A Beginning and an End

Orange is the new Jack.

That’s right: we’ve got two comics in one week, and they’re both a rad shade of my very favorite color since I was a tiny child. How’s that for childhood dreams coming true?

This double week is exciting, as it’s a Lanzing/Kelly Story Labs first - but these aren’t any two issues of our so-far-so-short comics career. We’re talking about JOYRIDE #2 and GRAYSON #20 - the first issue of Joyride to embrace the galaxy beyond the SafeSky and the very last stand of Dick Grayson: Agent (37) of Spyral. 

JOYRIDE #2 is a crazy, high-octane, mega-beginning. It will be released alongside the customary JOYRIDE playlist and much exclusive art reveals as the week goes on. It also introduces the last member of our regular cast. The preview for that one can be found here: http://www.comicosity.com/preview-joyride-2/

GRAYSON #20 is the finale so crazy that when we came up with it, we were 100% certain DC Comics would not let us do it. It is the culmination of all the madness that’s gripped the book since we took over Tom King / Tim Seeley / Mikel Janin’s outstanding series - and is without a doubt the most incredible work I’ve ever seen from Rogé Antonio. This is our love letter to Dick. Here’s a preview: http://www.adventuresinpoortaste.com/2016/05/18/exclusive-dc-preview-grayson-20/

I hope it maybe gets your eyes a little wet with salt and sadness.

I think it might. 

EMERALD CITY COMIC-CON 2016

The short version: WE WILL BE IN SEATTLE @ ECCC ALL WEEKEND, ALONGSIDE THE VERY FIRST ADVANCE COPIES OF JOYRIDE #1. Those copies will include the stunning ECCC Variant Cover by Jorge Corona - who will also be there!

JOYRIDE #1 ECCC Variant by Jorge Corona

The longer version: we'll be signing with Boom! Studios all weekend and tabling with our JOYRIDE co-creator Marcus To (Table J-06) during our off-hours.

OUR LOCATION on the SKYBRIDGE: 

OUR SCHEDULE:

Thursday, 4/7
2-3pm - SIGNING at BOOM! STUDIOS
6:45 - 7:45pm - PANEL: BOOM! Studios: Discover New Worlds (Room T303)

Friday, 4/8
2-3pm SIGNING at BOOM! STUDIOS (w/ Jorge Corona (ECCC exclusive cover artist)

Saturday, 4/9
2-3pm SIGNING at BOOM! STUDIOS (w/ Jorge Corona (ECCC exclusive cover artist)

Sunday, 4/10
11am-12pm SIGNING at BOOM! STUDIOS

See ya in Seattle!

A QUICK WORD ABOUT GRAYSON

GRAYSON is my favorite comic at the Big Two.

It introduced me to the work of the incomparable Tom King, further solidified my already-enormous respect for hackin' Tim Seeley, and made me fall in love with the beautifully dynamic art of Mikel Janin. What began as a simple twist on the well-worn superspy concept became a great meditation on the nature of secrets, superherosim, and stories. It raised Dick's profile in the DCU, gave him incredible foils in Midnighter and Tiger, introduced a fresh and vital take on Helena Bertinelli, and reframed Morrison's Dr. Daedalus through the sympathetic lens of his two very broken daughters.

You don't need me to tell you that their run was a masterpiece.

For the next three months, Collin Kelly, Roge Antonio and I will be taking the reins as Dick Grayson faces Daedalus' carefully-constructed endgame. Think of GRAYSON as a very fast car heading for a very dangerous jump into the unknown. We've just climbed into the driver seat - we could slow down, back up, and start running in a different direction - but that would be abandoning the very things that made us such fans of the story in the first place. So instead of changing gears, we're gripping the wheel with white knuckles and accelerating as hard towards a satisfying conclusion as we can. We can promise resolution of some of the biggest secrets and mysteries in Dick Grayson's life, a reckoning within the Netz family, and events that will forever change the nature of Spyral. 

Issue #18 - entitled FIGHT HARDER - is in stores today. I'd like to thank every reader that's given us a chance. If you haven't yet, I hope very much that you'll pick it up, strap in, and come along with us for the ride.

Because that very dangerous jump into the unknown is coming... and who knows what awaits Dick Grayson on the other side.

