The folks at Michael Turner's Aspen Comics have clearly grasped the key concept behind getting people to attend their panels.
People were lined up outside the room to get in and were handed a nifty little certificate as they entered. This little certificate could be redeemed at the end of the panel for a limited editions print signed by the Aspen artists.
Colorist and Aspen Vice President Peter Steigerwald was the man at the podium, joined by founder Michael Turner, looking hearty and hale, artists Micah Gunnell and Marcus To, writers JT Krul and Frank Mastromauro and their newest employee, the public speaking adverstising promotions manager Jess Blackwell.
Steigerwald, originally from Hawaii, led the crowd in a bellow of Aloha. Disappointed by the thunderous first attempt, the panel really got underway after an Aloha that nearly leveled the place.
Apsen started with some slides showcasing upcoming and current projects. Issue #7 of the series either just shipped, is shipping now, or will be shipping now, depending on which member of the Aspen staff you asked. "Soulfire" is set to wrap up with #10, which will be oversized to contain the extra goodness packed into the finale.
"Soulfire: Chaos Reign" is set to start, and will explore the early days of the Soulfire universe, when magic still flooded the land and dragons ruled the air.
"It's a really cool story that explains a lot of things," said Turner.
Shrugged, the new Aspen series about a boy whose angels and devils of conscience, is set to hit stores, featuring an almost infinite number of variants covers by the various artists in the Aspen stable.
"We're going to have a lot of fun with this book," said Turner.
A number of anthology type books are coming out later in the year, including "Aspen Splash" as the "Aspen Season: Summer" and "Aspen Season: Winter."
October will bring the trade paperback collections of the mini-series "Soulfire: Dying of the Light," and will include the never before seen (because it didn't exist) "Beginnings" story.
Aspen produced the "Worlds of Aspen" book for free comic book day, although judging by crowd reaction, the book was hard to find.
The crowd also murmured when the logo for the long delayed Geoff Johns/Michael Turner project "Ekos" popped up in presentation.
"That's just to remind you we haven't forgotten about it," said Steigerwald.
Aspen has recently started working with Marvel Comics, doing a wide variety of covers for the publisher. Covers included a Storm cover for the "Black Panther" series, an alternate cover for "Civil War" that was available at the con, as well as several variants for the second and third issues.
They'd have liked to show the covers for "Civil War" #4 and #5, but Marvel didn't want those released quite yet. So they showed some upcoming "JLA" covers instead. They also showed the variety of prints for sale both at the Aspen booth as well as at the online store.
The series that started it all for Aspen, "Fathom," is nearing the end of its current run, with just three more issue before it finishes at issue eleven.
The current strategy is for the books to have seasonal runs of limited duration rather than a continuous ongoing approach. So while "Fathom" and "Soulfire" may be drawing to a close, they'll return for more seasons in the future. This approach gives them the opportunity to tell self-contained stories, with the various seasons more like sequels. It also allows them to keep consistent creative teams on the books, all of which helps the books achieve their highest possible quality.
One fan wanted to know a little more about "Ekos." Turner said that he and Johns had been meeting weekly for the last few months, and that he hoped to start work on it later this year.
"It's pretty cool," said Turner.
The series is planned to be about six issues long, but may run longer if the story warrants it. There will also be the Aspen standard Beginnings, Zero, and Preview issues to bulk out that number.
Micah Gunnell was asked about his experience drawing the new series "Shrugged," he was pretty pleased to being drawing something that didn't include three thousand monsters in a double page spread.
"It's a lot of fun. There are so many interesting things to draw," said the artist.
Turner also revealed that the cover work for Marvel had expanded rapidly from one initial cover for the "Wolverine: Origins" series, then more covers, and then a six-issue series that Turner isn't at liberty to talk about just yet.