Secret Identity - revealed!

Plus some other cool news - including my first-ever Marvel story and lots of art

Hi there!

In case you missed it io9 broke a bit of news a few weeks ago: the Alex Merto-designed cover to Secret Identity, my next crime novel.

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!

Thank you

THE DUSK is funded - so what's next?

Hey there! Hope you’re doing well.

I’ll try my best to keep this brief. The subject line really says it all: THANK YOU.

As of yesterday morning, THE DUSK is fully funded on Kickstarter. What does that mean? Well, barring any last-minute hijinks, it means Elizabeth, David, Ellie, Taylor, Joe, Ominous Press and I can tell the story we’ve wanted to tell, the way we want to tell it. And that’s a rare and blessed thing.

But it also means the book is happening, so if you were dragging your feet, unsure if this would be a reality - now you can dive in, back the campaign, and know you’ll be getting a copy of the book. If we hit certain numbers, we’ll also be able to unlock some really cool stretch goals.

The last few weeks have been a flurry of new art, updates, and the like - so it’s understandable if some stuff got lost in the white noise of social media. Here’s a recap:

We added this fantastic Dusk/Midnight Tiger team-up shot from MT co-creator and artist, Ray-Anthony Height. RAH is one of the best dudes in comics, a fantastic artist, and good friend. My jaw dropped when I saw this. You can only get this image if you back the graphic novel itself:

Speaking of the graphic novel - we unveiled a rare variant, meaning an alternate cover, for the book by the legendary Pete Woods - who’s drawn every major character in comics and continues to evolve and grow as an artist. On top of that, Pete is a stand-up person. If you’d like this image on the cover of the book, you just need to choose it as your reward:

Beautiful, right?

But that’s not all.

We’ve got a lot of amazing original art rewards, too. If you bid on them, you don’t just get a pinup or lobby card, you get the actual original artwork to frame in your humble abode!

Check out this stunning, noir masterpiece by the super-talented Adam Gorham:

We’ve also got original art from Dean Haspiel, Robert Hack, Drew Edward Johnson, and series co-creator and artist David Hahn!

Imagine any of these pieces hanging over your computer! Pretty great, I think.

So, yeah, I know I promised to keep this short - but again, THANK YOU for your support, thanks in advance for any future pledges that come in during our last 24 hours, and I can’t wait to keep you updated on how this project comes together!

We are so excited to bring The Dusk to you - and hope for many more tales in this world in the years to come.

Welcome to Blackstone!

Best,

Alex

A quick update on THE DUSK

We're halfway to our Kickstarter funding goal with 20 days to go. Can you help us get across the finish line?

Hey friends!

First off - thank you so much for the great support for THE DUSK. In just a few days, we were more than halfway funded, and that’s a testament to how much you all believe in our idea of an all-ages crimefighter. Now, with 20 or so days left, I’d love to just lock it down and pivot to making this comic a reality! But the truth is, David, Liz, Joe, Ellie, Taylor, and I can only do that with your help!

I won’t take up too much of your time, but if you’re still on the fence - please consider backing the project now.

We just unveiled an amazing lobby card tier that features art from greats like Greg Smallwood, Liana Kangas, Dean Haspiel, George Kambadais, Shawn McGuan, and many of the iconic covers we debuted at launch. Check these out!

Here’s a closer look at some of the new ones:

We also unveiled some more original art tiers, after the initial wave was gobbled up on our first day. You can snag the original linework for Dean Haspiel’s great DUSK/RED HOOK team-up shot, or Tom Nguyen’s baseball-themed pinup. As some of you know, Dean rarely sells original pieces, so this is going to go fast.

Need more? I can understand that. And hey, what’s a newsletter without a good tease? How about a look at an upcoming pinup from the one and only Wilfredo Torres?

Isn’t that beautiful? Getting some major NEXUS vibes.

Well, it can be yours…just stay tuned!

We’ll also be adding some original artwork by our very own co-creator/artist, David Hahn. Let’s just say, if you liked the preview pages we showed off on the campaign page…you might be able to own them! That’ll be part of our Week 3 initiative.

Again, thanks for your support. Kickstarters are a marathon, and I realize it can get tiresome to keep hearing from people about it.

I’ll do my best only to bug you when there’s new stuff to show or share!

Talk soon,

Alex

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: THE DUSK Kickstarter is now live!

I join forces with Elizabeth Little, David Hahn, Joseph Illidge and more to launch our own superhero crimefighter - with a modern twist!

Hello!

Been a spell, huh? It feels like the world is slowly inching toward normal, and I’m very excited for that.

Now, as most readers of this newsletter know, I’ve been teasing a new superhero project for a while. Remember this?

Well, it’s here! And I can’t wait for you to learn more about it.