WONDERCON 2016

The Year of JOYRIDE begins at WONDERCON 2016. We'll be signing and panelling and walking and talking and you should definitely come say hi. The schedule is as follows:

FRIDAY
Signing HACKTIVIST and JOYRIDE zines at the Boom! Booth: 3pm - 4pm

SATURDAY
Signing @ Boom!: 11am - 12pm
Panel: BOOM! Studios: Discover New Worlds: 4pm - 5pm, Room 515A
Signing @ DC Comics: 5:30 - 6:30pm with Collin Kelly, James Tynion IV, and Scott Snyder.

SUNDAY
Panel: The Importance of Licensed Comics in the Industry: 10:30am - 11:30am, Room 515B
Signing @ Boom!: 2pm - 3pm

We'll also be signing GRAYSON #18 if you've got it! You can try to get spoilers out of us for #19 and #20!

See you in Los Angeles!

My Grandfather's War

The following is a revision of a tribute I wrote on this day back in 2013. On this, what would have been my Grandfather's 96th birthday, I remember his stories.

In 1919, my maternal grandfather, Ektor Tsacoumarcos, was born in Maine to Greek immigrant parents. He had been conceived in the now-far-away land of Greece, but had never seen it with his own eyes. He was the first of his brothers to be born in America and the first to be formally educated. It was in these schools that his name was changed to Hector Chacamaty.

In his early 20's, World War II tore apart the continent of his conception - and the Chacamaty brothers answered the call. James, Hector's older brother, joined the OSS despite his lack of formal education. Hector joined the Army - and fought as a Private in Northern Italy against Mussolini's fascist forces as an ammunitions runner and fuse setter. When he was crippled by shrapnel, Hector was transported via hospital ship to Tunisia, where he spent two months recuperating in the arms of prostitutes and refusing a Purple Heart. Each night, he would steal away the camp's food refuse and leave it on the edge of the base for the locals - who he had noticed were starving. He was 24 years old. Greece was just across the water. But America was calling.

In 1945, Corporal Hector Chacamaty stormed the beaches of France on D-Day alongside his six-man munitions platoon. He operated as a member of the counteroffensive against Germany, pushing the Nazis out of France. He can be easily identified in those old TIME LIFE specials, because he wore his helmet cocked to one side. Once they had crossed into Southern Germany, Hector and his fellow soldiers were tasked with the liberation of a Nazi civilian camp - after the Red Cross had negotiated Nazi surrender. As they walked into the camp, it became clear that this was not simply a civilian camp. This was Dachau.

Before the last year of his life, he barely ever spoke about the war, but my grandfather did tell me one story with regularity. It was this:

"So, we liberated this castle. Nazi count or someone, he didn't want to come out, so we had to starve him out. We occupied the town below, which wasn't really too friendly, but we needed to be there, so better make the most of it. So me and some of the boys, we go down to the local tavern. We order a beer. Slide over a couple dollars for the guy's trouble. But he just frowns and says:

'No dollars. Deutsche Marks.'

And we try again, we slide the dollars over to him, cause we don't have any Deutsche Marks, right? But still he refuses. 

'No dollars. Deutsche Marks.' 'No dollars. Deutsche Marks.'

So we go down the street to the local bank. We drop some charges in the vault, which has plenty of this count's money. We take stacks of it, drop as many Marks on this guy's bar as we possibly can. The guy's probably never seen so much money in his life. And so we all say it together:

'No dollars. Deutsche Marks!'

And we have ourselves a drink with the guy."


Hector Chacamaty came home. He raised a family, including an incredible free-thinking daughter who would become my mother. He worked as a gallery owner, an artist and a cabbie. He set an example. And by my age, he had lived through the Second World War in Italy, Africa, France, and Germany. The one place it didn't take him was Greece... but it did take him home.

And while he was many things to many people, I will remember my grandfather as an old-fashioned man of decency. A guy who taught me how to watch football but not be a dick to the other team. A guy who would argue the devil's perspective to anyone who thought themselves righteous. A man who regularly referred to his life as "bonus time," neither fearing nor fretting inevitability. A calming, warm presence in any room he entered.

