Legendary Comics made their first-ever New York Comic Con appearance on Saturday afternoon with a plethora of fans lined up across the hall to the MTV Theater. Hosted by Chris Hardwick, the panel included Legendary Comics’ editor-in-chief Bob Schreck and fan-favorite creators Frank Miller, Paul Pope and Matt Wagner. The panel was filled to the brim with reveals and discussions for new and future projects, including the recently-released “Holy Terror” and “PulpHope 2012.”
Hardwick began the panel with a one-on-one conversation with Bob Schreck, getting an overview on Legendary Comics and what makes the publisher unique in the industry. “A lot of people out there are doing comics kind of like spaghetti on the wall, seeing what sticks and they can maybe make something else out of it,” said Schreck. “These have got to be great comics or else it’s not worth doing. The sequential art that [Legendary Pictures founder] Thomas [Tull] and I both love, that is a medium unto itself. If maybe it works in another medium, great. That’s fine, let’s go.”
While Legendary does have a plethora of well-known names for their books, Schreck mentioned that all of the Legendary creators might not be folks the fans have heard of, but they’ll all set a high bar of quality. “The creators don’t have to be the names you hear,” he said, “They just have to be people that can belly up to the bar and give those [big] names some competition.”
Schreck also spoke a bit about Frank Miller’s “Holy Terror,” a book that originally began as a Batman story inspired by the events of September 11, 2001. “It did start as a Batman book,” Shcreck confirmed. “DC was not afraid of publishing it, it’s just, at a certain point, Frank just decided this was no longer a Batman book.”
Before bringing out Frank Miller, Legendary showed a “Holy Terror” trailer featuring panels from the book, shots of Empire City and flashes of the story’s hero. As the trailer progressed, the words, “Unbelievable. Unbreakable. Unstoppable.” hit the screen.
After the trailer wrapped, Hardwick introduced Miller to a receptive audience. Wearing his signature hat, Miller spoke a bit on the origins of “Holy Terror.” “It began as a Batman project,” the creator reiterated. “I wanted to use the words ‘Holy Terror, Batman’ as kind of as a parody of the old TV show. But it evolved a lot across the years. Very soon, I realized that I loved Batman — but this wasn’t Batman. DC Comics has always been liberal when allowing me to push the boundaries on Batman, but there are certain principles that I hold to when I tell these stories, and this wasn’t that guy.”
“The passing years did affect what Holy Terror was like,” recalled Schreck. “The first draft of the plot caught fire as soon as you touched it.”
“I realized the emotional content of the story was so charged that there were several creative decisions I had to make,” said Miller of the story’s evolution during its ten year development process. “One was to inject some humor, as strange as that sounds. And one was, for all the devastation, avoid showing any dead bodies because I thought it was purgative and ghastly. I wanted it to be truly and honestly a superhero story, much in the way that Captain America fought the Nazis in the World War. As I played with these rules, these things changed shape a little bit. The process was very organic.”
Miller said he wrote the last words of the book first, and as much as other aspects changed during the book’s development, he stuck to that ultimate outcome. “Word for word, it was what was on my wall while I was working on the story.”
As for the motivation for “Holy Terror,” Miller said, “I woke up one beautiful September morning and some maniacs flew some airplanes into the tallest towers of my city and incinerated 3000 of my neighbors. I am too old to be in service to my country, but I do have a set of skills, and I decided to use them to address this and do a piece of propaganda about al Qaeda and what it is. I have to specify here, because it’s an obvious shot to take, that this is not a religious tract; it’s a political one.”
Miller continued saying, “I don’t know squat about Islam, but I know a lot about al Qaeda and I want them all to burn in hell.”
Next, Paul Pope was introduced, and the audience got some PulpHope2012 details. “It’s been announced that we’re putting 60% more material,” said Pope. “It looks like it’s going to be a lot more than that which is exciting.”
“We’re looking at doing it in LP format. 12×12, totally analogue.” Pope also specifically referenced vinyl album art that helped to influence the collection. “I wanted to bring a bit of that into comics. Since the first edition came out, I’ve done so much work with fashion companies, movie companies, more screen printing — a pretty wide array of material.”
