New York Comic Con kicked off Saturday morning with Image Comics' panel. Image publisher Eric Stephenson introduced the writers present, including Kieron Gillen, Andy Diggle, James Asmus, Jim Festante, Jim McCann and Jonathan Hickman. Paul Pope could not make the panel due to a family emergency.
Stephenson first started the panel off with some images, saying that Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky are doing a new book called Sex Criminals. He also announced Fraction's collaboration with Howard Chaykin, Satellite Sam, comparing it to Blackest Two and Hawkeye. Finally, Stephenson announced another Chaykin book: Midnight of the Soul.
Kieron Gillen and Ryan Kelly will be doing a book called Three. Gillen said, "Basically the idea is like most things for a British man, came from me coming home drunk." He came home and started reading 300 -- Gillen said he got very angry at a speech about freedom. "@$%# off, you people had slaves." This is about free slaves on the run in Sparta, with the 300 on the run for them.
A new series called Snapshot, by Andy Diggle and Jock, is on the way. Diggle says it took about five years to get it done – he describes it as a Hitchcockian thriller about a nerd who works in a comic shop in San Francisco. One day, as he walks through the park, he sees a mobile phone… filled with photos of a murder victim. The phone belongs to a hitman, who uses it to shoot photographic proof that his victim are indeed dead. And he wants his phone back. "It's a chase book, basically," Diggle said. "It's the first work that Jock and I have done that is creator-owned." It's currently running in Judge Dredd in black and white, but will be printed in color by The Losers colorist Lee Loughridge and with lettering by The Losers letterer Clem Robins.
Stephenson then showed images for two projects of Alex Zamm's, The Surface and Zero, the latter of which will be out in May.
Jim McCann and Janet K. Lee are doing a book called Lost Vegas. "Janet and I work really organically, and she was up in LA, in an animation studio to do backgrounds and character designs of anything… no story, just anything." McCann and Lee then went off on a tangent, coming up with the title "Lost Vegas." It was originally about to be about a day care in outer space set at a casino. "It is absolutely ridiculous as it sounds… if I were Grant Morrison I would do that."
McCann's finalized story is about the main character, Roland, is an indentured servant on a space cruiser that is just a huge casino strip. Lost Vegas is a place where the highest rollers in the galaxy come to play – as well as people who have bet against the house and really lost. The latter group become indentured servants to pay off their debts. This is a heist story – this is the day that Roland, who has been watching the tables and learning the system, is able to make his move, break out, and earn enough money to get a ship and get off-world. "No kids," McCann joked.
Midnight of the Soul
Next was the The Life and End Times of Bram and Ben, by James Asmus and Jim Festante. "Jim and I had been friends for a long time in the comedy world. We got on this big kick about imagining what happens if the apocalypse actually happens… with our slacker idiot friends," Asmus said. "We created a narrative that does that, pulling our two best friends into the heart of the end of times. This is probably the most friend I've had doing the book. If you ever wondered which of your friends would survive a war between Heaven and Hell, this is the book for you." The book is coming out in January, first issue is 34 pages for $2.99.
The next project announced was Todd, the Ugliest Kid in the World, by Ken Kristensen and M.K. Perker. "Todd has a lot of problems, and he gets his family into a lot of problems. But if you like Chew, the artwork is amazing," Stephenson said.
East of West 2
East of West 1
Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta also announced their new book, East of West. Hickman: "Nick and I have been working together a lot doing FF, and we really really kind of synced up." This is a future sci-fi Western where the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are trying to kill the President of the United States. "We're just now kind of starting to get rolling on this." The book is currently scheduled to come out in April.
Hickman said that the next issue of Secret should be out next month. There is also another Image book he is working on, an OGN called FBN: Feel Better Now. It's about four psychologists in Los Angeles who get bored and start messing around with their patients. It should be due out in March.
Stephenson said that CBLDF Annual has a short story from Hickman, and that Paul Pope has a few projects coming out as well.