I am energetic, breathless, anxious, and weird - but he saw himself in me and never let me forget. I will endeavor my entire life to be the kind of man he was.

Happy birthday, Baba.

The Unsubtle Armadillo and The Squirrel That Wasn't

Okay, so there was this armadillo.

His shell was painted incredible colors and his armadillo squawk could be heard throughout the forest. This was one very unsubtle armadillo. And he had a lot of little animal friends, some of them totally rad armadillos themselves. They have sweet Ferngully-style parties and invited all the rabbits and birds and it was generally awesome.

But here's the thing. The unsubtle armadillo wasn't happy. The colors on his shell? They cheered him up sometimes. The squawk? It was pretty loud. But really all the armadillo wanted... was to not be an armadillo. He wanted to be anything else - a fox, a skylark, a crocodile. Ultimately, he spent a lot of time putting color on that shell because he wished it were never there at all.

And then, get this: This squirrel showed up to one of the armadillo parties. She was, like, a mega-squirrel too, all fur and tail and adorable squirrel overbite.

And halfway through the party, she walked right up the armadillo, who was enjoying his quiet time inside his shell thankyouverymuch. He tried to move, but for every inch he inched away, her smile got just a little wider.

"Whoa! You're an armadillo! Me too!" said the squirrel.

The armadillo looked at her sideways.

"You're funny, squirrel."

"I think you mean Armadillo. Squirrels are totally awesome, sure, but I ain't one."

"You're an armadillo."

"Sure am. And I just wanted to say how good you were at being one too."

"Okay. Yeah. Goodnight, crazy."

And the armadillo started walking away.

But here's the thing: squirrels are fast. You can't outrun 'em on stubby little armadillo legs. It's just impossible. So before he knew it, the unsubtle armadillo was looking right in the face of the squirrel he'd moments ago attempted to leave.

"I like your shell."

"Uh, thanks."

"Don't you love shells? Isn't it awesome to have? You can't see mine, invisible shell, whoops, but that's what makes yours so cool. I could see it from all the way up in the pines."

"You're confusing."

"Well, duh. I'm an armadillo, after all."

He'd had enough.

"NO! YOU'RE! NOT!

You're a squirrel. You're light and you're fast, you get to run away and people let you hang around their houses without trying to step on you or poke you or skin you. You don't have to look into the lake every morning and see this leathery weirdness staring back at you. You have no idea what you're talking about. You want my shell? I wish I could give it to you. I wish you COULD be an armadillo, just so I wouldn't have to be."

His squawk echoed through the tall trees.

After a long moment of silence, the squirrel moved out of his way. Tiny little stubby legs moved the very unsubtle armadillo slowly past the dejected little tree-rat as he made his way to the forests' edge. No way he was going back to that party.

No way.

"You know, there's no point to having that shell if you don't enjoy it."

He stopped. He couldn't even believe he stopped but for some reason, he did.

"Who enjoys it?"

"I do."

"Really."

"Yeah! I mean, its heavy and it can be ugly but it's also super protective and you can roll around on it like a log on a wet hill and -"

"You have no idea what you're talking about."

"You're not the only animal with problems."

"How would you know?"

"Umm, hello? Lifelong armadillo, here"

"I told you, you're not -"

"Say that again and I never come to this side of the forest again. Ever."

And somehow, that stopped him.

Just that little threat. That little idea. That tiny thought that he'd never see this weird little squirlmadillo ever again. He had no idea why, but it felt like his shell grew a size. It was almost too much to bear.

So he stepped up to her. Took him a while, but he got there eventually. Right up to where he could look in her black squirrel eyes, which reflected a surprising amount of light.

"... I've never rolled around on my shell."

"Not ever?"

"Not ever."

He was embarrassed to admit, it had never even crossed his mind.

"That's a bummer. I could teach you."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah. Totally."

"Would you maybe... wanna learn how to paint yours?"

"Well, I mean, It's invisible, but... sure. That sounds nice."

"Then I'll teach you. If you teach me."

He didn't think her smile could get bigger. He was - not for the first time today - very wrong. She made it look effortless. He made a point to learn how to do that next.

--

Happy Anniversary, Alexandra. Here's to the lessons yet unlearned.

