26: WHO IS MIRACLE MOLLY?

I do this thing every year where I convince myself that I am going to be very, very productive over the holidays. I schedule out my workload with the assumption that my brain is going to kick into high gear after Christmas and I’m going to push ahead on all fronts, and then I’ll be sitting easy in January. And then, predictably, every January is a garbage fire. This year was no different. Well, okay, we had an insurrection, so that was pretty different, but the point is that I spent my January digging myself out of a series of holes. But now I have (almost) fully dug myself out of those holes, and I’m ready to start looking at what this year is actually going to be.

I got a great response to the series of insanely long newsletters I wrote leading up to the New Year. I was really happy to be able to to lay out a lot of what I’ve been thinking about the comics industry, but there was one piece that I didn’t get to in all those write-ups. Something I’ve been tinkering with since November, that I’m going to share with all of you. I call it a Generational Theory of Geekdom. If you get a kick out of me being all self-important and waxing philosophical about the comic book industry, you can scroll down past all my comic-specific stuff…

But, I know why you’re REALLY here…

RAZORBLADES: THE HORROR MAGAZINE

Razorblades: The Horror Magazine #3 is on sale now. Ain’t it a beautiful sight to behold?

The cover is by David Romero, who has been one of my favorite finds of the last year. We have a lot of astonishing talent in this book. Ram V and John J Pearson return to Razorblades this month with a new story. Alex Paknadel and Jason Loo have the next chapter of Cinderside. We have a story by INFIDEL’S Pornsak Pichetshote alongside Alberto Ponticelli. Another White Noise veteran joins the book with Dan Watters and Lucy Sullivan’s “Sweeney Todd & I.” We have Jenn St-Onge & Jess Unkel! Michael Conrad & Raymond Estrada! We’ve got letters by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou and Aditya Bidikar! Illustrations by John R. Green, lilcthulhu, Nick Tofani, Jerome Tiunayan, and Aaron Campbell… A tease of a new serial feature by Razorblades co-creator Steve Foxe, and Piotr Kowalski. We’ve got a piece of short horror fiction by Michael Moreci, and we’ve got an in-depth interview with Killadelphia’s Rodney Barnes, featuring art by Jason Shawn Alexander. Brian Level wraps the issue up with the conclusion of the run of illustrations/comic pieces that have been running since the first issue.

I have to single out one contributor to the book. Back when Razorblades was in its inception, one of my big goals was to bring in people from all corners of the comic book industry, and because of my recent stack of reading, the person I singled out was “I’d love to get Tillie Walden to do a piece for Razorblades." That was my unrealistic goal for the first year of the book. And well… This issue features an incredible black and white illustration by Tillie Walden.

I regret to say that this issue does NOT have a Killboy chapter in it. I robbed Ricardo Lopez Ortiz from myself to go draw Ghost-Maker back-up stories in Batman. But our scampy little Murderfriend will return. This issue starts with a short piece by me and my Department of Truth partner-in-crime, Martin Simmonds. It’s based on a real nightmare I had when I was 4 years old and about to move from Manhattan to Milwaukee, WI. The real version featured E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial and was one in a series of nightmares I had from that age until I was around 10. It feels good finally putting it to paper and exposing the horror of that damned potato monster.

But that’s enough preamble! You can get to my webstore through the ReadRazorblades.com landing site, or you can pick it up on the brand spanking new TinyOnionStudios.com website!

Here’s a direct link to the Physical Edition.

Here’s a direct link to the Digital, Pay-What-You-Want Edition.

With the physical edition, we’re going back to the old model here that we used for Issue #1. There are 500 copies of the physical edition of #3 on sale now through me. There are more copies available for interested retailers. Our advance sales to retailers already outstrip our retailer sales for Issue #2, which is very exciting, and if you’re a shop that wants to get in on all things Razorblades, you should hit me up.

If you’re a retailer and you want to put in a discounted bulk order for Issue #3, you have until the end of the weekend to shoot me an email at TinyOnionStudios@gmail.com and lock your orders. On Monday morning, the print run for #3 will be locked, and we’re going to start the process of printing the books. They should ship out in March, and we’ll keep you updated if there are any delays.

