The Image Comics Show at Chicago Comics & Entertainment Expo kicked off on Saturday with panelists Richard Starkings ("Elephantmen"), Ben McCool ("Choker"), Nick Spencer ("Existence 2.0"), Jim Valentino ("ShadowHawk") and Tim Seeley ("Hack/Slash"). Moderated by newly appointed PR & Marketing Coordinator Betsy Gomez, the panel covered a gamut of comic book news, including two announcements covered exclusively by CBR News.
Events kicked off with Gomez showing a slide for "Turf" #1, the four-issue miniseries recently launched by British radio and television presenter Jonathan Ross and the esteemed Tommy Lee Edwards. The first issue has sold out and Edwards will provide a new cover for the reprint of issue #1. Gomez acknowledged recent rumors pegging "Kick-Ass" director Matthew Vaughn as a possible director for a "Turf" movie, but she would neither confirm nor deny the reports.
Next, Gomez announced the sellout of "Invincible Returns" #1, the special issue of Robert Kirkman's long-running superhero series that puts the title character back in his original costume. The issue is being reprinted, and any retailer that orders five copies of "Invincible" #71 will receive one copy of "Invincible Returns" for free.
Gomez moved the discussion to "Chew," the hit Image Comics series from Jonathan Layman and Rob Guillory. A sneak peek at the cover for issue #14 revealed a menacing Mason Savoy, last seen on the run after Tony Chu revealed his villainous secrets in "Chew" #6. The second trade paperback will come out concurrently with "Chew" #11 in May.
In June, frequent Robert Kirkman collaborators Ryan Ottley and Jason Howard will debut "Sea Bear & Grizzly Shark." Attendees of C2E2 were encouraged to swing by the Image Comics booth and Ottley and Howard's table in artist alley to pick up stickers from the series declaring loyalty for Team Bear or Team Shark.
"Sweets," a new miniseries starting in July, was the next title to get its turn in the spotlight. Written and illustrated by Kody Chamberlain, "Sweets" focuses on a murderer's killing spree throughout New Orleans in the days leading up to Hurricane Katrina. A detective is racing to stop the killer before Katrina reaches the city and washes everything away, including the entire case. Chamberlain has launched a Kickstarter page to secure funding for the project.
Gomez turned the microphone over to Shadowline mastermind Jim Valentino to discuss some upcoming projects from his Image imprint. First on the list was "Fractured Fables," a 160-page hardcover coming out in July featuring fairy tales from notable creators including Ben Templesmith, Mike Allred, Peter David, Terry Moore and Jill Thompson.
Next, Valentino spoke about "Lady Robotika," a comic book written by Jane Wiedlin of The Go-Go's and illustrated by Bill Morrison of Bongo Comics. The story focuses on a woman who is abducted by aliens and turned into a cybernetic heroine, leading to a sexy science fiction adventure with plenty of rock and roll. "There's probably some bondage and stuff, so get one for your mom," Valentino joked. "I think she'll like it."
Valentino also mentioned "Meta 4," a five-issue miniseries written and illustrated by Ted McKeever about a woman named Gasolina who discovers a beach-wrecked man in an astronaut suit suffering from amnesia. Together, they try to figure out who he is "through usual Ted McKeever insanity. If you like Ted McKeever, you'll like this."
Valentino briefly touched on "Cowboy Ninja Viking" by A.J. Lieberman and Riley Rossmo, saying the first trade paperback should be coming out by the end of April. "I like books that you should take acid to," he joked of the series.
Finally, Valentino reminded attendees of the new "ShadowHawk" ongoing series launching in May, written by Dan Wickline and illustrated by Tone Rodriguez. Valentino himself will illustrate a back-up story penned by "30 Days of Night" creator Steve Niles. The short stories will have lots of "blood and guts and gore and stuff. [Niles] wanted a change of pace."
The microphone was turned over to Nick Spencer, who announced that "Shuddertown" #1 has completely sold out. The first issue will be available online and a hardcover collecting the four-issue miniseries will ship in September. "It's very cool to have that sell out," Spencer said.
"Existence 2.0" and "Existence 3.0" will be collected together for an August-releasing trade paperback, said Spencer. Issue #3 of the second miniseries was just released this past week, leaving one more issue before the series wraps up. He also repeated the recent announcement that "Existence 2.0" was picked up for film by Paramount Pictures and Platinum Dunes, with "Smallville" co-creators Miles Millar and Al Gough spearheading the film's treatment.
Spencer then announced an all-new project titled "Morning Glories," his first ongoing series. The writer stated that he's staying light on the details for now, but the book focuses on "six genius kids who are recruited into a very prestigious and highly respected boarding school that turns out to be run by some very bad people." He described the premise as "Lost" meets "Runaways." Spencer referred attendees to his exclusive interview on CBR for further detailes about the project.
Tim Seeley was next to the microphone, discussing the recent arrival of "Hack/Slash" to Image Comics. He said that the book's run through Devil's Due Publishing should wrap up within the next couple of weeks, leading to the June release of "Hack/Slash: My First Maniac," a prequel miniseries drawn by Dan Leister focusing on Cassie Hack's first encounter with a slasher. Seeley and Image will also rerelease the first two "Hack/Slash" omnibuses and a number of trades previously available through DDP. The writer-artist mentioned that his plan is to start an ongoing "Hack/Slash" series by Christmas.
