AWA’s “Inside Fall Debuts” panel took a curious turn once writer Mark Russell took to the microphone to talk about his new horror satire comic Rumpus Room, a story in which a billionaire called Bob Schrunk kidnaps people and then has them take a vote on who dies as the days go by.

“Watching billionaires,” Russell stated, “is like watching the rise of a new species. Writing about them is like writing about a comet from the point of view of a dinosaur.” Try to find a better quote than that in this year’s New York Comic Con.

The panel took place on the opening day of the convention, and it featured AWA’s chief Creative Officer Axel Alonso, superstar artist Frank Cho, and master satirist Mark Russell. It was moderated by The Beat’s own Reviews Editor Zack Quaintance.


A fair bit of excitement ran through the panel early on as it was revealed that Cho’s Kickstarter campaign for Fight Girls — Deluxe Director’s Cut Edition has been a resounding success, surpassing the original pledge amount to fund the book by a wide margin while still being a few days away from closing. Cho took the opportunity to talk process, speaking to his great love of Ray Harryhausen monster designs and how, as much as he tries, his creatures always end up looking like the Claymation master’s own.

The Deluxe Edition of Fight Girls, Axel Alonso revealed, will feature new art and revised art for pages Cho felt were rushed due to deadlines.

And then came Mark Russell. Quaintance needed only to ask one question regarding the idea behind Rumpus Room for an entire discussion behind the makings of a true billionaire villain to take over. It was like a spotlight on billionaire villain creation. Russell described his comic, which is illustrated by Ramón Rosanas, as a look at the horror of democracy in action if it were entirely run by the obscenely wealthy (an idea that’s closer to reality than many would like to believe).

“It’s about looking at people with immense power and how they approach everything with indifference,” stated Russell, talking about the impetus behind Rumpus Room’s core concept. He added that exploring that meant coming up with a really despicable villain. He did that by making his evil billionaire, Bob, a man who outbids parents for their kids’ art, sees people with less purchasing power than him as expendable, and dresses up his goons in theme park mascot costumes because their fluffiness can protect their bodies while disturbing those he has captive.

Axel Alonso said that Bob Schrunk is “one of the best fucking villains ever. You love to hate him.”


One of the best parts of the panel was seeing Frank Cho become entirely consumed by Russell’s comics (Not All Robots included), asking questions about bad rich guys and their methods, admiring the comedy along the way. It was like Cho suddenly realized he was sitting next to a comics genius and so he needed to ask specific questions to get a good peek into Russell’s mind, all of which made Russell even more excited to explain his take on sinister billionaires. It opened the door to observations that figuratively undressed this type of character, extending the talk to the realm of forbidden knowledge: the importance of skin care for billionaires.

“Billionaires need to have great skin,” said Russell. “If you look ill as a wealthy guy, people will just start circling the wagons around you. It’s over.” It was an illuminating experience that also made perfect sense. Truth is, I will never be able to see anyone with more money than me the same way again. I have this panel to thank for that.

Alonso then revealed the Mark Russell-drawn variant covers for Rumpus Room, each one a different piece of kids’ art that Bob Schrunk has amassed in his collection. Alonso said, “Clearly, both Frank and Mark are self-taught artists.” One cover is titled “Reclining Ape.” Russell called it his Botticelli.

AWA’s “Inside Fall Debuts” panel offered knowledge we didn’t know we needed. That alone lent it incredible value. We all left the room smarter. Frank Cho in particular was taken by Russell’s work and is now, I’m sure, one of his biggest fans. It speaks volumes to the breadth and scope of AWA’s ambitions. It’ll settle for nothing less than great ideas that can coexist despite being from entirely different worlds. In other words, AWA is the place where Amazonian-like women warriors and satirical billionaires can come together and get along with one another.