An Open Letter From A Desperate Fan
Dear Mr. Chip Zdarsky:
You seem like a reasonable guy. I’m a reasonable guy, too! We’re two reasonable guys in our early 40s, just living in these crazy times and trying to make sense of it all, amirite? We have that in common and that’s lovely.
But if you know anything about open letters in this political climate, you know that I’m about to put you on blast for something you did (or in this case didn’t ) do. Perhaps you know where this is going. Perhaps you have nagging guilt in the back of your head and you don’t even know where it’s coming from. Maybe this open letter will propel you into a “Usual Suspects”-like montage of reconfigured memories and a bucket of “A-ha! That’s what it was!”
I’m writing you about “Kaptara.”
To recap: “Kaptara” was a comic you created with artist Kagan Mcleod and released in 2015. It was jokingly referred to before its release as “Gay Saga,” a space-set fantasy with a gay main character printed by Image Comics. But unlike “Actual Saga,” it would probably have a lot fewer heartbreaking deaths and many more silly jokes and nudity. You’d just had a huge, award-winning success with writer Matt Fraction of another Image Comics series, “Sex Criminals“. The world was your gay space oyster.
Like “Sex Criminals,” you created a comic in “Kaptara” that was silly and clever and self-referential and deeply weird, but also quite winning. Lead character Keith Kanga acted likably skeptical about the dangerous planet on which he found himself marooned. And while much has been made of diversity in comics, he never felt like a character who was LGBTQA to fill a checkbox. You never played his sexuality for cheap laughs. He was grounded enough as a character to make women-hating Glomps, slender-tall nudist wizards, and the oft-referenced cat tanks that much funnier.
From its launch with the first issue “Space, Why You Gotta Be Like That?” “Kaptara” felt like it was building toward a ridiculous, but well-thought-out mythology. The fifth issue, the last we would see, it turned out, concluded on a stunning spread of nearly a hundred original villains. Maybe you broke Mcleod with those two pages, I don’t know.
But then something happened. There was talk in the letters column of that issue and in interviews of a second arc of issues for “Kaptara.” And then you got really busy. “Sex Criminals” got behind schedule for a while. You got in bed with Marvel with “Howard the Duck,” which was well-received, and led to an many more comics, even “Spider-Man” and “Star-Lord” and an exclusivity deal announced earlier this year.
“Kaptara,” which seemed like such a great idea in 2015, slipped to 2016 with no new issues. Then 2017. And now 2018, with no word or acknowledgment of when it might return.
Did Image cancel it? That seems unlikely. On the goodwill strength of “Sex Criminals” alone it seems they’d be happy to continue a series with a writer and an artist with such a big following (and even larger now with all those Marvel titles under your belt).
Did you and Mcleod just get too busy with your careers? “Kaptara” was maybe a little obscure. Maybe it didn’t sell millions of copies and maybe sales were trending downward by the last issue. Am I the only fan still clamoring for this title to come back? Would be better spent trying to get Netflix to revive “Max Headroom”? (Proposed title: “Max 2020: More Headroom.”)
But I used to work at a newspaper, too, Chip. We both know how deadlines are and how procrastination works and how hard it is to get back in a groove when you haven’t touched a project for a while, especially if the public is clamoring for other stuff from you. I get it.
That said, I pulled out those five print issues again recently from a “Spider-Man”-themed short box (yes, I recognize the irony) and read back through them. They’re so funny and kinetically illustrated and full of possibility. Readers flooded the letters column with praise. They seemed more than happy to go along on this ride full of bug people, a wise Motivational Orb and a really dumb He-Man type with dangerous blow darts. I miss that weird world a lot and wonder if you do, too.
So how about it, Chip? Will we return to Kaptara (the planet and the comic) again one day? Or should I just move on with my life and this comic-book-sized hole in my heart? Is it reasonable to expect closure in a world that seems determined to beat you down, one pop-culture fixation at a time?
Or is it Mcleod’s fault? Should I write an open letter to him, too? Tell me what to do, Chip, because I want to be as happy as I was when I read the first arc of “Kaptara” again.
Please think about it.