Unfortunately, the model of keeping a sales window open to the public for a couple of weeks before locking the print run ended up just delaying shipping, and with a bunch of confusing stuff with cancelled sales. As much as I’d like to just keep the sales window open for anyone/everyone who wants a copy, this makes things much cleaner on our end. We’re still a very small operation, so I wanted to keep this as straightforward as possible. I figured 500 was a nice clean number, and I’ll be able to point interested people toward the retailers who are ordering lots of copies of #3.

If you miss out on the 500 sold via the webstore, let your local comic shop know you want a copy, and tell them to email me at TinyOnionStudios@gmail.com before the end of the weekend.

If you are a subscriber, you don’t need to do anything! You will receive either a regular subscription cover for #3, or the foil subscription cover of #3. Both subscriber covers feature the color variant with the orange title. Originally, foil was only meant to be a special thing for #2, but enough people were confused by that, that I figured, hey, what the heck – If they ordered a foil subscription, let’s give them a foil subscription. If you ordered the premium subscription, the book will come with a limited edition postcard print of one of the great horror illustrations in the issue. And don’t worry! Your limited edition enamel pin and collector’s box will come too! I’m looking to get those out over the summer. I’ve had some worried emails from folks who thought they missed them, but we wanted to prioritize getting the first subscription issues out into the world, and then getting #3 out there.

One last note to Razorbladers out in the world… If you’re in the US, you should have your copies of Razorblades 2 in hand now (if you don’t - please email TinyOnionStudios@gmail.com). If you’re international, you might still be waiting. We’re using a distributing partner in the UK as the gateway to shipping to Europe and Asia, and Brexit threw a wrench into our already delayed shipping situation. I have confirmation that the last of those packages are being shipped out before the end of this week. Things should be a little less hectic come these issues shipping out in March, without the holidays and political upheaval. So I hope you still consider picking up a copy of #3!

BATMANNERY

So, with the last round of Solicits, we got the very exciting news about a new ROBIN series by my pal Joshua Williamson, and the incredible Gleb Melnikov. And we got the first glimpse of the new character, Flatline, who will be debuting in the first issue of the book. I am very, very excited about Flatline. I have been losing my mind since Josh first messaged me her design. This is going to be a very good, exciting book. I love everything Josh is planning right now, and every piece of art I’ve seen has been absolutely stunning. But Flatline so perfectly captures the potential of the new era of DC comics, and I am so freaking excited to see the other big books invest in the creation of new, modern feeling characters. I mean, just look at her:

We need to be in the business of creating exciting superheroes and villains that fans want to draw in their notebooks, and dress up as, and daydream about… Characters like that flesh out a universe and keep them feeling young, and exciting. That’s what Jorge and I were trying to do with Punchline, Clownhunter, and Ghost-Maker last year. And I think Flatline hits that mark. I already told Josh that I want to make Punchline vs. Flatline happen in the near future.

But hey, the little header up there reads “Batmannery”, not “Robinnery,” and Jorge and I got the new character machine cooking pretty much exactly one year ago. And now we’re heading toward the Infinite Frontier, the launch of a whole new era of Gotham City… And did you really think for half a second we were going to rest on our laurels? No. We’re off to the races in our very first issue. We have a new character with a partial appearance in 106, who Jorge and I have been hinting at in interviews over the last few months… She is a member of a new gang in Gotham that calls itself the Unsanity Collective, and they are going to be huge players in 2020 and 2021. And she’s going to be right at the heart of all of it. I wrote up a whole thing for the internal Gotham team earlier this year, in which I broke down the emotional heart of “THE COWARDLY LOT”, and the whole story is pinned on two arguments about the nature of fear and memory… One argument comes from Scarecrow, and the other comes from HER:

Her name is Miracle Molly. She’s on the cover of Batman #108, which will be her first FULL appearance, and the issue that I think will make you all fall as madly in love with her as Jorge and I are. Jorge did the above as a color guide. This is just your first glimpse of her… There’s going to be a lot more to come. That Batman 108 cover is going to be coming your way with the next round of solicits, along with some craaazy variant covers featuring her.

