The Aspen Comic panel at Wizard World Philadelphia on Saturday started off shaky due to technical difficulties with their slideshow, but Vice President of Publishing Peter Steigerwald made sure that glitch didn’t ruin the mood of the modest crowd assembled. He riled up the room by prompting the audience to a belt out a resounding “Aloha” and introduced the panel of J.T. Krul (writer), Micah Gunnell (artist), Ale Garza (artist), Vince Hernandez (Director of Marketing/writer), Mark Roslan (Director of Design and Production) and executive vice president Frank Mastromauro.
Peter then turned the mic over to Mastromauro for an update on Michael Turner’s (Aspen’s founder) cancer fight.
“Michael wished he could be here,” Mastromauro said. “For those of you that don’t know, he had a big procedure in February…The doctors said recovery will take four to six months, so he can’t travel. But each day he’s getting stronger. The tumor was isolated at the base of his spine which caused him excruciating pain when it came to sitting down to draw. Now he can sit four to five hours at a time. He said ‘Hi’ to everyone and hopes to be here next year.”
Mastromauro added that Turner’s recover should take anywhere from 4-6 months. He intends to finish the final two issues of Soulfire afterwards, followed by his Marvel project, and then Ekos from Aspen.
With the slideshow still not working, Steigerwald opened the floor to questions. A fan of Iron and the Maiden immediately asked if a sequel to the book is in the works.
“We’ve gotten really good feedback,” Mastromauro answered. “Creator Jason Rubin is in New York working on a side business. I’d love to do a sequel with him and find an artist that can uphold what was done. It took them a year and a half to finish designing the issues, so it’s definitely down the road. Jason was there for every step so hopefully, [a sequel] will work out.”
Next asked about any potential crossovers coming from Aspen, Mastromauro said, “No. Mike isn’t a big crossover person. We keep the universes separate and there have been a few ideas but they are worthy or interesting enough to get bothered.” He added that even includes crossovers within the company.
Vince Hernandez then asked J.T. Krul if her preferred writing Soulfire or Fathom more.
“I like them both,” Krul said diplomatically. The Soulfire universe is more open…Fathom is more set in place. But I’m a fan of both but if I had to choose, I’d have to say Soulfire.”
When the slideshow problem was eventually fixed, Mastromauro took the floor again to walk through the slideshow – which unfortunately was now ordered alphabetically and threw off their plan of announcements. Resigned Mastromauro walked through their properties:
Michael Turner’s Ekos: “We are eight issues away from this after Michael’s Marvel project. The entire story is done – written by Geoff Johns. It’s sitting on the backburner just waiting for a release as soon as he feels better.”
The upcoming Fathom Vol 2 TPB will come out in soft cover, but a signed limited edition hardcover will be available on Aspen’s website store.
Executive Assistant: Iris:
The story revolves around an executive assistant that is also an assassin for her boss. It shows her origins and how Iris comes to resent her position. She leaves and then comes back to take the group down. It’s called a “huge adventure series.” Eduardo is the artist working on the title and there’s no release date for Issue #1, which they plan to launch end of ’08 or early ’09.
Iris is written by David Wohl with art by Eduardo Francisco, Jason Gorder, and John Starr
Aspen will continue to do all the online webisodes that will be a continuous storyline that will lead up to season three in September. New scripts just arrived and during the summer 12 newly designed characters will appear on the NBC website. Fans can vote all summer for their favorites and the winner will eventually appear on the show.
Mastromauro also quickly walked through images for many of their upcoming cover variants and special event prints including these highlights:
Aspen is also planning a brand new property created by Frank Mastromauro and Vince Hernandez with art by Micah Gunnell, with an announcement of this series to follow shortly.
Soulfire: Shadow Magic will be an all-new five-issue mini-series written by Vince Hernandez with art by Sana Takeda.
The exclusive tour print for WW:Philly, Aspen Splash book (out end of June), Shrugged pin up book, Soulfire: Shadow Magic cover for the zero issue (out early ’09), Cover for the trade of Fathom Vol. 2, X-Men Ultimate Origins variant chase featuring Wolverine, Wolverine #66 (with shogun Logan), X-Men #500 variant cover for Marvel, Aspen Splash exclusive for WW: Chicago.
Asked about their X-Men #500 contribution, Mastromauro detailed that it’s “a costume launch image to all the X-Men over the years.” He’s already heard some complaints from fans about the disparate looks, but he says they picked their favorites and went from there.
The floor was opened up for questions again and the conversation then shifted to the development process within Aspen, where Peter said, “We insult each other. Have you been to 3rd grade? That’s us.” Each guy on the panel then talked about their individual process, which they all agreed very much depends on the individual book they are working on and the demands therein.
Asked their own favorite books right now, they each offered their selections:
Hernandez: “My favorites are Green Lantern, Jonah Hex, and Spider-Man is my favorite, though I couldn’t read it when Straczynski was writing it, not that I’m hating on him. But I’m reading it again now.
Krul: “Green Lantern, JSA, Final Crisis and I love Hercules.”
Gunnell: “I read the trades…and love the manga Vagabond.”
Garza: “I like 100 Hundred Bullets, Spider-Man, Final Crisis, Secret Invasion…I’m a whore for that stuff. And I’m excited about Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane.”
Roslan: “I’m behind but Y the Last Man, Green Lantern and I just caught up on the New Avengers.”
Mastromauro: “Hulk and the DC books.”