Video corner: Independent Sources covers Diversity in Comics at NYCC

Independent Sources is a local to NYC show that spotlights ethnic and local news. Hosted by Zyphus Lebrun, it’s put together by CUNY (City University of New York ) and runs on their cable station. Last week’s episode, covers various aspects of diversity in comics, with thoughtful interviews with Marvel’s Sana Amanat, Image’s David Brothers, Morgan Dubin from Abrams Comic Arts, Jonathan Gray, Assistant Professor of English, John Jay College, artist Dexter Vines and yours truly. Aside from my having to terrifyingly reënect walking into a comic shop, it’s a sprightly look at the basic issues of diversity and the widening audience for comics. There’s also a nice segment on a cosplayer who designed a Rita Repulsa costume and others for curvier women.

Amanat does I nice job, I think of putting the recent changes into perspective—it’s always on their minds, she says, but it has to be balanced against business realities. Luckily, business realities now are favoring diversity of material.

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NYCC ’14 panels you missed: Geeks of Color Go Pro

by Edie Nugent

From L to R: Diana Pho, LeSean Thomas, Alice Meichi Li, Daniel Jose Older, I.W. Gregorio and Tracey J. John

From L to R: Diana Pho, LeSean Thomas, Alice Meichi Li, Daniel Jose Older, I.W. Gregorio and Tracey J. John

The main stage spectacles of NYCC saw panels filled with celebrity actors and moderators alike, whipping thousands of screaming audience members into a frenzy. No less intense or enthusiastic, however, were the panels scheduled towards the end of the night in the smaller conference rooms at the Javits Center. Once such panel—Geeks of Color Go Pro—filled its room to capacity with a diverse audience of fans and comic book industry hopefuls cheering just as passionately as fans in the rooms twice its size.

“Don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo,” declared Tracy J. John, writer for such marquee video game franchises as Oregon Trail and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.  This comment, which came later in the proceedings, proved to be a kind of mission statement for the panel as a whole. Moderated by Tor Books editor Diana Pho, the panel participants represented a diversity of gender, race, and sexual orientation.

Pho opened by asking the panel to tell their “origin stories,” referring to how they arrived at their current careers within an industry that has long suffered from a dearth of diversity.  Tracey J. John kicked things off, saying: “a long long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…I went to NYU and got a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies.” She went on to say that she garnered an internship at MTV News, which led to a job working for MTV.com. “We wrote about these things called ‘music videos,’” she joked. This job placed her in the perfect spot to capitalize on her World of Warcraft addiction when MTV looked to launch a video game focused section of its website. She recalled thinking, “whoa, I can get paid to write about video games?” She later turned to freelance work for Wired, NY Post, and Playstation Magazine. Desirous of a more stable paycheck, she turned to a job at Gameloft and worked in game development. Recently she decided to shake things up again, and has returned to freelance work.

I.W. Gregorio, who claimed she’s still getting used to being addressed by the pen name her day job requires, opened by speaking the question on the minds of many an audience member:  “How did a urologist end up being a YA author?” She went on to explain she felt the better question to be “why would an aspiring author become a doctor?” She spoke of her racially isolated childhood where she knew immediately she wanted to be a writer, but felt family pressure “like a lot of kids of color” to enter either law or medicine to be deemed a ‘success’ culturally. Her talents in math and science led her to choose the path of medicine, “enough people had told me that I wanted to be a doctor that I ended up being one.” She did attempt, in her words, to “try to have my cake and eat it too” also studying English while in college. She went on to pursue medicine and take a 10 year break from writing before her passion was reignited during her residency. She was grateful to be a doctor because she felt it enables her “writing career…and gives me a lot of stories.” She described how her new book None of the Above was inspired by an intersex teenager she treated during her residency.

Daniel Jose Older, author of the upcoming Half-Resurrection Blues, the first book in what is to be an ongoing urban fantasy series for Penguin Book’s Roc imprint, began by saying that Gregorio’s story “actually really connects to mine. In 2009 I was a paramedic and community organizer doing work on gender violence and intersections of racism. I was trying how to figure out how to have a voice and what that meant as a writer.” He  explained that he loved Star Wars and Harry Potter, but that he and the kids of color he was working work didn’t see themselves in those stories, “and there was a disconnect.” This inspired him to “sit down and write Shadowshaper which got picked up by the folks at Scholastic that put out Harry Potter, so it was this really big dream come true.” He explained that the process of publishing his first work took over 6 years and that “publishing will make you learn patience” which drew a big laugh from the crowd. He continued to work on stories during that time, and work on adult fiction, which led him to Half-Resurrection Blues, due out in 2015. His background as a paramedic inspired the new book: “a lot of this comes from being on the front lines…dealing with life and death.”

Author Alice Meichi Li knew she wanted to be an artist since the age of five. “I grew up in a Chinese restaurant in a really rough part of Detroit,” she said. She explained how this kept her indoors for her own safety, drawing on the back of the placemats of her parents’ restaurant. She also felt pushed towards a career in more economically dependable fields like law, medicine, or IT technologies. “When faced with the prospect of applying for college, all I could think about was arts school,” she said. “I was in Army Junior ROTC and my Staff Sargent saw some of my art and he said: what are you doing here? You should be taking art class, you should be pursuing this.” She eagerly took his advice, worrying her family members regarding her future. She graduated High School at the top of her class and her family told her she should be making “six-figures somewhere”—not becoming a starving artist. She conceded that’s “pretty much what happened,” to the amusement of the audience. “I did have to end up balancing a day job,” she said, with her art career: she worked at the well-known comic book store Forbidden Planet. “But I was doing Artist’s Alleys and that’s how I made a lot of my connections. If you’re trying to be an artist in comics that’s pretty much your best bet.”

“Everybody’s got all these cool stories,” remarked Black Dynamite producer and director LeSean Thomas. “I was born and raised in the South Bronx, John Adams projects at 152nd Street,” he said. Some in the crowd applauded this mention—then laughed as Thomas joked that he was in the part of the Bronx that exists “past Yankee Stadium” where most New Yorkers’ familiarity with the Bronx begins and ends. “I grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons, reading comic books, “ he recalled. He said he felt comic books were a more realistic career path for him, as the tools used to produce comics were more affordable than those of cartoon animation: “they don’t sell light-boxes at the bodegas,” he quipped.

Thomas ended up in a High School arts program called Talent Unlimited. Following High School he took a job at a sporting goods store to make ends meet. While working there, he was spotted sketching by his store manager whose wife worked at a children’s accessories company. The company quickly employed him to work on designs for accessories featuring licensed characters. Through his work there, he met Joe Rodgers who mentored the young artist and eventually “I became a flash artist/storyboard artist on this web-cartoon called WorldGirl, and it got picked up by Showtime, I think it was the first cartoon to get picked up by a major network,” he said. His success there led to him meeting Carl Jones, who moved to Los Angeles and teamed with The Boondocks creator Aaron MacGruder on the now famous Cartoon Network series based on MacGruder’s comic strip of the same name. “He [Jones] needed people who could understand Hip-Hop culture, Anime, and social/political/racial satire, and it was very hard to find that kind of talent in Hollywood,” he paused as the crowd laughed before putting it bluntly: “let alone somebody who could draw a black person.” This led him to move to Los Angeles to work on the show, which he feared would soon be canceled due to its controversial and sometimes “wildly inappropriate” content.

The series proved a critical and ratings success for Cartoon Network, and Thomas said he felt liberated by the mostly black racial makeup of The Boondocks’ creative team. “I grew up in a society where the White male was the dominant character…to be able to work on a show where my boss was Black, the characters we were creating were Black and we were saying the things we wanted to say without caring what other people thought, Black or White, was really liberating,” he said,  “and was one of the best experiences for me.” He went on to comment that his experience working on The Boondocks “catapulted his career,” gave him the chance to move overseas, opening many career opportunities for him—not the least of which was his teaming up producer Carl Jones to produce the Adult Swim series Black Dynamite. He noted how rare it was to have three shows in a row to his credit that found him working under Black people, on shows starting Black characters: The Boondocks, Legend of Korra, and Black Dynamite.

“I guess I should pitch in about myself, and I thought: oh, I’m the moderator—just sit here and look pretty,” joked Diana Pho, before continuing:  “I grew up in New England, in a very White town. I was always the only Asian girl in my class and my family is from Vietnam: no one knew where Vietnam was, because actually in my High School they never talked about the Vietnam War.” This statement elicited shocked sounds from the assembled crowd, but also some knowing murmurs that appeared to understand all too well the sort of erasure her statement described. Pho explained that she found escape from her outsider status through books, especially science fiction and fantasy novels. While studying English at college, she felt her options for employment were limited to work as a teacher, continuing her studies of Russian—her minor field—in order to obtain a Master’s Degree in it, or something else. “I chose something else,” she said, “and that was publishing.”

She explained she felt publishing to be a small field, insular in nature-and a field where it: “has to do with the connections you make, that’s what I learned,” she said. Her first job involved editing test books for college admissions for a summer. “What it did provide me was internship experience in marketing,” Pho said, explaining that this led to her getting a job with Hachette Press. She worked there in sales and marketing for several years before a colleague recommended her for a position at the Science Fiction Book Club making catalogues. She ended up following this with a Master’s in Performance Studies—doing her thesis in Steampunk performance—and graduated to assume her current role at Tor Books.

The panel then opened up for questions from the audience where Pho asked that the questions be “tweet-sized” to try and get to everyone’s question, but the line for the microphone grew long enough that the panel was forced to wrap up with audience members still on line. One asked: “what was one thing that you wish you knew when you started out that you know now?” Gregorio explained that as a representative of the We Need Diverse Books campaign (weneeddiversebooks.tumblr.com): “I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that there are obviously challenges for diverse authors, the first book I wrote had and Asian-American multicultural protagonist-and three different editors said: oh, it’s too similar to another book with an Asian-American character.” She explained that she knew other authors of color who had run into enough of the same problem that they feared they might have to only write about White characters going forward. “The We Need Diverse Books campaign is most effective because it’s been showing the gatekeepers that they are wrong. Fifty percent of children in schools today are children of color, but only ten percent of books have minority protagonists.” She also called upon the audience to open up their wallets and support works by authors of color and/or featuring main characters of color.

John added on to Gregorio’s comments by telling the audience to not be afraid of the status quo, and gave an example of her work in gaming journalism. “Things that I did…aside from asking the questions I needed to do my job, I’d throw in some poignant questions—I’ve asked Shigeru Miyamoto: why does Princess Peach need saving again? Didn’t she get some self-defense classes by then?” John continued: “or the developer of a family game why there wasn’t an option to be a Black person, they just had different tans? Ask those kinds of questions. It can be intimidating: Oh I have this opportunity to interview a game developer, I don’t want to screw it up. I’d say ask the normal questions and then save those for the end.”