The Unsanity Collective are a high tech gang of thieves who use technology to erase and reset their memories, so they can let go of all the fear and trauma holding themselves back. Miracle Molly builds all of their hardware. She’s unlike any of the other characters I’ve written in and around Gotham, and I fucking LOVE her. So I hope you love reading about her, too…

I’m so freaking excited about this year on Batman. While I’m showing off Jorge’s art, I have to spotlight the absolutely incredible design he’s put together for Scarecrow. I mean, just LOOK at him. I’ve been having an argument internally for years that we have to move away from the Batman Begins inspired “bag on a guy’s head” look for Scarecrow, and get back to something that looks like it would be hanging on a post in a field. I’ve been saying the hat is necessary in the design, and boy oh boy did Jorge deliver…

Scarecrow is the big bad of the story we’re telling in 2020. We’re also going to be establishing the origins of The Magistrate Program, and see the origin of Peacekeeper One in present day. Miracle Molly, Peacekeeper One, and one other mysterious character are my crown jewel new characters for 2021. Gotta Catch ‘Em All!

It all starts on March 2nd… With Infinite Frontier #0 (which features a few VERY VERY dramatic things that set up the whole year in Gotham City) and BATMAN #106…

And then we have Joker, by me and Guillem March later in the month. And I have a whole lot to say about that book, but I’m going to wait a little closer to launch to say it. But obviously, there’s a new character in the mix in Joker who I am also very, very excited for you to meet.

BUT JAMES, WHAT ABOUT ALL YOUR OTHER BOOKS?!

Look, these newsletters are already pretty dense, and I think it’s best to try to sell people what I have in hand to sell rather than what’s coming up soon, but IF YOU INSIST, let me give you a low-down on everything else I have cooking right now.

February is going to see the release of THE DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH VOL 1: THE END OF THE WORLD. It is also going to see the release of the first interstitial issue of DOT with art by the phenomenal Elsa Charretier and Matt Hollingsworth. This is a story with a thread that happens in 1963, and a thread that happens in 1000 AD. It continues the story of Lee Harvey Oswald after the assassination of JFK, and shows some of the origins of a very important organization in Conspiracy lore. The issue is fucking gorgeous.

The following month is an issue by Tyler Boss and Roman Titov, that continues Lee’s story and has the origin of “Doc” Hynes, our tinfoil wearing friend who haunts the deepest basements of the Department of Truth. That issue deals with The Men in Black. Like… The UFO kind of Men in Black. Both issues are beautiful and won’t be immediately collected into a trade paperback! We’re going to do two interstitial issues between arcs, and those will all build up into a story that spans the 1960s, and will be collected as one, down the line, when we build up enough of them… So the singles are the only ways to get this part of the story in the near future! Don’t miss them!! Martin will return in April with Department of Truth #8, the start of our second full arc. That issue is a doozy, and kicks the series into a very interesting direction…

I’ve been having a series of very exciting calls and emails about SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN that I can’t even hint about yet. I just sent off the last issue of whole Archer’s Peak story cycle to the printer, and that will be out I think later this month… There’s another universe where SIKTC #15 was going to be the end of the series. But you all have turned the book into a runaway hit, and now there’s no ending in sight. But 15 is still an ending. It’s the ending of the story of young James, and Tommy, and a lot of the people and places we’ve gotten to know in Archer’s Peak. I felt the weight of all those fifteen issues when I put this one down. I am just so damn proud of everything we’ve done. Erica Slaughter changed my life. This is the book that sent me down the road toward Batman and The Department of Truth, and Wynd and everything else… And the fact that people keep finding her story and connecting with her just bowls me over every single time. I’m going to be coy about what the book will look like starting with Issue #16 (Which I’m pretty sure will start in May).

WYND continues powering along, with Michael deep into the second arc, which, wouldn’t you know it, ALSO starts in May. I’m not going to start showing off interior work from that just yet, but honestly what I am MOST excited about are the collected editions that are going to start coming out next month. In March, we’re releasing a limited edition Hardcover only available to comic shops for a VERY short time… This is the equivalent of the Jenny Frison SIKTC Vol 1 cover. A treat to the comic book market, before the mass market edition of Wynd launches in May alongside all of the other fun stuff I have coming from BOOM! I was also very, very honored to be nominated for a GLAAD Media Award, continuing my streak on my projects with Michael. This book means a tremendous lot to me, and while I’ve been thrilled with all the people who have found it in comic shops, I’ve been waiting for it to make its way into bookstores to find the young queer readers that I wrote it for.

