A crowd composed of a mix of comic book fans and fans exclusively of the television show filled in side by side to see the presentation of Devil's Due Publishing's continuation of the fan favorite show, "Jericho," on Friday at Comic-Con International in San Diego.
"Welcome to the Season 3 panel of 'Jericho'" announced Josh Blaylock, President of Devil's Due Publishing, making it clear that the panel viewed this project as a direct continuation of the show and not an expanded universe spin-off comic.
The panel included Cody DeMatteis, the newly announced editor of the project, along with Jon Steinberg and little Maggie Steinberg (Exec. Producer and newborn child, respectively), Robert Levine (Writer), Karim Zreik (Exec. Producer), Dan Shotz (Exec Producer), and Lennie James (star/Robert Hawkins).
Dan Shotz looked to the audience and impassionedly said "Thank you for this!" He later enthusiastically said of the "Jericho" fans "You guys are the greatest marketing team in the world...you brought a major corporation to its knees and made them bring back the show...you guys are the reason there is a Season Two, you guys are the reason for a Season Three in the comic book, and we have a lot more to come because of you."
On the reassembling of the old Jericho writing team, Shotz said "It was so important to do this as a team, this group is the group that started this show, and we wanted to continue it that way...and we wanted to keep true to the story that was planned...we wanted the characters to look like the characters, the stories to be from the writers of the show."
As for adapting their writing style to a comic book series, he said "Many of us are writing the story, but also we have a writer named Jason Burns who is going to help us with it. What TV writers don't know is that comic book writing is hard, really hard. In the comic book world, you don't get to cheat, you have to know every detail, and it's been a great experience learning that."
Blaylock encouraged non-comics buyers who want to follow the continuation of the show in this format to "go to your comic book store and become a Previews member, or go to comicbooklocator.com, and find the local shop in your town, and let your local retailer know that you want to subscribe to this, and they can hold it for you at your store."
Blaylock revealed the three-cover set for issue number one of the series, which includes a photo cover, an illustrated painted cover, and a Previews exclusive "Don't Tread on Me" flag cover. There was also an ashcan limited to 500 units, exclusive to the convention booth.
Zreik said "The cover on the left, with Hawkins on his knees, is actually an alternate ending we shot for the end of the show"
Regarding the plot of the new series, Steinberg said "I think the show has been leading to a civil war, and rather than avoid it we decided to do it. So it's a great big, giant war".
Shotz said he was excited to show the civil war in comic book form, because of the different things the format allows.
Explained DeMatteis , "The comic will start with a six issue mini-series, coming out monthly and starting in October, with each issue released with two covers. One cover will be by Scott West, and the other a photo cover".
As for beyond the first six issues, Steinberg said this mini-series is "just the first shot of a story arc, and we are really excited [about it], with more to come."
Regarding which characters will appear in the series, Shotz said all characters from the television show will appear, and "The A-story is obviously going to focus on Jake, but we're also going to show things like Hawkins trying to help the right side."
Robert Levine, who co-wrote the first issue, said that the hardest part was "Summing up the first two seasons. [It was] hard to do it in a way that we felt did justice to the show. We realized we had to make some hard choices about what we left out, but at the same time it got me excited all over again."
Shotz agreed, "The hardest part is we've had too much story, we can only tell so much in 22 pages, and we begged Josh to give us 26 pages for this issue and he did. We could tell this story for a very long time".
The panel spoke in depth on the advantages of the comics format over the filmed content.
Steinberg said "As soon as you take it out of the network, a lot can change, for the better I think. It's probably the same story that would have been told, but now we get to see it and engage with it. It's now an interactive story."
Blaylock added "there's no limit to the number of tanks you can have [on the comic's page]."
Shotz agreed "and everyone can do their own stunts."
"In some ways you can show a lot more in one panel than you can on television, and in other ways you sometimes have to cut back on dialogue," said Blaylock.
Steinberg noted that "The show was conceived for network TV, but the story never was."
Zreik nodded, saying, "There are no budgetary constraints [in comics]. There were a lot of money restraints on Season Two. You're right that this comic book expands the story, and we are able to tell so much more and show you more as to where the story is going."
Shotz spoke to the artistic approach to the books, "Likeness was so important for us. We want Hawkins to look like this [pointing to Jones]".
Asked if we will we see a return of the Ravenwood paramilitary organization, Steinberg answered "Nobody's off the table; they were our favorite villains".
Steinberg explained that this season starts with the ending people saw on the TV show, and not the alternate ending they had originally planned, which actually helped them write the comic. The alternate ending had Hawkins character being captured, starting the new season with a prison break. However this version is "bigger, it's much bigger" said Steinberg and Shotz.
Regarding acquiring the rights to do the comics, Zreik said "We couldn't do this comic without the cast being on board, because we are using their images, and they all signed off and are excited."
Zreik answered the question that many in the room were waiting for: Would there be a "Jericho" movie? "There have been talks about a movie, there have been serious talks about a movie. Where we are right now is finding the right story to tell for the movie. It's mostly a timing thing with writers, actors, etc., but where we are right now, it's finding the right story to tell in two hours for a movie." Later he added "The intent is to do the movie as a theatrical release, not direct to DVD. If we were going to do it, we'd want to do it big."
To make the movie, and continuing comics, happen, Zreik highlighted all the attention the fans have brought to the show. "Look at these websites, look at the ratings on CW with the third run of the show there, this helps to garner the right interest [from the studios]."
Regarding the age appropriateness of the comic, Steinberg said "It's as age appropriate as the TV show. The show was always sort of a space opera in this town, and it's still that."
On the upcoming series, Zreik said "This six [issue series] is really about re-launching the story and the world and the evil that comes out of that, but we have the long arc for a lot more, and then concept beyond that."
As far as dealing with creative control from the network and dealings with CBS, Zreik said "Our dealings with CBS, they've been nothing but supportive. I don't think we got story notes on what we could do. They actually liked the whole campaign with the peanuts - you guys put their website, CBS.com, on the map, and now it's one of the top websites, so they've been nothing but fantastic with us."
Shotz concluded the panel, "We just need to thank you guys because you made this happen for us. So thank you."
"Jericho: Season 3" debuts in October.