New York Comic Con took up residence on the corner of Know Your Role Blvd. and Jabroni Dr. for an hour, as BOOM! Studios gathered together several members of their team for a look at their upcoming line of WWE comics. Panel moderator Gavin Jasper from Den of Geek started the panel by talking about the history between WWE and comics -- a license which has roamed from Marvel to Chaos Comics to Papercutz over the years, before landing with BOOM!. Jasper introduced the panelists: series writer Dennis Hopeless, editors Jasmine Amiri and Eric Harburn, as well as BOOM!'s managing editor Bryce Carlson. "Employees of BOOM!? Realest guys in the room."
Jasper started by asking, very simply, how did this come about? Carlson told the audience, "The WWE came to us at this show last year. Some of their people came to our booth and were really impressed with what we were doing with licensed material. When we went back to the office and asked, 'Is anyone a fan of WWE?'... pandemonium broke out. So we worked on it, we pitched our idea to WWE, and they liked it."
Jasper asked, given the history of WWE comics, what BOOM!'s approach would be with the new books. Amiri said that what they wanted to do was "get a little bit deeper into some of the stories that the main shows don't get to." For example, the breaking up of the Shield, which will be their first story. Harburn added that one of the touchstones was "Friday Night Lights" -- they're looking to approach the characters with a sense of realism.
Things begin in November with a one-shot called "WWE: Then. Now. Forever," written by Hopeless with art from Dan Mora. Hopeless described the issue as being about the lead-up to the Shield being broken, told from the viewpoint of Seth Rollins. "I got to write a Seth Rollins promo, which was the highlight of my writing career," he told the crowd. "We all know who Seth Rollins is -- but what happens when the lights aren't on, and what was the Shield's relationship like outside of the ring?"
With the license rights acquired, Amiri said there was interest from a huge numbers of artists ("The comics community really likes wrestling!"), which meant they were able to commission a range of diverse covers which offer a range of different artistic styles. The crowd were shown new cover art from Rob Schamberger, featuring Sasha Banks. The artist got in touch with BOOM! and asked them if he could do a story featuring the wrestler, which will be appearing in the issue.
Harburn mentioned some of the other short stories, including Rob Guillory doing a time travel story featuring the New Day -- and the news that an unnamed creative team will be making a Tugboat story. The issue will run 40 pages, and be priced at $3.99. Other art pages showed Jamal Campbell drawing Razor Ramon, and the first part of a multi-sectional connecting cover by Brent Schoonover which featured AJ Styles competing against Shawn Michaels. Schoonover's covers will feature a range of different 'fantasy booking' matches, with a tease that the second release will see Cesaro swinging Ric Flair.
Jasper moved on to January's "WWE" #1. Harburn said that the first arc focuses on Seth Rollins, with the conceit being that each arc of the series will initially focus on a different member of the Shield, detailing their thoughts during some of the more notable recent events in their diverging careers. Hopeless revealed that the story will start off with Rollins winning Money in the Bank, and that the artist for the series will be Edward Petrovich.
The panel then turned to an energetic Q&A session.
Asked if there were plans for either Finn Balor or The Undertaker, Amiri responded, "Definitely. Finn is my second-favorite wrestler, so it was definitely one of my top priorities." As there are a number of back-up stories with each issue, BOOM!'s goal is to try and make everyone happy. That will also extend to other franchises owned by the WWE, including the NWO and WCW. Harburn added that Sting will be showing up on an upcoming cover.
When asked how much guidance they get from WWE on how to write the characters, Hopeless said that he'd only been sent two notes so far, and one was to ask him not to write Seth Rollins saying "it's raining men." Multiple members of the audience asked for other characters to appear, including Paul Bearer, Tye Dillinger (prompting Jasper to theorize about a ten-issue miniseries), Kevin Owens, and... James Ellsworth. Asked if we'd see Hulk Hogan anytime soon, though, the panel was fairly uncommitted.
It's also unlikely that we'll see celebrity cameos from the likes of Stephen Amell, though there was a tease that perhaps some WWE talent might come onboard to write some of the upcoming stories themselves -- possibly. They also confirmed that they have a script written which looks into the backstory for the Wyatt family for the first time, which has been approved by the WWE.
Another highly important question was how BOOM! were planning to tell John Cena stories, considering how you can't see him. With groans still echoing round the hall, Jasper thanked the panelists and closed the panel.