125: The Wicked + the Divine (2014-2019)

Hullo.

It’s the last issue of WicDiv release. I’ve spent the whole day trying to get my pages done, and only managed it in a cursory fashion. I should have just given up and written this. You’re allowed to be distracted once every five years, right?

The Wicked + the Divine (2014-2019)
DIEDIEDIEDIEDIEDIEDIE
WicDiv supplementary
The Third Steve Jackson
Byyyyeeee!!!

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This is Olivia Jaimes’ cover. Jamie/Matt’s is here, but is such a big spoiler for the final issue, I don’t want to put in a newsletter as a bunch of you read in trades.

(Also, Olivia Jaimes cover! It’s a perfect cherry on our gothic cake. What a thing to go out on.)

Anyway. WicDiv. That’s done.

I mailed Jamie on March 5th in 2013 with a mail entitled “Proposal idea” giving him the rough concept for WicDiv, in a violent download that is still too incendiary to print. He said yes, and I set to work. I sent him the script for the first issue at midnight at the start of 2014. We announced WicDiv the day after Young Avengers ended, in the first week of 2014. The first issue came out in June.  The last issue came out today.

Jamie and I have been doing a selection of interviews about the end of Wicdiv, and something that’s come up a few times are whether we achieved our goals. The short answer is “Yes.” We’ve been astoundingly lucky.

(By the way – Jamie has a new newsletter too, which you should sign up for.)

Matt and Clayton have been with us for so long, and managed to basically perform the most nonsensical stuff we’ve asked with style and elan. Seeing how Matt grew closer in his work methods, and how they integrate now has been a hell of a thing to be privileged to see, and I’ll miss. Clayton hasn’t escaped me yet, being over on DIE and has just mailed me the lettering for Ludocrats. His work has been as much of an icon of the series as anything else, and what he’s doing in the new Bitch Planet is not just chef kiss, but chef orgy. Dee Cunniffe, our noble flatter, has always been on point in the frenzy of our deadlines, and we owe him intensely – I’ve enjoyed seeing him get more colouring credits as those years have passed.

Hannah’s core design is one of the icons of the series that has defined us – calm, deliberate,  confident. She cherry-picked Sergio to take over, and he’s been a hero, and ensured everything we’ve done speaks to WicDiv, no matter how much we messed with it. Which, being me, was a lot. Katie’s role on the comic was both invisible and powerful –any time Katie got involved in something, it blossomed into something better. She was a force multiplier, with every touch.

There’s so many people at Image who’ve been instrumental to the book, I feel bad mentioning anyone specifically. In all the departments, they’ve been brilliant, and it’s a book that literally could not exist at any other publisher. However, it would be remiss to not mention Erika, who we have sent apology flowers to during the run. If we’ve sent apology flowers it normally says something. No more late issues, Erika. Sorry.

Then there’s the readers. WicDiv readers have been the best readers. That’s a fact. We made them cry. I can only say, they made me cry as well. In a good way. It’s been a precious experience.

This is also me and Jamie heading away, at least for a while. I’ve spent the last fifteen years telling Jamie he should write more of his own comics while giving him another script to draw. I’m excited to segue over into just being a Jamie cheerleader. He has been an incredible collaborator and friend, and I cannot imagine my career or life without him.

Chrissy gets no such escape. She’s been my wife (hence, suffering) and WicDiv’s editor (hence, also suffering). I have no words, or at least, no correctly spelled words. I owe her everything and WicDiv does too.

You can get it digitally or from your local comic shop. The collection is out first week in October.

Thanks for reading.

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Also, DIE 7 is out, where Chuck we delve into the depths of Chuck, which does seem like a contradiction in terms, I know.

Preview here with the nasty censorship bars which always bug me. You can get it online or in shops, obv.

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Some extra WicDiv content, eh?

First, I don’t think I mentioned that we’re actively trying to do the party at New York Comic Con week. Go speak to Jazzlyn if you want to help out somehow – we’re still nailing down venues. I’ll keep you up to date as we progress.

Secondly, I put up the Writer Notes for issue 44 of WicDiv. They are very TMI, which I suspect you’ll have come to expect by now.

Thirdly, Mink lobbed online this podcast with Sara Kenney (Surgeon X) and myself, talking about the process of putting together the WicDiv immersive experience at last year’s Thought Bubble. Which, if I remember correctly,

Fourthly, last Friday Jamie, Katie, Chrissy and myself went for the official End Of WicDiv Meal.

We had a lovely time and then the next day I had a distinctly unlovely hangover. It’s a metaphor, probably.

