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Last summer, comics writer Scott Snyder announced an ambitious new project that primed him to take his career in a bold new direction. After years of acclaimed, grand-scale work at DC Comics that culminated in Dark Nights: Death Metal, Snyder's Best Jackett Press revealed a new deal with ComiXology that would push him into creator-owned comics like never before. Under the agreement, Snyder and a list of collaborators that included artists like Greg Capullo, Francesco Francavilla, Tula Lotay, and more would publish a slate of eight new series for the digital comics behemoth across a wide variety of subgenres, all of them creator-owned and poised to later get print releases from Dark Horse Comics.
This month, in what ComiXology dubbed "Scottober," the first wave of three books finally arrived, cementing Snyder as one of the platform's most important creative voices through action-horror series We Have Demons (drawn by Capullo), high-concept sci-fi mystery Clear (drawn by Francis Manapul), and period horror Night of the Ghoul (drawn by Francavilla). For the writer himself, who's been working on many of the books behind the scenes for years, it marks the beginning of a new chapter, and the end of a long period of waiting and hoping.
"It's been such a long time that we've all been kind of working on this stuff in secret," Snyder told SYFY WIRE last week as the third Scottober title, Night of the Ghoul, arrived on ComiXology. "A lot of the books, or many of the books, have been a few years in development from concept to execution. Having them finally out in the world, especially through a program we really believe in, is just a gigantic sigh of relief, honestly.
"And we're just really proud of them," he continued. "I'm so deeply proud of the work that my co-creators have done on the books and the whole two teams have done on the books. There's just so many things about each book and then collectively, the line itself, that I'm proud of. I'm overwhelmed honestly, with joy and gratitude to fans and to everybody involved in making these things."
Though Snyder had long-teased that his work after Dark Nights: Death Metal (itself a conclusion of a lengthy Justice League run and years of work on titles like Batman and The Batman Who Laughs) would focus more on creator-owned work, his shift to ComiXology as a distributor for the expansive line of Best Jackett titles was especially notable at a time when more and more creators are shifting to a digital-first model for their work. For Snyder, the ComiXology agreement meant not only that he'd be able to get the labors of love that fall under the Best Jackett umbrella out there under his preferred creator-owned model, but also that readers would have an easier avenue to discover them. In his conversation with SYFY WIRE, he touted the platform's ComiXology Unlimited subscription model as a key point of appeal, because it allows readers instant access to every ComiXology Originals title, as well as hundreds of other classic comics, for one low monthly fee. For him, that means readers can dip in and sample his work and the work of many other creators, then turn around and pick up physical copies as much as they like.
"I really believe in my heart and on my kids that having kind of a methodology for comics where people feel they can browse and fall in love with things and then go to the store and buy them seems to be the best route, in my opinion," he said. "[It's] also something that you see mirrored in all kinds of industries across the cultural landscape, from TV to film, to music."
That element of digital browsing certainly lends itself to Best Jackett's initial lineup of comics, which will expand in two more waves beginning in 2022. The titles represent Snyder's own wide range of thematic and genre interest, and include everything from World War I era adventures (Barnstormers with Tula Lotay), to young adult stories (Dudley Datson and the Forever Machine with Jamal Igle and Juan Castro), to Westerns (Canary with Dan Panosian). This is October, though, so of course the first wave led with horror, something longtime Snyder readers know is one of his great strengths and interests.
Though they all feature dark elements, the stories of We Have Demons, Clear, and Night of the Ghoul offer vastly different takes on each. In We Have Demons, a young woman learns that she is part of an ancient battle between good and evil, and evil seems to be gaining the upper hand. In Clear, a detective must solve a mystery in a world in which nearly everyone has adopted technological "veils" to basically make the world look however they like, no matter what the reality is. And in Night of the Ghoul, a passionate film fan discovers that a long lost horror classic actually documented the shocking reality behind the greatest and most devastating monster humankind has ever known.
For Snyder, whose past horror work includes everything from American Vampire to Wytches, each represents some version of his own evolving horror sensibility.
"As my kids get older, I worry a lot less about my own failings, I think, and my own sort of anxieties about myself or being a parent than I do about the world at large for them and about human nature and the things that have, I think been revealed about our willingness to embrace our basest and worst instincts over any kind of collective ideal or principle," he said. "So those have really informed this wave of horror books."
News of Snyder's expansive deal with ComiXology arrived at what has turned out to be a pivotal time for comics, just weeks before several other key creators -- including James Tynion IV, Saladin Ahmed, Donny Cates, and more -- announced moves to Substack for new, subscription-driven, creator-owned projects. At a moment when more and more creators are turning to digital distribution to maintain control of their work and its release, some fans and pundits remain concerned about the fate of the comics market as we know it. For Snyder, who noted he visits his own local comics shop weekly (and often records content there for his own Substack), it's definitely a shift, but one that he hopes will pay off for everyone.
"The takeaway from me is that it's an uncertain moment," he said. "I think all of us are nervous and unsure of what it's going to bring, but I think not embracing it and diving in and trying to take advantage of the opportunities there right now would be a mistake.
"And ultimately I think a lot of us believe -- well, I do -- that these changes are going to be good for the industry because they're empowering creators, they're allowing us to create a better, more comprehensive and direct relationship with fans and retailers and hopefully make better books that way and have different ways of giving them to both retailers and to fans that fit their format better, and we're in control of that. So I really like it. I'm excited. I really am."
The first issues of We Have Demons, Clear, and Night of the Ghoul are now available on ComiXology, and come free to read with a ComiXology Unlimited subscription. For a preview of those stories, and the other Best Jackett Press titles arriving next year, you can pick up a sampler of the entire line on ComiXology for just one dollar right now.