Moving List From Substack

Hi

Quick update post: I’m moving on from Substack.

No need to change anything your end - I’ll be exporting the list and moving the content over to buttondown tomorrow. I wanted to write in advance, as I suspect it’ll mail you all with confirmation mails and similar. Also, to warn you to check spam filters if you don’t see it turn up.

The first mail should be tomorrow.

EDIT: This was optimistic - still getting stuff set up. Should be on Friday.

EDIT 2: I was pessimistic! It went out. Should be making its way through the system now.

Why? You may be aware of the conversation around Substack’s business practises coming to light. This is a quick overview of it, including critiques and responses. I find the justifications pretty weak, and eyebrow raise hard at Substack doing the writer equivalent of Uber’s “we don’t hire drivers.” Ultimately, the problem is transparency. I have no idea who they’re paying, and therefore what I’m supporting by being here.

Equally, it’s a prompt for action. For a while I’ve been thinking I can afford to pay for a mailing list, so probably should, especially if I go to a one person project like buttondown. So I have.

Also, Once & Future 17 is out today, which has lots of explosions, but I’ll write more soon.

Byeee, etc.

Kieron
London
24.3.2021

185: Old-fashioned Ahar'ag, Dasrhudeana Daytooth and Karyheitiny the Grubby

Hullo.

3ternals
I Like Comics They Are Nice
Links
Previews
Byyyyeeee!!!

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Eternals 3 is out, where we reach Lemuria and introduce Thena. I have no idea what folks will make of this one. Actually, that’s not true – I always have ideas of what folks will make of it. But, in a broad way, there’s some of my favourite things in the issue are things which may not even be visible to some folks. Luckily, everyone is going to get the atmosphere which Esad and Matt bring to the page, and the design stuff Clayton has done is the most extensive we’ve done so far. There’s a design spread which I showed C and her response was “I’m glad I’m not working on this book.” I basically want to send apology flowers to Marvel’s proofreader.

All Deviant names, bar pre-existing ones, were generated via the Deviant Name Generator I mentioned coding. We’re still working out whether we can actually get it out there so you lot can play with it – I wrote it Gamemaker, which has exported to HTML5 but we’re still working how best to show it to folks. Everyone I’ve showed it to has highly amused themselves by just generating hundreds of Deviants. I just had a play with it now, and I’m sure that Old-fashioned Ahar'ag, Dasrhudeana Daytooth and Karyheitiny the Grubby will be the break out MCU characters in Wave 7.

Here’s the first two pages of the preview

And there’s another one here. You can buy it digitally or get from fine comic retailers.

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Since we last talked, I was a on an Image panel for a future virtual con. It was genuinely a positive experience, and so much of what I most love about doing a book at Image. These creators, in very different ways, staking what they actually want to do. I’d caught up with all the books on the panel, and was struck by how putting them all together you got an snapshot of these takes on what comics can be. Clearly, it’s not the full range of what comics can do, as Image primarily deals in genre work with a pop aesthetic… but I was struck how big that space can be when the idea of a house style is an anathema.

Barnes and Alexander’s Killadelphia has just finished issue 12, and so the one which I had the joy of catching up on in a big rush of strong-perspective, grounded vampire horror, set in the shadows of the American dream. Alexander’s manages this unflinching mood, and I am mildly obsessed with Barnes’ caption use, sometimes with multiple first-person narrators interlocking. To add to my previous paragraph’s point, I hadn’t even thought of the connective tissue – “Vampires” - between Killadelphia and Dracula Motherfucker until writing this sentence, as they come from such different places. This is gloriously lurid, stylish, feminist arthouse/grindhouse pulp, and De Campi and Henderson do the trick of creating pages both beautiful and horrific. Synder, Daniel and Morey’s just-out Nocterra is also in the horror space, but finds its rhythm in the big-blockbuster mode, of huge action in an apocalyptic, sunless setting – no actual vampires, but speaking to the same fear of what could be out there to take us. Finally, not out yet – i.e. time to talk to your retailer - is Pichetshote and Tefenkgi’s The Good Asian which goes deep into that noir space, with a lot of formalist style, the cast caught between the invisible quotation marks in the title, ready to crush you all.  I was sitting and looking at the PDFs, and just overjoyed at how much the comics were comics, each to their own, and each of themselves, screaming COMICS.

