The Best Books I've Edited – by Jonathan Stevenson, Writer of THE DISCONAUTS
Hello, you glorious mother funksters. I’ve been around the British small press scene since 2014, when I first started writing for the brilliant anthology comics FutureQuake and Something Wicked. Along with Luke Balmer-Kemp, I also contributed a story to SelfMadeHero’s bestselling The Corbyn Comic. We have our first Kickstarter campaign running right now for The Disconauts, which you can find here.
In 2017, I took on a new role within the comics industry when I joined Titan Comics as an editor. Since then I have worked on various types of comics and graphic novels, be they wholly original, licensed properties or translated books getting their first publication in English.
This list is a little of everything and these five (in no particular order) are my favorites of the numerous books I have been lucky enough to work on so far.
1. The Death of Stalin
This was the first ever book I took charge of at Titan. It was handed to me some time during my second week on the job. Written by Fabien Nury with art by Theirry Robin, it was first published in French. Titan had been sitting on it for a little while but, by the time I arrived, the movie adaptation had just been announced and there was a sudden urgency to release it to coincide with the film’s launch.
I was very excited. Not just to take on my first project as an editor, but because the movie had been written and directed by an idol of mine – Armando Iannucci (co-creator of the iconic British comedy character Alan Partridge – played by Steve Coogan). Iannucci’s brilliant The Thick of It is one of my all-time favorite comedy shows and featured some of the best swearing you’ll ever hear (“You’re as useless as a marzipan dildo”).
The book is a surprisingly accurate retelling of the death of Joseph Stalin and how he could, potentially, have been saved were it not for the culture of fear and betrayal that he had fostered. The farce played out by his ministers in the aftermath of “Uncle Joe’s” stroke is the stuff of pure comedy – yet it’s almost completely true.
To help tie the book to the release of the film I had to put movie credits on the back cover. The kind you might find at the bottom of a movie poster – “Starring Jeffrey Tambor, Steve Buscemi, Timothy Dalton,” etc…
I was lucky enough to get the chance to interview Iannucci once the first copies of the book had arrived back from the printer. I had a very nervous conversation with him where he proved to be just as funny and charming and friendly as I had hoped. He also revealed to me that Marvel had once approached him to write The Fantastic Four comic. And I still desperately want to know what that would have been like.
I handed Armando his copy of the book and his face fell as he turned it over to read the blurb on the back. “Oh,” he said. “Timothy Dalton’s not in the movie.” And I melted into a puddle on the floor. In my eagerness to get the book finished on time, and after my efforts to contact the movie’s production team had come to nothing, I had got the cast list from IMDB. And it was wrong. He explained that he had discussed a role with Timothy Dalton but that it had not worked out and the part went to another actor. There was nothing I could do. I fixed it for the second printing but there will always be that first printing out there with my error staring out from the back cover.
A few weeks later I took my copy of the book along to a signing that he and the other two writers of the film were attending. So, my copy is now inscribed – “Dear Jonathan, you’re as useless as a marzipan dildo.” And it’s signed Timothy Dalton, Timothy Dalton and Big T. Dalton.
2. Doctor Who – The Thirteenth Doctor Volume 3: Old Friends
As a huge fan of the TV show, Doctor Who was Titan’s only title that I wanted to work on. As it turned out, I finally got my chance shortly before I decided to leave the company. But for a brief few months I was the editor on the official Doctor Who comic and I couldn’t have been more proud.
My predecessor had brought in a new writer in Jody Houser and, some time during the second arc, the fantastic Rachel Stott had left for Marvel. By the third arc, Jody had really hit her stride, Roberta Ingranata (Witchblade) had taken over art duties, Enrica Eren Angiolini’s colors were on point as always, and we had permission to use a character from the lore of the show that had never actually appeared on screen. So, we were able to create their look for the first time.
The character was The Corsair, another Time Lord who was first mentioned in the episode The Doctor’s Wife, written by Neil Gaiman. Since then there had been other mentions in various media of the Time Lord who had been known to change sex upon regenerating.
Jody came up with a fun heist adventure involving the two old friends and, for the duration of that arc (and considering that the quality of the writing on the show itself had taken a nosedive), I genuinely believe that it was the best, most enjoyable, Doctor Who in any medium released around that time. Unfortunately, I left Titan before the arc was complete but I’m very proud to have been there for its creation.
3. The Wrath of Fantômas
Fantômas is a French supervillain created in 1911 by Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre. The pair wrote 32 volumes of adventures featuring the criminal genius, with Allain completing a further 11 alone. The character is a French Moriarty or, by modern standards, he most resembles a Bond villain.
The Wrath of Fantômas was released in French in separate tomes with the collection (intégrale) being released in 2017. The translated titles I have worked on have generally been a bit of a mixed bag, but this one excited me right away. Julie Rocheleau’s highly stylised, and vibrantly colored, artwork is an absolute joy to behold. Combined with Olivier Bocquet’s script that is faithful to the characters and spirit of the original stories, it makes for an excellent book.
I spent so many hours pulling this one together. I found a font as close to the original French hand-lettering as I could get, though that came with the task of having to make minute adjustments to the kerning and leading that had me busy for days. But I knew it was worth putting the effort in.
In 2020, it become the first Titan title to receive an Eisner nomination…and it’s the only book I’ve worked on that I don’t own a copy of.
I can’t claim to have had any input into this one. It was edited by someone else, who then left Titan, leaving me to chaperone the final issue and the collection. So, I didn’t edit it, but I did technically work on it and it is a great book.
It was released under Titan’s Hard Case Crime imprint and features a funny, fast-paced script by Duane Swierczynski, art by Simone Guglielmini and Raffaele Semeraro, and colors by Chris Chuckry and Lovern Kindzierski.
The plot sees the hapless Joe forced to team up with his wife’s lover in order to foil an imminent terrorist plot to bring Philadelphia to its knees. My lasting memory of this comic is when Joe bursts into his love rival’s motel room in issue one. There he is confronted by a shelf filled with some fearsome looking sex toys.
5. In Vitro
This was the first book I edited for Humanoids. Written and drawn by William (Guillaume) Roy, it’s the real-life story of his and his wife’s struggle to conceive and become parents for the first time. Roy reveals the insecurities of a man who is told that the inability to conceive lies with him.
What comes next is a rocky road of embarrassment and confusion paved with endless sperm donations, tests, and their dreaded results. Meanwhile, Guillaume’s estranged father re-enters his life and further complicates everything.
This book is a real insight into the emotional strength that’s needed in order to pursue IVF treatment. And it’s carried off with humor and charm by the very honest Roy.
I’ll leave the way I came in, by mentioning a new comic I’ve written. Bringing The Disconauts to life has been a labor of love for Luke and me. It’s that rare thing of a script I’ve written that I actually enjoy and don’t want to tear it apart and rewrite it from scratch. And Luke is the perfect artist for this book. He brought my ideas to life in a way that few others could have.
We were inspired by comic books from the 1970s, as well as the animated TV shows we grew up with – He-Man, Bravestarr, The Real Ghostbusters... I hope that sense of fun comes across to those of you who read it. And, as it’s inspired by those beautiful old pulpy comics, you get a full story in one 36-page issue. No cliffhanger, no frustrating wait. One complete adventure and then, if we’re successful with the Kickstarter campaign, a whole new story in issue #2. You can check out the Kickstarter here.