Alright, a lot has happened the past few weeks, and I wasn’t able to tackle Comics Disassembled due to illness. Because of that, I’m going to do a one time only edition of this that covers other weeks, in which a) there will be 25 (!!!) items we cover and b) the vast majority of them will be quick. Like, single paragraph quick. Or at least I’ll try to do that. If I went my normal length with 25 items, I’d still be doing this in 2024.
So let’s get to it!
1. The Comics Pro Onslaught, Standing Out
This past week brought ComicsPRO’s annual meeting to Pittsburgh, as retailers, publishers, creators, distributors, and more met at the event for comics retail’s trade organization. It was, by all accounts, a fantastic event, with it being the first in-person one since 2020 and one that generated a lot of joy and good feelings from a side of comics that was feeling increasingly burdened with uncertainty of late. I’m not going to lie: I am super envious of everyone who went. I went once and had a fantastic time.
But because this was such a big deal at such an important time, the news, my friends, was flowing. Because there was a lot, let’s rapid fire through a lot of it to highlight some of my favorite tidbits to drop there.
- The biggest news was arguably the announcement of Knight Terrors, DC’s summer event that’s written by Joshua Williamson with art by Howard Porter. It spins out of the death of one of DC’s oldest villains – fingers crossed for Starro! – and how that leads to an investigation bordering on the lines between life and death. The big note is it has a horror emphasis, with a wave of two-issue series spinning out of this as heroes and villains contend with their biggest fears. It’s an interesting idea, and I love the name – KNIGHT Terrors! – but my initial reaction wasn’t one of this being a BIG event as much as a fun, connecting idea. We’ll see, though. A connecting special will be the publisher’s Free Comic Book Day release, so clearly it’s a big focus, with the main event launching in July.
- In what would be the most impactful news, if it proves to be true, it seems as if the rumor going around was that Diamond Comic Distributors is going to cut its shipping costs by 40%. Given that this is a massive point of contention amongst retailers, it’s certain this would be well received…if it happens. I’m sure they wish it was 100%, though!
- Oni was doing stuff! Apparently they’re bringing seasoned direct market veteran Bill Schanes on as a consultant for the company, Sierra Hahn (formerly of BOOM!) as its Editor-in-Chief, and Third Eye Comics’ Michael Torma as its Senior Sales Manager. Each of these people are respected in their fields, known commodities, and individuals who will likely help bring better feelings around this new iteration of the publisher.
- Speaking of Oni, we got our first feel of their nu-Oni vibe with the announcement of Xino, a new three issue anthology series featuring Oni creators of the past, present, and future. It features a fascinating mix of names, but the thing that stood out to me the most was energy around the email announcing it, with a pulsing animation revving it up in the viewer’s face. Honestly, it felt like Oni mixed with early Bad Idea, which makes sense because former Bad Idea man Hunter Gorinson’s running the show there now. It kind of works!
- BOOM! announced a ton of things, from a reduction on variants and a new variation of their BOOM! Guarantee to expansions of titles like Briar and Damn Them All into ongoings. It’s a lot. But the biggest for me is the promise of more Wild’s End. I NEED TO KNOW MORE, BOOM! Give me more Wild’s End, now!
- Robert Kirkman and Lorenzo De Felici, the Oblivion Song pals themselves, are teaming up for a new sci-fi title at Skybound called Void Rivals that sounds quite intriguing, both for the creators involved – shouts to colorist Matheus Lopes! – and for the premise. But the biggest sizzle to it is it finds the pair building a new shared universe. What does that mean? I’m not sure…yet! But shared universes promise more to come, and so we’ll keep an eye on what’s more to come from them.
There was plenty more, but those are some headliners. With Emerald City Comic Con officially launching con season, I’m sure more will come this weekend as well. We’ll talk about that next week, though.
2. Bill Watterson, Returning!
Massive news! Bill Watterson is returning! The Calvin & Hobbes cartoonist is teaming up with renowned caricaturist John Kascht to craft The Mysteries, a project that’s labeled on Amazon as a “fantasy graphic novel” but looks a whole lot more like a picture book to me. This Andrews McMeel release is coming in October, and it’s about a curious mix of calamities, knights, kingdoms, and assorted other things. By far the most interesting part about it – beyond the surprise return of the long-absent Watterson, of course – is how the art is being crafted.
As you can see in the above link, the left hand pages will be text while the right will be pictures, and it isn’t just Watterson or Kascht drawing the book, but the pair doing so together in a rather unique way, as the solicitation suggests on Amazon. Here’s what it says: “For the book’s illustrations, Watterson and caricaturist John Kascht worked together for several years in unusually close collaboration. Both artists abandoned their past ways of working, inventing images together that neither could anticipate—a mysterious process in its own right.” That is incredibly fascinating! I’m dying to know more about that process, but I suspect Watterson will not be eager to chat with me on Off Panel about it. I hope to hear more about in the build-up, though, because it’s quite intriguing.
What isn’t intriguing is the exhaustion that will assuredly come when the Calvin & Hobbes comparisons invariably come out upon approach. Let me just say this: Watterson made Calvin & Hobbes, and it was great…but it does not represent the totality of Watterson. It’s clear he’s moved on, so the best and healthiest way to enjoy The Mysteries will be as a mystery itself, and one that finds Watterson and his collaborator approaching a story in a new and frankly exciting way. And if anyone that gets the rare chance to interview Watterson tries to shoehorn in a Calvin & Hobbes comparison to a book that’s just not about that life, they will belong in the same fictional jail that people who ask Alan Moore about his thoughts on Watchmen adaptations do! Let’s not do that, people! Be better than that!
Anyways, welcome back to the legend. I’m excited to see what kind of story he has in store for us when The Mysteries arrives later this year.