UPDATE: The Lady Weeds release hit on DC’s website, so I’ve added some information about her (and images) below. If you’re here for the first time today (or ever), then read on!

The Swamp Thing Annual hits in October.  Annuals are double-sized issues that come out once a year (more or less).  They’re a lot of fun, because they often allow the creators to dive into some story element a bit more deeply than they would otherwise be able to in a 20- or 22-page regular issue.

In the Swamp Thing Annual, I decided to delve  into the history of the Green (which refers to a sort of shared consciousness of all plant life on Earth) and the Parliament of Trees, specifically with respect to how it affects the life and ongoing tenure as the champion of the Green of Dr. Alec Holland, aka Swamp Thing, aka the main character of the book.

The Parliament of Trees is sort of an advisory body made up of previous champions (also known as Avatars), who hang around and give the current Avatar tips and tricks as needed based on their millennia-long collective memory.  One of the fun things about that concept is that it means you can tell stories from many different eras in history and still have them fit into the main thread.  I’m doing that in the Annual in spades.  At last count, eleven different Swamp Things make an appearance.

DC Comics is previewing the designs for a few of them on their “What’s New in the New 52″ feature on their blog – we had one yesterday, the Burgher Thing, and another should debut today – Lady Weeds.  I thought it might be fun to give a bit of additional context to these images here, in case anyone’s curious.  First, Burgher Thing:

Burgher Thing, as designed by Jesus Saiz.

Burgher Thing, as designed by Jesus Saiz.

How about that design, eh?  The work is from the spectacular Jesus Saiz, who drew Swamp Thing 21 as well as the Villains Month issue with Anton Arcane, out in September. Thankfully, he’ll be doing much more work on the series going forward.  This fellow isn’t actually named Burgher Thing – that’s just a name I put into the script that sort of stuck around the office.  His actual name is something else that you’ll discover in the Annual.  I gave him the Burgher Thing title in the script because the character’s identity as a human was a burgher – a member of the German middle class in the 1600s.  They were mostly prosperous merchants – not nobility, but doing pretty well for themselves nonetheless.  There’s an even more specific reference – this dude is based on a particular figure from history – but I’ll let that come out via the book in October. (And, honestly, calling him Burgher Thing made me laugh.  I do that sort of thing a lot in my scripts – I called the Franciscan monk character from 21 the Monk Thing, for obvious reasons, and the Annual is packed with many more placeholder script names that may or may not ever see the light of day.)

This gentleman is Swamp Thing’s patron – he takes him under his wing to offer some very specific guidance in light of some challenges Swampy’s facing (of which you will hear more in Issue 24.)  He’s a bit self-serving and fairly pompous, but he’s very cool, and I think you’ll like him a lot once you see how he works in the story.

The second character to get a design from Jesus Saiz is the batshit Lady Weeds.  Check her out:

Lady Weeds, by Jesus Saiz.

Lady Weeds, by Jesus Saiz.

Looook behinnnd the veilllll....

Looook behinnnd the veilllll….

Lady Weeds is a Swamp Thing from the 1800s.  She’s named not so much for the fact that she’s made of plants (although that’s certainly a factor), but because she’s wearing what were known as “widow’s weeds,” clothes worn by women in mourning in those days.  Here’s a historically accurate version:

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Poor, sad Mrs. Kintner wore a variant on widow’s weeds after her boy Alex was chomped to death by a certain titular shark, too (such a bummer – the kid just wanted to splash around on a raft on a hot day – why won’t Sheriff Brody DO SOMETHING???):

I wanted you to know that.

I wanted you to know that.

 

Anyway, so that’s the deal with widow’s weeds. Why Lady Weeds wears them? Well, it seems like EVERYONE died back then. I don’t think a single person from those days is still alive today.  Lady Weeds undoubtedly has plenty of people to mourn… not least because she killed MANY, MANY of them.  Lady Weeds did horrible things.  Her character came out of an idea that not every Swamp Thing was necessarily heroic.  As long as they do their “job” of protecting plants, the Green doesn’t care how they use their powers, and Lady Weeds took that license to an extreme.  You’ll learn much more about who she is and what she did in the Annual, out this October.

