WonderCon '09 - Aspen Panel

Michael Turner's Fathom #1 cover

Aspen staff and creators at WonderCon '09

Aspen MLT started off their panel at WonderCon 2009 Friday afternoon with the traditional Aloha from panelists and guests alike. The Aloha greeting is traditionally given by VP Peter Steigerwald who was unable to attend, so Frank Mastromauro, president of Aspen, did his best to fill his shoes. Mastromauro held the dais and introduced the other panelists, Editor-in-Chief Vince Hernandez, writers David Wohl (Witchblade, Aphrodite IX) and J.T. Krul (Fathom, Soulfire), pencilers Ale Garza (Fathom, Teen Titans) Micah Gunnel (Dellec, Shrugged) and Joe Benitez (Soulfire, Teen Titans), colorist Beth Capelo (Soulfire) and production artist Mark Roslan. While most of the panel was reiteration of news from last month's New York Comic Con, an Aspen Showcase: Kiari series was announced, with Marc Andreyko (Manhunter, Torso) as writer.

Soulfire was the first topic of discussion. While Mike Turner was unable to finish issue 8 before his death, he did manage to complete ten pages. The rest of the issue will be drawn by Joe Benitez, who will be working on the book until the current series ends with issue 10. "It's a little intimidating with issue 8, I have to step it up and really try to do my best. Try to match or at least get close to Mike. Issue 8, I was a bit negative with it. With issue 9 I think I'm getting pretty good. I'm hoping you guys can dig it", said Benitez. Soulfire #8 will be released to stores on March 18th, with covers by Turner and Benitez and an Aspen Store exclusive variant cover at their website.

Aspen editor-in-chief Vince Hernandez then discussed the related five-issue miniseries, Soulfire: Shadow Magic. "I wanted to go back into Grace's origin," he said. "What was she like before we see her in Soulfire volume one. She's in love. There's this huge war going on. It's an old fantasy story, it's what I wanted to do since I arrived at Aspen. Next issue comes out March 11. We're almost done with it. I couldn't be happier with how it turned out. More work from series artist Sana Takeda is forthcoming on other Aspen titles.

The oft-delayed b>Soulfire: New World Order #1 is scheduled to come out immediately after Soulfire #10 hits stores. The series will be set in San Francisco and deal with alternate viewpoints of how the return of magic impacts the world. A mix of new and familiar characters will be the focus, though series star Malikai will be the central figure. Francisco Herrera is doing the art, which was described as more of an animated movie coming to life. By writer J.T Krul.

After the Soulfire: New World Order miniseries concludes, the second volume by Krul and artist Marcus To will premiere. Due to the delays in the first volume, the second has several issues stockpiled and future months are said to see quite a bit of the modern fantasy series being released. Aspen President Frank Mastromauro then hinted that Soul Fire would also be seen outside of comics in the near future.

The new Aspen title Executive Assistant: Iris, having just debuted with issue zero on the convention floor, became the topic of conversation. While the concept for the series was a collaboration of writer David Wohl and Mike Turner with Brad Foxhoven, Wohl revealed that the origin of Executive Assistant came from an article in the New York Times. A couple years ago there was an article in the newspaper about Chinese orphans who were trained to fight, trained in etiquette, to allegedly kill. There was a market for businessmen who wanted bodyguards but didn't want to seem like they had protection. So they get women who don't look dangerous.

This story is about one of those women, Iris, who is great in her job and all she cares about is seeing her employer happy. She never questions it. Over the course of the story she realizes that the things he's asking her to do aren't ethical. He sends Iris on a mission to take care of his enemies, and she realizes he might be the worst one of all. She ends up having to go up against her employer, who has some surprises of his own.

Previews of upcoming series Dellec, announced at the New York Comic Con were scattered among Aspen releases last year with the catch phrase "And you thought your life was tough". The zero issue will premier with a $1.99 price, and every regular issue will be $2.50. Artist Micah Gunnell spoke about his process in penciling Dellec. "It takes a long time," he said. "The step between the other things I've done, Soulfire: Dying of the Light and Shrugged, wasn't as big as the step between Shrugged and Dellec. I've changed some things in my style, using more black, I think it makes a difference". He then complimented inker Rob Stull, calling him one of the best inkers in the industry.

Fathom was singled out for having been around for over a decade now, and still going. Ale Garza is halfway through volume three, with issue 6 set to come out shortly. The conclusion, in issues 7 through 10 should hit retailers by the end of summer. Responding to fan complaints about there being too much war in Fathom recently, writer J.T Krul mentioned that it was part of Mike Turner's original plan for the series. The first volume was introduction of Aspen and the Blue. The second volume was the war between humans and the Blue. Third is the war between the humans, the Blue and the Black. While the third volume is currently on sale, storylines up to volume six are already mapped out. Hints of an upcoming Fathom announcement in the next few weeks were then dropped by Mastromauro.

Shrugged wrapped up in January with the delayed issue 8, and a TPB in February. There is the potential for a volume two, but nothing set in stone yet.

Aspen Seasons: Winter 2009 one-shot comes out next week, which will have Joe Benitez's first Soulfire art in print.

Ekos is still delayed, though there is hope that the Geoff Johns/Mike Turner created series will still see the light of day eventually with a potential announcement this summer.

A Worlds of Aspen one-shot for Free Comic Book Day is in the works. Aspen is working to have more trades available to help new readers get into their established titles, with a new trade coming out every three to four months.

Any potential Iron and the Maiden trade is up to creator Jason Rubin, who has the rights to the creator-owned series as well as the files for publication. There are plans for a definitive collection of Mike Turner's artwork, encompassing his entire career and including his work for DC and Marvel, though such an extensive project would take a long time to prepare and deal justice.

A fan question about the theoretical Fathom movie lead to a discussion of how the original movie rights were purchased in 1998 before the series was out due to the strength of the buzz around the original release. As the series hadn't yet been fully set in stone, screenplays would be made that bore no relation to the idea for the series that creator Mike Turner had in mind. Every screenplay would be nothing like what Mike had envisioned. Nothing near. One of the screenplays only had the main character named Aspen.

"She didn't even like the water," said Mastromauro.

As for the rumor of a Fathom movie announcement in two weeks?

"No. No … Maybe," was the answer.

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