Shadowline showed that its output will continue to grow in 2012 as founder Jim Valentino unveiled new titles “Enormous,” “Debris,” “Rebel Blood,” Harvest,” “Grim Leaper,” and highlighted current series “Peter Panzerfaust,” “Xenoholics,” and “Bomb Queen” during the imprint’s panel at last weekend’s Image Expo.
In attendance at the panel were Valentino, Kurtis J. Wiebe (“writer – Grim Leaper”, “Peter Panzerfaust,” and “Debris”), Tim Daniel (writer – “Enormous”), Jimmie Robinson (writer/artist – “Bomb Queen”), Tyler Jenkins (artist – “Peter Panzerfaust”), and Josh Williamson (writer – “Xenoholics”).
Valentino delivered deadpan and often sarcastic introductions for each series, first presenting “Rebel Blood” as “a part of the long line of romance comics published by Shadowline.” In actuality, the series is about a zombie infection that spreads to not only humans but also animals. The main protagonist is a park ranger on a journey to save his wife.
He then introduced “Enormous,” saying, “With a title like this, we figured we either had a large-sized book or a porn comic. So we made it a treasury-sized porn comic.” The series itself is set in a world that is overrun by giant monsters.
“We continue to publish sitcom comedies like ‘Grim Leaper,'” Valentino quipped as slides of the comic were shown, including an image of a character being violently decapitated. The series is about a man and woman who are cursed to continuously die in gruesome ways, only to be reincarnated into the bodies of strangers. After each terrible death, they try to reconnect with one another.
Another image, this one from “Debris,” depicted a woman battling what looked to be a giant robot. Valentino said, “‘Debris’ is written by Kurtis J. Wiebe, who does every other book by us. It’s Red Sonja versus the Transformers.”
Images from “Peter Panzerfaust,” a series set in World War II that features Peter Pan and the Lost Boys fighting against the Nazis in occupied France, were shown next, including a somber one of the title character crouching in shadow, illuminated only by a cross of light. Valentino joked that the cover “pretty much sums up how I feel most of the time.”
“Harvest” is a series focusing on the black market of organ transplants in which the rich and powerful acquire organs from unwilling victims. The twist is that the main character is tracking them down and taking those organs back. Valentino said that all five covers of the series will fit together to form one giant image.
With that, Valentino opened the panel to questions from the audience.
Asked if he had any criteria for accepting submissions from creators, Valentno responded, “I look for an original idea. That’s really my only criteria. I want good books. Genre does not matter.”
The panel then described the comic book series they were working on.
Joshua Williamson talked about his series “Xenoholics,” a story about alien abductions, alien abduction support groups, government conspiracies and the mysterious disappearance of a professor investigating aliens. Williamson credited artist Seth Damoose with much of the series’ success. “With Seth I just stepped back and he would just take over,” Williamson said. “I am very thankful to have him to work with.”
He then talked about how he likes to push the envelope in the series, and that he gets very different reactions to what he has shown to his fellow creators.
“John Layman [writer of Chew] was like ‘Ooh, you might be going too far,'” Williamson said. “Then I talk to Jimmie [Robinson] and I just hear him laughing.”
Wiebe discussed how much fun he was having writing “Peter Panzerfaust.” “It’s an adventure story,” he said. “This is something I always wanted to do. I wanted to do an adventure book with a lighter touch.”
He then complimented artist Tyler Jenkins for his ability to bring his scripts to life. Jenkins joked that he only got one thing wrong. “It involved a boat. I drew a small fishing boat and it was supposed to be a fishing trawler.”
Daniel discussed his new project “Enormous,” describing it for the audience. “It’s giant monsters. That’s pretty much the concept,” he said. “I grew up watching ‘Creature Features’ in the Bay Area.” One question drove him to eventually do this series. “I wondered where all the monsters went.”
Robinson talked about his cult-favorite series “Bomb Queen,” describing her as the flip side of everyone’s favorite Caped Crusader. “Bomb Queen is like Batman,” he said. “Batman watches over Gotham. She watches over her city and protects it from heroes. It’s a book full of wrong. All the good guys die. The bad guys win.”
Wiebe discussed the gruesomeness involved in writing “Grim Leaper,” his enthusiasm for the series apparent to the crowd. “This guy keeps dying in horrific ways. He actually meets a girl who has the same curse. They keep dying and coming back in the bodies of strangers. The last two pages of [‘Grim Leaper’] are two of the most disgusting pages I have ever done,” Wiebe said as he shook his head and smiled.
He then gave more details about the concept of the series and explained that when the main character dies, “he wakes up in a hallway filled with paintings of people.” At this point, one of the paintings will devour him and he takes over the life of the person that was in the painting. At one point Wiebe said, “He takes over the body of a guy on a blind date type reality show. When he jumps into a new body, he vomits, so you can see how that goes.”
Wiebe also talked about his new series “Debris” which he described as a sort of dark variation of the future earth presented in the Pixar movie “Wall-E.” “What’s happening is that these giant junk machines are attacking the last vestiges of humanity,” Wiebe explained. The main character goes on a quest to find the last source of fresh water for her group. “And, of course, things do not go as planned.”
Robinson was asked if he has ever been told no in regard to something he wanted to do in “Bomb Queen” because it went too far. “[Valentino has] said no to a lot of things, but, by the fifth volume [of ” Bomb Queen”] he’s lightened up,” Robinson responded. “He did tell me that I couldn’t kill Obama. What did we end up doing? He lost an arm or a leg, but he survived.”
Valentino was asked if there were any more “Shadowhawk” comic books coming up. He answered there would be more “as soon as that bum Steve Niles writes it.”
The panel as a whole was asked about what it was like to work under the Shadowline imprint. “They get their emails answered right away,” Valentino said. “It’s a much more personal company and more hands on.”
Wiebe agreed, adding, “If there is something important, [Valentino] will just call you right away.”
The discussion turned to diversity in the comic book industry and Valentino said that he wanted people to realize that there is more to comics than just superheroes.
“I hope people realize comics are a medium and not a genre,” Valentino said, explaining that comic books can be used to tell a wide variety of stories and are not just limited to one genre, such as superheroes, though this can present an uphill battle for creators.
“People who buy Marvel Comics tend to buy all of them,” Valentino said. “It doesn’t work that way for Image Comics. Our books are all different. People will like one and hate another.”