More Comics Like Twisted Romance, Please

Posted March 20, 2018 by Jean-Luc Botbyl in Comic Books

On the latest episode of the Comics Dash, Chad and I got to talking about Twisted Romance again. (As you do when a comic leaves such a strong impression, y’know?) Since that conversation, I’ve spent a bit of time thinking about the Alex de Campi curated collection of short-form fiction. I even re-read a few of my favorite stories, and at the very least glanced at the rest.

Going back through all four issues in an afternoon underscored what made Twisted Romance such an exciting series. We talked about this a bit on Comics Dash over the last month, but it’s really worth highlighting again: All of those stories are unique. Not only are they distinct from one another (generally falling into the romance genre aside), I couldn’t point to a comic I’m aware of that looks or reads quite like anything published in Twisted Romance.

Which sort of makes me feel like an idiot, honestly. The creators on display in Twisted Romance aren’t new writers or artists. But they were all new to me (although perusing some of their bibliographies revealed they worked on projects I’ve read), and their work felt refreshing. As with most art forms, the most interesting work is being done and the fringes.

And, unfortunately, like most art forms, that work rarely finds its way into the mainstream. Even Twisted Romance, which was published by the third largest comics publisher and organized by a fairly well-known comics professional, didn’t sell particularly well. Of course, it hasn’t hit the bookstore market as a trade yet, and the data we have access to is… lacking, to put it mildly.

Regardless, it didn’t do the numbers required to make a splash among the “average” comic book reader. Hell, if I wasn’t in the privileged position I am right now, I may have missed it. In retrospect, I feel bad for not screaming its praises from the proverbial rooftops of this website, for whatever little good that may have done.

I do hope the book finds a large audience once it’s collected, because the format is one I’d love to see replicated. Short-form compilations published by a company like Image are a great way to embed creators into the minds of at least some portion of comic readers. It was great for me, because it turned me on to a bunch of super talented creators who I’ll be looking out for in the future.

Works like Twisted Romance also feel vital to the future of comics. Perhaps they don’t sell gangbusters in the short run, but they expand awareness both of relatively new creators and of entirely different styles. Comics can’t continue to rest on their laurels, especially not with a consistent decline in sales. The Marvel model of constantly relaunching books in an effort to drum up enthusiasm demonstrably fails.

Obviously, there are a wide range of factors impacting comic sales. But the industry still has a perception problem, driven by the short-sighted mindset that courting the same audience over and over is the solution. While I wouldn’t advocate for throwing up both middle fingers to that audience and pushing them off a cliff, the big publishers should be pursuing initiatives and books that bring in new readers, rather than alienating them with poor decisions.

In theory, the indie scene is the perfect place to push the industry into new ground. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. Image publishes a bunch of fairly unique books I love, but it isn’t realistic for new creators with really out-there ideas to make a living writing indie books.

Sure, you’ll sometimes see cutting-edge comics coming out of Image or other publishers (Black Mask’s lineup has really come into its own), but it’s rare. Ray Fawkes’ Underwinter is a good example of this, but despite his work being consistently underrated, he definitely counts as a mainstream pro, considering his work for DC.

Twisted Romance was a lovely taste of the potential comics have for telling fresh, unique narratives that could appeal to an entirely new audience.

Ideally, Twisted Romance would act as a model for similar projects down the line. Loosely related compilations designed to highlight lesser-known creators doing unique work could make for exciting new reads. I said it on the podcast, but Twisted Romance was my most anticipated book just about every week it came out, even if it wasn’t necessarily my favorite. The sense of discovery made me feel like I was getting into comics all over again, and there’s little better than that feeling.

About the Author

Jean-Luc Botbyl

Jean-Luc is a grizzled veteran of We the Nerdy. Most days, he just wonders why he hasn't been formally fired. Follow him on Twitter at @J_LFett to make him feel validated.