Comics Disassembled: Ten Things of Note from the Past Week in Comics, Led by Things Blowing Up

It’s a bit of a mixed bag in this week’s column, but in a weekly piece that’s all about things I liked or didn’t like, I suppose that makes sense. Let’s get to all that jazz, led by a publisher doing its best to alienate everyone.

1. Dynamite, Blowing Up (and not in a good way)

If you spend any time on the comics internet, you’ve already heard of the whole Dynamite Entertainment kerfuffle. A Cliffs Notes version of it is Dynamite – already deeply, deeply ComicsGate curious, having run retailer incentive covers featuring Cyberfrog on them (in conjunction with Ethan Van Sciver of course) as well as seeing its Publisher/CEO Nick Barrucci appear on ComicsGate streams and giving a bizarre keynote speech at ComicsPro’s annual summit on cancel culture, amongst other things – was straight up running an Indiegogo account to fund an honestly awful cover featuring Cecil – a ComicsGate personality named Cecil Jones – positioned between Red Sonja and Vampirella.

The internet responded poorly (and correctly, because ComicsGate is a hate group that people should respond poorly to), with readers, retailers and creators saying “thanks but no thanks forever!” to Dynamite. Fast forward to the publisher backing out and saying they’d no longer be going through with the cover. For a longer version, here’s a gigantic collection of everything that happened over at ComicBook dot com.

I’m going to go ahead and make the blanket assumption that you know the bulk of this and speed through to my thoughts. This was just a colossal, unbelievable blunder by Dynamite and Barrucci, although saying “blunder” insinuates that it’s a mistake as opposed to a deliberate move. Second hand, I’ve heard that the head of Dynamite was taken aback by the response, surprised by how vitriolic the response was. At the same time, it seems pretty clear given every move they made, this is the kind of group – and, by transitive properties, actions – they condone. How they didn’t expect this is beyond me, because the writing was on the wall from the jump.

Now? I honestly don’t know who is going to work for Dynamite, as several key creators jumped ship, including Mark Russell and Karla Pacheco. Others who had unannounced books have as well. I know retailers who are backing out from future Dynamite orders, beyond those who publicly stated that. That won’t necessarily be the end of the world for them, because frankly, Dynamite’s audience is a narrow target within the direct market. Your Red Sonjas and Vampirellas don’t sell to every shop in droves. I’d wager a small percentage of comic shops represent a very high percentage of their overall orders. But all of that is still costly.

Especially because – and I can’t believe I’m going to say this – their lack of commitment to being villains ostracized their other audience in the CG crew. Now, they’re a man without a country, a publisher who is a nuclear wasteland to talent, has wavering retail prospects, and who have even turned themselves into outsiders amongst the group of trolls and creeps they were wooing, until they weren’t. Basically, they somehow played this as poorly as humanly possible, leaving them in a position where no one is on their side anymore.

Is there a path back? I honestly don’t know! Frankly, I don’t think Dynamite was super attractive to begin with, unless readers, retailers or creators have an affinity for a particular property, or a creator is given particular freedom with one, like Kieron Gillen, Caspar Wijngaard and friends had in Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt. Their comics are laden with ads, their marketing is nil to none, and the overall production value of the releases are meh. Where is the appeal there? I know creators said Barrucci’s statement – in which he feigned ignorance, saying he had no idea the move would be so “polarizing” – was a step in the right direction, but this is going to be a real prove it situation. And who is excited to get in business with them to help prove it?

It’s honestly bewildering. I joked on Twitter that it will be easy for me to boycott Dynamite, as I have been accidentally doing so for 16 years. That’s not entirely untrue. I’ve bought I believe two titles from them during their existence. I cannot imagine a situation where I’d do that in the future, which is a shame, because they had great creators onboard – I heard nothing but good things about Russell’s work with Red Sonja, and I was thinking of ordering the trade before this – and I know they had some exciting stuff coming up. Now? It’s all gone, just so they could fund a not particularly interesting cover starring a not particularly interesting character. It’s a shame, although a fate befitting the path they chose.

2. KEANUUUUUUUUUUUUUU

It was a big week for actors getting involved with comics, as both Keanu Reeves and Oscar Isaac had comic projects announced, even if their roles were each somewhat…let’s say…inspirational. Because of that, it was also a big week for complaining about actors getting comic work. That’s going to happen, as comics have always had a rare combination of an inferiority complex and being extremely territorial. But you know what: I think it’s pretty cool that Keanu and Isaac are wanting to make comics, even if they are pretty obvious IP plays, given that each lead in the comics looks just like them.

I’m more interested in the Keanu project overall. Perhaps it’s because I like Keanu incrementally more, perhaps it’s because the comic sounds ridiculous, perhaps it’s because Matt Kindt is co-writing it (by the way, this finally explains Keanu’s BANG! pull quote), or something, but this book – titled BRZRKR, a vowelless treasure like SKTCHD itself – sounds like it could be an entertaining 12-issue run, especially with Allesandro Vitti drawing it. It’s coming in October, and you better believe I’m hoping to get Keanu on the podcast.

Meanwhile, Isaac is working on Head Wounds: Sparrow, a project that honestly sounds a bit absurd, both because of its concept and the deluge of cooks in the kitchen. Isaac isn’t even really participating in the actual production. It’s the idea of him, Bob Johnson (whose dream while dealing with non-Hodgkin Lymphoma inspired this story) and John Alvey, as these three childhood friends cooked it up for writer Brian Buccellato and artist Christian Ward (!!) to bring to life. This one I’m mixed on. I love the story of these three long time friends partnering up to tell a story, especially when it came from a place of great heartache. It’s very nice story. The idea itself is a bit ridiculous sounding though – it involves cops with psychic head wounds, angels and demons – it’s from Legendary, a notable IP farm of a comic company, and it feels much more like something done to be a movie.

But hey, that’s their prerogative. My read on these projects is they aren’t costing anyone else work, because frankly, BRZRKR and Head Wounds: Sparrow simply wouldn’t exist without the stars driving them. BOOM! and Legendary weren’t likely between these books and other projects. More than likely, these exist solely because Keanu and Isaac were like, “Let’s make this happen.” Frankly, their star power increases the possibility people will pay attention to comics at little cost to anyone. How is that anything but a good thing? I’m cool with it.

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