Indie comics creator Omar Spahi has announced that his comic series Xenoglyphs will be released in single-issue format first on Rarible.com, making it the first full comic book story released as a one-of-one digital collectible.
As a comic book indie creator embracing the emerging NFT platform and technology, Spahi hopes to change the way indie creators use technology to generate income and broaden their fanbases.
NFT stands for Non-Fungible Token, which means that unlike bitcoin, it cannot be traded for another identical token. Each NFT is a unique, one-of-a-kind piece, and if you trade it, you are trading it for another completely different collectible. It’s the one-of-one approach that makes Spahi’s plan unique, in that the rarity of the item – historically speaking – is something that is typically appealing to collectors of comics.
I strive to be groundbreaking in this space, it’s not just for myself, but for the comics community at large. There are many misconceptions about this technology and much to learn in the days ahead, but the potential rewards for creative participants on a project like this are undeniable.
Unlike the printed comic market, which usually cannot sustain a one-of-a-kind product, the NFT model allows us to offer something that is truly distinct and unique to a collector. If you just like the artwork, we will make digital prints available to anyone who wants one, but the collectible itself is limited to one.
As NFT collectibles are traded and resold, the potential for increased value only grows. This means a writer or artist can be paid on an NFT comic at potentially higher rates than through traditional channels. We don’t intend for this to replace direct market comic distribution, but it certainly levels the playing field amongst indies and corporate publishers.
We’re on the precipice of a new era of collectibles, and I feel Xenoglyphs has a chance of appealing to people through Rarible.com who have never read anything in this format before. And for those who have, this is a chance to be the first collector to own a full comic book in this format.
Spahi sees strong potential here for putting power into the hands of artists and writers. The long lifecycle and trading and reselling potential of an NFT collectible has opened up new earning opportunities, and the stakes are much higher than in physical media.
Spahi’s Xenoglyphs is the story of best friends Steven and Dom as they try to stop Anubis, the master of evil, from collecting all nine elemental stones, known as Xenoglyphs.
If someone holds a stone they control that element. For example, if someone holds the Water Stone they have the power to control all the water around them.
2020 definitely felt like a year where I embraced comics in all their different formats and genres from the convenient, satisfying graphic novella to the series of loosely connected and curated one shots and even the door stopper of an omnibus/hardcover or that charming webcomic that comes out one or twice a week on Instagram. This was partially due to the Covid-19 pandemic that shut down comics’ traditional direct market for a bit so I started reviewing webcomics, trade paperbacks, graphic novels and nonfiction even after this supply chain re-opened. I also co-hosted and edited two seasons of a podcast about indie comics where we basically read either a trade every week for discussion, and that definitely meant spending more time with that format. However, floppy fans should still be happy because I do have a traditional ongoing series on my list as well as some minis.
Without further ado, here are my favorite comics of 2020.
10. Marvels Snapshots (Marvel)
Curated by original Marvels writer Kurt Busiek and with cover art by original Marvels artist Alex Ross, Marvels Snapshots collects seven perspectives on on the “major” events of the Marvel Universe from the perspectives of ordinary people from The Golden Age of the 1940s to 2006’s Civil War. It’s cool to get a more character-driven and human POV on the ol’ corporate IP toy box from Alan Brennert and Jerry Ordway exploring Namor the Submariner’s PTSD to Evan Dorkin, Sarah Dyer, and Benjamin Dewey showing the real reason behind Johnny Storm’s airhead celebrity act. There’s also Mark Russell and Ramon Perez’s take on the classic Captain America “Madbomb” storyline, Barbara Kesel’s and Staz Johnson’s sweet, Bronze Age-era romance between two first responders as the Avengers battle a threat against the city, and Saladin Ahmed and Ryan Kelly add nuance to the superhuman Civil War by showing how the Registration Act affects a Cape-Killer agent as well as a young elemental protector of Toledo, Ohio, who just wants to help his community and do things like purify water. However, the main reason Marvels Snapshots made my “favorite” list was Jay Edidin and Tom Reilly‘s character-defining work showing the pre-X-Men life of Cyclops as he struggles with orphan life, is inspired by heroes like Reed Richards, and lays the groundwork for the strategist, leader, and even revolutionary that appears in later comics.