Cool stuff coming up in Swamp Thing! It’s the era-spanning weird epic I’ve always dreamed of writing, and I’m so glad you guys are along for the ride.

As I’ve talked about incessantly on this blog, my new ongoing series from Oni Press, with art from Alberto Jimenez Alburquerque, colors by Guy Major and letters from Shawn DePasquale, will debut in San Diego this weekend with a special con exclusive black and white variant edition of Issue 1.  The in-store version won’t hit until October, so this is a chance for a very early sneak peek at a series I’m very proud of, and that I hope will run for a good long while.  It all begins here.

Here’s the solicitation text for #1, which is in Previews now (so you can ask your retailer to stock it!): There’s something up there. As newly elected President Stephen Blades reads the letter left for him in the Oval Office by his predecessor, he learns this stunning secret: seven years earlier, NASA discovered an alien construction project in the asteroid belt. A crew of heroic astronauts was sent to investigate, and they’re nearing the conclusion of their epic journey. Don’t miss the first chapter in this thrilling tale of real-world space travel, intrigue, and secret histories!

A few pages of the SDCC exclusive have leaked out, so I feel comfortable sharing – check it out:

The cover for the con exclusive variant!

The cover for the con exclusive variant!

LETTER44-1-BW-PREVIEW-PG-12

A page from inside the issue!

LETTER44-1-BW-PREVIEW-PG-13

And the page right after the last one!

More to come.  SO MUCH MORE TO COME.  However, not every shop carries indie books, even ones from awesome publishers like Oni, so if you want it, make sure to ask your retailer to carry it – otherwise you might miss the beginning of the ride!)

(See you in San Diego, some of you!)

Interesting month!

My first issues of Red Lanterns (#21) and Thunderbolts (#12) hit the shelves, along with another installment of Swamp Thing (#22).  My first opportunity to write Batman, a three-part Legends of the Dark Knight story called “Riddler in the Dark” went live over on Comixology, and I couldn’t help but notice tons of commentary on the Superman / Wonder Woman title I’m writing now (first issue hits in October), both negative and positive.

I’ve been tempted to jump into the fray a bit beyond my last blog post, but I decided that the best course of action would simply be to let the book speak for itself in October.  Anything else is just an expenditure of time and energy that I’d rather put other places.  Both of those are very limited for me right now, and they’re both a zero sum game.

So, on to more interesting topics (at least to me) – my schedule for San Diego Comicon 2013! For many reasons, I expect this to be the most action-packed SDCC I’ve ever had, and I’m really looking forward to it.  I’m sure it’ll be exhausting, but hey, it’s the big show.  If you aren’t bone-weary when it’s over, you probably didn’t do it right.

The biggest note is that my fall ongoing series from Oni Press, Letter 44, will have a black and white preview version of Issue 1 available at the show.  I’m not sure how available it will be, but hey, the hunt is part of the fun, right?  It’s your chance to check out what I honestly think is the best thing I’ve ever done many months in advance (the series doesn’t actually begin until October.)  Beyond that, my latest OGN Strange Attractors will be at the Archaia / Boom booth, so make sure you check that out, if you haven’t already.  I’ll happily sign anything you put in front of me.  Anything.

Here’s my schedule so far – I expect it to change as we get closer to the show, but I’ll update the post accordingly if that happens:

Thursday, July 18

(My birthday! I’ve heard tales of birthdays celebrated at San Diego, and if I’m incoherent and/or not present for the rest of the con, you’ll know that those tales are true.)

4-5 PM – signing at the Archaia booth

6-7 PM – signing at the DC booth

Friday, July 19

10-11 AM – signing at the DC booth.

