Dark Horse kicked off its Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo Spring Fever panel by explaining to the assembled audience that this year will see a continuation of its horror line, Drawing On Your Nightmares. Up first was "Witch Hunt" by Victor Gischler and Juan Ferreyra, a creator-owned horror series that features witches and werewolves. "It's sort of a turf war with voodoo," Dark Horse's Editor-in-Chief Scott Allie said. "Victor is a crime writer and brings a lot of that to this book."
Next was "Grindhouse: Doors Open At Midnight," written by Alex de Campi. "She gets to do some really trampy, gory grindhouse type horror." Debuting on October 1, it' features several artists with covers by Francesco Francavilla, Dan Panosian and Coop.
Next, Allie shared art from the second arc of the comic book adaption of Guillermo Del Toro's "The Strain," written by David Lapham with art by Mike Huddleston. Lapham is adding things to the comic that Guillermo wasn't able to originally include in the novel.
Continuing with the horror comics, Allie announced the next arc of one their most successful horror series, "Criminal Macabre," written by creator Steve Niles and illustrated by Christopher Mitten. Allie also announced another book written by Niles with art by Dave Wacther called "Breath of Bones: A Tale of The Golem," described as a "really cool and sophisticated series." The new comics features a young jewish boy in World War II who is given the task of raising a golem to fight the nazis.
Allie then moved on to one of their most prolific properties. "'B.P.R.D.' may be the cornerstone of our horror line, and the next issue takes place in Chicago. We destroy Chicago," Allie said to laughs. "Sorry!" Accompanying his discussion of the comic was some art depicting a giant Lovercraft-esque creature destroying the Chicago skyline. Lawrence Campbell, one of the series' new artists, will be doing a lot of work for Dark Horse in the future, while "American Vampire" artist and co-creator Rafael Alburquerque is the new cover artist. Liz Sherman, featured on one of the covers shown, will be returning soon.
Allie talked about upcoming issues of the recently launched "Abe Sapien" series, written by Mike Mignola and himself with rotating art by twin brothers Max and Sebastian Fiumara. Despite being twins, they have "radically different" styles, Allie noted. "[Abe] has risen from his coma, and now he's AWOL and running across the country fighting monsters as the world sort of ends around him." It's a quieter story compared to the grand scale war stories they have been telling in "B.P.R.D." lately.
Next, Allie shared the cover for "Hellboy: The Midnight Circus," an original graphic novel that recounts one of Hellboy's adventures when he was still a child. It is written by Mike Mignola and features art by Duncan Fegredo. "Duncan is doing the most amazing art of his career," Allie stated. Asked what Mignola is going to do after "Hellboy in Hell," Allie said, "He's just going to keep doing 'Hellboy in Hell.'" He noted that Mignola is "well on his way" into issue #5. The following issues will come out "irregularly…just as Mike can do them." Allie sang the praises of the book, saying, "Honestly, 'Hellboy in Hell' is the book he always wanted Hellboy to be. Everyone is going to love some of the stuff coming up."
This year marks the 20th anniversary of Hellboy, who originally appeared in a two-page story in August of 1993. "We've done a lot of cool stuff with Hellboy over the years. We've seen Hellboy quit the B.P.R.D. in 2001. In 2011, we killed him. In 2012, we sent him to Hell! So for 2013, for his anniversary, we figured this was a character who really deserves an incredible rebirth. He's just such a cornerstone of heroes in modern comics and we wanted to something exciting with him, so this is what we're doing with Hellboy in August. Announcing 'Itty Bitty Hellboy!'"
With that, Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani of Aw Yeah! Comics took to the stage with wide grins on their faces. "Itty Bitty Hellboy has a big hand, his horns aren't really developed yet and he likes to fight," Baltazar explaind, to which Franco added, "Yeah, that's about it."
"We're having a lot of fun with the characters," Baltazar continued. "Mike and Scott and all the guys at Dark Horse have been awesome. They've let us take some liberties." Pointing at the art on the screen, Franco said, "There's Lobster Johnson, and the little blue guy above his head is Lobster Smith." The audience cracked up as Baltazar quipped, "It's crazy, man."
"We're gonna do it all," Baltazar said later in response to a question about how much freedom Mignola has granted the creators. "We're not telling them what to do." Allie added. "It's gonna be awesome, man," Baltazar said. "You gotta get it. It's gonna be cool!"
Cleverly and much to the amusement of the fans and panelists, each preview slide Dark Horse showed on the screen during the panel included a tiny character from "Itty Bitty Hellboy." On the first one was a small demon from Hellboy named Ulac. Baltzar explained that "Hellboy tries to catch him with a net because they go Big Foot hunting and they find him instead."
Next, Eric Powell, Writer/Artist of "The Goon" took the stage, saying that "The Goon" #44 is almost finished, joking that "life got in the way." After the issue hits, the series is taking another dark turn as he will try to keep it to a regular monthly schedule. He thanked the fans for supporting The Goon's Kickstarter, stating Blur Studios is hard at work on The Goon demo reel. Powell was later asked to expand on the upcoming bleakness, and he said the book would be more in the vein of the "Return of Lebrazzio" than "Chinatown."