One fan asked about submissions, and Stephenson said that one thing that helps is being as good as the people in the panel. He said that Hickman, for example, was an instant green light when he saw The Nightly News. Five pages is all he needs, with a killer hook at the end, Hickman added. Stephenson said that a mistake that a lot of people make is sending a huge story bible and a big script. A short paragraph is good -- one to two sentences is best. If you can grab them in one or two sentences, Stephenson said, you'll be good.
Stephenson said that he occasionally finds artists for people, but it's for top talent like Grant Morrison or J. Michael Straczynski. McCann added that people should always walk Artists Alley at every con, because there are always good, hungry artists out there. DeviantArt and PencilJack are other good spots. Diggle said that as a former editor, an artist is easier to spot for their narrative chops, but a writer is a lot tougher -- boil it down and keep it brief, he said.
Another fan asked about the portrayal of women in comics. Regarding Mind the Gap, McCann said "it's very important to me -- it's not that I set out to write a strong female character," but instead draws from his experience in New York and his experiences in life. Stephenson said that Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios will be working on a western called Pretty Deadly. Hickman joked that for FBN, one of his psychologists will be giving one of their patients blood thinner instead of Viagra.
Will there ever be a director's cut for Mind the Gap? If you've read Issue #5, there's a big reveal at the end of the issue, McCann said, allowing him to pull back the curtain and play more with the character and reveal their involvement.
One audience member asked what was the biggest challenge for each of the panelists in terms of writing, saying that she was struggling occasionally with working out setting and plot points. Asmus said that if you ever feel that your setting needs to be changed, go with it -- don't be afraid to go deeper into your idea, and discover that there is something deeper in there.
Another fan asked how long it takes for each of these projects to gestate before the art process? Stephenson said it varies for everyone. Diggle said that if it's a company book, then you've already got parameters, but fi your'e doing your own thing with Image, then he typically has a very broad sense of the story, where it begins and ends. "You get your arms around it, and you chop it up into sections, into issues -- you want to have a cliffhanger for each of your act breaks." You divide Issue #1 into six to 10 scenes. Then he writes the dialogue, and then breaks it up. "The more you do it, the easier it'll get," Diggle said. Hickman said that most of them work under pretty heavy deadlines, "so when it's go-time, you've got to get it in." He said he likes to have a few weeks to think about it. McCann, referring to his "comic book spouse" Janet K. Lee, said that over three months he would write 30-page chunks per month.
What's the shortest amount of time they've taken to write something? McCann said he wrote an entire issue in a single day. Gillen said that when he wrote Phonogram #3, he lost his wedding ring, credit card and key, and so he wrote it in a cafe. Diggle said that the fastest he's ever done is three days.
An audience member then asked about what inspires the panelists. McCann said that most writers come up with ideas in the shower or while driving. Asmus said that relaxation and blood flow helps with that. Asmus said that reading nonfiction is more inspiring to him than other people's fiction, because then he doesn't get lost in someone else's voice. Hickman said that he actually stopped reading a lot of nonfiction for that reason -- he would keep picking up new projects. McCann also said he likes to put on film scores to help him, particularly with silent pages. Diggle said that reading the newspaper or watching the news helps him: "Sometimes I just think, 'there's a story in that.'"
Another audience member asked how to motivate an artist. Gillen said, "Do they have any family members?" Hickman said that you could guilt the artist. "Are you married?" The audience member said soon. "You'll figure it out," Hickman said. He said that you have to balance the negative side with the positive to keep them focused. Gillen said that it takes longer to draw a page than to write one -- a good wakeup call is just having the artist recognize the math: if they only do four pages a year, it's going to take a decade to do 40 pages. Hickman said, "you have to remember they have the infinitely harder job."
Wrapping up, what is the future of Morning Glories? Stephenson: "There's going to be more." Hickman: "[Nick Spencer] said everyone dies in #30." Stephenson said that #25 will be a big book, the end of the first big chunk of the series.