WWLA: Top Cow 2008

Sun, March 16th, 2008 at 12:00am PDT | Updated: April 6th, 2008 at 3:42pm

Comic Books
CBR News Team, Editor

(L-R) Marc Silvestri, Filip Sablik, Joshua Hale Fialkov, Paul Dini, Kenneth Rocafort, Rob Levin
The TOP COW 2008 panel at Wizard World LA drew a full and enthusiastic crowd on Saturday in the Wizard Auditorium at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Hosted by Top Cow's new publisher Filip Sablik, Sablik introduced show guest of honor Marc Silvestri, Top Cow executive's Rob Levine (VP of Editorial), Matt Hawkins (President and writer of the upcoming Lady Pendragon), Mel Caylo off to the side of the audience (VP of Marketing and Sales, and handling tech for the panel), along with creators Kenneth Rocafort (Artist for "Madam Mirage"), writer Paul Dini, writer Joshua Hale Fialkov (pilot season 2007 winner of "Cyblade"), Hugh Sterbakov ("Freshmen"), actor and creator Seth Green ("Freshmen"), and new talent Sheldon Mitchel (sitting in the audience).

Starting the panel off with a taste of things to come in 2008, Sablik promised to reveal some enticing sneak previews of Top Cow's "universe-altering" 2008 plans, and hints about "secret" summer events.

The first big announcement was a new "Freshmen" book this summer. Seth Green and Hugh Sterbakov are again working on the book, with the "Freshmen" summer special scheduled for release in June. While being a bit coy about the plot, Green and Sterbakov did reveal that the humanoid plant that met her untimely demise in "Freshmen 2" will return, and Green described it as "A hot adventure story about the dangers of not letting go." Not to let the moment pass without promoting the book's associated products, Green also mentioned that "cool 'Freshmen' t-shirts" were now available, and had a planted audience member stand up to demonstrate the design of the shirt.

Sablik then made their next big announcement; a new, exclusive "Witchblade" trailer, seen for the first time at WWLA. From the clip: "If you thought you knew Witchblade…after more than more than 10 years and 100 issues, Sara's adventure is not over. This is the new era of 'Witchblade'. Sara's path will shock the Top Cow universe." The panel revealed that, starting with issue 116 and going through at least issue 150 (which is in year 2010), only one creative team will work on the book. That team will be writer Ron Marz (who's been with the series since issue 80, and is now officially committed to the series through issue 150), and artist Stjepan Sejic, ("First Born" 6 issue mini-series, which will be out in three or four weeks as a trade paperback). With a new line of trade paperbacks, new bargain priced reprints starting with number 1 and fully painted art on the new issues, the series will continue in top form.

In addition to the clip, the happy audience was given a sneak peak at some "Aphrodite 9" covers, and covers for "Witchblade" Vol. 1 to 4. In further "Witcdhblade" news, Top Cow President Matt Hawkins mentioned that "Witchblade" is the only American character to be given animated treatment in Japan.

Turning to the big summer event announcements, Sablik started with "Wanted."

"Wanted" will be coming out with a new trade paperback covering the first six issues. In addition, as of June 27th the blockbuster movie based on the book will see wide release in theaters. The audience was treated to an action-packed set of short clips of the film, starring James McAvoy, Angelina Jolie, Terence Stamp, Morgan Freeman, and other top name actors. Between the clips and the panel's description of the movie and book, "Wanted" was revealed to tell the tale of a fraternity of elite assassins who recruit a seemingly ordinary man to be our hero and become a new assassin to fill his fathers place in the order. The story's protagonist has the rare special ability, inherited from his now deceased father, to curve bullets around obstacles. Utilizing exotic firearms, extraordinary gunplay such as shooting a bullet out of the air, acrobatics, and other amazing maneuvers, these assassins work to protect the world by achieving precise killings of key figures. This movie will be Top Cow's first theatrical release, and the panel seemed rather excited about the prospect of possible future movies based on their properties.

(L-R) Matt Hawkins, Hugh Sterbakov, Seth Green, Marc Silvestri, Filip Sablik
The second summer event announced was "Madam Mirage," the series that Paul Dini worked on which debuted in 2007. Now artist Kenneth Rocafort is signed to a three year exclusive deal with Top Cow and will be working on the book. Rocafort only speaks Spanish, but he did his best to thank the warm reception of the crowd and his fellow Top Cow creators. "Broken Trinity" will be a Free Comic Book Day special featuring one of Rocafort's covers. Marc Silvestri sang the praises of Rocafort, stating that he had not seen an artist with such an "eye for design and layout" in many years.

The panel offered a brief rundown of the plot. "Madam Mirage" is a revenge story where a mysterious killer named Madam Mirage appears in the LA area and starts to hunt down some white collar superpowered people. In this world, the heroes gave up their powers long ago when they were outlawed, while the villains went underground and formed their own sort of villain talent agency. Madam Mirage, the character, introduces an unusual element into the mix of this world. The book so far has generated more emails from film and TV producers asking about "Madam Mirage" in the last 6 months than anything else from Top Cow, and the company is looking forward to more from Dini and Rocafort.