So that was good.

In terms of other new books which delighted me recently, I grabbed Fleecs and Forstner’s Stray Dogs from Image, which is the 101 Dalmatians vs Criminal book the world had no idea it needed. That it hits credible noir beats, and equally credible dog psychology while also being so cute is a miracle. And I’ve just read an advance PDF of Ram V and Andrade’s Many Deaths Of Laila Starr from Boom which is some Divine Comedy-esque satirical magic realism about Death losing her job due to… oh, let’s just quote the solicitation. “With humanity on the verge of discovering immortality, the avatar of Death is fired and relegated to the world below to live out her now-finite days in the body of twenty-something Laila Starr in Mumbai.” That. Well worth your time.

TL;DR: Comics!

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Over on the DIE RPG discord I was asked a simple question, which I hadn’t heard before. It prompted enough of a ramble that I felt worth putting a version of it here…

Do you write with previews in mind? I've always wondered about this. Is there any sort of pressure, either self-imposed or otherwise, to have something happen in the first three pages that end up on Comixology/AIPT/wherever before the issue comes out?

Not really. At Image, we get to decide what's released as a preview.

You'll have seen in some issues of WicDiv we didn't release a preview. Comixology is a slightly different beast, in that they tend to choose their own previews, but what they do release isn’t put out as widely as a generally released preview is. You normally only see them if you explicitly go to the page.

In terms of Image books, we get mailed and asked what preview pages we want to release, and I look at the issue and make a call. I say “I” - it's a job that's mainly my responsiblity, in a "just one of the things I do" way, like writing solicits.

In reality, the problem is the opposite of what you’re suggesting - it's more that I'm thinking of a preview spoiling the issue in some way (For example, if it starts with a major reveal - like WicDiv 32). Alternatively, if the opening creates a disturbing idea which we don't want the audience to linger on – as in, they’ll see it, and find it upsetting in a way which I don’t intend. This is similar to me not writing certain sorts of cliffhanger, which I feel is unethically distressing or leaving too much space for people to have an unwelcome reading of the work.

But, to return to the question, the needs of a preview and the needs of the opening of an issue are often similar – an opening tends to be an engaging thing which brings you into the world. That’s what a preview tends to do,, right? In other words, it’s rare that the first few pages don’t work.

Failing that, there’s also the option to lift a preview from anywhere in the issue.

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Last week was the first week this year where I haven’t written a new script. Not a problem – it was planned as such, as there was a lot of other things to deal with. Like, at least another 12 or so hours of zoom added to the schedule, which is not an insignificant thing. Instead, I was concentrating on polishing up script and deeper long term planning.  I did start Monday thinking “I don’t really have enough firm plans for what to do next in Eternals” and then found myself a couple of hours later having written a 6000 words e-mail of what I want to do in the next six issues. That gave me some clarity – with Eternals, it’s not about not knowing what I want to do – it’s knowing what I want to do next.

After that, I’m in one of those agreeable spaces with only micro-deadlines. Lettering drafts, notes on lettering, etc. I finally did the lettering pass for DIE 16, for example. Here’s its title page.

The big extra, external work has stepped away momentarily too. That means I can dig down wherever I want – I’ve basically decided to try and do a draft of two issues of a thing to remove it from my “Actual Creative Work I Have To Do At Some Point” part of my brain. As another new thing is starting to gear up, that’s probably wise. Alongside that, there’s things like polishing up the last three issues of DIE and getting them over to C. I’ve even managed to send a mail I’ve put off for getting on for something like four months, trying to fix my website.

I also finally managed to beat the boss in Hades.

Much productive, me.

Speak soon.

Kieron Gillen
London.
10.3.2021

184: the elusive bumblebird

Hullo.

40,0005
Going Underground
Let me be your (British) Fantasy (Award Winner)
Links
Byyyyeeee!!!

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Marneus Calgar 5 arrives via drop-pod in shops today, completing the mini. This has been just a lot of fun, in the bleakly horrific way you’d hope it would be. Jacen outdoes himself to the end, joined by Guillermo Ortego on inks – there’s just a world of brutal stuff, and I manage to cram in a whistlestop tour of other things I wanted Jacen to draw. Also, murder. Java Tartaglia paints everything in red and horror and Clayton deals with yet more lettering challenges with skill.

