Last month Dark Horse Comics and writer Brian Michael Bendis announced that Bendis’s fan-favorite Jinxworld imprint would be moving to Dark Horse. The imprint has had a number of homes over the years, from Image to Marvel to DC, and featured work from Bendis and frequent artistic collaborators including Michael Avon Oeming, Alex Maleev, and David Mack. The first new Dark Horse Comics Jinxworld title, Joy Operations, is due out in November, and has Bendis teamed with Wonder Twins artist Stephen Byrne. Dark Horse will also rerelease the entire Jinxworld back catalog, as well as publish continuations of recent series like Pearl (with Michael Gaydos), Cover (with Mack), and The United States of Murder Inc. (with Oeming), plus new Bendis-written projects with artists Maleev and Jacob Edgar.
The journey of Jinxworld to Dark Horse is the latest in a series of moves made by big-name writers in the creator-owned area of the comics industry. The Beat had the chance to chat with Bendis about the move, why now was the right time to make it, and what fans should expect from both the reissued and new Jinxworld material (plus, yes, we asked him about Substack). Find our conversation below, and check back next month for an in-depth discussion with Bendis about Joy Operations.
Joe Grunenwald: First of all, congratulations on the Dark Horse deal. That’s a pretty exciting move for Jinxworld.
Brian Michael Bendis: It is, it’s been, behind the scenes, it’s been going on for months. We wanted to have all our ducks in a row, ready to go before we announced to the world. So we’re all settled in and just feeling really great about it. And it was great to announce because it felt so great, and also the response was just everything we’d hoped for.
Grunenwald: You’ve said that you’d wanted to be at Dark Horse for a little while, and maybe the stars just hadn’t aligned before now. What made now the right time to make the move?
Bendis: My history with this goes back, like I kind of broke into comics around the same time Dark Horse became a thing. So like, I would look at it with envy, like ‘Aww, I want to be there, where they’re making like Sin City and Grendel and stuff,’ but also very happy to be just published at all. But there was a definite sense that Dark Horse was one of like the brass rings of comics, like, you have to be really good to be there. And me and my friends would like pine for that, just to be seen as that level creator, right? And over the years, I made friends with some people over there, Diana Schutz and I became very close, and she was executive editor for a long time. And so the conversation would come up every once in a while. But then, I left Image and went to Marvel, and Marvel wanted me to stay there, and of course, that was the right move at that time.
And then when I was leaving Marvel, the plan was actually to call Mike Richardson and say ‘Hey, you know, let’s have the serious talk we’ve been talking about about for like, years and years.’ And then DC came in so hard, not to be braggy, but they came in so hard that it made it impossible not to take it very seriously, and so that’s what happened then. But then after DC changed hands a few times, it was just like, and everything I’m hearing out of Dark Horse, and also some of my best friends are being published by Dark Horse. And it just sounded like they were in the zone. And I was like, ‘Yeah, let’s start having this conversation for real.’
And I also knew that, once I was at Dark Horse, it would be a long-term commitment kind of thing. Like this is a hometown publisher, you know, a dream of mine that went on for years and years, and then here we are. It just feels like a real blessing. And I was really happy all the pieces aligned, and I finally feel like like we’ve earned our place at the table. It took a long time but we got there.
Grunenwald: I know you’ve said at least for the next few years you’ll be doing creator-owned stuff at Dark Horse. Do you feel like this is your permanent home now for Jinxworld?
Bendis: I would love it to be. I sincerely hope that that’s the way it goes. That is the plan. But you know, it’s pop culture, man. You know, it all changes every every three days. That’s the plan for right now. And again, I’m reluctant to do anything that sounds like bragging in a pandemic. It’s been why I’ve been so quiet the last year. It’s hard to, like, fully celebrate anything, but I’m so relieved that we have literally years of books already greenlit at Dark Horse. Our plans go for many years, and they’re all on the calendar and they’re all greenlit. So for the next few years, absolutely, and just using every opportunity to do the best work we can to push ourselves and our voices in the medium as far as we can. We feel like, as a group, we feel like, ‘We’re here at Dark Horse, let’s constantly prove we deserve to be here.’
Grunenwald: You’ve got some new editions of existing material coming out as well. Is there any new material in those, or are those going to be just straight reissues to get stuff back out there?
Bendis: We’re doing a mix, actually. For some of the more classic material, I’m happy to say, we have shown you all the good stuff. So this material is for people who have not seen it before, and we’re very excited to put out the best version possible.
