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Star comic book writers detail their big new 2020 comics
It's going to be a busy year for comic books. With only a week into the year, we've already seen some major books drop. So, to help you navigate the new year, SYFY WIRE picked out some of the best stories to keep an eye out for in 2020.
With solicitations only going three months in advance, we picked 10 stories coming out within that time frame. They include killer robots, kind assassins, and superheroes who just need some love. In addition, SYFY WIRE spoke to several creators, including Donny Cates, Vita Ayala, Karla Pacheco, Chuck Brown, Alex Milne, Laura Marks, and Matthew Rosenberg, about their new comics books.
01. Thor (Marvel)
Writer: Donny Cates, Artist: Nic Klein, Colors: Matthew Wilson
With his runs on Venom, Guardians of the Galaxy and Thanos, Donny Cates has proven during his time at Marvel that he doesn't do anything small and Thor #1 is no different. Following Jason Aaron's seven-year arc with the Asgardian, Cates said he's excited to start a new chapter with Thor. After the War of the Realms and an almost eternal struggle with Gorr, Thor has ascended as King of Asgard. But dark things lie ahead.
In an interview this week with SYFY WIRE, Thor scribe Donny Cates revealed that when he initially signed to Marvel in 2017, it was to eventually take over Thor after Aaron.
"Axel Alonso thought I'd be good for Thor and when he signed me to an exclusive contract it was so I would be here when Jason left Thor," Cates explained. "So I've known since then and it's been really great since Jason and I are friends and we've been in the planning room together. So, I've had the luxury of working on this story for three years before putting it out."
In the meantime, Cates has been dropping threads in books like Silver Surfer Black and Guardians of the Galaxy that could now play a major role in his Thor run. When it came time to brainstorm ideas for the book, Cates said the task seemed daunting, especially after hearing the scale of Aaron's plans. And, while his initial idea was to go small — to contrast with Aaron's epic run — Marvel editor-in-chief C.B. Cebulski pushed him to go the other way.
"Originally, the first arc was the second. I thought that would be a good way to differentiate myself after Jason's run, but then C.B. very wisely said 'No man, blow the doors off, show up and drop a bomb on it.' So I said, 'Okay, if those are my marching orders,'" Cates recalled.
"So, I was going to kind of work up to the Herald of Galactus stuff. The other reason [why] that arc was good to start with was that Jason's Thor has a very distinct look," he continued. "So I started thinking — and this is no disrespect to anyone — as long as I'm writing Thor and he has that one arm and eye patch and beard, I would always be writing Jason's Thor. So what this story brought me was a way to come in and give him a new costume, new purpose new look, and a new quest."
In the description to artist Nic Klein, Cates said he wanted a Thor made of "pure energy, crackling with light."
"I also wanted Mjolnir to look like someone had poured a lightning bolt into a mold," Cates said. "I included a note about the Thurisaz rune and Nic included that in his incredible design. It's the closest Thor has ever had to having something like the Superman symbol across his chest."
02. Wonder Woman #750 (DC)
Writers: Vita Ayala, Marguerite Bennett, Kami Garcia, Dean Hale, Jeff Loveness, Steve Orlando, Greg Rucka, Gail Simone, Mariko Tamaki; Artists: Elena Casagrande, Colleen Doran, Jesus Merino, Gabriel Picolo.
It's been almost 80 years since Wonder Woman first made her debut in All Star Comics courtesy of William Moulton Marston and H. G. Peter. While she's gone through many changes through the decades, she's still at the top of her game and more popular than ever.
2020 is a huge year for Diana Prince, because before she's got that little sequel (Wonder Woman 1984) debuting in June, she kicks off the year with this month's huge, celebratory issue of Wonder Woman #750.
This historic, 96-page collection was written by several longtime favorites and a handpicked set of new voices, with stories penned by Gail Simone, Greg Rucka, and current Wonder Woman scribe Steve Orlando. In the main Wonder Woman story, Orlando is closing out the "Year of the Villain" arc as Diana and Cheetah battle in Boston.
Just like the anniversary editions of Batman books last year, though, this Wonder Woman issue will feature several back up stories and more than a dozen different variant covers and pullouts.
One of the writers on #750, Vita Ayala told SYFY WIRE this week that Wonder Woman means compassion, empathy, and love. Their story, they said, is about "how Wonder Woman will always stand by her belief that everyone is worthy of being saved and rehabilitated, no matter what they have done."
"She, more than any other character, is the embodiment of the things she stands for. She is a protector of everyone, and believes in redemption and kindness — not always niceness, but true kindness," they said. "She believes in consequences and paying for your wrongs, but at the end of the day, she also believed in forgiveness and in love."
Wonder Woman #750 also heralds the return of Star Blossom, a young DC hero who happened to make her debut in another Wonder Woman special, the 75th Anniversary Special #1. In the small story, written by Gail Simone and illustrated by Colleen Doran, Star Blossom, maybe Wonder Woman's biggest fan gets to team up with her hero.
