Saturday afternoon at Comic-Con International, Aspen Comics started their yearly panel with a big warm “Aloha!” and the banging of inflatable noisemakers which were distributed to audience members as they entered. Hosted by Aspen’s jovial Vice President of Publishing, Peter Steigerwald; other participants included Frank Mastromauro, Joe Benitez, Vince Hernandez, J.T. Krul, Ale Garza, Micah Gunnel, Beth Sotelo, and David Schwartz. Scott Lobdell was also lurking in the audience, teasing an announcement and banging together his inflatable noise-makers.
Steigerwald opened things up by discussing the company's flagship title Fathom. Mastromauro interjected and noted that the screenwriter for the Fathom feature film, Jordan Mechner, had entered the room and was invited to sit up on stage so he could talk about the movie, slated to star 'It Girl' Megan Fox. Mastromauro then reviewed the current status the comic book title with the audience and he commended regular series artist, Ale Garza, for his work. He also presented an exclusive image of the upcoming variant cover for the eighth issue in the current series.
Steigerwald and Mastromauro then announced tentative plans for Fathom Volumes Four and Five over the course of the next couple of years—in line with the development of the movie. Mastromauro described the past year, without Michael Turner at the helm, as a “year of growth for the company”. Mastromauro then introduced David Schwartz, writer of Meltdown at Image Comics, indicating Schwartz will be involved in future plans for Fathom. Schwartz spoke briefly about his involvement and about the positivity of the crew at Aspen.
Mastromauro then directed the audience to Jordan Mechner; who expressed a great deal of gratitude towards Aspen and the audience. “I hope people will like the screenplay," he said. "It is somewhat of a departure from the comic, but we’re trying to make a great movie based on a comic—not a comic book movie.”
Steigerwald praised Mechner’s work—and assured the audience that the film would not disappoint.
After a short break due to a technical issue, Mastromauro continued the panel with news on Executive Assistant Iris and potential developments in crossing into other forms of media; the panel also displayed a Comic-Con exclusive cover for their current issue of the series which was on sale at their booth on the convention floor.
The panel changed up and began discussing Mindfield, a new project by J.T. Krul about a government created “thought police” which is comprised of C.I.A. agents who have become altered by hallucinogenic drugs. Mastromauro described it as a slight departure from typical Aspen content.
Steigerwald showcased a number of projects; including Aspen Showcase 2009, Aspen Splash 2009, and a Shrugged trade paperback, which Mastromauro indicated might get a new second volume down the road.
Mastromauro then spoke about Aspen’s recent initiative to collect their entire back library, stating that the company would produce trades every three or fourth months.
A slide was displayed for Aspen’s Tribute book for Michael Turner to which Mastromauro urged the audience to check out. He also noted Aspen’s involvement with other projects and publishers, like Heroes, Marvel, and Ekos, a title connected to Geoff Johns. Scott Lobdell’s project, The Scourge, was also announced. The story involves a plague that turns the inhabitants of Manhattan into gargoyles—and a lone protagonist must fight his way across the island to find his son.
The final announcements of the panel regarded Soulfire, with the final issue of Turner’s second title with Aspen wrapping after his passing last year. Mastromauro displayed artwork for the upcoming Soulfire hardcover—and announced plans for Soulfire Volume 2, with artwork by Marcus To, who has been steadily working on the project for the past year.
It was at that moment that Mastromauro invited Gale Ann Hurd to the stage for a big announcement that Valhalla Motion Pictures would be developing Soulfire into a full length motion picture.
Hurd described the project as light-hearted. “Soulfire will bring a little magic back to a dark world,” she said.
Mastromauro gushed over the development with Valhalla and Hurd was extremely positive—talking about Aspen’s obstacles over the past year and how they had triumphed following the tragic loss of Michael Turner.