The start of the panel was devoted solely to Archaia Comics products as moderator Stephen Christy addressed the assembled Comic-Con International audience. He introduced the husband/wife team of Josh Finney and Kat Rocha, there to discuss their new work on their title “Titanium Rain,” as well as writer David Rodriguez and artist Patrick McEvoy, there to discuss their work on “Starkweather Immortal.”
Finney and Rocha began by describing their series as taking place in a quick and dirty post-apocalyptic world featuring untrained and poorly coordinated US soldiers, due to lack of resources and funding, who are cybernetically enhanced to be the ultimate soldiers in a World War against China. It’s a Science Fiction war epic, with themes reminiscent of the movie “Black Hawk Down.” The soldiers are giving up their humanity, becoming more technological than biological, all in an ironic effort to save humanity.
McEvoy and Rodriguez then took the reins to discuss their comic book, “Starkweather Immortal,” a series whose creation and 0 issue were written by Piers Anthony. Long ago, just before Jesus Christ was said to have died, he divided his godly power into thirteen parts, keeping one part for himself, and splitting the rest up among his disciples. The apostles passed their power down their lineage, with every generation guarded by a group of knights, until eventually corruption ensued, and the knights meant to protect, betrayed and tried to destroy their power. Over time, as their power and people scattered, the descendants of the apostles came to be known as witches, thus explaining the history behind the classic battles of knights versus witches.
The story picks up in modern day with a young main character named Starkweather, who, having recently discovered his power, is on a journey to uncover his past and the meaning behind it. The creators put it in simple movie terms by describing it as, “Harry Potter meets Bourne Identity.”
Jokingly disappointed they didn’t come up with such cinematic way to describe their series; Finney said “Titanium Rain” is like “Harry Potter meets Top Gun.”
Stephen Christy took the microphone to mention that the art on both books is beyond anything being published right now in comics, especially since so much of it is done digitally. With “Titanium Rain,” Rocha does the traditional pencil and ink artwork, while her husband Finney adds a realistic touch digitally. On “Starkweather Immortal,” they contacted noted Fantasy illustrator McEvoy to add his unique touch to the fantastical series.
“Titanium Rain” saw its first issue be released a year ago, but due to Archaia Comics restructuring their company around that time, the second issue was not released until recently. So, to make up for the gap in its publishing history, the company will be selling a special double-sized issue featuring both one and two. Finney and Rocha chimed in that the first storyline was created as a two parter, so the special double issue is the perfect way for new fans to try out the series and get a full storyline to boot.
One audience member, a teacher, asked if either of the books were appropriate for in-class reading. While neither book was necessarily mentioned as appropriate for ‘in-class,’ they were fine for high school kids to read on their own. It was pointed out that each series isn’t any worse graphically than the high school classic “All Quiet on the Western Front.” Christy shared that, “The material is rated R, but they aren’t exploitative, they’re story driven. These are comics that challenge the reader.” They stated that they were trying to make comic books you can’t find anywhere else.
This part of the panel then ended, and a new string of panelists joined Christy on stage to discuss the new Archaia Comics and Roddenberry Productions comic book collaboration called “Days Missing.” The book features a large variety of creators as each issue, except one and five, are written by a different writer/artist team. Guests included the creator of the concept Trevor Roth, issues one and five writer Phil Hester, issues one and five artist Frazer Irving, writer of issue two David Hine, artist of issue two Chris Burnham, writer of issue three Ian Edgington, and Rod Roddenberry, son of Gene Roddenberry and head of Roddenberry Productions.
Roddenberry shared how the series came about, saying Trevor came to him with the idea for “Days Missing,” and he immediately thought the book fit perfectly with the ‘Roddenberry philosophy,’ especially since the main character of the series is so reminiscent of classic characters like Spock or Data; “There is always a Roddenberry character who questions humanity, both the good and the bad, in their own search for the same.”
An overview of “Days Missing” was then given, as the series is literally about the ‘Days Missing’ throughout history. The immortal main character of the series, called The Steward, has the power to ‘fold’ a 24-hour day, making it as if the day never happened. Throughout history, he has played a part in directing humanity’s future by ‘folding’ days that would or could lead to disaster. Roth gave the example of someone breaking their arm one day, a day that is then ‘folded’ by the protagonist, healing and undoing that someone’s broken arm, and as the day goes on (again) the person might have a deja vu like sense to avoid getting their arm broken. The ‘folding’ of days was further described as being similar to the Men in Black neuralyzer device.
Roddenberry took the opportunity to state that it is important the series entertains the reader, more so than how much money the series may make. Archaia Comics believes the same, and thus a perfect partnership was born.
Christy continued the discussion, stating the series was purposely created to have many creators, as each issue is a standalone story, a fact further cemented by having a different creative force in each story. And once again, an analogy was made to Star Trek, as the show was regularly written and directed by different people.
Issue one and five by Hester and Irving are like bookends to the series. Hester mentioned that he is normally used to writing his own creations, but since he’s been with the series since its start, it almost feels like his own. He admitted he found it a bit daunting working with so many writers because he expects to be ‘shown up’ by all of them.
Irving quickly relieved Hester by saying he writes very good scripts. He explained that it is important for an artist to have a script that’s more than just descriptions as it is just as important to have good dialogue. It helps the artist properly draw the moods and scenarios being described, so he truly enjoys Hester’s scripts. Interestingly, he mentioned that he always draws in a slightly different style in every series he works on, and that by the time he started on issue five, he realized how truly creepy his art had become when compared to issue one. So even though there are only four artists on the series, it will seem like five.
Writer David Hine said that he loves alternate histories, and found the idea for the series intriguing, sharing with the audience that there is a reason these ‘Days Missing’ are so important to the world. His story in issue two will deal primarily with Mary Shelley and Frankenstein’s Monster.
Discussing his work with the writer, Burnham revealed that Hine sent him 100s of JPEGs to research for the story. It made drawing the story much easier because normally it can be difficult to figure out how to draw a historically accurate flintlock.
Christy took the opportunity to say that all of Archaia Comics’ properties are very historically accurate, directing the statement back to the teacher who asked an earlier question.
One fan asked if there was anything planned after issue five. Roth said they have been thinking about that since they began the series because potentially, the series is neverending. If the series continues, the focus of future issues would be more on the character of The Steward than his impact on history.
Lastly, another fan asked if The Steward was alone in his mission and powers. Roth couldn’t answer the question, but panelists jokingly said that his refusal to answer should be a big clue, with Hester adding in conveniently timed cough, “Issue five!”