"It's the same book, big new ‘I’ on the cover," he described of moving "Hack/Slash" to Image Comics.
Ben McCool spoke next about "Choker," his miniseries with Ben Templesmith. Described as a ten-day bender with Raymond Chandler and Philip K. Dick, "Choker" tells the story of down-and-out detective Johnny "Choker" Jackson, a former hotshot cop suffering from a bad case of alien hand syndrome. When one of his former collars breaks out of prison, the bad-tempered Jackson is given a shot at redemption — if he brings the bad guy in, he can have his job back on the police force. But in Shotgun City, nothing is ever what it seems.
"It's absolutely mental," McCool said of the series, which has already sold out of the first two issues with a third issue on the way. "Templesmith absolutely killed it on the art."
McCool then announced "Memoir," a new miniseries that is "about as different from 'Choker' as you can possibly imagine, but don't worry — it's still absolutely bonkers," he assured. "Memoir" tells the story of Lowesville, a small town in the American Midwest where everyone lost their memory three years ago. Journalist Trent McGowan is sent to Lowesville to investigate the story of what happened when he encounters the one man who claims to remember everything, leading to a series of escalating events described by McCool as a fusion of "The Twilight Zone" and "Twin Peaks." McCool referred readers to his exclusive interview with CBR News for more information.
Speaking last was "Elephantmen" creator Richard Starkings, who riffed on McCool's "Choker" comparison by describing "Elephantmen" as "Raymond Chandler and Philip K. Dick playing Jumanji." He spoke about the upcoming 25th issue of the series, which features 25 different guest artists drawing a different page in the issue. Artists include Paul Grist of "The Weird World of Jack Staff," Pia Guerra of "Y: The Last Man" and Axel Medellin, the artist behind Frank Cho's upcoming "50-Girls-50." Starkings revealed that Medellin would also draw a sequence in "Elephantmen" #26 and an entire issue of the series later down the line.
Additionally, Starkings said that "Elephantmen" #25 would contain a flip feature of "Marineman," an upcoming character and series written and illustrated by Ian Churchill. Stay tuned to CBR News in the coming weeks for more on that project.
The panel was turned over for questions from the audience. Asked when the upcoming "ShadowHawk Chronicles" hardcover would be released, Valentino said that the book will hit stores next week.
A fan asked about the origin of Image Comics. "It was Rob Liefeld's fault," Valentino joked, before recalling how Liefeld worked tirelessly to sell Todd McFarlane, Erik Larsen and Valentino on the idea of starting a creator-owned comic book company. "Rob is kind of an excitable boy. I think he stuck his finger in a light socket when he was ten and liked it so much that he did it again," he joked of his co-founder.
Another attendee asked if there was any news on Image Comics properties being developed for film and television. Gomez reminded the audience of the upcoming "Walking Dead" television series coming to AMC starring Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes and Jon Bernthal as Shane. She also confirmed that Jeffrey DeMunn has joined the cast, but she wouldn't confirm the rumors that the Frank Darabont regular was starring as Dale.
"Getting an option is not the same as getting [a movie] made," Valentino said of adapting comic books to other media such as film and television. He said that he hasn't heard anything regarding new "Savage Dragon" or "Spawn" adaptations. "But that doesn't mean there isn't anyone circling around them offering thirty or forty cents," he joked.
Spencer was asked if he had anything more to say on "Morning Glories." He confirmed that there would definitely be a supernatural element, but the real drive for him is his love of the characters. "It's a big, very ambitious story," he said before apologizing about playing the story so close to the vest.
"This is called cagey hype," Valentino ribbed his fellow panelist.
Another question for Spencer focused on the "I'm Going To Fuck This" viral video storyline featured in "Forgetless" #2. Spencer said that a lot of the story's dirtiest elements come from conversations he's picked up while living in New York City, but admitted that this particular idea came from a joking discussion with his friends about how to get into the viral video game. "I'm just glad no one has picked up the torch and run with it in the real world," the writer laughed, before saying that "Forgetless" #4 is even more grotesque thanks to the inclusion of "bestial fecal porn — somehow, I didn't get arrested."
Starkings was asked about the recently announced plans to turn "Elephantmen" into a movie through Zucker Productions. As he envisions it, an "Elephantmen" movie will sport a mixture of live-action and CGI. As for tone, Starkings said: "They've already made 'Blade Runner' so you don't need to make another, but that kind of tone [is perfect]." He also said that he's turned down other offers to adapt "Elephantmen" in the past — specifically one that would have turned the franchise into a Saturday morning cartoon — because he wants the film to be as smart as possible.
At the event's conclusion, the panelists were asked to recommend some of their favorite books currently on the market. Some suggestions included James Stokoe's "Orc Stain," Brandon Graham's "King City," John Layman and Rob Guillory's "Chew," Mike Carey and Peter Gross' "The Unwritten," G. Willow Wilson and M.K. Perker's "Air" and Jonathan Hickman's "S.H.I.E.L.D.," described by Spencer as "the best Marvel book I've read in years."