Fangs is cartoonist Sarah Andersen’s entry into the Gothic romance genre and was a light, funny, and occasionally sexy series that got me through a difficult year. Simply put, it follows the relationship of a vampire named Elsie and a werewolf named Jimmy, both how they met and their life together. Andersen plays with vampire and werewolf fiction tropes and sets up humorous situations like a date night featuring a bloody rare steak and a glass of blood instead of wine, Jimmy having an unspoken animosity against mail carriers, and just generally working around things like lycanthropy every 28 days and an aversion to sunlight. As well as being hilarious and cute, Fangs shows Sarah Andersen leveling up as an artist as she works with deep blacks, different eye shapes and textures, and more detailed backgrounds to match the tone of her story while not skimping on the relatable content that made Sarah’s Scribbles an online phenomenon.
I really got into Vault Comics this year. (I retroactively make These Savage Shores my favorite comic of 2019.) As far as prose, I mainly read SF, and Vault nicely fills that niche in the comics landscape and features talented, idiosyncratic creative teams. Heavy is no exception as Max Bemis, Eryk Donovan, and Cris Peter tell the story of Bill, who was gunned down by some mobsters, and now is separated from his wife in a place called “The Wait” where he has to set right enough multiversal wrongs via violence to be reunited with her in Heaven. This series is a glorious grab bag of hyperviolence, psychological examinations of toxic masculinity, and moral philosophy. Heavy also has a filthy and non-heteronormative sense of humor. Donovan and Peter bring a high level of chaotic energy to the book’s visuals and are game for both tenderhearted flashbacks as well as brawls with literal cum monsters. In addition to all this, Bemis and Donovan aren’t afraid to play with and deconstruct their series’ premise, which is what makes Heavy my ongoing monthly comic.
Writer/artist Katie Skelly puts her own spin on the true crime genre inMaids, a highly stylized account of Christine and Lea Papin murdering their employers in France during the 1930s. Skelly’s linework and eye popping colors expertly convey the trauma and isolation that the Papins go through as they are at the beck and call of the family they work almost 24/7. Flashbacks add depth and context to Christine and Lea’s characters and provide fuel to the fire of the class warfare that they end up engaging in. Skelly’s simple, yet iconic approach character design really allowed me to connect with the Papins and empathize with them during the build-up from a new job to murder and mayhem. Maids is truly a showcase for a gifted cartoonist and not just a summary of historical events.
In her webcomic Grind Like A Girl, cartoonist Veronica Casson tells the story of growing up trans in 1990s New Jersey. The memoir recently came to a beautiful conclusion with Casson showing her first forays into New York, meeting other trans women, and finding a sense of community with them that was almost the polar opposite of her experiences in high school. I’ve really enjoyed seeing the evolution of Veronica Casson’s art style during different periods of her life from an almost Peanuts vibe for her childhood to using more flowing lines, bright colors, and ambitious panel layouts as an older teen and finally an adult. She also does a good job using the Instagram platform to give readers a true “guided view” experience and point out certain details before putting it all together in a single page so one can appreciate the comic at both a macro/micro levels. All in all, Grind Like A Girl is a personal and stylish coming of age memoir from Veronica Casson, and I look forward to seeing more of her work.
Thai/Italian cartoonist Elisa Macellari tells an unconventional World War II story in Papaya Salad, a recently translated history comic about her great uncle Sompong, who just wanted to see the world. However, he ended up serving with the Thai diplomatic corps in Italy, Germany, and Austria during World War II. Macellari uses a recipe for her great uncle’s favorite dish, papaya salad, to structure the comic, and her work has a warm, dreamlike quality to go with the reality of the places that Sampong visits and works at. Also, it’s very refreshing to get a non-American or British perspective on this time in history as Sampong grapples with the shifting status of Thailand during the war as well as the racism of American soldiers, who celebrate the atomic bomb and lump him and his colleagues with the Japanese officers, and are not shown in a very positive light. However, deep down, Papaya Salad is a love story filled with small human moments that make life worth living, like appetizing meals, jokes during dark times, and faith in something beyond ourselves. It’s a real showcase of the comics medium’s ability to tell stories from a unique point of view.
Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (with colorist Jacob Phillips) are two creators whose work has graced my “favorite comics” list many times. And this time they really outdid themselves with the graphic novella Pulpabout the final days of Max Winters, a gunslinger-turned-Western dime novelist. It’s a character study peppered with flashbacks as Phillips and Phillips use changes in body posture and color palette to show Max getting older while his passion for resisting those who would exploit others is still intact. Basically, he can shoot and rob fascists just like he shot and robbed cattle barons back in the day. Brubaker and Phillips understand that genre fiction doesn’t exist in a vacuum and is informed by the historical context around it, which is what makes Pulp such a compelling read. If you like your explorations of the banality of evil and creeping specter of fascism with heists, gun battles, and plenty of introspection, then this is the comic for you.
Music is my next favorite interest after comics so My Riot was an easy pick for my favorite comics list. The book is a coming of age story filtered through 1990s riot girl music from writer Rick Spears and artist Emmett Helen. It follows the life of Valerie, who goes from doing ballet and living a fairly conservative suburban life to being the frontwoman and songwriter for a cult riot girl band. Much of this transformation happens through Helen’s art and colors as his palette comes to life just as Valerie does when she successfully calls out some audience members/her boyfriend for being sexist and patronizing. The comic itself also takes on a much more DIY quality with its layouts and storytelling design as well as how the characters look and act. My Riot is about the power of music to find one’s identify and true self and build a community like The Proper Ladies do throughout the book. Valerie’s arc is definitely empowering and relatable for any queer kid, who was forced to conform to way of life and thinking that wasn’t their own.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: slice of life is my all-time favorite comic book genre. So, I was overjoyed when writers Sina Grace and Omar Spahi, artist Jenny D. Fine, and colorist Mx. Struble announced that they were doing a monthly slice of life comic about a brother, sister, and their best friend/ex-boyfriend (respectively) set in San Francisco that also touched on the gay and indie music scene. And Getting It Together definitely has lifted up to my pre-release hype as Grace and Spahi have fleshed out a complex web of relationships and drama with gorgeous and occasionally hilarious art by Fine and Struble. There are gay and bisexual characters all over the book with different personalities and approaches to life, dating, and relationships, which is refreshing too. Grace, Spahi, and Fine also take some time away from the drama to let us know about the ensemble cast’s passions and struggles like indie musician Lauren’s lifelong love for songwriting even if her band has a joke name (Nipslip), or her ex-boyfriend Sam’s issues with mental health. I would definitely love to spend more than four issues with these folks.
My favorite comic of 2020 was The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott , a debut graphic novel by cartoonist Zoe Thorogood.The premise of the comic is that Billie is an artist who is going blind in two weeks, and she must come up with some paintings for her debut gallery show during that time period. The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott boasts an adorably idiosyncratic cast of characters that Thorogood lovingly brings to life with warm visuals and naturalistic dialogue as Billie goes from making art alone in her room to making connections with the people around her, especially Rachel, a passionate folk punk musician. The book also acts as a powerful advocate for the inspirational quality of art and the act of creation. Zoe Thorogood even creates “art within the art” and concludes the story with the different portraits that Billie painted throughout her travels. The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott was the hopeful comic that I needed in a dark year and one I will cherish for quite some time as I ooh and aah over Thorogood’s skill with everything from drawing different hair styles to crafting horrific dream sequences featuring eyeballs.
Sina Grace, Omar Spahi, Jenny D. Fine, and Mx. Struble continue to escalate the storyline, definitely balance the arc of an ensemble of characters, and generally continue to create that premium queer, slice of life goodness in Getting It Together #3. This issue is centered around a big set piece, which is protagonist Lauren’s band Nipslip opening for Wish Me Luxembourg. It also deals with the fallout of the friend breakup between Sam, who is Lauren’s ex, and Jack, who is Lauren’s brother and their various coping mechanisms. There’s lots of drama (and drug use), but there’s also visual flair and creativity from Fine and Struble while Grace and Spahi continue to give readers more insight into this cast of characters.