Welcome to THE DUSK, an original graphic novel (four issues of story) published in conjunction with the gang at Ominous Press, co-written by me and fellow crime novelist, Elizabeth Little (Pretty As A Picture, Dear Daughter), with art by David Hahn (Batman 66/Wonder Woman 77, Bite Club, Impossible Jones), colors by Ellie Wright, and letters by Taylor Esposito (The Black Ghost), featuring editorial guidance by Joseph Illidge (Batman, Valiant, Lion Forge, Heavy Metal).

If you want to save yourself some time, click here to check out the Kickstarter page, which is now live. I appreciate your support as we try to make this project a reality. Want more info? Well, here you go:

THE DUSK is a really personal project for me, and for my collaborators. The idea sprung from my five-year-old son, who’s really into superheroes, especially characters like Batman and the Teen Titans. He loves the colorful costumes, the characters, and villains that make them fun and energizing. But as a parent, I saw him also leaning into some other parts of the genre. Like the idea that violence solves problems, or that the criminal justice system was flawless and always fair.

My wife, who works in nonprofit law, wondered why there wasn’t a hero out there that we could show our son that embraced all the fun, mythical elements of being a superhero, but also touched on the realities of the world we live in? I wanted to create the answer to that question, but in a way that didn't feel overly grimdark or excessively violent.

If our heroes are supposed to be people who strive to do good, they should strive to do good in the kind of world we live in - one that's complicated, often contradictory, and about progress, not perfection. And we should see their mistakes and understand them. That was the general idea that, along with my great team of collaborators, lead us to THE DUSK - and the city of Blackstone.

Down below the abandoned skyscrapers and crumbling colonial architecture, beneath the buzzing lights and ragged billboards, is a fading, floundering city propped up by vice, extortion, and fear. This is Blackstone—a dark, mirror image of Boston or Philadelphia. A city whose history dates back to the earliest days of our nation.

A once-mighty industrial titan—now teetering on the edge of oblivion. A city that used to mean something.

Blackstone public defender Jaime Nuñez—former baseball hero, now a divorced dad to a precocious teen - is always trying to do his best.  But the criminal justice system is not without limits. When Jaime comes into an unexpected fortune and some surprising, super heroic tools, he discovers there might be another, more direct way to do some actual good in the world.

But can the masked man known only as The Dusk push back against decades of entrenched corruption without compromising his commitment to social justice...

Much less his teenage daughter's?

THE DUSK is a modern reimagining of the superhero crimefighter that flips the script on the traditional “might makes right” approach while adding the grounded, socially conscious perspective that modern crime fiction has become known for. 

The graphic novel blends the dark deco of BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES with a dose of moral complexity and dark humor, creating an engaging and witty look at the inner workings of a beloved genre through the eyes of a flawed, human, and heroic figure.


Aided by an all-star team of variant cover artists: Howard Chaykin, Francesco Francavilla, Jamal Igle, Rebekah Isaacs, Gabriel Hardman, Greg Smallwood, and more, Jamie Nuñez has begun to fight the never-ending battle for the soul of Blackstone.

Kind of like Joe Biden, I guess?

But seriously - thanks so much for reading this, and huge thanks in advance for supporting our journey! All of these amazing artists have carved out time from their busy schedules to help make this launch a success, and I’m so grateful and lucky to count them as friends.

We’ll be debuting some fun additional art as the campaign continues, so keep your eyes on it.

Most importantly, we’re excited to get to tell this story and can only do it with your support!

Click here to find out more.

Reporters: if you’d like to feature THE DUSK on your site/news outlet, let me know. We’d be happy to chat! Feel free to use info from this email as you would a press release.

IN OTHER NEWS

If you’re an avid listener of Planet Money, NPR’s economics podcast, you may have heard my voice over the last few weeks. Hosts Kenny Malone and Robert Smith are doing a series of episodes that started with the idea that NPR would try to buy a superhero from a publisher, in order to merchandise it. In the first episode of the series, I let them know the value of IP - and how hard it would be to get a company to part ways with something so potentially valuable. In later episodes, the hosts pivot to the public domain, and discover a discarded Golden Age character named Micro-Face. Now NPR is making a comic book with their new version of Micro-Face, and I’m writing it! The character was redesigned with a cover by legendary artist Jerry Ordway, interior art by Peter Krause, colors by Ellie Wright, and letters by Taylor Esposito. This project has been a ton of fun so far, and I can’t wait to share more. You can pre-order the comic here, or buy some cool Micro-Face swag at the NPR store. All proceeds go to support public radio.

That’s all for now! Talk soon.

Best,

Alex

Stuff & Nonsense 077: no body, no crime

On novels, Taylor Swift as neo-noir, Best-Ofs, and more

I hope you had a pleasant Thanksgiving in this Year of Chaos. I also hope that you and yours are safe and healthy as we head into what will surely be a rough winter.