Tiny Little Stories, Winter 2014

Being the writer lessons learned from Winter 2014, when we were in flux between many projects and I went a little nuts.

WRITE SOME SHORT STUFF
So, you're in-between assignments - or specs or stories or runs on a comic. Time for an awesome vacation, right? Except your brain doesn't work like that, so every moment spent relaxing seems like one wasted not writing. Don't charge forward on the first idea you have, no matter how good it may seem - you are being fooled by your own ambition into starting something before it's ready. Instead, stretch your muscles. Write some short stuff. Collaborate with new people. Break the routines. Shake that brain up.

THERE'S A FINE LINE BETWEEN GROUNDED AND BORING
When writing about (say) the mechanics of large-scale government bureaucracies and software engineering in a visual medium, don't forget to include, ya know, visuals. You can explain an exploit perfectly in 100 words - or you can show it with none. The latter is almost always preferable.

SURPRISE YOURSELF
If, while writing your first outlines, you don't once raise your eyebrows and think to yourself "whoa, that changes everything," you have failed the first test of story. Not while reading it, mind you. While writing. If the process of creation doesn't bring the unexpected, you might be making an Ikea desk. You are the only audience before the actual audience gets exposed. Don't assume you're immune to your story's power just cause it came from you. In fact, if you can't surprise yourself, you ain't really gonna surprise anyone.

INSIST ON DECENCY
You will, as a writer, be occasionally given the opportunity to produce. When you take that chair, remember what it meant to be at the mercy of producers. Try not to let them down the way you were let down. Pay well and on time. Teach those above you how to join the communities they are trying to sell to, rather than enabling exploitation. You know: don't be a dick.

MUSIC IS MAGIC
Phonogram knows its shit - listen and learn. Don't sleep on keeping up with new music - either challenging yourself with new sounds or exploring those you'd missed in the past. The brain can be fed with podcasts, but the subconscious is fed almost exclusively through emotion. Best delivery device (especially when writing): music.

PITCH AND LISTEN AND PITCH AND LISTEN AND PITCH...
Even when working with a partner, it's important to verbalize your ideas to those outside the circle. That doesn't necessarily mean the other writers around you - sometimes it's just the smartest person you know. Or a producer. Or a cat. And don't seek notes. Seek, instead, a conversation (not from the cat, but you get the point). Seek questions from the other person. Seek answers from inside yourself. And be honest with yourself when you don't have them.

READ YOUR FRIENDS
This one's obvious, but I've had enough great experiences in reading the work of close friends this month as to make me reiterate. Your friends are awesome and you should read them.

DON'T GIVE A FUCK ABOUT LISTS
End of year "best-of" lists, Black Lists, that weird list from Night Vale, none of 'em. Don't give them a second of your time. Only thing that matters is what's next.

Appropriately, while writing this, I got a notes email. So I guess I'm gonna go write. Be excellent to each other.

Break It All And Start Again

Personal confession time: I've done a lot of shitty work this year.

It's truer even than I'd like to admit. I've written generic stories that end the way you'd expect. I've written character beats that were so on-the-nose as to rob the characters of their life. I've taken the easy way out or lost my theme or done the expected twist more times this year than any other. I've defaulted to my own perspective because it's easier. Even as I take on more work than ever, I've been a bad, bad writer.

Not that you'll ever see it, of course. That stuff never makes it as far as you. It goes to co-writers, editors, agents, managers, producers. It goes anywhere but your way, because you should be protected from the garbage that spits out of my head on a daily basis. The bad gets shaped into better and then maybe finally to "good." But I'm noticing a trend in this years' work - which is that it is especially shitty. It's unadventurous. It's "grounded." It's normal. It's expected. It's that movie you saw mixed with that other movie you didn't. Even when it's bucking formula, it might be a little formulaic. And this is happening subconsciously.

I fear Hollywood has done this to me. I fear the natural, commercial boxing-in of creativity has actually taken root somewhere in my subconscious, where it desperately asks (nay, demands) for stories to be more predictable. Or more pitch-able. Or more acceptable. My mind seeks safety of what's come before because to blaze an entirely new trail would be "unfeasible" or "niche" or whatever bullshit word we're using to describe those things that dare to be novel.

But the truth is much simpler: I did it to myself.