For the newer material like Scarlet and Pearl, yes, we have a treasure trove of new stuff to show and we’re pulling out all the stops for the collected editions, because for people who know their Dark Horse, they know that one of the great reasons to be at Dark Horse is no one does better collected material. For the whole time they’ve been in existence, it’s always been pushing the boundaries of collected formats and how those formats are put together, and I was so excited to be part of it. So particularly, I think, for Scarlet and Powers and the others, we’re going to have a real opportunity to do some really nifty stuff. And even on Goldfish and Jinx, the older stuff which we’re putting out, the trade dress and the redesign blew me away. They just showed it to me the other day, and I’m like, ‘Wow, this is so much better than every other version we put out.’
Grunenwald: Yeah, Dark Horse’s Library Editions in particular are really impressive. Are Powers or any other books going to get Library Editions?
Bendis: Yeah, we’re planning on [releasing] everything slowly over the next few years. We don’t want to, like, overload the market. But yes.
Grunenwald: The announcement also mentions the return of Pearl and Cover and Murder Inc., as well as a couple other projects with Alex Maleev and Jacob Edgar. Is there anything you can say about those at this point?
Bendis: Well, number one, yeah, I am so grateful that Pearl and Cover and Murder Inc. are doing well enough to sustain themselves. It allows us to really try new things and push it even further. So [I’m] very excited about that. All of those books were very big swings for us in both content and style, and I’m so grateful that there were people looking for that. Particularly Cover is also being developed as an animated show on HBO Max simultaneously as we’re working on the second volume. So that’s just behind the scenes, just a lot of fun, and I’ll get into that as things develop further. But seeing David Mack’s work animated, it’s really moving to me and I can’t wait to share that with people. So yeah, we continue all of those books.
The new book with Alex Maleev, while it’s too early we speak of, if people go look at Alex Maleev’s Twitter feeds they’re going to see he’s experimenting with a new painting style and a new wash style. They’re very, very interesting paintings, and it’s gearing us up for what we’re planning next. The Jacob Edgar book’s one I’ve already started on, but that is early goings, and it’s a comedy. I’m very excited to share it. And with Jacob, I can tell you, fans put us together. It’s a very unique experience for me. Most of my creative relationships came from just work and just meeting people, you know, or finding their work myself. But this one was, a couple of our readers really thought we would just get along. They just wanted to see us together and they literally made it happen, and they were right.
Grunenwald: That’s great. I’m in particular curious about that, because I’m a big fan of Jacob’s work. I feel like he’s an artist who’s just on the verge of becoming huge.
Bendis: I wholeheartedly agree. I’ve had this experience a few times in my career, most notably with like David Marquez, or Sara Pichelli, quite a few people actually, and I absolutely get this, not only that they’re going to be huge, but that they’re on the cusp of finding stuff in their artwork that is going to really define them, and it’s exciting to be part of that or to be part of the inspiration for that. And so I’m writing both to Jacob and [Joy Operations artist] Stephen [Byrne] towards that goal, towards pushing them as gently as I can towards the best collaboration we can have.
Grunenwald: You have a Substack newsletter, and I would probably be remiss not to ask if you’ve gotten an offer from them, if that’s something that you can say anything about.
Bendis: Yes, I have an offer from them. I usually don’t speak of business that I’m in the middle of, right? That always been, maybe how I was raised or something. But I know this is like all over everywhere, and other people are speaking of it. So yes, offer’s on the table, and we’ll see if I can make it work, like Matt [Fraction] and Kelly [Sue DeConnick] expressed in their newsletter the other day, it’s just a matter of timing. I definitely know what I would do with it, and then we’ll see if we can make it work. But my primary focus is and would be Dark Horse and Jinxworld.
Grunenwald: That makes total sense. Anything else you want to say about being at Dark Horse or any other upcoming Jinxworld projects?
Bendis: I’m just really excited about being part of– there’s this wave of creators right now that are just very aware that pop culture has kind of eaten itself over the last few years, pretty ferociously. And so a lot of us have been talking amongst ourselves about like, everyone just putting out new stuff, because we’re going to need it, you know? The pandemic had a lot of people binge-reading and binge-watching and just taking in a lot of content. And if there was any, like, positive thing to the pandemic, it was people hunkering down with their stories and just, you know, getting lost and sharing that feeling with us. And you just realized, ‘You know what? We’re going to need to make some new stuff, some more stuff.’ And so it’s exciting part of that wave that’s coming.
The first Dark Horse Comics Jinxworld title, Joy Operations, launches in November. Check back next month for our discussion with Bendis about that series and more.