Welcome to The Pull List, SYFY WIRE's weekly comics column that gets at the pulse of what's going on in comics right now. Everything from huge crossovers to real-life issues facing the industry, a cool first look, the week's hot new comics, and everything in between. Basically, we're here to help you with your pull list.
Well, it's another strange week in the world of comics. We'll talk more about exactly how strange things are a bit later, but the short version is: New comics are almost entirely on pause for the time being, and we still don't know how long that phenomenon will last. Fortunately, as we've seen throughout our collective experience with the COVID-19 pandemic, there are helpers out there, willing to step up and do what they can to help out in all communities, including comics. That means a lot of things, but as small businesses across the country are in peril at the moment, it especially means doing what you can to support local comic book stores when possible. Thankfully for all of us, a group of comics professionals have teamed up to make that easier.
Last week, a group known as the Comics Industry Collective launched its new website 28 Pages Later, a guide for comics fans and customers looking for local stores around the country. The site has its roots in efforts that began some time ago, as comics writer Leah Williams (Gwenpool Strikes Back) stepped up and began compiling information on which local stores were still open and could still offer some kind of service even as shelter-in-place orders meant many non-essential businesses were closing up shop for the time being.
Weeks later, that work looks a little something like this:
Each of those markers represents a comic book store in North America that is still offering some kind of service, whether it be curbside pickup or shipping or even local delivery for customers, along with contact information for each store. Basically, if you're somewhere right now wondering how you can buy from a local shop — whether it's in your city or a city you love — it is your new best friend. And it's not done yet.
The Collective is still working to beef up its listings for still-open shops, not just here in the U.S. but around the world, and they're taking submissions. So if you've got info for them, head over to their site. And if you want to find a store to support, go browse that map and then tell a shop owner trying to keep the lights on that you'd like to buy some hardcovers or back issues from them.
Layoffs, comics on pause
While there are certainly a lot of efforts within the comics community right now to keep stores, creators, and publishers afloat during this difficult time, it's sadly not all good news. The pandemic is operating its own timelime, which means businesses everywhere are cutting back, and the world of comics is no different.
On Monday, Newsarama reported that Image Comics – the third-largest publisher in terms of market share, behind Marvel and DC — laid off four members of its full-time staff as part of cutbacks related to the pandemic. Image publisher Eric Stephenson confirmed the news. Image's cutbacks came just days after Marvel Comics confirmed that it was making cuts of its own, putting one third of its planned comics for May and June on hold to "spread the amount of publishing product over the coming weeks and months."
Like the other major publishers, both Image and Marvel are in a kind of strange limbo at this point with all new releases, particularly single-issue new comics that were supposed to arrive on store shelves and digital sites this month. We still don't know when any sense of regularity in their publishing schedules will return, and in the meantime staffers are being laid off and freelancers are losing weeks and potentially months of income from work they were supposed to be filing on ongoing titles.
It's a scary time, made scarier by the fact that things like ComicHub's recent attempt to create a stopgap solution by creating a system in which readers could "pre-order" books to read digitally and then pick up hard copies at shops later died on the vine last week mere days after it was floated. There are no easy answers to this problem, because the comics market as we know it simply cannot exist in these conditions. For now, the best we can do is support the creators, shops, and publishers we love.
And now, after the rough news, we're back to celebrating, because this week the 2020 Hugo Award finalists were announced by the World Science Fiction Society, celebrating the best in sci-fi achievements across various storytelling forms in the last year. Naturally, comics are a big part of sci-fi, and while we don't have a lot of new comics to look forward to at the moment, now might be an excellent time to catch up on this list of astonishing nominees. Let's take a look at them:
DIE, Volume 1: Fantasy Heartbreaker by Kieron Gillen, Stephanie Hans, and Clayton Cowles
Kieron Gillen is absolutely on fire lately, and last year's DIE is proof that his clever metafictional ideas haven't run out yet. This story follows a group of friends who got sucked into a Dungeons & Dragons-style role-playing game years earlier, only to be forced back into it as adults. Stephanie Hans' art is unexpected, fierce, and compelling, and the result is an addictive book.
LaGuardia by Nnedi Okorafor, Tana Ford, and James Devlin
Nnedi Okorafor is one of the most acclaimed genre writers of her generation, so much so that she already has a Hugo for her novel Binti. Now she's back for her comics work, a provocative and gripping collaboration with artist Tana Ford and colorist James Devlin. LaGuardia takes modern issues of immigration, equality, and freedom and gives them a sci-fi spin that does everything you want good speculative fiction to do.
Monstress, Volume 4: The Chosen by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda
Well, if there's an early favorite going into this year's Hugos, Monstress is probably it. The tremendously acclaimed series from writer Marjorie Liu and artist Sana Takeda has won the Hugo for Best Graphic Story for each of its previous three volumes, and Takeda's won once on her own for Best Professional Artist. The epic fantasy saga continues in this fourth volume of the adventures of Maika Halfwolf. Will the Hugo run continue too?
Mooncakes by Wendy Xu, Suzanne Walker, and Joamette Gil
Mooncakes is the breakthrough hit of this year's Best Graphic Story pack as it rises up to be ranked alongside veteran creators and long-running series. This beautifully illustrated, heart-filled graphic novel is the story of a teen witch who investigates something mysterious in the woods one night and finds her crush, who happens to be a werewolf, at the center of the supernatural happenings. It's great to see this book, and its up-and-coming creators, showcased on the Hugo stage.
Paper Girls, Volume 6 by Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, Matt Wilson, and Jared K. Fletcher
Though it hasn't won the Hugo yet, Paper Girls is another favorite in the Best Graphic Story category, as this marks its fourth nomination. Sadly, it will also be its final one, as Volume 6 represents the conclusion of Vaughan and Chiang's tale of paper delivery girls who get caught up in a strange time war and are forced to reckon with the past, the future, and who they might become someday. Will this be its year, or will another series pull off the upset against Monstress? We'll see.
The Wicked + The Divine, Volume 9: Okay by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson, and Clayton Cowles
Kieron Gillen lands his second Hugo nod of the year, this time not for a beginning, but for an ending. The final volume of the enormously successful Image Comics series The Wicked + The Divine landed a much-deserved Hugo nod for bringing its complex story of gods, rock stars, and regrets in for an emotional, surprising, and beautiful landing.
So there are your Hugo nominees, all of which you can go and read in some form right now. In some cases, they represents the latest (and sometimes last) volume of a long-running series, but that's just more amusement for you while you're cooped up inside. And hey, all those trade paperbacks would be really nice to order from you local comics shop right about now ...
That's it for The Pull List this week. We'll be back with more news from the world of comics next Wednesday. Until then, remember what John Custer said in Preacher:
"You gotta be one of the good guys, son: 'Cause there's way too many of the bad."