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SYFY WIRE Comics Wire

Comics Wire: Comics pros and publishers step up to show support for Black Lives Matter

By Matthew Jackson
Far Sector #6 cover CROP

Welcome to Comics Wire, SYFY WIRE's weekly comics column that gets at the pulse of what's going on in comics right now. We've got what you need to know about huge crossovers, real-life issues facing the industry, cool first looks, the week's hot new comics, and everything in between.

Hey everyone, welcome to the latest installment of the Column Formerly Known as "The Pull List." Yes, we're Comics Wire now, but you're still in the right place for the latest in comic book news and reviews.

As protests against police brutality have gripped the nation over the past few days, much of the entertainment world has put things on pause, allowing more vital voices to be heard as a nation reels in pain.

The comics community has been no different in that regard, which means publishers haven't exactly been rolling out a lot of new announcements lately, but that doesn't mean the comics world has stayed silent. On the contrary, as the Black Lives Matter movement shines a critical spotlight on racism and injustice, comics creators and publishers have stepped up to do their part to show support and even raise funds.

On the publishing side of things, many of the industry's top companies — including Marvel, DC (through parent company Warner Bros.), Vault, AfterShock, and more — have expressed statements of support and solidarity, and many participated in Tuesday's "Blackout" in an effort to take a step back from business as usual, and some publishers went even further.

IDW Publishing used its Twitter feed to promote various funds and organizations seeking donations, while Archie Comics co-president Alex Segura reached out with a direct appeal to Black creators to consider them for future work at the publisher. Over at Black Mask Studios, after the creators of their title Black began donating profits from merchandise sales stemming from the book, the publisher took things a step further and pledged to donate 100 percent of the proceeds from its webstore from participating titles to bail funds for protestors.

Comics creators also spent a lot of time and energy in the last few days signal boosting and fundraising for the movement. Submerged and The Wilds writer Vita Ayala spent all day Tuesday turning their Twitter feed into a massive signal-boosting platform for black creators working in various fields, while Harrow County artist Tyler Crook shared a list of black-owned comic book stores that could use some support.

And then there was Birds of Prey and Clean Room writer Gail Simone, who decided to use her own massive social media following to launch an effort similar in method to the #Creators4Comics auctions launched a few weeks ago to benefit comic book stores struggling amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In a lengthy Twitter thread Monday, Simone explained that she was prepared to auction off a piece of original Wonder Woman art given to her by George Perez (arguably the definitive Wonder woman artist) with all proceeds going to Black Lives Matter.

She then called upon fellow comics creators to follow her lead, take a piece from their collection that they considered precious, and auction it off as a Black Lives Matter fundraiser under the hashtag #ComicWritersChallenge.

Simone's challenge was issued Monday and it's in the process of drawing in new creators to participate, but the list already includes Marc Guggenheim, Tony Lee, Damian Duffy, Walter Geovani, and more, with other creators already pledging to prepare new auction items. Head over to the hashtag and check it out if you're so inclined.

And of course, this is by no means a comprehensive list of ways people in the comics community are showing support. Fans, creators, and publishers are spreading the word about black artists seeking work, comic book shops seeking repairs in the wake of violence, free comics by black creators seeking donations for worthy funds, more independent auction fundraisers, and much more. If you're supporting the Black Lives Matter movement right now, and you love comics, it's not hard to find ways to bring the two together.

More post-pandemic comic book shifts

Jane Foster Valkyrie #10

Last week was a big one for the comics world, because it marked the first time in weeks that most major publishers were releasing new single-issue product after Diamond announced its return from the COVID-19-driven pause in shipments. While it was certainly fun to have something approximating New Comic Book Day back again, the pandemic and its many side effects are still present, and that's been clear in watching the Big Two publishers continue to shuffle various titles around in the wake of the Diamond shutdown.

Part of Marvel's strategy in dealing with the pandemic included putting some projects on pause for a while to delay their eventual shipment, while also devising a new distribution strategy that would see the publisher alternating between physical single issues and digital ones. Last week, Marvel announced the next wave of those digital releases for June, which begin this week with titles like Scream: Curse of Carnage and Revenge of the Cosmic Ghost Rider and continue in two weeks with Valkyrie: Jane Foster #10, Ghost-Spider #10 and more. Marvel has promised that all of these titles will eventually see print as part of a collection, but for now digital is the only way to get them as single issues.

Meanwhile, over at DC, they're also shifting some titles around in favor of more digital releases. As you may recall, even after they developed an alternate distribution strategy for physical comics amid the Diamond shutdown, DC also began upping the ante with new digital stories, and they're still dropping at least one new digital story per day at this point. Last week the publisher announced that the digital series World's Finest: Batwoman & Supergirl and Harley Quinn: Make 'em Laugh will be joining the lineup this week alongside ongoing titles like DCeased: Hope at World's End and Batman: The Adventures Continue. Plus, DC has canceled the print editions of the final issues of Rooster Teeth-based series gen:LOCK and RWBY, opting instead for digital-first publications.

So, what does this mean in the long run? Maybe nothing, but major publishers who were still preparing for a full publishing schedule before the pandemic hit everyone hard still have a lot of stories coming down the pipeline that may require a certain flexibility if they're going to keep reaching readers. It'll be interesting to see how this all shakes out in terms of sales, including the eventual print collections of some of these books, to see if this hybrid method of digital-first and print runs can stick around.

