WWLA: Aspen Comics Panel

Sat, March 15th, 2008 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Jami Philbrick, Staff Writer

There was a somber mood in the Wizard Auditorium on Friday for the Aspen Comics Panel at Wizard World Los Angeles.

Aspen Comics Executive VP Frank Mastromauro started off by telling the audience about Michael Turner's current health condition and why he could not appear on the panel.

"We did a press release yesterday about Mike's health condition right now because it's not too great. He's had a reoccurrence of his cancer and he's going through recovery right now and it's going to be a few months. He's doing the best he can and he wanted to be here today."

Mastromauro went onto explain that this would push back the release of "Soulfire" number eight a few months and that issues nine and ten would come out when Turner is able to finish them. "Mike is committed to finishing these three issues. He really wants to finish this story", Mastromauro said.

After the announcement, VP of publishing Peter Steigerwald introduced the panel that included Ron Ho, Bath Sotelo, Vince Hernandez, David Whol, J.T. Krul and Micah Gunnell.

The slide show began and the audience was treated to Turner's covers for "Soulfire" numbers eight and nine as well as the first six pages of issue eight. Other slides included the cover to the "Soulfire Vol. One" trade paperback, out next week and our first look at the "Kiani Lava Edition" statue that will be released in the spring.

After seeing exclusive pictures, writer David Wohl ("Witchblade") spoke about his new series "Executive Assistant Iris". "She's an orphan who ended up in this orphanage that trains women or girls. It's basically called beauty school kind of ironically. They're basically trained to become personal assistants for rich executives in Asia and it's actually based on a true story. She's hired by this guy who sends her out on missions and she's pretty ruthless in what she does."

The writer went on, "Over the course of the story she realizes that her life wasn't as great as it could have been. Basically she thinks that she's doing things to people who deserve it but then she realizes that her boss is worse then anyone that she's going up against. So she starts rebelling against the system and there's actually a lot more assistants out there like her that she has to go up against. That's why it's called "Executive Assistant Iris" because there are other assistants out there also named after flowers that she'll probably fight with through the course of the story." A preview will be included in the Aspen Free Comic Book Day Special, "Worlds Of Aspen".

As the slide show went on we saw a preview of the upcoming Aspen "Swim Suit" issue, the popular "Aspen Splash'. It will return this summer and feature artwork by Michael Turner, Peter Steigerwald and Ale Garza, among others.

As the slide show wrapped up, the audience was given glimpses of some of Aspen's "Heroes" work as well as their work on "Mercenaries" a video game adaptation. Also included were slides of their "Super Powers" & "Ultimates 3" variant covers as well as an exclusive WWLA "Red Hulk" cover.

Before the panel took questions from the audience, a few important announcements were made.

After the release of "Soulfire: Volume One", Aspen will launch Soulfire: Volume Two" written by J.T. Krul.

Fans were happy to hear about the return of "Fathom" this summer. 'Fathom: Volume 3" will be written by J.T. Krul and feature the artwork of Ale Garza and John Starr.

The series will launch this May with the release of "Fathom #0". Fans of the series can look out for a special six-page preview of 'Fathom #0' in Aspen's Free Comic Book Day Special, available Saturday, May third.

"Fathom" fans can expect "Fathom: Volume Two" and "Fathom: Kiani" trade paperbacks to also follow later in the year.

Also, Aspen will be releasing a new five-issue 'Soulfire" mini-series named 'Soulfire: Shadow Magic" written by Vince Hernandez later this year. It will focus on the popular character Grace from the book.

The Q & A began and the panel took questions from the fans. A fan asked about "Aspen Showcases". The first issue "Aspen Showcases: Grace" by Vince Hernandez with art by Ale Garza premiered at Wonder-Con last month.

He asked if the series was basically one-shots or if it would be one continuous story? Mastromauro answered, "they're one-shots". "The whole point of "Showcase" was to pick one character in the Aspen universe and focus on that character for that story". He went onto explain that there are only so many issues that Aspen puts out a year and only so many stories that they tell and a lot of characters get lost in the shuffle.

"It's so you know what's going on with these characters", Mastromauro said. "We're starting with Grace and then we're going with Aspen but three and four are probably characters you didn't expect. So you better watch out."

The next fan seemed a bit confused. "Are there any plans to continue the "Iron Maiden" series? After a bit of laughter he was quickly corrected. Of course he meant "Iron & The Maiden" and Mastromauro seemed optimistic. "I'd like to see a sequel too" he said. He went on to say that they are talking to artists but they are taking they're time because it is a project that they want to get right.

A "Fathom" fan asked, "In future installments will be seeing anymore of The Black?" "Yes they'll be back", said J.T. Krul. "Everybody's in it and The Black has a big part to play". "Volume one and two were building up to what happens with The Black in volume three" added Mastromaura.

When asked about is experienced working on the "Heroes" project, J.T. Krul explained the process. "They pretty much come up with the stories they want to do and then send me an outline".

He went on to say that there was more back and forth then usual. "Because it's something of this magnitude, so many more people have input on it. You get notes, do a revision and then you may have someone looks at it that didn't look at the old version. So getting all those people to sign off on the same thing gets a little tricky".

When asked about "Fathom" volume three, Krul said that they would be continuing the adventure. He stated that fans could expect new faces, a lot more characters and some cool technology.

When asked about a "Fathom" movie, Mastromauro said that it's "Moving Forward". He stated that now that the strike is over it's moving along but they want to make sure it's done right. He also mentioned that "Shrugged" and "Soulfire" movies were also in the works.

In honor of his absent leader Steigerwald began to answer a few of Turner's most asked questions. "Batman is his favorite character at DC to draw, Superman is the hardest and "Echoes" is nine issues away".

Mastromaura explained that "9 issues away" is a popular joke around the office referring to the long awaited Turner and Geoff Johns project. He went onto say that Johns has the story written and they're waiting on Turner's art. But with his all ready busy schedule and given his current health, it could be awhile.

"Echoes" IS only nine issues away. Three more "Soulfire", six Marvel (comics) and then "Echoes", Mastromaura said. He stated that the hope was that Turner would finish "Soulfire" this summer, the Marvel stuff comes out next summer and then "Echoes" the summer after that.

Finally, Vince Hernandez spoke about "Artsenal", a charity-benefiting contest he created. With all proceeds going to the Legal Defense Fund, Hernandez has staged the largest comic book sketch battle competition in recent history.

Artists compete in a five round sketch tournament, with three artists squaring off at a time. The name of a character is picked at random and the artists must draw what ever is chosen. The winner of the entire contest will be announced at this year's Comic-Con in San Diego.

The first round was at Wonder-Con, last month. Artists Ale Garza, Mark Brooks, and Micah Gunnell competed and each put their special touch on the popular character Hellboy.

Round two will be held at WWLA on Saturday at 2PM at the Aspen Comics booth. The match up will be between artists Peter Steigerwald, Joe Benitez, and Michael Lopez.

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