03. Hawkeye: Freefall (Marvel)
Writer: Matthew Rosenberg, Art: Otto Schmidt
Calling back to Clint Barton's past as Ronin while presenting an uncertain future for Hawkeye, Hawkeye: Freefall is a fun, action-packed mystery focused on America's favorite part-time Avenger. While Hawkeye has always had his fans, Matt Fraction and David Aja's seminal run in 2015 was a game-changer for a lot of people, including writer Matthew Rosenberg.
This week Rosenberg told SYFY WIRE he wanted to tap into that same fun sensibility while changing things up for Hawkeye. Additionally, he said plans for Freefall began after he completed work on a different Hawkeye story in 2017's Tales of Suspense. After that small run, Rosenberg said, he was offered a shot at a solo Hawkeye story, immediately pitched for it, and was luckily accepted.
Busy with duties on Uncanny X-Men and The Punisher at the time, Rosenberg said he asked Marvel to delay the book so he could give it the attention it deserved.
"Hawkeye is one of my favorite Marvel characters and I feel like it's a prestige title, where good writers can go to put their stamp on a book," he said. "He's a funny character because he doesn't have superpowers. He just happens to be good at archery and that makes him different than most of the other Avengers and most of the Marvel superheroes. And since he started out as a villain, he’s sort of on the Avengers to partially atone for his past. I think it means more to him than other people. But he's always feeling like he has something to prove."
In addition to sparring with The Hood and his goons in the first issue of Hawkeye: Freefall, Hawkeye must face off against the mysterious Ronin. According to Rosenberg, it's a sign of things to come as Clint must face down his history and the consequences of past decisions.
"There's a big mystery because we’re unveiling a new Ronin, who is sort of this specter of Hawkeye's past and it will have major ramifications that will affect the character moving forward," Rosenberg said. "We have some serious stuff planned and Clint's past is very much tied to these events in a way that will shock some people."
04. On the Stump (Image)
Writer: Chuck Brown, Artist: Prenzy
Set in an alternate universe in which candidates have to literally fight for the right to lead America, On The Stump is a timely, fascinating look into what would happen if violence were officially incorporated into politics. Written by Chuck Brown (Bitter Root), the hyper-violent and hyper-stylized series will make its debut in February.
In this alternate America, elections are now decided by "highly publicized hand-to-hand combat in arenas called Stumps," a tradition developed after a fight breaking out during a pivotal presidential debate in 1868. Set in modern times, with violence now the norm, On The Stump follows the story of Senator Jack Hammer and FBI Agent Anna Bell Lister as they team up against the villainous Thunder Bearer.
In an interview with SYFY WIRE, Brown called On The Stump "the rawest story" he's ever written and revealed he was hesitant about developing the idea at first.
"I've always been fascinated and frustrated by American politics. Two sides bickering over policy, ideology, and theatrocracy. All the while, we the people stand by as spectators. Similarities between pro wrestling and politics just popped in my head, so I started building a world based on that idea," Brown said. "Although we touch on issues that exist in the real world there's a lot of fun and action in the book."
Initially, Brown said he was unsure of moving forward with the idea of On The Stump because he thought he wasn’t knowledgeable enough in political science to write it.
"I'm nowhere near an expert on the subject," he said. "Then I thought about how government affects the lives of everyday citizens like myself. I had something to say I wrote what I knew and researched what I didn’t. Over time the story morphed and elements like conspiracies and MMA mutants worked their way into the story."
It was only after Brown had the first arc in the can that he went looking for an artist. When an old friend, Italian artist Prenzy, randomly reached out to Brown, he knew he'd found his collaborator.
"Prenzy artwork has so much energy and he's perfect for the book," Brown said. "While we have a lot of fun in the book, I think the country needs this story. It's always needed this story, but we need it now more than ever. I want people to get lost in this insane world I've dreamed up. Then I want them to realize the insanity is a reflection of our society."
05. Daphne Byrne (Hill House/DC Comics)
Writer: Laura Marks, Artist: Kelley Jones, Colors: Michelle Madsen
With the launch of Joe Hill's Hill House Comics last year, the new DC imprint enjoyed some early success with hits with new horror books like The Low, Low Woods and Basketful of Heads. In 2020, it's TV writer Laura Marks turn. Marks, whose credits include Ray Donovan and The Expanse and artist Kelley Jones (The Sandman, Batman: Red Rain) will launch their corner of the line with Daphne Byrne.
In an interview with SYFY WIRE, Marks said she created the original story after working with Joe Hill on developing the upcoming Locke and Key series for Netflix.
