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.
A little more than a week ago, fans got the inevitable-but-still-depressing news that San Diego Comic-Con, one of the biggest events on the pop culture calendar, will not go forward this year for the first time in its five-decade history, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It was a major blow not just to fans, but to many artists and creators who rely on events like SDCC to bring more attention to their work, and while it can't ever be replaced, there are efforts to create some alternative experiences for fans longing for that con connection. One of those events, the cleverly named Socially Distant Comic Con (SDCC), is happening this Friday.
Socially Distant Comic Con was organized by writers Sara Benincasa (Real Artists Have Day Jobs, the Well, This Isn't Normal podcast) and Cecil Castellucci (Batgirl, Shade, The Changing Girl) to create a virtual venue to spotlight creators who now won't get the opportunity to appear at San Diego and other conventions this year. According to Benincasa, the idea first arose when it became clear that Castellucci, a comics veteran, would no longer get to enjoy her very first spot as a featured guest at San Diego this year. So Benincasa jokingly pitched a home "comic con" where she'd ask Castellucci questions herself.
"We started throwing ideas back and forth as a joke and then it became a real idea! Cecil knows so many heavy hitters in the comics world, and I know various interesting folks with geeky or geek-adjacent careers, so it just made sense to throw it out there to some friends and friends-of-friends we figured might have ten minutes to spare to do an Instagram Live interview with one of us on Friday, May 1," Benincasa told SYFY WIRE.
One thing led to another, and eventually Benincasa and Castellucci assembled a lineup of 50 guests from comics and beyond to participate in a marathon series of 10-minute interviews on Instagram, beginning at 8 a.m. PST on Friday and continuing until 8:30 p.m. that night. The two hosts will trade off interview duties at various points in the day, all the while encouraging donations to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (BINC) and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF). Castellucci has also set up a Bookshop virtual store where fans can buy books by all of the guests, who include Chuck Wendig, Jim Zub, Steve Orlando, Margaret Stohl, Kami Garcia, Sam Maggs, Sarah Kuhn, Brea Grant, Jody Houser, Marc Bernardin, Alex Segura, and many more.
While Socially Distant Comic Con certainly can't replicate the vast crowds and thunderous applause of places like San Diego's Hall H, Benincasa and Castellucci are hoping that their DIY event — which Castellucci refers to as a "Comic Can" — can achieve certain things that the conventional fan event experience can't. For one thing, that means opening up access for people who aren't as comfortable in crowds.
"I've worked with my own agoraphobia since I was a teen, and spoken and written about it often," Benincasa said. "I find my own way of managing my fears when I'm a guest or performer at a convention or other big event. In my experience, geeks at conventions tend to be incredibly friendly, loving, helpful and respectful of mental health concerns. In fact, going to conventions as a performer, panelist, or volunteer has really helped me grow and heal in many ways. However, I know that some folks will never go to a convention due to fears or very well-justified concerns in some situations regarding access and inclusion. My hope is that our little event will attract some viewers who will feel less alone, less frightened, less sad and less bored as a result. I hope people laugh with delight and have a great time."
For Castellucci, who's got years of experience as a convention panelist, the virtual con also presents an opportunity to bring the panelists themselves a greater sense of intimacy.
"Usually we creators are on a panel with a lot of other people and the crowds are big. But here this will be like a bunch of mini spotlight panels to highlight one fabulous person and their oeuvres," she said. "I always hoped and felt that a panel should feel like you are overhearing creative folks talking art and process over cosmotinis or cappuccinos. I think we’ll really achieve that here. And that’s kind of a great part of comic cons as well, is the fact that fans and creators can kind of mingle in a social way. This kind of echoes that, but further away and somehow closer. One thing we should mention, we do welcome everyone but we have a zero tolerance for hate. So no jerks please."
Socially Distant Comic Con kicks off Friday morning at 8 a.m. PST, and the interview schedule for the event will be revealed Thursday. For more information, follow both Benincasa and Castellucci on Instagram.
Creators 4 Comics raises big money
Two weeks ago, a group of comics creators led by organizers Kami Garcia, Brian Michael Bendis, Gwenda Bond, Sam Humphries, and Phil Jimenez launched an exciting intiative to raise money for the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (BINC). Dubbed "Creators 4 Comics," the event kicked off on April 15 with a simple idea: Put up a bunch of exclusive goodies for auction on Twitter, let fans bid, and then ask the winners to donate that amount directly to BINC.
Over the course of five days the effort swelled to include hundreds of creators, many of them hosting multiple auctions of everything from signed books to original writers to, in some cases, brand-new original stories written either for or about auction winners. The effort eventually swelled to include everyone from up-and-coming new talent to comics legends like Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman, Mike Mignola, Gail Simone, and many more. Most of the auctions wrapped up on April 20, and fans have been waiting ever since to hear just how much good Creators 4 Comics did. Now we know.
The group announced today that the massive five-day auction effort raised a total of $433,166 across more than 600 individual auctions. That's nearly half a million dollars going to help local comic book stores struggling due to COVID-19.
“We never imagined #Creators4Comics would raise over $400,000, but it shows what people can achieve when they come together as a community,” Garcia said in a statement. “Words and images are powerful and magical and as creators we wield that power. In a world crippled by a pandemic, that’s a beautiful thing.”
In a press release, Creators 4 Comics organizers noted that 135 different comics retailers have received more than $150,000 in aid through BINC since March 13, an amount more than double what BINC distributed to comics retailers last year. More than 700 comic book stores suffering hardship have applied for aid through BINC, and the Creators 4 Comics funds will go a long way toward helping them.
“Thank you to the leaders of Creators 4 Comics for having the vision to understand how comic retailers would be impacted by this pandemic," BINC executive director Pam French said. "Their passion to help and to act quickly to engage this community has helped raise the most funds BINC has ever received in one day. You used your influence to shine a spotlight on the need comic retailers are facing.”
While the Creators 4 Comics auctions have ended for the time being, organizers are encouraging fans who want to continue supporting local retailers to set up continuing monthly donations through the BINC website.
New (and new to you) reads this week
Well, that was a lot of news. The good news is that it was good news, but the bad news means we don't have a lot of space left for reading recommendations. That said, here are three worth checking out this week, including some new releases.
The Wolf and the Crow #1: This new ongoing digital series from Action Lab has an intriguing premise, a beautiful painted look, and a tremendous atmosphere that could pay off in amazing ways. The first issue is all about establishing the story of a prehistoric clan of hunters, who are themselves being hunted by a strange supernatural force. The last page has me eager to read the second issue.
The Dreaming #20: This week, DC Comics became the first publisher to start shipping new single issues to stores since Diamond stopped its own distribution, and while there are only a handful of titles, it's a nice beginning. Perhaps the most significant offering from DC this week: the final issue of Si Spurrier and Bilquis Evely's spellbinding run on The Dreaming.
Young Avengers by Gillen & McKelvie: The Complete Collection: If you're like for a nice medium-sized run of superhero comics to sink your teeth into this week, look no further. The 15-issue Young Avengers run from Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie is easily one of my favorite superhero books of the 2010s, and now it's all available in one massive collection. Embrace the chaos that is Kid Loki doing magic with breakfast food!
Oh, and before we go, one more bit of good news: Diamond is reportedly shipping new comics again beginning May 20, which means other publishers are preparing to unleash new stories.
And that's it for this week. Until next time, remember what John Custer told his son Jesse in the pages of Preacher:
"You gotta be one of the good guys, son: 'Cause there's way too many of the bad."