Finally… I think we might be coming up on the announcement of the secret project that I have been pretty cavalier about over the last six months. The book is beautiful, and I can’t fucking wait to show off the incredible cover to Issue #1 that has been the background of my phone for months. This is the Alvaro Martinez Bueno project, and I am incredibly excited and nervous for you all to read it.

So… More to come… But in the meantime, let me get back to being a blowhard, so I can wax poetic about my thoughts on the comic book industry!

BIG PICTURE THINKING

I have this pet theory I’ve been spending way too much time thinking about over the last few months. I spend a lot of time thinking about how systems decay and degrade over generations (which is an undercurrent in all of my creator-owned work), and I spend a lot of time thinking about the geek culture I work in. I started laying all of this down in a document in November, but I thought I’d revisit it and expand it, now.

Part of what I’m trying to unpack here is why do we create what we create? I think so much in the direct market comics industry happens by inertia. When you’re raised in a creative culture that has existed for your entire life, the cycle of nostalgia and self-referentialism can feel like they’re a necessary part of the system. I don’t think they are. I think a lot of us start writing in that language because it’s the language we see at play all around us, and we subconsciously replicate what the decision-makers are asking for. One thing I’ve been laying out in previous newsletters is how I want more of my creative peers to make fully conscious creative decisions, rather than make creative decisions out of inertia because the people in power are telling you that it’s always been that way. Because there is no such thing as “always.”

Also, like all theory, this is meant to be descriptive rather than prescriptive. It’s a tool to analyze and reflect on the past as we consider the future and our places in it. Also, this is all armchair theory. Just me sitting back thinking about stuff, and nodding when something feels right to me and my experiences. Like generational theories about age-cohorts, there are plenty of creators and works that don’t fall neatly into one era or another. Creators and managers who didn’t grow up as fans and were able to bypass the limitations of the generational cycle and do incredible work. It’s meant to be more “generally” true than it is meant to be specifically and dogmatically true.

But in any case, I wrote it up, because I am an insane person.

First Generation – The Original Stuff

This is the pulp. Some people take some raw creative energy by smashing together story tropes into new and interesting configurations for the novelty of it. Most of the people publishing or producing the content just see it as low budget schlock for kids. Some of the creators see the potential in it and do innovative, iconic work, but mostly these stories are made by blue collar workman creators looking for a paycheck and they don’t take it all that serious. And even the premier talents don’t have the time to give any of it much polish.

Second Generation – The Good Stuff

The people who came up alongside the first generation creators who saw untapped potential in the first generation material rise up into decision making positions at the same time the kids who grew up reading/watching the first generation content reach their prime creative years. The management and the creative are in sync, wanting to do something elevated with the original raw concepts, and willing to give it the money necessary to do it right, all without taking the source material too seriously. Because they are rooted in simple ideas, these elevated stories have the most Mass Market appeal.

Third Generation – The “Important” Stuff

The peers of the key second generation creatives rise into decision making positions, at the same time that a new generation of creatives who grew up on the “elevated” version of the content reach their prime creative years. These creators try to elevate the already elevated material for an audience that already deeply cares about the second generation content. Things get more niche. We get deconstructed takes on core concepts. Deep dives on strange corners of concepts that only work if you understand the second generation material its rooted in. We see more sophisticated, adult stories, based on a love of the second generation. This is the apex of geek culture. These stories have reached a self-referential level that make them a little inaccessible to casual fans, unless they’re willing to do their homework, but not so inaccessible that that homework feels daunting to your average geek.

Fourth Generation – The Regressive Stuff

The peers of the third-generation creatives (who grew up as kids loving the second generation geek stories) enter decision making positions as the new generation of creatives who grew up loving the “important” material of the third generation enter their prime creative years. At this point, all three previous generations of content are still on the shelves competing against the new material. The decision-makers either are die-hard lovers of what their peer group did in the third generation and are trying to replicate it (with diminishing returns), or they hated what their peer group did and want to return to the feel and the values of the second generation and want to return the properties they love to what they perceive to be their former glory. Many of the creators of this era, grew up loving that escalating feel of “importance” in the third generation, try to imbue the “return to classic” mentality as metatextually “important” to the characters in the same way it feels to them. Or they try to continue the techniques of the third generation, but less effectively as they are applied to the same characters over and over. Since the Second and Third gen stories are still available and still preferred, these stories only reach an even smaller niche audience.