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I’ve had a few requests for “What’s the Scorpion Swamp thing?” I mentioned in passing at World Con, so I’m going to share a nerdy tale of eldritch horror and/or mishearing.

The Fighting Fantasy books were created by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone (who also founded Games Workshop, etc). There’s a little confusion that there’s also a completely different American Steve Jackson, who made games like GURPS, Car Wars, Illuminati, Munchkin and so on. I’m a big fan of both, but it was the American one who was a guest of honour at World Con.

I’m in the queue for his spotlight with my friend, Daniel Nye Griffiths, and we’re chatting about this. Specifically, there’s something which makes the Steve Jacksons even more confusing.

American Steve Jackson also wrote some of the Fighting Fantasy books.

Now, I somehow recalled something else. Namely, that there was a third Steve Jackson, who only also did one of the Fighting Fantasy books – specifically, the unusual Scorpion Swamp,. We frowned, not thinking it likely, and ended up turning to google to look up the facts. We were disappointed to find that, no, I’d got confused, and it was US Steve Jackson who did Scorpion Swamp. The concept of a third Steve Jackson who only ever did one game book was too good to be true.

Scorpion Swamp is one of the weirder of the series. Not tonally like the genuinely chilling House of Hell – but because it took a very different structure. It attempted to model an actual “dungeon” and move between it as if it was a real space, in a way more like a simulation than the more branching narrative of the Fighting Fantasy games. It’s one of the books which reviews terribly and understandably, just as it’s a completely different beast to the rest. As a kid, it was always one of my favourite for exactly that reason – and while the simulationist approach is very American Steve Jackson, I’d somehow transferred its unusual nature to be the work of someone who absolutely slipped from the pages of history. It would make sense it was done by someone who did no other work, because it was its own thing.

But I was wrong.

So we go into the panel, which is a delight. Eventually it hits the Q&A and someone asks a question about the Sorcery gamebooks. You can hear the wince from the crowd, as they’re written by the British Steve Jackson. American Steve Jackson takes it in his stride, and talks about them, then notes they’re not by him. It then segues to the Fighting Fantasy books he did write.

The host says he did three, yes?

Steve says yes.

The host strains his memory and lists three game books.

Steve says Yup.

Dan and I look at each other, in glee.

Scorpion Swamp wasn’t in the list.

Now, it’s possible we misheard. It’s possible that Steve misheard. It’s possible that Steve heard right and was too polite to correct the host.

But it’s also possible that all the geek history is wrong and there’s actually a third Steve Jackson.

“The Third Steve Jackson” is clearly the name of my forthcoming eldritch cosmic horror novella.

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As you can imagine, it’s been a distracted week, and the ghost of WicDiv haunted a lot of it. Last night, I hung a friend who I’ve known for about as long as WicDiv, and got drunk and got emotional, and talked music. To choose one, Nobody’s Empire, Belle and Sebastian’s 2014 track.

I’ve said previously I’m unlikely to do a complete Writer Notes on the playlist, but there’s the temptation to talk about the biggies. Nobody’s Empire is one, an autobiographical song for a band who almost completely write fictional short stories, and actively too painful in parts. There’s two moments in it which kill me, and I unpicked them and chewed it over and everything else. Nobody’s Empire was one of the songs which I put on the playlist not because that it was anything about one of the characters or any of the scenes, but because it seemed to feel exactly like WicDiv felt to me. It was awful, and tried to find hope and transcend it.

Anyway, I’m walking to therapy this morning, and as it’s Today I decided to listen to Nobody’s Empire and then put the playlist on shuffle. I got to the final swell, where it hits the second of those big beats - “He told me to leave that vision of hell to the dying.” – and it was like something leaving my body. It’s over. I stopped the music and walked the rest in silent. I didn’t need it any more.

I think if I had to choose a moment to official end the WicDiv Comic Era of life, it’d be then.

Heh. Yes, I’ve written two goodbyes to WicDiv in a single Newsletter. I am SHAMELESS.

Jim and I wrapped up Ludocrats 3 and mailed it over to the artist, who’s finishing up the inks on issue 2. It’s getting increasingly odd to not mention who it is when we’re increasingly deep into the process. I’m thinking perhaps we should announce at NYCC… but I don’t want to really announce until we are 100% sure when it’s going to launch. Also, as I said above, we got the first take on the lettering from Clayton for issue one, which is a hell of a thing. Jim describes it like a fever dream, and I don’t disagree. I can’t wait to show it to you lot.

Apart from that, I’m onto Once & Future, hoping to finish the arc off before doing anything else. But let’s save talking about that for next time, eh? This has been a heavy one.

Kieron Gillen
London
4.9.2019