AHOY Comics burst onto the scene late last year with a slate of four titles that ran the gamut from superhero adventure comedy to spacefaring anthropomorphic cats. With their first set of series either completed or nearing their conclusion, the editorial and creative teams behind some of AHOY’s titles took the stage at Emerald City Comic Con for their first publisher panel. Topics included the publisher’s next wave of titles, and the big news that Mark Russell and Richard Pace’s Second Coming was being added to their lineup. The panelists included writer/editor Stuart Moore, writer and AHOY Editor-in-Chief Tom Peyer, writers Bryce Ingman and Paul Constant, production lead Deron Bennett, and Second Coming‘s Russell and Pace.
“Have you heard the good news?” Moore joked, kicking off the panel with a slide of the New York Times announcement that Second Coming had landed at AHOY. He then went on to briefly discuss the history of AHOY Comics, and to provide a rundown of the first wave of titles, which included The Wrong Earth, Captain Ginger, High Heaven, and Edgar Allan Poe’s Snifter of Terror. Peyer described the AHOY editorial approach as always wanting the books to be funny in some way, whether it’s satirical or otherwise. The line is not limited to any genre, Peyer said, and Moore talked about the decision to fill the comics with extra features, whether it’s prose, poetry, or other cartoons. He teased that the forthcoming final issue of Snifter of Terror features a very difficult crossword puzzle.
Russell discussed his history with AHOY pre-Second Coming, including what he called ‘fan-fiction’ about Count Chocula and Frankenberry in a few issues of Snifter of Terror. Eventually he hopes to get through all of the cereal monster mascots, and teases that the Lucky Charms leprechaun will appear (I honestly don’t think he was joking about this). Pace pointed out that a crossover with Fruity Pebbles would get them all sued, to which Russell quipped, “Death threats and lawsuits, that’s all I’m really after.”
Ingman wove a tale about how Peyer discovered him in a back alley and nursed him back to health. The writer has contributed prose and comic scripts to the AHOY books. Constant has written all of the Stinger-centric back-up stories in The Wrong Earth, as well as some stories in Snifter of Terror. In the second wave he will be writing Planet of the Nerds, a series about three jocks who were frozen in the ‘80s. After they’re thawed in the modern day, they’re horrified to find that everyone is a nerd, and they set out to put things back the way they should be. Constant described how series artist Alan Robinson, who is Chilean, ends all of his emails with ‘Hugs!’ He praised the artist for bringing the scripts to life so vividly, and said that the colorist Felipe Sobreiro was doing some innovative things with the colors. The first issue will feature ‘mock-90s’ coloring, and the colors will evolve as the series progresses along with the jocks’ perceptions of the world. Planet of the Nerds arrives in stores on April 17th.
Moore went on to talk about the other title he is writing, Bronze Age Boogie, which kicks off AHOY’s second wave on April 3rd. The series sees a warrior princess from thousands of years ago transported to ’70s. Moore described the series as a love letter to 1970s New York. The series is drawn by Alberto Ponticelli, and colored by Giulia Brusco. Second features in the series will tell the story of the first bear in space.
The third title in AHOY’s second wave, Hashtag: Danger, launches on May 1st. Written by Peyer, the series spins out of previous backup stories in High Heaven and Captain Ginger. Peyer says he came up with the title first, asking himself what kind of people would spell out the word ‘hashtag.’ He described the team as a Challengers of the Unknown-style team who always feel disrespected and can’t stop getting in their own way. The series is drawn by Chris Giarrusso, and Peyer praised the artist’s ability to convey emotion while still being cute and adorable and terrible. The first issue features the team going after a yeti. Peyer also said the cover by Richard Williams is a masterpiece that displays the tone of the series without revealing anything about the story inside. Constant is writing the back-up stories in Hashtag: Danger. The features, drawn by Fred Harper, tell the tale of a Melville Snelson, a ’90s stand-up comedian who never hit it big, and who is still doing the same shtick twenty years later. He described the story as “dreary,” and said it’s a response to the less than glamorous autobiographical comics of the ’90s
Steel Cage is a one-shot coming from AHOY on June 26th. Peyer said the book is an anthology that will feature three stories by three different creative teams, and readers will vote on which story gets its own series. One of the stories, “Brightboy,” is by Moore and artist Peter Gross did one. The tale is about the smartest man in the world and the horrors he leaves in his wake. Mark Waid and Lanna Souvaney contribute the second feature, “Noah Zark,” about a kid who breaks out of a space zoo and has to return the zoo’s animals to their home planets. Peyer and artist Alan Robinson created the third story, “True Identity,” about a saintlike superhero who hates himself. The cover for Steel Cage is by Elsa Charretier. Peyer and Moore engaged in some playful banter about how much the other’s stories suck, and Moore said that voting on the stories will be conducted via Twitter after the issue is released, with details forthcoming.
Second Coming will premiere from AHOY on July 10th. Russel said he originally pitched the book to DC as a Superman comic during a meeting with Dan Didio. Didio had shot down all of his previous ideas, saying they’d all been done before, but approved the ‘Superman shares a two-bedroom apartment with Jesus Christ’ idea because it was completely new. To avoid death threats, they decided to take the book to Vertigo, and changed the character from Superman to Sunstar. Russell described Second Coming‘s two lead characters, a hero who realizes that he can only solve so many problems by punching, and Jesus Chris, the son of God, who discovers that his teachings have been co-opted by the powers of greed and fear. The series is about the two of them working together to solve the problems of the world. Pace said the backlash has been interesting, with so much anger and death threats from god-fearing people. His favorite response to the controversy was one he saw in support of the book on Twitter, with the tweeter saying that Jesus wouldn’t be upset about the comic, so why should you?
