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Tales of Syzpense #10
All About All Against All; also, some compelling covers to compel you to celebrate National Leave Work Early Day today.
The Apex of Comics
In October 2021, writer Alex Paknadel and I started talking about some possible projects we could do together through my Syzygy imprint.
Prior to that conversation, I’d only read a couple of Alex’s books – GIGA and Redfork – and from the start, he stood out to me as a writer of uncommon skill and empathy for all of his characters. He was exactly the kind of writer I’d hoped to bring to Syzygy.
One of the projects he proposed was called Apex, which he described as sci-fi slasher horror. The story as it existed at that point was this:
“An alien civilization finds a doomsday vault filled with seeds and embryos from a long-dead Earth and grow them on a massive terrarium orbiting their home planet. In the absence of any prior knowledge of Earth’s ecosystems, the aliens inadvertently create a chaotic habitat made up of plants and animals that don’t belong together. An alien team tasked with preventing ecological collapse in the terrarium end up being hunted by a merciless, intelligent killing machine mistakenly raised by apes because its alien owners couldn’t tell the difference: man. Alien meets Tarzan.”
The details would change but the idea was already so compelling. Apex was a go.
We looked for the right artist, a months-long search that ended in exactly the right place. I know other versions of this comic drawn by someone else could’ve been good but none of them would’ve been what artist/co-creator Caspar Wijngaard brought to this series.
I’d seen a bit of Caspar’s work, too – editor Shelly Bond, with her exquisite artistic taste honed over decades of making great comics, had Caspar do a little something for her Black Crown imprint at IDW. But it was Caspar’s work on Home Sick Pilots that was so staggering. His layouts were impressive, his style unique, and his color work distinctive and gorgeous. When Home Sick ended, Caspar was sure to take on more and more work at DC, who’d already been hiring him here and there.
But then he agreed to take this on, and the team was set.
Apex, which became All Against All (it turns out that Apex as a title is pretty common), and the team expanded a bit more with the equally amazing lettering of Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou, and all of it was further enhanced by Ian Chalgren’s design work.
The series launched great, garnering lots of impressive feedback from creators and reviewers alike. But All Against All is a weird book – cerebral in ways that might’ve surprised people who came to it for its “aliens vs predator” premise, and maybe harder sci-fi than a superhero audience was willing to check in with for all five issues – and the comic market is in a strange place.
I love the book, couldn’t be prouder that we published it and that I got to work directly with such talented people who’re gonna be producing incredible comic books for decades to come.
But I can’t also help feeling like the book didn’t reach all the people who would’ve really loved what the team created here. As much as all five issues had truly amazing covers, from Caspar’s uniform cover designs to all the great artists who contributed variants, this may be the kind of story that is even more rewarding when read as a complete tale.
And so the complete tale is on its way.
All Against All is headed to comic shops on July 5 (and to the online mass-market retailers a week later). Comic shops, who largely buy all of their product on a non-returnable basis, have to finalize their July orders on Monday, June 5. So as much as I want people to pre-order the book to ensure that everyone who wants a copy can get one, doing so is also a huge boon to your local comic stores, who bear the upfront risk in ordering books like these, the kinds of things that are quite possibly a more rewarding read but also a harder immediate sell compared to, say, Batman. So if you’re inclined to pre-order a copy from your local shop, also provide the retailer with this order code, it’ll make their life even easier and they’ll love you forever for now: MAY230114.
To further show the level of admiration and love I have for this one, I’d like to offer one of the five chapters here as a free PDF download for anyone who wants to check it out. From the start, you’ll see that these alien creatures who appear so different from us really aren’t so different at all—they’re faced with the same doubts and insecurities and vanities as all of us, despite the vastly different environment they’re in. And our “Tarzan,” the apex predator of this series, is likewise a character you’ll sympathize with despite some of the more extremely violent acts he’s forced to commit.
When Alex and I first talked about the series storyline, we had, as we all always have, thoughts about what a potential second series might be. It doesn’t always happen, and sometimes books are enough on their own, and yet I can’t help thinking that a sequel, which Alex described as this, would be a helluva lot of fun to present to the world some day:
“We'd effectively transition from a messed-up Tarzan to a messed-up John Carter Warlord of Mars by way of Cerebus.”
Who wouldn’t want to see that? I hope someday we can.
Meantime, All Against All: the trade paperback collection is in stores July 5. And a hearty thanks again to Alex, Caspar, Hassan, and Ian for such deft, lasting work on this book. Please enjoy this first issue and consider checking out the complete book if you like what you see here.
Spinner Rack Quitters
In honor of “National Leave Work Early Day” today, I put together this list of 13 Covers with an “I Quit” theme for 13th Dimension.
This is a theme I’ve cycled into my spinner rack a number of times, and, like the broken logos theme from a couple weeks back, it’s one of the most prevalent in comics over the decades. Possibly the most well-known, or at least most often emulated, is John Romita’s striking cover for Amazing Spider-Man 50 (an image Romita’s comic-artist son recently paid tribute to with his own “I quit” Spider-Man cover.
But as you can see, it’s easy to fill a complete spinner rack with these covers. I’m out of town as I type this so no photo of the actual spinner rack filled with these covers this time, just some of the covers themselves. Which only scratches the surface of this theme, as I say. It’s a bit ironic that the “I Quit” cover theme is one that comics just can’t seem to quit…
In other Syzygy news: Tales of Syzpense #1 arrives in stores on June ___. Ashley Wood and I will be signing a special variant cover of this one at the Supanova shows in Sydney (weekend of June 17-18) and Perth (weekend of June 24-25).
In more local convention news, there will be a Syzygy panel at July’s San Diego Comic-Con, too:
1:30PM - 2:30PM Syzygy Publishing’s Tales of Syzpense: its recent Past, current Present, and exciting Future—Join Chris Ryall and Ashley Wood, the co-founders of Image’s newest imprint, Syzygy, and some of Syz’s key creators for spirited Tales of Syzpense involving what’s come before and what’s coming up next. Panelists include multiple-Eisner nominees and Rain co-creators David M. Booher and Zoe Thorogood! Hitomi writer HS Tak! And Artist Uko Smith! Interesting announcements and great art will be provided gratis to all attendees! Room 24ABC