"I am not Milo Ventimiglia" was how Filip Sablik started the Top Cow panel at New York Comic Con on Saturday. He then asked, "Are there any any small children in the audience?" and warned that the panel, like their books, was not meant for small children.
Next, Sablik introduced the first creators on stage; Ron Marz, writer for "Witchblade" and "Artifacts," Phil Hester, writer of "The Darkness" and co-creator of "Firebreather" and artist Whilce Portacio. Straight away Sablik played a video introduction to the Top Cow Universe, which featured a rock dialogue and stunning imagery but no narration, focusing primarily on their new hit series "Artifacts."
Sablik asked the audience, after the video, who had read the first issue of their universe-spanning crossover, "Artifacts." After a moderate number of hands went up in the packed room, Sablik announced they would be giving away copies at the Milo Ventimiglia signing for free.
"It seems like a nice thing, but it's really kind of a dick move because we're going to suck you in to reading all of our books," Sablik said.
Sablik then went over how "Artifacts" was selling and said the first issue, now in its third printing, is the first issue ever to require three printings in the history of Top Cow. The second issue, just shipped, is already in its second printing, he said.
Marz was asked to talk about the series, and he started off by saying, "I'm really tired, so I'm not terribly coherent. Plus these lights are like being in a sweat box."
Marz continued, saying he was very happy with how the book was coming out and that the artist, Michael Broussard, was great. He then asked how many people had read it and, assuming many were in attendance to see Milo Ventimiglia said, "we're taking your Milo love and using it for good and not evil." He then stressed heavily that "Artifacts" does not require any previous knowledge or reading of the Top Cow Universe to understand.
Sablik then announced that Whilce Portacio would be drawing issues #5-8 of "Artifacts" and explained the reasoning behind switching artists. In his opinion, when most companies do major event series, the art either gets delayed or you have fill-in artists on random issues. To circumvent this problem, Top Cow is planning on doing the book in three arcs with three artists to ensure that every issue has a great artist who is at the top of their game.
Marz said at its core, "Artifacts" is about "two parents searching for their missing daughter. I felt like if we were going to tell it large scale story, it needed a personal heart, it needed characters you cared about. Otherwise it just becomes about the fight scenes and the double page spreads and it turns in to a Michael Bay movie."
Portacio was extremely proud of the first issue of the event series, and said how he feels that Top Cow has the best environment for creators in the entire comics industry. Speaking in particular about the first issue, he said, "that first issue should go down as the way comics should be done."
Hester added, "Top Cow is still small enough that it's not a comic book factory. It's still artisan comics, they're hand made. Nothing goes out the door unless it's been approved by everybody that works on the comic. I think that's the quality you don't always see when reading a Marvel or DC crossover. While often great, once the clock starts, these things need to be turned out, they have to come out. At Top Cow, we make sure they're right before they come out."
Sablik then announced that "Witchblade" #139 would feature guest artist Michael Gaydos in an issue that deals with the direct ramifications of "Artifacts" #1.
However, Marz said, "If you're reading 'Artifacts' you don't have to read 'Witchblade.' If you're reading 'Witchblade' you don't have to read 'Artifacts.' We're not gonna pick your pocket about these storylines."
"I will pick your pocket, given the chance," Sablik quickly replied, getting a big laugh from the audience.
Sablik described "Witchblade" as a cross between "The X-Files" and "The Shield," but without the crooked cops.
Hester then briefly spoke about the series he's helmed for several years now, "The Darkness."
"The tough thing about 'The Darkness' is, [the main character] is not a hero, he is not a villain, he's lost somewhere in the middle there. He's a bastard, I know that, but he has a heart of gold under there, somewhere."
Coming up in the series, Hester said he would be using the Darkness' powers in new and interesting ways and that the next six to eight issues of the book would redefine the status quo for Jackie Estacado, the main character of the book.
Sablik used the next few minutes to describe the new round of books for the current "Pilot Season" event by Top Cow, where the publisher releases five stand alone issues by different creative teams, and then lets people vote on which one they liked best. The winning creative team gets awarded a full series by Top Cow.
The five issues this year are "39 Minutes," "Asset," "Crosshair," "Forever" and "7 Days from Hell." Of those, three of them feature artists discovered by Sablik at conventions.
A previous Pilot Season winner, "Twilight Guardian," would be launching in January, Sablik announced. He also went over the "Top Cow: First Look" book, which is comprised of six #1 issues for $4.99.
Joshua Hale Fialkov and Rahsan Ekedal, the writer and artist of "Echoes," were then brought up on stage to discuss their book. "Echoes," which comes out in December, is about a young man whose dying father reveals with his last breath that he was a serial killer. The series will follow what this young man does with that information.
"You're fucked up," Sablik said very pointedly after Fialkov described the plot, with the audience bursting in to laughter. "It's an autobiographical story," Fialkov joked back.
