Series: The Backstagers (8 issue Limited Series)
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Rian Sygh, with Colors by Walter Baiamonte
Publisher: BOOM! Box, an imprint of BOOM! Studios
Summary from Comixology: “James Tynion IV (Batman Eternal, The Woods) teams up with artist Rian Sygh (Munchkin, Stolen Forest) for an incredible yet earnest story about finding a place to fit in when you’re kinda an outcast. When Jory transfers to the private, all-boys school St. Genesius, he figures joining the stage crew would involve a lot of just fetching props and getting splinters. To his pleasant surprise, he discovers there’s a door backstage that leads to different worlds, and all of the stagehands know about it! All the world’s a stage…but what happens behind the curtain is pure magic!”
I wasn’t in any clubs in high school. It wasn’t really my thing. I once did this debate club type presentation at an inter-school competition that I lost. I was also in a play once, actually. A full-on stage production of the story of the Bible. And I had a pretty high profile role. I played the kid who gave Jesus the fish and bread that he used to feed, like, five-thousand people. I sang a solo and everything, and it was broadcast on television WORLDWIDE. Stick that in your mascara tube a suck it, drama nerds.
I may not have been in drama club, or worked the stage crew for high school plays, but I after my previously mentioned “15 minutes of fame” chewed me up and spit me out onto the cold, hard concrete of life with an empty bottle of Jack and empty pockets, I ended up doing stage crew and behind-the-scenes work for TV shoots. I loved doing that too. The camaraderie you have with your fellow black shirts* cannot be rivaled by the people you’re making look good.
*A solid black t-shirt is a requirement if you’re working crew for any type of production of shoot
I think my favorite thing from James Tynion so far has been his work on Talon, which spun out of the “Court of Owls” New 52 Batman story-arc. The Backstagers is a different style of comic, but one equally as likable. I appreciate the genuine emotion that comes across in the story. Jory, the main character, is terrified of being in a new school and desperately hoping he can just stay afloat amidst his hesitation and anxiety. He attempts to join a specific group and discovers it’s not a good fit for him, but at the same time realizes that he’s most comfortable with a group he hadn’t even considered before. I think it’s a great lesson in that… we often see ourselves as puzzle pieces who have to find the place we fit. When we can’t find that place we get despondent. We never stop to consider that maybe it isn’t our job to find a puzzle to complete. Maybe, it’s the puzzle’s job to complete us… (That’s some “self-help poster” shit right there.)
One undeniable quality of Backstagers is its character diversity. Black, gay, short, chubby, etc. All types of dudes are represented here. It’s refreshing to see it all presented without any stigma. No one cares or acts as if it it matters. Like, these are all just traits of the characters and not what defines them. That’s infinitely more valuable than anything you’ll take away from a Big 2 comic.
The art of Backstagers fits the tone of the story perfectly. Rian Sygh’s style is fantastic. It’s fun, and quirky, and a little abstract at times, but never too serious. I love the cartoon-ish look with embellished facial expressions and bizarre creatures that just don’t seem out-of-place cause, hey, it’s comic books! There’s one page in particular where we’re seeing the space that hold the doorway to other worlds and it’s just so grand and exciting. You really have to study the page to take it all in. A big part of what makes it so wonderful too is the color-work of Walter Baiamonte. The colors just… pop. I wish there was a bigger, better word to describe it but that’s just how they are. Maybe “luminous” would work. They’re luminous and beautiful.
Rian Sygh is not only the artist, but also the co-creator of the series. I like that structure. It shows that the writer and artist are equals and not just uneven associates, and that the artist has a balanced amount of creative control. It’s very common in the comic industry for readers (and, unfortunately at times, even publishers and other creators) to downplay the role of a co-creating artist and I think that’s what makes it so important for us at 4LN, and other comic sites, to acknowledge it when we run previews and reviews.
The Backstagers #1 is a funny and enjoyable beginning to a series that is sure to please fans of all ages. The emotion is real, but never heavy, and it speaks to anyone who’s ever had to seek out there place in the world, which, let’s be honest, is pretty much all of us comic book readers. I think I would especially recommend it for middle school kids, so if you have one of those around then maybe think about picking this up for them. It hits comic shop stands this Wednesday, 08/17, or you can get it at the Comixology link at the top of this page.
Music Pairing –
Once you grab your stack of comics on Wednesday and you need to cue something up to listen to while you read, make sure you put The Backstagers at the top of your pile and jam the new album from Moose Blood, “Blush“. It’s a fun explosion of 80’s-tinged pop-punk that pairs perfectly with this issue.