ASPEN Turns EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT Success Into Crossover


It's always beneficial to have a good "executive assistant" around, but for Aspen Comics, their Executive Assistants have been a huge asset.

And later this year, the property is spawning a major crossover event, "Executive Extinction."

After last year's announcement that the Executive Assistant property would spawn Aspen's first ever ongoing series, now the publisher is announcing a major crossover event featuring the characters.

"It's been part of our plan to bring more Executive Assistants into the fold all along," said Vince Hernandez, Aspen editor-in-chief and writer of the Executive Assistant: Assassins. "I always had this idea that we should do an event where each Executive Assistant wasn't just fighting for their own master, but they were kind of fighting for their lives as a collective team."

Beginning in December and continuing into spring 2013, the "Executive Extinction" crossover will take place over 10 issues, beginning with Executive Assistant: Assassins #6 and crossing each issue with the third volume of Executive Assistant: Iris. Each series will have five issues in the crossover, with art on Assassins by Jordan Gunderson and Iris art by Alex Lei. Teodoro Gonzalez will be colorist on both comics.

"You can read them separately, to be honest. They're each their own stand-alone story," Hernandez said. "But they're under one larger banner called "Executive Extinction."

The Executive Assistant universe is based on a concept that first started at Aspen in 2009, with the launch of Executive Assistant: Iris, which has since continued with several volumes. The concept of the Executive Assistants is based upon a true story that creator David Wohl found about the women who work for high-powered Chinese executives, both as executive assistants and as personal bodyguards — or even assassins.

"Brad [Foxhoven] and I brought the concept to Michael Turner and Aspen, and Mike helped us develop it," Wohl told Newsarama. "And then once we were working with Vince and people here, the characters began to get lives of their own. It wasn't about the schools anymore. It was about us having a ton of these cool characters that could only be given small parts in the original Iris story. But they were strong enough to live on their own in other stories."

The story of the Executive Assistants has also become more global, and the crossover will highlight that, Wohl said.

"When it started, we were focusing on this one school and this one place in China where the original Executive Assistants came from. But as we were developing that story, we thought how cool it would be if there were schools in other places, in other cultures," he said. "They didn't need to be all Asian Executive Assistants. What if there's a South American school? Or even in the United States, that we don't know about? It seems like, all the time, we're learning about how the government is into things that they shouldn't be into. And once you see the allure of what you can do at a school that trains these people for this very specific skill, it was exciting to think about how those stories could go once we opened it up."

Now many of these newer characters will team up in "Executive Extinction." And Hernandez pointed out that the concept of a team of Executive Assistants was alluded to at the end of Wohl's last event, "The Hitlist Agenda," last year.

"There was this really cool moment where several Executive Assistants teamed up, and we were like, 'Oh, there could be more than just one individual woman doing her own story! It could also be this huge team book,' which is so much fun," Hernandez said. "Each Executive Assistant as their own characteristics that make them fun on their own, but working together, it makes it a fun team book."


The crossover will not only bring together a whole team of Executive Assistants, but Hernandez said it will result in some big changes for the universe.

"We're playing for keeps," Hernandez said. "We're not going to hold back. At the end of this crossover, there are going to be lives lost. There's no one character that's too big for this story."

The art team on Assassins will return to the team that first launched the series, and the artist on Iris will be a newcomer to Aspen.

"This will be Alex Lee's first book for Aspen, and he brings a realism to the book," Hernandez said. "He draws a very realistic looking Iris. The last volume had a style that had an almost animated look. This one's art is very much more grounded in reality in its look, and we're doing that with Assassins as well."

"We're also trying to keep the level of realism up in the story," Wohl said. "It sounds kind of far-fetched when you think about these Executive Assistants, these people with swords fighting in the streets. How do they do it? Don't people pay attention to them? And right now, we're saying, yes, people are paying attention to them.

"There are people out there who think Executive Assistants are unsafe and shouldn't be part of the world," Wohl said. "There are government organizations who think they should be watched. And we really want to cover the realistic aspect of that. What would the world do if all these Executive Assistants were there?"

Wohl said that the original newspaper article that gave him the idea for the series was focused on Executive Assistants who were very quiet. The crossover will focus on what would happen if they became much more visible.

"In our story, there are not only a lot more Executive Assistants out there, but they're a lot more exposed," Wohl said.

As a result, there is a threat against the very existence of these Executive Assistants, and that's what lies at the core of the crossover.

"There might even be certain Executive Assistants who think the world would be a better place without Executive Assistants," Wohl said.

The writer said he's thrilled that the Executive Assistant concept has taken off at Aspen and been so successful. "I think it's a combination of things that has made this concept catch on," Wohl said. "I think it's the realism, and the fact that it's not superheroes and that it's real-life situations that feature these extraordinary characters. And we try to give each character a very specific personality and believable life.


"Something I learned a very long time ago, working with Marc Silvestri at Top Cow and even before that with Mark Gruenwald at Marvel, was to always pay attention to the characters in your story," Wohl said. "Don't make characters throw-away characters. Everybody has to be believable. You want readers to be able to sympathize with the characters. You want them to understand that they're going to go on a journey with this book.

"That's something we try to pay attention to as much as possible with Executive Assistant," Wohl said.

"I think it's hard to have sympathy for an assassin," Hernandez added, "but David's done a really good job of creating this world where you do feel sorry for them. You want them to find a way out as much as they do in the story."


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