CCI: Devil's Due Publishing

As one of the final gatherings of the first official day of Comic-Con, the Devil's Due panel addressed fans with a casual enthusiasm as Josh Blaylock ("Mercy Sparxx"), Tim Seeley ("Hack/Slash"), Murs and Steven E. de Souza ("Die Hard," "Shanna: Queen of the Jungle") took to the stage. After experiencing brief technical difficulties loading a slideshow, which Blaylock related to the crew of the Starship Enterprise losing visuals during space battles, the publisher's presentation began.

Starting with "Hack/Slash," Blaylock ran through a list of upcoming releases including reprinted trade paperbacks, a new poster of protagonist Cassie, and a new book of selected cover art from the series. "Hack/Slash" #25 will feature two variant covers that pay a kind of homage to Marvel's '70s specials with guest characters wrapped around the main cover image. Issue #25 was also available with a Comic-Con exclusive cover.

Blaylock moved on to focus on his own series, "Mercy Sparxx," pointing out the upcoming release of issue #4 and discussing the concept of the book with fans.

Next on the slideshow came "Sheena: Queen of the Jungle," the golden age property that Devil's Due has been working to update for a contemporary audience by relocating Sheena to South America with a new back-story. "We've been trying to simultaneously stay true to what made [Sheena] click in the golden age while making [the book] true to the twentieth century," said De Souza, who noted that "Sheena" was one of the books burned during Dr. Fredric Worthham's comic book scare during the late '40s due to her scant wardrobe.

"The extra year I spent in ninth grade apparently paid off, because the critics have been kind," said De Souza on writing the new Sheena series.

Next up was one of Devil's Due's most publicized titles, the political satire and Conan homage "Barack the Barbarian: Quest for the Treasure of Stimuli," written by Larry Hama ("G.I. Joe"). "We didn't want to be completely slapsticky," said Blaylock, "It is definitely partly a gimmick, but we wanted to do something clever with [the Obama comics trend].

Devil's Due also announced a brand new upcoming series from hip-hop artist Murs, "Merch Girl: The Curse of Yumiko Morales." The book tells the story of experimental band "Murder Axe" and their merch girl's supernatural adventures as they tour as the opener for a major act. When the merch-selling title character is accidentally stranded, she's forced to take up with a mysterious rival opening act and learns that things aren't what they seem. Murs and Blaylock described the title as a kind of gypsy tale, with a cursed object interacting with a modern setting.

DDP lined up their licensed properties next, with updates on the four-issue tie-in to Starz's new gladiator epic "Spartacus" as well as the proverbial third series of CBS' canceled drama "Jericho," which tells the story of a post-nuclear America in the midst of its second civil war.

Following the slideshow, the panel opened the floor to fan questions, many of which focused on Devil's Due's multimedia tie-ins. One fan asked about the "Hack/Slash" film, which Seeley summed up as a Hollywood problem. "The movie [keeps] getting pushed back because Hollywood sucks.

"It's all kind of legal stuff that isn't fun, so I'm just like, 'I'll make comics because it's fun,'" said Blaylock to crowd laughter.

Another fan followed up by asking Seeley where his inspiration for Cassie, "Hack/Slash's" horror film avenger originated. "The truth is she was a girl I kind of had a crush on and wanted to pay attention to me, so I made a comic about her," said Seeley, who added that he'd met his fiance in the cast of the limited run "Hack/Slash" play in which she played a much different kind of character.

Of the "Hack/Slash" play itself, Seeley said, "I'm in Chicago where there's a lot of storefront theatre, where they can do whatever the hell they want and push the boundaries on musical theatre." Seeley also noted the production even had a row for blood splatter and audience interaction.

Murs' "Merch Girl" generated several questions from fans curious about his introduction to Devil's Due and inspiration to create a new comic. "[Blaylock] came to [my] show in Chicago and gave me a million comic books, then we had lunch and started talking. I don't know how he convinced me to do 'Merch Girl,'" Murs said to laughter. "My life is tour, so I figured if I could tell a story - I didn't want it to be like any other rap comics, not that there's anything wrong with them - so I figured I'd write about touring." Murs also incorporated lyrics from his songs into the narrative to point readers to his music.

"This isn't just a combo of a music artist trying to jump on the bandwagon, this is not supposed to be a rap comic, it's a comic anyone can enjoy," Blaylock explained.

A fan brought up Megan Fox as a possible lead in a "Hack/Slash" film, which Seeley seemed interested in, even if he poked fun at the idea. "Sure, [Fox is] super cool and super hot and the movie would make a ton of money. Have we ever seen her act? No, not really, but it'd be cool."

De Souza teased Sheena's Hollywood development. "We've got some ripples in Hollywood and we're waiting on E-mails as we speak - watch the skies for Sheena announcements."

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