Those looking for something a little different from their comics can enjoy this Thursday afternoon panel from San Diego Comic-Con centering around the breakout hit of Substack’s comics initiative.
The 3 Worlds/3 Moons collective makes its convention debut with creators Jonathan Hickman, Mike Del Mundo, and Mike Huddleston all scheduled to appear to discuss their groundbreaking science-fiction universe, as well as the reality of building all-new worlds in real time in front of a paying audience that gets a say in some of the decisions behind the scenes. It’s a new way of making comics, and it’s very possible that the panel will similarly break from tradition in ways we can’t even predict. Or maybe that’s just our excitement over the possibility of new announcements and unexpected reveals talking.
Popverse will be liveblogging this venture into the unknown in its entirety, so bookmark this page if you want to follow along as it happens, or come back later to read the whole thing from start to finish.
And here we are, at the 3 Worlds/3 Moons panel! Everyone is just setting up still, but there are name plates out for Mike del Mundo, Mike Huddleston, and Jonathan Hickman, and 3W3M editor Stephen Wacker is here as well, so expect a full house.
Steve Wacker introduces the very first 3 Worlds/3 Moons panel; the first slide puts it simply: "The Next Great Comics Universe Begins Here."
Special guest Nick Spencer is also here, as the Substack comics lead!
Wacker talks about Foundation, the first 3W/3M release, print editions are available here at Comic-Con. He also teases the upcoming release of Systems, the graphic novel sourcebook. Because of the pandemic, print is delayed, but it's forthcoming; 12 stories, including material by Tini Howard, Ram V, and Al Ewing.
Also upcoming is the first 3W/3M ongoing series, The Vallars, with art by Jason Howard and Frank Martin. The first issue will be somewhere between 64-80 pages.
Phil Hester will be drawing a new story called Treasures, which will debut on the 3W/3M newsletter in the coming weeks. Tini Howard will be writing.
As of July 28, every paid subscriber no matter which level will get a one-month extension of their subscription at no charge, Wacker says. This is, in part, because of delays in printing for Foundation.
Hickman mentions a subscriber-only 3W/3M event happening on Sunday at the convention. "I think we're going to have hot dogs, tacos," says Hickman. "All your favorite con foods."
Asked about the origins of 3W/3M, Hickman says that the appeal to him was the ability to do something that was different from the traditional comics publishing format. "You guys are going to have to tell us if we're doing well at that or not," he says. "I thought it was a wonderful chance to let people watch as we walk through what the creative process was for creating a universe of books."
"I knew it was going to take an extended amount of time to do really good books," Hickman says, mentioning that the development time at Image is between 6 to 8 months. "I knew it was going to take a lot longer [than what Substack expected] to produce the books," he explains. The solution was sharing the development process with subscribers. "We're going to show you everything we're making, and then you'll see how you feel about it."
"It's been a really rewarding creative process, because we're getting feedback the whole time," says Hickman. Del Mundo says that the value for him was getting to work with some of the most creative people in comics, being a fan of what Hickman and Huddleston were already doing together with Image Comics' Decorum.
Wacker talks about the visual development process, which sees del Mundo and Huddleston sharing design at what Hickman describes as "the atomic level," likening it to the design approach for a movie production.
Huddleston said that the Substack model allowed the creators to have the time to properly develop the world(s) of the 3W/3M universe. "It gives us the chance to interact with fans in a way that we never had before," he says, talking about writing about the design process. "We get to have a conversation with people... the thing that's great is when people say, that's great but what about A, B, C, and so on."
Nick Spencer talks about how isolating the comic making process traditionally is. "You have no idea how people are going to respond to what you're doing. Here, you're getting that real time feedback. It's a completely different creative process." Wacker: "I was a subscriber before I was working here, and I was fascinated by how much they were putting in front of the curtain."
The panel is temporarily interrupted by the sounds of Hall H downstairs. "Let me announce the next Marvel movies!" jokes Wacker. "We actually could spoil that," Hickman adds.
Hickman said that, when talking to outside creators, "you don't want to constrict them, but this is a really difficult thing for creators who aren't us because it's all brand new. Nobody knows what characters like each other, or what a sentinel is." He says that they have a pretty heavy spine of story that they can refer to.
