Did you win your office Oscar pool?
Brian here, and I realize I’m one of the last humans on the planet who still fills out a printable ballot for each Academy Awards, but I’ve been competing with my dumb older brother, the definition of a Hollywood outsider, for the last 25 years, and last night, I’m proud to say that I finally… lost to him for the 25th time in a row.
Goddammit, I was sure Billy Nighy was a lock for Best Actor.
Anyway, extra special thanks this week to letterer Fonografiks, who did some heroic work on a rapidly upcoming issue of Saga early this morning before seamlessly transitioning to lettering these resplendent pages of Spectators by artist/co-creator Niko Henrichon:
Wait, are we seriously being denied the satisfaction of some good old-fashioned gun violence? Stay tuned, you bloodthirsty rabble.
And how beautiful has Niko’s artwork been throughout this scene? In related news, congrats to whoever out there way outbid me at auction this weekend to win the original art to Niko’s awe-inspiring cover for the 2018 collected edition of Metabaron from Les Humanoïdes:
If you’ve also been dreaming of getting your hands on some of Niko’s incredible (and increasingly valuable) artwork, Niko will be generously giving away another page of his hand-painted original art from Spectators next week, and all you have to do to be automatically entered in this monthly drawing is be a paid subscriber to Exploding Giraffe, currently only $3.33 a month when you join us for a year. If you love art and/or commerce, you can’t afford NOT to subscribe…
In last week’s chat thread with you generous members of The Tower, we were discussing favorite recent films of ours that were completely ignored by the Oscars.
Kevin J Soberanis said:
I can admit I try my best to be indifferent about Oscar nominations or awards in general, but I usually end up tuning in and getting upset by something or other. Emily the Criminal and After Yang were two movies I saw last year that had me at the edge of my seat. Also, was Mad God nominated for animated feature? That movie has yet to let me sleep in peace. It’s a riot.
Andrew Martin Hogsten mentioned a movie that a lot of us Tower-types also adore:
I’m not sure if 2015 counts as “somewhat recent” but Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room was a masterpiece. Patrick Stewart’s performance as a Neo-nazi was chilling. I’d argue it was amongst his finest works as an actor and he should’ve received more accolades. Honestly, there isn’t a bad performance in the entire film. Gut wrenching too that it ended up being one of Anton Yelchin’s last.
And I appreciated this even-handed take from Eric Bourassa:
I like that the Oscars ges more diversity in terms of genre and movies that make money vs. smaller films. The Grammys are completely “here’s what sold the most,” except in smaller categories. But look at what’s up for Best Picture this year: Women Talking, Everything Everywhere, Tar, Avatar, Top Gun, Banshees... quite an eclectic mix.
Our intern Genesis the Exploded Giraffe will be sending out some signed copies of that second printing of Saga #61 to these randomly selected cinephiles, but huge thanks to all of you for the excellent recommendations, many of which got added to my endless queue of films I look forward to finally watching if/when my kids ever leave.
Recently, superstar comic writer James Tynion IV was nice enough to send me the first issue of W0RLDTR33, his upcoming series from Image Comics with artist Fernando Blanco, colorist Jordie Bellaire, and letterer Aditya Bidikar.
I’m jealously disappointed to report that it’s great.
The physical issue itself (love that cover) will be in stores 4/12, but here’s a free taste for you to enjoy right now.
Since you’ve been reading Spectators, I imagine you also have a high tolerance for graphic violence… and yet I still found this opening deeply unsettling, so strap in.
If you’re ready for more, be sure to ask your friendly neighborhood comic shop to save you a copy when you stop by this week, as the cut-off for retailers to order is 3/20.
Anyway, as thanks for letting me read his next smash hit, I cruelly forced James to generate some precious content for me in the form of this surprise interview, a world exclusive featuring an honest-to-goodness scoop about his next solo-written original series!
BKV SABOTAGES JAMES TYNION IV WITH TEN AWKWARD QUESTIONS
1) James, huge congrats to you and the entire W0RLDTR33 team for this outstanding first issue. What’s the best television pilot of all time?