Fifth Generation – The Convoluted Stuff

The peers of the fourth-generation creatives (who grew up as kids loving the already-niche third generation geek stories) enter decision making positions as a new generation of creatives who grew up reading the fourth generation reach their peak creative years. This new generation of creator is smaller and more reactionary given how small the niche audience of the fourth generation was. These managers and creatives are often setting out to “correct” the decisions made by the previous generation of managers and creators, based on their individual grievances with how the fourth generation picked up the torch from the third generation (or failed to). This leads to a cacophonous field of work, an echo-chamber of nostalgia and anti-nostalgia, where only the stories that embrace the lunacy and opportunities of that cacophony break through. These are the most niche stories, told to an even smaller audience than the fourth generation.

Okay… So that’s my theory. Let’s break it down a little.

A key thing to say is that I think this generational quality has more to do with genres, sets of tropes, and specific franchises than it has to do with an industry or medium at large. A raw original concept is polished into something more focused, and then that more focused thing keeps getting polished until it starts to degrade and break down.

Let’s talk George Lucas and Star Wars for a second. The First Generation of Star Wars are its predecessors - the old space adventure serials that Lucas grew up with. Think Buck Rogers. The original trilogy, especially the first Star Wars film and everything it established is the Second Generation – An elevated version of the pulp source material for a Mass Market Audience. The Expanded Universe, the Special Editions and the Prequel Trilogy were the Third Generation of Star Wars content – made for the more niche audience that already loved the Second Generation material. The Disney era, with the Sequel Trilogy and now the Mandalorian are the Fourth Generation of Star Wars content… And you can already hear the cacophony growing in the SW fandom that will grow up to create the Fifth Generation of SW content in another decade or so.

It’s worth noting that stories only typically enter their fourth and fifth generation forms when there is a corporate desire to keep a piece of content alive, rather than let it rest and become the raw fodder for second generation content. They are kind of the byproduct of living in a late-stage capitalism kind of world. The most common forms in the wild are first generation pulp and the second generation elevation of pulp. I think we can sometimes see a natural jump to a third generation property in the wild (Think how Spielberg Amblin films were second generation stories, which makes properties like Super 8 and Stranger Things that are deliberately built out of nostalgia for those works third generation stories), but usually this only happens in Geek Targeted media. Something like Galaxy Quest is a third generation story (First generation is early 20th century sci-fi, Second generation is Star Trek, Third generation is Galaxy Quest which is a love-letter to and parody of Star Trek made for people who love it). Outside of the traditional Geek Space, I think you can look at something like The Sopranos as a third generation work. First generation is early 20th Century crime fiction and film noir. Second Generation is The Godfather and Scorsese. Third generation starts to deconstruct the genre based on an assumed love and appreciation of the second generation, like The Sopranos does.

Right now, I think the Superhero genre in comic books is in its fifth generation, while Superhero live action film/television is in its third generation, with the advent of HBO’s Watchmen, Amazon’s The Boys, and to a lesser extent, Disney+’s WandaVision.

Does this mean you can’t tell a new good superhero comic book story anymore? No, of course not. There are great Superhero comics coming out right now. But I think the books that best reflect this era within our corner of the comic industry are the ones that embrace the cacophony. Look at the entire X-Line right now. There’s no more of an attempt to do “back to basics” – It’s trying to move the whole franchise forward without shying away from the sheer breadth of the insanity of their sixty year publishing history. Which is similar to what I’m trying to do with Batman. I am not trying to recapture an old status quo. I’m not being overly nostalgic. I want to embrace the fact that we’re further down the timeline in Gotham than we ever have been before, while creating new entry point characters for new readers to jump in on the whole experience with. I want to embrace the insanity of living in a superhero universe, with a nightmare city full of colorful street ninjas fighting cyborgs and murder clowns.