11-12 AM – Writers Unite Panel, which is a comics writing tips and tricks panel I’ve done a bunch of times in the past at different cons around the country.  It’s always a blast, and we focus on not just tips for getting your stories done and making them good, but also ideas about how to break into the industry.  The panel always includes some of the best new(ish) writers in comics (myself excepted – I just happen to be pals with the moderator), and this year follows in that tradition and then some.  The panel will be run by Jim Zub (Skullkickers, Pathfinder), and the other writers besides me are Rob Venditti (Green Lantern, Surrogates) and Matt Kindt (Mind MGMT, tons of DC stuff).  If you’re a writer, or want to be one, this is WORTH YOUR TIME.

Also in this window, just towards the end, I’ll be popping into the Oni Press panel, which will include a serious first look at Letter 44. I’m told you might have a chance to score a special variant edition of the first issue, which won’t be out until October!

3-4 PM – signing at the Marvel booth. Bring your Thunderbolts issues and I’ll deface them for you!

4-5 PM – Signing at the Oni Press booth – if you don’t make it to the panel, come to the Oni booth to get your advance copy of Letter 44 #1, a San Diego Comicon exclusive!

5:30 – 6:30 PM – DC New 52 Panel (Room 6DE) – we’ll talk about all the exciting stuff coming up in the New 52.  Always illuminating and entertaining.

Saturday, July 20

11 AM – 12 PM – signing at the Archaia booth! You can get my latest OGN Strange Attractors here, inscribed with a special message from yours truly (which will probably just be my name, but hey, that’s something.)

12:30-1:30 PM – Green Lantern – Recharged! (Room 6DE) – panel discussion about the new creative teams and direction for the various GL titles.  I’ll be there, I’m sure Rob Venditti will be there, and I would guess we’ll see some of the other GL writers and artists as well.

1:45 – 2:45 – Infinity / Avengers Panel – the Thunderbolts title I’m writing ties into Marvel’s big summer Infinity event, and here’s where you’ll get to hear more about both the event and the individual titles related to it.

4-6 PM – signing at the Oni booth! Your last chance to get a signed con exclusive Letter 44 #1!

Sunday, July 21

I leave around mid-day on Sunday, so I probably won’t be doing any signings or panels, but I’ll be with you all in spirit, as you stagger around the show floor, trying to squeeze that last little magic out of the convention before bidding adieu until next year.

Next con for me past SDCC will be Baltimore in September, and then NYCC, and then that’s pretty much it for the year.  While I love the cons, I love writing too.

This has been an amazing week, and it’s only Wednesday.

A huge project I’ve been working on for a while was announced on Monday – I’ll be writing “Superman / Wonder Woman,” an ongoing series for DC Comics that will feature Clark Kent and Diana of Themyscira as the main characters.  Tony S. Daniel is drawing it (and boy howdy is he a talented SOB.) This sort of thing has been done in the past – Batman and Superman in particular have a long history of teaming up in a single title, from “World’s Finest” to the most recent iteration of “Batman – Superman,” written by my pal Greg Pak (the first issue of which hits shelves next week, in fact.)  What makes S/WW different is that the main characters are currently embroiled in a romantic relationship, and the title will explore that angle in a significant way.  It’s not going to just be about that, but they’re absolutely “together,” in every sense.  In fact, that’s what attracted me to the project in the first place – it’s a chance to tell stories about superhero adventures on a gigantic scale with a very personal angle attached to it.  (Although let’s get real here – ANY chance to write a title featuring two of the most popular and significant characters in all of popular culture is nothing to sneeze at.)

So, the announcement hit a few days ago, and the reaction has been fascinating to me.  There’s been a lot of support, but there’s also been a fair amount of discussion (particularly on Twitter) from people who wish that DC would focus on a romance between Clark Kent and Lois Lane.  I haven’t gotten too involved in that on Twitter one way or the other, mainly because I think Twitter is a terrible place for making reasoned arguments.  Blogs, however…

A few things about relationships that I’ve come to believe over the course of my life:

  • You need to date before you figure out how to have a mature, grown-up relationship that will stand the test of time. You learn from your previous mistakes, and then you bring that experience to the one that sticks.  You also come to understand what you want and need out of a partner – none of that will happen unless you have some relationships along the way that do not work for the long haul.
  • A relationship doesn’t have to last for the long haul for it to be valuable.  I still have extremely fond memories of some of the relationships I was in during high school, college, etc.  They didn’t last, but they were all a big part of my own emotional development. Not to trivialize, but a relationship can be like a really great song – some are bubblegum pop that give you a rush for a while until the initial thrill wears off, but others are deep, more complex experiences that you can return to again and again over the course of your life.
  • What the world needs now is love, sweet love. That’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.

