Readers of the printed, monthly version of Brian Wood and Kristian Donaldson's "The Massive" will be treated to content unseen in the digital releases or trade paperback collections, Wood announced Friday at Emerald City Comicon. Following a three-issue run in "Dark Horse Presents," "The Massive" launches as an ongoing series in June from Dark Horse, chronicling the adventures of a band of environmentalists in a world that has already fallen into ruin and examining how they live when the battle has long since been lost.
The "Dark Horse Presents" strips introduced several cast members including Callum Israel, a mercenary who survives an impossible storm against all odds. The additional material in the single-issue print copies of "The Massive" present Israel's perspective and adventures with the activist organization Ninth Wave, further exploring the world Wood has created for the ongoing series.
Comic Book Resources spoke with Wood about the thought behind the monthly "bonus features," what readers can expect from the single-issue-exclusive material and how the content relates to the series as a whole.
CBR News: Brian, what can you tell us about the nature of this extra content for "The Massive?" What's the format and how long do you expect it to run?
Brian Wood: Well, in all honesty my intention is to do this for the whole series, but we all agreed its better to expand a goal than not meet it, so I’m officially committing to the first two arcs, which is #1-6 with the intention of continuing. Like a lot of my past books, the world of "The Massive" is extremely rich and detailed, so finding inspiration is not a problem. I kind of wish I had done with this "DMZ," actually, but the ability to add story pages to a single issue like this was not possible there.
As far as how many pages, it will be a minimum of four per issue. This is actually more than it sounds, as it won’t be comic book story pages, but text -- text and images and design, but resembling more a magazine than a comic book. It will be material written in the voice of the main character, Callum Israel and will both give backstory and context and even expand on the stories in the main part of the book.
These are not “extras” in the familiar sense of the term -- sketches and script excerpts, letters, pinups, etc., but actual content; story-relevant material that, while not necessary to all readers, adds something real to the series.
As most creators and publishers seem to be looking for different ways to add content to digital comics, what made you want to go the opposite route and offer exclusive material in print?
A few reasons: I’ve done it before with my series "Demo" and it worked. At the time this was a new thing, this idea of the “premium single” and it was something that really caught on and generated a lot of attention and conversation. In short, it worked and I want to see if it will work again. In the case of "Demo," those were more “normal” sorts of extras so I’m upping my game here.
Also, and more importantly, this is all part of my ongoing examination of my career and my way of working and my thoughts in general on pricing and digital and how to balance everything out in a way that people can benefit from. Like everyone, I’m excited at the promise of digital and what it can mean for comics in general. Personally, I’m a print guy -- that’s my preferred format. I’m a supporter of the print medium and of comic shops --my career only exists because of them -- and I’m a supporter of readers getting as much bang for their buck! Who isn’t?
I want to make the single issues of "The Massive" the premium format as a default condition. Each issue of the series will be its own “director’s edition.” The analogy I like to make is to describe buying a DVD and opening it up and being faced with either a deluxe package with a booklet and inserts and good design or just the DVD. I want "The Massive" to be the deluxe version.
That leaves digital customers still getting the story and at a lower price than the print edition ($2.99 vs $3.50, and $1.99 after a month). The same applies to people reading the book in collected format. This added material is not crucial to reading and understanding the story.
Right, and the extra material will also not be collected in the trade paperback collections. What is your thought behind this approach?
This also goes back to "Demo." The reasons are the same: I want to encourage the purchase of the single issues -- I want the singles to be the premium format. It’s a thank you to readers who support my career on a monthly basis and to the retailers who choose to stock my books that way. It’s fun for me to make this added material and I want to see what happens. The trade paperbacks will be as they always are, no changes there.
I still believe, as I always do, that readers should not feel pressured to read a story in a format not of their choosing, and I’m not trying to force anyone’s hand or purchase here.
How does the print-only material help build out the world of "The Massive?" How does it connect with the main story?
In addition to what I said before, its added material in the form of essays, news reports, the main character’s personal record of events, images, “mission” logos and other types of narrative. This is a huge world -- it's literally the entire planet that the story takes place in and there’s way more going on than I could ever cover in just 22 pages of comics per month.
As an example, in the first arc of "The Massive" -- and this is spoiler-free -- there is a threat presented to the crew from Siberian militants, modern day pirates. The added material could be a collection of news reports detailing their past activities or a profile on their leader or a different angle or observation by a different crew member that doesn’t appear in the main story. Perhaps the captain had a previous run-in with them or knows something about the area. These are all just random examples, but it gives you an idea of what I mean.
You've already introduced some of the characters and given a taste for this world in the "Dark Horse Presents" strips, the third and final installment of which was released last week. How have fans responded to "The Massive" thus far?
It’s been positive but by design the short stories covered a lot of different aspects to the book that come off as unconnected -- or rather, you are left wondering just how they all connect. Like I said, it’s a big story and the series will pull it all together. There’s also a significant mystery I laid the groundwork for in those short stories.
When we last spoke about this book, you described it as "post-crash" -- the disaster has already happened, and the characters live in the aftermath. Now we've seen a little of what it means to survive, and been given a bit of mystery as to how exactly these characters managed it. As we look forward to the first issue in June, is there anything else you'd like to add about the series itself?
Right now I just want to communicate this about the added material and also say that this book, even without that material, is dense as hell. The arcs are three issues long but contain the amount of story I might otherwise have put into a six-issue arc. It’s complex and utterly gorgeous to look at and rewards the reader. I’m putting all my chips in on this one. I’m writing the added material for free. There’s a lot of attention these days on creator-owned comics and I’ve dedicated my career for the last 14 years to that endeavor. "The Massive" will, hopefully, stand as a great example when it starts shipping in June.
"The Massive" #1 hits stores June 13 from Dark Horse