Older replied: “when you’re starting out as a writer there’s a lot of advice given out to you, like: you have to build your platform, you have to network! And there’s this very common, very White Western narrative of breaking out as an author,” he said, “where you’re that singular rocket ship that flies away to become famous overnight…what it requires us to do, especially as writers and creators of color, is to really reimagine what success means to us anytime we’re entering into any kind of project or career.” He went on to emphasize the need to build community, outside of what he called a “putting points on your resume” style of thinking. “What will sustain you is unity. That’s what will have your back when things are hard,” he said, “and things will be hard.” He noted that more than fans, writers need people who will tell them the truth—people who will give them the “hard critique.” He also said he wanted to shout-out to: fanbros.com, nerdgasmnoire.net as well as blackgirlnerds.com, saying of the organizations: “these groups are collectives of people of color, proudly nerds, proudly of color, talking about racism, talking about Sleepy Hollow,” he said, “we need to talk about these things because that’s community” drawing many loud cheers from the audience.

Li wished to add a piece of advice she claimed to hear often:  “you are the average of the five people you interact with most in life,” she said, “so if you have a bunch of people who are ambitious, who are trying to do what you’re trying to do you’re going to kind of automatically get lifted up with them. You want at least three of them to be in a place where you aspire to be.” She paused, then continued:  “I add that you should look for someone who is: 1) an older mentor, to get advice from, 2) an equal, that you can be a comrade-at-arms with and share you career path with and 3) someone you can mentor, because you can learn a lot from teaching.”

“The thing that I wish I’d known before getting into animation, that I do now is that all the animation jobs are in California,” said Thomas, to loud laughter from the crowd. Thomas clearly meant the comment seriously, adding: “I wouldn’t have stayed in New York as long if I’d have known there were no real animation jobs in New York the way there are in California…I probably would’ve made my pilgrimage a lot sooner.”

Another attendee asked how the artists dealt with accusations of racism. “I just got called racist the other day, so that was fun,” recounted Older, saying that because the bad guys in a story were White he’d had the accusation leveled at him. “There’s no easy answer, but you have to go with your gut and trust your instincts because when the shit flies, you have to be able to stand up for your work. I know what I did in that story—and I have much worse stories about White people than that,” he said, laughing.

Gregorio added: “publishing is a team sport, you’re going to have editors and marketing people—they’ll catch anything really bad,” she said, “and also you have to realize we’re all going to get criticism. Haters are gonna’ hate, it’s alright!”

A reporter asked if the panel felt any responsibility towards social justice storylines. Thomas replied: “you know on Black Dynamite me and Carl Jones, the executive producer, always used to joke that we were like social workers in animation, not to belittle social work, but we liked to joke that because we were one of the few [shows] that touched on those issues,” he said.  “The most important thing for us is that it has to be funny, that’s the golden rule. The second rule is that it has to be genuine. If it’s honest, if it comes from a good place there’s always humor in it….and the third is to make people uncomfortable, not in a negative way but to make them think outside what they normally expect.”

The final question came from a Bleeding Cool reporter who asked, “Why are we still having this conversation? I feel like we’re constantly having the same conversation: do you see an end to it, do you think? Where we’re not going to need to have ‘Geeks of Color’ in the corner at 8:00pm?”

“So you’re saying Geeks of Color needs to be at noon, is what you’re saying? I agree I think it should be much earlier.” Thomas joked.

Pho added: “we’re going to keep having this conversation until we hit critical mass,” she said. Pho explained that critical mass was not when people stopped asking questions, but rather that: “we need a critical mass of answers from all over the place, not just from us but from you guys—not just from you guys but from everyone at this convention, and not just this convention—about how pop culture functions, how media functions,” she said, “we all have to hit that critical mass point and that’s when the conversation stops.”

“I feel your point a lot,” Older added, indicating the reporter, “we do need this and part of the reason is the industry is still very racist, still very White, and so we need to have these conversations…the job and the struggle and the challenge for us is to push the conversation forward so it’s not so circular,” he said. “So that’s why we need diverse books, which is such an important way to get everyone together. We need to talk about power analysis.” Older also stressed that he felt there were necessary conversations that weren’t had before this generation of creators and it was important to recognize those that came before him. “We’re here because the folks before us fought their fight,” he said, “so we’re fighting our fight for the next generation of artists of color, writers of color…and that involves getting together and having ‘geeks of color’ panels which makes people uncomfortable, which is good, as it should.”

$2000 statue and more stolen at New York Comic Con

stolen dunny

While the harassment problems seems to have been put under control, by and large, there are a rather alarming number of reports of theft from the show, including this one, about a hand painted “Dunny” statue worth $2000 being stolen from a booth. The culprit was caught on tape taking the items at 7:25 after the show closed and fled on foot.

Nick Curtis, an associate editor at the magazine, said the 20-inch, high-priced action figure had been hand-painted by artist Jon-Paul Kaiser during the event.

“What had been done is that an artist did a live painting of it during Comic Con, making it essentially a one-of-a-kind piece of art on a 3-D canvas,” he said.

The bunny-like figurines are typically 3-inches tall, mass-produced and retail for $15, Curtis said.

The thief also stole a Popaganda “TDY” figure worth $80 and a Goodley Toy action figure worth $100, police said.

I also saw tweets indicating that writer Amy Chu’s laptop was stolen, and there’s a report of an artist having some pages stolen as well.

Thievery doesn’t invite the same kind of “they were asking for it” response as other kinds of claims, but unfortunately, these incidents are a reminder that leaving valuable things lying around is not a good idea at a crowded con. It’s also a sad comment on an otherwise peaceful crowd.

I know of one creator who had his laptop stolen right off his table at a foreign show. (I also know of several people who had wallets stolen at comic book after partys over the years—enough so that I’d rather stand around with 20lbs of equipment on my shoulder than leave them unattended.) While these kind of thefts are not uncommon everywhere, there do seem to have been several at this year’s NYCC.

Anyway, keep an eye on valuables!

NYCC ’14: Wes Craig Double-Downs with Dynamic Panels and Recurring Symbols in ‘Deadly Class’ and ‘Blackhand’

by Zachary Clemente
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In the incredibly crowded Artist Alley of New York Comic-Con, I sat down with illustrator Wes Craig to talk about his work on Blackhand Comics and Deadly Class, both published in print by Image Comics. His work exhibits some of the most exciting paneling structures and dynamic representation of motion, at least to me. I’m pleased to say that our conversation was halted many times as eager attendees came up get copies of Deadly Class signed, buy a copy of Blackhand, or just share a few words. Craig was worked on Guardians of the Galaxy, Judge DreddT.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, Batman Annual, and many more.

Comics Beat: Like many, I first found your work in Deadly Class, then started look at Blackhand [Comics]. I found your panel structure and your ability to move the reader’s eye dynamic and fluid, even when panels doesn’t necessarily exist. How does your process begin and how does that looser form start taking place?

Wes Craig: For years in my sketchbook, I’ve been trying to think of different ways of presenting a page as something you maybe haven’t seen before. Deadly Class was kind of my first opportunity to do that for other people to see. I did a bit of it in Blackhand and my previous work for myself that no one really ever saw, but Deadly Class was the first public version of that.

I take what Rick [Remender] has in the script and I try to figure out what the scene is about. A lot of have people have brought up the first issue – it’s really just a flat-out chase scene. I know that you can’t present motion in comics and that’s a problem with comics: you can’t do music or motion – but I try to make the page dynamic and make it feel like it’s kind of moving. So, I go back to my sketchbooks to come up with as many ideas as I can like breaking the borders or having characters fall into the next panel, and all that kind of stuff helps with that feeling.

CB: With Blackhand, I didn’t realize how it was going to be published in print. It being an object with a horizontal format is exciting.

WC: Those started off as webcomics and I wasn’t sure at first if I was ever going to publish them – that’s why it’s kind of formatted like a computer screen. It makes for an interesting looking thing and not may books have those dimensions. It stands out in a stack of other comics.

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Blackhand Comics – The Seed

CB: The three stories in Blackhand all exhibit very different paneling styles each a discussion on three different types of stories. When did you working on Blackhand?

WC: It started around the same time as Deadly Class, I forget exactly. I think I started it just before Rick initially emailed me to work on Deadly Class, so it’s been going on for a while. It just takes a while to get it done, obviously. I do it in between issues; there’s usually a little gap between when I finish an issue of Deadly Class and when the next script comes in. I’ll try to get in as many pages as a I can, sometimes on weekends or whatever. Most of my days are spent on Deadly Class so it’s kind of a slow process, but I still managed to release three stories in this book. I have two new stories online, and I’m working on the thumbnails of the third story. That’ll all hopefully be Blackhand Book 2, maybe next year or something.

CB: Will that be through Image as well?

WC: Yeah, I think this’ll [Blackhand Comics] do well enough that it’ll be good for everyone involved – they seem to be totally up for it.

CB: It does appear to be flying off your table.

WC: I actually had to go back to the Image booth to get more from them. They have so many books there, that this can get lost in the shuffle for them but for people specifically coming to see me, it’s right there. [Gestures to the sole remaining copy on his table]

CB: I couldn’t find a lot about your earlier career, what was the path you took?

WC: I’ve been working professionally for a little bit over 10 years–I keep saying that, but I’ve been saying it for two years now. So 12 years or whatever it may be, but it’s always been an issue of this here, an issue of that there. [I had] a little run on some Wildstorm stuff back in the day, a little run of Guardians of the Galaxy – so I’ve never been known as the guy who does that one thing. This convention’s a very different experience for me now because I’m the guy drawing Deadly Class so I have a constant stream of people that are into it here to see me.

The initial thing with Rick started when I did an issue with Lee [Loughridge] [for DC] – I’m a big fan of his work in Deadly Class and his work in general. I kept on bugging DC with working with with Lee, thinking we’d match up well together; it took a while to convince them, but when we finally got the chance with the Legends of the Dark Knight digital comic. […] I think Rick used to live down the street from Lee and they’d get together, drink beers, and shoot the shit and when Lee was working on one of the Batman pages, Rick leaned over asking “who’s this guy?” It was pure coincidence – I’m a big Rick Remender fan and I’m a big fan of the artists he chooses to work with; I was flattered that he gave me the shot. We get along well now and it’s kind of the perfect situation.

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Volume 1 Cover

CB: It looks like you never really had any ownership in your previously published work. How is it having way more of an input within a full story?

