The year is 2020. Ex.Mag is a Peow Studio project bringing together a murderers’ row of creators, largely from outside of the direct market and their corporate formalism. Ex.Mag is challenging genre works. But what genres?! A Kickstarter closing in early February is a subscription for the year.
Wren McDonald and Patrick Crotty, a founder of Peow, are releasing the series through the Studio — an indie publisher whose interests are in well-bound books and compelling stories — once it is funded. Elliot Alfredius, Olle Forsslöf, and Crotty are Stokholm riso print buddies, co-runners of the the pocket publishing house with Zainab Akhtar. And so Ex.Mag is a Shortbox, Koyama, First Second approach to genres typically published by Image or Dark Horse.
Full disclosure, I backed it. It has met goal as of the publication of this article; it’s happening, all you do by jumping on is get it for yourself and contribute to a larger pay rate for the artists involved. Peow and Ex.Mag support Kickstarter United efforts. I backed it for the same reason I wrote this. The year is 2020. This is what we’re supposed to be seeing out of comics. A scene that isn’t insular, a circuit telling different variations of the same story. This anthology reaches to people from many different publishers, across borders, for many perspectives, voices, stories.
Think of Ex.Mag as a place where different minds can cohabitate. Some people have written for commercial properties but mostly they’re unconnected to mainstream publishers. Some are Peow regulars and editors. Animators. Illustrators. An exciting anthology is many perspectives tuned in to the same frequency, recognizing a genre maybe but stretching it. Using genre to explore characters and to explore making visual art. Give me outsiders. Give me atypical decisions. There’s dystopia now, tell me how you live it.
Ex.Mag is going to feature 125+ pages per issue. The Kickstarter campaign, closing on February 4, 2020, funds three volumes, slated for release in spring, fall, and winter of 2020. Pantone spot colors on nice pages, up to thirty pages per artist- so an anthology that offers a novella’s length of creative space to its contributors. Themed issues.
The first issue, which comes in March, is cyberpunk. The folks involved all have very exciting, refreshing takes, different from the aesthetics that have dominated the last few decades, with no two styles inside its pages alike. The second issue is paranormal romance, which boasts a group look more serious but no less weird. The last issue is dark fantasy, which continues the series’ defiance of expectation or classification. The list of talent on these things is staggering.
Issue 01. Full Metal Dreamland
- Freddy Carrasco
- Sophia Foster-Dimino
- Kelly K
- Giannis Milonogiannis
- Jonathan Djob Nkondo
- Connor Willumsen
- Tonči Zonjić
Issue 02. Cross My Heart
- Natasha Allegri
- Leslie Hung
- Michelle Kwon
- Yon Lee
- Loïc Locatelli
- Jane Mai
- Mikkel Sommer
- Luis Yang
Issue 03. Crumbling Kingdom
- Geov Chouteau
- Patrick Crotty
- Al Gofa
- Hanna K
- Valentin Seiche
- Linnea Sterte
- Jake Terrell
Cyberpunk might seem a surprising home for Sophia Foster-Dimino, but I don’t think so. Her work in Sex Fantasy is capable of dragging the reader into the experience of a moment, gripped in Foster-Dimino’s emotions. Perfect for a genre set on slippery sense of self.
It’s exciting to see more work from animator, illustrator, comics nerd Jonathan Djob Nkondo. A restless mind fine tuning moments into the inexplicable, taking the recognizable and twisting it with doubt and anxiety- behind a mask of whimsy. Art to catch you offguard and there’s power in that.
Tonči Zonjić is a name that shows the reach of this contemporary scene. His costume designs will be felt for generations to come, it’s encouraging to think that maybe he’s still a mess like the rest of us. A passion project from someone who redefines genre aesthetics with his commercial work? OK
Paranormal romance seems like a good spot for Leslie Hung. Snotgirl has been a real under-recognized cultural phenomenon with young people who love comics and comic shops but don’t have an interest in superheroes. Hung is someone who I’d love to see a longer piece from.
As with Foster-Dimino, I was initially surprised to see Loïc Locatelli in the romance volume and not the fantasy book. Persephone had some top notch wizard fights, but it’s centered around a young woman turning the quirks that made her an outsider into her calling. Locatelli has the sensitivity to tell a good ghost smooch.
Jane Mai knows how to be mortifying, how to zero in on emotions no one ever wants to talk about and confess the shit out of them. Mai harnesses the same giddy kick of sympathy, empathy, and association one feels watching skateboarders eat cement but the cement is the state of the universe and the skateboarder is you. I would read her love story, yes.
The art Geov Chouteau produces speaks to fairy tale illustration aesthetics from two centuries past. I am beyond prepared for dark fantasy that goes to folklore places, give me a whole book of just that. Chouteau is a thoughtful artist, good at representing nuance in sweet simplicity.
Hanna K was storyboard artist for Adventure Time who can freely switch between bubble cute and outfit model suave styles. People bringing their own thing to Adventure Time is what made it so good, so many great books from the last few years have come from the builders of great animation, seeing talent I recognize but haven’t read is again why I backed this endeavor.
Tattoo artist and illustrator Tarmasz also is a keeper of folk tale imagery, truly delightful style that follows nobody’s rules. Another dense storyteller I am looking forward to packing their pages full of symbols and content but still having the space to tell the story of their choosing.
More details can be found on the Ex.Mag Kickstarter page. Funding for Ex.Mag closes February 4, 2020.