A cross-generational meeting of creator-owned comics practitioners hit the stage at last weekend’s The Image Comics Show at New York Comic Con. Image PR & Marketing Coordinator Joe Keatinge took the mic to moderate a talk on upcoming Image projects with founding artists Whilce Portacio, currently penciler of "Spawn," and Rob Liefeld, whose next project is "Smash" with Jeph Loeb. Additionally, Liefeld will soon return to his "Youngblood" characters in issue #8, which features a new team as hand picked by a fictionalized President Barack Obama. Joining Portacio and Liefeld were recent newcomers to the Image fold in the form of Man of Action scribes Joe Kelly ("Bad Dog," "Four Eyes") and Steven Seagle ("Soul Kiss").
The big news of the panel was the revelation of the details behind the June-launching collaboration between new Image partner Robert Kirkman and founder Todd McFarlane. The new ongoing superhero horror series "Haunt" will boast a script by co-written the pair and art by the team of Greg Capullo, Ryan Ottley and McFarlane.
In additional Kirkman news, Keatinge spoke about the upcoming "crossover event all in one issue" installment of "Invincible" taking place in issue #60, featuring characters like Youngblood, Spawn, Witchblade and the Dynamo 5. "This is going to lead to some follow up. Something happens to lead to what's called the Invincible War, and the aftermath to that is something I would say is even more devastating than the original battle with his father Omni-Man," Keatinge said.
No new details could be revealed on the next issue of "The Walking Dead," but a new compendium volume of the popular zombie series akin to the recent "Savage Dragon" black-and-white trades will soon hit, containing 48 issues for $60.
Other announcements at the panel included word of new Image series launching in May. Aside from new issues of books including "Walking Dead," "Savage Dragon" (whose #148 is the publishers Free Comic Book Day offering for the year) and "The Sword,” new books on tap include a "G-Man" graphic novel by Chris Giarusso, a new Chris Yost comic titled "Killer of Demons" with art by "Atomic Robo" alum Scott Wegener, and "Olympus" a sci-fi series by Nathan Edmondson and Christian Ward with covers by Tommy Lee Edwards. Josh Howard's popular supernatural teen adventure indie "Dead@17" will relocate to Image from its longtime home at Viper Comics in 2009, with a new trade collection of all previous series and new stories to follow. Cartoonist Doug TenNapel returns with his latest graphic novel "Power Up" as well. And Joseph Michael Linser's popular "Dawn" series will see two new one shots in mid-year and by the end of year, a giant “every Dawn story ever” collection will be released, as well as a new Dawn tarot card set.
Kelly and Seagle each took a moment to describe their latest round of books under the Man of Action imprint, all of which launch this month. Kelly explained that the draw to Image for the studio of longtime comics creators (which also includes Joe Casey and Duncan Rouleau), "We all felt it was time to be doing our own creator-owned books and control the terms of the book...I love mainstream stuff and superhero stuff, but there's just certain subject matter you can't press into those books. I also love a story that has an ending where you don't have to worry about remaking the series over and over. To be able to do a drama about a troubled girl [in 'I Kill Giants'] or dragons fighting over Brooklyn during the Depression [like my current 'Four Eyes']...I can't really do that at Marvel or DC."
And while he launched the his curse-laden, bounty hunter, action/comedy "Bad Dog" into comic shops this week, Kelly noted that, "I like to jump around [with genres]. I love going from adolescent drama stuff to the raunchy 'Bad Dog' nastiness, and we also have a kids book coming out with Ben Roman who draws 'I Luv Halloween' called 'Frederick Douglas and the House of They,'" to which Seagle joked, "It's a raunchy kids book."
For his own February MoA series "Soul Kiss," Seagle compared the project to his first run at self-publishing. "What's funny about 'Soul Kiss' is it's kind of like the first comic I ever did in college. I could sit around writing proposals and going, 'I can write comics!' and then someone actually bought one. Then I realized, I can't do comics. I’d never written one, only proposals.' So I'd sit in my dorm room in between classes writing scripts, and the art was done by another guy in my college, so then I lettered it. And it looked like crap because I didn't know how to letter, but I did it. I did six issues of this book called 'Kafka,' and my significant other helped me with production.
“Now I'm doing 'Soul Kiss,' and I'm in my room, doing my own lettering, looking at my own proofs, and I'm like, 'Honey, can you help me do the production on the cover?' I think I devolved all the way back to breaking in."
Seagle described "Soul Kiss" as being about “a woman who makes a deal with the devil, and it goes badly as deals so she has to make another deal with the devil to get out of it. So 'Don't make a second deal with the devil' is the opening salvo of that book. That's not going well, but it's a love story, so hopefully it'll turn out well."
Seagle also noted that Man of Action will soon launch a new Cartoon Network animated series and that he's producing a creator-owned superhero book drawn by Mark Dosantos called "Imperial."
A running theme of the panel was for Keatinge to ask panelists how they broke into the comic book business, and it led to a few choice anecdotes from "Spawn" penciler Whilce Portacio. The artist noted that when he first tired to break in at Marvel Comics, he made the rookie mistake of bringing a portfolio to comic conventions full of "only watercolors and pinups," and when the editors saw it, they began to play a game of passing him along to other editors with instructions that each one was Carl Potts, who could give him work. Portacio continued "chasing the fake Carl Potts" until he found the real one, and earned inking gigs despite the fact that his work was "really boring.” “I just showed my portfolio and got a job. I had no idea you actually had to tell something called a story. You can draw what you want to draw, but it's got to make sense."
Breaking big as an inker for the first time, Portacio got the gig of working over superstar Art Adams on Marvel's classic "Longshot" miniseries. "The editor sent me the first issue, and I went 'What?!?!'” laughed the artist, on the hard task of inking the super-detailed Adams. "It was so much detail that [while at a convention,] me and Art would sit at the Marvel tables and one-by-one, everybody in the industry came by to shake Art's hand, and he'd say, 'Hey! The issues are finally coming out. We finally found a sucker to ink them!' All I remember is Mignola coming by and Terry Austin and all of the top inkers and them giving their condolences."
Portacio eventually began drawing the Punisher on the back of his inking pages to prove his penciling talent, and then after getting a Punisher gig, drew Wolverine on the back of his Punisher pages to make his way to the X-Men.
Keatinge noted that "Spawn" will see a new printing of the original series under the heading "Spawn Origins," while a new series of trades will soon kick off for Portacio and Todd McFarlane's current run under the heading "Endgame."