters by the amazing Aditya Bidikar, and design by the magnificent Dylan Todd. It is edited by the incredible Steve Foxe. Martin is doing physical media collage covers for the issues, and the covers are just staggering works of art… There’s a whole fun history to the first cover that I’ll dig into as we get closer to the book. I want to spoil it all now, but I guess I can be “patient.” We also have a Cover B by Jenny Frison that I am absolutely in love with. It features a mysterious character from the series known only as “The Fictional Woman.” I know people went crazy over Jenny’s variant for Something is Killing the Children #1, so be sure to grab this one while you can. 

Creator owned books take a long time to get up off the ground. I pitched the book for the first time almost exactly three years ago… Almost 9 months before I started talking about Something Is Killing The Children or Wynd with Boom! Studios. This was  project that I knew I wanted more control over, and that I wanted full ownership with my co-creator. The pitch document is labeled June 29th, 2017. I approached Martin to draw the book in fall 2018. I started to write the first script while attending Dallas FanExpo in spring 2019, after visiting Deeley Plaza for the first time in person. It’s the most rigorously outlined book I’ve worked on in a minute. The series bible I sent Martin almost two years ago was 15 pages long. Which isn’t to say I won’t go off-path, but I have a plan and something I very much want to say with this project, when it’s all said and done, and I want to say that as intricately as I can.

The book is an ongoing title. There is an ending point in mind, but there’s a lot of room in this world for story, and I’m eager to spend a lot of time playing in it. We’re also determined to get an issue in your hands every month, without gap months. I’ll talk more about how we’re planning on doing that, but I want retailers to know that if you get people hooked on the title, you’ll have something regular in hand. I realize I am cursing myself and collaborators by making that promise publicly, but as long as you support the book, and we have story to tell, you’ll have a monthly issue in hand. And maybe MORE than just an issue…

I just put an order in on a set of 100 pins, featuring the in-universe logo of the Department of Truth (as designed by Dylan Todd). If you personally want a pin, it will cost you $10. If you’re a retailer, and want to buy in bulk orders, it’ll cost you a bit less. This is all lo-fi with no store front, so be patient with me. If there’s a big demand, I’ll put in a second run of pins! But look at the mock-up! They’re super rad! I’m not going to start promoting them on Twitter until I have them in hand, so this is your chance to wipe out my inventory early. I DARE YOU!  Email DepartmentOfTruthComic@gmail.com with an order request, and I’ll do my best to get back to you in some kind of orderly fashion. (Note: I won’t be receiving the pins for another couple of weeks at the earliest, so this would go in the mail some time in July).

Ahhh, it feels good to have this all out in the open. I’ve been watching some of the most beautiful interior art I’ve ever seen come into my mailbox for months, desperate to talk about all of it. The opening pages of Issue #2 are so beautiful, I wish I could just share them now, but I guess it’s fair to parcel out content. Covid made me worried we might have to push it to launch in 2021, but thankfully, after discussing with Eric Stephenson at Image, we found the right place in the calendar and set a date. 

Department of Truth #1 will be in stores on September 30th. I am so freaking excited for you all to read it.

WYND

This is the OTHER most exciting thing of the day. 

If you think that 2017-2020 gestational period was a long one, I came up with Wynd when I was a freshman in high school, all the way back in the early oughts. And now it’s a published comic book out in stores! This story has lived with me for literally half my life, and now you all get to live with it, with me. The reviews have been incredibly kind so far, and I hope it finds its audience. This is obviously a different sort of comic book than Department of Truth or Something is Killing the Children. This is meant to be a Young Adult title, on the younger end of young adult. Tonally, I’d put the series in the same arena as Bone or Avatar: The Last Airbender. 

I’ve talked a lot about it over the last few newsletters, particularly after the shocking development of it coming out in single issues, rather than just as Original Graphic Novels, so I won’t go repeating myself, suffice to say that I am immensely proud of this story and the world that I’ve been able to build with my good friend and Woods co-creator, Michael Dialynas, who is the only person I would have ever dreamed of owning this story with. I’m also grateful for the new format, and the fact that we’ve been allowed to expand several scenes to flesh out each issue. The final product will be a better one, and I’m always grateful for that.

Every issue of Wynd is roughly 50 pages of original comic book content, for the cost of a regular single issue. It’s a good meaty read, which I think we should have more of in comics, in general. It’s written by me, with art and colors by Michael Dialynas, and letters by Aditya Bidikar. It’s also got a queer lead for you, just in time for Pride! If you’re promoting LGBT content in your shop, I hope you’ll consider including and promoting Wynd.

Anyways, I really hope you like it. This is the fantasy epic I wished existed when I was a young teenager, and I’m thrilled I finally get to put it out in the world.

