Up and Coming Publishers, Digital Thoughts, Insane Characters, and more: The March 2022 Mailbag is Here

It’s Mailbag time, everyone! I asked for questions to answer for March, and as per usual, you all delivered. Let’s get to answering those, and thanks again for these! I always have a blast with these, and you all did not disappoint.

Have you been noticing how many great comics HarperAlley/HarperCollins/Quill Tree Books has been putting out lately? I feel like the last two years or so, they’ve really been nailing their output, getting better all the time. (They’re rarely categorised properly though… never on any upcoming comics lists.) Only in the last fortnight we’ve had SquireThe Legend of Brightblade, and Wingbearer, all of which were excellent. – Mark Tweedale

I have been, at least to a degree! Each of those have been catching my eye as of late (I will note that Squire did show up on comic release lists), and it honestly feels like there are some really interesting new players out there in the book market. Look at Abrams ComicArts as of late! They’re signing some big name creators to some big deals! Gallery 13 is doing some interesting things! It’s honestly becoming so stratified that I have a tough time keeping up with all of it, even compared to before.

These days, keeping up with comics means keeping up with releases in both the direct market and the book market, but also digital, varying webtoon platforms, self-publishing, crowdfunding, weirdo platforms like Substack and Zestword, and beyond. And within those, the number of creators and players is increasing rapidly. It’s bonkers. I try to keep up with it all, but then my head starts spinning and I somehow end up back on my couch trying to 100% Horizon Forbidden West. It’s a good thing, but boy, it sure is an overwhelming thing as well.

It looks like copies of 20th Century Boys are finally available again! I know it’s a favorite of yours – just how highly would you recommend it, and what would be your “elevator pitch” be? – Elliot Metz

You’re totally right about them being available again. Recently at Barnes and Noble, I came across all the Perfect Editions in one row! It was a beautiful sight. The Boys are back in stock! Yeah!

I say that 20th Century Boys is the 1b to Preacher’s 1a for my all time favorite comics. Now, it’s been a bit since I reread either of those, but let’s assume those ranks hold. So, needless to say, I would recommend it pretty highly. I’d actually recommend it above Preacher, as I think 20th Century Boys offers a more universal story, as Preacher is…a bit intense at times. Let’s say that. I wouldn’t recommend 20th Century Boys to someone who wasn’t ready for a commitment, because Naoki Urasawa has a lot to say over its 24 tankobons or 12 Perfect Editions. It’s not a story you read a couple of and bounce. It’s all in or all out. So that would be the biggest caveat to my recommendation.

An elevator pitch would be difficult, as it’s such a sprawling story, both in terms of timeline and cast but also tone. There isn’t really a perfect “x meets y” type pitch to be made. I’ll do my best, though.

20th Century Boys is Stranger Things but if you follow the kids throughout their entire lives. It’s an imperfect comparison, but it is a Stranger Things-like (like is carrying a lot of water there) story in which the path to the end of the world starts when they’re kids, but carries on throughout their entire lives, showing how those experiences change them as they try to live their lives but are never able to escape their connection – and potential to stop – to this major event. Of course, this isn’t Dungeons and Dragons-style monsters threatening a small town in Indiana, but a mysterious cult-leader with a connection to their youth who is related to attacks with biological weapons and fake robots. But that’s what you get! Elevator pitches are tough!

Favourite Urasawa book of all time? – JP Jordan

20th Century Boys is obviously the answer, but there’s a ton of competition!

Pluto is probably #2. I love Pluto completely, and one could argue it is Urasawa’s best. I just connected more with the personal friend/family vibes of 20th Century Boys, even if Gesicht is a legendary character. Master Keaton and Monster are not far from the top either, and as Asadora! builds, it’s making its way up.

The reason this is tough to answer is I love pretty much everything Urasawa does. It’s like picking my favorite meal I’ve ever had. The competition is fierce, and at that level, it’s all great. The only Urasawa I’d even say I didn’t love, leaning more towards liked or even simply fine with, was Mujirushi. It wasn’t bad by any means. It just felt like Urasawa Lite, which makes sense considering its standalone nature. But even then, Mujirushi was exceptional in its craft, so it’s not like it was such a burn to read. It was just lower tier Urasawa to me.

Who’s your favorite insane character in comics? – Rasmus Lykke

Naturally, it depends on your definition of “insane,” but mine definitely includes Dogwelder. So it’s Dogwelder. I love everything about Dogwelder – a character from Garth Ennis and John McCrea’s Hitman, in case you don’t know – besides the whole harming animals thing. I love the look, where he’s just a guy who appears to be a welder but carries dogs with him to…weld to criminals? I love the name, which is straight, to the point, and perfectly describes his whole thing. I love that he doesn’t talk at all, yet is on a super team, albeit an extremely bad one.

Most of all, I love his origin story. The shortened version of it was Ennis challenged artist Steve Dillon to come up with a lamer name than Green Lantern, and Dillon came up with Dogwelder. Ennis put him in Hitman with McCrea, and thus, a legend was born. It’s perfect.

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