Where do you think you’re going?
Chapter 109: How a thing begins...
First of all, I meant to send this out 2 weeks ago and was just reminded I did not. Thanks to eagle-eyed David for the heads up. Hit up your local comic shop for new issues of THE JOKER and WILDC.A.T.S. as well as the second lovely DC VS VAMPIRES hardcover. And next week you can grab issue #12 of WHAT’S THE FURTHEST PLACE FROM HERE? which is going to get a lot of people freaking out I think.
Now that thats out of the way, we can get down to business. This is the first post about a brand new comic we’re working on. One of many new projects actually. We have a lot to show and tell you in the coming weeks and months but to start we’re going to go back to the very first days of this particular project. It actually predates this newsletter and ASHCAN PRESS project as a whole. But I’ll get to all that soon enough.
For now, we wanted to offer you the chance to see how this whole thing came together, warts and all. I’m really proud of this book which we will be calling CODENAME: DIGITAL/ANALOG until we finally reveal the real title on here. Spoiler: it’s a long one.
Each new project will have it’s own little section at ASHCANPRESS.com so you can go back and sort through them all easily. But enough about all that.
It begins with a few friendly words.
Dear Matthew, how are you?
I’m writing to ask you something…
But let’s back up a bit. In 2018 I was writing THE PUNISHER for Marvel Comics along with a bunch of other titles. We were in the middle of our War Machine story when my editor Jake Thomas told me that our artist Guiu Vilanova would need to get covered for a couple issues. This isn’t unusual in modern superhero comics. Drawing a book takes a ton of time and physical strain and, at a certain point for most artists, you just run out of runway and need someone to take the wheel for a little bit. It is understandable, but never something anyone looks forward to. Jake informed me that a new artist was coming on board for a few issues and he’d do an intro. I wasn’t super familiar with his work but he had worked on DAREDEVIL and HELLBLAZER, which was really all I needed to know.
I remember clearly, when the first pages came in, ecstatically calling Jake. “This guy is amazing! He shouldn’t be doing fill-ins. You need to get him his own book!” Jake agreed with me. The guy in question was Stefano Landini.
Stefano went on to draw 3 issues of that run and they have some of my favorite moments of the whole series in them. Including this panel of The Punisher eating burritos with The Winter Soldier and The Black Widow, which I was definitely shocked went to print.
Anyway, we finished up our Punisher issues and together and moved on without much in the way of goodbyes, as is often the case with these things.
You can read these issues in THE PUNISHER WAR MACHINE vol. 2 which is available at local comic shops everywhere or to order online from these fine comic retailers.
But Stefano and I were reunited again before too long. STAR WARS #108 was a very strange book. It is a continuation of the original Star Wars Marvel comics from the 70’s and 80’s. They are no longer “in continuity” in the Star Wars universe and are quite an odd relic of a very different time from pop culture’s biggest franchise, but they are wonderfully fun and weird comics. Ever since Disney bought Star Wars they have made it clear what is and what is not, and they very rarely make anything that isn’t. So getting the chance to tell a Star Wars story, tying it into this sort of lost history, and connected to all these comics I grew up reading over and over again, I couldn’t say no. But in order to get the oversized issue out on time I had around 10 days to write it, and we were going to need a platoon of awesome artists to draw it. And sure enough our wonderful editor Mark Paniccia put together a murder’s row of amazing artists- Walt Simonson, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Andrea Broccardo, Kerry Gammill, Ze Carlos, Jan Duursema, Luke Ross, Leonard Kirk, and of course Stefano Landini!
Stefano once again did an awesome job and I once again mentioned that I’d love to do a book with him at Marvel. And then nothing.
If you want to read STAR WARS #108 I’m sure there are lots of copies still kicking around, or you can get it in the upcoming STAR WARS LEGENDS: THE MARVEL YEARS: EPIC COLLECTION #6. You can ask your local comic shop to order it for you or mailorder a copy here.
So we jump ahead a few months and I’m at a Marvel creative summit and the talk of doing a new FORCE WORKS mini-series comes up. I am a huge WEST COAST AVENGERS/FORCE WORKS fan and always felt those characters and that premise was under appreciated. I sidebarred with editor Darren Shan and mentioned that I’d love to do the book if I could spin a U.S.AGENT series out of it. Darren loves a challenge and was very interested. We ended up talking about it for a while and worked it all out. I pitched both series and got both approved pretty quickly. As I worked on the 3 issues of FORCE WORKS with the excellent Juanan Ramírez, Darren told told me they’d found an artist for U.S.AGENT. I was going to finally be doing a series with Stefano!
And then 2020 happened…
By March 2020 things were falling apart. We were cheering for hospital workers from our apartment windows. The sound of ambulances was a near constant. And less terrifyingly but still terrifying, projects were being “paused”, editors and staff were being furloughed, and the ground in front of so many people became very shaky. Even though we had approved outlines, character designs were coming in, and I had begun working on the first issue, the dreaded call came for us. U.S.AGENT was put on hold while we waited for this whole Covid thing to blow over.
I don’t feel like I have to explain to most people what it feels like to have your work and your livelihood evaporate in front of you. But if you are one of the lucky people who doesn’t know, it is like having a whole new world of possibility open up in front of you… and finding out that you can’t breathe the atmosphere. It’s a heady mix of possibilities and inevitabilities, excitement and pure terror. I remember describing it to another comic writer as “having endless open road in front of me, but no money for gas.” So I spent a good few weeks planning, scheming, coming up with new ideas, taking virtual meetings, and eating a lot of pizza. But that was mostly unrelated. And while I’m planning and thinking and eating, I get the most exciting email a comic writer can get.
Comics is a weird industry, and part of what makes it weird is the numerous imbalances and differences between the seemingly similar jobs of comic writer and comic artist. These differences are too numerous and complex to go into here, except for this simple one- because of the time it takes to draw a comic versus the time it takes to write a comic, artists are much more sought after by writers than vice versa. To have an artist reach out to a writer, let alone an artist who the writer is a fan of, is a truly remarkable thing. So when Stefano asked if I wanted to work on a book for ourselves I couldn’t have said yes fast enough.
NEXT: A book falls apart and a book starts to come together.
Stay safe. Take care of each other. Make comics.
This is proper amazing. The images look incredible. I always look forward to the posts but this has blown me away.
Brilliant. Am looking forward to it 😀