Fun fact: I've never really had writer's block. People think I'm bragging when I say that but I'm not - I simply don't have that filter that kicks in with mega-self-doubt and stops the process (at least, not until recently). I sit down and I write. It's like a tap I can turn on and off. Music can accelerate the flow - as can working with a partner - but the creative brain is always available to me. It often feels like my natural state. That's my whole process: doing what comes naturally.

I'm wondering now if that's more a curse than a blessing. I think maybe instead I've been too forgiving of my own work, too willing to say the words "good enough." In my ease, I've forgotten to push myself forward. In opening my mind to a million ideas, perhaps I've actually closed it to the depth of a single one.

So what to do? My instinct is to slam my own head against a million walls in the hopes that something will come dislodged and - in so doing - reveal that path back to weirdness. The answer (I hope) is most likely something a little less violent.

It probably starts with falling in love with my ideas again. Not looking at them as commodities to be sold, but as playgrounds to construct. It's looking at my stories upside-down, sideways, through many dark lenses, until I find something that doesn't just "work", but is actually inspiring.

My responsibility to my own work, to myself, and to you the reader/viewer, is to break some conventions and discover what lives beyond them. To make this exciting again. To smile and cackle like a maniac when I finish a page or a scene or a cut, because I've effectively warped my own mind. I gotta take the safeties off.

I think I gotta stop thinking like a writer and start thinking like a creator again.

If any of this rings true for you, I hope you'll do the same. Let's meet the future together. It's too early for New Years Resolutions, so let's call this a regular old resolution. And let's actually keep it, huh?

Resolved: when it comes to the patterns that arise in our process, those that sap the joy from the work... we're gonna break it all and start again.

Let's Go On A JOYRIDE

NYCC was incredible. Amazing people and beautiful experiences that will stay with me forever. The response to HACKTIVIST was nothing short of outstanding - I'm still surprised to see the excitement in a new reader's eyes when they see Marcus and Ian's incredible work. Thanks to everyone who swung by. You guys all rock.

But now it's time for something new.

joyride

As revealed in this totally rad new documentary on our friends at The RAID Studios, the HACKTIVIST team has come back together for a creator-owned comics project that's about as far from our grounded Tunis tale as possible.

That's right: we're going to space. Like, way into space. As far from Earth as we can get. And we're playing punk rock as loud as we can at the fastest warp speed our teenage heroes can muster.

Details are forthcoming (there're actually a lot of them in the documentary, so you should probably watch it), but for now... just get psyched. We really are.

Vacation Coming...

Most people who know me are aware of this, but in case we've never hung out, you and I, I'm gonna make this as clear as possible:

I'm not good at relaxing. In fact, I'm terrible at it.

I'm a stress machine, primarily concerned with the constant continuation and development of the projects on my plate. It means I get a lot done - there are some genuinely amazing things going down right now, none of which I can share on the internet - but it also leads to genuine problems. It means I don't sleep. It means I take in entire seasons of BOARDWALK EMPIRE instead of rejuvenating my precious cells. Essentially, instead of doing this:

Screen Shot 2014-09-25 at 6.09.49 PM.png

I am constantly doing this:

Screen Shot 2014-09-25 at 6.21.58 PM.png

That is... until October. Because for the first week of next month, in less than one week, I'm going on vacation. Like, real live total actual vacation. Alex and I will be escaping into the strange and wondrous wilds of Walt Disney World to enjoy each other's company and a bunch of delicious worldwide foods and oogle Star Wars merchandise to our heart's content.

So for the first time in a while, I'm gonna be like this:

Screen Shot 2014-09-25 at 6.32.57 PM.png

I can't tell you how excited I am. There's no way I'm sleeping tonight.

... oops.

New York Cares...

I got to get better at updating this place. Silence speaks volumes of nothing.

GOOD NEWS EVERYONE! Collin and I will be heading to the East Coast for the New York Comic-Con alongside the incredible team at Boom! Studios. As a Boston kind of guy, this is definitely a huge betrayal of all of my core principles... but come on, guys! It's Manhattan and comic books! Plus, we met so many great NYC creatorfolks at Baltimore Comic-Con, and what better chance than this to totally bother them constantly!

