Brian K. Vaughan has been making big news for years with Image Comics, and he brought even more with him for the 2015 Image Expo. Early in the day he took the stage for the early morning presentation, mentioning Saga #30 and the just-launched We Stand On Guard before barreling on to his personal publishing house, Panel Syndicate. Shared with Marcos Martin, the digital publishing house is home to Private Eye, the futuristic detective noire, a project that ignored ever having a print version - until now.
Image is publishing the "Cloudburst Edition" of Private Eye that brings together the 10 issues Vaughan and Martin created together, a project The Walking Dead co-creator and Image partner Robert Kirkman wanted to bring to Image Comics. As Brian K. Vaughan recalls, he said he'd let Image do the print version if Kirkman let Panel Syndicate do a The Walking Dead story. Kirkman bit and so we have "the last crossover you ever expected" as the promo art says - Vaughan and Martin will be doing an original The Walking Dead story that'll be hosted on Panel Syndicate.
With all that announced, Brian K. Vaughan sat down for a one-on-one discussion panel later in the day at Image Expo. Dressed in a relaxed jeans and hoodie ensemble, just asking people what they'd want to talk about. Very informal start as Vaughan talks the newly published We Stand On Guard and how he came to work with Steve Skroce. Brian loved Steve's work going back to Alan Moore's Youngblood series, and had wanted to work with him, but Skroce was too busy with film projescts with the Wachowskis. But after the premiere of Jupiter Ascending, Steve wanted something simpler and has been drawing up a storm, getting way ahead of schedule on the planned six issue story.
The conversation moved to another collaborator, Saga's Fiona Staples. Vaughan is always impressed with her, especially when he sees that she can somehow handle Saga and Archie at the same time. Their work together is more defined not by what Fiona can do, but what will upset her. "Why do I have to draw a dragon doing this to himself," are the type of questions he wants her to ask, and the only time she nearly refused to draw something was when a cliffhanger left fan-favorite Lying Cat in seeming mortal danger.
That's the sort of thing that happens when, as a later question revealed, Staples likes to read the scripts without spoilers, wanting to experience it as close to the reader's experience as possible.
Vaughan briefly moved on the enigmatic series Paper Girls, coming this October with Cliff Chang, an artist he worked with during his long ago Swamp Thing series at Vertigo. Other than Cliff's skill at drawing outfits, Brian didn't have much more to share on the upcoming work.
Rounding out was talk of Marcos Martin, his Private Eye and Panel Syndicate compatriot. Marcos is the brains behind Panel Syndicate, and Martin also had the idea of doing a The Walking Dead story. He pushed Vaughan and Kirkman to make it happen. Of the small crumbs of info revealed, this is Martin's first ever black and white comic book, that Kirkman has already approved the "interesting" story, and that it is definitely set in The Walking Dead continuity.
When it comes to Panel Syndicate, Marcos thinks it's important for creators to know every stage of how comic books are made, and Brian says Martin wants digital to make it so anyone can afford it. Brian didn't think pay what you want would work, yet sales are great, with the final issue, #10, selling the best of all of them.
From then on it was time for questions from the audience question: "Why do you think diversity is so important to the comics industry."
Brian is less into reflecting diversity when it's really about making fiction that looks more like reality. When planning out Saga, Vaughan pictured the two leads as white, but then Fiona asked why do another fantasy book with just white leads. When reflecting on their looks now, Brian says "I kinda want to sleep with both of them."
Another questioner really enjoys the Blue language as seen in Saga, and Brian likes that the visually distinct language can kind of take you out of the book. When reading books, he's "not looking to escape life, [he's] looking to enrich it." He also teased that there's definitely a secret behind the language, which some fans may have already stumbled upon, perhaps with a connection to a real world language.
As one would expect from panel questions, another fan asked for an update on the Y: The Last Man film.
"The film is gone and there's hope for a TV series, but I've been saying that for 12 years now, so..."
"You're not afraid to kill off folks," another asked, "but is that hard for you?"
"It's harder for Fiona, because she put all this work into designing the world and the characters."
Vaughan says it's cheap to not kill characters, implying that in the world of Saga, it may not even be safe to assume that Hazel is safe, which was met with some friendly boos by the audience.
The panel's final question: "If you have anything regrets after something is published?"
"Every sentence of every story," Vaughan says, as he sees stories as abandoned, not finished. Though he says after the distance of seven years, he's come to appreciate most of his work. He does regret using his middle initial, but when broke into comic book he hated getting rewritten, so he said he'd use "Brian Vaughan" when he wasn't happy with rewrites, but he's never really had cause to use it in the years since.