I wrote my first pilot in the last year, so I’ve been thinking about this a lot. One of my favorites is the pilot for FREAKS AND GEEKS, because there’s this really incredible economy of storytelling in the pre-title sequence. The show tells you exactly what it is in its first couple of minutes. I was a teenager in the 2000s, so LOST obviously looms large in my head. I think you can feel that show in the DNA of a lot of my work. I also still have more of a soft spot for Aaron Sorkin than a lot of my peers do (I love some good banter), and THE WEST WING pilot is extraordinarily well crafted and funny. But I think the answer is the pilot to CHEERS. Whenever I talk to friends about writing superhero team books, I tell them to watch a few seasons of a great sitcom, because when they are good, they are actually literally structurally perfect, and probably the purest form of fiction TV that exists.
2) This question is normally reserved for my alarmingly infrequent podcast-thing Mature Readers (which I would love to do with you next time we’re in the same city), but because nudity is such a boldly vital part of W0RLDTR33, I’m compelled to ask you here: When was the first time you saw cock and/or balls in a comic book?
This one is tougher to nail down with a specific answer. I was a gay teenager with internet access in the early 2000s, and there were raunchy corners of the internet adjacent to webcomics and fan-fiction where I spent a lot of time, and I saw a LOT of things I wasn’t seeing on the shelves of the Borders Books I was picking up my comics from. Because it’s you asking, the full frontal shot of Yorick in Y: The Last Man #37 comes to mind as maybe the first time I bumped into cock and balls in a direct market comic that I was picking up monthly, but by the time I saw it, I had definitely acclimated myself to the visual. Hahahahaha.
3) What dimension is artist Fernando Blanco from, and how the fuck is he able to make 12-panel pages look so elegant? Is the secret Jordie Bellaire?
Look, I’m just happy I managed to kidnap the both of them, and our series letterer Aditya Bidikar. Every fucking page of the book looks gorgeous, and I can’t wait for people to see it all. I will say that Fernando and I came up with the idea of the twelve panel grid together! I would never have dared push it as hard as we do without his full approval. And man, does he make it look good.
4) After he got reelected, George W. Bush said, “I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it.” Anyway, I sometimes think about “creative” capital, and how unexpected successes can buy artists the security/freedom/whatever to take daring risks on their next projects. Not to compare you or your book to the Bush administration, but W0RLDTR33 feels like a comic that came from a place of similar spending confidence. Is that fair, or am I full of shit?
Well, hopefully this doesn’t end up just being a life-destroying money pit. But yeah, for sure. W0RLDTR33 is a brutal book, but it still has a lot of aspects that I know there’s an audience for. I think people aren’t reading enough things that hit a visceral nerve, and that they are drawn to stories that do. I want to hit that nerve. I think that SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN has been successful enough that people forget the idea of an action-adventure series where children get violently ripped in half on panel was also a bit of a gamble. I go a bit further in the horror here, but I also get to off-set that with a sexy murder lady who will have her own audience that will bolster the success of the book, and a very human central cast to off-set the very inhuman threat of PH34R and the Undernet. And all of that underpins a sprawling story that lets me say everything I want to say about what the internet has done to us as a society. I do think I’d be a bit more cautious if I didn’t have previous successes to lean on, but I do think there’s a sizable audience for a book like this. And we’ll find out whether or not I’m wrong in a few more weeks.
5) Variant covers: are they a fun way to give readers and collectors what they want and help keep new books alive, or an unholy plague that threatens to destroy the entire industry?
I mean, the answer is both. Obviously, the collector market has been very kind to me for several years, and their support has paid well enough for me to make even more comics with creators I adore. There are obvious tricks and scams in that world, but mostly I don’t think it’s as corrosive as previous speculator booms were, and I don’t think we can just write off the collector community. They are thousands of die-hard comic book fans who wake up in the morning and fill out spreadsheets and figure out how many comic shops they can drive to, talking in facebook groups about which books they think will succeed. I’d be more anxious about variants on my books if I wasn’t seeing big success in collected editions, but in the meantime I’m happy to keep seeing my characters drawn by a bunch of my favorite artists.
6) I don’t like that you’re both extremely talented and much younger than I am. Is there a comic writer out there at the moment who similarly annoys you?
