27: THROWING STONES IN NICE HOUSES

When I started writing this last week, I cursed myself by starting with the sentence, “I’m going to keep this short.” That might have been possible if I broke this into two parts… But I am going to try very hard to force myself into more frequent, shorter newsletters. I need to keep reminding myself that if I get this system up and running I can finally get the fuck off twitter and work on reclaiming more of my time and my headspace.

I’m working hard on building a whole new system of productivity that involves not staying up all night writing (What?!), waking up early in the morning and heading to my office in Williamsburg (Going outside in the MORNING?!?!), and actually working out a little bit every day (Shut the front door!). 

I want to build my life around more active, deliberate choices, and the more time I spend on algorithmic platforms, the less time I spend day to day choosing what I want to be thinking about and focusing on. When I engage with something I want to fully engage with it.

We’ll see if I succeed at that. But honestly, I think I want to be off social media entirely by the end of the summer. I’m building up my @ReadTinyOnion account as the offramp for my Twitter following, and I need to figure out how to better stay in touch with some folks I only really talk to in Twitter DMs and Facebook messages, but there are lots of ways to stay in touch with folk. IDK, we’ll see if I stick to my plans here, but frankly I can’t afford to lose days to the blob like I used to. My partner has told me a million times to stop thinking of myself like a robot, but I do still think I can self-program myself a bit better, and feel better doing it.

Now that I’m fully vaccinated it has been very nice to start layering some normalcy back into my day to day life. I love my morning commute. I walk through a park on my way from the subway station to my office, and get to see people up and around. I have been slowly outfitting my office to make it a place I enjoy coming to every single day. I recently got some snake plants, which are supposed to be very hard to kill, but I am going to do my best. I’m getting a rowing machine in here next, which should arrive next week. Then I need to pick some comic book art from home to throw up on the walls in here. It’s been a fun project, outfitting the space and making it my own. 

I’m going to spare all of you one of my longer rants about the comics medium this newsletter, not so much because I don’t have thoughts running through my head… Mostly, I would rather you all read a handful of substantive interviews I did recently.

-       ComicsXF - “James Tynion IV Reveals His Grand Design For The Comics Industry In An Exclusive Interview”

-       SKTCHD – “‘I Want To Make Comics Better’: James Tynion IV Discusses His Approach to Comic + His Career”

I love doing substantive interviews, and talking about the industry as a whole. 

I spent a long time hating doing press, because I don’t particularly think that doing an interview in the middle of a story-arc does much of anything to sell any comic books. That was part of the reason I started doing this newsletter, because I think it is a better means of communicating directly with my audience and also directly with retailers… But when you take away the idea of trying to sell comics, and actually get into the nitty gritty about WHY I’m doing what I’m doing, and what I think about the structure of the industry as a whole, I’m more interested in rambling. 

I think SEO driven clickbait really killed comics websites for a good while, while social media really became the real central forum of comic industry thought, but social media has such massive faults. There’s no room for nuance, you can take anything out of context, and the platform has no memory. Someone might have an insightful thread on a subject, but that thread will be gone tomorrow. One of the big things that I remember saying in an early newsletter is how we need to start writing down more of our histories, because the last 15 years of comic book thought has effectively been written on an etch-a-sketch board.

It’s heartening to see a new guard showing up actually looking to talk about comics in a real way, rather than echoing the Wizard Magazine school of regurgitating press releases with a bit of snark. We’re at an important moment in the history of our industry, and we should all be talking about it a bit more. It’s a moment where I think creators have a tremendous power to shape what the next ten years of the industry are going to look like, if we choose to shape it, and if we don’t choose to, the publishers are going to do the shaping.

BUT, I digress… Let’s get down to business.

THE NICE HOUSE ON THE LAKE

Let me apologize in advance, to the folks who follow me on Twitter. I have been and I am going to continue to be pretty insufferable until Sunday as I push THE NICE HOUSE ON THE LAKE in advance of our 5/9 FOC.

Let’s get the basics out of the way first. THE NICE HOUSE ON THE LAKE is a horror comic, written by me, with art by Alvaro Martinez Bueno, who I worked with on both Detective Comics and Justice League Dark (and who I hope to be working with for the rest of my career). It is colored by the incredible Jordie Bellaire. It is lettered by the team at Andworld Design, who also helped build the book’s design pages. It is edited by Chris Conroy and Marquis Draper and is being released by DC Comics Black Label.

We have an amazing open to order variant by my DOT partner in crime Martin Simmonds.

And a 1:25 cover by my SIKTC partner in crime Werther Dell’Edera with Giovanna Niro.

It will release on Tuesday, June 1st.

