The biggest moment at IDW Publishing’s WonderCon panel almost didn’t come off properly because a certain costumed comic-book writer jumped the gun. As IDW’s marketing director Dirk Wood talked about the upcoming collection of “The Rocketeer Adventures,” a figure clad in a leather jacket and a Rocketeer helmet wandered in the back door of the room. “Not yet,” Wood said quickly as he switched to the next slide, music swelled, and in walked the mysterious figure.
The costumed figure turned out to be writer Mark Waid, making a rather dramatic entrance to announce his new gig as the writer of “The Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom,” debuting in August with art by Chris Samnee. IDW has produced new stories featuring Dave Stevens’ classic character in the anthology format, but this will be the company’s first new series to showcase the character. “I was a little skeptical at first,” Waid admitted, but he said that “Samnee really sealed the deal.” Waid promised “a lot of high-flying action” in the new series, along with some new characters and the looming presence of the FAA possibly threatening the title character’s freedom to fly.
Right after Waid’s big Rocketeer appearance, IDW’s Chief Creative Officer and Editor-in-Chief Chris Ryall announced that he had recently returned from the U.K. with an exciting new license for the company: Beginning this fall, IDW will be both reprinting classic “Judge Dredd” stories and creating new works starring the “2000 A.D.” character. When a fan later asked about creative teams for the new “Dredd” books, Ryall said that no decisions had been made, but he did mention Simon Bisley as someone he was hoping to talk to. “There’s a lot of people I want to talk to,” Ryall added.
The panel began with writer Mike Costa, artist Ryan Browne and magician Jon Amstrong talking about their upcoming series “Smoke and Mirrors,” which premieres this month. Armstrong used promotional cards featuring the series’ characters to demonstrate a trick for audience members, each of whom was handed a set of the cards. “Those are no longer collectible,” Wood joked after Armstrong instructed people to tear their cards in half. While Armstrong did his magic, Costa talked about the series, which stars a stage magician who wakes up in world where magic is real, and has to fake his way through it.
“Jon being a magician brings a lot of verisimilitude,” Costa said, and Armstrong will be creating magic tricks for each issue that readers can then learn and perform. “The comic book does magic,” Costa said.
“Scott Tipton has prepared a juggling act to follow this,” Ryall joked as he introduced Tipton to talk about his new “Star Trek: The Next Generation”/”Dr. Who” crossover series, due in May, with art by “Fallen Angel’s” J.K. Woodward. Wood revealed a cover featuring both the Borg and the Cybermen, who will be teaming as villains in the series. “The fun part is finding the humor in ‘Star Trek’ and finding the drama and intensity in ‘Dr. Who,'” Tipton said. Ryall said that this is the first time in the history of the “Dr. Who” franchise that the character has been allowed to be featured in a crossover in any medium.
Wood then showed some pages from Steve Niles and Bernie Wrightson’s “Frankenstein Alive, Alive!,” due out in May as a direct follow-up to Wrightson’s classic 1983 illustrated version of the original Mary Shelley “Frankenstein” novel.
Writer Ben McCool talked about his upcoming graphic novel “Nevsky: Hero of the People,” with art by Mario Guevara, due out in April. It tells the true story of medieval Russian military commander Alexander Nevsky, whom McCool called “the most admired person in Russian history,” and is partially based on Sergei Eisenstein’s 1938 film “Alexander Nevsky.”
Ryall then delivered the first of the panel’s big announcements, a new “The Cape” origin series once again written by Jason Ciaramella, based on the short story by Joe Hill. (Hill was sitting in the audience, tweeting away, but he wasn’t part of the panel.) The origin story is set during the Vietnam War, and Ciaramella cited the movies “Apocalypse Now” and “Full Metal Jacket” as well as the book “The Things They Carried” as influences. “It’s dark in a different way,” Ciaramella said of the new series, which will run four issues and feature art by both Nelson Daniel (on the origin sequences) and original “Cape” artist Zach Howard (on segments featuring the modern-day characters).
The next topic was IDW’s revival of “The Crow,” which starts in July with a series by writer John Shirley, who wrote the first draft of the screenplay for the first “The Crow” movie, and artist Kevin Colden. Ashley Wood, Kyle Hotz and “The Crow” creator James O’Barr will all contribute covers for the series, and Ryall noted that O’Barr is hard at work on his own new “The Crow” series, to be announced soon. Ryall said that it was important to keep the original look and style of “The Crow” intact. “It won’t look like the New 52,” he joked.
Ryall’s own pet project came next: a revival of the comics starring rock group Kiss. Starting in June, the series will be written by Ryall and Tom Waltz with art by Jamal Igle and Casey Maloney. “I grew up on Kiss,” said Ryall, who will write the first two issues based on the band’s classic album “Dressed to Kill.” “I couldn’t hand it off to someone else,” Ryall said. Editor Scott Dunbier noted that “[Ryall is] such a fan that he actually has ordered a Kiss coffin,” which Ryall assured he was using only as a cooler.
Next came the company’s upcoming Free Comic Book Day offering, “Transformers: Regeneration One” #80.5, leading into the new series by writer Simon Furman and artist Andrew Wildman that will pick up on the continuity of the classic Marvel “Transformers” series, which came from the same team. “It’s a way to give people what they want,” Ryall said, which inspired a spontaneous “Thank you!” from an audience member. Ryall singled out a particular costumed “Transformers” fan and asked for his approval of the project, which the fan readily gave.
Wood then revealed one of the 55 (yes, 55) variant covers for the upcoming “Mars Attacks!” series that debuts in June, written by John Layman with art by John McCrea. The 55 covers correspond to the cards in the original 1962 Topps card series, and they will be distributed evenly as well as sold in a full set housed in a replica of the original card box. “And a giant piece of gum,” Ryall joked. Sam Kieth will be contributing a cover for a later issue of the series.
Along with the big Waid announcement for “The Rocketeer,” Wood also presented the July-debuting hardcover “Dave Stevens Covers and Stories,” collecting a range of Stevens’ short work, including some rarely reprinted pieces and some that are incomplete. It will be in the same format as the company’s “Rocketeer” collection and Stevens sketchbook.
The panel ended with a short Q&A session, with fans asking about Darwyn Cooke’s “Parker” adaptations (Dunbier revealed there will now be five total), IDW’s comics based on the TV series “Jericho” (“If you liked ‘Jericho’ comics, you might be happy coming up,” Ryall responded cryptically), and a possible “Smoke and Mirrors” magic set (no word on that yet).