I think it’ll make a lovely trade, and is my potted introduction to all things 40k. Well, not all things. It’s 40k. 40k is huge. Some things, mostly things involving power fists.

Oh – and Games Workshop are doing their own exclusive-cover runs in their own shops. Details here.

It’s in comic shops now, you can buy digitally here and the preview’s here. Actually, here’s the first two pages…

…as I like the transition. You can read the rest here.

Looking at that reminded me of one of my favourite bits in the Crown of Destruction Mini I wrote for boom, back in the 00s when I was breaking into comics and I used to basically start to learn to write American-format action comics. It’s the only beat in that whole series I can really remember at all, so it’s nice to see a sort of echo here.

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Die’s in the May solicits for Image, and as it’s the start of the final arc, Image lobbed out a press release. Here it is.

PORTLAND, Ore. 2.18.2021 — Bestselling series Die by Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans will kick off its final story arc—ominously titled “Bleed”—beginning with Die #16 out from Image Comics this May. The highly anticipated conclusion for the series will be revealed in Die #20.

To go into the dark, you have to get to the dark. They never put a dungeon anywhere accessible, do they? Past sins haunt our party, and future sins permeate the landscape. Die’s closing arc begins as we began: with regrets and screaming.

Die has consistently held a seat as one of the top selling Image Comics series with multiple sell-outs at the distributor level and regular reorder activity that’s skyrocketed with each new installment’s release. Perhaps best described as Jumanji with goth sensibilities, the series has stolen headlines since its launch for ushering in a new trend in RPG themed storytelling.

“The concluding arc is always bittersweet,” said Gillen. “Sad that the adventure is coming to the end, but the wicked glee of finally being able to reveal all the bleak secrets we've been keeping.”

Die #16 Cover A by Hans (Diamond Code MAR210062) and Die #16 Cover B by Alberto Varanda (Diamond Code MAR210063) will be available at comic book shops on Wednesday, May 5.

Die #16 will also be available for purchase across many digital platforms, including Amazon Kindle, Apple Books, comiXology, and Google Play.

Coo! If you Coo! too, speak to retailer to order.

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This was a lovely thing. The British Fantasy Society selected DIE as the British Fantasy Awards 2020 winner for Best Comic/Graphic Novel. Stephanie and I were completely delighted…

The full award show is here…

…where you can see Jody Houser virtually present our award, and see our own virtual acceptance. Also, all the other awards. Tor has a good round-up of all the short lists and winners here.

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There’s a lot this week. Hence, brevity. Never my natural mode.

The easy part is just my standard pages. I’m working on issue 20 of Once & Future, which I should finish the first draft off tomorrow and polish up on Friday. It’s very much still exploring and establishing the new status quo, as well as bringing in some myths we haven’t seen yet. It also strikes to me that Once & Future really leans into my occasional tendency to have arc titles be absolute spoilers – so far all of them have been spoilers for the arc, with only Parliament of Magpie being at all borderline. In this case, it’s the most gives-it-all-away title since the first arc’s THE KING IS UNDEAD. So it’ll have to wait a bit to give details.

(And a bit more – I mentioned we’re going to have a gap between issue the third and fourth arc – likely three months, but I’ll confirm when we know for sure.)

Then there’s a couple of other things I’m co-writing I need to do a turn-around as quickly as possible – I’ll go straight from this to one of them, to try and get it off my desk, so I can then get onto the other intensely pressing thing, which is basically a big planning document for what’s next on Eternals. There’s also significantly more than the usual amount of conference call stuff to do.

Basically, I’m in a deep depressing but productive work groove, and I’m aware the only thing which is breaking this cycle is the Band of Blades game I’m running on Thursday. That’s something, and I’m trying to be grateful for it. This is a useful thing.

Speak soon.

Kieron Gillen
London.
24.2.2021

183: howl at passing biplanes

Hullo.

Lances
Reckmore
Links
Byyyyeeee!!!

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Once & Future 16 is out today, wherein I wrestle to get all three threads of the plot to align, and Dan and Tamra continue to serve up the best looking action comic on the shelves.