Some very cool people have said some very, very kind things about the book. (Excuse my janky screenshot collage)

It’s been solicited as having a 12-Issue first “season” and if folks show up for it, there’s a Season 2, and a Season 3 in my head… But the 12 issues will tell a complete story in and of themselves. Alvaro spent months designing the titular house in the book, and the land it sits on. I am so excited to get to show it to you over the course of this series. If you’re one of the cool comics news sites, you reaaaaaaally should try to do something in depth with Alvaro on the design choices in the book. Get him to show off some of the blueprints he put together while he was building this. 

There’s a twist to the ending of the first issue. A twist you are not going to want spoiled, to feel the full impact of it all. So I recommend getting in on this one early.

This one is personal on a few different levels… It’s personal because it’s the book I’ve definitely cannibalized my real life the most for. The characters are hybrids of real friends, and one of the central figures of the book is essentially just me. I’ve said in a few places that if THE WOODS was the comic I needed to write to process my teenage years, this is the book I needed to write to process my twenties. But it’s also personal in a bigger picture kind of way…

Let’s flash back to the summer of 2019…  SIKTC is going to launch in a couple of months and I’m starting to get the sense that it might hit harder than I originally expected. I’d been talking to DC for a few months about taking over Batman after the Tom King run, but it’s the overperformance of SIKTC that cements that and basically gets me the gig. I’ve written about half of the first issue of THE DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH, waiting for Martin Simmonds to finish his commitment to the miniseries DYING IS EASY. I finally get the official approval of Eric Stephenson right at the end of the summer. At that point, WYND is going to be a trilogy of original graphic novels, and I’ve written about the first hundred pages of book one.  And then, on the heels of the Batman decision and the SIKTC launch, DC approves THE NICE HOUSE ON THE LAKE as the project that Alvaro Martinez Bueno and I step onto after we finish our run on Justice League Dark.

I realize that my number one goal over the next few years, is to channel the excitement and spotlight of the Batman titles into my creator-owned work across three companies. My understanding is that I will only have Batman from Issues #86-100, so I need to do everything in my power to cage that energy and pay it forward. I start realizing that I want to create a brand that encompasses all of that work, and I commission Dylan Todd to work up the Tiny Onion Studios logo, and I realize that I need to start a newsletter.

Which is all to say that THE NICE HOUSE ON THE LAKE is really the last key work in this wave of my career. It’s the last book that I fully come up with before the launch of SIKTC #1. It’s changed since then, of course, a year living in quarantine definitely changed the course of this series in a LOT of ways, but since the book is about character and horror, the core essence of the book, and the direction its heading in hasn’t really changed at all. I know what my next solo-written creator owned books are going to be, and they are all informed by the lessons I learned while writing all of these books, but NHOTL, SIKTC, DOT, and Wynd come from the same raw pit of creativity I was feeling two years ago.

The Final Order Cut-Off is going to be this upcoming Sunday, May 9th. You all know how tough those early printings of SIKTC and DOT are to find. Make sure you order enough copies! If you’re a friend in the industry, hit me up and I’ll happily shoot over a PDF so you can take an early look.

But most of all… If you get a chance to read it early, please don’t spoil the ending for people! 

WYND

So, today sees the release of WYND #6, which kicks off book two of WYND, and also sees the comic shop release of the WYND softcover, which will release wide to bookstores next week.

Retailers reading this, I know that this book doesn’t have a lot of crossover with my older teen/adult horror comics, so if you’re curious who you should be selling WYND to, I was aiming to hit a kind of YA Adventure series with a tone not far off from Avatar: The Last Airbender or Jeff Smith’s Bone. You might get some curiosity sales by shelving it with my other books, but this is very much aiming for that 12-16 year old audience. The book was nominated for the GLAAD Award for Outstanding Comic Book, and is getting some really nice advance buzz from the library world. 

Wynd is set in a world where magic is dangerous, and can infect human beings and warp their bodies and linger in their blood. The Human Kingdom in our fantasy world has banned everyone with magic blood from its capital, Pipetown, for the protection of the rest of the human race. It stars a teenage boy with magic in his blood who goes to bed each night terrified he’s going to transform into a horrifying monster, unrecognizable to his friends and family. All he wants is to be normal, and to live out his life, and maybe get up the courage to ask out the palace gardener out on a date… But he’s not going to get that chance, because the King has called in his top agent, the dangerous BANDAGED MAN, to eradicate all “weird bloods” in the kingdom before he hands the throne over to his son, the prince. To find his way to safety and a better life, Wynd is going to have to throw his version of “normal” out the window and embrace the magical part of himself he’s been terrified of his entire life, to save himself and save his friends.

It’s exciting… As happy as Michael and I are with the loyal audience we’ve been building with the monthlies, this is the format WYND was written and designed for, and I am very very excited to see whether it can find its audience in the wider book market. Despite it having been out for a while, in a lot of ways, it’s like it’s coming out for the very first time this week. 