In a nutshell, then – I think that exploring a relationship between Superman and Wonder Woman will help both characters grow significantly.  Whatever happens in their futures (and I’m sure it’ll be all kinds of crazy business – it’s comics, after all), this is where they are now, and I feel fortunate to be the one seeing how it all works out.

A couple other notes – first, I’m not dropping any titles that I’m currently working on.  My workload is intense right now, but I can handle it.  I’m way ahead on scripts for Letter 44, and I have a nice backlog for Swamp Thing, Red Lanterns and Thunderbolts.  If it gets to the point where stories are starting to suffer (and I’m sure the Internet will let me know if that happens), I’ll move away from some of that, but right now I think we’re good.

I’ll be attending San Diego Comicon in about a month. That show is always insane, but I expect this year to be crazier than most.  I’ll be doing a lot of signings, panels and so on, and I’ll post my full schedule as soon as it gets locked down.  In particular, I know Oni’s planning to do a bunch of cool stuff with respect to Letter 44, even… just maybe… some show exclusives.  That series is going to be amazing (uh, if I do say so myself – I’m just really proud of it), so this will be your chance to get on the wagon train (to the stars!) early.

Finally, let me thank those of you who have read, reviewed, tweeted about, FBed, Amazon starred, ordered for your shop or otherwise helped to get the word out about my latest OGN Strange Attractors.  It’s been just about a month since it came out, and the reaction has been UNBELIEVABLE.  People really seem to be finding it, and that’s all I can ask as a writer.  If you’re curious about my work on Superman / Wonder Woman, and you to want to see how I handle relationships and character stuff, you could do a lot worse than Strange Attractors.  Here’s a link to the Amazon page, and here’s one to the Comixology page if you’d rather read it digitally.

Speaking of Strange Attractors, I’m doing a really cool signing event at Bergen Street Comics here in Brooklyn next Wednesday, June 26. Bergen Street is one of the coolest comics shops I’ve ever been to – I’ve been shopping there for years, and I’m honored they asked me to do an event there.  The specifics are here, but in a nutshell, I’ll be having a conversation with the very talented Ales Kot about his new graphic novel Change, while he asks me questions about Strange Attractors.  Ales is a really sharp guy, so I expect the discussion will go to some cool places.  There will also be free drinks, and tons of awesome stuff for sale – it’s a comic shop, after all.  (Among other things, the first issue of my Red Lanterns run hits stands that day, but they’ll also have plenty of Strange Attractors, Swamp Thing and other books around from both Ales and myself.)  Here’s the sweet poster for the event:

Groovy, right?

Groovy, right?

See you soon!

Wow, this has been a long time coming.  I’ve been working on Strange Attractors – my story about New York City, complexity theory and the people affected when they interact – since at least January 2006, and my guess is that I had the seed of the idea back in 2005.  Of course, the most intense period of work was from roughly fall 2010 through fall 2012 while the story was being drawn, but still, that’s a long road for any book.

It hits comic store shelves today, and will be available at bookstores and via Amazon in a few weeks.  I’ve been doing a ton of press for it, so I’m a bit talked out about the premise, but in a nutshell, it’s a real-world thriller with some sci-fi touches, about two genius complexity mathematicians who are able to use extremely high-level applications of the Butterfly Effect to (more or less) make New York City do whatever they want.  One of the reviews that hit today called it “equal parts Ex Machine, Sandman and Planetary,” and that’s a comparison I can certainly live with.

