New Publishers, Newsletters, and Licensed Comics: It’s the September 2022 Mailbag Q&A!

It’s time once again, everyone. Let’s dive into the September Mailbag Q&A, in which I answer subscriber and patron questions on a wide variety of topics. But mostly comics this month!

You are put in charge of a new publisher, but you can only stick to one genre. What genre would you pick and what creative team would you want to launch your first book? – Mike Ianuzo

It depends if I’m looking to make money or if I’m looking to just publish amazing comics.

Without knowing those parameters, I’m going to make a callback to a recent episode of Off Panel: I’d publish science fiction comics, but exclusively from people who don’t normally make science fiction comics. And the first book I’d publish would be one where I throw a boatload of money at Faith Erin Hicks – I assume I am rich in this scenario – so she can write and draw her own space horror comic in the vein of Alien, as she so desires. Am I doing this mostly so I can read it? Sure. Whatever. You didn’t say what my publisher would be focusing on, so in this scenario, I’m just publishing comics I can read.

But also in this case my publisher has the greatest marketing team ever and I will put millions into it becoming the biggest hit the world has ever seen. Also I own an NBA team and have invented a variation of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups that have zero calories but taste exactly the same. This is the scenario I have decided upon.

The latest (as of this writing) newsletter from Chip Zdarsky

You’ve mentioned on the pod a few times that you subscribe to several Substacks. My question is – when do you actually read them compared to when they arrive in your inbox? I subscribe to four at the moment (Hickman, Morrison, Chip, Tynion), but I find myself skipping reading them most of the time, and maybe going back when I get a spare minute and reading the ones that look interesting. I think this is my main issue with the format – my tiny brain associates email notifications to my phone with either work or another task that needs completed, so I find it hard to “relax” enough to properly appreciate the posts at time they arrive. It feels like “work” to me. – Ewan Shearer

It depends on the newsletter!

Chip’s I read almost immediately the majority of the time. I find Chip to be a delight, and it’s rare that his newsletters aren’t extremely enjoyable at the ceiling and a charming diversion at the floor. BKV’s one I often do the same, as it’s typically shorter and focused, often on a question he’s asking his audience. Three Worlds/Three Moons is often read later, and only read about half the time. It depends on the subject. But I love the process stuff and often will read those because I find it fascinating to see how The Mikes work.

Those are the three I subscribe to at a paid level. The rest (and I mean the rest, I believe I subscribe to all of them) are at the free tier, mostly because of financial considerations. Tom Brevoort’s is read consistently, but often at the end of the day because it’s typically quite robust. Kelly Thompson’s is consistently unexpected, and I’ll read that on occasion. Outside of the Substack space, I quite like Kieron Gillen and Declan Shalvey’s as well and will read those regularly.

I will say, though: I like emails! My brain doesn’t process those as work, if only because I categorically refuse to have work email on my phone – when asked, I said “no,” and no one has ever pushed me to do otherwise – so my brain only associates “work” with my laptop rather than with my phone. I think that helps. And while SKTCHD and Off Panel are undeniably “work,” they’re “fun” work most of the time, which makes those emails considerably more tolerable than the ones you get, I’d imagine. I think not having my work email on my phone is a big difference maker. I want a separation of home and work, even if – or especially if, even! – they’re one and the same for me now.

Have you experienced any newsletter fatigue? – Ian A

I’m not sure if I’ve experienced newsletter fatigue as much as “things I like” fatigue. We’re living in a time where fans of things are superserved those things. Want access to your favorite creators? Want more Marvel stories? Want anything to do with Star Wars? I hope you’re ready for the absolute apex of all of that!

It can lead to diminishing returns, and a flattening of the emotions surrounding those things. Maybe that’s why some of the most joyful experiences with art this year have been the unexpected ones, like Everything Everywhere All at Once or The Three-Body Problem. Those are changes of pace and fiercely original stories, and ones that stand out because of how different they are. But yeah, it’s less “newsletter fatigue” and more fatigue of…most things? I like being surprised, and it just feels like we’re in a period of homogeny. That can be the case with newsletters too, both inside comics and outside of them.

I know people are mixed on 3W3M, but that’s part of the reason I find it interesting. Say what you will about it, but it’s undeniably different. I appreciate that, even if I empathize with some beefs people have with it.

What some of your favorite examples of storytelling-through-color in comics? (Not just individual panels or even pages—after all, some of the best are in the way color shaped entire arcs.) – Mark Tweedale

Let me just say, Mark. I saw your cascade of pages that showcase how color is used across entire comics, with the evolution of those colors changing the tone throughout. I want to say that I do not think like that. At all. While I might pick up on things like that subconsciously, I do not think of color in the totality of a comic, arc, or graphic sense, only in an individual page and instance. I am but a simple reader with simple needs. The closest I got to that on was Sloane Leong’s A Map to the Sun, and that was mostly looking at the paper from the outside of the book and being like “pretty!” Again: simple.

Related to that simplicity, most of my favorite examples of color in comics are of ways colorists orchestrate our emotions through non-realistic bursts in the background of otherwise regular panels. Matt Wilson does this well (and often), with my mind often going straight to Paper Girls, where he would often reinforce feelings with hot or cold colors behind characters. There are also specific color choices – i.e. the limited palette of R. Kikuo Johnson’s No One Else with its striking bursts of orange – that work, but ones that are perhaps a bit more obvious. Those are the moments that stand out in my head more than anything, as they drive and manipulate my emotions as a reader in a way that stands out in retrospect but doesn’t really consciously enter your brain at the time.

I’m sure there are cases where color shaped entire arcs and it shifted my feelings and emotions in the story in a subconscious way, but it evidently has not escaped the confines of my subconscious. It hits and does what it needs to, but not in a way I’m actively aware of, apparently. I’m such a basic reader!

Has there been any comics in this decade so far that you would consider to be one of your all time favorites? – Troy Guin

There are cheater answers and non-cheater answers to this. Something like Kaijumax was already on my list heading into this decade, and it continued to build on that in this decade. So it’s in already.

But it really depends on how deep we’re talking in terms of my all-time favorite lists (and if you mean the 2020s rather than the past ten years). If we’re talking top 50, definitely. If we’re talking top 10, maybe not. Just glancing at my lists from the past couple years quickly, I’d say Adrian Tomine’s The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist, Ryan North and Albert Monteys’ Slaughterhouse-Five, R. Kikuo Johnson’s No One Else, James Tynion IV and Alvaro Martinez Bueno’s The Nice House on the Lake, and Kieron Gillen and Esad Ribic’s Eternals run are contenders for an all-time longlist. Once & Future is climbing up there. Reckless is in range.

But I’m not sure I’d put any of them against all-time faves, like Preacher, 20th Century Boys, Y the Last Man, or Born Again. No One Else is the closest, and it might well be a top 10 comic for me. But I’d really need to dig deep and consider my favorites before making any declarative statements like that.

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