Newsletter #16: A Good Ol' Fashioned Info Dump

Shameless promotion, Grant Morrison, and redefining an origin story


Hey guys, it's Scott.

So much to discuss in this newsletter, I'm really excited! And just for starters, as a reminder, I'm going to email you guys newsletters Tuesday and Thursday. One newsletter will be for paid subscribers, and we'll have material for the class, Comic Writing 101. The other newsletter will be free, and will give you updates, teases, info on all the books we're doing, and my thoughts on things that I've read that I've really enjoyed, thoughts on the industry, all kinds of fun stuff. For paid subscribers, you automatically get the free newsletter, but know that I will ALSO likely post just for you guys more often during the week than just that one time. Still, I don't want to inundate you with emails from me, so posts I do outside of the normal Tuesday one, I'm going to post WITHOUT emailing it to your inbox. So, you can always expect something Tuesday for just you guys, and you can always expect something Thursday (for everyone), but along the way, I'm going to do little Teaching Tips, craft thoughts, mini-assignments, things like that and post them without sending them out to you. So — the hope is — you can always check back here at Our Best Jackett if you're a paid subscriber and find cool stuff and extra material.

Okay, so first order of business—shameless self-promotion. Nocterra Vol. 1 has its final order cut-off on this coming Monday, Labor Day. We're so so proud of this book. I love it; it’s kind of everything I loved to do at DC in terms of the bombast and the widescreen, over the top, larger than life action/horror storytelling, mixed with the kind of darker, personal, intimate character work I love to do in my creator-owned stuff as well. Also, Tony's work is out of this world on it. I genuinely believe, (and he would tell you this, too) that it's his best work ever. Tomeu brought this dark world to brilliant life in color, and Deron Bennett,‏ our letterer, is just a killer as well. So, we couldn't be prouder of it. If you haven’t read it, Nocterra is about a future that starts tomorrow when sunlight stops hitting the earth and this mysterious darkness envelops the planet. It's a darkness that changes every living thing—plant, animal, human—into a monstrous version of itself called a shade. The main character is a young woman named Val, who's a trucker in this world, and truckers there are called ferryman. And it's about her quest to bring back the sunlight.

It’s a lot of fun, it's high-octane horror, and we're doing a very special promotion with this volume wherein we're signing bookplates, like thousands of bookplates. And any store that orders 25 or more copies gets BOOKPLATES SIGNED by me and Tony for each copy. Meaning, if you order 25 copies, every copy will have a bookplate signed by me and Tony inserted into it for you. So, if you can, order Nocterra, we're really proud of it.

Also Undiscovered Country #15 is out right now. We're really, really happy with this one as well. It's a journey further into zone Possibility. Undiscovered Country takes place 30 years in the future after United States has sealed itself off from the world, and no one knows what's happened there. It's about a team that is invited in and discovers that the country has become this strange, insane, fractious place with different zones that are completely alien and mysterious, and it's all run by an organization called Aurora. So, it's a lot of fun. It's a big adventure book like Land of the Lost, but takes place in a dystopian and wild America.

Okay, sorry, promotion out of the way… or is it? Because I was reminded today that it is the 10th anniversary of the New 52, which is crazy to think, and we have a special edition of our Batman origin story, Zero Year, out right now—it came out this week. Me, Greg Capullo, Danny Miki, and FCO. It's probably my favorite story we did during our main run. And the reason is, it was the first time I really felt ownership over our Batman. Some background…

The New 52 was a terrifying and exciting time for me. I was a brand-new writer, I had been working on Detective Comics for a year before, but it was really under the shadow (and inside the cape) of Grant Morrison and Tony Daniel. It was the small book compared to what they were doing. So, I had a lot of shielding, and I was able to make it more of an indie-style Vertigo book with a run we did called The Black Mirror, and that was me with Jock and Francesco Francavilla and Dave Baron on colors. So, when I got to Batman, and I told this to you guys that are in the class, I didn't know what was going to be the New 52. I didn't know it was gonna be Batman #1, and I started working on The Court of Owls and found all that out. So, I kind of lived in abject terror for the first couple years on Batman. I literally almost ruined my marriage, where all I could do is work all the time to try and show myself that I wasn't a total fraud and had something to say on my favorite character.

But Grant Morrison introduced themselves to me one year at San Diego Comic Con, and they saw how terrified I was working on Batman and they were incredibly kind and generous. And it began a tradition of us bumping into each other every year at San Diego (and them always being kind and generous to me). And one of the funny things about bumping into Grant was it always happened in these totally pedestrian places, like I'd see them at the buffet in our bathing suits or something in the morning at the hotel, or I'd bump into them outside the men's room, or I'd see them in line at the little Starbucks or hot dog stand or something. So, always the least kind of Grant Morrison settings, which was always fun. But I bumped into them, and they saw how scared I was, and they told me the thing I needed to do with Batman was to create a birth and death for my version. And so, I actually came up with the death first, which became Last Knight on Earth, me and Greg’s last Batman story. But Zero Year, I came up with after.