(I was going to add a “one of the best” but figured it’s my newsletter so I can climb to the top of the nearest skyscraper and howl at passing biplanes about my collaborator’s greatness if I want to.)

As well as Hot Lancelot Action, this is where the reveal that closed Old English comes back into play properly. I remember the week Once & Future 1 came out, and being in the pub with Ram V. He’d just read it, and noted that all those interviews where I said it wasn’t really a particularly political book? Kieron! You were totally lying!

Well, kinda? I was trying to ensure that no-one came to it expecting a Joe Sacco book. Speaking to my own canon, it’s doesn’t have the societal weight of something like Three. It’s very much a 2000AD type of political energy. It’s mainly giggling. But it’s giggling angrily.

Hope you like it. I’m getting pages from Dan’s issue 18 at the moment, and this goes to some wonderful places. I’m giggling (oft angrily) with every page.

Preview here. Available from shops and digitally.

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I was lucky enough to get the advance of RECKLESS: FRIENDS OF THE DEVIL this week. It’s still available to pre-order, and I’d recommend you do so. By this point it sometimes feels like recommending Ed and Sean’s work feels like recommending food. “Have you tried food?. It’s really good. You shouldn’t even try to go without it.” It’s like being friends with an amazing chef. Of course, the food’s going to be fucking amazing any time you go around Ed and Sean’s.

This is the second Reckless book, which is a key thing. When I was coming into comics, serialised graphic novels for adults was basically the aesthetic end goal our wave were building towards. The first Reckless was abstractly the first in the series. It’s the release of Friends of the Devils that it actually becomes a series, a standalone private-eye mystery in a Satanic-Panic-infused 1980s LA, building on what was before, certainly making you want to read them all, but not requiring you to. It was a great thing to settle in with last night, and I am – not for the first time – actively envious. Oh – and Jacob Phillips work as a colourist continues to effectively build the mood. Reckless has that nostalgia of a period piece energy, with all kinds of sharp and ugly edges – a like poring fondly over faded polaroid photos of your first switchblade. Out in April, pre-order now.

I mentioned all-the-award-winning The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal last week, and finished it over the weekend, and would have gone straight into the next in the series if it wasn’t for another novella I want to hit first.  It opens with one of my favourite-rendered apocalypses in recent times, and that’s just historical kick required to get the book to what it really wants to do – imagine a space program which included women astrounaut. Eventually. After all the battles and political manouvering and everything else. With its deft historical touch and defter intersectionality, I’d be in. I’m triply in, as people trying to survive in space in a layer of tinfoil and hope is 100% my jam. Recommended.

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  • Excited to listen to this. Mangasplaining, where Deb Aoki, David Brothers, and this episode’s host Christopher Butcher make Comics Professional Chip Zdarsky read famous manga.

  • The New York Times’ article on Slate Star Codex’s rationalist community is worth reading, especially with El Sandifer’s thread of commentary.

  • The second I saw that excellent Jane Austen RPG, the Good Society, is doing a kickstarter for a reprint, I thought “post-Bridgerton, this is excellently timed.” Well worth your attention. Writing this, I’m struck by the similarities of Anglophone comics circa-2000 and the RPG space, in terms of one-sub-genre (Superheroes in comics, action fantasy in games) being considered the default genre and anything else being weird and experimental. This totally isn’t weird and experimental. This is mainstream.

  • I dunno if this Is mainstream, but it’s adorable. Alex Roberts of For the Queen Fame is kickstarting a journaling-RPG about being a cute animal and writing your diary, inspired by looking for good things in your day. Go nose here. Oh – also, attention to Tension, the tarot-powered game of queer hunter-and-hunted flirtation and murder. If you’re looking for a Killing Eve/Hannibal RPG, this is the one.

  • Excited to see Deadly Class is on Peacock to watch. Less so that it’s not in the UK, but I mention for the US folks. Hurrah Image TV shows!

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I finished a first draft of DIE 20 on Friday, for a certain value of “first draft.” 18, 19 and 20 exist in that liminal state, and I plan to hack all three of them simultaneously, bringing things up in the mix as required. I’m aware that there’s certain subplots that I need to include more of, but the “sub” is key here. I have big stories I need to ensure I land, without which everything else becomes nothing. I think the structure here does, which means that now it’s just a question of improving it. I’ll get to that early next month, I suspect.