Hickman is referring to fans' t-shirts written in the Krakoan font from his X-Men run. "People come up to me with stuff written in that, and say, 'What do you think?' and I'm, like, I can't read that!"
Huddleston says that they have the opportunity to create characters where they can approach other creators and say, "Write a story for me about this guy, he's this kind of character." Wacker: "This universe they're building is built to last, it's meant to be bigger than one story." It's intentionally built to support multiple stories that don't necessarily interact or intersect. "It's meant to be vast." The Vallars story is intended to set up the next year of story, to that point.
Wacker on being an editor for 3W/3M: "What's different is that, when I was at Marvel, I could just say this is how it's meant to be. With this, I don't know when things contradict, whether or not that's intentional." Nick Spencer says that he thinks that the first editorial note came recently, and because things aren't so defined yet, there was a lot of discussion even before the note was given. "I wish we'd taken that to the newsletter, honestly," says Wacker.
Hickman talks about how lore and continuity is decided in setting up 3W/3M: "I just got finished doing X-Men stuff [which has a] pretty concrete audience who's hardcore into the lore, it's very strict and very formalist. But even in that, when we had an X-Men writers group, when we had a discussion of, what is lore, what is continuity, what you find out is, like, Marvel time, none of it actually works. It's a shared lie that all of you buy into. The lie is this: is it cool? Do people remember it? That's what permanence is; are people still talking about it? Do they care? That's the only thing that keeps something as a rule. Does it resonate?"
"You just have to write the biggest, coolest stuff that resonates with the audience, then sit back and watch as people try to take it apart and deconstruct it," Hickman says. Wacker points out that, in the 1950s, Superman said super-ventriloquism, but unless that becomes cool again, it won't be canonical. "I heard Grant had a whole thing about that in All-Star Superman," jokes Hickman.
A fan asks if subscriber feedback has caused the creators to change direction entirely. Wacker says yes, but it's not creative per se; the release schedule for Vallars was rethought because of reader feedback. "That was invaluable," Wacker says. Mike del Mundo says that there was a "huge" discussion over boots or shoes in character design, which they ended up putting in the newsletter to help come to a decision. "I should do that more," says Wacker.
"When you put something out there, and somebody says, 'why don't you do this?' Of course, I read that and disagree with it, because I made my choice - but it makes you think about it, and that's a branching thing. That's always fun. It's always fun when it spurs you to think about what you were doing in a different way," says Hickman, likening it to the Hollywood idea of "the note behind the note."
Hickman asks the subscribers in the audience: "Does it work? Do you find the process stuff frustrating? Do you dig it? I'm seriously curious. You can say that we suck." "I mean, don't say that we suck," says Wacker.
The audience response is positive. "My hope is that it would be cool for process junkies, but not everyone is a process junkie," says Hickman. Spencer says that it appeals to the audience who love director commentaries on movies.
A fan who hasn't subscribed, but plans to, says that they're excited to sign up. "There are those of us out here who are interested in the process," he says. There's definitely an audience who signed up because they're also creators who wanted to see a look behind the scenes.
An aside, but the audio from Hall H downstairs is very, very loud indeed.
Another fan says that they signed up because they wanted the latest Hickman/del Mundo/Huddleston comics as quickly as possible. The process material, they said, is a plus that they plan to revisit after they've seen the comics themselves. "I signed up because it said who wants free signatures," he jokes. Spencer says that the second year plans for 3W/3M will provide more comics for fans like that.
Huddleston says that his job has shifted for year 2, with him doing more narrative pages in the second year. "Mike and Mike are both drawing stories right now," Hickman says.
Hickman says that another part of the process is the ability to put out "beautiful books." This means design, paper choice, and more. "The book that we're putting out right now are some of the best books you can buy in the North American market," he says, Stephen Wacker gives a shout out to Sasha Head, the designer behind the 3W/3M releases.
Talk of Huddleston's work on The Strain leads to a brief discussion of Guillermo del Toro. "Did you buy his book?" asks Hickman, and Huddleston talks about having to buy the book to reference a del Toro creation, and with that, the panel is suddenly over! Wacker jokes that he wanted one last noise from Hall H to dramatically bring the panel to a close, but things are suddenly very quiet downstairs.
As always, thank you for reading along, and come back for the rest of the weekend for more liveblogs and panel coverage (and, as they say, more!) from San Diego Comic-Con.