Marc Silvestri then took a moment to praise Paul Dini as a master writer. Dini thanked him, but apologized for his habit of missing deadlines lately and explained he's been getting behind. Seth Green joked how often writers just cannot take a compliment without bringing in that downer voice, and also praised Dini's writing.

Taking the moment to head off on a tangent, Seth Green spoke of parties thrown by Shane Black (Writer/Director of "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang" and many others) that he attends with Paul Dini. Green described some of the outrageous costumes they wear to those parties, like Scooby and Scrappy Doo. Paul Dini chimed in with a story about how actresses who never speak to him except that time of the year will call him and ask if he is going to the party and if he has a guest yet, since apparently the parties are difficult to get into, but easy for Green and Dini to attend. Green then told the story of Luke Perry at the party one year who was wearing a three-dollar Spiderman costume and gong around spooking people by sneaking up on them. The costume was so cheesy looking (and his face was covered) that people doubted that he was supposed to be at the party until he finally removed his mask.

Getting back on track, Sablik then brought the conversation back away from Seth Green and to Top Cow, with Pilot Season 2008. Pilot Season, which introduces new talent through votes on MySpace and was discussed yesterday here on CBR, will be introducing six new projects in 2008.

Joshua Hale Fialkov of "Cyblade," one of the winners in 2007, will be taking part in 2008 with their title: "Alibi." "Alibi" is based on a character created by Matt Hawkins, with art by Jeremy Haun.

"Lady Pendragon" will be coming back after a long time off (since the late 90s).

"Twilight Guardian" (written by Troy Hickman, who did "Common Grounds") will also be introduced. "Twilight Guardian" is about a normal person who decides she is going to patrol her suburban neighborhood. Art on this book will be provided by Top Cow newcomer, Reza.

"Genius" will be released in June, by writers Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman ("Highwaymen") with art by Afua Richardson.

In July, "The Core," by the same team who did Pax Romana and The Nightly News. The last Pilot Season title is "Urban Myths," introducing Jorge Melina as artist on that book. The best description the panel could offer is that Core combines an ancient Greek with a private eye.

In further "Darknesss" news, the video game based on the books went platinum world wide, and is launching in Japan next week. A new ongoing series starring The Darkness is upcoming, with one of the first issues currently online here at CBR. Sablik showed some preview art by Jorge Lucas from "The Darkness" #7, to a receptive audience.

Concluding the prepared portion of the panel, Silvestri mentioned that Top Cow is also looking for new artists. With that, Sablik opened the floor for questions.

The first question concerned internships for artists and writers. Silvestri answered "Writers no, artists yes," and went on to explain that Pilot Season is the best route for writers, while artists can drop off an artist package any time for an evaluation. Most of their artists are found at conventions (with Seth Green chiming in sarcastically over him, "Yeah come drop off your package and we will assess it." Silvestri talked about how Michael Broussard ("The Darkness") is one of the best talents he's seen in 16 years, and he was "selling luggage" before he introduced himself at a con. He reiterated that they do not accept unsolicited scripts from new writers.

Next up was a question for Seth Green whether or not they would be using figures of "The Freshmen" on Green's "Robot Chicken." Green answered "Yes," but did not know when. Also in the works is the previously announced Clay Moore bust of the Puppeteer, based on some art from issue two of "The Freshmen."

"The Freshman" mini lithograph
Joshua Hale Fialkov was asked how he plans on following up his Pilot Season debut, and answered that he "just turned the first script in, waiting for Rob to say he hates it. The issues will not be quite as action packed as the Pilot Season issues" he explained, but will be more story driven and he is "very very excited about it."

An audience member asked if there was any new "Hunter-Killer" news, and was informed that a "Hunter Killer" video game demo is in the works right now. Silvestri said he wants to bring it back. Top Cow doesn't know when it will be scheduled, but it will be returning as a comic.

On the subject of video games, the panel was asked about a "Darkness 2" video game. While they cannot announce it officially, various executives acknowledged that the answer is yes, it is in the works. The first game sold "like a million and a half world wide," and you can't sell numbers like that without a second game coming out. Additionally on "The Darkness" front, Top Cow is talking with people in Japan on the possibility on doing some animation. It is possible it will take the form of either a "Witchblade" featuring "The Darkness," or "The Darkness" itself. Both properties are doing well in Japan.

Asked next about plans for Magdelena, Top Cow said they are working on a four issue fully painted mini series. They are still trying to figure that out. More work is also slowly moving along on "Darkness/Pitt." They are a few issues into it, but it's been in the works for forever at this point and there is no release date.

Final questions started to trickle in at that point, and the panel (and more specifically Joshua Hale Fialkov) was asked which Pilot Season came in first in sales. Fialkov diverted that answer, explaining that it doesn't really matter on sales, just as long as they are good. They then took this time to remind con-goers that writer Joe Casey ("Velocity"), the other winner of last year's Pilot Season, will be signing Sunday in the Top Cow booth.

Wrapping things up, Sablik mentioned that Top Cow is working on three new Marvel cross-overs in the next year, but have not made final decisions on that front. In addition, all panel attendees were treated to a free gift of a mini lithograph depicting "The Freshmen." As the crowd swarmed to collect their freebie, the panel closed.

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