SDCC '08 - The Radical Comics Panel

Levine & Shern on Freedom Formula

The theme of the radical Comics panel at SDCC this year was 'heart'. Or possibly 'painted'.

With their first official panel as a comic publisher, Radical had a lot to say in a very short amount of time as their panelists, both Dave Elliott (editor-in-chief) and Barry Levine (president and publisher) had a lot to say about every project they had.

Having debuted their original content at last year’s San Diego Comic-Con when they weren't selling anything, the purpose then was simply to show the quality of their work and what kind of work they wanted to do. Not wanting to rush anything, they set a deadline for themselves which would allow them to provide a new 'painted' look to comics that epitomized the philosophy of the company. As Elliott and Levine explained, 50% of Radical Comics is 'high concept work', with writers as directors and artists as cinematographers. Stating that they have an “incredible” level of contact between editors and both writers and artists, Elliot explained that as a company, Radical didn't want to do 'shotgun' approach, and will therefore be releasing only one book a month until January 2009 where they'll start releasing two. The goal, Elliott said is that everyone has to believe in the product and who they were as a company, something which has been helped by a one-on-one approach and 'grassroots' support, where they personally called retail stores to get their input and sought support for their books.

Speaking to the depth of the work, Levine said that the creators working at Radical are very involved in the art and their work, letting ideas grow over years and very nearly pitching them the way one would movies to a studio. Hercules, for example, was highly researched as they worked on the project with comics legend Jim Steranko and writer Steven Moore. Elliott said that hey wanted to get away from more common mass market versions of the character and get to the heart of the legend. The amount of detail and work Steranko brought to the artwork and design for Hercules not only set the tone for the book, but for the company as a whole. The quality of the work was so strong, the rest of the books had to match that intensity.

So far, their comics haven't disappointed in that quality; from the detail in Caliber, to the thought and theme brought to Freedom Formula from writer Edmund Shern, who used influences from his Singapore background as well as political themes of freedom and corporate influence to tell his high octane story of a young boy street racing mecha.

Other sci-fi projects brought to light were Steven Niles's City of Dust, a crime noir set in a future without imagination or creative thought and Shrapnel, a “Greek epic,” described as a sort of Joan of Arc in space where two great civilizations lurch towards ruinous war, egged on by ad hoc rhetoric of politicians. Also due out is Aladdin, a particular project of interest for Elliot who created the project. Wanting something that’s both true to the original legend and also very dark (the joke being that the first 22 pages were simply black), he handed the reins to Ian Edginton and Imaginary Friends Studios. Proud of his product both this series and City of Dust will start with 48-page #1 issues to allow the reader to learn about the world and characters in enough time and space for the writer and artist to tell them in.

The panelists noted that it's almost a running gag by now of how many Radical Comics properties have been picked up by movie studios and producers; Niles quipped that his City of Dust had been sold as a movie property while he was describing the book. It's no secret that John Woo attached himself to a Caliber movie; announced recently, the director had always wanted to do something in a Western tone and after both Levine and Elliot met with him personally, hearing his ideas and watching him work, they are excited about the project.

Also coming to the screen was the San Diego exclusive announcement of a Hercules project specifically themed towards the Radical comic. Peter Berg, director of Hancock, along with Spyglass Entertainment and Universal Studios are very specific on wanting to keep the painted scope and artistic style of the comic and Levine was very firm on the fact that they're remaining true to what they do - publishing comics, which is their first priority.

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