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN

I missed the chance to properly bang the drum about the return of the series in stores last week, but I just wanted to remind everyone that Issue #7 is now in stores, and Vol. 1 is now available in wide release. I’ve been having a bunch of very top secret conversations about this project in the last few weeks, that I hope develop into something a lot less top secret. But I should really learn that “patience” thing that people talk about.

But in bigger news, SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN was nominated for an Eisner Award for Best New Series, which is really an absolutely incredible honor. For those of you who don’t know, The Eisners are the Oscars of the comic book world, and this is my first time getting a nomination for one of my series. If you’re an industry professional reading this, I hope you consider voting for our book, which you can do at eisnervotes.com

BATMANNERY

I realize it’s less because of any GOOD reason, and more because of a global pandemic, but I’m writing Batman #100 this week which I think will mark the first time in almost five years of writing double-ship comics that I have written a full six-issue arc before any of it is released. Which feels pretty freaking great. This is also great because Joker War will be drawn entirely by Jorge Jimenez (save a couple of codas in the oversized Issue #100). I am very proud of the abject lunacy of Their Dark Designs and the incredible army of artists who helped us get the book out the door, but there’s something undeniable about the singular power of a single artist on a full story. As we wrap up 2020, and head into 2021, I’m looking forward to keep that up, and work on more sustained runs with single artists. 

Now that we have some real runway to plan and build big story, I’m eager to use it to make a better reading experience for all of us. We have BIG plans, and those plans start with Joker War. You’re starting to see some of them take shape already. We announced Joker War Zone last week, and I was thrilled they also released the variant cover which features Cassandra Cain donning a very familiar costume…  There’s ANOTHER classic character in the JWZ issue who people have been clamoring to appear in Joker War, who has a story in the book, but I’m pretty sure I’m not allowed to say who they are, yet… But I am very excited to bring this character into the larger Joker War experience. 

In addition to a big story featuring Bane, drawn by my other Gotham partner in crime, Guillem March… I’m writing a story for James Stokoe about Clownhunter, a mainline continuity story that digs deeper into who this strange new Gotham Vigilante is. In the script, I described what we were trying to do with Clownhunter as “Kaneda’s Gang from Akira meets Casey Jones meets Deadpool” and James just knocked it out of the park. I’ve got Orc Stain and Godzilla: The Hundred Year War in prime locations on my shelf, and I’ve deeply loved his work for years. The fact that I get to work with him is a dream come true. James is up for about a million Eisners this year, and I hope he wins all of them! And then you can nominate him again next year for his freaking awesome Clownhunter comics.

What I am MOST excited about, is each of these stories leads to MORE stories. These are not going to be one and done flash in the pan characters. We have a rough sketch of a multi-year plan in play. We’ll only get there with your support and help, but I’ve gotten rumblings on the sales of these upcoming Batman issues, and they’ve been putting a wide grin on my face. Heck, now the whole DC line is getting in on the fun of the character design covers we spearheaded with. I just outlined an oversized issue I’ll be co-writing at the end of the year spinning out of the Batman run, and we’ve just got more fun coming your way.

In interviews, I keep talking about Punchline and Clownhunter as the first two children of a new generation of Gotham City stories. Joker War sets the stage for this new era in a big, big way. We’re trying to give you an experience every time you pick up the mainline Batman comic book that you can’t get in any other medium. I wrote up a description of a poster for Gotham 2021 that I desperately hope we make, that aside from Batman, Harley, and a classic Bat-Villain, will feature all brand new characters, embodying the Gotham we’re hoping to build for you… But we’re not waiting until 2021 to start having fun with the new toys.

Next month, they’ll solicit Batman #100, and THEN I can start talking about Ghost-Maker. 

HOUSEKEEPING

I’m rethinking my naming conventions for unannounced projects. Thankfully, one month from now, there will only really be ONE active project I’ve named in this style, at which point it will simply become “the unannounced book.” All my other projects are slow-cooking on the backburner while these books run for a bit.

PROJECT NIGHTMARE is shaping up very nicely, with lots of art coming in from different people. This is one of the wildest, most ill-advised pet-projects I could have engineered for myself, but it’s been the main thing keeping me sane over the last month. This is the project that best embodies the spirit of what I was talking about in my opening manifesto. You’ll learn a lot more about it next month, around the time that San Diego Comic Con would have happened. I hope to the dark gods we pull it off. I have a story in the first issue that I think is one of the scariest things I’ve ever written.

I’ve turned in the first script for PROJECT LAKEHOUSE, which won’t be out until 2021. If The Woods was about me processing my teenage years, this is the book about me processing my twenties. The design work Alvaro has been putting into the book has been absolutely stunning (I think I’ve hinted enough that I’m working on another book with Alvaro, so I figure I can just say it out loud). This book is giving me a chance to experiment with a whole different toolset than Department of Truth. 

Anyways. That’s another way too long newsletter from your friend James. Some day I’ll wise up and stop writing them so long.

Oh, and Happy Pride Month, everyone.

James Tynion IV
Brooklyn, NY
6.17.20