WC: It’s great, man. You just feel more invested in it – all that experimental page composition stuff was always in the back of my mind, but I never tried it in the Marvel or DC stuff. People seem to love it and I wonder why I didn’t start doing it earlier, but you just don’t feel the same way. […] You’re not sure you want to give them your best stuff because once you give them that, they own it. You don’t see as many characters being created for those companies anymore. If they have a great character, they’re going to do it themselves. Once I started Deadly Class, I felt more free to stretch out.

CB: What kind of input do you have on how the story of Deadly Class forms?

WC: That’s part of–not just being co-owners–but being invested. […] He’ll do the plot, but we’ll talk out ideas a lot, informing what will become the next issues and we’ll talk out where we want to go with it. I feel like the other books that he’s working on are more structured in terms of where they’re gonna go, but with this one we don’t know for sure where we’re gonna end up; we wanted to be a bit more free with it. So he’ll call me up, we’ll talk through ideas figuring out what’s the most interesting way to go with it, he’ll write the script, then call me up again. I think his thing is that he likes to talk it out a few times with not just me until it’s really fully figured out in his mind; he can tell by our reactions what’s working and what’s not.

It’s weird working with him, actually. When I write my own stuff for Blackhand, I’m much more structured, deliberate, and I take my time whereas he’ll give me a scene and if it’s not working right he’ll want to fix it up, asking me what I want to do and I’ll have to be on my toes and come up with something on the spot. It’s not what I’m used to but it stretches a different muscle, spitting out ideas until you find something that works – it’s pretty collaborative.

CB: I feel that’s something we’re seeing with more Image titles than most; the divisions of writer/artist are necessarily as clean cut.

WC: For sure. I’m sure it’s different with each team but there’s a bunch of guys that I talk to who have a great back and forth.

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Deadly Class – Issue 4 internal art

CB: In that same vein, does the conversational collaboration extend to working with Lee?

WC: Well, he’s amazing so I pretty much do let him do what he wants unless there’s something very specific that I have in mind. But when he’s finished with the colors, I might go in and tweak something; it’s very alive as we’re working on it. When Rick gives me the script, the dialogue is just the basic idea of what people say and when he gets the artwork, he goes in and write the actual dialogue. It’s always ongoing and forming as we’re working on it. When I’m working on the art, I have ideas for the colors, but since I like to be left alone and come up with my own ideas, I try to do the same thing for Lee. We set the tone for the colors in the beginning; looking at a Batman: Year One and 80’s colors – it was a good inspiration. I’m [also] a big fan of John Workman as a letterer, so when we’re talking to Rus Wooton, I was asking if he could do the thing with circular balloons with a clipped-off tail that’s kind of John Workman’s way of doing it–Alex Toth did balloons the same way. I thought that would be cool, but aside from that, once we set the tone its hands off and we let them do what they do.

CB: Something I love with Lee’s work on Deadly Class is that he has this amazing perceptive use of black tones.

WC: Yeah, like any good colorist, he understands how to tell a story with the color. He doesn’t like to color until it’s all the artwork is in which can get a little bit tight on the deadline, but just like how I don’t let getting script pages one at a time, he wants to be able to see the whole thing at once.

CB: For Rick, this is a very personal story where he’s bringing in a lot of his own youth. Does any of that happen to you?

WC: Yeah, visual-wise. I get to slip in the occasional thing that’s for me. None of it is obvious, just background things you may not pick up on. I’m a little bit younger than Rick; his teens years were late 80’s and mine were early 90’s, so I’m a bit more of a grunge Nirvana kind of a kid and he’s a punk guy. In that era, my experiences are a little more flowery and nice because I was just a kid with Saturday morning cartoons, but he was a teenager going through the kind of crazy stuff you go through. I just take what I went through as a teenager and relate it back to the 80’s version – it’s all the same thing. He was a punk growing up and I was more of a rockabilly kid, but that sort of comes from a punk thing so we both had very similar stuff happen to us there. His stories are way crazier, but we’ve both been jumped, both been in fights, both done…stuff. Drugs and whatever else.

CB: I think it’s important for people working together to be coming from a unique perspective – from a personal place.

WC: It takes a while to do that, but that’s how it works best. I’m not one of those people who would have a public facebook account for everyone to look at; I don’t put my personal life out there. But to have it matter, you definitely have to put a bit of yourself into the work or else it’s just kind of dry and unrealistic.

CB: Shifting gears a bit – one of the things that really draws people to Deadly Class is the covers. How does a cover form for you and how do you start making it?

WC: Well, Rick likes them to be traditional in style, where the covers have to do with something that’s going on in that issue. The covers need to be done way in advance of the actual pages, so I don’t find that works very well for me. We just need to have them thematically match up with season or that story arc or whatever it is, which is kind of the way it’s going right now. The covers I’m doing right now aren’t exactly about what’s going on in that issue, but they have to do with that time in the school. I come up with a lot of thumbnails–a lot of roughs–trying to think of something visually standout and interesting. I shoot them over to our editor Sebastian Griner and Rick and we talk about what’s hitting us – I obviously push the ones I like the most. The thing with this stuff is there’s no Superman or Batman or Spider-Man on the cover to sell the comic to people. I think a lot of the Image stuff is really interesting cover-wise because you have to do something to stand out from the bunch. Unless you’re Walking Dead or Saga, you have to do something to stand out, so a lot of people have very design-y covers so they don’t get lost in the pack of comics.

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CB: It totally works, at least for me. When Deadly Class comes out, I put it on the top of my stack to say “look at this sweet-lookin’ book.”

WC: [Laughs] Yeah, that’s the idea. This is kind of a blood-dripping kind of theme [gesturing to his banner] but it could be paint, it could be blood; it’s just a dripping motif I try to incorporate into some of the covers and stories. I visualize that if it ever became a TV show, the would have to use it in the opening credits in some way.

CB: Along those lines, I’m curious about your use of recurring symbology in both Blackhand and Deadly Class. How conscious are you when creating these and making sure they serve their purpose.

WC: I’m pretty conscious of it. I don’t have as much control over it in Deadly Class since it’s Rick’s story, but if I can find a way to fit in a previously used symbol I will. For instance, when Marcus’s parents are killed, he lets go of a balloon and if you use that enough, it’ll mean something to the reader. You don’t have to show the whole flashback again, you can show just a little glimpse of the balloon and that means Marcus is thinking back about his parents. I saw it in David Mack’s Kabuki a lot; he would reuse these same symbols over and over again. Frank Miller did it a lot too; like the death scene in Dark Knight Returns, where his mom’s pearl necklace is snapped – you see it in slow motion and it becomes little circles. Then, three or four chapters later, all you have to show is that one little panel with those circles, and you know what he’s thinking.

It’s a strong thing that comics get to use, you can make a richer experience for the reader if you layer it that way. In Blackhand, I have full control of that so I try to have recurring elements a lot. It works better in a longer form like Deadly Class or a graphic novel where you have the pages to repeat, repeat, repeat until it means something to the reader. It’s like hitting notes [taps fingers on table], it becomes like a note in a song.

CB: Like hearing two seconds of a song and knowing exactly what it is?

WC: Yeah, there’s certain things we [comics] don’t have. We don’t have music, we don’t have motion. Music is a major thing that’s able to influence or manipulate people’s emotions; we can’t have that, but we can have other things like symbols. Not to hearken back to these 80’s comics, but Watchmen has these recurring elements that are really effective at hitting you. All of them become something more, and they get to play on it with variations, like there’s the bit with Dr. Manhattan with the smiley-face on Mars.

CB: It can add new perspectives to already an already touched-on theme.

WC: Especially with Deadly Class where the story is crazy and all-over-the-place, the use of recurring symbols can give it a form of cohesion.

CB: It’s successful visual storytelling.

WC: [Laughs] Thanks man.

CB: No Wes, thank you.

 

Wes Craig is an illustrator currently in Montreal and the artist on Deadly Class. You can also see his Blackhand Comics webcomic here.

The first volume of Deadly Class, “1987 – Reagan Youth” and the first volume of Blackhand Comics are available in print from Image Comics.

NYCC ’14: Paul Pope Talks Aurora West & Collaboration In His World

by Zachary Clemente

IMG_1329As the first day of New York Comic-Con came to close and exhibitors began shutting down their booths, I conducted my third interview with acclaimed cartoonist Paul Pope. This time we discussed his new entry in his Battling Boy series with First Second: The Rise of Aurora West, co-written by J.T. Petty and illustrated by David Rubín. Pope is an accomplished cartoonist, his published works including 100%The One-Trick RipoffEscapoBatman: Year 100Heavy Liquid and is the recipient of multiple Eisner awards. It was a pleasure to speak with Pope again; you can find the first two interviews here and here.

Comics Beat: Paul, have you had a chance to wander the floor or are you only here for the bits you need to be here for?

Paul Pope: That’s the unfortunate thing about working on this side of things, you don’t go as a far anymore. But whatever, it’s not I’m Samuel L. Jackson, I don’t need to sneak in wearing a costume or anything.

CB: So The Rise of Aurora West just came out, how’s the reception been for that so far?

PP: I don’t want to say surprisingly, but I’m very happy to say it’s been very positive. When it came out last Wednesday [9/30] I went out to the west coast and promptly got sick because the tour schedule can be punishing, especially when you’re in airports and schools and you’re not sleeping – it all caught up to me eventually. I was out there for APE but I just couldn’t finished the tour unfortunately, they sent me back and when I got home I slept for 2 days straight. I’ve been rescheduling with all the places I couldn’t get to, figuring out the best to time to get back soon. Hopefully it won’t be too much of a loss.

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CB: With Aurora West, you’re choosing to let this world [of Battling Boy] into other creators’ hands. How is the process of – I don’t want to say “sacrifice” – collaboration within this world that you’ve been working on alone for so long?

PP: I talked to Mike Mignola about this not too long ago. […] You know what he’s done with Hellboy has been great because he’s been able to invite other creators. It was pretty early on that it was looking like Battling Boy was going to be a hit, or at least it would warrant a second series. Since I’m still working on the second book and now promoting it, they asked if I had any ideas and I said we should do a series on Haggard West and Aurora – fill in all the gaps that are implied in the first book as I finish the second book, periodically leave town and come back again.

 

CB: So not only is it wise for world-building but also strategically a good thing for you.

PP: Yeah, also there is a larger backdrop to the characters and to the world; like, the monsters come from somewhere. In the Aurora series, we getting more of a sense of the mystery of where the monsters come from. It’s more of a pulp adventure.

CB: I thoroughly enjoyed it. It felt very rooted in manga with the printing format and art style.

