The character debuted in Sideways #1, which was originally promoted in spring 2017 as part of a group of new comic series set for release in fall 2017. They were branded as the "Dark Matter" line and their stories follow events from the Dark Nights: Metal crossover. In November 2017, the line was rebranded as the "New Age of DC Heroes" and publication was delayed until early 2018. The first issue of Sideways was published February 14, 2018. Like the other first issues in the line, it featured a vertical gatefold cover. When closed, the cover shows Sideways exiting a portal in the sky. When opened, additional characters can be seen on the ground below him and in the sky above him. Writer Grant Morrison has agreed to co-write some future issues with Didio.
Within the context of the stories, Derek James is a Puerto Rican high school student who falls through a dimensional rift into the dark matter dimension. As a result, he gains the power to travel through dimensions.
The character and comic initially received mixed reviews, with the first issue averaging 7 out of 10 according to review aggregator Comic Book Roundup. In a review of the first issue for IGN, Blair Marnell praised Rocafort's art but said the teenage dialogue was "so far off of the mark that it borders on self-parody." Bleeding Cool disagreed, calling the character "charming" but the story "meandering". It went on to say Rocafort's art is fantastic but not the best fit for the comic's tone. The character is part of an effort to increase diversity within the fictional setting and has received attention for being a minority character drawn by a Puerto Rican artist.