Dark, uneasy, and mysterious, the world of Daphne Byrne crackles with tension from the first issue. After the sudden death of her father, Daphne must face a life alone with an "irresponsible, grief-stricken mother" who turns to scam artist occultists promising to contact her dead husband. Meanwhile, the young girl journeys inward, only to discover that she may have a connection to the world beyond the living.
Marks said she had always wanted to write something set in the 19th-century spiritualist movement and while she'd never written such a young protagonist, a fourteen-year-old girl felt just right for the story.
"A possession story was interesting to me, but not in the classic 'Linda Blair helpless in a bed' sense: I wanted Daphne to have true agency, even in her relationship with an invading demon," Marks said. "Daphne is my favorite kind of character to write: an anti-heroine who's highly sympathetic, but also dark and monstrous. Kelley Jones has done a phenomenal job rendering her world, and I'm having a great time writing her."
06. Transformers vs. Terminator (IDW/Dark Horse)
Writers: David Mariotte, John Barber, Tom Waltz, Artist: Alex Milne
There isn't much out there about the story behind the upcoming Transformers vs. Terminator comic, but the cover alone was enough to get us excited about this book. At the very least, it will feature cool robots destroying other cool robots, and sometimes that's enough. It doesn't hurt that the story is coming from Transformers veterans editors David Mariotte and John Barber (Optimus Prime) and artist Alex Milne.
Milne, who has worked on more than a dozen Transformers series and provided covers for a handful more, said he immediately said yes when approached to provide art on the book. In an interview with SYFY WIRE this week, the artist said he was beyond excited for the series launch.
"I was approached by my editor David Mariotte at IDW who asked if I would be interested in drawing the Transformers/Terminator crossover they were planning to make," he said. "As for how the project came to be, I assume someone from the future jumped back in time to lay the groundwork for the idea."
Image solicits teased that the four-issue mini-series pitting "the deadly race of futuristic cyborgs against the sentient, converting robots from Cybertron" would revisit the concepts of alien invasion and time-traveling resistance fighters… "but twists them in unexpected ways."
Milne was a huge science fiction fan growing up, and he said the opportunity to draw two major franchises in one comic was a big moment.
"Both of these franchises were very influential on me when I was growing up to help shape the artist I am today. I think that fans can expect an action-packed story with some unique twists but I'm afraid if I say anything more a T-800 will be sent after me," he said.
07. Spider-Woman (Marvel)
Writer: Karla Pacheco, Artist: Pere Pérez
She's been an Avenger, a super-spy, a former agent of Hydra, and a mom, but now it's time for Jessica Drew to go solo again. It's been about two years since Spider-Woman starred in her own solo title, and she's relaunching with Karla Pacheco and Pere Pérez controlling her fate.
Created by Archie Goodwin and Marie Severin in 1977, Spider-Woman originally joined the Marvel ranks because Stan Lee was concerned about other comic companies trademarking a similar character. After her debut elicited a strong fan reaction, though, Marv Wolfman was tasked with writing a solo series. While the original run was a success, the character fell by the wayside for decades, only making cameos in other books until the early 2000s New Avengers run.
Since then, Jessica Drew has become a major part of the Marvel Universe, hopping around Avenger teams and joining her fellow spider-people in events like Spider-Verse and Spider-Geddon. In an interview with SYFY WIRE, Pacheco revealed that when we finally catch up with Jess, she's exhausted. Between battling the dark threat of the Vridai in the pages of Strikeforce alongside Blade, Monica Rambeau, Angela, Bucky Barnes, and Wiccan, she's been busy raising baby Gerry.
"At the start of our story, she's found herself in a low spot — she has great friends, a relationship, and a child, but something's not right, and things feel pretty bleak," she told SYFY WIRE. "We eventually learn there might be outside forces influencing this (I promise, it's not Skrulls!), and we dig pretty deep into those complicated origins of hers. This is Jess' first solo series in a long time, and I wanted to explore how Jess handles things when she feels like she can't turn to anyone else."
According to Pacheco, it turns out Spider-Woman just "blows up a TON of stuff." The Spider-Woman writer said she's always been drawn to heroes who exude a sense of loneliness (and sometimes anger) and it's something she wanted to explore in Jess' solo book.
"Jess has overcome some pretty traumatic stuff in 43 years of comics, and still kept her humor, strength, and sense of justice throughout it... but I've always felt she holds back from the people closest to her," she said. "I think that's something super relatable to many of us, and in this new series, I'm hoping to give her a chance to let some of that restraint go, even when it taps into a bit of rage she hasn't previously allowed herself. There are a lot of surprises ahead for Jess and the readers, but I'm really excited about where she's going."
08. Strange Adventures (DC)
Writer: Tom King, Artists: Mitch Gerads, Evan 'Doc' Shaner
Created by DC Comics legend Julius Schwartz and Murphy Anderson in 1958, Adam Strange made his debut in an America newly enamored with space. An ordinary archeologist working on a dig site in Peru, Strange is mysteriously teleported to the planet Rann where he becomes an intergalactic superhero, complete with jet pack, ray gun, and 'space ranger' costume.
