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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.
We've talked many times in this column about the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic has had a major, ongoing effect on the comics industry, and we've talked before about how one of those ways is the continued rise of crowdfunding as a viable option not just for creators, but for some publishers looking for more flexibility after the financial and logistical hit of the pandemic. With that in mind, it stands to reason that 2020 will eventually go down as a pretty big year for comics on Kickstarter, but until recently we didn't know just how big. Well, try record-setting.
According to a report that Kickstarter published last month, now making the rounds again in recent days through comics news sites like Newsarama, comics campaigns on the platform have raised as an astonishing $22 million so far this year, up from a total of just shy of $17 million 2019. That's a pretty staggering number, and it's worth mentioning that data was compiled with two full months still to go in the year as creators continue to drop new projects for backers.
Now, we can of course pin some of those numbers on high-profile creators who brought big audiences onto Kickstarter's platform to raise money. This was, after all, the year that Keanu Reeves decided to dip his toes into comics writing and ended up raising well over $1 million for his BRZRKR project in the process. Reeves' success, along with the success of creators like Duncan Jones, Scott Snyder, Michelle Czajkowski and others certainly make up a sizable portion of all that revenue, but the big names don't tell the whole story.
This year also brought with it a success rate of 74 percent for Kickstarter comics project, a new record for the comics section of the site and a figure that's almost double the success rates in any other category. This news, coupled with the rise in graphic novel sales this year, prove that the comics market may be changing, but it's not dying. People want these books, and they're willing to go straight to the source to get them. That's good news for the medium, even if it does mean various portions of the industry will likely be doing some adjusting in the wake of these successes.
DC expands digital offerings yet again
Hey, speaking of comics and comics publishers evolving, DC Comics continues to push its digital-first line into new realms of cool. After expanding the line with more releases in the spring and subsequently adding titles like Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red, Injustice: Year Zero and the still quite new Represent! anthology series, the publisher announced late last week that it's got yet another digital-first anthology on the way.
Truth & Justice, a digital-first series that aims to embody the ideals of its title while also serving "as a platform for new, emerging storytellers to reveal their takes on popular DC characters," will launch in January with three weekly 99-cent digital issues that will then be collected into a 40-page print edition in February. The inaugural Truth & Justice story will, as you may have guessed from the cover art above, followed the DC hero Vixen in a story written by Geoffrey Thorne (Future State: Green Lantern) with art from Chris Cross and Jordi Tarragona. Future installments of the series will, in proper anthology fashion, feature other creative teams offering their own multi-part takes on other characters.
The first issue of the Vixen story arrives January 8, so you can kick off your new year with a new DC digital comic.
More news: The Avengers go Mech! Black Panther returns! Gordon's alive! And more!
- Just when you think no one can possibly think of another thing to do with the Avengers, someone comes along and throws them all into giant mech suits. No really, that's the premise of a new comics series Marvel just announced Tuesday titled Avengers: Mech Strike. The new adventure will see Earth's Mightiest Heroes forced to evolve their methods when facing a new foe, and by "evolve their methods" I mean put on a giant robot exoskeletons and go to town. The series hails from writer Jed MacKay (Black Cat) and artist Carlos Magno (Fantastic Four), promises non-stop mech action, and is apparently the leading edge of a new Mech Strike initiative for Marvel. There are a lot of things I like about this, but I think so far my favorite is that Hulk's Mech helmet has a big scowl on it. The series launches in February.
- Oh, and speaking of upcoming Marvel Comics, along with news of a new series comes news that an old favorite is finally on its way back. The publisher announced Monday that writer Ta-Nehisi Coates' celebrated run on Black Panther will finally resume with issue #23 this February after a long hiatus. Sadly, that issue will also mark the beginning of the final chapter in Coates' run on the title, but hey, that just means you now have three months to catch up before the finale.
- February will also bring some fun for fans of the Black Hammer universe over at Dark Horse Comics in the form of Black Hammer: Visions, a new eight-part series that will allow some of the biggest names in comics a moment to play in the sandbox originally created by Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston. Each of the eight Visions issues will be a one-shot devoted to a different story, and the talent lineup for these tales is insane. Patton Oswalt, Chip Zdarsky, Scott Snyder, Geoff Johns, Mariko Tamaki, Johnnie Christmas, Cullen Bunn, Cecil Castellucci, and many more have all signed up for the project, and it kicks off with a story from Oswalt, Dean Kotz, and Jason Wordie that will explore Golden Gail's life before the events of Black Hammer #1. Black Hammer: Visions #1 is out February 10.
