Legendary Comics – the publishing arm of well-known genre film powerhouse Legendary Pictures – broke onto the comics scene with the release of Frank Miller's long-awaited "Holy Terror" graphic novel. But this year at Comic-Con International in San Diego, the publisher has been looking to make waves with a new slate of projects and a new lineup of creative talent.
Thursday afternoon, the discussion continued with the Legendary Comics panel. MC'd by Nerdist founder Chris Hardwick, the panel featured Editor-in-Chief Bob Schreck, writer/artist Matt Wagner, artist Simon Bisley, writer Mark Waid, writer Max Brooks and artist Shane Davis.
"I'm very honored to be sitting here working with [studio head] Thomas Tull and Legendary. Clearly, they get it. They understand what it takes to build something from the ground up and make it work," Schreck said at the start of the panel. "Over my years [in comics], I've been able to foster some new talent...those things combined with Thomas' ability to say 'That's it. That's what we've got to do,' it's been a lot of fun." He then spoke to Legendary's goal of finding comics stories that haven't been seen before even as the same legendary stories have been told over and over again (he joked that the iPad is just a very advanced cave wall).
"Wer'e doing stories that stand as great graphic novels first...[Tull] loves the medium, and that's all we're trying to do: create great comic book stories," he added before speaking about Wagner and Bisley's "Tower Chronicles" graphic novel which will ship in September.
"I was first on the boat," Wagner said, relating that Schreck contacted him early in his days with Legendary to work on a concept Tull had noting that the producer wanted a writer who would challenge him on the story and give them "no bull." "Things started to gel right away. Thomas' ideas were good. I brought a few things to the table. The key with any story is that you need humanity...the core of the story which immediately grew into an epic saga ultimately grew into what will be three novels." The graphic novels will be serialized each in four-part prestige format comics.
The series will focus on supernatural bounty hunter John Tower. "Tower, to me, when I first read about him felt like a complete psychopath," Bisley laughed at the suggestion Wagner made that the character had a human core.
Schreck said that the level of research Wagner did on the book was vast, and all of it brought some more depth to the character. "There's a lot more to him than initially meets the eye. When we meet him, his this man who hunts down monsters for money," the writer said. A female FBI agent named Alicia crosses paths with Tower, and her investigation into his life relates the whole world to the audience. He compared the relationship to Tony Soprano's connection to Dr. Malfi.
The panel said that five parts of the serial have been written already, and Wagner definitely knows what the final end of the mystery is that will only be revealed at the end of three full graphic novels.
Schreck then announced that after Jim Lee's cover to issue #1, Alex Ross will portray the character for issue #2. The editor teased that two more big covers were on the way. Wagner then spoke to what the team did to make the series feel original, including finding some twisted ways to portray vampires in the book to feel different than
"Simon and I have never collaborated before," Wagner said, noting the artist had already drawn 144 pages, "And our collaboration is getting stronger every day."
The team of the just-announced "Shadow Walk" stepped up next as Max Brooks explained that Tull reached out for him to work with Legendary after reading his novel "World War Z." The producer appreciated Brooks' ability to make the fantastic fit in the real world, so he approached him with several projects, one of which's pitch was, "What if there was a place that was a legend that we've all heard of, and what if it were real? What would that mean for the planet we live on? What would be the science behind it?"
"The great thing about Thomas is that he lets me brainstorm," the writer noted, saying after a few months, the pair had created a huge bible of material for the series. Then Brooks was frank with Tull
"Bob has been editing comics, I think, since 'The Katzenjammer Kids,'" Waid joked, saying why he was ready to sign on with the company. But when he went in, he didn't realize who Thomas Tull was until he was sitting in the room with him. "What impressed me was that he was amenable to talking about the story. He and Max had come up with the basic idea, but what was presented to me was the chance to really find the story in it." Waid noted that themes of religion and faith and how they relate to a "super science" world became a big part of what "Shadow Walk" will be. "Thomas' edict to me was 'Make it a graphic novel.' This was not a disguised movie pitch." The producer pitched the writer on an opening scene that Waid said too much like a movie, so he was allowed
"We don't want to give away all the secrets, but this is about a place of legend that we've all heard about in Sunday school, and the government knows it exists," the writer explained. While there were legends of people going there, "Now for the first time, one of our military guys went in and was able to come back...the team that you [then] send in to investigate are not Army Rangers or Navy Seals. They're science heroes. And that's something I feel very strongly about." The team in the series will have experts on theoretical physics, geothermal science, ancient mythology and one man of the cloth.
Waid was still on the fence of committing to such a large project, but when he heard that Davis would draw it, he agreed. "They gave me a one sentence premise on it, and that's the worst thing to give an artist," he said. "Because you go to bed, and you wake up with a million things to draw." Davis has spent months designing new environments, bio-suits and weaponry and horrible monsters. "And designing the cast was prime. I'd laid out all these different personalities and conflicting ideas...the man of the cloth and the psychopath...I tried to play them all to their parts. You put those guys together, and it's awesome to watch them play off each other."
Davis noted that there has been a strong collaboration on the series, and he's been able to make all sorts of practical story decisions as the five core science heroes are teamed with a special forces team to protect them. The artist said he's been working on this since finishing "Superman Earth One" Vol. 2. Schreck also praised inker Mark Morales and colorist Morry Hollowell who will round out
The panel then introduced surprise guest J. Michael Straczynski to announce "The Majestic Files." The series will be a retelling of the Roswell myth and the alien landing there. The writer said the challenge of dealing with that is that it's been so long since the supposed incident happened, that it's hard to make a mystery where one can find out what the government might of done there let alone what they really would have done. To solve the problem, Straczynski looked at the story from a local perspective from government to military. He followed the thread from who would have been called first when something mysterious crashed, who they would have called and how the story would have first spread.
The story hangs on a local reporter who launches an investigation into how that information spread and how it would have been scuttled or covered up. "From going from the outside in rather than the inside out, we can learn things we never would have seen otherwise," the writer said. JMS will join with artist Geoff Shaw and inker Matt Banning. The former is a brand new talent Schreck discovered who's only done one short "Batman" story yet in his career, but the editor promised Shaw's talent would impress fans when they see "The Majestic Files" in 2013.
Asked by the audience how much focus would be put on making these series into movies, Brooks said that when Tull approached him, he said, "I'm starting a comic division. I'm not starting a pre-movie division." The panel agreed that Tull is a comics collector himself and doesn't want to put any pressure to make anything but good comic series.
Another fan asked how Legendary's acquiring the Nerdist will affect both companies. "I think the goal ultimately is to find ways to mash everything up. We want to be pulled into areas we've never expected," Hardwick said, adding that the deal was so new he still wasn't sure how it would impact either side's future plans.