Not meaning to bury this news in the Friday afternoon graveyard, but wanted to get it out there: the long-awaited Black Mask Studios transmedia/alternate distribution comics company set up by writer Steve Niles, producer Matt Pizzolo (Halo 8) and Epitaph Records’ Brett Gurewitz has finally gone live and announced its debut projects.
The big one is the Kickstarter-financed Occupy Comics, which will now include the first shared project between Alan Moore (Watchmen) and David Lloyd since V For Vendetta. Other contributors include: Charlie Adlard (The Walking Dead), Art Spiegelman (Pulitzer-winning Maus), Molly Crabapple (Shell Game), Matt Bors (Pulitzer-nominated political cartoonist), Mike Allred (Madman), Ben Templesmith (30 Days of Night), J.M. DeMatteis (Justice League, Spider-Man), Tyler Crook (Petrograd), Joshua Hale Fialkov (I, Vampire), Joe Infurnari (Mush!), Ales Kot (Wild Children), Dean Haspiel (American Splendor), Douglas Rushkoff (media theorist), Joshua Dysart (Unknown Soldier, Swamp Thing), Matt Miner (Liberator), & the project’s organizational spearhead Matt Pizzolo (Godkiller). Proceeds will go to various Occupy-related charities.
Other projects to debut on May 1:
12 Reasons To Die by a crime drama by the Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA and Ghostface Killah illustrated by a rotating team of artists including Riley Rossmo (Bedlam), Tim Seeley (Hack/Slash), Joe Infurnari (Mush!), Kyle Strahm (Haunt), Gus Storms & Breno Tamura (Pigs), with covers by Ronald Wimberly (Prince of Cats) and Christopher Mitten (30 Days of Night).
Liberator (due June 19th) by real-life dog rescuer Matt Miner (Occupy Comics) and artist Joel Gomez (Detective Comics) with covers by Chris Burnham (Batman Incorporated), Tim Seeley (Hack/Slash), Yildiray Cinar (Earth 2), and Joe Prado (Aquaman, Justice League). It’s about two vigilantes who go around avenging mistreated animals. Portions of the proceeds will go to animal rescue organizations.
Ballistic (due June 26th) by Darick Robertson (Happy, The Boys, Transmetropolitan) and Adam Egypt Mortimer (director of Grant Morrison’s upcoming Sinatoro), a “madcap, futurist, sci-fi adventure about a wanna-be bank robber and his best friend: a psychotic, drug addicted living gun.”
The line will not only showcase creator owned comics and universes but have a new distribution system through Gurewitz’s Epitach Records, into record stores and other alternative venues. Pizzolo told THR “We are not looking at these things as treatments for movies, but we do want to engage in transmedia-world building. Comics has a long history of doing all sorts of genres,” he said, “and we want to expand into new territories and into genres that haven’t gotten the attention we think they deserve.”
The PR states:
Black Mask will differentiate itself based on its respective founders’ decades-long commitments to championing creator’s rights across media from comics to film to music.
As Pizzolo explains, “Groundbreaking art thrives when the relationship between artist and label is built on integrity, respect, and a team effort. Comics has a troubled history with its treatment of creators, our goal is to bring the supportive ethic of record labels like Epitaph, Dischord, and Revelation to comics.”
“Art has the power to move people and transgressive art can challenge and even change social norms,” adds Gurewitz. “It’s what punk rock and comics have in common, and one of the reasons I’m super excited aboutBlack Mask Studios.”
“Brett, Matt, and I all came up in the DiY punk scene,” furthers Niles. “And we’re bringing that kind of attitude to this… the constructive part about supporting voices who are talking about real things but in a bold and exciting way. We’re not afraid to bring in activism and politics and counterculture. What publisher today could be bringing out the next V For Vendetta? Nobody.”
While Black Mask Studios’ initial titles will be released to comic book stores through Diamond Comics starting in May, the comics are already available for pre-order in the Black Mask webstore as physical-digital hybrid bundles. The comics won’t be delivered until their retail street date, but digital subscribers will instantly receive a digital “comics mixtape” as well as a limited edition t-shirt. You can find the Black Mask webstore by going to: http://kingsroadmerch.com/black-mask-studios
“We experimented with the direct-to-fan digital-physical-hybrid subscription model for Godkiller at Halo-8,” explains Pizzolo. “Basically you get the digital issues every month and then the collected trade paperback when it’s all done. The audience loved it and we think it’s a great way to reach new audiences with Black Mask
Although we haven’t seen the comics yet, a couple of observations:
The line seems a bit more focused talent and theme-wise than usual in these kinds of projects; post-Vertigo socially aware themes and a good mix of creators including our man Gus Storms. It’s also smart to have such an eclectic distribution model using new and existing structures. So…an interesting development for the start of the year.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.