So if you're headed to the show, swing by the Boom! booth any day between 10/9 - 10/12 and say hi. Maybe grab a HACKTIVIST hardcover or get in our face about our next book or just bring us cheesecake.

Lots of it.

All the cheesecake. 

Got it? Good.

Please and thank you,
Jackson

Cowabunga! It's Comic-Con!

It's the most awesomest time of the year - San Diego Comic-Con! And unlike previous years - where I've wandered unseen all around the con floor like a mid-twenties Ben Kenobi - I'll be easy to find and eager to chat!

That's right, I'll be at the BOOM! Studios booth (#2229) all weekend alongside compadre Collin Kelly, promoting the hardcover release of HACKTIVIST. We'll also be signing and - God help us all - sketching. But only if you ask me nicely. And only if you are cool with stick figures. The schedule breaks down as follows:

THURSDAY: Signing all day at Boom! (#2229)
FRIDAY: Same as Thursday - plus we're joined by Marcus To and Ian Herring between 4:30 and 5:30 to sign special-edition HACKTIVIST HC, featuring a signed bookplate by Alyssa Milano.
SATURDAY: Back on that grind, signing all day at Boom! (#2229)
SUNDAY: You know the drill - we be signing. #2229. 

New cool stuff in the works as well this convention season. Find me at the Hyatt, share a dram, and maybe I'll tell you a story.

Also of note: This week sees the release of TMNT: NAA #13, featuring a main story by myself and David Server, with art by Dario Brizuela, colors by Heather Breckel, and letters by Shawn Lee! Dave and I return to the zoo we loved so in PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR - but this time, we're bringing some Kraang along! It's an April-centric story that finds our favorite kunoichi fighting for her life behind enemy lines. Plus: a super-subtle nod to a "classic" Turtles villain from our youth! 

Check it out - or pick one up for the young reader in your life. There's two other great stories by Landry Walker, David Alvarez, Rachael L'Areau and Bryan Turner.

Also: did you guys see this? Cause, drool.

Thresh Done Come

Last night, even as the HACKTIVIST trade paperback was unleashed upon the world, an incredible group of actors and a small cabal of trusted friends came together at the Tick Tock Emporium to read a movie y'all haven't heard of yet - but which you will know well soon. 

This story is called PIPE - and will be directed by Brosis (Morgan Faust and Max Isaacson). The cast included Jocelyn Kelvin, Enver Gjokaj, Mary Kate Wiles, Jon Cahill, Jonathan Oldham, Dylan DoVale, Laura Harrisaon, Gina DeVivo, Amanda Powers and many more. Every single one of them was a dream come true.

It was unreal. That's all I have to say at this time.

Oh, and Collin made this incredible poster. Cause he's got the eye.

HACKTIVIST: The Whole Damn Story

Miss an issue? Miss every issue? Curious what all the hubbub was about?

Wonder no longer. HACKTIVIST Vol. 1 releases in hardcover at comic shops worldwide on July 16th - and at bookstores on July 22nd. Care to pre-order it? The Diamond Order Code is MAY141168 - and bookstores can find it with ISBN 978-1-60886-409-6.

Or just preorder the thing right here!

As you may know from my previous ramblings on the subject, this was the intended format for our story. We're genuinely excited for new readers to find the story - and for those that read it in single issues to check out the whole experience in a single run.

To that end, Collin and I will be at San Diego Comic-Con this year - camped out at the BOOM! booth and signing as many of these babies as our hands can handle. If you're planning on spending the weekend at the Con, come say hi!

Everything Ends Now

This is it. After four months of putting the pieces into place, Ed, Sirine, and Nate finally reveal their endgame in HACKTIVIST #4.

A secret: You were never really supposed to read the story this way. It's one big tale - told in a very specific fashion - and designed with feints and audience expectation in mind. Our ultimate point isn't really made until our final pages - and even then, it is only the beginning of our character's true journey.

I hope you'll check it out.

If you missed out on the whole journey, then I've got some great news for you: The HACKTIVIST Hardcover is coming in July. The whole damned book, plus a foreward by Jack Dorsey (whaaat!?) and a bunch of interesting back matter exploring the unique process on this unique book.

As for the next steps on the journey? Wait and see. Cool, cool, cool things are coming.