SDCC '08 - The DDP - Rest, Humanoids and More

On Saturday at San Diego Comic-Con, Devil’s Due Publishing packed out its second room that weekend in preparation to discuss upcoming projects including Milo Ventimiglia (Heroes) and his partner at Divide Pictures, Russ Cundiff, along with writer Mark Powers, as they all talk about their upcoming 5 issue series, Rest —a story about a drug that curbs the human necessity for sleep. Also, on the panel were writer Ryan Schifrin and Larry Hama to talk about their collaboration on Spooks: Omega Team—a book Hama describes as “G.I. Joe fighting big monsters like werewolves”. Steve Stern, creator of Zen The Intergalactic Ninja, was on hand for an announcement; as was Pierre Spengler of Les Humanoïdes Associés—on behalf of the European publishing house with a special announcement for the panel. The panel was quickly underway as Tres Stamos and Brian Warmoth took turns handling chores as co-MCs of the program while DDP Publisher Josh Blaylock controlled the audio-visual chores of the presentation.

Ventimiglia was late arriving to the panel so Warmoth and Blaylock introduced Pierre Spengler to the audience—explaining his role at Humanoides. They talked about the upcoming deal which has DDP reprinting and translating popular titles from the European publisher—starting off with I Am Legion by Fabien Nury and popular comic industry artist John Cassaday. Spengler said, “I am very happy with this development,” as he described the lack of American commitment over the past several years; he described the nature of Humanoides by saying, “It’s been our policy to give popular American creators the possibility to work with popular European creators of comics.” Brian Warmoth interjected that there were a lot of exciting possibilities for the two companies and that I Am Legion is one of three titles set for publication by Devil’s Due.

Warmoth mentioned projects involving Capcom—Bionic Commando, as well as two others, Monster Hunter and Dark Void—which could be expected in the winter quarter. It was at that moment that Brian and Josh decided to announce that within moments of the panel starting, they had received word that Kevin Williamson, the creator of Scream, would be writing a crime-thriller book entitled Shadows for Spring of 2009. Blaylock smiled has he admitted, “This deal has been in the works for a long time.”

Warmoth spoke about the previous panel focusing on Tim Seeley and Hack/Slash—and briefly spoke about the current storyline involving Reanimator as well as the Hack/ Slash Annual guest-starring the Suicide Girls. He also flashed an image on the display screen of The Corps, written by Rick Remender with artwork by Roberto Carlos—slated for October 2008. A slide of Voltron appeared—causing an eruption of cheers and applause—as Brian announced the release of Voltron: Legend Forged #2, the story of Voltron’s origins, written by DDP Publisher Josh Blaylock with art by Mike Bear. Warmoth also briefly talked about the Halloween 30th anniversary one-shot set for August 2008.

Tres Stamos took the podium over and an image of Spooks: Omega Team appeared on the screen, as Brian introduced Larry Hama and Ryan Schifrin to talk about their collaborative efforts on the project. Stamos asked Hama about building upon the material created by Ryan Schifrin; to which Hama responded, “Well, the great thing about this project—is that I get to do military stuff the way that I want to—really gritty and without a lot of controls with the fiction like I had been writing many years before.” When asked about his “free roam” on the project, Hama smiled, “Absolutely! I think people are going to be surprised by this story because I think its going to really defy expectations.” Schifrin added, “Yeah, it’s like telepathic fish monsters with fangs in the Amazon Jungle!” which caused a wave of laughter from the audience. Stamos asked Hama about the differences between his previous work and Spooks; Hama responded, “Well, I had done some supernatural projects for Marvel before but this is a unique chance to combine the writing I like to do with complete ‘gonzo action’—I mean, its all just action sequences to me when I write a story; I picture it in terms of visuals—so there’s never anyone sitting around a room talking. It’s always people blowing peoples’ heads off…while they are talking.”

After the applause and cheers of the bloodthirsty panel subsided, Hama spoke about his experience working with Ryan Schifrin; Hama praised Schrifin repeatedly for his ability to “get” the way the comic book industry is different from the film industry. Tres asked Ryan to describe his experience with Larry and he said, “The guy who created Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow is here,” which caused the crowd to erupt with cheers and applause. He added, “Larry created all those amazing G.I. Joe characters from the 80’s—I think he’s a genius,” which created another wave of applause; he spoke again, “I mean, I’m still buying G.I. Joe toys down on the convention floor; so, to be able to work with Larry on this project is like a childhood dream come true.”

Hama and Schifrin talked briefly about the scripting process and joked about killing werewolves; Josh Blaylock added in amusement, “Larry knows how to actually kill a werewolf—because he actually has.” The Schifrin quickly informed the audience that Spooks had been optioned very recently.

