Plus some other cool news - including my first-ever Marvel story and lots of art
I mean, look at this beautiful thing - it tells you everything the book is about in a few images: noir, comics, New York, and, most importantly, our protagonist, Carmen Valdez:
As the story notes, Secret Identity tells the tale of aspiring writer Carmen Valdez, who in 1975 moves to New York from Miami to work in comics. She finds the dream more difficult to attain than she first thought. She lands a job as a secretary to the publisher of a third-rate comic book company, Triumph Comics, but even then she’s unable to break in. Eventually, a mysterious colleague makes a proposal: he asks Carmen to ghost write a comic book with him. Credit will come, he says, but at first, she must remain anonymous. Unsure of when an opportunity like this will ever arise, Carmen agrees. The character they create, The Legendary Lynx, becomes an immediate hit for tiny Triumph Comics - wowing fans with amazing, gritty art and a noir superhero story. But before Carmen can bask in the success, she learns that her colleague has been murdered. Not only is her friend gone, but her secret now only lives inside Carmen’s mind. She has to figure out who killed her collaborator to have any chance of reclaiming the character that feels like a part of her being.
Secret Identity mixes many of my passions - comics, noir, Miami, New York, and 1975. I chose that year intentionally - I wanted to focus on a time where comics were not what they are today - pervasive in pop culture (which is great). Before comic shops really existed and before cons really got into full swing, there was a sense that comics were a dying industry, a place where creative people could dip their toes and then move onto something else. I wanted to give readers a sense of that time and also showcase some of the amazing things happening years before comics went fully mainstream. I wanted to relay the story in a different way, too. Knowing that Carmen was going to be writing a comic book in the novel made me wonder if there was anything we could do to change the narrative a bit. Literally.
Before I finished a first draft, I’d hit on it - what if there were actual comic book sequences in the novel? Pages torn from the stories Carmen was writing in the novel? And what if the sequences echoed back things that were happening in the main book? It felt right, but it would also be challenging. I’d need an artist who could not only evoke the period, but be versatile enough to change styles as the story warranted. Only one person came to mind: Sandy Jarrell.
I’ve known Sandy a long time. I first became aware of his work on Meteor Men, with another pal, Jeff Parker. Over the years he did some work for me at Archie. That experience showed me that Sandy was not only a hugely talented and underrated artist, but attentive to detail and a student of comic book history. We talked it over and he was game. The end result is truly stunning. Here’s a look at some of the pages - from the opening comic book sequence of Secret Identity:
Wow, right? Sandy’s joined on letters by Taylor Esposito, who I’ve had the pleasure of working with on a number of things, most notably our superhero noir comic, The Black Ghost. Like Sandy, he went all in on trying to make the comic feel of the time, and it really shows.
Secret Identity is a crime novel set in the four-color world of the 1970s comic book industry, but it’s also very much Carmen’s story - as she has to grapple with her own past, family, and her goals for the future in a complicated, twisted world. I hope you give it a shot. You can pre-order the novel here.
If my word isn’t enough, here’s what some wonderful people have been saying!
“With Secret Identity, Alex Segura perfectly recreates the 1970s comics industry, while at the same time creating a unique new character in the center of that world, and giving her a murder to solve as she struggles with the sexism of her times. This book was a page-turner in the best ways, but the characters and their lives felt so real that I found myself wishing it would continue even past the mystery. A truly special noir book.” —Ed Brubaker, Eisner-winning writer of Criminal and Winter Soldier
“Taut, fast-paced and wildly entertaining, Secret Identity merges classic noir with the three-color world of superhero comics in a way that will delight fans of both.” —G. Willow Wilson, author of The Bird King and Alif the Unseen and co-creator of Ms. Marvel
“Comic books, murder, and that knife of noir that Alex Segura wields like a surgeon. Secret Identity is a new and beautiful exploration of genre, revealing the darkest depths of our true selves. This isn’t a book, it’s a full, daring experience.” —Brad Meltzer, bestselling author of The Lightning Rod
“A cleverly-plotted mystery meets the vibrant setting of the 1970s New York comics scene in Secret Identity. Alex Segura’s new novel explores the masks people wear in exquisite detail, and I loved everything about it.” —Kristen Lepionka, Shamus and Goldie Award-winning author of the Roxane Weary mystery series
“Alex Segura is one of the great gentlemen of crime fiction. A calm and measured soul who happens to be a firecracker of a writer. Secret Identity may be his best yet. A glowing love letter to Serpico-era NYC and the rock and roll frontier of the American comics industry and also a very modern take on the story of a marginalized person fighting for their piece of the dream while also being an engrossing suspenseful mystery. This is a writer at the top of their game. Get on this train or get out the way. Alex Segura is the real deal." — S.A. Cosby, New York Times-bestselling author of Razorblade Tears and Blacktop Wasteland
"Just as Chinatown forged the water wars of California into unforgettable noir, Alex Segura’s Secret Identity excavates rarely mined material—the secret history of the comics industry exploiting underpaid, uncredited creators—and transduces it into a genuinely poignant thriller that pulsates with the lonely claustrophobia and third-rail delirium of city life." — Sean Howe, acclaimed author of Marvel: The Untold Story
"Secret Identity is astonishingly entertaining. Electric prose, breathless pacing, and Sandy Jarrell's stunning art make for a roof-top leaping read you won't soon forget. As a comic vigilante fights for justice in a heartless city, her talented creator finds herself the target of men keen to cash in on her talent no matter the cost. The resulting dual narrative is beautifully spun and relentlessly gripping, reminding us that heroes and villains do exist -- and we're all quite capable of being both."— PJ Vernon, acclaimed author of Bath Haus
“Alex Segura’s Secret Identity is a jolt of heart, sincerity, and passion. Though the book is set in the comic book industry of the 1970s, Carmen Valdez is a trailblazing hero for our times. This is Segura’s love song to comics and to creators who had to fight through the weeds to get their work out in the world, but it’s also an incredibly-paced noir novel rooted in mystery and the crimes people commit out of some warped sense of desperation. Thrilling, ambitious, and— ultimately— hopeful.” — William Boyle, author of Shoot the Moonlight Out, City of Margins, A Friend Is a Gift You Give Yourself, The Lonely Witness, and Gravesend
Secret Identity arrives on March 15 (my birthday!) from Flatiron Books!
In other news - I’m writing my first-ever Marvel Comics story! I’m beyond honored to have a short piece in Marvel’s Voices: Comunidades #1, a killer anthology hitting 10/20 and featuring some amazing Latinx talents and friends, including Daniel José Older, Karla Pacheco, Terry Blas, Juan Ponce, Leonardo Romero, Amparo Ortiz, Nico Leon, Edgar Delgado, Enid Balam, Vanessa del Rey, Adriana Melo, Alitha Martinez, and more. I mean, check out this jaw-dropping cover by the legendary Joe Quesada!
Don’t forget to let your comic shop know you want a copy!
Last, but certainly not least, I have some updates on The Dusk! You remember that book, right? We were so honored to get funded a few months ago, and artist David Hahn is working hard on laying out and drawing the book. The story, by Elizabeth Little and me, is about done - so we’re just cranking on getting it in your hands as soon as possible. We’ve sent out a few updates to backers, but because this newsletter is one-stop shopping, check out David’s killer design for the big bad, El Tiburon, and some interior pages! He’s so damn good.
Small programming note - I should have some housekeeping news re: this newsletter soon. In the meantime, thanks so much for your support! Bye!