As it is, I’m on another side project this week, and then back to Once & Future 20 next week. I’m also doing some tight planning for a few other comics, in terms of what to do. It’s not a bad place to be in, really. I’m doing a lot but not too much, which means I’m steadily building up a firebreak in case everything explodes, as it likely will. This is also useful, as emotionally, I feel I pretty worked over right now, so this kind of gentle march is perhaps the most I can ask from myself.

Right – I have a bunch of calls this afternoon, and I also have some serious research to do. By which I mean, read a pile of comics, but reading them seriously. Perhaps I’ll have a pipe to add to my aura of academic heft.

Speak soon.

Kieron Gillen,
London.
17.2.2021

182: criminal histories of travelling charlatans

Hullo.

Eternals
Poetry
Consumer
Links
Byyyyeeee!!!

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Eternals 2 is out today, wherein we stretch a few other muscles, and reveal a few cards. I’d be interested by what people most take from the book – it does a lot, in different modes. Some people are going to be into the embedded short story. Others will go for the cosmic level fight. Others are going to be into the debut of several other key members of our cast. There’s likely some other responses too. I’m always quoting Wilde’s “All Criticism Is Autobiography” but I suspect that’ll be especially true here. Not in a bad way.

It goes without saying that Esad and Matt tear things up. Here’s the first two pages…

and the rest of the preview here. You can buy from shops or digitally.

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Sidekick Books have just released a digital version of Over The Line, the introduction to of Poetry comics edited by Chrissy Williams and Tom Humberstone. Alan Moore said  “This is that spine-tingling moment when two attractive and sophisticated forms, both admired for their rhythm and sense of timing, eye each other across the cultural dance floor. In Over The Line, at once an insightful introduction and a comprehensive showcase for the emerging phenomenon of Poetry Comics, Chrissy Williams and Tom Humberstone provide the best possible venue for what looks like being a breathtaking tango. I really can’t recommend this venture highly enough, and I’d advise you mark your card immediately.” Get it for £5 here.

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I haven’t talked about what I’ve been consuming for a while, have I? Let’s grab some highlights.

It’s A Sin was the best TV show I’ve seen since I Will Destroy You. It’s about death, clearly, but its key ingredient is how much it’s about life and joy – which is why it’s so terrible when it’s stolen. I saw a friend note online that early on the 1980s queer coming of age stuff is so well done that it’s almost possible to forget what’s looming above them all. It tore a literal scream from me in the last episode. I both wept and felt grateful that this got to be made and shared. It’s out in the US on Jan 22nd, I believe.

Black Country, New Road have finally released their debut album, For The First Time. Loving their EPs, I’ve ended up saying things like “Slint meets Art Brut” while knowing that’s not really it – or, at least, not all it. There’s a James Murphy wit to the monologues, but they’re clearly so much angrier – closer to the Pop Group in their haunted delivery, some early Birthday Party, even. I eventually realised that their closest peers in my head are Meanwhile, Back In Communist Russia, a band I loved so much I wrote some hugely hyperbolic things that I should be ashamed about, and I know were I still in the writing hugely hyperbolic things that I should be ashamed about game I’d be writing hugely hyperbolic things about that I should be ashamed about Black Country, New Road. Suffice to say, if you even vaguely recognise two of the above name-checks, you should grab this. I also suspect they’re the band with the most strikingly wonderful gap between their image and their music since the Pixies. Sometimes it’s like if a chemistry undergrad D&D group opened their mouths and all of hell’s demons marched out, grabbed you around the throat and dragged you in.

After a Christmas when I found myself inspired to read a lot of comics, I’ve inched back into prose. I finished Magical Folk, a book of essays of region-by-region of fairy lore. I mentioned it before, and how I was charmed by the line between contributors who are “Someone was clearly walking home drunk” and those who are “THERE ARE DEFINITELY FAIRIES!” The charm did wear off. The book took me more time than I’d hope just through the repetition of it – it turns out 75% of all fairy lore in each region is basically slight variations on the same stuff. If I was doing a very deep dive and planning something intensely fairy-centric, it’d be great, but as it is, It was seeing 20-or-so essayists have their own specific takes on changelings. Still – there’s a handful of stuff in here which I’ve filed away, and special kudos to the essayist who took time to talk through criminal histories of travelling charlatans explicitly ripping people off.

