Politics, Music, and Grant Morrison: Why Black Mask is the Publisher to Watch in 2015

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Posted January 13, 2015 by Jean-Luc Botbyl in Comic Books

I know that we just had the Image Expo, and that is at the front of everyone’s mind right now. While their line up for 2015 is exciting, there is another publisher, one that announced their line up last year, that is perhaps even more exciting; Black Mask. You probably know them bets, if you know them at all, for publishing Occupy Comics, a stellar series filled with excellent talent concerning the Occupy movement. The publisher, initially, seemed concerned only with social activism, and that’s not a knock against them – but more on that later. Unfortunately, 2014 was a fairly  uneventful year for Black Mask (they weren’t without content, by any means – there have been some undeniably great books), but their 2015 solicitations towards the end of the year revealed a line up of books that includes something for everyone.

Somehow, this line up of stellar books managed to fly completely under the radar – despite top notch AAA talent like Grant Morrison being involved with projects for the publisher. So let’s start with Morrison’s book, entitled Sinatoro, which will be brought to life by Vanessa Del Rey. The solicitation describes the book as a “masterwork on life, death, and America.” While it will undoubtedly be filled to the brim with Morrisonisms, it sounds to me like a book with extensive social commentary – something that will undoubtedly interest many. The book is being hailed as a western, of sorts. Though with Morrison, not all is at it initially seems.

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For those not interested in Morrison’s trippy, slightly crazed writing style, there’s plenty of other books to get pumped for from Black Mask. One of the most interesting among these is Young Terrorists, written by Matt Pizzolo, one of the masterminds behind Occupy Comics. The story follows a young female protagonist in her fight against shadow corporations and puppet governments, so expect a glut of conspiracy theories out of this book. But it is often in books like Young Terrorists, the books that blow situations out of proportion, that lend themselves best to meaningful social commentary. It’s not like megacorporations that essentially run governments don’t exist – and even if it is taken to a new level for entertainment purposes – so this book comes at an appropriate time. It’s something that looks like it will have a lot of entertainment value while, at the same time, offering commentary on real global issues.

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Possibly the only book that eclipses Young Terrorists (and perhaps Sinatoro) in terms of my personal excitement is The Last Song, a book from (I believe) newbies to the comic book business, Holli Interlandi and Zoe Chevat. The Last Song  is a book that I don’t think I can do justice with a simple description, so I’m including the full solicit below:

This comic is about rock n roll. Not as a metaphor. Not as a backdrop. No. This is about what rock n roll feels like… that pleasant but sad sort of nostalgia, the poetic melancholy, that epic rockstar mortality. The album that made you break up with your fiancee. The concert that was exactly what you needed when your parents didn’t understand. That singer that made the kinds of mistakes you would never make. Never. Or so you thought.

LAST SONG is the rise and fall rockstar story of a band called Ecstacy. They change rock n roll — and people’s lives — for better and for worse. A symbolic, fantastical journey through the music industry all Velvet Goldmine meets Pink Floyd’s The Wall except with groupies instead of Nazis.

If there’s one entertainment medium that speaks to me more than comics, it would most definitely be music. And I think that this is true of many individuals – I have yet to meet someone to whom music does not matter. Music is something so important, so innately human, that it astounds me we haven’t gotten a book like this before. I can’t wait to see what the creative team does with this book – how it starts, where it ends, and everything in between. This is a book that looks to be an absolutely genius series, that everyone should be keeping their eyes on.

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Hopefully by this point I’ve convinced everyone to check out at least one of Black Mask’s upcoming books. But, if not, there’s more. One that interests me greatly, but may not be for everyone, is Our Work Fills the Pews. From the creative team of Vita A, Matthew Rosenberg, Yasmin Liang comes a dystopian series about a post culture war United States – in which minorities are suppressed and fill internment camps. Our Work Fills the Pews seems like the creative team’s response to the recent issues racial and cultural, perhaps more importantly, cultural discrimination. Mixed in with all of the social commentary is an adventure story, which will undoubtedly act as a tether for the book’s more theological aspects.

OurWorkFillsthePewsCover

Now, we come to The Disciples, a book written by Black Mask co-founder Steve Niles, and illustrated by artist Christopher Mitten. The Disciples is being billed as a “ghost story in space.” A combination of horror and science fiction? Sign me up, and, while I’m being signed up, why don’t you sign everyone else up at the same time? In addition to The Disciples, Black Mask is adding two more science fiction comics to their catalog: X’ed, a book from Tony Patrick and Ayhan Hayrula about “subliminal hitmen,” and Transference, a time travel story from Michael Moreci and Ron Salas. If nothing else, these books have great concepts.

DisciplesCover

While there are many more books coming from Black Mask, I’m going to end with We Can Never Go Home. This is the only book in the line up that even represents traditional superhero comics, and even then, it looks to be far more similar to Harbinger than Action Comics. The book follows two high school outcasts who discover they have super powers, and is a “super-powered spin on True Romance and Badlands” according to the solicits.

WeCanNeverGoHomeCover

While the jury is still out on the quality of these books, there’s no reason not to get at least somewhat excited about Black Mask’s coming line up. Whether you’re looking for science fiction, music, politics, or superheroes, Black Mask has it all. If nothing else, the publisher is giving truly new talent a chance to shine alongside heavy hitters in the industry like Grant Morrison and Steve Niles, and that’s great. So support the little guy, and check out some of these books. Also, let me know in the comments which of these books interest you, what other Black Mask titles you want to check out, or just what you’re excited about in the comics industry in 2015.


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.