PP: Well, J.T. understands horror and he gets pulp. David Rubín, like myself, comes from a sort of internationalist style and he likes manga a lot. He was able to keep it within a spectrum of style and approach that’s similar to mine and yet still be his own.

CB: It’s rare to see a very successful treatment of somebody else’s work by another artist who can inhabit both styles at once.

PP: Yeah, it was a lot of fun. He’s really fast too, which is great – he’s kicking my ass at the moment, I have to admit. I’m really happy with the results.

CB: Getting into the themes of the book, something I liked was taking the tropes of the “science” [super] hero idea and the consequence and responsibility of power. Haggard provided for this city for so long, when he turned inward, the city couldn’t handle itself. I found that best discussed in the scene with man on the bridge. How did this theme of power and consequence form?

PP: Well, it was one of the things J.T. and I talked about. I went in with my core idea based on the big, super-bible we wrote – we meaning me – for Battling Boy. We started talking about what the reality would be like, having your children stolen and we decided to try to do something where Haggard gets shaken out of his state of depression by having to help another father. I thought it was a good emotional bit – and it’s something we don’t typically see. […] In Battling Boy, it’s a little more breezy and focused on the main five or six characters. You see more in the second book about other citizens, but for the most part it’s just Battling Boy, Aurora, and the city planners.

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The Rise of Aurora West

CB: So now we’re getting a larger scope of what’s going on in Acropolis and how it’s dealing with its problems?

PP: Yeah, and obviously Battling Boy, as the name implies, is designed to have lots of explosions and fights and all kinds of stuff like that. Whereas Aurora was more psychological.

CB: It almost felt like the two different sides of Batman books. One’s very detective-based and the other is very action-based.

PP: That was plan going into it, actually. It’s frustrating though. Same with the character Dad in Battling Boy - there were a couple of scenes that I had to write out of Battling Boy that had to do with Dad just kicking ass because for one, that could be its own thing later. I also didn’t want to distract from the core of the story of Battling Boy which was the Boy’s coming of age. In Aurora, it’s the same. Luckily her version of Dad is Haggard; we get to see him without his mask and we get to see him in a family setup.

CB: That leads into my next question which is a big part of both books: would you call Haggard a good father?

PP: That’s a good question, you could ask the same of Dad. I think one of the things that attracted me to writing a story like this was thinking about how being a superhero or war god doesn’t leave you time to raise your kids – you’ll be busy. I’m interested in, fascinated and haunted by that idea of child soldiers. You hear about those types of things in Somalia; to have your child taken away from you. That’s something I find very sympathetic with Aurora and that’s something I wanted to explore with her character – how does she remain innocent?

CB: When we last talked, you said that you had things to say to children with Battling Boy; would you see Aurora as a continuation of that?

PP: One thing people seem to be picking up on with Aurora is that they’re really responding to her as a strong, female lead. She’s a teenage girl; she’s not a sexualized character, she’s not helpless; she’s a sidekick or protégé, but she’s got her own ideas and she does her own things. That’s kind of what her character requires and that’s the kind of personality the daughter of Haggard West would have. It’s been fun. […] Battling Boy is more about–well, they’re both about abandonment in a sense, even though Battling Boy’s family is intact. I think Aurora’s story is more tragic, even though it’s kind of cloaked in this light, superhero, science-fiction setting. There’s archaeology and mysticism, but there isn’t any mythology in it. It’s the opposite in Battling Boy since he’s from the realm of gods.

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The Rise of Aurora West

CB: I feel like the archaeology in Aurora is the other side of the coin for Battling Boy‘s mythology. Aurora has this historical scope that I find interesting.

PP: When we went in with the initial pitch for the series, Haggard’s an archaeologist before he’s a hero, and he discovers evidence of an ancient city under the city we know in Battling Boy, and there might’ve been another Battling Boy. The kid is kind of a feral character – it’s implied that Battling Boy has siblings. Imagine, Dad is like a war-god, so he’s probably prolific in line with a lot of mythology. Like with Hercules and Zeus, they have tons and tons of  kids. This god of war, god of conquest – he’s going to be busy fighting battles in the realm of gods, so he needs to have offspring to be able to send them to the realm of humans to take care of basically training-wheel problems. There’s a lot of interesting stuff going on in the background that’s coming out as the series develops.

CB: You touched on how the book came about, but how was the process of sharing the writing and where did duties lie?

PP: We did a sort of back and forth. It was his script and I gave him the liberty to write the voice of Haggard. […] Part of my job now as being a story director as well as art director, so I don’t want to tell him how to do his job. He already knows what to do, he already knows how to direct movies and he writes video games and graphic novels – he’s really intelligent. It was more of us spending a few months really hammering out a story based on me saying “here’s what I really want to do.” We’d work on a core plot, knowing where the story begins and ends. At that point, I let him go and do his own thing. There were a few things though; his first draft was too violent because he likes horror. […] There was some stuff with the characterization that I thought was a little off mark from what I was hoping for. Otherwise, I think the script came in really solid and it hit all the things I wanted. I try to give my collaborators room – I got that from Mignola because he told me that’s how he works with people.

CB: You did something like that with Vertigo anthology, Ghosts where you made the story but didn’t write the script.

PP: Oh you mean with Dave Lapham? Yeah, that was a good experiment. […] I might be doing something else with another guy where I’m drawing something he’s gonna write. The way we worked on the space opera story was I said “here’s what I see: this mini-opera, there are the images I want.” Then we kicked around some ideas and he came up with some interesting stuff. That was more of a true collaboration in a sense because we wrote it together.

MIS01.final

‘Treasure Lost’ in Ghosts #1

CB: How far are you willing to take this collaboration with the Battling Boy world?

PP: Well…it’s easier now after having worked on the film because there’s so many people involved; you can’t be a dictator when it comes to film. With the Battling Boy series that I have been writing and drawing, it’s pretty much my baby; I get minimal editorial input. With the colorist, Hilary Sycamore, she and I have a long conversation before she starts a large stretch of work. I always try to give her the sense of what I’m feeling for a scene. For example, the god realm is always in twilight, the human realm is always Mediterranean with terracotta and aquamarine colors, and the monster realm is like hell so it’s browns and reds.

The place I can be 100% myself is in Battling Boy and as we gradually expand on the series, I want to make sure to pick out people I like and respect and can work with and try to write or direct for their strengths, while being aware of their weaknesses. I think that’s the way to collaborate.

[Spoiler for Aurora West] CB: At the end of Aurora, the monster Coil mentioned that Aurora is his “animus” in the Jungian idea of one half of a whole inside the other and vice versa. Is that a discussion on the origin of monsters and their connection to the children in Battling Boy?

PP: [Laughs] You’re onto something there. Let’s just put it this way: the big boss that we see at the end of Battling Boy who Sadisto is working for is a scribble monster. It’s implied, by the time you hit Aurora, that these monsters might be very old, many of them aren’t even fully formed creatures yet. Yeah, there’s definitely a connection between that and that’ll be coming out as the series develops. Good call on that one.

CB: So, “The Fall of the House of West” – is that the second Battling Boy book itself?

PP: No, that’ll just be called Battling Boy 2. Ultimately, they’ll both be collected – I’m imagining Aurora as a two-parter: Rise of Aurora West and Fall of House West. It’s designed more around this kabuki stage set: tragedy and family. So act one is the rise and act two is the fall; that was definitely very conscious on our part. David wasn’t happy with the title at first; he thought, having come from film and a lover of westerns, he’s seen this type of thing a lot. Like with Battling Boy implies; it’s about a boy who’s fighting. Rise of Aurora West–first of all, it sounds alliterative and The Fall of the House of West has kind of a Shakespearean feel.

CB: I find that both Battling Boy and Aurora are well-described by their titles. As the stories utilize these touchstones in storytelling that people have come to expect, but works with them in such a unique way. The titles end up being evocative for their stories.

PP: Yeah, what’s really fun about it is meeting all these young readers. A lot of them are 10 or 12 years old and they’ve really never read comic books before. They might’ve read Adventure Time or Tintin, but this is the first time a lot of these kids, especially girls, are getting the sense of Kirby Krackle or Moebius. Certainly they know Ghibli’s movies like Spirited Away going into it, but for the first time they’re getting opened up to what we think of as Silver Age comics or awesome French comics from the 70’s.

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The Rise of Aurora West

CB: We might be seeing a lot more of those Nausicaä boxed sets flying off the shelves soon.

PP: I love that film, though Laputa is my favorite, but it’s hard to say as there are so many good ones.

CB: I ultimately fall on Porco Rosso as my favorite.

PP: He [Hayao Miyazaki] said he made it for guys our age. Porco Rosso is a big influence on the coloring in Battling Boy.

CB: I totally see that. It’s all coastal, Mediterranean cities.

PP: I was Italy when I was writing Battling Boy, I just really fell in love with the south of Italy; the lighting and the colors, the way the sea looked on the Adriatic coast. At nighttime with the volcanoes in the distance, it’s so romantic and old. It fits with the ideas I had for Arcopolis; it isn’t like Berlin, 1945- dark and scummy. It’s this old and vibrant city that’s fallen on bad times.

CB: That makes sense with your work and European influences, I think. The recorded history there is just so much older.

PP: Even more so for Africa and Asia. That’s why, in Aurora, the analog for the oldest city is Egypt. I was thinking about all this stuff, but I wasn’t really able to put it across. Where Haggard lives in the city, his decor is very Pacific Northwest – it’s a lot of fun to draw.

CB: It’s got a very collector vibe to it, too.

PP: Yeah, something I noticed with some of the heroes from occult fiction, whether it’s Sherlock Holmes or Lamont Cranston – they collect a bunch of ancient artifacts and stuff. Indiana Jones is like that too, but he’s a thief.

CB: It has those classic Campbellian story elements; out of travel a hero is born.

PP: Actually, Haggard belongs to an explorers club like National Geographic and we’ll see more of those characters later. I’m going to do an annual portrait of Haggard with his compatriots, so in that sense, he’s a little like Doc Savage. Like in Buckaroo Bonzai, he’s got his gang if he needs a specialist in this or that.

CB: Wrapping up, other than Mignola’s “Hellboy-verse”, are there any other series with larger built-up worlds that have this kind of multi-thread publication structure that you’re inspired by?

PP: One big influence is definitely the RKO [Pictures] and Universal [Pictures] movie series from the 30’s and 40’s like Flash Gordon. […] There’s always the classic Universal monster movies, German expressionism and early Soviet-era cinema; whether it’s Eisenstein or Fritz Lang – those are big influences. That’s the fun thing, in the same way that Battling Boy is full of my love of Kirby, Moebius, and Miyazaki, the same of true for Aurora. It’s like a flipped coin – the dark side like Boris Karloff, H.P. Lovecraft – these kind of things, it’s more of a vintage feel.