“PulpHope2012” is planned for a November or December release in 2012, while another Paul Pope book from Legendary Comics is set for release in April or May. “We are collecting in color, for the first time, the book that we first worked on called ‘The One Trick Rip-Off,'” said Schreck. The project has a new cover and includes over 100 pages of new material with 300 pages colored by “All-Star Superman” colorist Jamie Grant.
“Between these two books, this material is going to collect pretty much everything outside of ‘THB,’ ‘Battling Boy,’ the Batman stuff, the Marvel stuff — everything outside of that is going to be in these two books,” said Pope. “Everything from 1993-2011 — almost 500 pages of new material.”
Matt Wagner was also on hand to announce a special collaboration with Legendary Pictures founder Thomas Tull. “I’m doing a new series, something that came out of the blue,” Wagner explained. “Bob called me one day and said Thomas Tull had a character…that would be emblematic of what Legendary wanted to achieve on a comic book level.
The collaboration between Wagner and Tull became “The Tower Chronicles,” a three-graphic novel series with each book split into four 64-page prestige format issues with a story that follows supernatural bounty hunter John Tower. According to Wagner, the books will “Follow the course of the Jason Bourne movies, where in each installment you feel like you get a very fulfilling adventure and yet you also feel like you’re getting a portion of the ultimate mystery. This advances little by little until in the end you realize the course of the character’s history, the character’s goal and the summation of his aims.”
The graphic novel will be illustrated by Simon Bisley and slowly reveals John Tower’s intricate backstory which is, according to Wagner, “as much of a mystery as the creatures he pursues.” The book promises a lot of adventure and a lot of excitement. The first installment, “The Phantom Hawk” will incorporate social media for its release and beyond. The book takes place in modern day, allowing John Tower to have his own Facebook and Twitter, but Wagner teased a bit of time travel for the character. “I’m a history buff, so I’m integrating a lot of history into our fantasy-reality,” he said.
After the creators spoke on the importance of story and praised the editorial prowess of Bob Schreck, the audience was surprised by the appearance of renowned artist Michael Kaluta who joined the panel for a poetic announcement. “I’m going to be drawing a graphic novel,” said Kaluta. “A big, meaty graphic novel based on the John Milton poem ‘Paradise Lost.'”
Kaluta will be working with “30 Days of Night” writer Steve Niles on the 125-page graphic novel, and Kaluta was excited to start from the ground up on the adaptation. “The trick is to do a really neat comic book where you don’t get all those props,” he said. “You don’t have all the special effects ready to go. That’s why they picked me. I can make that stuff up.”
As for a release date, Kaluta simply said, “It’ll be a while. It’ll take more than seven days.”
The audience then got their chance to ask a few questions. While there were many excellent responses from the panel, including Paul Pope’s praise of Bob Schreck (“If Schreck said he was going to go pump gas in Tuscon, Arizona, I would probably go with him.”) and Miller’s confirmation of new Sin City books on the way (“There will be Sin City stories and I have every intention of doing them with Dark Horse.”), one of the questions that provoked the biggest response from the audience inquired about the difference between writing a prose novel and graphic novel and included the phrase, “Do you guys see yourselves as failed authors?”
After the audience calmed down from the immediate uproar, the writers on the panel responded to the question.
“The man asked a decent question, “Miller said. “And my answer is: if you pick up ‘300’ or ‘Sin City,’ to my mind, you’re picking up a novel,.”
“I just wanna say, man, it’s a good question. Yes — growing up, I used to get beat up for reading comic books. I don’t give a fuck what you call it, it’s comic books!” said Pope. “I don’t worry about being a dilettante or do anything other than make comic books. That’s just what I do.”
“I’ve never felt anything but exultation in what I do,” said Wagner. “There nothing of failure in what we do. We have the best job in the world. We delight in it every goddamn day.”
Miller got the last word, saying, “We come up with stories so we can draw really cool shit.”