It's not often you can describe a panel at a major convention as intimate, but that's just what Avatar Press' Sunday afternoon WonderCon presentation proved to be for fans in attendance. Now in their sixteenth year of business, Editor in Chief William Christensen started the panel with an outpouring of affection for Garth Ennis' "Crossed" and Alan Moore's "Neonomicon." "Things are going really swell" Christensen enthused.
"Crossed has been a humongous hit" he continued right before announcing that the 3D issue is finally going to print, admitting that the slowness was due to the production on the 3D effects "being way more complicated than they had thought" and that he "would rather do it right than on time." Christensen added with a chuckle that Avatar wanted a 3D book that "would just make everyone physically ill to their stomach."
Moving on, Christensen announced that fans would soon see the return of the original team of Garth Ennis and Jason Burrows to a Crossed ongoing Crossed: Badlands. Declaring that the ongoing would appear after the completion of the latest mini-series Crossed: Psychopath. Christensen broke down the plans for the ongoing and how it would be split into relatively unrelated arcs. The first will come from Ennis and Burrows the second arc would feature the writing of Jamie Delano of "Hellblazer" fame. Who in Christensen's own words "came in and knocked it out of the park for us." The third arc will come from Avatar workhorse David Lapham who it was noted is working on a few other big projects to be announced in San Diego at this years Comic-Con International.
Shifting focus to Avatar trades and collections or the current lack thereof, Christensen explained that the delays they are experiencing are due to the recently announced distribution switch from Diamond to the BOOM! Studios/Simon and Schuster model. The EiC noted, "for what it's worth," the new distribution model will provide Avatar "access to a bigger sales force with a better reach." The publisher plans to be caught up by the end of the year and "hoped to get a "Crossed: Family Values" trade out by Halloween and to get caught up on all these major projects that are done but don't have trades out yet" before the end of the year.
From there, the focus of the panel briefly shifted to Warren Ellis' work with the company. Christensen said that Ellis "is like a kid in a candy shop" when it comes to ideas and they have a few new things lined up with Ellis, including a new webcomic to start after the completion of volume six of "FreakAngels." When talk turned to "Gravel," Christensen gave the panel over to Avatar writer Mike Wolfer who will be taking over sole writing duties for "Gravel: Combat Magician." The news series has no set release date yet, but according to Christensen it promises to "get back into the trenches and get a little gritty again." Wolfer interjected, letting fans know "Warren is still involved," pointing out that he had been "writing the book previously, based on Ellis plots and with Ellis approval."
Wolfer then went on to explain this is how he works with "Lady Death" creator Brian Pulido on the character's recent relaunch through Avatar's Boundless imprint. Christensen said "Lady Death" has been "really well received," calling it "one of those rare cases where we are way ahead of my best case scenario plans." Wolfersaid that they are plotted through #21 and pencilled through #13 even though #4 hasn't yet hit stores.
With "Lady Death" is leading a resurgence in '90s bad girl books for Avatar, Wolfer talked about wanting to "bring some respectability" to them with "War Goddess." he hope is the relaunch of "Lady Death" can lend some of it's "mojo" to the fledgling project which would "bring back some really cool characters" in a continuity-lite way. When questioned about potentially reprinting or collecting some of the "bad girl" material from the '90s, Christensen responded with a resounding "Maybe. We'll just have to see what kind of traction 'War Goddess' gets."
Questions from floor led to even news of a new 6 issue "Absolution" series by creator Christos Gage later this year. Christensen said that there are lots of plans for those characters, including a one-shot for "Happy Kitty" by FreakAngels artist Paul Duffield.
Questions about output from Warren Ellis led to Christensen jokingly calling Ellis "a unique and delicate flower...who does whatever the fuck he wants."
The very next question was about Alan Moore and his output. Christensen said, "Alan very much takes his time with anything these days. But there is one other 10 issue series called 'Fashion Beast' that should see the light of day in 2012."
Before finishing out the panel in order to "enjoy the rest of his hangover" Christensen pointed out that he is in a wonderfully enviable position to allow writers to have the creative freedom to find their "freak button," pointing to recent work by David Lapham as an example of that freedom. Christensen and Wolfer said Avatar makes the kind of books that they both want to see, a sentiment with which the audience readily agreed.