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Stan Lee’s death was a major blow for the world of comics and the entertainment industry at large — including those working with the Marvel legend on what would be one of his last comic projects. That project is the webtoon Backchannel — basically a mobile-oriented, scrollable webcomic more popular in Korea than the U.S., and which is relaunching after a long hiatus since its co-creator’s passing.
Co-written by Lee and Tom Akel, with art by Andie Tong, Backchannel is about tech savant Tom Tanner, who gets zapped during a mysterious electromagnetic event that turns his brain into a powerful computer able to combine telekinesis with everything a hacker can do to cell phones, email, and power grids. And of course he uses these powers for good. It’s Stan Lee, after all. Eight chapters of the project, which see Tanner wooed by hactivist group BACKCHANNEL to cause some mayhem in the prison-industrial complex, were released before Lee’s death on Nov. 12 of last year, which thrust the future of Backchannel into flux.
Now the webtoon is coming back, resuming its weekly publication schedule with a new chapter posting today. Speaking to SYFY WIRE, POW! president/producer Gill Champion explains that now is the right time for Backchannel to return. "We wanted to give some time between the passing of Stan," Champion says. "We instinctively felt from the reaction we were getting that now was the time."
Backchannel left off its publication with a short eulogy that also served as a message to fans, promising more of "the lessons and messages that define and capture the essence of [Lee's] legacy — inclusiveness, overcoming oppression, change for the betterment of mankind" in future chapters. Akel tells SYFY WIRE that many of these promises would "reveal themselves over the course of the story," as BACKCHANNEL's true aims are explored. "That's the piece of it that didn't get to be released last year, and that will be revealed over the next 26 chapters."
The writer also teases that "over the next several weeks, there are a couple of big reveals" that the comic's large community of commenters haven't quite guessed. "I think everyone's going to be surprised," Akel says.
Akel will be handling the rest of the publication solo now, though he and Lee had locked in scripts for the next few chapters — and had already worked out the project's entire story arc and major beats together. "Stan spent a considerable amount of time mapping this out with us," Champion says. Speaking of the famous creator's knack for literally having his hands in his creations, the below artwork, exclusive to SYFY WIRE, teases a bit of a cameo:
Champion also notes that Lee's cameo in today's chapter was pushed up because the timing just felt right. "We're never sure if there's a last cameo," Champion says with a laugh.
Backchannel’s latest chapter is live and free over at Line Webtoon now.