I started as such a baby in the industry, with my first published work coming out when I was 24, and that skews my perspective. There are folks coming up today, who are hitting their stride as creators and probably fans would guess they’re younger than me, but most of them are still a few years older. I definitely can get competitive with folks in my own peer group, but I think I was more susceptible to that when I was still living in Superheroland. Now I’m just sort of doing my own thing, and it doesn’t feel like a lot of folks are moving in the same space, so I just get to be happy to read good comics when they’re good. I know at some moment a person born after the year 2000 will do something great in comics that will hit a nerve in me I don’t expect and then I’ll go insane. In the meantime, I’ll just find other things about the comics industry to drive me insane day-to-day. There’s plenty.
7) I read on your Substack that you’ve joined the world of original comic art collecting. Welcome to this fun and debilitating addiction. May I ask, what’s the last piece you picked up? Do you have much art from your own books?
This is going to sound like bullshit, but it legitimately was a page from Y: The Last Man. I’ve been hunting down pages from series that were really formative in making me want to write comics, so I have pages from Y, Sleeper, Planetary, JLA: Earth 2, Scott Pilgrim, Strangers in Paradise, a couple of the Steve Oliff color guides from Akira. I still don’t have a Sandman page, though. I promised myself at an early stage in my career that the second I got a single check that crossed a certain threshold I would go out and hunt down one of the pages. There was a page from Seasons of Mists that was going for like 12K when I was still co-writing Gotham stuff with Scott, that I bet would crack 50K now since it had both Morpheus and Death on it, and it’s all inflated by the success of the TV show. I’ve decided on a new check threshold at which point I will devote a stupid part of my brain to acquiring a good Sandman page. I have a piece from pretty much every project I’ve ever worked on, as long as the artist wasn’t working digitally, with some exceptions. I wish I could go back and snag one of the pages from the Batman back-ups I did with Jock, but that was a bit too rich for my 25 year old blood, and now they’re all in private collections. The dream page would be the one where I made Jock draw six men carrying a horse upside down, which Jock still gives me shit about all these years later.
8) Are you a comic lifer, or will you drop this medium like a bad habit the second you line up enough Hollywood work to pay off your yacht?
Comics can’t get rid of me that easily. I love film and television, and have had fun playing in other media, but nothing beats tricking some absolutely fucking phenomenal artists into drawing the comic books I want to read. I can’t believe this is my life. I’m doing fucking UFO stories, and Horror comics, and coming up with these vibrant exciting characters that I get to see all the best artists in the comics industry draw. I’ll settle for a much smaller comic book yacht as long as I can keep doing that.
9) Come on, give a fellow ’stacker an exclusive. Doesn’t have to be huge, just give me one tiny little tease of a scoop about some upcoming something of yours, for the love of Christ, please, give me that content!
My next solo-written original series launch is a Christmas story, a Serial Killer story, and is based a little bit on me noodling on what it was like to go to high school 15 blocks away from the apartment building where Jeffrey Dahmer killed all those people, as a gay teenager where that was the local context for what a gay person was. A real light-hearted book. We’re about halfway through the second issue and it’ll launch later this year when it’s seasonally appropriate.
10) What’s your favorite Harlan Ellison story?
‘“Repent, Harlequin!” Said The Ticktockman’ is so fucking good. When I first read it, it blew me away that it was written in the 60s, because it feels so in line with the best deconstructionist SF comics of the 80s. Obviously that whole generation proudly wore his influence on their sleeves, but it was striking to feel it so directly, in a story that feels superhero adjacent in a way that it couldn’t be given how contemporaneous it was to the start of the Marvel Universe. The real answer is the most obvious one. “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream,” which we quote on the first page of W0RLDTR33, is one of the best science fiction short stories ever written, and one of the best horror short stories ever written. Just a fucking brutal gutpunch of SF terror that everyone should read.
Thanks again to James for the thoughtful answers and very kind words, even though the fact he was watching LOST as a teenager makes me want to set myself on fire.
For this week’s Tower-only chat, I wanted to ask you something I asked James: What’s the best television pilot of all time?
One lucky commenter will be randomly selected to receive this “virgin trade dress” copy of Blue Book by James and the awesome Michael Avon Oeming, available through the Tiny Onion Shop:
If I don’t see you in the chat, have an excellent week, and I’ll meet you back here next Monday, cool?
Still love that pilot episode of The Shield,
#1 TV Pilot of ALL TIME: Heroes
I think the most engaged I've ever been with the first episode of a tv show was the interview intro to The Newsroom. The writing on that show was incredible...but I still need to watch the final season.