Fialkov then talked about how he wanted to try a type of horror story without vampires or werewolves, that keeps the reader turning the pages.
Fialkov then plugged his favorite Marvel book "Thor: The Mighty Avenger," to which Sablik responded: "Thanks dude, they need help. I don't know if you've heard, but they're owned by Disney. I think they're doing alright!"
"If you like stuff, don't keep it to yourself - share!" Fialkov said.
The stage then emptied and Sablik introduced Milo Ventimiglia, Russ Cundiff and Mark Powers, the creative team behind "Rest," to the stage.
Ventimiglia, who starred as Peter Petrelli in the NBC show "Heroes," began by saying credit should go to Powers, the scripter of "Rest." He also said he would get frustrated when he would talk to people at comic shops about "Berserker," the other title Ventimglia created, and they would only want to talk about "Rest."
Sablik told the audience that "Rest" would be available in a limited edition hardcover at NYCC only.
Ventimiglia described the plot of "Rest," which centers on a man who takes a drug that allows him to stay awake 24 hours a day with no side-effects. A man in front raised his hand in the middle of this description to which Ventimiglia shouted, "You have a question?!" The man said, "If you get bored, you're screwed!" "Therein lies some of the problems," Ventimiglia replied.
The main character ends up in all sorts of trouble with shadowy agencies and trouble ensues. "Dudes start pointing guns at him," Sablik said.
Sablik then revealed that "Rest" issues 3, 4 and 5 would be available exclusively in a digital format, which was a first for Top Cow. "Rest" was originally going to be a mini-series but it was changed to a graphic novel collection, but Sablik wanted to make sure that fans who collected it in single issues could still read it that way if they wanted.
At this point, Sablik opened up the panel to a quick Q+A session with Ventimiglia, Powers and Cundiff. As they expected, all the questions were directed towards Ventimiglia.
A fan shouted out that Ventimiglia's hair looks nice to which he joked that people need to realize he's an actor, and it's not like when he shaved his head it happened by accident. "Are you gonna bust my chops about being Italian-American too, this time?" he joked.
A fan asked how Ventimiglia has contributed to "Rest" and he likened his and Cundiff's roles to being like a producer in a TV show.
Someone asked if Ventimiglia would be in a "Gilmore Girls" movie. "You know what? I would. If they made a "Gilmore Girls" movie, I'm in. If they ever made a "Gilmore Girls" movie, I think that would be awesome."
A young librarian asked for advice on getting graphic novels and comic books in to libraries, since she usually has to fight to get them in her library. Ventimiglia asked if it was because of content and the librarian said it's because people have preconceived notions about comics. Sablik said, "It's something that's slowly been changing and we appreciate you trying, because it's something that has to happen on a local level."
He added, "Personally, some of the first comics I ever read were in a library - old Stan Lee and Jack Kirby collections of "The Hulk" and stuff like that. So I think it's really important. What's really cool is that a lot of young librarians get that and get that comics are literature."
A fan asked if Ventimiglia was disappointed that there wasn't going to be a "Heroes" movie. "I thought it ended pretty nicely," Ventimiglia said.
"If anybody's gonna bellyache about not getting to finish up the show, maybe we should have done it when the show was still on the air. Here's the deal: that's TV, that's reality. During the very first season, I was one of the only guys that said, 'Hey, you know at some point the show will get cancelled,' and everybody's kinda spitting and cursing at me, but that's the reality of the game. So here's the thing - its like, am I sad about anything? You know, I had a great time for four years and that's what I think about. I don't think about the opportunity that probably won't come back around for a "Heroes" movie or a close-out 8 to 15 to 22 episodes. It's just not going to happen. I like to live in the future and look to the future and then remember the past with reverence. "
"I'm never gonna bullshit you guys."
Finally, someone asked what might have happened to Peter Petrelli if the show had continued. Ventimiglia's response got the biggest cheers of the afternoon.
"I can tell you what I would love Peter to do. Fucking kill Sylar!! OK, here's the deal. I've been shot at, shot, stabbed, died. Three times? At least once a season - he's used to it. His dad tried to kill him. He ultimately killed his father and it's like, where do you go from there? I said the same thing at SDCC two years ago: where do you go from there? He struck me as an individual and I know, because I lived in his shoes for four years, that he would've fucked up Sylar. For anybody that thinks, 'Oh, well, it's great he found compassion...' No! Fucking death and vengeance!!! He would have gotten his powers back and fucked [Sylar] up."
Sablik then drew the panel to a close, but not without first telling people to grab tickets for a Ventimiglia signing after the panel. He told people not to rush and that everyone in line will get an autograph and a chance to meet Ventimiglia.
"The end of the line is just as important as the front," Ventimiglia said. "It's better in the back. Trust me," Sablik added to the audience's laughter.