I think there’s a benefit and joy to leaning into the cacophony, especially knowing that with Marvel Unlimited and DC Infinite, suddenly young people are reading pretty much the entire history of both companies at once, non-linearly. Comic shops are seeing an influx of interest in back-issues. People are picking their favorite books over decades of work, and their priorities aren’t shaped by the immediate past, and it’s impossible to then tell those new eclectic readers that only this or that matters. So embrace everything! Go Gonzo! Don’t be afraid of embracing the abject insanity of what we’ve created. Tell stories about angels and cyborgs fighting dog-people from the future in the same world where a psychic fish is the president. Why not? It’s comic

But do I think that Superhero Comics are going to stay the apex predator of our side of the comic book industry they were from the 60s to the 90s through the peak of the Direct Market? No. I think that age has been over for a while now. There’s an existing audience to be catered to, and a smaller audience that will walk into the cacophony of the modern era for the first time and love it for what it is, but I don’t think continuity-driven corporate Superhero comics are the entry point of the medium anymore and I doubt they will be again in the near future. Furthermore, I think trying to replicate the moves of previous generation will only appeal to the fans of those previous generations. I think there’s room to do that kind of work, but an over-reliance on nostalgia and “returning to core” are out the window when it comes to appealing to new readers. There is a lie inherent in all of those attempts, which is that only some interpretations of the characters are valid, and that you should ignore y, and focus on x and z. People think that “simplifies” the comics, but it overcomplicates them and creates questions, and overestimates how much new readers care about what you’re telling them to be nostalgic about. Embrace the whole insane cacophony that exists in these worlds where multiverse-ending threats happen every week, and every third person is wearing a costume, and you can tell cool, weird stories. Companies need to stop shying away from what makes these universes fucking insane and complicated, because they’re only going to make them less authentic and more complicated in explaining why they are less complicated.

The other option is to go to creators who are outside that generational cycle of influence (someone who did not grow up reading superhero comics), ask them to distill a character to its raw parts, and start it from scratch. If you get an artist who has an amazing visual style and great writing voice from outside the churn of the monthly superhero floppy business and ask them to put together a Batman comic without any nostalgic restrictions on what that character is, I bet you’d get something pretty interesting. But a move like that is more about breaking free from the generational framework I laid out above to start something new to build upon. Typically, though, companies put too many brakes on outside the box creators… They have too many ideas about what a character NEEDS to be. Those decisions are rooted in nostalgia and in corporate branding anxieties, and rob us of actually seeing the full spectrum of what those stories could be. When Superman finally does become Public Domain in the 2030s, I think we will finally see that character break free of the mold that he’s been held in longer than he should have been, and he’ll enter the canon of figures like Sherlock Holmes and Dracula where he belongs.

But in lieu of that, is the Superhero genre dead? Also no. Look at My Hero Academia… I’d argue that it is a second generation work. That Manga treats all of American Superhero Comics and its tropes as its raw “First Generation” influence. It’s not in conversation with the latter-day generations, but it picks what it wants… If you look at something like Robert Kirkman’s Invincible… That was a third generation Superhero comic that was coming out alongside the Big Two putting out fourth generation superhero comics. Stripping things down to their base parts and building something wholly NEW usually creates second or third generation stories. I think he’s doing the same thing with Fire Power, which is rooted in the Kung Fu hero comics of the 1970s, to similarly great effect right now. I also look at something like Kyle Higgins and Marcelo Costa’s Radiant Black, which pulls the same hat trick that Kyle pulled when he led the whole Power Rangers revival at Boom! Studios. Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers was that raw, first generation “pulp” for my peer group in the early 1990s (It might have roots in Super Sentai, but the way it was translated and smashed together for American Audiences created something new that wasn’t QUITE superheroes, and also wasn’t quite Super Sentai – So I’d argue Power Rangers is a first generation pulp product made for kids out of smashed together pieces). So now we have second generation content, that translates and elevates that raw source material for a new generation of reader. And from what I’ve seen, Radiant Black is already a sales hit, and I think if Kyle and Marcelo play their cards right it could be something special.

