Baltimore Comic Con '08: Top Cow Panel

Top Cow hosted its panel Saturday afternoon at the Baltimore Comic Con, with panelists writer Ron Marz, penciler Nelson Blake II, VP of Editorial Rob Levin and Publisher Filip Sablik who also hosted the event.

Sablik began the presentation with looks at the various variant and regular covers to Ron Marz and Lee Moder’s Dragon Prince, allowing Marz to explain the origin and the concept behind the series, that is, a young boy finds that he is possibly the last in an ancient line of dragons, something which puts himself and his mother at great risk from those who hunt and seek to kill him.

Sablik then went on to discuss Broken Trinity, the publisher’s “summer event” that has now stretched into fall. The publisher apologized for the lateness of the miniseries and its associated tie-ins, and said that they are taking steps to make sure delays such as this don’t happen again. Brain Stelfreeze’s pencils from the upcoming Broken Trinity: Angelus one-shot were shown as well.

As Sablik and Marz reiterated, the idea behind Broken Trinity, as well as last summer’s First Born was to have a line-wide “event” that involved all of Top Cow’s characters, but at the same time, not make it something that involved what they saw as an inordinate number of books. Therefore, Broken Trinity like First Born before it is fully made up of a three issue miniseries as well as three tie-in issues.

Teasing the larger story, Marz said that where First Born was about birth, Broken Trinity is about death – a significant death, the writer stressed. “We’re not just killing off some lovable beat cop that we introduced at the beginning of the series just to kill him off at the end,” Marz said.

The miniseries will also introduce two new characters, fire and ice themed characters which were shown in a side.

The larger Broken Trinity storyline will see its epilogue in Broken Trinity: Witchblade, drawn by Nelson.

Early next year, the ongoing Witchblade series will play host to “The War of the Witchblade” storyline, which will see the two Witchblade bearers (Sarah Pezzini and Dani Baptiste currently each possess half of the Witchblade) battle for the full Witchblade. The six-part storyline will feature covers by Chris Bachalo, and will resolve in a “very final fashion” who will be the bearer of the Witchblade. Following the six-part storyline, Witchblade will play host to more single issue stories.

Marz’s exclusive contract with the publisher was then announced, as was the fact that Top Cow will launch a major initiative in 2009 to draw new fans to the Top Cow Universe.

Paul Dini’s relationship with Top Cow was discussed again – the creator will have his own imprint under the publisher, “Dinicartoons,” which will be a home for all of his creator-owned “’toon style” characters, including Jungle Belle, Ida Red, Little Rashy and Superrica, Polly Green, Tashi Ounce, Hyper Hyena and more. The line kicks off with Jingle Belle: Santa Claus Vs. Frankenstein in November.

Dini is also developing a second Madame Mirage series for Top Cow.

The two winners of Pilot Season 2007, Cyblade and Velocity were discussed and covers were shown, with Sablik noting that apparently, in order to win the Pilot Season competition, the title needs to showcase a female lead character, as the winners of Pilot Season 2008 (Genius and Twilight Guardian) also had female leads.

Of Velocity (written by Joe Casey with art by ChrisCros), Levin said that the goal is to “Out Flash the Flash…and do things that DC would never do with their character, and Marvel would never to, and make it look better than they could ever make it look.”

Discussion then turned to the Darkness which has been plagued with delays. Sablik reiterated what series writer Phil Hester wrote in a letter in the back of issue #5, that the team and the publisher was very sorry for the delay and took full responsibility for it happening. “Most companies like to pretend nothing happen,” Sablik said. “We didn’t want to hide head in sand like that.”

As an explanation, Sablik said that regular Darkness artist Michael Broussard is taking longer than expected to complete work, given that he prefers to make his work “intensely detailed.” Sablik guaranteed the audience that Broussard was not off “playing Playstation,” given that that artist works in the Top Cow studio, and Sablik sees him working there every day, sometimes for up to 14 hours on a single page.

As a result of the situation though, Sablik said that Jorge Lucas is being brought in as the regular fill-in/help artist for Darkness and will illustrate issues #7-#9. Issue #6 is currently at the press, Sablik said, and the trade collecting the series’ first six issues will ship in November, and will be similarly priced to the recent Witchblade trade, that is, $5.00, in order to get people to give the series a try.

Sablik pointed out that as a publisher, Top Cow has produced three series of Darkness, and as a way to note and promote the character’s longevity, the current series will begin a dual numbering system with issue #7, which will be co-numbered with a second, cumulative number. The current issue #11 will also be #75, for example. “We wanted to celebrate that an independent character has been around for so long,” Sablik said.

Sablik moved through the remaining slides, which highlighted Black Vault by B. Clay Moore and Nelson, as well as The Darkness: Lodbrok’s Hand, which sets the Darkness mythology in the time if Vikings and is written by Hester with art by Mike Oeming; and Impaler.

In answering questions during a brief Q&A with the audience, it was said that Midnight Nation was a finite series and has ended, and Top Cow has no plans to revisit the property or series, but if creator J. Michael Straczynski chose to come back to tell more stories in that universe, they would be happy to publish them. On the subject of JMS’ work, the first Rising Stars hardcover compendium should be in stores before Christmas, Sablik said.

The subject of the coming Witchblade movie will most likely be the origin story, Levin said, adding that its more likely that the movie will see theaters in 2010, not the originally announced 2009.

Finally, the winners of Pilot Season 2008 will be published after the kickoff of Pilot Season 2009, most likely in September and October of 2009, with Genius coming out first.

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