AHOY Comics presented their first San Diego Comic-Con spotlight panel this past weekend. The publisher’s motto, “Expect More,” is reflected in their output: every comic features a full main story, a back-up feature, and a collection of prose stories and essays, all for just $3.99. Attendees to the panel also got more than anticipated, with the results of the Steel Cage voting announced, a rundown of AHOY’s recently announced third wave of books, and a tease for titles to come in future waves. AHOY Comics operations manager and Captain Ginger writer Stuart Moore moderated the SDCC panel, which included Mark Russell (Second Coming writer), Mark Waid (Noah Zark writer), Mariah McCourt (writer on an unannounced project), Mauricet (Major Ursa artist), Juan Castro (The Wrong Earth and Dragonfly & Dragonflyman inker), and Tyrone Finch (Major Ursa writer).
Moore kicked off the panel with a quick summary of the company, which launched in 2018. The panelists then introduced themselves and their work for the publisher, with Waid joking that he’s best known as the writer of Legend of the Shield for Impact Comics, and McCourt teasing a series she is working on featuring ‘little old ladies and the apocalypse’.
With introductions completed, Moore brought up the subject of Steel Cage, the one-shot AHOY published that featured three stories, of which readers would vote on which they would like to see continue as its own book. Moore quickly named the titles and creative teams of each story in build-up to the reveal of the winner of the reader vote. A video was then played of Tom Peyer, AHOY’s editor-in-chief, delivering a statement. Peyer reported evidence of potential voter fraud in the poll, and announced that, in the face of this blatantly stolen election, all three stories would be getting their own series beginning in 2020.
Following the inspirational video, Moore ran down the second wave of AHOY’s titles. He teased that Paul Constant and Alan Robinson’s Planet of the Nerds had gotten the most Hollywood interest of any of their titles, and said that he hopes to have an exciting announcement about that soon. He also announced that the collected edition of Peyer and Chris Giarrusso’s Hashtag: Danger will include all of the original backup stories from Captain Ginger and High Heaven that preceded the series.
The backup story Major Ursa, created by Finch and Mauricet and about a super-intelligent bear who works for the space program, was next displayed. Finch described the origin of the series as originally being part of a much larger project he worked up, from which Moore asked just for a story about the bear. Finch said Moore gave him one note, which is that the story is a tragedy, which Finch said changed the way he looked at the series. Mauricet joked that he’s always being asked to draw animals — he previously worked on Dastardly and Muttley for DC. He said the script drew him in immediately because of the emotion at play in the story.
On Second Coming, Moore provided a quick background on how the series came to AHOY. Russell said bringing the series from Vertigo to AHOY helped him fully realize his original plan for the series. The first issue was overprinted, and still sold out at AHOY within a day. A second printing of Second Coming #1 will be released on August 14th, the same day as the also-overprinted Second Coming #2. Moore then debuted Amanda Conner’s cover to Second Coming #5.
Moving into AHOY’s forthcoming third wave, Moore began with the return of Edgar Allan Poe’s Snifter of Terror, an anthology series that features reimagining of old Poe stories, drunken introductions from Poe himself, and other comedic horror stories.
Next up was Dragonfly & Dragonflyman, a prequel to The Wrong Earth, which will feature parallel stories of the two heroes on their own respective worlds. Moore said The Wrong Earth would return in 2020 as well. Castro discussed the artistic process of working with artist Jamal Igle on The Wrong Earth, specifically when it came to switching between different earths. He described using different inking techniques depending on which world the scenes were taking place. Castro said he was bringing those same techniques to his work on Dragonfly & Dragonflyman with artist Peter Krause.
Moore next talked about Season Two of Captain Ginger, a title he writes himself, and his excitement about the return of the series. He praised artists June Brigman and Veronica Gandini, both of whom are returning for the new season.
Moore next launched into teases of AHOY Wave 4, showing some images as he did so. The first image, for McCourt’s forthcoming series, featured a cat standing next to what looks like a footstool. The image was drawn by Jill Thompson. The image has since been shared by AHOY on Twitter:
#ICYMI We teased AHOY Comics Wave four at #SDCC.
Cover artist: @thejillthompson
Formal announcement: #ComingSoon pic.twitter.com/MB3Y5njNfF
— AhoyComicMags (@AhoyComicMags) July 23, 2019
McCourt reiterated that the series would involve little old ladies and the apocalypse, adding there would also be baking. She called the book really gross and really funny at the same time, and said, as indicated by the teaser, there’s a cat involved somewhere. The title cannot be revealed, though Golden Girls may be involved.
The next art teaser was for a book written by Russell. The writer said the series is about an artificial island built by billionaires in order to hopefully try to avert the end of the world. An audience members asked if it was fiction, and Russell said he hoped so.