So, where’s the sweet spot in geekdom? Where are there opportunities to do cool shit that has a chance of connecting with a larger audience, rather than a shrinking niche audience? I think we can strip-mine what’s worked in the past for parts and build exciting new things with all of them. I think the folks who are going to find the most success in the direct market in the near future are going to be the ones who take the engines underlying all superhero fiction - Action/Adventure Stories, Soap Opera, Cool Looking Characters, Genre Mash-up elements that give those cool looking characters extraordinary powers or skills – and strip away the superhero tropes. I’ve said a few times that I think Something is Killing the Children is something like a superhero book, but because it’s not nostalgic and it doesn’t speak in the language of superhero tropes, if anything I lean away from those tropes where I can… I could see an argument that it’s trying to be something like a second generation answer to the female hero centric creator-owned horror comics of the late 90s, early 00s. Think Hack/Slash and Witchblade. But either way – I see it as a second generation mash-up of the comics that most directly influenced me when I first became a teenager and started reading comics regularly.

I honestly look a lot at that era of comics… The Webcomics Era. The Manga Boom and Bust. Not to mention all of the bizarre storytelling priorities of the video games of that era. There are a LOT of raw influences to pull together and create exciting second generation work out of. I think especially with the mash-up of influences from the turn of the millennium, the rising generation of creators aren’t as limited as the previous generation to keeping themselves locked into a late-stage cycle for diminishing returns. The fast-growing American multi-genre comic book market is hungry for new content, and that means that there are opportunities to shine outside of the Superhero grind. It ALSO means that Superheroes can lean in and do more niche work that the smaller niche superhero comic book audience wants. One genre does not have to hold the weight of the industry on its back, and it shouldn’t! It’s the sign of an unhealthy medium when only one genre is selling, and doubling down in that kind of thinking is what led to American comics losing an entire generation of readers to manga and video games.

I think there’s a real opportunity right now to create a bunch of second generation content that will drive the next few decades of the medium, alongside a bunch of really exciting fifth generation superhero comics that play to the tastes of the hardcore nerds of the modern day. I think rising creators should think to the sort of material that inspired them and made them love the comics medium, and try to think about how to smash those influences together like raw atoms looking to create an explosive idea. I think the rising generation of creators are caged by corporate interests, even in the creator owned space. The IP-farm model for small-publishers looking to exploit IP in other media often means re-treading familiar ground, because media companies tend to bite at familiar shapes. Sometimes you get forward looking managers, who do get excited about new concepts, but the process is more difficult. That leaves some opportunity outside the IP-farms, if you have a truly innovative idea, and you can pull together enough money to cover the start-up costs of a book (which is no small feat).

Ultimately, I want to see the innovative creators of the rising generation reap the financial rewards of being on the front line of something new, so they can fund the creation of more new, exciting stuff.

IDK. This is what I sit up late at night and think about. The potential of what the comic industry can and should be, if we put more power in the hands of the rising generation of creator, and stopped acting out of a sense of “always” and the inertia of how things are “supposed” to be.

I want to do what I can to make that industry exist. In any case, I’m going to keep thinking about it.

HOUSEKEEPING

I have a new website! TinyOnionStudios.com! That’s where you can go to download pay-what-you-want issues of Razorblades: The Horror Magazine, buy enamel pins, and read about how cool I am. This has been in the works for a while now, I kept getting distracted or this bad boy would have been up in November… We’re going to have an updated ReadRazorblades.com website for you very soon, built by the same team, with bios and a bit more about what our deal is. But hooray! The Empire of the Tiny Onion expands!

As of right now, I am removing all of the enamel pins from the Gumroad store, and I’ll be transitioning away from Gumroad entirely very soon. I’m going to leave the Razorblades Digital editions up for the time being, as a backup to the Shopify system. But if you DID put in an Enamel Pin order before the store closed.

One quick note – If you’re in the UK and you’ve ordered an Enamel Pin from me, or will be ordering one shortly, you’re going to have to wait for me to get a VAT number in order to ship it out. So please bear with me! We have a workaround on this front for Razorblades but when it’s just me, shipping pins from my office and apartment, I have to do it all myself! Thanks for your patience and understanding.

That’s it from me. I have to go get ready for a very important phone call that I can’t even hint about yet. Bwahahahahaha!

James Tynion IV
Brooklyn, NY
2.4.21