Writer Mark Russell took San Diego Comic-Con attendees this weekend inside his new book Rumpus Room, which imagines a technocrat billionaire with a terrible skin condition that requires a topical cream made, um, very unethically by uh…well, essentially by harvesting the poor.

Rumpus Room — which is published by AWA Studios and has a first issue due out September 20 (FOC August 27) — is illustrated by Ramon Rosanas with covers by Tony Harris. And while the rollout of the book was the most timely aspect of the panel, there was also a thoughtful discussion of Russell’s past book with AWA, Not All Robots, as well as his career as a whole. In fact, I think this panel — moderated by Popverse’s Graeme McMillan with AWA Chief Creative Officer Axel Alonso — had more (and better) questions than 99 percent of comics panels I’ve attended (we’ll get to those). 

But first, more on Rumpus Room. Russell said the book is a satire, inspired by the politics of 2023, a time in which many seem to be comfortable with arguing that some groups are less human and billionaires have basically thrown everyone else into a (rumpus) room to fight for survival. 

You can find some visual assets from the new book below, including a variant cover drawn (and signed) by Russell himself:

Rumpus Room

Rumpus Room

So there’s the art and the new stuff, but like I said, this panel also had a robust Q&A and a nice discussion between Russell and Alonso. I’ve pulled out some highlights that I noted below:

  • Russell was having a hard time getting Not All Robots (an eventual Eisner winner for best humor comic) made, with publishers listening to the pitch — a robot dystopian parable for toxic masculinity — and then asking what else he had. Until AWA came along.
  • Russell initially wondered how well Not All Robots artist Mike Deodato Jr. would fit with the book, but thinks his work makes it even funnier by playing the visuals relatively straight.
  • Alonso said he liked the book because it was a different sort of robot takeover story, one in which the robots are victors but regret it.
  • Russell has a prose project forthcoming that involves the Brothers Grimm fairytales. 
  • The “primordial influences” for Russell’s work are MAD Magazine and Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles.
  • Russell was so convinced that (now absolutely beloved) The Flintstones would end his comics career, that he tried to put everything he had to say in that one comic.
  • Finally, quoting an audience question, Russell said it would be fitting if his business card read “Mark Russell, A New Voice in Frustration.”

Miss any of our earlier SDCC ’23 coverage? Find it all here!