The floor officially opened up to questions with a fan asking if more Steel Cage matches would be coming. Moore said that it was likely they would do more of those.
Asked how they choose what goes into the backmatter of each book, Moore said some of the backmatter comic stories are directly related to the main story, while others are just ones they wanted to develop, including Paul Constant and Lee Loughridge’s Snelson in Hashtag: Danger, which Moore said he wants to do more with. The prose stories are primarily chosen by AHOY publisher Hart Seely, Peyer, and editor Sarah Litt. Moore said it’s important to create a balance of tone and genre between the main material and the backmatter, to avoid a jarring shift when reading the material, but they also want the backmatter to still feel different from the main story.
A fan who is a school librarian asked about how to differentiate between middle grade and high school-appropriateness for each title. Moore said a few of the books, like Hashtag: Danger and Second Coming, have a mature readers label on the back, primarily for language.
What is the unifying mission of AHOY? Waid said the original mission statement of AHOY was ‘funny Vertigo.’ Moore said Peyer’s iron-clad rule is that every book has to have an element of humor, and cited early Vertigo books as also being very funny.
On the subject of how the backmatter from each book will be collected, Moore said they’re still working on that. It all depends on what it is and how it evolves, he explained, citing Hashtag: Danger as a book that began as a backup feature before moving to a series. Moore said something like that might happen again at some point. He also said that, when the backups are directly related to the main feature, as they are in The Wrong Earth or Planet of the Nerds, they’re included in the collected edition for the main series. Moore also said that the publisher shares a new piece of backmatter for free on their website each week.
A fan asked about including non-fiction as a backup feature, as most of it to this point has been prose. The fan cited Russell’s letter to readers at the end of Second Coming #1 as an example. Russell said that’s a great idea, and that pieces like that are useful for getting across a writer’s mission statement for the series to hopefully ‘cleanse the pallet’ of readers who might have preconceived ideas about the book. Moore said they’ve also run a few science columns as backmatter.
An audience member asked what the acronym AHOY stands for, and the panelists chuckled. Moore said AHOY stands for “AssHole Of the Year.” It originates from when Peyer and Seely were working for the Syracuse newspaper. Each year they would ‘run a contest’ to find the ‘asshole of the year.’ They inevitably gave the award they gave to George W. Bush every year.
Finch asked what the impetus was for creating AHOY Comics to begin with. Moore said he’s freelance and was brought in by Peyer and Seely, and that he thinks those two were frustrated by the world and wanted to do something, and that Peyer had a few projects that he wanted to work on including High Heaven. Moore began as a consultant for them, and he had already been developing Captain Ginger with Brigman and Gandini, but they hadn’t found the right level of enthusiasm or money for the artists from any other publishers. He thinks the series just meshed with what Peyer and Seely were doing, the same way Second Coming eventually did.
A question was posed to Waid, who has been on the ground floor of other companies as well, as to what makes AHOY special to him. Waid said he and Peyer are best friends, and when Peyer told him his plans Waid asked Peyer a series of hard questions about it before they got into it. Waid said Peyer and Seely had all the right answers to those questions, and that he likes the people involved. He said Noah Zark had been kicking around in his head for ten or twelve years, and that he grew up on kid genius stories like Encyclopedia Brown and Danny Dunn and the Homework Machine, a reference which he joked no one would get. He said he likes the ethos of the company and the fact that they’re not going anywhere.
Asked for advice on moderating a panel, Moore joked not to sleep for 48 hours ahead of time. Waid, who has moderated many panels in the past, gave advice about listening to the panelists and their answers, not being wedded to a piece of paper, and also trying to steer the conversation so everyone on the panel can be involved.
How do you know how many copies of an issue to print? It’s a gut feeling, Moore said, but you want to overprint with issue 1. Don’t overprint issues 4 or 5 of a 5-part series. Waid said, as a former retailer, that stuff clogs up the store shelves quickly if it doesn’t sell through. He described the process as a combination of science and alchemy.
Finch asked another question of Moore about how he knows who the perfect artist for a story will be, saying that Mauricet is the perfect artist for Ursa Major. Moore joked that he was probably drunk and he doesn’t remember. He said he keeps in touch with artists that he wants to work with, and that he generally bases the pairing of an artist to a script on what he knows an artist’s strengths are. Waid cited a backup prose story written by Finch about a mother being hunted, which was published in Bronze Age Boogie #4, as the best piece of AHOY backup material he’s read so far. Another story of Finch’s, “Franklin vs. the Spiders,” is slated for Bronze Age Boogie #6.
With that, Moore thanked the panelists for joining and the audience for attending, and the first AHOY Comics SDCC panel wrapped.