Executive Assistant: IrisThe Aspen panel Sunday afternoon at New York Comic Con was attended by the full force of Aspen's studios; president Frank Mastromauro, VP and colorist Peter Steigerwald, E-i-C Vince Hernandez, Alé Garza, JT Krul, Joe Benitez, David Wohl, Beth Sotelo, Micah Gunnell, and Mark Roslan. Playfully teasing the long-faced, weary audience Peter Steigerwald asked how many more panel attendees there would have been had they not be dutifully attending church. After introductions, Mastromauro, moderating, rolled out Aspen's plans for 2009.
First on the docket was the long-awaited return of Soulfire. Joe Benitez is totally finished with issue eight, due in mid March, and deep into issue nine. Issue ten will be an oversized finale to the current volume, to be released in May, and directly following that issue will be the New World Order miniseries. Marcus To, who will be illustrating the new volume of Soulfire directly following New World Order, is already deep into his assignment, with more than four issues in the can.
Mastromauro took the opportunity to share with the audience the company's emphasis on scheduling in 2009, trying to get all their books three to four months ahead. 2008 was obviously a difficult year for the company, Mastromauro said, given the passing of Aspen mastermind Michael Turner. While it is still difficult, they are confident that they are well positioned for success this year.
The next book to be spotlighted was Executive Assistant: Iris, written by David Wohl with art by Eduardo Fransico. Wohl, describing the series' inspiration, spoke of the real-world need of some Japanese businessmen for personal security. Not wanting to label them as “bodyguards,” they are instead Executive Assistants, captivating female bodyguards trained in the art of defense, and attack. These women make better Executive Assistants because as women, they are less obvious or threatening to the outside world.
It is from here that arose Executive Assistant: Iris, the story of new bodyguard Iris, and her introduction to the seedy business world. It seems like a great job at first, but as she works longer, and delves deeper into the seedy underworld, she becomes increasingly aware of the ethical dilemmas the job demands, building to a confrontation with her boss.
Executive Assistant: Iris will be Iris' tale, but Wohl promised that there are many more Executive Assistants with stories of their own, and expressed his desire to tell their tales.
cover to DellecNext up was the new series Dellec, by Frank Mastromauro, Vince Hernandez, Micah Gunnell, and Rob Stull. There is no devil, but God makes it his business to deploy agents of evil, so that humanity's response to the evil allows for the embrace of good. Dellec is one such of these morally gray agents, until he goes rogue, forcing a conflict between he and God himself. As a bonus, the first issue will have a $2.50 cover price, encouraging readers to try something new in the difficult economy, especially as other comics increase their cover price.
Fathomwas up next, and the crowd gave a warm embrace for artist Ale Garza on the flagship title. Garza expressed how much he has enjoyed his work on the series, and how it is a shame that he feels as though he is really hitting his groove with only a few issues left to go on his run. Mastromauro told the audience to expect big Fathom announcements soon in the world outside of comics. Also, though volume three of the book is near its completion, there are plans already in the works for volumes four and five.
Mastromauro moved on to Shrugged, which he had worked on with Turner before his passing. He described how difficult a book it is to work on, given that it was among the last things Turner did. With the final issue, eight, at 44 pages for $2.99, Mastromauro hoped the audience would understand that it was a reward to readers for their patience during the company's transitional period. He also hinted that the property is primed for multimedia opportunities.
Aspen Showcase will see the return of Ember, this time to tell her origin.
Aspen Seasons, with Joe Benitez, will recap the story of Soulfire, and will serve as a transitional book as the title moves from Michael Turner's art to Benitez's.
Ekos with Geoff Johns is still “on,” and the company is just waiting for Johns' schedule to free up enough to get started.
Mastromauro described the company's trade paperback initiative this year, noting the five trades that were released in the last year, and their plans to have a collected edition released by the company every three to four months. Upcoming releases are Soulfire vol. 1, Soulfire Reign, and Fathom; The Definitive Edition the last of which was a years-long process to culling and compile. The last collection was described by Mastromauro as their most important ever, with their Michael Turner Tribute, with involvement by almost everyone in comics.
With some questions from the audience, we learned that while there are no immediate plans for the return of Iron and the Maiden, but that a sequel is planned.
As the panel came to a close, Steigerwald, Mastromauro, and everyone on the panel talked about how it was the hardest year ever for the company, but that they are getting themselves back on track and look forward to a great year full of great new comics.
More New York Comic Con 2009 Coverage:NYCC '09 Video Page