In the “good news” category, I’ve officially sent off my novel, Secret Identity, to my editor, and that feels like a big deal? It’s certainly the book I’m most proud of, even at this early stage, and I can’t wait for you to read it. Hitting this point got me to thinking a bit about the big picture, and it felt nice to zoom out and realize that this crazy idea I had about 15 years ago, that I would try to write a book like those mysteries I loved, seems to have panned out? Maybe?

Secret Identity will be my seventh novel in about as many years, and my sixth mystery. It’s a standalone, which I’ve never done, and blends together a lot of things I’m passionate about - mysteries, comic books, metafiction, New York, Miami - into something I hope people will enjoy. I feel like going too far into the weeds on it now will jinx it, so I’ll leave it at that. But I do hope you’ll keep an eye out for when it’s formally unveiled by the fine folks at Flatiron Books.

Speaking of, I’m auctioning off the chance to have a character named after you in the book, as part of the Mystery Loves Georgia fundraiser to help flip the Senate blue. It ends later today, so donate if you can.

IN OTHER NEWS

This came in the mail and wow, it’s real! Thank you to Bouchercon 2020, and to the readers.

Also, the wonderful people at my hometown paper, Miami New Times, have listed me as “Best Local Boy Made Good,” via their annual 2020 Best of Miami issue - which is insane, heart-warming, and probably one of the factors in getting me to think about this whole wild journey. Really humbled and grateful!

This essay I wrote for TIDAL a while back, about the delectable neo-noir elements of Taylor Swift, feels all the more relevant today, don’t you think? Illustration by Shawn McGuan. Also, I enjoyed this Macca/Taylor convo a lot.

Since we’re in Best-Of season, and since I’m not judging any awards and don’t have a 2021 mystery/crime novel, here are my favorites in the genre for the year, with some exceptions because genre is a construct, etc. Feel free to buy them all and get your holiday shopping done early!

THESE WOMEN, Ivy Pochoda

BLACKTOP WASTELAND, S.A. Cosby

CITY OF MARGINS, William Boyle

DEAD LAND, Sara Paretsky

TROUBLE IS WHAT I DO, Walter Mosley

AND NOW SHE’S GONE, Rachel Howzell Hall

A SONG FOR THE DARK TIMES, Ian Rankin

LITTLE SECRETS, Jennifer Hillier

THE LAW OF INNOCENCE, Michael Connelly

CONFESSIONS ON THE 7:45, Lisa Unger

PRETTY AS A PICTURE, Elizabeth Little

NEVER ASK ME, Jeff Abbott

THEY’RE GONE, E.A. Barres

WINTER COUNTS, David Heska Wanbli Weiden

HOME BEFORE DARK, Riley Sager

MEXICAN GOTHIC, Silvia Moreno-Garcia

AFTERLAND, Lauren Beukes

UNSPEAKABLE THINGS, Jess Lourey

FOR THE BEST, Vanessa Lillie

THE LUCKY ONE, Lori Rader-Day

THE ART OF VIOLENCE, SJ Rozan

My SPIDER’S WEB column at 13th Dimension continues, recapping my reread of all things Spider-Man, with the last two installments covering Peter Parker and MJ’s wedding and the classic Kraven’s Last Hunt story. But let’s face it - nothing can top this comic book panel:

I did an interview for the writing podcast, The Story Blender, that you might enjoy listening to.

I wish I could tease some artwork, because my inbox is bursting with cool things, but most of it is under wraps. But…Well, what the hell? Here’s a page by the incomparable David Hahn, from a project we’re working on:

More on what it is soon.

SOME LINKS YOU MAY HAVE MISSED

Sarah Weinman’s fantastic look at the short, tragic life of Linda Millar, daughter of crime writers Ross Macdonald and Margaret Millar, is unsettling and meticulously reported.

Cover reveals: Laura Lippman’s latest, Dream Girl, will have a jaw-droppingly great cover to accompany what’s sure to be wonderful prose. Rachel Howzell Hall also debuted a stunning cover for her next novel, These Toxic Things. Two books you definitely want to pre-order.

I will forever be a The Godfather III apologist, and I’m excited to check out Francis Ford Coppola’s remix, spotlighted by David Itzkoff in the Times.

An interesting development for Zodiac/true crime obsessives.

I just finished Sam Wasson’s complicated and spectacular look at the movie Chinatown and it really stuck with me. I even did a Deep-Dive episode with Crime Writers On…’s Toby Ball and a great panel of experts (coming soon!). Worth checking out - it presents a fairly unvarnished look at the problematic men behind the movie.

That’s all! Wishing you a safe and healthy holiday!

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