That works with J.T. because he directs horror movies; he’s writing The Walking Dead video game, I don’t know if you know that. He has a wicked sense of humor and a wicked sense of the wicked, and he also has two children. We got lunch a couple days ago after a signing and we had a long conversation; we got into some dark stuff. [In Aurora] monsters are kidnapping children and we started talking about some really gruesome stuff and it’s like “this is where it’s coming from.”

CB: Thank you very much Paul.

PP: Sure, thank you.

 

Paul Pope is an Eisner-winning cartoonist currently in Brooklyn, New York. He is actively working on his Battling Boy series with publisher First Second. You can find more of his work on his website.

NYCC ’14: All The Beat’s coverage

nycc2014.jpg

As you may have noticed, there were a lot of stories coming out of NYCC.  Here’s a convenient list of what we covered, separated by publisher.

Archie

Archie Vs… Predator? 

Archie’s Dark Circle Line Gives Out A Little More Info

 

Dark Horse

NYCC’14: CCP Games Enlist Dark Horse Comics For EVE: VALKYRIE

NYCC’14: Dark Horse Announces New Goon

NYCC’14: Dark Horse Announces GUN THEORY Hardcover

NYCC’14: Dark Horse Announce Tale of Tropical Epicness

Interview: Dark Horse Publish Sally Heathcote, Suffragette GN – Kate Charlesworth, Artist, Speaks!

NYCC’14: Dark Horse Announces Kabuki Collection

Dark Horse collects Matt Kindt’s Pistolwhip

NYCC’14: Dark Horse Continues Super Week Announcements With RESIDENT ALIEN

NYCC ’14: Dark Horse announces exclusives

 

DC

 NYCC’14: “DC Digital First” New Titles Announced

 

Dynamite

Dynamite Acquires Mage Wars License, Launches With Prose Novel

Twilight Zone Has a New Ongoing Series

Dynamite’s Legenderry Spins Off Three Titles

The World’s Most Evil Button Returns – Smiley the Psychotic Button

Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files: Down Town Coming in Spring 2015

Nancy Collins On an Older Red Sonja in Vulture’s Circle

Bond, James Bond coming from Dynamite

Dynamite expands Art Editions line with Vampiralla, Battlestar Galactica and John Carter

 

IDW

NYCC’14: IDW Brings Chris Carter’s Other Show to Comics

NYCC’14: IDW Adds Spider-Man

NYCC ’14: IDW announces Signings with Simonson, Rodriguez and more

 

Image

NYCC ’14: Frank Quitely on Visual Process and Cyclical Influence

NYCC ’14: Teasers, terror and a few tears: Inside AMC’s Walking Dead Season 5 panel

“Where’s Michonne?” Robert Kirkman gives a behind the scenes look at the past, present and future of ‘The Walking Dead’ comic series at NYCC

Todd McFarlane Passing Spawn Over To Brian Wood

NYCC ’14: Image announces signings and Instagram contest

 

Marvel

 NYCC’14: Marvel Spider-Announcements to Close the Show

NYCC ’14: Marvel finally confirms their Fantastic Four Cancellation: WWBGD?

 NYCC’14: New Black Widow Project and Gamora Series

NYCC’14: New Ant-Man Book Coming From Marvel

NYCC’14: New Hawkeye Creative Team Announced

NYCC’14: Check out Marvel’s Daredevil Promotional Images

NYCC’14: Marvel’s Cup O’ Joe Panel Reveals a Black Vortex, Peggy Carter, and Star Wars Galore

NYCC’14: Retailer Exclusive: Meet Marvel! Marvel Teases Upcoming Events!

NYCC’14: Baby Groot Officially ‘Grooting’ to a Store Near You!

NYCC’14: Marvel Announces Spider-Gwen

Marvel Relaunching Secret Wars in 2015 “in a synergistic fashion across the Marvel brand”

Marvel offers a sneak peek at an AGENTS OF SHIELD episode 

Oni

NYCC ’14: Oni Press Shows Down With Upcoming Lineup

 

Valiant

NYCC’14: Valiant Declare Quantum and Woody Must Die

NYCC’14: Valiant Shows off The Valiant #1

 

Instagram Posts

NYCC 14: #comicsbeat #nycc Barf & Lonestar cosplay

NYCC 14: #comicsbeat #nycc WOW this Cassandra cosplay overwhelms me! #doctorwho

NYCC 14: #comicsbeat DRAGON BALL ADORABLE! #nycc

NYCC 14: #comicsbeat Dance magic dance! Stunning Jareth cosplay! #nycc

NYCC 14: #comicsbeat #nycc legend of korra cosplay

NYCC 14: #comicsbeat AWESOME HANNIBAL COSPLAY #nycc

NYCC 14: #comicsbeat HANNIBAL cosplay!

NYCC 14: #comicsbeat Joel & Tom Servo #mst3k #nycc

NYCC 14: #comicsbeat Awesome dark Phoenix

NYCC 14: #comicsbeat 80’s Storm-brilliant! #nycc

NYCC 14: #comicsbeat @betsyboowho in an amazing Captain Marvel @marvel #nycc

NYCC 14: #comicsbeat Mojo Jojo at #nycc

NYCC 14: #comicsbeat Adorable Steven Universe cosplay #nycc

NYCC 14: #comicsbeat Spot on Babs Tarr #batgirl cosplay at #nycc

NYCC 14: #comicsbeat That #kitemovie crew seemed like a beautiful and terrifying gang.

NYCC 14: #comicsbeat Watch out #nycc

NYCC 14: #comicsbeat Doctor Who cosplayers assemble! #nycc #doctorwho #cosplay

NYCC 14: #comicsbeat Cool #nycc special guests Naruto and R2D2

NYCC 14: #comicsbeat They say it’s made of wax but I dunno…keep your eye on this one.

NYCC 14: #comicsbeat Starting #NYCC off right with some Rocket Raccoon.

 

Misc

New York Comic Con 2014 was the biggest US comic con yet—and one of the most diverse

NYCC ’14: A Conversation with Marc Evan Jackson on the Detroit Creativity Project

Today’s Inside Edition to report on Comic-Con harassment

NYCC’14: NYCC Staff Q&A: Complaints, Compliments, and Concerns from Attendees

Her Universe and Ours

Cosplay, Consent and Signs of the Times

NYCC ’14: Trailer for Powers debuts

#Tweetfolio: Your Guide to the Perfect Portfolio Review

5 Things We Learned About Adam West at #NYCC

NYCC’14: Famous Author to be Adapted as a Graphic Novel!

Grant Morrison and Steve Niles Headline Black Mask’s Second Phase

NYCC ’14: Win $50 for your Halloween swag from Costume Supercenter

NYCC ’14: Day 0—A New Hope

NYCC ’14: Finally, we’ll find out what happens when you clear the room between panels

NYCC ’14 Nom Nom: the special foods of New York Comic Con

NYCC ’14: Comixology announces panels and party

NYCC ’14 — a safety guide

NYCC ’14: Hitch a ride with Uber in their Comic Cars

NYCC ’14: Hero Initiative announces activites including Denny O’Neil

NYCC ’14: Insight Editions offers turtles, assassins and lots more

NYCC ’14: Viz offers exclusives and Takeshi Obata

NYCC ’14: Marvel fans loved their sneak peak at tonight’s episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and forthcoming series Agent Carter

By Edie Nugent

The cast of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Photo Credit: ABC.Marvel Studios

The cast of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Photo Credit: ABC.Marvel Studios

 

 

If the response from the fans at NYCC is anything to go by, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. should delight viewers with “Face My Enemy,” the fourth episode of season two. Nearly 3,000 people lined up in advance of the Friday night screening to obtain bracelets allowing them to get an early look at the episode which airs tonight at 9pm on ABC. Once the doors closed to the exhibition hall, it wasn’t long before Jeff Loeb-Marvel’s Head of Television-stepped onto the stage. The fan response to the Eisner-award winning writer was warm, with extended applause from the crowd.

Loeb seemed genuinely excited to introduce the NYCC exclusive premiere of the episode, explaining that around the Marvel offices the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. franchise is referred to as “The Mothership.” When he expressed how proud he was that the show made it to a second season-something the show’s lackluster first season ratings in no way guaranteed-the cheering reached its’ zenith.

Loeb took full advantage of the atmosphere, saying “one of the things I hope that you learn about season one is, let’s put it this way: anyone can be Hydra.” Loeb opened his button-down shirt to reveal a Hydra logo-tee underneath. The audience booed and moaned, but their disapproval was short-lived. Actor Clark Gregg quickly jumped on stage and began yanking at Loeb’s shirt in disgust. The booing quickly turned to cheering as fans jumped to their feet to give the man who portrays fan-favorite Agent Coulson a standing ovation. Some even stood on their chairs and began a sweeping chant of “Coulson! Coulson!”

Gregg appeared to be humbled by the adulation. Loeb agreed with the response, saying: “the reason why we are here, the reason why there is an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is because of the extraordinary talent of our friend Clark Gregg.” The actor shouted: “It’s good to be alive!” Whether he was speaking of his resurrection in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., his adoring fan base, or both was unclear. Gregg went on to thank his fans for sending emails and messages in support of his character following Agent Coulson’s death in Marvel’s The Avengers (2012).

Gregg revealed that when Loeb announced he’d be attending NYCC, Gregg begged to tag along. He explained that the announcement from “Jeff and Joss” that Coulson “wasn’t quite dead” was made at NYCC two years earlier, giving him a special feeling about the con. Gregg continued: “I love New York, I love this con…and my feelings have only gotten warmer because this is where I was resurrected.”

Gregg playfully teased Loeb for his Hydra t-shirt, prompting Loeb to offer to “make it up” to Gregg by showing “Face My Enemy” in its entirety to the crowd. As the episode played, the eager audience seemed to embrace the story at every turn, applauding when Agents May (Ming-Na Wen) and Coulson appeared on-screen. The episode continues S.H.I.EL.D.’s efforts to understand the strange carvings that both deceased Agent Garrett (Bill Paxton) and Agent Coulson created following their exposure to GH-325-the mysterious drug that brought Coulson back to life.

The audience reaction was one of deep emotional investment, by turns exuberant, amused, and-near the end of the episode-shocked. When Gregg and Loeb returned to the stage following the end credits, Loeb noted the crowd’s reaction and said: “I have to thank you, Clark and I were sitting back stage and your response to that was just extraordinary.” He also gave a shout-out to veteran television writer Drew Greenberg, of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Smallville fame, who penned the episode.

