On Sunday afternoon at Emerald City Comicon in Seattle, editor Sarah Gaydos hosted a revealing panel about IDW Publishing's June-launching Cartoon Network crossover event "Super Secret Crisis War" by writer Louise Simonson and artist Derek Charm.
The large panel included "Super Secret Crisis War" artist Derek Charm, "Johnny Bravo" writer Erik Burnham, "Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy" writer Kate Leth, "Dexter's Laboratory" writer Derek Fridolfs and the regular "Samurai Jack" creative team of artist Andy Suriano and writer Jim Zub.
Gaydos kicked the panel off by showing Charm's two interlocking variant covers for "Super Secret Crisis War" #1, featuring the Cartoon Network heroes on one cover squaring off against their evil counterparts on the other. The retailer incentive cover for the first issue is by Katie Cook.
"Super Secret Crisis War" also features subscription variant covers for each issue that come together to form a poster by "Powerpuff Girls" artist Troy Little. Gaydos said, "Troy is one of those people who can take all these different characters and put them together in a single image."
Explaining the basic plot of "Super Secret Crisis War" to the audience, Gaydos said, "The overall story is that the bad guys have formed a league of extraordinary villains with the ultimate goal of taking over all of the worlds they can possibly get their hands on. The way they're going to do that is by recruiting the biggest hero of that world, bring them to their evil secret space-station and -- I don't want to say anymore."
Gaydos showed off some of Charm's concept art for the series, including images of the villains' evil robots and their secret space-station headquarters. "There's a lot of robots -- evil robots -- which is awesome," said Gaydos. "You can see there's two different sets here because ["Ben 10" villain] Gilgax has designed an evil robot but ["Samurai Jack" villain] Aku has designed an evil robot, too, and they're constantly fighting about who has the best robot."
Charm added, "It was fun drawing them in the different styles because Aku definitely has this industrial style and Gilgax has this clean, shiny style. And the station is Aku's so it has more of his design sense."
Gaydos then played a brief video message from series writer Louise Simonson. "I'm having a wonderful time. I get to watch cartoons for reference, how cool is that?" said Simonson. "I'm having the best time writing it and I hope you guys have the best time reading it."
Andy Suriano's variant cover for "Super Secret Crisis War" is an homage to "House of Secrets" #92, the debut of Swamp Thing. The cover originally used a photo of Simonson as reference so Suriano chose it as a tribute to her.
The first one-shot discussed was "Johnny Bravo" by Burnham and artist Erica Henderson, which Gaydos said Burnham jumped on "almost immediately."
"I went back to the super-weird angle. The episode where he's dating a werewolf. Or Adam West solves everybody's problem," Burnham explained. "I took that tack. And that's where, spoiler alert, the squirrel [on the issue's cover] comes in."
"Johnny Bravo" creator Van Partible will provide a variant cover for the one-sot. "I found out [Partible] was on twitter so I said I wish I would have known before I wrote it so I could sap some of his ideas," Burnham said with a laugh. "He saw that, responded back and Sarah being wise jumped right in and said, 'Hey, how about a cover?' and he agreed to do it."
In August, the all-Canadian team of writer Leth and artist Troy Little bring us "The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy." Gaydos said, "I thought it would be cool to have you Canadians all on one book."
Leth added, "I like writing spooky stuff, I write a lot of that in other properties, so 'Billy and Mandy' was really neat because it's so Halloween-y and the world of it is so colorful yet macabre at the same time. It's really fun. I love Mandy so much. She's so fun to write."
"Cow and Chicken" is by Jim Zub and artist Jorge Monlongo. "It was weird re-watching the show because I remember it being very odd and when I re-watch it now it's even stranger than when I was a kid," Zub said. "I must have normalized some of this. The voices in particular are bizarre. You can't even tell what Cow is saying half the time because it's a high, screeching octave."
The tie-in for "Foster's Home for Imaginary Children" will be written by Ivan Cohen and drawn by Paulina Ganucheau, while "Codename: Kid Next Door" gets assigned writer Scott Peterson and artist Ryan Jampole to round out the one-shots, though none of the creators could attend the panel.
Moving away from "Super Secret Crisis War" for a moment to discuss Suriano and Zub's ongoing "Samurai Jack" series, the writer said, "We're sort of a writing a fifth season in comic form. New episodes, new challenges."
"One of the things that made 'Jack' so great was that they never repeated themselves. Jack would be in a new place, Jack would fight new villains, new challenges, strange, strange stuff," said Zub. "That was very liberating to know that I had this wide, wide field. It's a genre melting pot. Mythic stuff, science fiction stuff, fantasy stuff. It's almost anything goes. Some of the episodes are very silly and some are unbelievable serious and emotional. We had a whole range to play with."
Suriano, who worked as an illustrator on the original "Samurai Jack" animated series, added, "The thing about 'Jack' is that it was mostly about atmosphere. It was about telling a story, not with words and not with dialogue -- even though Jim brings all that. But what Jim also brings is an emotional component of it. An overall feeling and mood."
Britney Williams will fill in in for Suriano on "Samurai Jack" #6, which features female versions of the Scotsman and Samurai Jack. "We got away with doing a gender bend. So that's the Scotswoman and that's Samurai Jacqueline," said Zub. "They're cursed by leprechauns and now they have to figure out how to turn themselves back to their manly selves."
Gaydos said she found Williams while browsing art online. "I look on tumblr, I look on Comics Alliance and I just see what I like," Gaydos said. "It's so cool to be able to e-mail someone and [then work with them]. It's the best part of my job."
Suriano returns as regular artist with issue #8, s a silent issue. "Andy came up with the idea for this story," Zub said. "He came up to me and said, 'Let's do a story like this.' And I had been thinking let's do a silent issue without any dialogue in the back of my mind."
The panel next showcased off art from Charm's two-issue guest stint as writer and artist on "Powerpuff Girls" #7 and 8. Charm said his issues will explore what happens when the King of Monster Island invites all the monsters to a" giant spring break style party in Townsville… He's just trying to impress the other monsters with this party. He's very concerned they have a good time."
Covers from Fridolfs and artist Ryan Jampole's "Dexter's Laboratory" were shown next. Fridolfs pulls double-duty and provides an alternate cover for the series, as well. Fridolfs said, "I feel like my life led up to the point of working on this because I grew up with an older sister that I always got into arguments with and she would always ruin artwork that I was working on or stories that I was trying to write. This is the perfect segue to working on a book like this. When I pitched the project I thought after watching the episodes that I'm sort of going to go against the writer's code. I'm going to give Dexter exactly what he wants. Which is to not have a sister around. To be able to do all of his experiments in his lab without any problems. But as with anything with Dexter you have to be careful what you wish for. Things go very badly very quickly and Deedee gets her chance to shine."
Gaydos then used the closing minutes of the panel to take questions from fans.
A "Courage the Cowardly Dog" fan asked why that property isn't being used as a one-shot for "Super Secret Crisis War." Gaydos said while they do have the license to the character, the truth was that nobody could find a good angle for him. She's open to bringing him out in the future if that's what fans want, however.
Gaydos added that they only have the license for the '90s Cartoon Network properties, although BOOM! Studios is publishing adaptations of some of the channel's current shows.
A "Samurai Jack" fan asked if a "Mega XLR" series was in the works next. Zub said no, but that people tweeted him about it the day "Samurai Jack" was announced. Suriano then gave the fan a sketch of "Samurai Jack" he had drawn during the panel.
Finally, a fan inquired about whether any of the one-shots could lead to ongoing series. Gaydos encouraged fans who want certain books to become ongoing series to purchase the one-shots and said she would love to grow the line much larger in the future.