CCI, Day 3: Oni Press Spotlight

Indie heroes Oni Press announced on Saturday a slew of new projects from many of their fan-favorite creators as well as a few new surprises.

Unveiled to applause, "My Name Is Earl: The Comic Book" was the first item on the block. Editor James Lucas Jones explained that some might think a book of this sort might be a change in direction and focus for Oni, "but it's really not. From the very beginning we weren't adverse to doing licensed books. It just had to be something we liked; a property we'd read. ['My Name Is Earl'] fits in with the Oni brand."

Joining the Oni team to assist with the writing of "Earl" is Hunter Covington, the script coordinator on the NBC television show. "Hopefully we will be able to do some things in the comic that you can't do on TV," Covington said. "Such as Earl flying a plane. That would be something." Covington explained that telling the stories of Earl in comic form made a lot of sense from a writing standpoint, as creativity is often severely limited by the television budget. He remarked, "In comics, you don't have to buy a special pencil to see something exploding."

The creative teams for the "Earl" comic have not yet been sorted out, although Oni artists Steve Rolston and Dean Trippe have created many designs to assist in translating the world of Earl's Camden into comic book form.

Another new project that's a little different for Oni is "Blood Red," a sci-fi graphic novel by Ande Parks. Set on planet Mars 80 years in the future, the story follows a protagonist who discovers the destructive powers of revenge against a backdrop of Christian fundamentalist terrorism. "I really enjoyed my first [Oni] projects and doing the research, but I didn't want to be 'the historical fiction guy,'" Parks said. CBR News talked to Parks about the project in depth earlier.

"It's a little bit of a departure for Ande. He's been so excited to do something outside of Kansas, he went completely off-planet," James Lucas Jones said.

Jim Massey, famous for his "Death Takes A Holiday" mini-and-regular-sized-comics, announced a new ongoing humor series called "Maintenance." Slated to launch in December, "Maintenance" is the story of Doug and Danny, two custodians working in the world's leading mad scientist corporation. "They clean up after all the terrible experiments," Massey explained. Drawing the series is Robbie Rodriguez, with whom Massey goes back a long way. "We met 20 minutes ago and we've already got the first issue done."

Antony Johnston is no stranger to Oni fans. "The Wasteland" was rumored to have been in development for as long as three years before it was officially announced at last year's Comic-Con. "It's taken longer than we expected to get it together," the writer explained, "But we think it's worth it." Set on Earth 100 years after a disaster called the Big Wet has completely wiped out civilization, "The Wasteland" is the tale of a scavenger, one of just a few human survivors, who discovers a mysterious machine. The machine speaks to him of a legendary place at which the Big Wet is said to have began. Over the course of the monthly series, the scavenger and the machine seek this place whilst exploring a world totally destroyed.

"On the way," Johnston said, "You will see war and betrayal and violence and revolution and sex ... this will go a good few years." Christopher Mitten illustrates the ambitious new series, while Ben Templesmith will provide covers. The first issue is on sale now.

Always eager to give their audience options, Oni also offers up "The Apocalypstix," sort of the misbehaved younger sibling of "The Wasteland." Co-created by writer Jay Fawkes and artist Cameron Stewart, "Apocalypstix" is in their words, the lighter side of the end of the world. Apocalypstix are an all girl rock band who survive a giant nuke that wipes out the entire world, but they've decided the end of civilization is no reason not to tour. "They play shows for mutants, cannibals, giant ants ..." Stewart explained that prior to creating the story, he was in a creative rut. "I just sat down and made a list of things I wanted to draw, and on that list were these girls. I liked music so I wanted to something with that, but I didn't want to draw buildings..." and so he set his story after the apocalypse. "It's 'Josie and the Pussycats' crossed with 'Road Warrior.'"

Also announced was a comic book prequel to "Jumper," the forthcoming film from director Doug Liman ("Swingers," "The Bourne Identity," "Mr. & Mrs. Smith") and screenwriter Simon Kinberg ("Mr. & Mrs. Smith"). The film and comic are based on a series of novels by Steven Gould about an 18-year-old who realizes he has the ability to teleport. "['Jumper'] is what a regular kid could do if he could start teleporting," said Oni managing editor Randal Jarrell. "He'd rob a bank and have crazy adventures."

James Lucas Jones joked, "Our panel keeps growing because indie cartoonists don't like to get up before noon" as fan-favorite cartoonist Corey Lewis arrived late on the panel to announce his new book, "Shark Knife 2 Z Z." The sequel to the popular original promises to bring a Shark Knife with new powers and a new look.

"Hopefully some of the questions raised in the first book, like the motivations of the characters, will be answered in the second book," Lewis joked. "I've been reading books like 'Berserk,' so hopefully the book will be better drawn than last time."

Next up was "Resurrection," by "Law & Order" writer Marc Guggenheim. "Everyone thinks they know what an Oni book is," said Jones, "And we like to shatter those expectations. Marc's book is going to do that." The premise of "Resurrection" is that its story begins where all alien invasion movies leave off, after the humans have won and the audience leaves them to rebuild society.

"The Earth's been invaded by aliens and that's going to complete change our entire existence," Guggenheim explained. "Just knowing we're not alone, rebuilding the planet. It's a bit of an allegory for rebuilding after 9/11." Guggenheim says that at first, the means to the human's victory will not be disclosed, although the details will be revealed slowly over the course of the ongoing series.

Finally, James Lucas Jones announced the biggest surprise by playing a clip of Comedy Centrals "The Colbert Report," in which faux host Stephen Colbert promoted his epic science fiction Mary Sue novel, featuring lead character Tek Janson.

Following the clip, Jones declared, "when I first saw that, I said 'we have to secure the rights to do the comic book adaption of Stephen Colbert's Tek Janson.'"

Details are still being sorted out with Colbert and his writing staff, but they will be involved with the new series' development along with a regular comics creative team.

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