The panel shifted to talk to Steve Stern about the upcoming Zen The Intergalactic Ninja project from Devil’s Due written by Joe Casey and illustrated by Joe Abraham. Sterns talked about his excitement for the new project under Joe Casey’s care—describing Casey’s style as “quirky”. He talked briefly about the creation of the character in the late ‘80s as well. Stamos quickly pointed out that the #0 issue cover has been drawn by Eisner Award winning artist, Jae Lee; with the #1 cover being drawn by Mike Mignola and the #2 cover being handled by Sterns’ close friend, Sam Keith.

Tres Stamos then introduced Milo Ventimiglia and Russ Cundiff along with Mark Powers—to talk about the upcoming book, Rest. Ventimiglia and Cundiff playfully walked up on stage—throwing shirts into the audience.

Milo started off by saying, “I think a lot of people know from the things that I say—that I don’t sleep very much. I really don’t and I’ll run into my friends and they’ll tell me, ‘You don’t look so good; you should get a little rest,’ and I say, ‘Okay’. I run into friends that I don’t see very often and they say, ‘Have you lost weight? You don’t look so good—you should get some rest.’ I go to my dry cleaners a lot—Russ, do I go to my dry cleaners a lot?”

Russ Cundiff quickly looked at the audience and said, “A lot.”

Milo replies, “And he says the same thing you should get some rest. Get some rest. Get some rest. Get some rest.” He holds up a promo poster for the Rest comic and says, “This is me—getting some Rest.”

Ventimiglia praised the work of Mark Powers and sincerely expressed how important it was to him to make a good comic book. Tres Stamos began to ask the Rest creators a round of questions—starting with a brief description of the title—and the nature of the drug in the series which alleviates the human necessity for sleep. Powers added, “I think the most important thing here is that the main character is someone that all of us can identify with. I think readers will have the same reaction I had when I read the screenplay that this comic is based on—when I finished reading I thought, ‘Hey, that’s me.’ The main character’s name is John Barrett—he’s a normal guy […] who is giving up his hopes and dreams just to keep things going.” Powers talked about the natural desire to want to have more time for personal pursuits; describing John’s involvement in a program to test the strange drug at the center of the story. Powers explained, “What you get is more time—which is the most valuable commodity in life. John is at a point in his life where he’s started realizing just how limited his time really is.” Powers continued on about the plot of the series—describing the dark turn the story takes once John starts taking the seemingly magical sleep-reducing drug.

Stamos turned to questioning Milo about his involvement with the project; to which Milo responded, “I think I’ve been hooked since I read the script by Michael Sullivan.” Milo went on to discuss the company he co-owns with Russ Cundiff and how the two of them had come into contact with the script for Rest and identified with John Barrett. He spoke about the timing of the Writer’s Strike and how he and Russ sought out Devil’s Due because, “if we weren’t going to be able to make a good movie or television show out of this amazing script—we knew we could make a great comic book.”

Milo spoke about being raised around comic books and being a fanboy—talking about his experiences buying comics as a boy at the same shop in Orange County every week. He added, “Looking on the other side of things, I get to make a good comic now—and give back to the community that raised me a little bit.” Stamos and Ventimiglia joked about the character likeness—saying that Barrett actually looked more like Russ. Cundiff spoke briefly about their desire to create a character that responded well with the readership. Russ and Milo praised their team of creators—mentioning that Tim Sale and Phil Jiminez would be involved with cover art.

The panelists fielded questions from the audience that reiterated the earlier description of the plot description of Rest with Mark Powers explaining his inspiration for the project being found riding to and from work on a train; he said, “People live these lives of quiet desperation—and it’s something like the drug in Rest that most people would seek out to escape from that desperation.”

When asked about Rest being optioned, Ventimiglia responded, “That seems to be the thing to do these days—make a comic and make it into a movie—and, you know, that’s always a possibility […] if the book gets made into a movie…awesome; if not, we’ve made a great book.” An audience member joked with Milo about the potential of having more time—only to have Ventimiglia take his question very seriously; considering the potential of having more time to spend with his family and to be able to work more, as well as play more.

Another member of the audience asked Milo what his greatest challenge was crossing over into the comic world; he responded, “Being accepted,” and remarked about the success of Heroes coming from places like Comic-Con. He pointed out his father in the audience—and reminded the audience about his early exposure to comics via his father. He added, “I just wanted to be accepted into this community—this isn’t about vanity—I just wanted to make a great comic and give back to…and now I’m getting emotional…and give back to the world that actually gave me a great deal of enjoyment growing up.”

An audience member asked about the effects of the drug in REST and how it affects John’s relationships with his family and friends. Powers spoke about the fact that Barrett—because of his situation—isn’t very connected to his family and that this story is also about a reconnection with a really good friend who is also involved with the project that he becomes involved with.

The last question to the panel involved “waking nightmares” and hallucinations as a side effect of sleep deprivation. Ventimiglia responded, “We’re kind of blending the lines of what’s real, what isn’t and what’s in a dream. The readers are going to be very interested in finding out what is going on in these characters’ heads as they are on the drug. In closing, Milo expressed a great deal of gratitude on behalf of himself and Russ Cundiff for being able to work with Mark Powers, Shawn McManus and the folks at Devil’s Due.

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