Considering that Avatar was the sponsor of the convention’s biggest guest, it seems odd that their panel had the 11 AM Sunday spot – the infamous “church time” dead zone of panel attendance. Perhaps as a result, William Christensen, editor-in-chief of Avatar, was “mildly hungover and slightly less eloquent than you might like,” by his own admission, but still ran through his list of titles and announcements for the few people that attended.
Christensen began with discussion of Crossed, Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows’ new horror book, with the bleak tagline, “There are no heroes.”
Avatar has a Crossed sketchbook available at Chicago and will debut Crossed #0 at San Diego. The 10-issue monthly will launch in October, and Christensen promised “really fucked up shit.”
“It’s not a zombie story, but it is a story about how a large amount of humanity has just become evil personified. Their motivation is just to do evil to people who are not like them,” Christensen explained. “They have all the qualities of humans. It’s bleak, it’s depressing, it’s really, really terrifying. Garth’s on fire, and it’s going to be one of those things like Preacher that people are going to be talking about in 15 years.”
“Garth admitted that I actually terrify him, that my limits are more obscene than his,” he joked.
Avatar’s big star is, of course, the star of the Chicago convention, Warren Ellis. Ellis’s Scars is going back into print because Warren wanted a new cover, and the first Doktor Sleepless trade will have an October release. It will collect the first eight issues of the series, and issue #9 will be the start of the next arc, out in August.
Christensen considers it a good entry point to the series, which will continue with nine to ten issues a year. Artist Ivan Rodriguez is committed up to issue #50, and Christensen wants to keep the same creative team that long.
Anna Mercury series two has been greenlit, with Ellis and the same artist, Facundo Percio, for early 2009. It will be another five-issue series and at the same time, the trade of series one will be available. It has been a ridiculously huge hit for Christensen, their second-best seller after Black Summer. “Warren’s once again pulled magic out of his butt,” Christensen said.
Aetheric Mechanics, the next in Ellis’s Apparat line of original graphic novellas, is upcoming as well. Though the 48-page length is shunned by almost everyone in the industry, Christensen loves it, saying it’s a great reading length, and the price is low so makes a better impulse buy.
“Fundamentally, we create the books for us,” he noted, and pointed out that Crecy, the first in the series, has had final sales of triple what original sales were. They plan to keep them in print forever. Though libraries and bookstores are very tough to break into, Christensen said that they are starting to stock Crecy, which was quite popular with the audience, with one fan calling it the best thing Avatar had ever printed.
There will also be a new Wolfskin series, a six-issue called Hundredth Dream, with art by Gianluca Pagliarani, and cowritten with Mike Wolfer.
The immensely popular Black Summer will be available in trade format in September. “Black Summer has been a ridiculous monster of total unprecedented volume,” Avatar’s best-selling series ever. Its final issue ships in two weeks.
“Black Summer is one of those things that I am so proud to have put out. It’s an amazing work that no other publisher would touch with a ten-foot pole, and fuck them, they suck,” Christensen said.
Zombie Survival Guide Recorded Attacks, by Max Brooks, the son of Mel Brooks and of course, author of Zombie Survival Guide is coming from Avatar as well. The project is in cooperation with Random House, and Christensen called Brooks “the next generation of zombie genius.” In the end it’s going to be Random House’s choice when this book comes out, but more will be coming from Brooks and Avatar.
No Hero #0 launched here at Chicago and this week in shops. Though it is the same team as Black Summer, it is not a sequel or in any way tied in. It is another masked hero project from them, and they will launch the regular series in September. The sales have been good so far, Christensen said, but noted that retailers only ordered half of what they needed in the end on Black Summer. “I know what they want even if they don’t,” he joked.
He also pointed out that the $1 cover price on the 0 issue guarantees that they’ll never make money on it, but he loves the easy entry point of it.
At the convention, they also had available the Doktor Sleepless plasma globe bust, an Anna Mercury bust, and a “boobalicious” Anna Mercury statue. “I have them all sitting in my warehouse and can go back and fondle them at my leisure,” Christensen joked.
Freakangels, Ellis and Paul Duffield’s Web comic, is an entry point for Avatar for a lot of people, according to Christensen, who called it his “grand experiment.” He noted that Ellis has a “multi-multi-multi-year-plan” for the series, and will debut a collected edition in November at Wizard Texas. They will be flying Paul Duffield over from England to appear with the 144 page book, and there will also be a limited edition signed and numbered hardcover.
When asked if he had any more plans for any more Web comics, Christensen said that doing them at that level of quality is incredibly costly, but “If the numbers for the trade come in at 100,000 we’ll be doing this from live cam from the Bahamas.”
Another fan suggested that they put some of their old stuff on the Web. They are working on another massive overhaul of the Web site, with some stuff for free, some paid digital downloads, but “We’re not going to rush into that market because we’re enjoying watching how everyone else screws up,” Christensen said.
“I’ve pretty much learned my lesson which is that Warren is always right,” he joked.
The other big announcement was that among the new writers for 2009, Christos Gage will be coming over to Avatar and launching a new book. “Christos has a really dark evil side that he hasn’t gotten to embrace just yet, and he’s just giddy as a schoolchild that now he gets to,” Christensen said.
He noted that he was trying for slow, measured growth for the company. “We’re going to be about keeping the quality sky-high, getting top-name people that have a vision that they want to do.” Seven to eight titles a month by mid-2009, a “comfortable range,” will be the goal.
“Not that much more that we can handle without everyone revolting and killing me with sharp pointy objects,” he joked.
2009 will be the year of Alan Moore for them. One of Moore’s top-secret projects will be a fully painted original graphic novel with Felipe Massafera.
“Alan got to see the first pages of Jacen Burrows’ work on their new project and was as happy as Alan gets,” Christensen said. Spring 2009 to Fall 2009 will be their big push for Alan Moore, and may include repackaging some older Moore stuff.
Christensen noted that they’ve even had a couple of Doktor Sleepless issues stolen from their booth at Chicago. “That’s when you know you’re really cool, when people start stealing your stuff,” he laughed.