Image Comics hit the panel front Friday afternoon at WonderCon 2009 to talk about new and upcoming projects and…the WonderCon variant cover to Savage Dragon #145 by Erik Larsen.
Panelists included: Joe Keatinge, Elephantmen creator Richard Starkings, The Great Unknown creator Duncan Rouleau, Image Comics Publisher Erik Larsen, and Chew writer John Layman.
Keatinge began the panel by showing the Obama vs. Osama cover, which he said he considered to be the greatest comic book cover of all time. Keatinge had copies of the issue with the cover to give to select audience members.
He then moved on to showcase upcoming Image projects, which largely reiterated and showed the same images as the panel held at New York Comic Con, including the upcoming G-Man digests, the Todd McFarlane/Robert Kirkman collaboration, Haunt, a double-page from Image United, Killing Demons, Vikingsthe Walking Dead Compendium and more.
In terms of announcements, Keatinge said that former Spawn artist Greg Capullo will return to Spawn for a done-in-one issue.
Keatinge then turned the panel over to Layman who talked about his upcoming series, Chew, and showed off a double-page spread of Agent Chu eating soup with the blood of a serial killer in it to gain clues as to the killer’s identity. Layman said that his next creator-owned project will be a barbarian romance. “I’m serious,” Layman deadpanned.
Following The Great Unknown, Rouleau said that he is planning on writing another creator-owned project illustrated by another artist.
In terms of Elephantmen, a new artist Marion Churchland, who Starkings compared to a female Paul Pope, is illustrating issues #18-#20, with cover artist Boo Cook illustrating #21, regular artist Moritat returning on #22-#23, and then War Toys volume 2 will follow that issue. Starkings teased that Churchland’s next work may be an original graphic novel entitled The Beast which will most likely be published by Image.
Starkings said that he’s been trying to convince Tim Sale to start up his creator-owned series called The Killing Floor, and one of the ways he tried to prompt him was to write an issue of Elephantmen for Tim, knowing that Tim wouldn’t be able to draw it, but it allowed him to stretch as a writer and try something new.
Larsen then spoke about Savage Dragon #148 which features the Golden Age Daredevil, who cannot be named on the cover (due to Marvel owning the copyright), but is referred to Daredevil throughout the issue. The issue will be given out on Free Comic Book Day. The issue will also be available for sale for stores that do not participate in Free Comic Book Day, or locations where Free Comic Book Day issues are not available. The FCBD issue will not contain the currently-running backup story.
Keatinge and Larsen then moved into a discussion of Larsen’s Barack Obama’s covers and his use of Obama in his series. Larsen said that his motivation to have Dragon endorse Obama was simple: “We needed a better President. The last one didn’t work out so well.”
Starkings said that he became an American citizen last year in order to vote, which was met by applause. “But I’m just saying that it wasn’t your cover that made me become a citizen,” Starkings joked to Larsen.
Moving on to the cover to Savage Dragon #145, Larsen said that the latter appearance was to bring things full circle, since he endorsed Obama. Then, showing the “Obama vs. Osama” cover, Larsen said simply, “I wanted to do something special for WonderCon.”
Larsen joked that in the Image offices, everyone joked that they should all do Obama covers, using Golden Age Batman covers as inspiration – Obama with the characters in a three-legged-race, Obama in bumper cars, or the like. The choice to go with Obama punching bin Laden came from this almost “one upsmanship” between the creators.
“The really great thing about creator-owned stuff is that you can do whatever you want to, and there’s no one there saying, ‘No, you can’t,’” Larsen said.
The panel then moved on to Q&A.
Larsen joked that he’s received no flak for putting Obama on the cover. “There are some people who are voting the other way, and giving me some grief about it,” Larsen said, “But oh well.” Larsen reminded audience members that four years prior to Obama, he had George Bush and John Kerry on the cover, and four years before that, had the Dragon punching George Bush (albeit a robot version) on the cover.
Keatinge said that Image is planning on sending a “care package” of the Obama comics to the White House shortly.
When asked, Rouleau said that there will be more M. Rex coming, and he has finished the original miniseries, and there will be another new miniseries soon.
Speaking of the future of comics and digital comics, Starkings said that he’s happy to already have Elephantmen on mobile phones via goComics and online via Rebellion’s Clickwheel. “Everyone’s comics are already online as torrents, whether they want it or not,” Starkings said, noting that the discussion of comics moving online is no longer a “someday” topic, but rather something that must be embraced now. “I think the future is already here.”
Starkings then said that, in his eyes, the first issues of new series should be online, and he’s happy to see Image doing it, and compared it to going over to a friend’s house to rummage through their box of comics to see if there’s anything you’d like. Keatinge said that whenever Image posts first issues online via Newsarama or other outlets, they always see a spike in interest and sales on that title. Starkings then cited Comic Book Tattoo’s Rantz Hosley who is working on a project called Longbox for viewing and distributing comics online. Starkings compared Longbox to seeing comics on the iPhone, saying that Hosley has broken down comics as they should be online, saying that the approach they are using with the project is very intuitive and easy to use.
Asked about a movie version of Savage Dragon, Larsen said that he just read a treatment this morning, noting that the people he’s talking to really want a solid story before moving ahead, but he feels they have a solid start.