The Year in Comics: 2021

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

It was a big year for the top creators of steampunk comics, though not all the action happened in the pages of the comics themselves. Perhaps the biggest news was a deal in which Image Comics assumed publishing responsibilities for Joe Benitez’s Lady Mechanika series. Steve Jackson Games announced—and successfully crowdfunded—a role-playing game inspired by Studio Foglio’s Girl Genius comics. Hopeless, Maine also has a new RPG, and Boston Metaphysical Society creator Madeleine Holly-Rosing crowdfunded her first audio drama.

Image Comics Nabs Lady Mechanika

Prior to 2021, Lady Mechanika creator Joe Benitez self-published the popular comic book series about a Victorian-era paranormal investigator with mechanical limbs. But then in March, Image Comics announced that it had acquired the publishing rights while leaving Benitez with creative control.

“We hope this move will provide an opportunity to share the series with a new, wider audience, and also give us more time to focus on our creative strengths while letting the experts at Image handle publishing and marketing,” Benitez said at the time.

Image, the third-largest comic book publisher after Marvel and DC, said it would republish the entire back catalog, beginning with a “remastered” version of the first trade paperback in August.

In September and October, Benitez raised more than US$130,000 on Kickstarter to fund up-front creative costs for a new Lady Mechanika series, entitled The Monster of the Ministry of Hell. The main reward was a special 48-page deluxe edition of the first issue. Image released the regular retail edition on Dec. 8.

The new series, consisting of four issues, takes Lady Mechanika back to her origins in a Victorian asylum. The second issue is due for release on Jan. 19. Learn more on the Image Comics and Benitez Productions websites.

More coverage:

‘Lady Mechanika’ Comic Goes Live on Kickstarter, Blows Past Funding Goal (Sept. 15)

New Lady Mechanika Comic Book to Get Deluxe Edition on Kickstarter (Sept. 10)

Image Comics Gets Publishing Rights to Lady Mechanika (March 19)

Girl Genius Inspires Role-Playing Game

As Phil and Kaja Foglio continue cranking out episodes of their hugely popular webcomic, Steve Jackson Games (SJG) is finally about to deliver its long-stalled Girl Genius RPG.

SJG issued a pre-release PDF of the sourcebook in August, then followed with a Kickstarter campaign that raised more than $170,000 for the hardcover edition.

It’s slated to ship in May 2022 in the U.S., followed by international distribution in July. An updated PDF is now available from SJG’s online store as well as Drive Thru Comics.

SJG originally announced plans to develop a Girl Genius RPG in 2005, but the project languished for years.

The RPG follows last year’s announcement that Rain Games was planning to develop a video game inspired by the series, Girl Genius: Adventures in Castle Heterodyne. The developer raised US$256,509 on Kickstarter and said it plans to deliver the video game in December 2022.

More coverage:

New Kickstarters: Girl Genius RPG, Steampunk Audio Drama, and More (Oct. 21)

Steve Jackson Games Offers Pre-Release PDF Edition of ‘Girl Genius’ RPG (Sept. 2)

New Publisher Releases Hopeless, Maine RPG

Described as “dark fantasy” and a “gothic fairy tale,” Tom and Nimue Brown’s Hopeless, Maine series has become a favorite among steampunk fans, especially in the UK. Originally a graphic novel, the series has also spawned prose novels, and now it has a role-playing game created in collaboration with Alan Bahr of Gallant Knight Games.

The stories are set on an island near the coast of Maine that is “cut off from the rest of the world and lost in time.”

Outland Entertainment, a Kansas City publisher, acquired the series in September 2020 and announced plans to develop the RPG, which is based on Bahr’s Tombpunk game system. Outland released the game in December, following the September release of a new 144-page hardcover edition of Hopeless Maine Book One: Personal Demons. Both were funded by a Kickstarter campaign that raised US$11,280 in March and April.