So yeah, If you have any teens who love fantasy in your lives or in your shops, or really anyone who loves coming-of-age fantasy adventure stories with queer characters, you should put a copy of WYND vol. 1 in their hands, and get them to put Wynd on their pull-lists.

Also: Not to put too fine a point on it, but I miiiiiiiiiiiiiight have some meetings in the next few weeks that, if they go well, could make it worthwhile to get on this series on the ground floor.

BUT ANYWAYS.

RAZORBLADES: THE HORROR MAGAZINE

Okay, so we hit a few delays in the shipping process here, but all domestic orders for #3 are out the door. International orders are en route to our distribution partners in the UK and Canada, (definitely more and more understanding of people who do not offer international shipping – WOOF!). I’m sorry this one took so long to make its way to you, I could give you a million excuses (that second vax shot knocked me out for a week and the fact that I’m still catching up on my deadlines is a big part of why I’ve also fallen behind on these newsletters). But the fact of the matter is that I wanted these books in your hands much sooner than you got them.

I have a new plan for Issues #4 and 5. Issue 4 is more or less locked, and it kicks ass, but what I am going to do when we put the final polish on it is to get it running to the printer, and wait to open sales online until we’re just about ready to ship the books to all of you. That means rather than releasing #4 by the end of April, we are going release it (both digital and physical) at the end of May, when the books are already printed and en route to our distributor. If you are a retailer who has ordered from us before, expect an email from TinyOnionStudios@gmail.com soon, and if you’re a retailer who wants to get orders in on issues #4, you should hit us up in the next week or so.

But to give everyone a little taste of what we’ve got cooking this issue… We have an incredible cover by the one and only Becky Cloonan. And isn’t it just freaking gorgeous??

Since we’re pushing back #4, Issue #5 will move from July to August. After Issue #5 we’re going to pause the book for a bit. This will not be the end of Razorblades: The Horror Magazine. We’re already having exciting conversations about what we’re going to do with it next, but there probably won’t be another issue until 2022. There are also some fun plans I’ve been cooking with Ricardo Lopez Ortiz for Killboy when we’re done having fun with Ghost-Maker in Gotham City.

Also… Holy shit, I cannot wait for you to see this contributor we lined up to appear in the book before the end of this year. I keep showing it to my pals because I can’t believe it is actually real. Sometimes it’s better to shoot for a longshot and see what happens!

Finally: We’re planning on Premium Subscribers getting their Collector boxes and pins over the summer – Stay tuned! I am putting in the pin order this week!

BATMAN

BATMAN 108 came out yesterday, which is our big introduction of MIRACLE MOLLY. It’s an unusual issue of a Batman comic, but my goal here is to make you love this new character as much as Jorge Jimenez and I do by the time you put the issue down. With MM we wanted to create a character with a strong moral code that Batman respects but doesn’t necessarily agree with… Her story is one of the key defining threads of what we’re doing in the main Batman title this year.

Sales on 108 were insane. We broke 200K on this one, and there are a bunch of amazing covers spotlighting Miracle Molly out in the wild. Here’s some great pictures of Jorge Jimenez basking in their glow.


This month, you’re going to find out what a lot of the line has been building to since A-Day in Infinite Frontier #0… THE COWARDLY LOT is just the beginning, and the story is going to evolve into something bigger, as our story’s climax coincides with a bunch of the other Bat-Books. I can’t say much more than that, but I am verrrrrrry excited about [REDACTED ON PAIN OF DEATH]. But we’ve lined up a bunch of really really exciting stuff around what we’re doing this fall. Let’s just say we couldn’t pass up throwing a Halloween party with our good pal, Scarecrow.

The other week we had another writers meeting about all of the cool stuff coming up in Gotham City, making sure all of the books continue to connect and play off of each other. I love these meetings… First off, I can’t say enough about the incredible talent working on each and every single one of these books. 

My single favorite thing about them? Well… for the last decade of working in Gotham City, there were so many times where people would ask about their favorite Bat-Family member and not be able to explain the weird internal politics that were acting as a barrier to seeing those characters get the spotlight they deserve… But right now? There’s a plan for ALL of them. Gotham City is a whole superhero universe in and of itself, and we’re all working together to build this exciting tapestry of superhero awesome that brings each of them forward and lets them shine. Your favorite characters are in good hands, and we’ve got some incredible stories cooking. I got an email earlier this week about something that won’t happen until next year, but when I heard it I stood up and cheered. 

There’s some Tim Drake stuff coming that I am particularly thrilled about, and cannot wait for you all to read. Teenage Tim Drake fanboy James was cheering on his feet reading the outline for this upcoming story.