Gregg pestered Loeb further, asking “can we show them something from Agent Carter?” The resounding cheers spurred Loeb to comment that the series, had only begun shooting earlier that week. Agent Carter follows the life of Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), founder of S.H.I.E.L.D., last seen in Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Solider (2014). Gregg then produced a CD allegedly containing some of the shows early footage. Moments later a short clip appeared on screen, which found Carter partnering with Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper), inventor, father of Iron Man Tony Stark & founder of Stark Industries. The teaser also saw Carter’s introduction to Edwin Jarvis (James D’Arcy), butler to the Stark family and inspiration for Tony’s Starks’ invention of J.A.R.V.I.S. Artificial Intelligence.

“Face My Enemy” premieres tonight, but fans will have to wait until January 2015 to see the premiere of Agent Carter. While the audience reaction to the early footage was overwhelmingly positive, whether Marvel Television can keep fans engaged and tuning into both of their S.H.I.E.L.D-based shows remains to be seen.

New York Comic Con 2014 was the biggest US comic con yet—and one of the most diverse

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With attendance of 151,000, this year’s NYCC is now the biggest reported North American comics convention, surpassing the San Diego Comic Con’s 130,000. According to show runner Lance Fensterman, the increase of 20,000 from last year was due to selling tickets for a full day Thursday, which was previously a half-day “pro day.

I’m told neither number includes pros and exhibitors and ‘industry support” however, so the exact number of numb and yet enthused people wandering the halls of either Comic-Con has not been released. Given the number of lookie-loos who hang around in San Diego, that event would still seem to be the biggest.

Many people wondered how NYCC could be bigger than SDCC when the Javits Center is smaller than the San Diego Convention Center. I’m sure Torsten can give us the exact dimensions, but on most lists I’ve ever seen, the Javits is actually larger than SD Convetion Center. This stat is misleading however.
[Read more…]

NYCC ’14: Frank Quitely on Visual Process and Cyclical Influence

by Zachary Clemente

IMG_1341On the extremely busy Saturday of this past weekend’s New York Comic-Con, I had the sublime honor of interviewing Frank Quitely (pen name for Scottish artist Vincent Deighan) about his visual narrative process, the cycle of artistic influence, and his once and future work. This was a wild treat for me as Quitely stands as one of my favorite artists in comics. Quitely has worked on We3Sandman: Endless NightsFlex Mentallo, New X-MenJLA: Earth 2Batman & RobinJupiter’s LegacyAll-Star Superman and many more.

Comics Beat: Frank, you’re currently working on Jupiter’s Legacy [with Mark Millar] which is ending after 10 issues?

Frank Quitely: It’s actually two volumes, both five and five.

CB: I see. Something I’ve always loved about your work is how versatile your storytelling can be. Hearkening back to Flex Mentallo, there’s some interesting panel layouts, All-Star Superman is a little more cinematic and straightforward, and We3 deviates a lot. I’m wondering how you approach that you want to train the reader’s eye the way you start talking about the story through your art and panels.

FQ: When I started out, I didn’t know a lot about storytelling because I never got a formal training in comics. It ended up being kind of intuitive and my main thing was about trying to make it clear and interesting. You know, I wasn’t really thinking in terms of narrative flow, it was more just about clarity and trying to make it as good as possible. Gradually, over the years, I just became more interested in storytelling. There was a DC editor I worked with named Dan Raspler – the Lobo editor amongst other things. He was my editor on JLA: Earth 2 and before I did JLA, I did a short Lobo story for them and it was the first mainstream DC thing I’d done; I’d been working for Vertigo and Paradox for a couple years. I sent him the pencils and it was the best thing I’d done up to that point and I thought “he’s going to phone me back and tell me how good this is” and he didn’t phone for a week. I was really panicking by the time he phoned; he started the conversation with “dude, I don’t know how to tell you this…”

Basically what he said was my drawings were really lovely, but my storytelling was really boring. He went through and told me what I should be thinking about and that was kind of a real milestone. As it was, that book never came out for different reasons. For JLA: Earth 2, he made me fax a rough for every page because he wanted to see that I could do art that makes sense in rough with a sharpie, then I could do it properly.

CB: Sort of like doing thumbnails?

FQ: Yeah. In fact, the new version of [JLA:Earth 2 has those thumbnails in it. That was a big leap for me.

CB: There’s a couple panels I’d like to ask you about, the first from We3. The one where it looks like the panel begins to turn across the page.

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We3 by Frank Quitely & Grant Morrison

FQ: With the cat leaping through?

CB: Yes!

FQ: Grant [Morrison] and I sat together, both of us with pencils, trying to work out a way of doing this. […] That kind of “turning the panels” was almost like windows that the cat was going though – that didn’t come right until the last minute because Grant was describing something to me but it was like he knew there was something there we could do but he couldn’t quite visualize it. It was just a case of me sitting, drawing stuff and then asking if we were getting closer – it was very collaborative.

CB: Do you think that kind of collaboration is where you find the best of your work coming out?

FQ: Um, sometimes. Sometimes it works that way and sometimes it’s nice just to be left alone and work it out myself. Like in Jupiter’s Legacy, in the first issue there’s kind of cube thing. In the script, Mark said something like “he puts them in this cell” and I got thinking about “cel” as in animation cel as well as “cell” like a prison cell and it just kind of came together very, very organically in a relatively short time. It really goes both ways.

CB: I actually wanted to ask about that panel. It’s beautiful how it breaks down all the way to the linework and builds it back up again. I find it an interesting visual discussion on comics.

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Jupiter’s Legacy by Frank Quitely & Mark Millar

CB: Changing gears a bit, I’m curious about your influences. Not necessarily artistic influences, but what comics have influenced the way you want to do comics, the way your approach working on comics?

FQ: An early one was Hard Boiled by Frank Miller and Geof Darrow. I set out when I was maybe 20-something and when I saw that, I was really blown away by that. More recently Chris Ware’s Building Stories, it’s a masterpiece – the guy’s a genius. I’ve gone plenty – Akira, the big black and white collections of Akira. Moebius, particularly [his] short stories.

CB: The sheer breadth of his influence is remarkable and that’s something I wanted to touch on with you. In my opinion, you and your work occupy a peculiar place in the comics “family tree” where your catalog is intensely influential for many contemporary creators, but it’s not like you’ve gone away, you’re still pushing yourself. Do you find yourself in something of a loop, being influenced by people you might have influenced?

FQ: Oh, yeah.

CB: What is that like?

FQ: It’s really cool. It’s actually really cool. Two artist whose work I really like a lot who’re younger than me are Amy Reeder and Becky Cloonan and both of them, in some way, found something in my work that they liked and there’s now something in their work that I like. With Amy in particular, she started off at Tokyopop and she was only interested in manga. Brandon Montclare, who she’s working with now [on Rocketgirl], was an editor at Tokyopop at the time and he gave her a bunch of comics that he wanted her to look at to kind of broaden her horizons a bit. When she first saw it, she didn’t like my work at all; there was nothing there that she liked. Brandon told her to ignore that she didn’t like my drawing but to look at was I was doing because I was going about it a different way from her. After a while, she did actually start liking it and that’s the kind of funny thing – she didn’t like it at all at first but once she kind of get into it, she got something from it and now her recent work on Rocketgirl is just phenomenal.

When I see stuff like that, I always feel slightly threatened by a lot of younger artists. Because to me, a lot of this stuff seems really fresh and I keep thinking “shit, man, I’m going to have to up my game.”

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All-Star Superman by Frank Quitely & Grant Morrison

CB: Can that be a little thrilling?

FQ: Yeah – absolutely. I don’t want to get to a stage where I’m kind of quite happy with what I’m doing. Like every other artist I know, I see the mistakes in my work more than the good parts. Even things that work quite well, it always looks slightly better in my head. Every page I start I think “this is going to be the best one yet!” So I don’t want to get to a stage where I’m not influenced or threatened by other peoples’ work.

CB: That’s a very remarkable way to stay relevant. Though something I noticed is your lack of online presence. It seems being active on social media outlets is a big part for many comics creators. Is this something that’s never interested you?

FQ: You know, the thing is I can’t answer all my emails as it is, I answer maybe a quarter of my emails or something. So what’s the point of having Facebook? I’m already insulting enough people by not getting back to them. If I had a Facebook presence, I would never talk to anybody – I’d just never get back to them. Either you just that kind of person or you’re not, you know.

CB: Heading to the end, Jupiter’s Legacy will be wrapping up, what’s next?

FQ: “Pax Americana” – one of the Multiversity books at DC.

CB: And are there any dream projects? Characters you want to work on, people you want to work with, or your own stories you’d like to make?

FQ: I have written a bunch of short stories and some of them are thumbnailed. So at some point I want to get a collection out of just my own dumb stuff.

CB: That sound wonderful Frank, thanks for sitting down to chat.

FQ: Not a problem – thank you.

 

Frank Quitely lives in Scotland and draws some of the most amazing comics around. I encourage you to watch the 30-minute feature about him, part of a series called “What Artists Do All Day” produced by BBC4. His upcoming works are the next 6 issues of Jupiter’s Legacy and an issue of DC’s Multiversity called “Pax Americana.”

NYCC ’14: A Conversation with Marc Evan Jackson on the Detroit Creativity Project

by Zachary Clemente

IMG_1337Above and away from the crowds of this year’s New York Comic-Con, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Marc Evan Jackson (known for his roles in Brooklyn 99, 22 Jump Street, Kings of Summer, & Drones as well as his role as Sparks Nevada Marshall on Mars in the Thrilling Adventure Hour) who is promoting The 2nd Annual Detroit Party to benefit the Detroit Creativity Project, where he serves as President. This was personally quite a thrill for me being a fan of TAH and hailing from Detroit. Bits where we went off-topic reminiscing about The Hunter House or the Woodward Dream Cruise have been removed, but know they at least happened.

The Detroit Creativity Project (DPC) is a group of working actors, writers, directors, and musicians whose roots are in Detroit. The roster includes artists from across the spectrum of the performing arts: a musical director for a Grammy award-winning pop artist, a rising young film director, and the creators and stars of popular television comedy shows. We are alumni of The Second City Detroit and graduates of Wayne State University. For so many of us, Detroit was the launching pad for our careers in entertainment. We are committed to giving back to the city that gave us so much.

Comics Beat: This is actually very personal to me as I was born and raised near Detroit.

Marc Evan Jackson: Really, where from?

CB: I was little outside in Bloomfield Hills, but moved away when I was 12.

MEJ: That’s not a little outside, my wife is from Bloomfield Hills. Did your family work in the auto industry?

CB: Sort of. My dad worked for a company that worked closely with GM, but we left before some of the major flops; around 2002.

MEJ: I love that you talk about a time very recent as though it were classic.

