A subdued but passionate crowd attended Aspen Comics' panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego last Saturday. As they entered the room, fans were given prints of the cast of "Soulfire: Dying of the Light" signed by Michael Tuner and Peter Steigerwald along with pins that read "Remember Michael Turner."
Steigerwald began the panel by leading the crowd with his traditional Hawaiian greeting of "aloha." Steigerwald then moved on to a touching speech about the recent passing of Michael Turner, Aspen's founder and president. There was a tense moment when an audience member began talking on his phone and another audience member screamed for him to get out. Steigerwald quickly diffused the situation and moved on.
"It's been hard to say goodbye to Michael, both and public and also in private," said Steigerwald. "In our logo you see the letters MLT. Those are Michael's initials: Michael Layne Tuner. They will forever be there. We will keep his memory and his creations alive."
Frank Mastromauro began a slideshow presentation of upcoming releases and current projects. "'Soulfire,' as you know, was so contingent on Mike," said Mastromauro, "The entire book is pretty much laid out and ready to go." Mastromauro went on to explain that Turner had finished all but the last two issues of the title, and had planned out the rest. The Aspen staff is working on figuring out the ending without him. "We're figuring out how to move forward with the finale of it," said Mastromauro. "Be patient; we're going to finish it up the way Mike would have wanted it done."
A new title, "Soulfire: Shadow Magic," will be coming out this year, written by Vince Hernandez with art by Sana Takeda.
An Aspen trade paperback initiative was announced, with a promise of a new collection of past work every three or four months. Additionally, Aspen Showcase will be continuing with many more artists and writers.
"Executive Assistant Iris" is scheduled for a release next year. It's a story about "a woman who has basically spent her whole life at a school that trained her to be the perfect assistant," said writer David Wohl. And in the world he's writing, that also means she's an assassin. "Basically, she learned how to kill people and etiquette, like how to serve tea. It's basically the story of her, and how she realizes that the life she was leading was wrong." Pencils will be by Eduardo Francisco.
The finale of "Shrugged" will be coming "Very soon," said Mastromauro, after he sits down and hammers out the last few pages. More "Shrugged" can be expected in the future, with a more consistent shipping schedule.
Geoff Johns is still on board to write "Ekos," which was supposed to be penciled by Turner. Talks will be held with Johns to discuss the direction of the project.
Several of Turner's covers for Marvel Comics will be coming out over the coming months, sometimes as variants.
There was an announcement that the Kiani lava statue available exclusively through the Aspen web store had shipped with bad resin bases which do not properly support the statue's weight. New bases will be shipped to everyone who purchased the statue. A new Aspen Matthews statue is also in the works.
The last couple of months have been very hard on the Aspen crew, said Mastromauro, but they are going to regroup after the San Diego Con to push the company forward. Mastromauro then invited the audience to attend the Michael Turner Tribute Panel on Sunday.
During the Q&A, a fan asked if Aspen had plans to release a coffee table book collecting Michael Tuner's covers. Mastromauro said there are several collections in the works that they are putting together, and in November there will be a Turner tribute anthology issue, where "pretty much everyone you can think of" in comics will be participating.
A fan asked for an update on the "Fathom" movie. "There's good movement on it," said Mastromauro. "There will be good news on it soon."
"Soulfire: New World Order" will be back on track soon.
Another fan asked for hints about the new volume of "Fathom." "Cool stuff. Awesome art," said writer JT Krul. "We're really going to change the landscape of the world forever. For the Fathom world. And this world."
A fan also asked if they had any details about the teaser image at the end of many Aspen comics. Mastromauro only revealed that he and Turner were working on designs together, and will be discussed when the company regroups Monday.
In closing, the panelists again thanked everyone who attended, and that they were touched by the outpour of support from the fans. Mastromauro also mentioned that if they wanted to pay their respects to Turner, his ashes were released into the Pacific Ocean by a spot in Hawaii where he had many happy memories with friends and family.
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