Up next, Jeremy Atkins talked about the return of Geof Darrow's absurd and critically acclaimed series "Shaolin Cowboy." A three-issue series will launch in October, the first of which is "32 pages of solid story." The first issue will also feature a variant cover by legendary artist Walt Simonson.
Steve Horton then took the stage to talk about his book, "Amala's Blade," a series that originally debuted in "Dark Horse Presents." Illustrated by Michael Dialynas, Horton described the comic as a "steampunk action fantasy, sword-fighting epic with romance and ghosts and pirates and a monkey. There's literally something for everybody in this book." Issue #1 is already out with three more to follow.
At this point, Brian Wood joined the panel to talk about "Conan The Barbarian" #15, illustrated by Davide Gianfelice. Wood says it involves Conan "taking a bunch of drugs and sort of having this sprawling vision quest. In the life of this series, this is a very special arc," setting up the end of his 25-issue run.
Dark Horse is in the process of relaunchign its superhero line from the '90s, including "X" written by Duane Swierczynski and illustrated by Eric Ngyuen. Also returning is a new ongoing "Ghost" series written by Kelly Sue DeConnick and illustrated by Phil Noto.
Hidden on the screen at this point is another "Itty Bitty Hellboy" character: Johann Kraus! Baltazar tells the audience, while trying his best not to laugh, that Johann gets a cold so Liz and Hellboy think it's a good idea to fill his suit with chicken soup. The audience can't help but laugh along with Baltazar and Franco. "There's one scene where he sneezes and he accidentally inhaled Rasputin and he sneezes him out and I think that's how he gets cured."
Frank Barbieri, writer of Image Comics' "Twelve Ghosts," is introduced as the writer of upcoming "Blackout" series starring a character originally created by Dark Horse President Mike Richardson. The hero gets a suit that allows him to enter into black holes and learning to deal with his powers and the mysteries involved.
Chicago's Tim Seeley and Mike Norton joined the panel to promote a new series of "The Occultist," out in October. "In my mind, I always wanted the book to look like sort of like a Steve Ditko book, so when the opportunity rose to work with Mike Norton, who is our modern, much taller, much saner Steve Ditko, I jumped at the opportunity."joked Seeley to laughs as Norton just nodded and chuckled. The story is about a "novice wizard" who controls a magic book called "The Sword Against The Dead." Seeley described the second series as "Doctor Strange" meets "Requiem For A Dream" -- without the parts that are really embarrassing in "Requiem For A Dream."
Donny Cates, co-writer of the upcoming series "Buzzkill" along with Mark Rez and artist Mike Shaw, joined the assembled creators to discuss his series about a character that gets his powers from "getting drunk and doing drugs." He eventually blacks out and wakes up to find thousands of people dead. The book follows the character as he takes the 12 steps to recovery.
Next, Jai Nitz spoke about his book, "Dream Thief," featuring art by newcomer Greg Smallwood, "who has never drawn a comic before this one." "Dream Thief" features a character who, when asleep, is possessed by dead people who go out and get revenge in his body."
The collection of the first 5 issues of Michael Avon Oeming's"Victories" is in May for only $10, after which it will relaunch as an ongoing series.
Atkins spoke briefly about "Umbrella Academy" writer Gerard Way's new series "The True Lives of The Fabulous Kill Joys." It's illustrated by Becky Cloonan and co-written by Shaun Simon. A preview issue is out on May 4, 2013 for Free Comic Day with issue #1 debuting in June.
Moving on, Dark Horse announced that is has obtained the "Halo" license, based up the hugely successful video game series. The first issue will arrive in August called "Halo: Initiation" with Sarah Palmer as the main character.
Brian Wood spoke again, discussing his series "The Massive." Wood mentioned that issue #13 of his will feature a destroyed Manhattan in a sort of homage to his previous series, "DMZ." Wood's other Dark Horse title, "Star Wars," is on its 4th printing and has so far been a massive success with over 75,000 copies sold.
Asked if the" Art of Portal 2" book was ever going to be released, the panel answered that yes, it is. It was simply delayed when they had to go back to the drawing board and redesign it.
Asked about the motivation behind relaunching "Star Wars," Allie stated, "We just knew it was time to do something with the original characters. We wanted to do a book that we thought would be a slam dunk and bring in top talent to do it. The combination of Brian and core characters was a no-brainer for the whole industry"
Someone asked about the future of "Star Wars" at Dark Horse, to which Allie responded, "There's no plans to move anything. We talk to Lucasfilm all the time about it, and nothing has come down from Disney to make any changes."
Asked if there are any characters in "Star Wars" that Wood hasn't written yet but wants to, the writer responded that he's already writing around 12 characters and has to focus on them for the time being.