New Comics: Buffy, Far Sector, and more!

From superheroes to Slayers to a very compelling crime story, here are the books I'm excited about this week.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Every Generation #1

Far Sector #6:The best Green Lantern stories, and indeed the best cosmic superhero books at large, are the ones that manage to both break new ground in terms of outer space worldbuilding and root the story in a very particular, very Earth-relatable worldview. In that respect, Far Sector is easily one of the most successful Green Lantern books I've ever read, and it's not even done yet.

Writer N.K. Jemisin and artist Jamal Campbell seem to be pouring their very souls into this story of a lone Green Lantern out on the edge of the universe, trying to solve a strange murder in a strange city, and with each passing issue their passion for this story just keeps propelling it forward. Sojourner "Jo" Mullein is a funny, insightful and vulnerable narrator, a great Green Lantern, and a compelling centerpiece for this story of emotion, cold manipulation, and the true meaning of "peace." It may take place on the edge of the DC Universe, but it's the most relevant superhero story you're going to find on the stands right now. Jemisin's dialogue is truly something special, and Campbell's vision of a world far removed from our own that nonetheless resembles it in often surprising and moving ways is somehow still dazzling on a panel-by-panel level, half a dozen issues in.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: In Every Generation #1: It's been a while since BOOM! Studios took over the Buffy the Vampire Slayer comics world and completely rebooted it, but it's still fascinating to watch the various creators playing in that sandbox as they find new ways to remix the familiar with the new. If you want a pure, hefty distillation of how well that's working out when it's really firing, In Every Generation #1 is worth a look.

The issue tells us several vital, thrilling stories of Slayers past and present, each with a different art and storytelling style brought to you by a diverse roster of creators including Nilah Magruder, Caitlin Yarsky, Morgan Beem, Lauren Knight, and more. The backup stories take us around the world, into the past, and show us new takes on the TV series' previous mythos, but it's the lead-off story that Buffy fans will be picking apart for weeks to come. It stars Buffy herself on a go-for-broke mission of vengeance and redemption that brings her into contact with something ... well, just read it. BOOM!'s been hyping the book as the story that will introduce a game-changing new Buffy character, and while exactly how that all plays out remains to be seen, as a Buffy fan from way back, I was intrigued to say the least.

November Vol. II: The Gun in the Puddle: I love it when creators I've admired for a long time stretch themselves. Yes, there are creators who will play the superhero game for decades and always find new ways to remix those stories, and I admire them for that, but I'm also a sucker for someone who made their name with superheroes and sci-fi who wants to really dig deep and come up with something new. That means I was always going to be excited about November, the trilogy of graphic novellas from writer Matt Fraction and artist Elsa Charretier, and I wasn't disappointed.

November tells the intersecting stories of three women on one crazy night in the city they all share. Each of them feels somehow alone, adrift, or otherwise disconnected from their lives, and each of them is driven to dig deep and discover something about themselves as sudden violence erupts in their world. Fraction lays out the story in often nonlinear fragments, sometimes asking his readers to take small of emotional intuition with him as he builds out the world, which means that things happen in Volume 1 that don't really click until near the end of Volume 2, and even the second volume doesn't answer all of the questions posted by the first. That kind of storytelling — often laid out in narration that's some of the most beautiful sentence-by-sentence work of Fraction's career — requires asking your reader for a certain degree of trust, and it's there that Charretier's beautiful art and Matt Hollingsworth's masterful colors take over. November plays out largely across an adaptable 12-panel grid, which means that Charretier and Fraction can take you from three wide panels stacked on top of each on one page to 12 tightly interwoven vertical images on the next. It could turn out clumsy, or it could swing the other and lean so hard on a sense of formalism that it becomes staid. Not here. Charretier nails it page-by-page, and the result is a classic crime comic in the making.

Batman/Superman #9: Over the past few years, thanks to a fan-favorite Flash run, Joshua Williamson has established himself — like fellow Flash great Mark Waid before him — as one of those guys who can just dive headlong into the sandbox of the DC Universe and come out having built some truly impressive sandcastles. That made him a natural choice to do a Batman/Superman book, but I truly didn't realize how much fun the title would be until I caught up on it over the past few days.

This issue, after handling The Batman Who Laughs and a sudden conflict between Zod and Ra's al Ghul, Batman and Superman find themselves facing the Atomic Skull, who might be a threat on his own but is actually a pawn in a much bigger crisis. This particular Batman/Superman series is fun enough just an exploration of all the fun the Caped Crusader and the Man of Tomorrow can have when a creative team basically gets to pool their villains and allies, but Williamson managed from very early on to also make it about more than that. Batman and Superman are in many ways set up as the light and the dark of DC Comics heroism, but they share more than they know, and often what they share is a sense of regret over their own hubris. This book somehow manages to explore that in depth without ever letting up on the superhero action. Issue #9 also brings artist Clayton Henry onto the title, and he knocks it out of the park with a kind of widescreen style that feels like it took all the best lessons from comics like The Authority. He knows how to draw this book with scope, and he also makes Atomic Skull look really dang cool.

And that's it for Comics this week. Until next time, remember what John Custer told his son Jesse in the pages of Preacher:

"You gotta be one of the good guys, son: 'Cause there's way too many of the bad."