Grace, Spahi, Fine, and Struble goes into fun, daily webcomic mode to show how Lauren, Sam, and Jack deal with the loss of folks they confide in. Sam’s page is structured like a zine-meets-choose your own adventure that all ends up in him on the couch playing video games as a coping mechanism for his depression, which is explored by Sina Grace, Omar Spahi, and artist Erika Schnatz in this issue’s one page backup story. Jack’s coping mechanism is mindlessly swiping through Tinder, which is definitely relatable to me, especially during the isolation of the pandemic. Like he says in the captions, there really is something “self-soothing” to the swiping motion whether that’s on a dating app or something else like Tik Tok. Finally, Lauren’s coping mechanism is basically straight to business as Fine and Struble draw a series of text messages she has with her bandmate Annie, who made out with Sam last issue. This led to drama in both her personal and creative life, and tonight’s gig has a “now or never” feel as Nipslip’s performance will determine whether they continue as a band, or Lauren goes solo.
I definitely think it’s the latter as they round out the show with Lauren performing a solo song that he wrote years ago in a Sina Grace-drawn flashback. This combined with a full page of Wish Me Luxembourg’s frontwoman Mai talking about how such an inspiration Lauren was to her really is a bit too much too handle. Thankfully, Sam’s friend Tim is there with molly, and Jenny D. Fine and Mx. Struble turn in a drug trip that’s visually fun and also reveals a lot about the characters’ feelings for each other. In his mopey period, Jack has stumbled into a poly relationship with his ex and another man that on a surface seems like good, cuddly fun, but it actually makes him feel alone. Fine definitely shows this with her art with an earlier inset panel showing how uneasy Jack is at the show, and later on, she uses a liquid horror art style on the other two guys to show that this relationship isn’t a free “lots of love” poly situation, but more like a “succubi” situation as Sam and Tim call it.
Even though they barely interact and the gay world is a mystery to him, Sam still looks out for Jack by basically stage a drug-fueled intervention, and hopefully, they can patch things up in the end. Jack is definitely on the cusp of an epiphany by the final chaotically drawn and colored Fine and Struble page. Just like the drug trip sequences have a super charged energy, they heighten the connections and tension between characters in Getting It Together #3. The complete and utter Fleetwood Mac-esque sloppiness of Nipslip is definitely on display with Lauren making a pass at Mai and being high as hell. (Spahi and Grace’s dialogue for this sequence is hilarious.) Then, Mai ends up hooking with Ashton, who slept with Lauren in the first issue and basically kickstarted the plot of this comic when her boyfriend Sam got jealous even though they were in an open relationship. Jenny D. Fine and Mx. Struble’s art is messy and beautiful just like the connections between these talented and deeply flawed folks.
Getting It Together‘s main focus is on the friendship and emotions between Lauren, Jack, and Sam with some ongoing subplots like Nipslip, Jack’s bad taste in men, and Sam’s depression. However, in this issue, Sina Grace and Omar Spahi provide some insightful, non-judgmental, and at times, humorous commentary on the complex nature of poly relationships through the wisdom of drug dispensing, closet Jubilee cosplayer Tim. Even if you’re a “secondary partner”, you should never feel that way, and poly relationships should be beneficial for everyone. The deal that Jack has with his ex-boyfriend and his ex’s current partner isn’t that at all, and Grace, Spahi, and Fine illustrate this through his body language as well as Tim’s “tough love” speech at the end. I might be biased because we have similar taste in libations (vodka crans, Jameson, PBR), but he adds some wisdom, comedy, and loads of fun to the issue as well as playing the plot-necessary role of go-between for Sam and Jack.
