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.
It's been nearly two months since New Comic Book Day as we know it ground to a halt amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and the often slow progress of publishers and distributors to get readers and retailers back to a state of normalcy feels like it's really starting to pay off. We've got more new comics to read this week than we did last week, and now Diamond Comics Distributors has confirmed that next week will indeed mark their restart of shipping new product out to retailers. It may not feel "normal" for a long time, but in the short term at least it feels good to know that we can look forward to some version of New Comic Book Day again. Then again, New Comic Book Day as we once knew it might be changing in more ways than one.
Newsarama reported earlier this week that DC Comics will now offer retailers the opportunity to begin selling all of its new product on Tuesdays each week, rather than the Wednesday on-sale date that's been the norm in the comics world for years. The move comes after DC found an alternative distribution model for its print comics amid the Diamond shutdown that saw new books arriving on Tuesdays beginning with DC's April 28 restart.
Now that Diamond is poised to relaunch its distribution efforts, DC is apparently pleased enough with the way things have been going on Tuesdays to offer retailers the chance to keep it that way, though the publisher said in a statement to retailers that are still welcome to keep the usual Wednesday on-sale date each week. Though the Tuesday move began with comics DC distributed through Lunar after Diamond's shipping pause, the date change will also reportedly apply to Diamond-shipped products as well.
In the short term, all this means for the average reader is that, depending on where they shop, they will now have the chance to get their DC Comics releases a day earlier. At the moment there's no indication that other publishers plan to follow DC's lead on this move, though Diamond's cooperation with the publisher could mean other companies are able to follow suit in the near future.
If it seems to be working out, and if retailers don't consider it too much of a disruption to the way they do business, we could be looking at a more spread-out week in terms of new comics, or perhaps even a new New Comic Book Day somewhere down the line. However it shakes out, it's interesting to note the shifts the pandemic has already produced within the industry.
Kickstarting a new trend?
Speaking of industry shifts, another side effect of this unfortunate situation we all find ourselves in at the moment is arriving in the form of how creators choose to finance and distribute creator-owned work in the wake of changes in the comics world. Over at the Beat, the always insightful Heidi MacDonald put together a fascinating report on the state of comics crowdfunding on Kickstarter.
Even as Kickstarter itself has seen a large decline in overall campaigns on the site, leading to layoffs and union-negotatied severance packages for staff, various high-profile Kickstart campaigns from comics creators have done well. Just last week we were talking about Jeff Lemire and Matt Kindt's Cosmic Detective, for example, which has already surpassed $100,000 in backing with three weeks left to go in its campaign. Then there's Jim Starlin's Dreadstar Returns campaign, which topped out at more than $135,000.
Now, it's important to note that these are high-profile creators with big fanbases who are willing to throw a few bucks out in advance to get their latest work, but MacDonald's story also offers another interesting insight. She notes that she's "hearing a lot of buzz about creators going straight to Kickstarter for their new projects, as opposed to publishers," in part because of the economic hit creator-owned publishing outlets like Image Comics are taking right now.
When a publisher like Image, which has long been a haven for top creators to pitch projects where they can really get wild with things while also owning the work, is hit with layoffs and revenue loss, they're less likely to take as many big swings. That means creators with the pull to raise enough funds through their fanbases are more likely to take that route, which means we could be set for an even bigger wave of crowdfunded creator-owned projects in the coming months.
And then, of course, there's convention season. Back in March, when Emerald City Comic Con announced it would postpone its 2020 event until a later date, it became clear that COVID-19 was going to be a major obstacle for many of the years biggest pop culture events. Numerous cons of various sizes soon followed Emerald City's lead, up to and including San Diego Comic-Con, the biggest con of them all, which cancelled its 2020 plans and is now working on an online option for fans. For a long time, we were bracing for these convention closures and postponements with the hope that the fall might bring better news. Now it seems we're not yet done with the cancellations.
Portland's Rose City Comic Con announced this week that it too will cancel its 2020 event, which was set to be held September 11-13 in Oregon. While it's nice to see event organizers placing public safety above all else, it's still sad to see another beloved con fall by the wayside this year. Other fall conventions, including New York Comic Con and Washington DC's AwesomeCon, are still scheduled to take place, but of course that's subject to change in the coming weeks and months. In the meantime, if you were looking forward to seeing a creator at a convention this year, go hit them up online and find some other way of supporting them.
Upcoming projects from Dune to Death Metal
As the comics world begins to prepare for a more robust shipping schedule again, we're reminded that the creative community didn't stop while we were waiting for new comics. New projects are arriving all the time, and we've seen even more cool stuff this week that you'll want to check out, from big new event comics to crowdfunding opportunities.
You may have heard there's a much-anticipated Dune film coming out later this year (we hope), and if you're a fan of Frank Herbert's beloved sci-fi creation already there's a good chance you've been delving back into the universe of Dune through the novels over the last few months. Now, BOOM! Studios has revealed another way to experience Dune in the lead-up to the movie: A 12-issue prequel miniseries.
The publisher announced Monday it will publish Dune: House Atreides, a comics adaptation of the novel of the same name by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, with both Herbert and Anderson on board to script the miniseries. The prequel, set in the decades before the events of Dune, will follow younger versions of beloved characters like Duncan Idaho and Leto Atreides as they set out on the path to their destiny. House Atreides is part of a major Dune publishing push planned for this fall, including a new graphic novel adaptation of Herbert's original novel from Abrams ComicArts. We still don't know exactly when the first issue of House Atreides will drop this fall, or who's drawing it, but we can't wait to find out more.