- This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Flash Gordon feature film, and King Features Syndicate is celebrating not just with a re-release of the film itself, but with a new series of comic strips celebrating the character. Flash Forward, a new anthology of strips from some of the most talented cartoonists in the world, launched its inaugural installment last Sunday with a strip by Jim Keefe, and the project will eventually grow to encompass the work of 40 different creators, including Erica Henderson, Pia Guerra, Sina Grace, Khary Randolph, and many more. Check out King's announcement of the strip anthology for more info, and look out for new installments in the weeks to come.
- If you're into horror comics, mark your calendars for February, because that's when the Vault Comics Nightfall imprint expands with Hollow Heart, a new "queer horror story" from Tet creators Paul Allor and Paul Tucker. The comic itself -- which follows a formerly human collection of organs in a bio-suit forming a relationship with a sympathetic mechanic -- is worth looking forward to in its own right, but perhaps the even bigger news on this front is that Hollow Heart marks Vault's expansion of Nightfall. The imprint had previously been activated each fall to publish horror comics around the Halloween season (like this year's excellent The Autumnal and 2019 launch The Plot), but Vault announced last week that it'll now be a year-round source of spooky books, which is great news for horror fans.
New comics: Marvel's Indigenous Voices, Aquaman's wedding, A Dark Interlude, and more!
That's the news. Now let's take a look at some of the comics I got excited about this week.
Marvel Voices - Indigenous Voices #1: Good anthology one-shots leave me with the simultaneous sensation of feeling satisfied by what I just read and also wanting to read more of it, which is a trickier thing to pull off than it sounds. Every short story within the book needs to feel like it could open a wormhole into another world of characters and adventures that I perhaps haven't discovered yet while also somehow satisfying me enough that I don't consider it the weak link in the collection, and when it's a superhero anthology things get even more complicated than that. Crafting a good short comic is hard anyway, but crafting a good short comic within a pre-existing superhero universe is often even harder.
With all of these things in mind, it's a true pleasure when you find a superhero anthology that just works from start to finish, and that's the case with Marvel's Indigenous Voices, a comic that unites Indigenous creators to tell stories of various Marvel Indigenous characters. Spanning space and time throughout the Marvel Universe, these stories offer compelling peeks into the lives of some of Marvel's most beloved Indigenous heroes, and they all somehow feel both complete and connected to something larger that the book invites you to dive into.
After a truly gorgeous opening from writer/artist Jeffrey Veregge, the issue dives into a trio of tails that each takes the Marvel Indigenous experience in its own direction. In a story starring Echo, writer Rebecca Roanhorse and artist Weshoyot Alvitre journey from Hell's Kitchen to a faraway planet. That's followed by a Mirage story written by Darcie Little Badger and drawn by Kyle Charles that digs into the multi-faceted life of a teen from a reservation who also happens to be a mutant. Then there's what's arguably the most emotionally devastating story of the bunch, a Silver Fox tale from writer Stephen Graham Jones and artist David Cutler that simultaneusly goes its own way and weaves into X-Men history.
In some ways these stories couldn't be more different, which is a great way to express the broad appeal and adaptability of the various characters in Indigenous Voices, but what makes the issue a standout is what unites them. There's an intimacy running through these stories, a sense of real connection to each major character, that both makes you want to instantly run off and read more stories starring each of them and makes you want to linger on the gorgeous artwork long after you've finished reading. That sense of coonnection makes it a gem of an anthology.
Aquaman #65: The best finales to major runs of superhero comics are the ones that manage to create a sense of something ending while also acknowledging that the characters starring in these stories will in many ways never really reach an end. That's a tough needle to thread, especially in an age when these characters are often not just comic book icons, but multibillion-dollar feature film icons, merchandising icons, Halloween costume icons, and a dozen other things besides. It's hard to make a conclusion feel the appropriate level of momentous when we know the characters aren't going anywhere or, in some cases, even changing from issue to issue, which makes the good finales stand out all the more. Aquaman #65, the final issue of writer Kelly Sue DeConnick's run on the title, is one of the good ones.
This particular superhero finale is, as DeConnick has been promising for a while, the Aquaman wedding issue, the one in which he and Mera finally tie the knot after two years of basically finding their way back to each other through various struggles both internal and external to their relationship. With that in mind, DeConnick and artist Miguel Mendonça might be forgiven for devoting the whole of the story to that union, or at least capping off the rest of the action in the first six pages and then diving into the nuptials. But this is not that Aquaman.
This has never been that Aquaman, and DeConnick and Mendonça instead leap into an ambitious, emotional, absolutely thrilling final battle that somehow manages to be about the entirety of the run while also looking to the future at the same time. Mendonça's art captures the scope of it all with a kind of mythic power that's offseat beautifully by his ability to capture the joy that comes in the more intimate moments, when the fighting is quieter and the emotional pulse of the story is louder. It's a bravura performance from the artist. It's also one of the best scripts of DeConnick's career, one that showcases her ability to squeeze maximum emotional effectiveness out of even the most bombastic superhero thrills while never denying us either sensation. Cheers to the entire Aquaman team for a great run.
