The panel began with marketing director Mel Caylo announcing that Stephen Christy, Archaia's Director of Development, had been recently promoted as the company's Editor-in-Chief. In addition, Archaia president P.J. Bickett said that founder Mark Smylie would act as the company's chief creative officer.
Explaining that these positions would allow for greater focus on creative vision, "Steve has had a lot of the shared vision that Mark has had, and between the two of them, it has really elevated the Archaia brand," Bickett said.
Additionally, Bickett said that the 10-person staff would continue to expand, with the team "aggressively" searching for a senior editor, as well as narrowing down a publisher "that people will really like," and searching for a Vice President of Sales and Marketing.
From Bickett's end, he said that he was focusing on the digital side of the company's publishing efforts, announcing that the company had partnered with iVerse Media to convert their books to iPhone- and iPad-ready formats. While Bickett said "Archaia is a print company at least as of today," he also said that with the recent increase of digital comics distribution, "there's a change that's continuing in the direct market, and that's only going to continue -- and stores will have to change with the times."
iVerse CEO Michael Murphey then took the stage, he explained that with his company's work with Marvel, IDW, BOOM! Studios and Archie Comics, "when we worked with somebody when we're going to do an application just for that publication, we want to make sure we're working with high quality content... [with] Days Missing, Mouse Guard, Robotika -- it goes on and on and on -- there are really, really, really great products here."
Caylo and Christy then led the panel onward, introducing several new and returning titles from the publisher, including second volumes for The Killer and Robotika, an omnibus for The Secret History, as well as a new volume for Okko called Cycle of Earth. Meanwhile, The Killer: Modus Vivendi #1 will be due out in about a month, Okko: The Cycle of Air will be out in approximately six weeks, and The Secret History Vol. 8 will be out in two months.
The Archaia team also took some time to promote several of its writers. Joshua Hale Fialkov, author of Tumor, said that because his graphic novel was the first to open on Amazon's Kindle, it peaked as the site's sixth-highest graphic novel. "We beat Watchmen at one point. So eat that, Alan Moore," Fialkov laughed. "What are you going to do, crazy beard?" With the hardcover of the graphic novel due out soon, Fialkov said that the printed collection would include "an original short story" as well as photo essays used by series artist Noel Tuazon.
Meanwhile, Tom Pinchuk, writer of Hybrid Bastards!, described his book as "the most cracked, the most bizarre, the most weird book out there." With the goddess Hera tricking the lecherous Zeus into having unspeakable lust for every inanimate object in sight, the hybrid children are on a mission to make their embarrassed father acknowledge their existence. Not only is the upcoming hardcover collection relettered, but there will also be an original feature about a "research lab that gets vengeance on the common cold." "This will give anyone who reads it an electrical charge that starts up in their tail bone and goes all the way up their spine," Pinchuk said. "They're going to have to divide their life into two eras: before, and after reading."
David Rodriguez then commented on his upcoming hardcover, Starkweather: Immortal, which has contributions from famed fantasy author Piers Anthony. With stories as far back as the Roman soldier who stabbed Christ, the plot begins when, on the eve of his death, "Christ divides his power into 13 parts, giving his 12 followers a portion of his power and instructing them to use his power," Rodriguez said, with the Apostles being guarded by a group of warriors. But in the Dark Ages, everything goes bad: "The priests twist source of the power, they believes that power comes from Hell and that they're witches." The story then progresses to the resultant "houses of magic," as forces cause them to collapse upon one another.
Caylo then announced that Jason Becker's Killing Pickman would return with issues #3 and #4. The plot deals with a detective who aims to make a demon-powered serial killer pay for his crimes. "But the killer has taken on precautions," Caylo said. "It's Dirty Harry versus the Devil," Christy added.
They then announced a June release for Critical Millenium: The Dark Frontier #1, by Andrew E.C. Cuska. "It's about a group of explorers who go out to explore beyond Earth's solar system to find new areas to colonize," Christy said. That said, "their mission is not particularly popular at home," and this series promises to explore the dark side of the decision to race for the stars. Finally, the group announced the U.S. publication of Matz's Cyclops, which will be drawn by Luc Jacamon and will be released in the states sometime in the fall.
Christy then began to describe Archaia's history of working with production companies, including Roddenberry Productions for Days Missing. With the company working more collaboratively with directors, actors and production companies, Christy then announced that these joint ventures would now be printed under a new banner: Archaia Black Label. "It's not an imprint, it's a different way of creating books basically," Christy said.
"I'm really tired of Hollywood people coming in to the comics industry and putting their faces on books and putting out comics that we don't feel have the art in it, they don't have the right intention in it," he said. "We want to make sure the intention is to create an amazing comic and nothing else... We never create books to create a film option or a TV option."
Roddenberry's Trevor Roth, who worked with Archaia on the time-spanning sci-fi thriller Days Missing, said that initially he was an unbeliever in the Black Label concept. "We're coming into comics anew for sure and when we came into comics we had to learn a lot," he said. "We recognize that while we can do TV very well... [but] we didn't get into comics in order to make something that is something we could have done with a production company and a pilot." Comics, he said, allowed companies like Roddenberry to tell stories without getting hamstrung by red tape. "It was to allow people to do that job in that unique way," Roth explained. "For us to have the opportunity to bring amazing stuff."
Caylo and Roth then announced that Black Label would release Days Missing Vol. 2, with Phil Hester writing and covers by Dale Keown. "The steward, who's been around since the dawn of time and has been shepherding humanity as we evolve, is no longer alone," Christy said. Roth also announced that a new character would be making her mark on the series' eternal protagonist: "Her name is Cestus -- she is badass, she is sexy, she is everything you want in a comic character, and she is at the forefront of Days Missing."
The team also announced a new book in conjunction with the production company Fantasy Prone called Syndrome, written by Daniel Quantz and R.J. Ryan and art by David Marquez. "It's a fantastic study of hate and anger and serial killers," Christy said. A four part series told from the perspective of four unwitting "patients," Quantz described the series as "a psychiatrist who is frustrated by his inability to cure psychopaths that come into his office... he's kind of a megalomaniac, and transfers to neuropathology to find 'the source of evil' in human behavior." "It's not a story about good versus evil, but the question at the center of Syndrome is, 'what is evil?'" Ryan added. "You have to perform an experiment that no one has ever seen." Christy then gave the twist: "Put them in an environment and don't tell them," he said. "It's The Truman Show with serial killers."
"The real discovery of this book is Dave Marquez," Christy added. "It's been incredible as an editor to see an artist take their game and elevate it to an entirely new level. It's a full meal, you get the entire thing... the story really grabs you by the nuts and pulls." Marquez said that he particularly liked the fact that "this is a book that doesn't throw a lot of technical jargon at you... [but] it's a very challenging read, its not going to be for lazy readers."
Finally, Caylo and Christy announced a new book coming out through the standard Archaia banner and Zachary Quinto's Before the Door Productions called Lucid, which will be written by True Blood's Michael McMillain with art by Anna Wieszczyk. Set in a world where heads of state have their own personal court magicians, this is "what happens when Harry Potter grows up and joins the CIA," Christy said. They said that Wieszczyk in particular was an artistic find at only 20 years old. "She has a real Cowboy Bebop feel," Christy said, before praising Before the Doors' work on the book. "They brought both the ideas and the writer and a passion for comics that's been really exciting to see."