CB: Well, I’m 24…

MEJ: Gosh, are you really? Good for you. Get me my wheelchair. [Laughs]

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CB: What about Detroit is so important to you and what is your connection to it?

MEJ: I don’t know if you witnessed this in the 12 years that you were there, but there’s something about Detroit; it has a spirit or vibe. I only lived there for about three and a half years; I moved to Detroit to join the Second City and in that three and a half years it became home. I grew up in Buffalo, NY, I went to school in Grand Rapids, MI; I then lived all over Michigan and Maine briefly after college. Only when I moved to Detroit did I feel that draw, that pull; there’s just this underground heartbeat to Detroit. There’s a pulse of vibrance, coolness, and expression of creativity.

So Detroit is a place that has suffered a lot of egress; a lot of people have left. They took a census right before I left and they were hoping not to fall below 1,000,000 people and it ended up being 720,000, so they missed it by more than 25% – there’s just been a lot of flight of every stripe out of Detroit. But there are still students in Detroit and arts funding has gotten cut and cut; Detroit has been so good to me and to my friends and the arts have been so good to me and my friends that we wanted to give back. In 2012, my wife Beth Hagenlocker and I, as well as people I was in the Second City cast with – Marybeth Monroe from Workaholics, Keegan-Michael Key from Key & Peele, Larry Joe Campbell from According to Jim - we got together and asked “what could we to give back to Detroit?”

Our background is in improvisation and that’s what has gotten each of us our careers, and we decided one easy way to give back is to offer improv instruction free of charge in middle and high schools in Detroit. We started out flagship program, The Improv Project to do just that: to offer this instruction. One big caveat is that we’re not hoping to create more actors or comedians or writers necessarily. Improv is a skill for everybody. In order to improvise well, you have to listen and respect those you’re working with, you have to use your imagination and show up with energy, you have to find yourself saying a lot of “yes” and being overwhelmingly positive, and you have to work well as a team – it’s a great skill set for anybody. Whether you’re going to go be a doctor, a teacher, or anything at all.

Comics Beat: It’s a skill that seems like it can open doors you never thought were in front of you?

MEJ: It absolutely does. It also makes you see doors that you might’ve not been aware of otherwise. It takes the pressure off everything being perfect, it takes the pressure off having the right answer – it spurs curiosity. […] You’ll do an improv scene about something and realize when you’re done that you may not know much about that subject and find yourself researching it. It inspires a confidence and a communication skill. […] When you’re in middle and high school, the stakes seem high; everything seems important. There’s such an impetus to be cool or tough or whatever and especially in a hard-bitten place like Detroit that’s the case. Improv erases a lot of that, it makes you feel fine about saying “I don’t know the answer, could you tell me about that?” rather than going “I know.” Instead of the knee-jerking with “you can’t teach me anything,” it puts you in the other direction and makes you think that it doesn’t make you dumb to ask a question.

“Tell me about what you do, I don’t know anything about that. I’m 13 years old, why would I know about that?”

CB: So it can take down that front that people feel they need to put up?

MEJ: Exactly. It crashes through that barrier, in crashes through those obstacles that we put in front of ourselves. The ones that keep you from talking to people, that keep you from asserting an opinion, from finding yourself. It’s such a good communication skill, and again, it’s overwhelmingly positive, it’s good for interviewing skills for jobs or colleges. We are working on measuring our results; doing incoming and exiting surveys with our students, seeing how it affects their test scores. All the schools want to know that this has correlates to the Common Core Curriculum. It really does though, [improv] will make you a better learner; a more curious, more interesting, and more interested person.

CB: How does it feel to lend credence to an enterprise for good with your name and career?

MEJ: My career and my name has become whatever it is currently so gradually that it doesn’t feel like there’s anything to offer.  This is something I’d care about whether I was in the public eye or not, it’s a total no-brainer. I think far more drastic a name are people like Keegan-Michael Key. When we go back to Detroit, we were there last in August for the improv festival; the performances go: middle school, high school, my group The 313 (the area code of the city of Detroit and features Keegan-Michael Key, Larry Joe Campbell, Joshua Funk, Nyima Funk, Andy Cobb, Maribeth Monroe, and Jaime Moyer), and then we had the kids come back and perform with us. To watch these middle and high school students perform with Keegan was something I’ll never forget as long as I live.

For myself and for people far more famous than I’ll ever be, it’s easy. It’s such a good thing to watch the transformation in these kids and I can’t imagine not doing it.

CB: While I’ve never been back, I kind of think that underground pulse you mentioned is expressed in a hope for Detroit. Sort of the certainty that it’ll come back?

MEJ: I think that a Detroit renaissance is inevitable, but if it doesn’t happen now with all that’s going on – all the focus, all the dollars, all the energy – then it never will. My wife and I, representing the DCP, were back in Detroit just a few weeks ago for the 1st Annual Detroit Homecoming. They reached out to expats all around in business, entertainment, sports, government, everything, to come back to Detroit for a summit. They said “let us take you around Detroit, let us show you the changes that have taken place already, and have your input on what you can do.” Beth and I were back as liaisons, sort of, to the Hollywood community, but Warren Buffet was there – there people there that were billionaires who run companies that can decide to put a call center in Detroit, they can decide to open a branch in Detroit, they can look into manufacturing their next product there.

It was encouraging to know that it wasn’t just some underground, improv theatre, artistic thing. People from all walks of life that got their start in Detroit or went to school in Detroit – anybody who has any connection to it looks back and says “I want to be part of the conversation in Detroit, I want to help with what’s next and see what I can do.” This meeting was powerful; so good for connections and networking. We were able to match-make for people who should know each other and people did that for us and it’s been pretty great.

CB: I have some friends who are interested in urban development and urban planning and it’s been such a foundational place for them to go.

MEJ: It’s a laboratory, right? There’s nowhere else like it right now.

CB: People have the opportunity to almost beta-test infrastructure systems like urban farming.

MEJ: Sure, like communal living. I mean, you can buy a house there for $5,000 right now.

CB: Yeah, but you will have to remove the tree.

MEJ: Oh sure, the one’s that’s growing inside your house? No, that’s true. They’re calling it the new Berlin, but they’re also calling it the next Silicon Valley. Companies are moving there because there’s skilled work forces, housing is cheap, and there’s an awful lot of land around.

There’s nothing like Detroit. You have an idea, you’ve been there, but for people that haven’t it’s so hard to describe Detroit and what it looked like. Even in the late 90’s when I was there…to describe the block-after-block of burned out buildings that had been burned since 1967 and nobody’s touched it. It’s hard to convey that to people who haven’t gone.

CB: Looks like we have some overlap, time-wise.

MEJ: Yes, but you were likely in diapers.

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Credit: Roman Cho

CB: One of the things about DCP that really excites me is that it reminds me of the little movements that ended up spawning things like Motown; these beautiful things that could have only come out of Detroit.

MEJ: I’ll tell you what: this Detroit Homecoming made us aware of other groups doing similar things that we’re doing, people doing complementary things – a lot of puzzle pieces got put together. We’ve met groups of people that are literally doing expatriate fundraising for Detroit. There’s a group called Born and Raised Detroit and there are a number of groups like that without this homecoming, we would’ve never known existed.

CB: Thank you so much Marc for discussing this project.

MEJ: Of course, and thank you.

 

Marc Evan Jackson is a improv performer, voice, TV, and film actor currently in Los Angeles. He is the voice of Spark Nevada, Marshall on Mars on the monthly live radio show, Thrilling Adventure Hour and is one of the founders of the Detroit Creativity Project, where he serves as President. Find more information on the Detroit Creative Project here.

Find tickets for the 2nd Annual Detroit Party benefiting the DCP, hosted by Second City Detroit alum Keegan-Michael Key from Key & Peele here.

NYCC ’14: Marvel finally confirms their Fantastic Four Cancellation: WWBGD?

garxby Alexander Jones

What would Ben Grimm do?

After a few months of truly bizarre speculation across the internet, and denial from the publisher, Marvel confirmed this morning at their Axel-In-Charge panel at New York Comic-Con that they are indeed canceling their main Fantastic Four title. The publisher seems like they are planning something new for their roster of Fantastic Four characters, but this is mere speculation at this point. The comic is ending in 2015. CBR ran a quote from the panel that featured current author of the title James Robinson speaking on the surprise cancellation of the comic.

“That’s the thing — everyone’s upset now because the book is going away,” Robinson said. “Are they buying the book? I don’t know if they are. A lot of it is just people like to get online and moan and complain. I guarantee you if you kill of any character, the most obscure character, you’ll get one angry person that claims it was their favorite character. Jack Frost, golden age character, they’ve done something to him. Where’s the razor blades, I’m slashing my wrists. People do that on the internet, so you have to take that with a grain of salt.”

The author deserves some massive props for talking about his run on the title so honestly. Hopefully this coming change for the Fantastic Four will be what is necessary to get the book boosted into the top 50 of the Diamond Sales charts. Marvel’s first family deserves it after all.

 

NYCC ’14: Teasers, terror and a few tears: Inside AMC’s Walking Dead Season 5 panel

by Edie Nugent

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AMC’s The Walking Dead panel was packed nearly past capacity on Saturday afternoon at NYCC. When the 3500 floor seats of the main stage hall were filled, fans stood along the sides of the room-shunning available balcony seating to be that much closer to their favorite TV stars. The panel was moderated by Talking Dead host and perennial fanboy Chris Hardwick who was red-faced with excitement as he introduced an exclusive clip showing the first few minutes of the season five premiere. Hardwick was joined by Greg Nicotero, director of the season five premiere, showrunner Scott Gimple,  executive producer Gale Anne Hurd and executive producer and series creator Robert Kirkman.

Season five picked up right where season four left off, with Rick and the remaining survivors of his group being held prisoner in a boxcar inside the Terminus compound. They are ripping their clothes apart, fashioning weapons out of belt buckles and shoe laces. The group hears movement outside of the container, and all assume defensive positions near its entrance. Suddenly, the boxcar opens from above and a cannister is dropped inside leaking knockout gas. After succumbing to the fumes, the group awakens to find themselves bound and are made to kneel before a draining sink used for livestock slaughter. Terminus, it seems, is indeed a colony of cannibals.

The clip ended abruptly, and Hardwick remarked how much fun is was to listen to the shocked audience reaction live, joking: “we should get together as a group and watch it every week.” Director Greg Nicotero remarked that, as someone who has directed several premiere episodes of Walking Dead, it was nice to continue the momentum of the end of last season into the beginning of season five. He also mentioned he wanted to make the season opener “super intense…I’ve seen it ten times, and I still get chills.”

