It takes more than a promising premise and a notable name to reasonably predict the success of any project. But, early on, all signs indicate that Humanoids’ H1 Universe could be an alternative to big-name players like Marvel and DC. Now, with the release of Ignited #1, the world has been introduced to this new line of comics, which is headed by acclaimed writer Mark Waid.
Along with the other H1 architects, Waid is saying all the right things about what readers can expect to find in this universe. In Ignition, the Free Comic Book Day special issue that launched H1, Waid states, “in superhero universes, there’s always a certain status quo that must be maintained. Not here…. The possibilities of H1 are endless and very dangerous.” That “status quo” has worked for decades and it’s why Marvel and DC continue to be so successful. But, amongst other downsides, the formula has become predictable; most of the time, you know what to expect in an Avengers story. Though it’s still highly enjoyable because it uses the same beloved characters, we should welcome an enticing attempt to break the mold.
Speaking of which, one of the most compelling aspects of H1’s mission statement is its rejection of genre. Like Waid, Jonathan Lang, the writer of the upcoming Meyer series, was quoted in Ignition. He states, “at other publishers, genre was always pushed front and center, sometimes at the expense of the character’s authenticity. H1 provides the vehicle to get stories into a truly diverse and character-based world. This is not a marketing ploy. It’s in H1’s very DNA.” Forcing stories to fit into strict genres and categories has been a criticism of comics for quite some time. Similarly, many fans have wanted to see the Marvel Cinematic Universe branch out of typical superhero cinema and explore romance, horror and other genres. Based on Lang’s quote, it sounds like H1 will focus on placing its characters in diverse styles of storytelling. Mark that as another point in H1’s favor.
With this new line, Humanoids strives to deconstruct genre and reject other patterns of the industry. But these encouraging signs only offer an incomplete peek at the reasons comic book fans should be excited. We all have different reasons for reading comics. Many fans use them to escape from the real world; it can be liberating to get lost in worlds where heroes like Batman and Captain Marvel roam. But this escapism has a price: comics sometimes struggle to genuinely tackle real-world issues. Once again, H1 seeks to buck this trend.
In Ignition, Kwanza Osajyefo, an H1 Architect, states, “it’s been said that the best stories touch on actual issues. Ignited stabs at the nerve of what’s happening in our real life. The series approaches superhumanity in a more real and relevant way.” H1’s comics embrace the problems that pervade the world as we know it and, potentially, they’ll serve an alternative function in the reader’s life. Rather than offering pure escapism through wild, fantastical stories, H1 will allow readers to remain engaged with reality by pulling narrative threads right from the headlines.
Waid drills the point home when he discusses the inspiration for Ignited. He asks, “what if the Parkland survivors had the power and resources to effect change on a monumental scale?” According to the writer, that’s exactly the pitch for the series. Waid, who references himself as a “socially conscious political wonk “ says these comics are firmly tied to the world we live in every day. This realistic approach could allow H1 to powerfully explore meaningful topics.
Still not convinced? The diversity of H1’s creative team is the most encouraging component of the new universe’s foundation. As the Director of Creative Development Waid spearheads the project and a wide range of voices will help shape his vision. The team consists of Osajefyo (co-writer of Ignited,) Magdalene Visaggio & Darcie Little Beaver (Strangelands) Devin Grayson (Omni,) Lang (Meyer,) Quinton Peeples (Big Country) and Helen Mullane (Nicnevin and the Bloody Queen.) Combined with the other aforementioned factors, this diversity could legitimately set H1 apart. It’s 2019 and the most powerful players in the game (Marvel and DC) are still struggling to consistently incorporate fresh perspectives. Both companies have been criticized because the majority of their comics are still written by straight white men. As a result, H1 has an opportunity, like with other complaints against DC and Marvel, to answer fans’ hopes by emphasizing diversity and inclusiveness.
Right now, it’s way too early to say that H1 will be successful or that it’ll ever challenge the most successful publishers. But, with this new comic book universe, Humanoids is taking a number of common criticisms of comics and building itself a platform by addressing them. It’s a good time to be a comic book fan and H1 could make it even better by revolutionizing the industry.
What do you think about H1? Do you think it has the potential to make a difference in the comic book industry?