The publisher also released Hopeless, Maine: New England Gothic, a prose novel about an orphan who becomes a witch on the island. The volume also includes “The Oddatsea,” a collection of four short stories by Keith Errington. It’s available from online booksellers or directly from the publisher.

You can follow the series on the Browns’ Hopeless Vendetta website.

More coverage:

‘Hopeless Maine’ to Get Revamped Hardcover Edition Under New Publisher (April 16)

Boston Metaphysical Society Adds Sound

Boston Metaphysical Society creator Madeleine Holly-Rosing revealed that she’s taking the graphic novel series into a new medium with The Ghost Ship, an eight-episode audio drama. She’s described the series as a Victorian-era take on The X-Files, set in an alternate-history version of the U.S.

The audio drama is based on the first six-issue mini-series of the comic, which tells the story of “an ex-Pinkerton detective, a spirit photographer, and a genius scientist who battle supernatural forces in late 1800s Boston,” Holly-Rosing explains.

The Ghost Ship follows “our three main characters Samuel, Caitlin, and Granville as they investigate a mysterious ghost ship that has sailed into Boston Harbor, and is not only killing those who board her, but is luring children to their deaths.”

In October, Holly-Rosing launched a Kickstarter campaign to support the project, ultimately raising $17,680 from 404 backers. She’s producing the audio drama through her new company, Queen of Mercia LLC. It’s slated for delivery in February 2022.

She also had time to release Boston Metaphysical Society: The Book of Demons, the fourth sequel to the original series. In this one, spirit photographer Caitlin O’Sullivan is kidnapped by a wealthy, powerful family and forced to enslave demons. This, too, was funded with a successful Kickstarter campaign, which raised $36,377 from 998 backers.

The new installment is now available in comic book shops and online from Source Point Press.

More coverage:

Crowdfunding Vet Back on Kickstarter With New ‘Boston Metaphysical Society’ Installment (April 2)

Other Notable Releases

Lee & Low Books released The Witch Owl Parliament, the first volume in a new graphic novel series entitled Clockwork Curandera. Created by David Bowles and Raúl the Third, it’s set in an alternate 1865 where “indigenous magic and steampunk technology co-exist,” Bowles says. In the first book, an apprentice curandera (shaman) is killed by Lechuzas—witches transformed into owls—and her brother uses alchemy to bring her back to life. The story takes place in the fictional Republic of Santander, which spans parts of present-day Northern Mexico and South Texas.

The publisher funded the project with a Kickstarter campaign that raised US$10,771 from 368 backers. Aimed at high school-age readers, it’s available in English and Spanish editions.

Flatline Comics, a new imprint from Inverse Press, released the first issue of Last Ride of the 4 Horsemen: Conquest, a sequel to Last Ride of the 4 Horsemen. The first series told the story of shootist Cager Dobbin as he defended the town of Promise from the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. In the four-issue sequel, Dobbin leaves town and encounters new horsemen. The series is written by Inverse Press publisher Kevin LaPorte with Garrie Gastonny providing the interior art.

As he has with previous comics, LaPorte funded the series on Kickstarter. You can order the comic on the Inverse Press website.

Top Shelf Productions and IDW released A Last Call, the third and final volume in The Jekyll Island Chronicles. The critically acclaimed dieselpunk series takes place in the aftermath of World War I, as a team of heroes with special powers seek to thwart a group of anarchists. The heroes are joined by real-life historical figures Nikola Tesla, Henry Ford, and Charles Proteus Steinmetz. Learn more on the website.

Bianca Loren successfully crowdfunded Volume 2 of Everwake, a 282-page softcover book adapted from her ongoing webcomic. She describes the series as a steampunk fantasy comic with a “topsy-turvy ‘Wonderland’ feel.” Protagonists Zevryx Skye and Avi Fayt have been brought together by fate and find themselves pursued by the Demon Queen, who threatens the world with an infectious plague. Volume 2 takes the heroes to the steampunk-inspired capital city. She raised CA$30,648 to fund the project, which shipped to backers in November.

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