A Dark Interlude #1: How do you follow a comic like Fearscape, one of the most relentlessly imaginative, fearlessly metafictional and fiercely original comics of the last decade? How do you take the singular concept of that book -- a journey through the depths of human imagination, but one led by a self-aggrandizing plagiarist who lied his way into this fantasy realm -- and somehow morph it into a second chapter? If you're writer Ryan O'Sullivan and artist Andrea Mutti, you do a A Dark Interlude, and you make it look startingly, brilliantly easy.
If you haven't read Fearscape, it's rather difficult to catch you up at this point, so...read Fearscape. Beyond that, I'll tell you that A Dark Interlude continues the story of aspiring writer and noted plagiarist and murderer Henry Henry as he returns to narrate the next chapter of his life, one that includes a new book, a new attempt to refine his legacy, and new interventions into the real world by the residents of the Fearscape as they attempt to set right what they first book knocked askew. It's another massive dose of narrative ambition, and O'Sullivan and Mutti prove from the very first page that they haven't lost a step since the last time they set foot in this strange world within a world.
There are certain stories that radiate confidence, that convince you that no matter how strange and complex and knotted in narrative tangles they get, the journey is still worth taking because the creators behind those stories absolutely know what they're doing. A Dark Interlude is, like Fearscape before it, exactly that kind of story. From Mutti's breathtaking art to O'Sullivan's witty, gleefully irreverent script, it's a book that just radiates the sense that this team knows exactly how to navigate this world, and if you hold tight to the strength of their convictions you'll be rewarded. It's another triumph along Henry Henry's weird, often frightening journey to authorial greatness.
Sea of Sorrows #1: It's a very good time to be a fan of horror comics, and the hits just keep coming. It feels like at least once a month there's a new spooky book to love, and in the weeks surrounding Halloween we've gotten several. This week, you can add another to that proud stack of good horror comics from 2020 with Sea of Sorrows from writer Rich Douek and artist Alex Cormack. Evocative, beautifully crafted, and laced with dread, this dark tale of the ink-black seas is loaded with creepy potential thanks to a fantastic first issue.
Set in the aftermath of World War I, the setup for the series is very simple: A former naval officer knows where a U-boat sank, loaded with German gold just waiting to be plundered. He hires a ship to take him to the site, and as the crew zeroes in on their catch they all start preparing to find a way to get a larger share of the gold for themselves by any means necessary. But of course, there's more than just a U-boat lurking in the depths of the North Atlantic.
Cormack's art absolutely made this book for me. It's not the most direct comparison, but the thing it evoked in my mind as I was reading was the first season of AMC's The Terror in the way that the textures and shading created the sense of being surrounded on all sides by the sheer force of what the characters are up to against. The people of Sea of Sorrows are, as the title suggests, surrounded by the ocean, but they're also surrounded by various forms of their own despair, and Cormack's shadowy, gorgeously creepy art conveys that perfectly. Throw in a pitch-perfect script from Douek, who manages to get inside the heads of this crew of lost souls with deft power, and you've got a new must-read horror book.
We Live #2: I don't know that I've read a more imaginative comic this year than We Live, the recently launched new AfterShock Comics series by the Miranda Brothers, Roy and Inaki. In a time when there are quite a few post-apocalyptic comics around -- and quite a few very good post-apocalyptic comics at that -- it stands out as a book packed with both gorgeous art and a sense of endless invention that seeps through every page. The second issue, arriving this week, is no different than the first in that regard.
Despite the elaborate threats present in this world, the actual narrative driven of We Live thus far is rather simple. A select group of children have a chance to get off a ruined Earth to start a new life, they have to get to a departure station at the appointed time to do that, and our main characters -- the brother-sister duo of Tala and Hototo -- seem to hit obstacle after obstacle on their way to do that. Issue #2 continues that story, as Tala and Hototo try to team up with their new friends Humbo and Alice to survive in the wilds of the world even as things just keep getting more complicated and dangerous.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about We Live so far is the way in which the Mirandas manage to layer past and present together with a beautiful sense of both narrative and emotional balance. It's important that we care about these characters, but it's also important that we understand their very particular fears and concerns even amid the larger concern of the future of humanity, and that's a tricky thing to convey in a relatively short comic. The scripting in issue #2 is particularly deft when it comes to balancing that need for emotional heft with the ongoing adventure story, and it proves the series launch was more than just a promising start. The storytelling at work here, combined with Inaki Miranda's gorgeous art and Eva de la Cruz's mind-blowing colors, reaffirms that this is a special comic, one you should absolutely be making a point to read as soon as it hits the stands every month.
And that's it for Comics Wire 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."