The long-awaited remastered edition of Mark Wheatley and Marc Hempel’s acclaimed graphic novel, Breathtaker, finally has a scheduled 2020 release date from Titan Comics. What’s more, it has a brand-new companion comic and a wide-ranging traveling exhibit to go along with it.
With innovative projects like Mars, Jonny Quest, Tarzan, and Blood of the Innocent already behind them, writer-artists Wheatley (Radical Dreamer, EZ Street) and Hempel (The Sandman: The Kindly Ones, Gregory) turned their attention to another collaboration in 1990. Their resulting creation, Chase Darrow, is on the run. Both Chase and her mother had this crazy idea that the government should not be in the business of deciding how she should live her life. But now the NSA has set their lead agent on her trail. He is known only as The Man, and his toxic masculinity is as ramped up as his strength and agility. In a way, The Man is a symbol of just how frightened the government is of Chase. They don’t see the nice girl who wants to be left to live her own life. They see someone who is either going to be a threat or an asset. They have given her the code name of Breathtaker. Call Chase Darrow what you want, but whatever the label, the truth is that she is a nice young woman who was born with the power to love a man to death. Chase Darrow might be the only real, living example of a succubus. Breathtaker is part horror story about a woman with the power to drain men of their very life force … part romance, because her lovers are her willing victims … part crime story, as Chase is on the run from a government that has branded her a criminal … and part superhero story: The Man, in addition to working for the NSA, is a popular television and merchandising figure who also happens to have extraordinary powers and abilities that he is using to hunt down and capture Chase in an effort to boost his sagging Nielsen ratings. Breathtaker is all about Love, Death, Sex and Power. Originally serialized as a four-issue, Prestige format mini-series, Breathtaker became a highly-praised, best-selling trade paperback for DC’s Vertigo imprint.
Upon its original release reaction was strong and swift, in terms of both sales and critical acclaim. Sandman and American Gods creator and acclaimed novelist Neil Gaiman said, “Breathtaker proves itself something utterly odd and new. Powerful art, vibrant coloring, a new, quirky story told in a different way,” and Thor and Ragnarok writer-artist Walt Simonson said, “Breathtaker is the sound of breaking glass in the morning, the smell of diesel oil in the afternoon, the frisson of violence in the evening, and the delight of love and death at night. This is why I read comic books.” Since then, talents as diverse as Mark Waid, David Lloyd, Jason Minor, Barry Lyga, Jose Villarrubia, Mike Oeming, and Mark Buckingham, among others, have praised Breathtaker.
Now, in addition to the lavish, brilliantly restored Breathtaker graphic novel itself, Titan Comics will release Breathtaker: Make Way For the Man. The issue, ostensibly Make Way For The Man #138 (which was referred to in the original Breathtaker story), is the first all-new collaboration between Wheatley and Hempel in 20 years. Both will be featured in the March 2020 issue of Previews from Diamond Comic Distributors.
“Titan are thrilled to be able to be bring this outstanding title back into publication. We believe that both the remastered edition and exhibition will not only prove to be a joy of rediscovery for existing fans, but also bring a whole new generation of fans into the Breathtaker world,” said Nick Landau, Publisher of Titan Comics.
Beyond the graphic novel and new comic from Titan, Wheatley and Hempel’s Insight Studios Group will mount the “Breathtaker Exhibition,” which was created by the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts and will appear at McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. With more than 90 original works of art, the exhibition explores the creative and physical processes that were undertaken during the original production of the comic Breathtaker in the 1990s, as well as how the work was re-adapted, tweaked and in some cases reworked by the artists during the preparation stages for the Titan Comics re-release. Incorporating examples from all aspects of the creative process, the exhibition will offer the viewer the opportunity to experience story and character development; penciled, inked, and painted art; and samples of completed comic pages – that all are part of constructing a narrative in the comic format. The exhibition will be on view August 24, 2020 through October 30, 2020.
“This exhibition highlights a major work in the history of the graphic novel,” said Martin W. Mahoney, Director of Curatorial Operations at Normal Rockwell Museum. “Breathtaker marks a major tipping point in the graphic novel, a point when major publishing houses were just beginning to see the power that these works could convey. A time when the major comic publishers DC and Marvel were starting to look at how they could invest in the graphic novel and add it to their respective lineups.”
“McDaniel College is proud to serve as the premiere host of the Breathtaker Exhibition, which represents a chance to see up close the results of the creative chemistry and collaborative process between Mark Wheatley and Marc Hempel. This is a natural fit for McDaniel, having previously mounted a major exhibition exploring the serious side of newspaper comic strips, as it provides the opportunity to look behind-the-scenes at the process that gave birth to an award-winning graphic novel. The engaging mix of the art displayed will only further enhance the incredible story in the book,” said Robert Lemieux, associate professor of communication and cinema, McDaniel College.
“It is gratifying to see an institution of the stature of the Norman Rockwell Museum and such a highly regarded college as McDaniel recognizing the legitimate power of comic art to communicate, entertain and explore social constructs and ideas. Without their strong and creative support, this exhibition would not be happening. The truth is, there are comic fans in every walk of life. And we shouldn’t be surprised to find many of these fans working in the arts,” said Mark Wheatley.