Getting It Together #3 continues the dramatic escalation of the previous issues while providing insight into Lauren’s creative drive, Jack’s relationship issues, and Sam’s mental health. Sina Grace and Omar Spahi’s writing continues to be sharp as ever, and they hit that drama/comedy sweet spot. Jenny D. Fine and Mx. Struble continue to provide expressive, DIY style visuals while experimenting with layouts and finally descending into utter madness and fluidity during the drug trip sequence. Struble adds that extra bit of emotion to the musical performances in Getting It Together #3, which was a skill that they demonstrated in on their previous work with Grace on Lil Depressed Boy even if this book doesn’t have any AJJ or Childish Gambino cameos.
Story: Sina Grace and Omar Spahi Art: Jenny D. Fine and Sina Grace Colors: Mx. StrubleLetters: Sean Konot Story: 8.5 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy
Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
(W) Kevin Cuffe, Simon Birks, Carlos Giffoni, Joseph A. Michael, Mark Schmidt, Octavio Karbank, Christopher Preece, Austin Allen Hamblin, Omar Spahi, Frank Martin (A) Alberto Jiménez Alburquerque, Donny Tran, Eva Cabrera, Livio Ramondelli, Balazs Valyogos, Andrea Mutti, Atilio Rojo, Christian Dibari
Genetic manipulation, paradox, alternative histories, and much more are included in this 128-page anthology of hard science fiction and genre stories! From some of the best up-and-coming talent in comics comes a mind-bending look at what makes us human.
Image Comics has revealed a cheeky, fashion forward homage variant for Getting It Together #1 by Omar Spahi and Sina Grace, with art by Jenny D. Fine, colors by Mx. Struble, and letters by Sean Konot, showcasing artwork by Kevin Wada. This Getting It Together #1 variant cover is an homage to the iconic Sex and the City opening.
This nod to the famous scene wherein Carrie gets splashed on an NYC street corner by a passing bus, perfectly connects the “found family” theme the beloved HBO franchise was known for with the Getting It Together vibe. This new series follows a group of 20-something friends and the interpersonal drama they encounter living in the City (in this case, the Bay Area).
The Getting It Together #1 Kevin Wada variant sits alongside the similar Getting It Together #1 cover homage, which reimagines the opening credits scene from Friends.
Getting It Together #1 Cover A by Fine (Diamond Code AUG200047) and Getting It Together #1 Cover B by Wada (Diamond Code JUL209564) will be available at comic book shops on Wednesday, October 7.
Bestselling writer Sina Grace and popular producer/host and writer Omar Spahi team up with debut comics artist and lauded illustrator Jenny D. Fine, colorist Mx. Struble, and letterer Sean Konot to co-create the upcoming series Getting It Together. It will launch from Image Comics this June.
A fresh, updated spin on twenty-something, found-family dramedies like Friends, Getting It Together follows best friends Sam and Jack. Sam is dating Lauren—Jack’s indie rocker sister and roommate—and when Sam and Lauren open up their long-term relationship, skyrocketing tensions send social shockwaves through their friend group and the entire Bay Area. And Jack, caught in the middle of it all, may be forced to take sides in a conflict he never wanted to be a part of. Life gets pretty messy when you’re in your ’20s and your friends are your family.
Getting It Together #1 will be available at comic book shops on Wednesday, June 10.
Gunpowder & Sky’s sci-fi label DUST announced today that it has acquired the rights to Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegel,and Rod Reis’ interstellar noir comic, Hadrian’s Wall, and has partnered with Higgins to develop into a feature film that he will write and direct.
Billed as a locked-room murder mystery in space, Hadrian’s Wall follows a pill-popping detective sent to interview the crew of a distant survey ship, when his ex-wife’s new husband dies in suspicious circumstances amidst a broiling cold war between Earth and her distant colony.
The deal marks the first adaptation for creator Higgins, a New York Times #1 best-selling author and fan favorite, best-known for his work on DC Comics’ Batman line and the recent BOOM! Studios comic book crossover event, Power Rangers: Shattered Grid. Higgins also directed a live-action trailer for Shattered Grid that earned more than 12 million cross-platform views in the first two weeks of release.
Hadrian’s Wall is published by Image Comics and Glénat Editions, in conjunction with Omar Spahi and OSSM Comics.
In 2012, Omar Spahi began building his dream to create comic books. Starting his own company at 23, Omar finished his first comic book script, Xenoglyphs.