In his debut in Showcase #17, Adam Strange befriends the Rannian scientist Sardath (and falls in love with his daughter Alanna) after being transported to the Alpha Centauri system via Sardath’s Zeta-beam. Lonely on Earth, Adam finds a new family among the stars but it’s not meant to last.
Although the character was a hit in the '60s and '70s, Adam Strange mostly fell by the wayside during the Silver and Bronze age of comic books. While he enjoyed a brief revival in the 1990s via the likes of Grant Morrison, Alan Moore, and Mark Waid, Strange hasn't been seen much since DC's Rebirth (save a few panels in 2018's Heroes in Crisis.)
Strange Adventures aims to re-introduce the character to a wider audience and could be seen as the spiritual follow up to one of King's other projects, 2017's Mister Miracle. The book reunites King with artist Mitch Gerards, while also bringing in Doc Shaner along for the ride. According to a DC Comics release, in the 12-issue mini-series centers on the decisions, Adam made during battles on Rann, which come back to "haunt his family and threaten the entire DC Universe."
"Adam Strange is one of a long line of characters — like Tarzan and Flash Gordon, stolid men with dimpled chins who thrive in 'foreign lands' — who stand in as a metaphor for a 19th-century European dream of colonialism," said King in the statement. "Of course, colonialism was nothing like this dream, and it’s that contrast that interests me: the bloody gap between the myth and the reality."
During his time at DC, King has found success in taking a closer look at many of the line's biggest superheroes and villains. Digging into "the real-life" of a relatively unknown Golden Age character like Adam Strange promises to be just as fruitful for the writer, who wrote the book with a sort of 'dueling art' style baked in. As Adam bounces back and forth from a mission on Rann and time back on Earth, so does the panel art from Shaner and Gerards.
"It's a way to do something new and different and hopefully something cool and compelling," King said.
09. Decorum (Image)
Writer: Jonathan Hickman, Artist: Mike Huddleston
In the wake of the revolutionary House of X series, the end of East of West, and the debut of Dawn of X, Jonathan Hickman announced his newest indie project just before the new year. According to Image, Hickman and artist Mike Huddleston have been working on the new ongoing sci-fi epic for more than a year.
Decorum, set to launch in March, combines Hickman's brand of epic storytelling with Huddleston's beautiful and dynamic art. According to Hickman, the story will center around the most well-mannered assassin in the universe.
"Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what knife you use," the preview for Decorum reads.
While there isn't much else known about the book, preview pages from Huddleston show a world where high technology and science fiction come head to head with the almost prehistoric world of early humans.
In a release from Image in December, Hickman said he's been "quietly working on this book for over a year and I’m having the time of my life."
"Mike is one of those ridiculously talented artists who is both technically proficient and insanely stylistic — everyone is just going to love what he’s done here," he said.
Huddleston added, "I told Jonathan early on that just wanted to both draw cool stuff and tell a good story, and good news! We’re doing both in spades."
10. The Green Lantern S2 (DC)
Writer: Grant Morrison, Artist: Liam Sharp
Concluding last year, the first 12 issues of Grant Morrison and Liam Sharp's The Green Lantern were insane in the best possible way. Taking the character back to basics as space cop No. 1, Morrison and Sharp created a modern Silver Age book, which is part police drama, part Star Trek. Strange and sometimes beautiful alien life abounds from this book thanks to Sharp's art (some of the best of his career) while Morrison effortlessly weaves in elements of horror, comedy, science fiction, adventure, and fantasy.
In the first season alone, Hal Jordan —and this only a partial list — arrested God, journeyed inside of his ring, teamed up with Green Arrow to fight space-junkies, discovered vampire planets, battled Spider-pirates, joined forces with Alternate Universe Green Lanterns, re-introduced the world to the 420-friendly Magic Lantern, and fought to the world's seeming end with the Anti-matter version of himself.
In the wake of issue Green Lantern #12, Controller Mu has won. The Guardians of OA are no more and the Blackstars patrol the skies in their place. In fact, there's no such thing as Green Lanterns. Currently, Morrison is writing the Blackstars series, which follows the further exploits of Hal Jordan. With Season 2 set to kick off in March of this year, The Green Lantern looks like it will continue to be the far-out, police drama that has elicited praise from critics and fans alike.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Morrison said that his time working on television influenced his writing style and choice to produce The Green Lantern in "seasons." Additionally, the writer said the new season would "focus much more on one-off stories."
"The first issue is about Hal Jordan going in search of replacements for the Guardians of the Universe," Morrison told EW. "It ties into all the big stuff that's happening in the DC Universe next year, so there's a little bit of that but the fun was 'let's mess up the status quo.'"