Author Max Brooks hosted Avatar publisher William Christensen at a Thursday panel during Comic-Con International in San Diego. They detailed Avatar’s forthcoming slate of comic books including a series written by Alan Moore that the acclaimed writer described as “The ‘Watchmen’ of horror” according to Christensen. The two also discussed Garth Ennis’ “Caliban” and “God is Dead,” among other titles.
Introducing himself as actor Jon Cryer, because he bears a strong resemblance to the “Two and a Half Men” actor, Brooks unspooled a series of compliments regarding Christensen’s obsession with publishing comics the right way. At one point, Brooks even accused Christensen of bragging about their paper stock. “It’s like slightly better than mildly absorbent toilet paper, much like their books,” Christensen said regarding the paper quality of other major publishers.
Brooks himself is best-known as the author of “World War Z,” and released his newest title, “Extinction Parade” at Avatar earlier this year. “Extinction Parade” follows vampires as they try to survive in a post zombie-apocalypse world and functions as something of a coming-of-age story for vampiric society. “We, as humans, were the dominant species on the planet, but we didn’t start out that way,” said Brooks, comparing the human role on earth to that of vampires. “We started out in the middle of the food chain.”
As for zombies, Brooks thinks even less of them. “I’m not into zombies. I’m really not,” Brooks said. “For me, zombies are a plague. I have no sympathy for them.”
Earlier this year Avatar also released Brooks’ “Harlem Hellfighters,” the story of an African-American unit that fought in the First World War. Brooks said he also doubled as the book’s visual researcher, compiling a stack of reference materials for artist Caanan White. The goal was to accurately reproduce World War I down to the badges worn by soldiers.
Another solid performer for Avatar is the “Crossed” series created by Ennis, which Brooks and Christensen described as ultra-violent and visual. “‘Crossed’ made Chuck Palahniuk throw up,” said Brooks. “It is the deepest, darkest homicide porn you’ll ever see in your life.” Art is already in for issue #100, written by Garth Ennis and the series will welcome new artists in the near future.
The seven-issue “Caliban” is Ennis’ answer to the “Prometheus” and “Alien” films, and will be collected and released next year. Christensen said Ennis, “having seen ‘Prometheus’ and been sorely disappointed,” came up with the concept for the story. “It’s more creepy than ‘Explodo.'”
Avatar used the panel to announce a new limited series from comic book legend Alan Moore called “Providence.” Christensen was scant on details about the series, offering only that it falls within the horror genre and is a labor of love for both Moore and the editorial staff. Not only did Christensen say it was a gargantuan effort to draft Moore into the Avatar fold, but working with the writer can be difficult. Apparently, Moore still uses a fax machine and has been loathe to adhere to digital advances in communication.
Another curent Avatar series is Kieron Gillen’s “Uber,” which reimagines World War II. In this fictitious retelling of the war, the Germans have developed a new breed of superhuman and are using these soldiers in combat and to change the course of world affairs, yet they are still depleted of resources and could face defeat at the hands of the Allied Powers. “We’re getting the next wave of different powered folks coming out,” said Christensen, who cautioned not to build expectations in line with real history. “It still gets turned on its head.” The series is currently slated to run 60 issues.
Gillen also has “Mercury Heat” in the works at Avatar. The sci-fi series is set on the planet of the same name and every character featured must constantly outrun the heat of the sun lest they be melted by the planet’s extreme changes in temperature.
Ennis’ “God is Dead,” the series about a world in which other deities have replaced the Judeo-Christian god will continue. The similarly titled but completely different (and unrelated) “Dark Gods,” about the return of ancient beasts to do battle with one another, marks Justin Jordan’s first original title at Avatar. Christensen called Jordan a creator to watch. “Justin has a different voice from anybody else I got here. That’ll start in November,” he said. That title hits the shelf in November.
Christensen also mentioned more “Absolution” is on the way from Christos Gage, plus titles from the ubiquitous George R.R. Martin, whom Christensen began working with prior to the “Game of Thrones” television series on HBO.
“We need to tell new stories, we need to be pushing the medium forward,” said Christensen as the panel ended.