2020 has been quite the year for James Tynion IV. Between his sales successes with DC’s mainline Batman title, receiving Harvey, Eisner, and Ringo nominations for Something is Killing the Children, and launching indie hits Wynd (at Boom Studios) and The Department of Truth (at Image), Tynion IV (pronounced Tie-ninn) has eked out a monumental year for himself. But he’s not done yet.
Collaborating with his Department of Truth editor Steve Foxe, Tynion IV and Foxe created Razorblades, a quarterly horror magazine featuring a murderers’ row of talent, including the talents of Ram V, Danny Lore, Marguerite Bennett, Nick Robles, Lonnie Nadler, and more. The magazine promised that it’d have no nostalgia towards its predecessors, that it’d highlight up-and-coming talents in the industry, and that it’d deliver some damn good comics, and for what it’s worth, it’s hit home runs on all three of these goals. But Razorblades isn’t just great for what lies within its pages, but what it could mean for the future of comics-related magazines.
The old era of comics-centric magazines has been over for a while now, with Wizard, The Comic Foundry, and the Comics Buyer’s Guide having closed their doors in the early 2010s (The Comics Journal also ceased publication in 2013, before coming back in 2019, unfortunately). With the rise of internet-based newsmedia, the physical magazine format quickly dwindled into obsoletion. People simply weren’t willing to spend the money on a monthly magazine subscription, knowing they could just find whatever they wanted to read online. But with monetizing online newsmedia, especially related to comics, getting increasingly more difficult, there’s been a gradual return to the subscription model. Several news sites now rely on adding a paywall to their content, or opening up a Patreon to get more cash flowing in through the backdoor. Point is, with the subscription model returning to the norm, the opportunity opens up for subscription-based media of the past, like magazines, to make their return too.
That’s where Razorblades comes in. It’s not just a horror anthology, like others before it. It’s a multi-format compilation, featuring not only comics, but also prose and an interview in its first issue. In the first issue’s introduction, Tynion IV talks about his influences, namely Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s From Hell and the horror anthology magazine it was originally serialized in, Steve Bissette’s Taboo. He makes a point to say that the goal of Razorblades was not to return to tradition, but break free of nostalgia and pave a new path for itself.
Reading through it, I was reminded of old magazines I’d find at the library, except instead of Art Baltazar’s Gorilla Gorilla strips in the Disney Adventures magazine, it was James Tynion IV and Andy Belanger’s body horror washing machine story. The magazine makes the most of its stellar lineup of talent, providing page after page of thrilling, immersive, and haunting content. From timeless horror like Nadler and Cha’s “She’s Got It” to COVID-era horror like Foxe and Ramstead’s “I Don’t Like The Masks”, the diversity and wide berth of the horror genre is put on full display in Razorblades The design work from Dylan Todd cleanly wraps it all up in a nice, tight bow, and beautifully haunting pinups from the likes of Nick Robles and Brian Level offer smooth transitions from story to story.
The prose work is also well worth the price of admission. Danny Lore’s story “Mid-Season Slump” is a gripping tale that mixes the supernatural with the throes of the current media atmosphere. The interview with Tynion’s friend and mentor Scott Snyder offers a deep look into Snyder’s craft and process with regards to his many horror comics. The interview feels intimate and candid, with Snyder imparting some sound knowledge. Be it through sequential art or written text, Razorblades runs on all cylinders.
Now, it’s not the first of its kind, both as an anthology series and as a magazine, as some would argue that the popular PanelxPanel was the progenitor of this new wave of comics magazines; however, Razorblades reaches a perfect middle ground between being a comics anthology and offering comics-adjacent text. Its content and contributors make it a unique contender in the burgeoning horror anthology landscape. It’s built to hit a niche, and it hits that niche right on the head. With the second issue of the magazine having come out this past Monday, Razorblades seems to be keeping its stride and continuing its format. Having sold out all five hundred copies of its initial print run of its first issue, it’s safe to say that the demand for it is high, and will only continue to grow higher.
What does this mean for the future of comics-related magazines? Could this herald the return of mags like Wizard and The Comic Foundry? Tough to say right now, but the initiative taken by Tynion IV, Foxe, and their collaborators, as well as their subsequent success, shows that the comics landscape is primed and ready for their grand return.