Before the Top Cow panel proper started o Saturday at Wizard World Chicago, studio founder Marc Silvestri asked members of the audience to join panelists in a moment of silence to remember artist Michael Turner.
"Our friend died last night, and it's a loss for everyone," Silvestri said. "It's an especially deep loss for people who knew him, because this was a unique individual, and personally, the strongest man I've ever met in my life. And that is not even remotely an exaggeration. Michael has been sick for a long time. He's been sick for years. But he never showed it. Not once. Hardly anyone knew he was really as ill as he was. He left us last night. I will miss him dearly. The industry will miss him dearly. He has given a lot to all of us, and what he is going to be giving to people who follow in his footsteps.
"And Mike, you're never going away, brother," he added after the moment was observed.
During the panel, several new projects were announced. Panelists included:
- Phil Hester, writer of The Darkness
- Vice President of editorial, Rob Levin
- Connie Wong from Videator
- Filip Sablik, Publisher
- Artist Marc Silvestri, founder
- Artist Kenneth Rocafort, Madam Mirage and Pilot Season
Sablik showed slides for Broken Trinity, the big summer event for the publisher that was introduced in a Free Comic Book Day issue. The event stars Witchblade Darkness and the Angelus.
"We had First Born last year... this summer we have kind of a thematic book-end to that," Sablik said. "Something's going to break, and we've already said somebody is not going to make it through alive."
The series is written by Ron Marz. Phil Hester is the layout artist, with painter Stjepan Sejic painting over Hester's layout. "Hopefully I'll be invisible, I'll just be there to help Stjepan with the storytelling," Hester said.
What's impressive about the work they're doing, Sablik said, is that Sejic and Marz are also doing Witchblade on a regular basis. "He's only human," Hester said of Sejic, explaining why he needs to help out with layout.
"I don't think he is, actually. Have you seen his work?" Silvestri said.
"Yeah, he's crazy good," Sablik added.
Dale Keown artwork was shown on the slide. It was pencils for what appeared to be either a fold-out cover or series of covers for Broken Trinity. "We'll be doing more with Dale. And yes, he's coming back to The Pitt," Silvestri said.
Sablik said readers can just read the three issues of Broken Trinity, or they can read three supplemental issues that explore how the event touches each character. The schedule for Broken Trinity is:
- July: Broken Trinity #1
- August: Broken Trinity: Darkness, Broken Trinity #2
- September: Broken Trinity: Angelus, Broken Trinity #3
- October: Broken Trinity: Witchblade
The Broken Trinity issues are all oversized and priced at $2.99, said Sablik, who added, "That's only $18."
"That's the price of two tickets to see Wanted, by the way," Silvestri said to laughs.
The Darkness is kicking into high gear, Sablik said, with Phil Hester still writing issue #5, which will go to press in the next two weeks. Issue #6 will come out in July. "That will wrap up ‘Empire,’" Hester said, adding that there are always changes in the series. "My goal is to keep people guessing."
In Darkness #7-#9, artist Michael Broussard is taking a break to get ahead in the series, and Jorge Lucas will be stepping in for three issues. "They're all self-contained, and are an homage to Fistful of Dollars," Hester said. "Those issues are a return to crime-oriented issues for Jackie."
Michael Avon Oeming will be drawing one self-contained issue of Darkness with regular series writer Phil Hester doing the story. Whether it appears in the series or whether it is a one-shot is yet to be determined, but it is planned to come out in 2009.
"It's all set in the cool age of Vikings," Hester said. "We didn't want it to be historically accurate. We wanted it to be the kind of Vikings that you painted on the side of your van."
The winners of the first Pilot Season will be launching this fall, including Cyblade and Velocity. The original Velocity issue during Pilot Season was drawn by Kevin Maguire, but Cris Cross is doing the new series.
Top Cow then announced a partnership with Videator that will allow fans to send mobile greetings to friends with Top Cow characters. The service will be available on AT&T mobile, and fans should text "Hero" to "123."
"You're going to be able to choose from a number of different greetings to send to your friends," Sablik said.
A version of a greeting was played, showing that the drawings of the characters had been animated. "We picked the characters and used our software to make the mouth move with the script," Wong said, adding that the pre-recorded messages can be turned into wallpaper.
The publisher announced that The Impaler series by William Harms will be continued at Top Cow. The series began with three issues from Image, but will now be an ongoing series.
"Impaler takes what you think you know about Dracula and puts it on its head in a modern setting," Sablik said.
In a partnership with Clayborn Moore Studios, the torso statue of The Puppeteer from The Freshman series by Hugh Sterbakov and Seth Green will be available for pre-order in San Diego.
Silvestri: "Clay's the best in the business. He's the best sculptor out there. He's been doing this for years."
There will also be an exclusive variant offered in San Diego for pre-order that features Puppeteer's "sort of evil twin that showed up in the second volume." Green and Sterbakov will be signing certificates of authenticity in San Diego.
Silvestri said he's looking for other new ideas and concepts like The Freshman, and several are in development right now, including a few from himself. There are "team books and various ideas for the Top Cow Universe for early next year with various top-tier teams -- writers and artists," the artist said. "One of the things that's the most fun for me is to create something out of nothing."
Sablik said they will soon announce another property written by B. Clay Moore that will be released in a preview book in conjunction with Kick Start, which is the company that put together Wanted.
Top Cow is debuting Starfall at San Diego - with Randy Queen who created Darkchylde. The series will be released sometime in 2009.
In September, the publisher will release The Dragon Prince, a series by Ron Marz with Lee Moder on art. "It's our first all-ages book," Sablik said. It's a story about a young boy who is of mixed heritage who never fits in, and then he finds out his mixed heritage isn't quite what he expected because it turns out his dad is a dragon.
Top Cow will be releasing The Art of Marc Silvestri hardcover featuring highlights of Marc's work not only at Top Cow, but earlier in his career coming out in July. They will have the hardcover first for $29.99, then a softcover for $19.99.
The publisher has a Madame Mirage trade coming out in September for the series by Paul Dini and Kenneth Rocafort that will collect all six issues, including "possibly the most extras we've ever put in a trade," Sablik said. "Kenneth has ridiculous sketches."
Referring to the Madame Mirage property, Silvestri added that the company "may have 'other media' news to release on this soon."
The publisher reminded people to pick up all the issues being currently being released in the second Pilot Season contest, then go online to vote for which one should be a new series. They include:
- Lady Pendragon by writer Matt Hawkins and artist Eru
- Twilight Guardian by writer Troy Hickman and artist Reza
- Genius by writer Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman and artist Alfua Richardson
- Alibi by writer Joshua Hale Fialkov and artist Jeremy Haun.
- The Core by Jonathan Hickman and artist Kenneth Rocafort.
- Urban Myths by Jay Faerber and artist Jorge Molina.
A fan asked -- will there be another Witchblade anime like the episodes by FUNimation?
Silvestri: There's a strong possibility for a sequel.
Sablik then announced that the Witchblade episodes by FUNimation will be downloadable on iTunes starting June 30, and the first episode will be free for the first two weeks. All 24 episodes are out now on DVD, but this will be the first time it's available on iTunes.