Moore said AHOY pursued Second Coming aggressively, and teased another upcoming project from Russell for the publisher. He described the series as both insightful and smart, but also very funny, and said the book fits with the sensibility that AHOY has cultivated. Russell described AHOY as ‘the funny Vertigo,’ and says AHOY gets what he’s doing with Second Coming. Moore mentioned that some changes are being made to the project at the request of Russell and Pace. Pace described wanting to make the scenes on Earth look like Curt Swan art, giving them a lighter, airier look. He said they are looking at bringing on a new colorist for the book, though they can’t announce who yet, and that the colorist at Vertigo, though excellent, wasn’t able to get across the look and feel that Pace wanted for Heaven. One particular aspect of Heaven is also being updated: the food court. Russell said that originally the food court had all of the restaurant chains that have ‘died’ on Earth (Rax, Kenny Rogers Roasters, and the like), but DC’s legal department wouldn’t allow them to do that. Now that the book is at AHOY, Pace has redrawn certain pages to add those back, in order to not step on Russell’s joke.
Another change to the first issue comes in the form of an added eight-page Jesus flashback sequence, which had been cut at Vertigo. Russell said he considers the sequence to be vital to the story, and Pace called it “transformative to the whole issue.” The first issue of the series will be oversized as a result of the addition of the sequence. Pace also talked about Vertigo wanting to censor the genitals for scenes set in the Garden of Eden, and that they will not need to do that now that the book is at AHOY. The creators described AHOY’s version of Second Coming as being ‘the original vision’ for the series, though they stressed again how great DC has been about the whole process. The decision to cancel the book at Vertigo came as a result of higher-level executive changes and decisions, Russell said. Moore praised AHOY publisher Hart Seely for giving all of AHOY’s creators everything they need to succeed. Amanda Conner will still contribute covers for all six issues of Second Coming, and Pace has also done a variant for the first issue, which will be AHOY’s first ever variant cover.
Moore next discussed the forthcoming collected editions for AHOY’s first wave. a trade paperback of Peyer and artist Jamal Igle’s The Wrong Earth will be released in May, with a new introduction by Tom Scocca. The collection will include both the main stories and the Stinger back-up tales from the six-issue series. Moore and June Brigman’s Captain Ginger collection comes in June, with an introduction by Walt Simonson. A collection of High Heaven by Peyer and Greg Scott also comes out in June. The final issue of Snifter of Terror is due in shops on March 20th, and a collection of that series will be out in October in time for Halloween. That particular series, it was announced, is slated to return in the winter. AHOY will also be putting out a Free Comic Book Day offering, Dragonfly/Dragonflyman, a prequel tale starring the heroes of The Wrong Earth. The art for that will be by Russ Braun, with a cover by Igle. The FCBD comic will also feature a Captain Ginger prequel tale about the character when he was a kitten.
With the floor opened for questions, an audience member asked about the creation of the collected editions, and how they decide what to keep versus what to cut from the floppies. Peyer said they will not be including the text features from the single issues in the trade paperbacks. “When you buy The Wrong Earth, you want to read The Wrong Earth,” Peyer said, “Not a bunch of other stuff (sorry, Stuart).” Peyer did say some of the text pieces may end up in a Edgar Allan Poe’s Snifter of Terror collection. He also clarified that the Hashtag: Danger back-up stories from High Heaven and Captain Ginger would be included in a future collection of the upcoming ongoing series for those characters.
An audience member asked about the possibility of getting longer form work from cartoonist Carol Lay, who has provided text stories and art in previous AHOY issues. The panelists said Lay will be writing and drawing a story for Snifter of Terror later this year.
A question came about the added page count in Second Coming affecting the price point. Moore said it will not, and that some past AHOY books have included extra pages while maintaining the $3.99 price point. “Once you start losing money,” Moore joked morosely, “why stop?”
Asked about the collected editions making their way into bookstores, it was explained that there is an agreement in place with Diamond to distribute AHOY books to bookstores. Moore said he anticipated probably 90% of sales would come via Amazon, though Constant said that Seattle’s Elliot Bay Book Company would be carrying the books, and will host a launch party for both the Wrong Earth TPB and Planet of the Nerds #1 on May 11th.
A question was addressed to Russell and Pace about whether Jesus will be addressed from a historical perspective or strictly from a religious one. Russell said they were sticking with the religious perspective, as there is very little historical information about him. Pace described the research he’s done for the new flashback pages that are being added to the first issue, which take place in Nazareth in the first century.
Asked whether Steel Cage would become a regular thing, Moore said that they’re going to see how the first one does before deciding on that, though they would like to see it continue.
The final question was about the reaction to Second Coming, and why panelists thought a similar book from Boom! Studios, Judas, did not elicit a similar reaction. Russell praised the series, and said he thought there was less reaction because Judas was the main character and Jesus was more of a supporting character. He said the book reminded me of The Gospel of Judas, a gnostic gospel where Jesus tells Judas he has to betray him because he’s the only person Jesus can trust to do it. The discussion turned to the outrage around Second Coming, which Russell said was manufactured as a distraction. “Every time Mueller starts handing out more indictments,” he said, “Fox News looks for more culture war stories.”
With Bennett having given all audience members copies of The Wrong Earth #1 and Edgar Allan Poe’s Snifter of Terror #1, the panel concluded.
Joe Grunenwald is a writer and editor living in the Pacific Northwest. He’s taller than a lot of people but not as tall as some people.