After that being something of a battle, I wanted something that energised me. I jumped into the latest Wayward Children Novella, Across the Green Grass Fields by Seanan McGuire, which once more a magic portal in book form – Seanan’s prose-style and approach is something I find incredibly sadly resonant. We’ve joked on twitter about a Wayward Children/DIE crossover, but there’s something in there, somewhere. I then read my advance of Whisper Down The Lane by Clay McLeod Chapman which does the dual-timeline trick of following a Satanic Panic incident in the 1980s and its fall out in 2013. There’s a lot which resonates with the present day here – QAnon and Satanic Panic’s bear comparison, for example. Formally smart, much like his previous The Remaking, and I liked this too. I’ve jumped straight into Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Calculating Stars, which I’ve devoured 40% of in the last two nights, so I suspect I’m going to be talking about it a bunch next week.

Battling with Magical Folk did crystalise a few things. When I finished it, I put it down and thought  “Why don’t I just stop consuming media which I don’t enjoy?” It felt as potentially magical and as impossible as thinking “What if I just started to fly?” I am not good at quitting. I’m trying to give up not giving up.

This was foreshadowed a couple of months earlier, when I was crawling through a French BD. I turned to C and said “If this character gets her boobs out in the next page to distract the bad guys, I’m going to stop reading this”. Cynical me. It was a far better book than that. It took two pages to get to the inevitable boob distraction. Even then, I fought on for another chapter or two before knocking it on the head.  I’ve been inching towards doing more of that.  The last holiday I went on I was reading a fantasy novel, where I stopped 250 pages in, 100 pages later than I really should, skipping to the end to make sure it was going to do what I hoped it was going to do – I wanted to go away knowing whether the work was merely bad or actively immoral. Thankfully, it was merely bad.

As said, this is not something that comes naturally. The joy of enjoying something is one thing, but there is also a joy in completing something, and I loathe to lose that. Equally, I’m aware that there are things which I need to read, whether I like them or not. There’s also developing my taste – there are things which were not interesting to me once, and now are. You want to leave yourself open to the world. But it is key that it is not that they are hard to read as they are difficult – it’s that I am bored of them. There’s nothing difficult about Magical Folk. I just wasn’t in the mood for that much identical Fairy Lore.

However, the problem is that when I’m abstractly reading something and it’s not encouraging me, I read it slower (or not at all) and so a book which isn’t working is a closed gate between me and something I may actually enjoy. A book I’m not enjoying is an anchor, preventing me going to another destination. I’m going to try to read and hard reject earlier. My reading pile is such that I can likely do this for years and still have books lying around. Equally, we’re thinking about it with TV. Trying an episode of TV and noping out instantly. Why not? You can always come back if you want to give it another shot.

I am thinking of death a lot right now, for obvious reasons. If art does not add to my life in some way, I shouldn’t let it steal those hours out of my own obstinance. We’ll see how it sticks.

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As the length of media download above implies, this week has left me with a little hole in my work schedule, and I’ve been filling it with minor work or a determined effort to try and get some more procrastination later. I’ve also finished off that Deviant Name Generator I mentioned, just in time for Clayton to use it. I still have no idea if we’re going to make it publicly available, but that it exists still seems like intellectual buy in from me.

In terms of new writing, I’ve kept to plan and kept finding my way through DIE’s dungeon. I’m onto issue 20 now, and deep into resolving the climax. I’m saving some of the more emotional final scenes to write last, but the shape is there, and I just solved the last of the plotting problems. I suspect I’ll have it all in a draft form by Friday, which means I’ll be able to work on a polish of 18, 19 and 20 simultaneously. I want to make sure the subplots are properly delineated alongside the main thrust of each issue, which is tricky work, but work I like. I’m pleased with how it’s looking.

I am also back into Someone To Drive You Home after a friend mentioned it on twitter. It remains a glamourous muffled scream of a record.

Speak soon.

Kieron Gillen
London.
10.2.2021

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