If you’re the kind of reader who likes books by Jonathan Hickman, Warren Ellis or Neal Stephenson, or Christopher Nolan movies that don’t involve Batman, then I think this might be your kind of story.  If you’d like to know more about the story, check out this interview I did with Multiversity.com, a pretty fantastic review from MTVGeek and another lovely writeup from ComicBastards.

Here’s the Amazon link if you think you might like to order it, and your local comic shop can certainly help you out as well – just ask for it.

If my ongoing work for DC or Marvel brought you here, consider trying something on the creator-owned side.  I know the entire creative team is really proud of this book, and we’d love to see people reading it far and wide.

Stay complicated!

I love C2E2 – I’ve gone every year since its inception, and it’s always a good time.  It’s the con where 27 was picked up back in the day, it’s the con where Strange Attractors was announced (last year) and it’s the con where it will debut (this year).  I have at least one additional big announcement coming this show too.  Aside from comics, Chicago’s a really quick flight, the food’s fantastic, and I look forward to going for a run along the waterfront every year.  From Grant Park over to Millenium Park and then to Navy Pier and back – hard to beat it.

As seems to be the case every year, C2E2 changes for me based on what’s happening with my writing.  I’m not tabling this year, but I still have one of the busiest schedules I’ve ever had at a con, between panels and signings.  That’s due in large part to the release of Strange Attractors, my beautiful new hardcover OGN, published by Archaia.  I’ve posted about it before – there’s a tag on the blog if you want to see those posts, which include art and so on.  You can also read the whole thing digitally here: http://www.comixology.com/Strange-Attractors/comics-series/9685, and if you want the hardcover, you can get it at the Archaia booth at C2E2 this weekend or at finer retailers near you very shortly  – I think either May 1, 8 or 15, depending on the vagaries of international shipping.

I should also say that I was truly touched by the support people showed for my first Swamp Thing issue (#19), which came out about three weeks back.  If you scroll down, you’ll see that I was a bit nervous about it, but many of you seemed to connect with it, and that’s all I can ask.  We have some incredible stuff coming as the run continues – next issue’s out next week, in fact – and I think that if you liked 19 you’re going to love where we go from there.

Now, here’s my C2E2 schedule:

Friday, April 26

12:30- 2 PM – STRANGE ATTRACTORS SIGNING (Archaia, Booth 1019) – I’ll be signing as many copies of Strange Attractors as you can shove at me.

4:30-5:30 – DC ALL ACCESS PANEL (Room W474) -

6:00-7:00 – STRANGE ATTRACTORS SIGNING (Archaia, Booth 1019) – As before, signing away.

Saturday, April 27

12:45-1:45 PM – DC NEW 52 PANEL (Room W474) – If there’s anything you didn’t ask me on Friday at the DC panel, here’s your second chance!

2:00-3:00 PM – STRANGE ATTRACTORS SIGNING (Archaia, Booth 1019) – by now I’m sure you get the drill.

3:15-4:15 PM – POP & COMICS PANEL (Room W475b) – I’m on this panel with a bunch of other creators who have worked on music-related comics.  I’ve done this before at a number of cons, and it’s always a really interesting, compelling discussion.  If you like music OR comics, very much worth your time.

4:30-5:30 PM – MARVEL FROM NOW! TO INFINITY (Room W474) – I’ll be talking about Thunderbolts and how it ties into Marvel’s upcoming Infinity crossover.  Should be fun.

6:00-7:00 PM – STRANGE ATTRACTORS SIGNING (Archaia, Booth 1019)

Sunday, April 28

11:00 AM – 12:30 PM – STRANGE ATTRACTORS SIGNING (Archaia, Booth 1019)

It’ll be a pretty packed con, but I hope I get to see each and every one of you.  Viva Chicago!

