One thing that's become certain during the pandemic is that comic companies need to get creative if they want to thrive. Bad Idea, a new publisher launching next year, aims to carve out its own niche by releasing high-quality monthly comics that are sold exclusively through comic shops. No trade paperbacks. No digital releases.
And as art houses did for independently funded films, Bad Idea is slowly growing its footprint with selective boutique distribution that will start out in 100 partner stores and grow organically to include more cities, states, and countries.
For the studio's first book, Bad Idea wanted to go big — so they reunited Matt Kindt and Doug Braithwaite, the creative team who worked on memorable runs on XO-Manowar and Ninjak, and they come up with the grounded science fiction horror tale ENIAC. The acronym stands for Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer, the very first computer, developed during World War II. And this being a comic tale, it becomes the source of some catastrophic events.
Originally slated as 2020 releases, ENIAC's release has been pushed to March 2021 in hopes of the world returning to some kind of order before the slate goes wide.
In addition to ENIAC, Bad Idea is also announcing the launch of four additional titles:
• Tankers (3 double-sized bimonthly issues beginning April 2021) by Robert Venditti, Juan Jose Ryp, and Jordie Bellaire.
• Whalesville (oversized one-shot in May 2021) by Matt Kindt, Adam Pollina, and Matt Hollingsworth.
• The Lot (4 issues monthly beginning July 2021) by Marguerite Bennett and Renato Guedes.
• Slay Bells (4 issues monthly beginning July 2021) by Zeb Wells, David LaFuenete, and Ulises Arreola.
SYFY WIRE has an exclusive preview of the first 10 pages of ENIAC #1 plus the reveal of a new variant cover by Lewis LaRosa and Laura Martin.
Readers not extremely familiar with the history of computing may be surprised to learn that ENIAC did exist and was one of the earliest computers created, which Kindt said will hopefully send readers to the history books to see where the facts stop and the fiction begins.
"It’s all reality-based right up until the development of the atom bomb and the Manhattan Project," Kindt divulged. "I started threading in ENIAC there, and then – through every decade since, from World War II to the Cold War – we start getting the alternate history. All of the events we’re familiar with, they still happened – our history is the same, but we see how ENIAC is the backdrop for all that has gone on, from the Challenger Disaster to modern-day global chaos."
But the thought of ENIAC being responsible for the Nagasaki bombing and being a constant global threat is absolutely frightening. With technology increasingly becoming an integral part of our lives, this is fertile ground for a classic science fiction horror story, one that Kindt had to tread carefully.
"On one hand, I’m not super comfortable writing a story that takes the responsibility for dropping the bomb on Nagasaki off of human shoulders," he said. "It was a big decision. And, in a way, to write a story where we can shift that responsibility to A.I., I think that could be problematic."
Though it was bold, Kindt said he thinks the decision pays off in the storytelling.
"But I think by doing that – and in my defense – I think it lets us explore the ramifications of that act in a way that lets us view it from a new angle," he said. "It’s not just a crazy twist of a plot point – I think it’s a way to sort of shift the viewpoint and put us in a 'what if' world to help us examine our humanity, like sci-fi should always do. And it might surprise you to know that I don’t necessarily see ENIAC as an antagonist. He checks all the boxes, but I think we’ve seen countless sci-fi stories where robots run amok or AI turns on humans – and this certainly is that, but with a twist. A very big twist."
Visualizing a story about artificial intelligence and sentience in a compelling way is a tall challenge, but one that Braithwaite said he was eager to dive into.
"It’s always an interesting challenge when you deal with stories based around factual events (although the story is fictional in its portrayal)," he explained. "ENIAC had a lot more reference than I initially anticipated. On past projects Matt and I have collaborated on, I have tended to rely more on my creative imagination and artistic interpretation to develop a story. The challenge with this was it wasn’t heavily fantasy-based and didn’t incorporate too many of the physical dynamics that readers are more accustomed to from me."
Kindt jumped in to note that the "pseudo-history" allowed them to tell a story that doesn't follow a "conventional narrative." He went on to tease that it "absolutely goes off the rails" — but in a good way.
But what about the rest of the line? Bad Idea was created by CEO Dinesh Shamdasani, Co-CEO and Co-CCO Warren Simons, and Publisher Hunter Gorinson, who all worked together at Valiant. Their approach is novel, and in this market there's no such thing as a "bad idea," as long as the concept is good. Each comic will be priced at $3.99 no matter the size.
"What appeals to me about the Bad Idea mission is exactly what I built my own career doing – making the story king," Kindt added. "The story dictates all. One issue story? No problem? You need 40 pages for Issue #1? Okay. Four issues or five? It doesn’t matter – the story will dictate the form."
"Thinking about story inside the box of a 22-page monthly comic is fun, but, ultimately, I think it’s not good for the medium," Kindt said. "It tends to lead to formulaic stories by the nature of the publishing schedule. It’s fun to do that for a while – but I really think it limits our medium in the long run. Bad Idea is organic in the best way. It’s the way I work, and it’s just a natural fit. There are no limits – no constraints."
Check out the first 10 pages of ENIAC #1 below, out March 2021.
Note: A later panel in the below preview is NSFW.