And I wasn't going to do it, I just had it in my head. But DC started really pushing, because Bruce Wayne's origin wouldn't really make sense as Batman: Year One anymore after all these different changes that happened to Jim Gordon and Selina Kyle and all these different characters that were a part of that story. Under the New 52, they had been changed in different ways, so that origin no longer really made sense. And they were interested in somebody doing an origin, and I kind of got the impression that if I didn't do it, somebody else was going to, and I really didn't want that to happen. But what triggered me to do it was one day—I told the story before, but I don't think I have in this class or any of this—my now 14-year-old son Jack was only in like kindergarten at the time, or first grade, something like that. When he was in school one day, they had a lockdown drill, the kind of drill you do for school shooters, and he had been getting water out in the hallway, and they didn't realize, and so they closed the doors, and he was out in the hall. It was only a few seconds, apparently, but it really terrified him, and he always went to school with a thermos after that. He'd never leave the room for water.

And I just remember really sitting with that and thinking how different his childhood fears were from mine. I grew up in the eighties, and Batman: Year One and Dark Knight Returns really spoke to me in a way that made Batman feel relevant and real. The Cold War anxieties were in Dark Knight Returns—the kind of corruption and urban decay and the feeling of anger and resentment and desperation that was apparent in New York City in the eighties was there in Year One. So, Batman felt real and immediate to me in his origin and in his birth and death, those two stories.

And so, I wanted to do one that addressed my kid’s fears—random violence and terrorism and superstorms and endless war and apocalyptic situations where things just deteriorated when the grid fails and all of this. And so, I started to really play with this idea of doing the origin in a way that would be an inversion of Year One, where instead of being minimalist and dark and gritty, it would be maximalist and explosive and kind of punk rock in its colors, and it would embrace the kind of comic book lunacy of Riddler bots and all of this stuff. Over the top and sort of rocket ship nuts while still being grounded and hugely emotional and personal in that way. I wanted Batman to be something different than he'd been before for them. Instead of being someone who scared bad guys into the shadows, I wanted him to be someone who inspired good people into the light in frightening times—someone who wasn't responsible for the villains creation, necessarily, but instead was someone who would draw their fire and take on these kind of big, iconographic metaphorical monsters, to make us brave in ways that would allow us to face real monsters, real systemic problems, and entrenched issues that make life really difficult now.

So, that was my idea, and Zero Year was extremely liberating and exciting and terrifying, and I remember just thinking this is the first time I really feel like Greg and I, and the team, own this Batman—like take it or leave it, love it or hate it, it's our version, and it meant the world to me. And I'm so deeply proud of that story. So that's my New 52 tag.

[Sorry, it's raining crazy hard here, if you can hear that in the background audio].

The last thing for this crazy long newsletter, I want to start showing you the books we're doing for comiXology Originals. I'm so proud of these books, and we have three coming out in October. They're calling it Scottober. I know, it's funny, but I kind of love that they're doing it. The first three books come out the first three weeks of October—We Have Demons with Greg Capullo, John Glapion, and Dave McCaig. It's like big Saturday morning cartoon fun, but it's R-rated. It's everything we loved to do in Metal and Batman, but in our very first creator-owned book together. I couldn't be more excited about it. Obviously, it has terrifying demons, it's got a secret organization that fights them, and it's got a great hero team. I don't want to spoil it for you, but I love this book dearly.

The second book, Clear, is me and Francis Manapul, who's a dear friend, and it's speculative—

[You can hear the lightning and thunder in the audio]

—Speculative science fiction. It imagines a future where we all connect to the internet neurologically, and we can skin the world however we want, even though the superstructure of the world remains the same. So, if you want to look out and see the world in a filter, a “veil,” that's 1940s glamour, you can. If you want to look out and see the world in porn veil, everyone's naked. If you want to see the world as though the history of the world is different, the history of the country is different, you can do that. So, everyone lives in kind of a private reality, and it's a murder mystery that takes place in this future, and it's narrated by detective who keeps his setting on “clear” all the time. So, it's really dark, I'm hugely proud of it. It's Francis' book in that he's just doing next level work on it. Wait until you see, it's like a visual feast.

And the third book is Night of the Ghoul. I've been working on this with Francesco Francavilla for a very long time, we've been teasing it forever. And it's a story of a man who works restoring old films, digitizing them, and he comes across the remnants of a film, a lost horror classic from the 1940s that was supposed to have been destroyed in a big studio fire, and the film is called Night of the Ghoul. And the story starts after he's tracked down, with his son, the director of the film who's still alive at about 100+ years old in hospice care in the desert in California, and meets with him to ask what happened to the film and what happened to him—why did he disappear afterwards? And so, it begins this real claustrophobic, horrific night, and it intercuts between their interview and the horrible things that happen at this rest home and the remnants of the fictional black and white film. So, again, huge visual kaleidoscopic book.

But I have amazing, amazing co-creators on these things. Those are just the first three of eight. I cannot wait for you to see them. I'll be teasing a lot of stuff from them and more as we get closer, but I've taken up too much of your time, and I just want to say thank you. I'm having so much fun doing this, both the paid subscription and the free subscription. This has become something I really look forward to. I hope it is for you, too.