CCI: Aspen Prepares for a Banner Year

The Aspen Comics panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego introduced a handful of new properties to their lineup as well as giving fans a look at what's going on with their mainstay titles. However, the biggest news of the day is what Aspen has in store to commemorate its tenth anniversary. In 2013, Aspen will roll out its "10 for 10 Initiative," launching ten new titles in ten consecutive months beginning February 2013.

"Whether it's a returning property or brand new property -- there's going to be five new ones and five returning ones -- and they'll be set at a very special price, which I can't announce just yet but trust me, it'll be almost Free Comic Book Day level," Aspen co-owner and President Frank Mastromauro told the crowd.

Mastromauro didn't want to give away too many details on what those titles will be but said that the promotional campaign will ramp up over the next few months and more details will come to light. Additionally, two books will be announced each month to let the fans know in advance what titles are next slated for release.

"Every single month, they'll be 100 percent guaranteed for the retailers, that way they know that we're putting our money where our mouth is for these books," said Mastromauro.

The panel also featured many of Aspen's creators on hand to share what's coming up for their current titles as well as introduce a few new ones. The presentation also included a slide show that displayed images of upcoming covers and interiors.

"Soulfire: Dying of the Light" series leads up to the release of "Soulfire" Volume 4 by writer J.T. Krul and Mike DeBalfo, which launches in stores in August but Aspen premiered early at the convention. According to Mastromauro, new series artist Mike DeBalfo put in a lot of extra work to have the issue completed in time.

The new series also features a new character design for Grace. "This is the first time at Aspen when we've redesigned one of our main characters," Mastromauro said. "It's not a huge, drastic change but it's still something that really is affecting in the book and is going to be long lasting."

DeBalfo, who is doing his first work for Aspen with "Soulfire," felt a lot of pressure in undertaking the redesign. "It was really an honor to come into the company and have them put so much trust on my shoulders," DeBalfo said. "It was humbling, because this is the thing that Michael Turner created and it's hard to take what he did and make it more interesting." Writer J.T. Krul added that volume four will also see new characters introduced to the story line.

A new title spinning out of the pages of "Executive Assistant: Iris" also launched at CCI, the ongoing "Executive Assistant: Assassins" by writer and Aspen Editor-in-Chief Vince Hernandez and artist Jordan Gunderson.

"We did a big event last summer called 'The Hitlist Agenda' where we introduced a whole bunch of executive assistants and from that, 'Assassins' came, which is our first ongoing," said Mastromauro.

"We're really excited about this book," Hernandez chimed in. "Everybody really seems to love this book and it has a huge mythology and you can really build on the universe."

Hernandez said "Assassins" is a "dark tale," definitely not a "PG-13" type of book. "There's a lot of dangerous overtones [in the story]. There's murder, there's thrilling action and lots of sexy women. So, I recommend you check it out because it's the best assassins book on the market," Hernandez said.

The next item discussed was a brand new 10-issue crossover event for the "Executive Assistant" titles called "Extinction." The event will consist of five issues each for "Iris" and "Assassins" and will be the largest crossover event Aspen has produced.

"Basically, it's an easy plot. We wanted to introduce every EA we could possibly think of that had already been introduced and who wants to come, and basically they're fighting for their lives," said Hernandez.

Aspen also touched on some of its brand new properties. "Idolized" by David B. Schwartz and artist Micah Gunnell, about a girl with super powers who is looking to take revenge against a super villain who wronged her family, launched a few weeks ago with a #0 issue. "Idolized" #1 goes on sale August 8.

"The way that she thinks she can get close enough to that super villain in order to exact that revenge is by competing in -- and hopefully winning -- a super hero idol television show, sort of like 'American Idol' but with super heroes," Schwartz said.

The CCI exclusive cover features a photo with model Rachel Clark dressed in an Idolized costume. Issues were nearly sold out at the time of the panel. Mastromauro noted that "Idolized" is the first super hero title Aspen has produced.

"Homecoming," a new property by writer/creator David Wohl and Scott Lobdell -- and the last project with original character designs by Michael Turner -- was touched on next. "Homecoming" #1 lands in stores August 1, but the first issue was available during the convention.

"It's different from other stories we're working on because it's younger -- like with teenagers. It's centered around this 17-year-old kid, Hunter, who just sits at home and plays games and is just a regular high schooler until one day when a blonde woman pops up into his back yard -- naked -- and says this is her house," Wohl said.

The blonde woman was abducted by aliens 10 years earlier and has returned believing herself to be an alien. "We try to mix high school elements with this bigger alien attack and I think we've done a pretty good job of it so far," Wohl said.

"Fathom: Kiani," "Lady Mechanika," "Broken Pieces," and "Charismagic" are some more titles that will be seeing new releases as well, including an unspecified -- though "soon" -- release of "Lady Mechanika" #4 for according to creator, Joe Benitez.

Aspen also announced that it will soon publish full-length novels by some of the company's creative talent. The first book slated for publication is titled "The Lost Spark," written by Krul.

"It's a fantasy novel, and kind of a young adult novel in the vain of 'Harry Potter' with a little bit of Stephen King thrown in, adding a horror/scary element to it," Krul said. "Essentially it has to do with the fact that when we're kids we all have that one special thing or special toy, that item of clothing or whatever that means the most to us from our childhood and if we can retain it and keep it with us it kind of keeps the magic alive for us and can actually do great things with it." Krul said he has been working on the project for about a decade and that "it's about reconnecting with your childhood and reconnecting with that innocence and that specialness of life."

Mastromauro said Aspen is currently in talks with several book distributors to start a line of Aspen novels. "The Lost Spark" is scheduled for a holiday release and Mastromauro added the publisher's plan is to release one new novel per quarter.

Stay tuned to CBR News for more on Aspen's upcoming projects.

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