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Comics featuring a world where only black people have superpowers, a friendship between trans and queer women, the return of comics legend J.M. DeMatteis and the comics debut of actress Adrianne Palicki highlight the third wave of titles from Black Mask Studios.
Black Mask is the publishing and production company founded by comic book writer Steve Niles, production shingle Halo-8’s Matt Pizzolo and Bad Religion guitarist and Epitaph Records CEO Brett Gurewitz that is giving more established indie comics publishers a run for their money while also pushing a goal of discovering truly new talent.
“One of the goals at the time was to create a place where people whose voices weren’t being heard in comics could go. This latest phase is the fruition of that goal,” says Pizzolo.
Hollywood is also taking notice. Of the 15 books they previously published, 11 were set up at media companies or are in development with actors and filmmakers.
“Our stuff is left of center and that there is interest from talent and studio is validating,” says Pizzolo. “I think it’s happening because the business has been disrupted. So people are looking for a new level of authenticity. The appetite that the audience has for confrontational material has changed the tenor of the studios and networks.”
Among the more provocative titles on the new slate is Black, created by Kwanza Osajyefo, the former editor of DC imprint Zuda, and Tim Smith 3. The book famously had a Kickstarter campaign during February’s Black History Month in which it earned $91,973, three times its funding goal.
Described as X-Men meets The Wire, it posits the question of what would happen in a world in which black people, already feared and hated, had superpowers. It tells of a young man who discovers he is bulletproof after getting gunned down by police. Jamal Igle (Supergirl, Molly Danger) is the artist while Khary Randolph (Robin Wars) supplies the covers.
Also raising eyebrows is Kim & Kim, about best friend inter-dimensional bounty hunters, hails from Magdalene Visaggio, a trans woman writer. The rest of of the creative team is female, too: Eva Cabrera is the artist, Claudia Aquirre is the colorist and Tess Fowler (Rat Queens) has cover duties.
Said to channel the vibe of 1990s cult hit Tank Girl, Kim & Kim centers on a trans woman and her queer partner in crime who find themselves in over their heads in an adventure with strong LGBT themes.
Elsewhere, comics vet DeMatteis is returning by teaming up with Pizzolo for Run for the Shadows, which tells of a young woman who realizes that her memory of giving up her baby for adoption at sixteen is an implanted one and that something much more sinister took her baby. Josh Hood (Venom, We Can Never Go Home) is the artist.
DeMatteis wrote for DC and Marvel beginning in the 1970s. While he had classic runs on Captain America and worked on the Justice League franchise books in the 1980s, his most lasting work that still resonates decades later is the Kraven’s Last Hunt storyline for the Spider-Man titles
Palicki, the Friday Night Lights actress who starred as Marvel heroine Mockingbird in Agent of SHIELD, is writing No Angel with her brother, Eric Palicki. The latter’s credits include writing on Marvel’s Guardians of Infinity animated series.
The comic, with art by newcomer Ari Syahrazad, is a cosmological and conspiratorial modern Western about a female Iraqi war vet who may or may not be a descendant of a race of people that were born from angels mating with humans in Biblical times. The comic has been described as Preacher meets Justified with shades of Jodorowsky.
Other titles include:
4 Kids Walk Into a Bank: centering on an 11-year-old girl who enlists her friends to pull off a heist in order to keep her dad out of trouble. Matthew Rosenberg (We Can Never Go Home) is the writer and Tyler Boss (VICE) the artist.
Jade Street Protection Services, which is being billed at Black Mask’s first all-ages book and described as Breakfast Club meets Hogwarts. Written by Katy Rex and drawn by Fabian Lelay, the story focuses on witch delinquents who meet in detention and discover sinister goings on at their elite private school for magical girls.
Pizzolo teams up with his Godkiller artist Anna Wieszczyk for Tomorrow’s Ashes, a post-apocalyptic fantasy where America has been divided into warring city states.
Touching on subjects ranging from gentrification, celebrity and cannibalism, The Dregs tells of a homeless man and whether there’s a connection with the disappearance of his friends and a new high-end restaurant that is taking the city by storm. From writers Zac Thompson (VICE) and Lonnie Nadler (VICE) and artist Eric Zawadzki.
The Forevers is written by 23-year-old Curt Pires and is a Hollywood-centric tale of five friends who long ago made a black magic pact for fame and glamour. When they realize a death of one of the group only empowers them, well, let’s just say that friendship isn’t forever. Eric Pfeiffer is the artist.
Also on the docket is a second volume of Black Mask’s Space Riders, titled Space Riders: Galaxy of Brutality, and a second volume of the company’s surprise hit, We Can Never Go Home.
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