Hardwick asked Gimple if season five might unlock more of the backstories of the group, to learn more about who they were before the zombie apocalypse. Gimple said to expect to discover more about the recent past of the characters, “in some very deep ways, we’re also going to play with time a bit.”

Kirkman teased that there are “a lot of big moments from the comic book series that will be pulled into the show this season…we’re still going to be changing things up a bit…I think it’s safe to say this season is going to follow the comics much closer than we have in the past.”

When asked to describe the season in a few words, Hurd replied: “Kick-ass, utterly relentless, and totally heart-breaking.” She went on to announce that the second half of season five will premiere on February 8th, 2015.

Hardwick then brought out the cast one by one. The applause, screams and cheers that went up throughout the main stage hall were deafening. Present for the panel were: Andrew Lincoln (Rick), Steven Yeun (Glenn), Lauren Cohan (Maggie), Michael Cudlitz (Abraham), Danai Gurira (Michonne), Melissa McBride (Carol), Chad Coleman (Tyrese), Sonequa Martin-Green (Sasha) and Norman Reedus (Daryl).

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Hardwick began his series of cast questions by addressing Lincoln: “We finally at the end of last season saw the transformative moment when Rick came back.” Lincoln agreed, saying “I think you meet a man very much at the peak of his powers. I mean, he just bit a guys’ throat out. I think it’s safe to say I’ve been listening to a lot of Prodigy and death metal.”

When Hardwick asked Yuen where his character was emotionally following the events of season four, Yuen explained that Glenn “woke up in a prison with all his loved ones gone. He has a moment to himself and says: ‘eff this-I’m going to go find everybody’ and he treks out and finds everybody.” Co-star Lauren Cohan added: “the amazing thing at the end of season four is that we found each other,” looking at Yuen she continued: “ I felt like he was a soldier coming back from war.” Yuen asserted that he felt Cohan’s Maggie was “equally a soldier.” She went on to say that the next step for Maggie would be to find her sister Beth, and “keep everyone fortified.”

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Michael Cudlitz emphasized that every character in the world of The Walking Dead has suffered massive loss: “so what we’re dealing with day after day is dealing with loss on top of loss” and that the supportive, safe environment the cast and crew create is essential to making those performances “ring true.”

Gurira thanked Kirkman and Gimple for imbuing her character Michonne with an “unapologetic strength to her, and you see that with a lot of the women characters on this show, which is really exciting.” She added that she felt Michonne’s strength hadn’t shifted through the events of the show, but rather but had gone through a transition because of her relationships with the group.

The deep, emotional connections the actors had with their characters was especially clear as McBride spoke of her experience playing Carol, saying “it’s something I’m so proud of, and for the character it’s been something I never saw coming, and I think I’m going to cry-because I love her.” Her eyes filled with tears, prompting Reedus to walk down the panel to hand her a tissue.

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Coleman asked: “Without the children, where is our future?” He explained how his character Tyrese had gone through such a terrible experience with Carol in attempting to protect Lizzie, Micah and baby Judith in season four. “He’s hurting tremendously,” he added, saying that he felt Tyrese had forgiven Carol for her decision to kill Lizzie after she murdered Mika-but that Carol was still “on shaky ground.”

Martin-Green was proud of what she felt were “the prevailing messages being taught on a show like this, of hope and survival and family and love-making it through adversity.” These themes were especially resonant to her now, she said, as she is pregnant with her first child-due in January.

“A lot of times when Daryl has been killing things, he’s been crying while he’s doing it,” Reedus said, speaking to Hardwick about how his character had opened up over the previous season. “We really feel connected to these characters and feel connected to each other-we really care about each other-so teetering on that line of being ferocious and being vulnerable-it’s a real teeter-totter. Everything feels really real.”

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It was clearly also “really real” to the thousands of fans in attendance-some of whom were moved to share their feelings with the cast during the fan Q&A portion of the panel. One such fan, Michael, told of how he was badly injured while coming to the aid of a neighbor who was being attacked. He told the panel that the strength of the shows’ characters had helped him to have the courage to move forward in his life and recovery. Cohan was visibly moved hearing his story, as was Gurira who addressed the fan directly, saying: “to know that there’s any sort of message we’re conveying that gives you hope and courage-it makes it unbearable how wonderful it is to do what we do-to know that it resonates to you and emboldens you is really a blessing to us. You are the true survivor.”

NYCC ’14: Oni Press Shows Down With Upcoming Lineup

by Zachary Clemente

oni-press-featuredNYCC started all a-bluster with large announcements, crazy crowds, fantastic costuming, crowds, swathes of booths manned by insightful and fun comics publishers ready to show off their books; also crowds. I swung by The Oni Press Comicstravaganza panel to see what Oni Director of Publicity John Schork had in store for us and safe to say, he did not disappoint.

Costume Quest_Page_01If you haven’t played Doublefine’s Costume Quest, stop reading and go play it right now. Filled to burst with Doublefine’s usual wit and charm, cartoonist extraordinaire Zac Gorman brings a fun tale in time for Halloween of a monster in a child-stealing society who only wants to hang out with his friends and eat candy. Gorman’s work is a personal favorite of mine and I’m really rather excited to see him work on this property!

 

CoverNo matter how much work Cullen Bunn gets at Marvel, the writer of one of Oni’s most successful titles, The Sixth Gun can’t seem to stay away. His new series Terrible Lizard, featuring artist Drew Moss, colorist Ryan Hill, and letterer Crank! looks to surprise and excite when it hits the stands. A young girl befriends a time-shifted dinosaur and together, they fight giant monsters. Safe to say, I’m sold.

 

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Page from “Kaiju Max” by Zander Cannon

It looks like Oni is going whole hog with giant monsters with their next new series Kaiju Max. Zander Cannon, known for working on Top 10 and Smax with Allen Moore, now writing for himself (as well as coloring and lettering) brings us the battles and romps in a top-secret prison island for dangerous Kaiju inmates, kept in line by their Sentai, mech-weilding guards. I haven’t been following Cannon’s career too carefully, but now I wish I had!

 

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B&W Cover for “The Sixth Gun: Dust to Dust”

Man, Bunn is all over the place! Hot on the heels of the Sixth Gun series and Terrible Lizard is a new miniseries in the Sixth Gun world; Dust to Dust with longtime collaborator Brian Hurtt. According to Schork, this book, while guaranteed to please any and all fans of the series, is particularly a treat for readers who are fond of character Billjohn O’Henry.

 

John Schork was a fun and charismatic host who, after the announcements were said and done, used the rest of the time to field questions from the audience and play a little game which involved attendees stating a non-Oni title they’re enjoying and Schork recommending an Oni title would also enjoy as well as providing them with a free copy. Books such as Letter 44 by Charles Soule & Alberto Alburquerque, The Bunker by Joshua Fialkov & Joe Infurnari, The Sixth Gun by Cullen Bunn & Brian Hurtt, The Auteur by Rick Spears & James Callahan, and Ted Naifeh’s Princess Ugg were recommended. I am not ashamed in saying that I took advantage of the system by naming James Stokoe’s Orc Stain specifically to receive a free copy of his Oni book, Wonton Soup. I wouldn’t try it though, Schork’s onto us. Oni is a publisher that too often flies under the radar of many a reader, but that definitely appears to be changing and I look forward to seeing more of their line!

NYCC’14: Check out Marvel’s Daredevil Promotional Images

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Marvel Studios new Daredevil television show debuted some new footage and promotional material at their panel during New York Comic-Con.

Included in the panel were cast members Charlie Cox (Daredevil), Toby Moore (Wesley), Bob Gunton (Leland Owlsley), Ayelet Zurer (Vanessa), Vondie Curtis-Hall (Ben Urich), Elden Henson (Foggy Nelson), Deborah Ann Woll (Karen Page), and Vincent D’Onofrio (Wilson Fisk.) Steven S. DeKnight, the showrunner of Daredevil was also in attendance. Rosario Dawson’s mystery character has been revealed as Claire Temple, who has ties to Goliath, and Luke Cage.

Take a look at this new shot of Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock:

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Marvel’s Chief Creative Officer, Joe Quesada showed off his concept art for the show.

 

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NYCC ’14: Trailer for Powers debuts

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The first trailer for POWER, the Playstation series based on Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming’s longrunning comic, debuted at theNYCC panel for the show. Sharlto Copley stars as Christian Walker and Susan Heyward as Deena Pilgrim. Copley is minus most of his outrageous accent, but he’s still nutty as hell and I love it. Also, f-bombs and maybe Walker is Bi?

NYCC’14: Marvel’s Cup O’ Joe Panel Reveals a Black Vortex, Peggy Carter, and Star Wars Galore

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by Alexander Jones

Marvel Comics just unveiled a ton of new information regarding their publishing line, and even announced some brand new female-led titles. The news broke at Marvel’s Cup O’ Joe Panel, where Marvel’s Chief Creative Officer, Joe Quesada, announced a brand new crossover with the Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain Marvel, the All-New X-Men, Star-Lord, Cyclops and Nova. The crossover is entitled The Black Vortex and begins in February 2015. The Black Vortex is said to be an ancient artifact, that sort of functions like the cosmic cube, it unlocks the hidden potential within an individual. It also seems like this crossover is going to be more focused on the cosmic side of the publisher’s massive world. The Black Vortex has an Alpha special drawn by Ed McGuinness that launches the story, followed by an Omega special also drawn by Ed McGuinness that ends the story. Legendary Star-Lord author Sam Humphries is the lead writer on the event.

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The Star Wars titles are all confirmed to be coming in February including Star Wars #1, Darth Vader #1, and Princess Leia #1. Another Star Wars title was announced as Star Wars Kanan: The Last Padawan by Greg Weisman and Pepe Larraz which is coming in April of 2015.

Captain America #1 and Avengers & X-Men: AXIS Act II Inversion both kick off in November.

Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso chimed in with this amusing quote:

“Wolverine is dead next Wednesday, Rocket Racoon is arguably one of the most popular superheroes in the world, Thor is a woman, Captain America is African-American – did you ever think that you would see that?”Bzrp0TlIAAAEtOz

Speaking of their most beloved new female characters, Marvel has just announced Operation S.I.N. utilizing Peggy Carter of the upcoming television series. Some of the other S.H.I.E.L.D. architects like Howard Stark are also going to make an appearance in the story. The event has the same trade dress as Original Sin, and is said to spin out of that story. It’s written by Kathryn Immonen with art from Rich Ellis.

James Patterson’s Maximum Ride is coming to Marvel in graphic novel form. The first five issues of the book will launch in Spring 2015. The adaptation is written by Marguerite Bennett and Alex Sanchez.

Whew, that was quite a few announcements!