Anyways. I am always the most anxious the first week of the month. I love everyone who loves what we’re doing on Batman, and I even hope the ones who don’t are enjoying other books in the line right now. It’s a really exciting fun moment to be a part of, and I think we’re making a bunch of great comic books for Bat-Fans of the past, present, and future.

JOKER

Hey! Joker came out! It’s secretly a Jim Gordon book about evil and wealth and society! It’s the book I am getting most deep dive DC continuity brain about (well aside from a couple one-shots coming out later this year). Guillem March is absolutely killing it on every single page. Two issues in, Folks seem to be digging it! Issue #3 is next week, and might have my favorite cover of the series yet…

The second issue released a few weeks ago, with a big status quo change in mainline continuity for the Gordon Family (but one, as pointed out, that’s been done a bunch before – I remember when I reached out to Tom Taylor to see if it’d mess with any of his Nightwing plans, and he sent me the panels of Gordon admitting he knew the secret from DCeased in support). It also introduced some of the new players… First off there’s the Sampson Family, and folks have picked up on one of the key strands of DNA influencing the character, but there’s another side to it… I’m interested to see if people pick it up. 

But the biggest new character we’ll be dropping in this series, made her first appearance in Issue #2. She hasn’t been named in the book yet, but promo around the book has called her VENGEANCE, DAUGHTER OF BANE. She is a fucking bad-ass, and a character I am very very excited for you to see more of… I’m playing the long game with a lot of the Santa Prisca mythology I’m playing with here, and for people who think that the original Bane is out of the picture entirely, I’d point them back to the caption in Joker #1 where Jim Gordon said he didn’t believe he was dead. 

The one thing folks don’t seem to have picked up yet is the connection between one of the characters in the book with a character from the first Bat-Book I ever worked on with Guillem…. So I’ll let that dangle a bit.

The Joker #5’s solicit revealed that I will be joined by Matt Rosenberg and Francesco Francavilla on the issue, which is set effectively right after the events of Batman: The Man Who Laughs in the Year One era. It tells the story of The Joker’s first night in Arkham Asylum. This will be the first of a batch of stories we’ll be dropping in between the main features with me and Guillem, that will show key Joker-related moments in Jim Gordon’s life and the history of Gotham City.

We also announced that following Mirka Andolfo’s incredible turn at the wheel of our Punchline back-up story, we’re going to be joined by the phenomenal Sweeney Boo for this next block of chapters here… I’m building something with Sam Johns here, and we are very excited for you to see the full picture. Just you wait and see!

THE DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH

Last week we launched our second full arc on The Department of Truth, with my partner in crime, Martin Simmonds back on art duties… This arc introduces a character named Hawk Harrison who is a terrible asshole, and is therefore very fun to write. While the first arc dealt with some of the more grounded side of conspiracy theory lore, this arc starts dealing head on with some of the absolute weirdest shit. Next issue is all about Magic, the next about Bigfoot and Cryptids… It’s all building towards a big reveal at the end of the arc that will change the course of the series.

I had a moment the other week where I was absolutely panicked writing an upcoming issue because it was just too long… like about ten pages too long, and to trim it down would mean cutting out too much of the beating heart of the thing. But then I remembered that it was an image book and I could make it two issues instead of one! So we’ve got more cryptids coming your way this issue!

The exciting thing with Department of Truth right now is we’re seeing sales go up, issue-by-issue. We were up almost 14K between Issues 8 & 9, so I just want to say how fucking grateful we are that folks are buying into this completely fucking insane series. Out of everything I’m doing, it feels like this would be one of the more polarizing books, but we’ve got a loyal fanbase who are excited to go down the rabbit hole with us.

Things continue to move forward on the development front for this series. Having lots of exciting conversations here.

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN

I got wind of what SIKTC #16’s sales numbers were looking like one week ago, and they knocked me on my ass. And then I got the real numbers yesterday and they double knocked me on my ass. I know this is floating out in the wild, but I can confirm that we did in fact break 155K on this issue and I honestly don’t even know what to do with that information. Yesterday after they told me, I just laid down for a bit. I think spiritually I am still laying down a bit.

I’ll be back in a month to bang the drum more about what this arc is, and what it is pointing toward. I also might be cooking up some sneaky SIKTC merch to wrap up in that announcement. Excited to expand our operations on TinyOnionStudios.com.

HOUSEKEEPING

I think that’s enough of me for all of youse this week. Call your LCS and order Nice House on the Lake #1. If you are a retailer, order more Nice House on the Lake #1. I am very, very, very excited for you all to read it.

Okay, More soon. I am really going to try to do more of these, but much shorter. Please comic gods, give me the strength.

James Tynion IV
Brooklyn, NY
5.5.21