Hey, remember just a few paragraphs ago when we were talking about a Kickstarter as perhaps an even bigger part of creator-owned projects going forward? Well, after talking about Cosmic Detective last week, we've got another promising crowdfounded comic you might want to take a look at if you love Jimmy Palmiotti's particular brand of action-comedy storytelling. Palmiotti, best known for books like Painkiller Jane and Harley Quinn, has teamed up with co-writer Dave Johnson (100 Bullets), artist Juan Santacruz (Painkiller Jane), colorist Brian Reber, letterer Sean Konot and designer John J. Hill to bring us the wild ride that is Pop Kill, a new adult-oriented comics miniseries that kicks off with a 40-page debut issue the crew is currently raising funding for.
What is Pop Kill? Well, it's the story of mercenary Jon Pyle, a slick hired gun who's hired by one titantic cola company to infiltrate another titanic cola company to convince their beautiful top scientist to switch sides and turn over her revolutionary new formula that could change the soft drink game forever. Oh, did we mention that in the world of Pop Kill, two massive competing cola companies are owned by brothers who used to be conjoined twins and now hate each other so much that they keep hiring mercenaries to mess with each other's operations? Yeah, this sounds bonkers in the best way, and it's in its final week of funding right now. Just five bucks will get you a digital copy of the first issue later this year.
And finally, over in the superhero world, DC has announced that Dark Nights: Death Metal — the Dark Nights: Metal sequel from the unstoppable creative team of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo — is back on the release schedule at last and set to kick off with its first issue on June 16. For my money, Metal is the best event book DC has dropped since Final Crisis more than a decade ago, and Death Metal promises to bring that same sense of scope, ambition, and pure metal energy to another universe-redefining story. We'll talk more about the first issue when we're closer to the release date, but for now...well, just look at these unlettered pages from the first issue, courtesy of DC Comics. I can't wait for this book.
New comics to read this week
We'll have an even larger selection of comics to choose from starting next week, but for now both DC and Marvel finally have new single-issues offerings (though Marvel is digital-only until later this month) in the same week for the first time since March, and that's something worth celebrating. Here's what we've got our eyes on this week:
Justice League #44: It can't be easy for any comics writer to follow Scott Snyder and the kind of epic scope he brings to his title, but Robert Venditti is somehow managing it with his run on Justice League so far. His plotting is tight, his dialogue is vivid, and there's a sense of getting thrown headlong into the action from page one without ever feeling lost, which is especially tough to pull off with team books. If you haven't had the chance to catch up with what Venditti and company are up to on the book, issue #44 is out this week, and it's a fantastic jumping-on point, as artist Xermanico joins the title for a new arc in which the League face the sudden and, frankly, extremely rad arrival of various mythical monsters on Earth.
Here again, as with his Eradicator arc, Venditti just hurls us right into the thick of things without ever feeling like we've lost the emotional thread of the team and their dynamic. Then there's Xermanico's art, which is packed with expressiveness not just in the way he draws each character, but in the way he uses the panels themselves to create a sense of kinetic disruption. When the Justice League come in for a rough landing, the page comes in with them, and it works really well. Plus, the last page reveal on this one has me itching for #45 already.
Avengers of the Wastelands #4: I'm always a little skeptical when it comes to "superheroes at the end of the world" titles, because there's always the risk that they'll turn into huge bummers. That's something I can handle sometimes, but especially now, I want to read about a little bit of hope at the end of the world. Thankfully for all of us, Marvel's Avengers of the Wastelands series from writer Ed Brisson and artist Jonas Scharf is the kind of fun, inventive take on post-apocalyptic comic book worldbuilding I can get behind. The five-issue miniseries has been slowly piecing its team together as Dani Cage (Luke Cage and Jessica Jones' daughter, and the new Thor), Bruce Banner Jr. (the kid Hulk of the Wastelands who's determined to prove he's a nice guy), and a young man named Dwight who's managed to get some old Ant-Man armor working again ramble across the country in a beat-up car in search of a way to finally defeat the tyrannical Doctor Doom once and for all.
What's most striking about this miniseries is the way in which each little element of this fallen, ruined version of the Marvel Universe has just clicked into place, from a horde of vampires to a post-apocalyptic version of the Super Soldier program. Now, in the penultimate issue, the gang must face an aging Green Goblin and his team of cobbled together supervillains out in Osborn land. It's another brilliant reimagining of Marvel's far future, and this issue in particular gives Brisson some room to run with some really compelling character stuff that's going to pay off in big ways by the time the final installment hits.
Bad Karma #1: Panel Syndicate — the pay-what-you-want comics site where some of the best creators in the business go to play — has already delivered one great new story in these strange times in the form of Ed Brubaker and Marcos Martin's Friday. Now we've got another one courtesy of writer Alex de Campi, artist Ryan Howe, and colorist Dee Cunniffe. Bad Karma is the story of two veterans, Ethan and Sully, who are shocked to discover one night that an innocent man is about to be executed for a murder they themselves committed as part of a mercenary job. This revelation launches them on a strange journey to set things right, even if they can't keep their own hearts and minds together in the process. De Campi's dialogue is pitch-perfect for this kind of story.
Smart, funny, dark but never overwhelmingly slow, and there's such a clear grasp of who these characters are as they try to find a way to keep going when life closes in on them that we're along for the ride from the very first page. Howe and Cunniffe are also working a very particular kind of magic here, one that's often lost in a world of superhero fight scenes and massive double-page spreads of epic battles. Sometimes the best comics art is the most intimate, and Bad Karma is able to find that sense that we're sitting in the backseat while two old friends figure some stuff out in a way that's both fast and profound. Something special is starting here.
And that's it for The Pull List 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."