During one of the first panels at the 2012 Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo Archaia Entertainment discussed their slate of titles for the coming months with a room of fans. Hosted by Stephen Christy, the Editor-in-Chief of Archaia, the group of creators on stage included a veritable who's who of talent from the small press publisher -- writer Charles Soule ("Strange Attractors"), editor Joe Lefari ("Hawken"), artist Royden Lepp ("Rust"), writer Andrew E.C. Gaska ("Space: 1999 - Aftershock and Awe"), writer Jim McCann (Return of the Dapper Men), artist Janet Lee ("Return of the Dapper Men") writer Nate Cosby ("Cow Boy") and artist/writer David Petersen ("Mouse Guard").
Christy's first item of discussion was "Strange Attractors,"a new book written by Charles Soule scheduled to debut in the Fall. "I've been living in New York City for the past 16 years, since I went to school there, so I wanted to make a book about how complex and complicated it is,"Soule told the audience. "Its got all of these systems layered on top of each other and it was something that I wanted to explore in a story. Its about this old mathematician that figures out all of these systems in the city and uses it to create an engine to keep the balance of the city in check and helps the citizens live their lives Down the line, he foresees a major disaster that is going to destroy the city if he doesn't stop it. He would normally be able to do this, but he's too old and he's terrified to let this happen. So he tries to find someone to take this job over and replace him as this new hermit that will be willing to dedicate themselves to help save the city.
"If there was a simple way to describe it, it would be 'Harry Potter' meets 'Good Will Hunting.'
"A fine artist I know named Rob Saywitz will be designing these maps of the city, that show the various systems that inhabit it,"the writer continued. "Part of the design of the actual book will be these maps that you can take out and look at, in order for it to relate to the story and enhance it as well. That was one of the major reasons why I wanted to work with Archaia in the first place because they are willing to do things like this."
At this point, Soule ceded the stage to Joe Lefari who discussed the adaptation of the upcoming video game "Hawken."
"'Hawken' is a first-person shooter mech game that is coming out on 12-12-12," Lefari explained. "It is a free to play game that was developed by six guys, headed by Khang Le, an Eisner-nominated artist for his work on the 'Flight' anthologies. Since the game is a first person shooter, the only way you can see this world, when you're playing, is through the windshield of a cockpit. Even though this is the way the game is, they've always envisioned much more for the world since day one. They amassed this 200 page bible that goes into hundreds of years of history and mythology that they created for it. So this book is the narrative counterpart of the game, so you can go ahead and just play the game competitively, but in order to fully experience the world, to find out what's at stake, who these people are and why they're fighting, you have to read the book.
"This is the mech game that I've been dreaming about since I was a kid," Lefari continued after sharing a a short gameplay trailer with the audience. "It's not like 'Star Trek' or 'Tron' with their smooth, polished surfaces. Its a gritty, dark, genuine world, much more in the vein of 'Blade Runner,' 'Ghost in the Shell,' 'Tekkon Kinkreet,' 'Nausicaa: Valley of the Wind' and many others. All of these world are textural and you can feel every little detail that makes them feel so much bigger than the story itself. The story behind it is that way into the future, a planet has been privatized for terra forming and colonization, that is completely owned by corporations. Not the government and not humanity, just three corporations that decide to control it. Because of this, the world is turned into a post-apocalyptic wasteland"
Lefari explained that Jeremy Barlowe had been announced to write the book a few weeks ago, and now Archaia was ready to announce Barlowe's artistic partners on the project. "Greg Tochini, Francisco Ruiz Velasco, Nathan Fox, Christopher Moeller, Moritat, Michael Gaydos, Alex Sanchez and a couple more surprises that we'll be able to reveal much later on. So our hope, by reading these different stories, is to not only get you immersed in the world but by knowing how things fully work, make you a better gamer as well."
Christy then focused briefly on the hardcover Archaia is releasing for this summer's Free Comic Book Day. The ambitious freebie contains new stories from Petersen's "Mouse Guard," McCann and Lee's "Dapper Men," Lepp's "Rust," Cosby's "Cow Boy" and Jim Henson's "Labyrinth." After explaining this, he led into Lepp's "Rust," which just saw the first of its four volumes released.
"I know I left people on a cliffhanger ending for the first one, but that's what I love to do. I love when something has a cliffhanger ending," Lepp said, leading into his description of what's to come in part two. "Volume two will be out by the end of the summer this year. There's a new villain in the second volume that was really fun to draw. I won't say anymore than that because I don't want to spoil a single thing."
Andrew Gaska took the mic next to give the crown a look inside his upcoming sequel to the 1974 sci-fi series "Space 1999." Titled "Space 1999: Aftershock and Awe," Gaska's story will incorporate, rework and expand concepts from the source material. "In the pilot episode, we find out the that moon has been launched out of orbit, due to an accident. The first half of the book will show how this happened and the second half of the book will be a retelling of the pilot episode. Originality, the pilot was three hours that got whittled down to 45 minutes. We managed to go back to the original scripts and turn the graphic novel into a more accurate rendition of what the pilot episode was to be."
Christy then spoke of the new "Dapper Men"book from McCann and Lee entitled "Time of the Dapper Men." McCann took the mic to speak on his and his co-Eisner-winning collaborator's plans for the sequel.
"While 'Return of the Dapper Men' was always meant to be its own story, Janet and I did envision this as a trilogy. The first book was all about putting away your toys and trying to grown into an adult. 'Time of the Dapper Men' is all about Aiden's struggles in adolescence."
Lee joined in, describing the manner in which the new book differs from its acclaimed predecessor. "There's a lot more exploration of different cities, different cultures and new characters that widen the scope compared to the original."
Christy then briefly discussed Lee's other Archaia project, "Alphabet Wonderland," an ABC book that contains the characters from Lewis Caroll's "Alice and Wonderland." The final product is a board book, much like many other children's books. "It been three years in the making, and I finally just saw a finished copy today," Christy said.
After Nate Cosby briefly promoted his and Chris Eliopoulos' "Cow Boy," which is seeing it's debut at C2E2, the panel ended with David Petersen speaking about a second volume of "Legends of the Guard" which will contain art from a number of artists, including Eric Canete, Bill Willingham, Christian Slade, Stan Sakai and more. "That's one of the things that I love about doing the 'Legends' book is that it allows me the opportunity to work with other artists," Petersen said. "It also give other artists have fun in the 'Mouse Guard' world. It explores stories that I don't have time to tell but is able to enrich the universe."
Petersen also announced that "The Black Axe" miniseries will be finished this year and have a hardcover collection filled with double the amount of bonus material and pin-ups. The art for the pin-ups include Alex Sheikman, Shawn Rubin, Duncan Fegredo, Charles Paul Wilson, Shane Vidaurri and Mike Mignola. "Mike promised me a pin-up four years ago, and every time I'd ask for it, he was always busy. We always wanted to let people know but I wanted to make sure that I had the pin-up in my hands before we announce it. Well, now I've got it in my hands."