I’m writing this on April 2, 2013, which means that tomorrow, my first issue written for one of the “Big 2″ publishers of American comics – Marvel or DC – will appear on shelves.  That issue is Swamp Thing #19.  It opens a new storyline following the completion of the long and wonderful “Rotworld” story written by Scott Snyder, with primary art from Yanick Paquette.  The penciller for 19 is Kano – he also inked his own work.  Colors were by Matt Wilson, letters by Travis Lanham, and the book was ably edited by Matt Idelson and Chris Conroy.  The cover was drawn by Andy Brase.  Every single one of them did amazing work.

Tomorrow marks a significant milestone in my comics writing career.  Writing for the Big 2 isn’t the only reason I got into comics.  Creating my own characters and stories will always be something that means more than almost anything else.  That said, I would be lying if I said that doing Big 2 work doesn’t matter to me.  It does. A lot.  Swamp Thing and other characters in DC’s stable are folks I’ve seen interacting in a thousand different ways since I was very young.  There probably hasn’t been a single day since I was about six that I haven’t seen a DC character.  My Mego Superman was one of my most prized possessions for several years starting with my seventh birthday.  The impact of the DC characters on the world over the past 70+ years is immense.  Same’s true of Marvel (although for a bit less time, of course). 

Are they “just” superheroes?  Sure.  Do these comics tell deep stories that touch people’s lives?  Sometimes, but more often they’re just disposable entertainment.  Still, for me, getting to be part of that shared tradition of writers and artists – craftspeople, really – stretching back over the decades… it’s meaningful to me on a level that surprised me.  I had a conversation with a friend recently at a con (it was probably Jim Zub, since he’s the guy I tend to chat with about stuff like this): Detective Comics 27 came out in 1939, so a little over 70 years ago.  There have been a ton of Batman comics since then, especially if you bring in the ancillary titles like Batman & Robin, Legends of the Dark Knight and so on, but still, we figured that less than five hundred writers have ever written a Batman comic in all that time.  Swamp Thing’s even crazier – the comic debuted in 1971, forty years back.  In that time, there have been seventeen people who have written this character in his flagship title.  I’m the eighteenth, starting tomorrow.  And the names on that list of seventeen – literally some of the most brilliant comics writers to ever touch the medium.  Look it up for yourself if you don’t believe me.  It’s humbling and intimidating and wonderful, all at once.

I know some of those folks (awesome people one and all), and they might think it’s ridiculous that I’m saying this, but it feels almost like a bit of a fellowship.  Swamp Thing is just a silly comic character owned by a huge corporation – and not even someone big like Superman.  He’s a walking plant dude, for god’s sake.  I could be kicked off the book ignominiously in two issues, or it could be cancelled if it doesn’t sell.  But you know what? I’m still going to do my very best work. Anything less wouldn’t be true to the other writers who came before me, and those who will inevitably come after me.  I don’t want to let any of those people down (even the guys who will make fun of me for writing this the next time I see them at a con), and I don’t want to let myself down.  Whether you like superhero books or not, there’s a legacy of shared creation in that part of the medium that’s like nothing else in comics.  Everything I do on Swamp Thing can be traced back through the years in a winding trail leading back to the very first issue.  All those ideas, all those images, all that brilliance – and now it’s my turn.  I best not fuck it up.

It’s just Swamp Thing.  But it’s not “just” anything, really.

The issue is done, the work is complete.  It’s hitting stands tomorrow, unless the world ends.  We’re hard at work wrapping up the next one, and making solid progress on the next after that.  That’s Big 2 monthly comics, though – you only get a moment to take a breath and appreciate what you’ve made before it’s time to look ahead.  That’s why I wanted to write this, to crystallize for a moment in my own mind what it’s meant to have worked so long and so hard, and to finally be at the point where I’ll go to the shop tomorrow and see a Big 2 book with my name on the cover.

It doesn’t mean everything, and if it hadn’t ever happened I’d still be thrilled to be making comics – I’ve already been incredibly fortunate with my comics work up to this point – but it means a lot.

If you pick up Swamp Thing 19 at the store tomorrow, or download it (one way or another), I hope you enjoy it.  I loved making it, and I hope there will be many, many more to come.

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