Since then OSSM Comics has not only released numerous series by Spahi, but also worked with talent such as Brian Buccellato, Noel Tuazon, and is co-publishing Hadrian’s Wall with Image Comics.
I got a chance to talk to Omar about the comic industry and his co-publishing venture with Image.
Graphic Policy: At age 23 you decided you wanted to dive into comics and you came up with Xenoglyphs. What got you interested in creating comics and your own series?
Omar Spahi: I think I’ve always had stories in my head that I’ve wanted to tell. I grew up reading comics and so once I found out people were making comics, that’s just what I started to do.
GP: What comics did you grow up reading? What impacted you so much that you wanted to do that for a living?
OS: I grew up reading Flash and the Simpsons. The Flash is what got me hooked, the characters felt so real and personal. I knew I wanted to be a part of that world, to make someone feel the way that I felt.
GP: What were some of the hurdles you came up against with doing a creator owned series and what are some lessons you’ve learned when building your own publishing company?
OS: Comics is an incredibly difficult industry, nothing comes easy and it’s hard to build a fan base. Finishing comic books, each and every time is like giving birth. Each time I finish the book I’m overwhelmed with the sense of accomplishment. The next step is marketing the titles, and that works through good recommendation and word of mouth. People listen to their friends and read what they’re reading.
GP: You mention that it’s hard to build a fan base, but it seems like some of the most successful creators are doing just that through social media, Kickstarter, and other digital tools. It’s much more of a two-way conversation now where fans expect interaction and feedback in some ways. How are you seeing that as a publisher?
OS: It’s so important to build your fan base one person at a time. You never know who will end up crossing paths with you in an important way. I can’t stress the important of staying kind and open to everyone. As a publisher it’s exactly the same, you want people to embrace your brand and develop a positive experience.
GP: You’ve recently gone into co-publishing comics especially with Image. How’d this come about and why’d you go that route?
OS: It comes from working with amazingly talented creators. They’ve told amazing stories and I’ve been lucky enough to come along for the ride.
GP: How’d that come about? Image has an open submission policy but is this something you approached them with or was it the creators you worked with?
OS: It’s been through the creators, they come out with amazing books and I’m lucky enough to be a part of it. Our Image titles have come through creators that already have a relationship at Image and it’s just grown from that.
GP: What do you see as the benefits of that route as opposed to building up your own publishing brand?
OS: We couldn’t be luckier to be working with Image. They embody what comics should be about, the mission and purpose is about empowering creators instead of using them. At the end of the day, it’s easier to generate interest for our stories when we work with a powerful brand like Image. They’re known for their amazing quality and that inherently draws people in.
GP: You get better presence in Diamond and some social media presence, but what else do they bring? Talking to other creators, they still have to do a lot of the promotion for their comics.
OS: Image books do better because of a few things, first of all. Image books produce quality. They tell great stories that grab peoples attention. Another reason is comics is really an investor business, you want to invest in the next Walking Dead # 1 or Saga # 1 because you think it will be worth more in a few years. The goal is to take the comics we’ve created and take them from Comics to TV and films. Lastly, stores order Image books because they know it’s a brand their customers crave and stores are the one that are responsible for driving consumers to new titles.
GP: There’s be a lot of talk about distribution and the role of distributors, stores, readers, and publishers. What do you see as the “state of comics?”
OS: The sad truth about comics is it’s tough for everyone, even the big name creators aren’t raking in huge paychecks every time they’re putting out an issue. I feel like most comic book creators have it tough because there are so many great books coming out. It’s hard to make it as a independent creator, but with hard work and perseverance you can become the top tier creator that is very successful.
GP: Since it’s tough, what is OSSM doing to break the mold? There’s so many new distribution, marketing, business models out there than the traditional ones that’s existed since the direct market was formed. Has OSSM explored breaking out of the traditional system?
OS: We’re doing everything we can, including searching how to grow outside of comics. We live in a world where Batman and Superman are billion dollar characters, the goal is to create stories on that level. We’re always trying new ideas and pushing the envelope creatively and looking to take our titles to new media.