It was standing room only at the Top Cow panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego on Saturday, both in the audience and on the panel itself, as the publisher showed off a veritable laundry list of new titles and talked about plans to bring some of its most popular creations like Witchblade and Magdalena to the silver screen.
In attendance on the very crowded panel were Top Cow founder and CEO Marc Silverstri, President/CEO Matt Hawkins, Publisher Filip Sablik, “Witchblade” and “Broken Trinity” writer Ron Marz, “Witchblade” artist Stephen Sejic, actor and “Freshmen” co-creator Seth Green, along with his writing partner and co-creator on the series Hugh Sterbakov, actress Jenna Dewan (Step Up), actor Luke Goss (“Hellboy II: The Golden Army”), Madame Mirage creator Paul Dini, writer B. Clay Moore, “Impaler” creator William Harms, “Cyblade: Pilot Season” author Joshua Hale Fialkov, artist Randy Queen, “Starfall” artist Sarah Oates, and “Urban Myths” artist Jorge Molina.
And, because the Top Cow folks obviously didn’t feel the panel was crowded enough, towards the end of it they brought up several “surprise guests.” Actor Milo Ventimiglia and his partner in Divide Studios Russ Cundiff dropped by to announce the addition of a new title to the Top Cow line, “Berserker,” which Ventimiglia and Cundiff hope to also turn into a feature film (but more on that later).
First things first, the Cow crew kicked things off by thanking fans for supporting the “Wanted” movie (which drew large applause from the audience) and noting that the film was closing in on the 200 million dollar mark at the domestic box office.
A trailer for the upcoming DVD of “Wanted” was then shown, and details about an oversized “Art of Wanted” book, a new movie addition of the trade featuring interviews with the cast and filmmakers and a bunch of other movie-related extras, and the upcoming video game being developed by the acclaimed game developer GRIN were all discussed.
Green and Sterbakov were then given the stage to tell fans more about Freshmen, and the two plugged the “Freshmen: Summer Vacation Special.”
“In all honesty, the books great,” Green said. “It’s very entertaining.”
While Sterbakov, prompted by a slide still up on the screen of Top Cow’s upcoming live action adaptation of Witchblade, showed off his butt to the crowd…
Which did not draw a great many applause. And even prompted Silvestri to tell him to sit back down.
Mention of the Witchblade animated series drew a smattering of applause. All 24 episodes of the series will be released on iTunes on August 11, with the first episode downloadable for free.
As for the Witchblade movie itself, Silvestri noted that although the slide said 2009 on it, it was looking more and more like it would actually be a 2010 release. That film will be directed and co-produced by Michael Rymer, the creative force behind the current Battlestar Galactica revival. No cast has been announced yet.
Turning their attention back to comics, the publisher then talked about its upcoming “Broken Trinity” crossover – a three-issue mini series with three separate one-shot tie in specials focusing on each of the major characters in the series (the Witchblade, the Darkness, and Angelus), which Hawkins stressed would only cost fans a total of $18 (plus tax) to follow the entire crossover.
“It’s the best summer crossover that you are going to read this year, and it’s only going to cost you $18 to do so,” Hawkins said. “We don’t want to force you to shell out $200 to get the twenty other tie-in titles and everything else you need to buy to get the ‘whole story.'”
The two winners of last year’s Pilot Season contest, “Cyblade” and “Velocity,” will both be graduating to their own ongoing series later this year. “Velocity” will be written by Joe Casey and drawn by Crisscross. Hawkins stressed that the duo are really going to impress people with the book.
Paul Dini was then brought up to the podium. The former “Batman: the Animated Series” writer announced that he is working on a second Madame Mirage mini series.
“First off, let me just say how great it is to be working with Top Cow,” Dini said. “[Madame Mirage] will be back in a new series next year that picks up where the first one left off.”
Dini also announced that he would be bringing his popular Jingle Belle character to Top Cow, with a Jingle Belle meets Frankenstein’s monster story on tap in time for the holidays this year. This will be the first of a lot more work that Dini will be doing for the publisher, saying that he would like to develop a line of books with Top Cow that are similar in tone and feel to “Batman: the Animated Series.”
“It won’t be a kids line, but it will be books that have a more humorous bent to them,” Dini said. Dini then said that he has approached J. Bone and several other creators with an animated bent to their style to try and entice them to begin doing more work in this manner for Top Cow as well.
Randy Queen then briefly talked about his upcoming “Starfall” series for the publisher.
“It’s about a band of mercenary space pirates who crashland on this desolate jungle planet and run into cannibals, dinosaurs, and even zombies,” Queen said. “Space Pirates vs. Zombie Dinosaurs, I think that’s really all you need to know.”
Then the Hollywood side of the panel took over.
It’s already been announced that Dewan and Goss are slated to star in a movie based on Top Cow’s Magdalena character, to be produced Gale Anne Hurd (the Terminator series of films, “The Incredible Hulk,” the upcoming “Punisher: War Zone” film). All three were on hand to field questions about the project – except Herd didn’t feel that fans reception to the announcement of the new project was loud enough.
“If you guys really want us back to show you footage when we have some, we need a much bigger applause,” Herd said.
The applause got louder, much louder.
Herd then praised Dewan and Goss, Top Cow, and Scott Rosenberg’s Platinum Studios, who will be co-producing the project.
“We are so lucky to have these great actors attached to the project, and it’s so great to be working with both Top Cow and Platinum,” Herd said.
As for Dewan, she said she was attracted to Magdalena because of its themes and the fact that the lead is the type of strong female character that you don’t see nearly often enough in movies these days.
“I love the idea that it has this supernatural undertone to it of something that is bigger than us,” Dewan said. “When my agent gave me one of the comics to read a couple of years ago, I was hooked. I said that I had to play this character. So I basically hunted [Top Cow] down and said we’re doing this movie!”
Dewan, a former dancer, said she plans to do all her own stunts in the movie – or as many as they will let her: “I’ll do all my own stunts unless it’s going to kill me or they won’t let me.”
Then it was Berserker’s time to shine. The project actually began life as a movie idea that the book’s writer, Rick Loverd, unsuccessfully tried to shop around Hollywood. Until it came to the attention of Ventimiglia and Cundiff who thought that in addition to being the premise for a potential blockbuster it would also make for a great comic book series. The premise was described as a group of average people who discover that they actually have ancient Norse based powers and are a part of a secret underground war between the forces of good and evil that has been raging for over a thousand years, with “lots of torsos being ripped off and flying around.”
Divide Pictures would like to ultimately turn the project into a feature film, but first they want to concentrate on making a really cool comic out of it.
“I’m a fan of comics, I’m a fan boy,” Ventimiglia said. “Yeah, we would like to make a movie out of it, but first and foremost we want to make an awesome comic. It’s such a rad story and visually I was just super stoked to see it in a comic book format.”
There are, however, no plans for a Freshmen movie at the moment, even though Green and Sterbakov would both love to see one someday.
“You know we both love movies and you know we both love the Freshmen,” Green said. “So you know that if we are going to make a movie it’s going to be the right time and it’s going to be awesome…trust me when I say it’s not the right time yet. We’re just waiting for the right time.”
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