CCI: The Oni Press Panel

Oni Press' Friday panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego got off to a start with a self-described "hard sell" by moderator and marketing director Cory Casoni. Sharing the stage with him was an array of top-notch Oni creators. The camaraderie shared by Oni's staff and creators was on display as Tyler Crook, the artist on "Petrograd," provided reverb and sound effects every time Casoni uttered the phrase "hard sell," something heard repeatedly through the presentation with Crook's atmospheric FX never failing to raise a chuckle from the panel attendees.

The panel got under way after a slide of the second volume of "Spell Checkers" was met with a round of applause. Casoni broke the book down for new readers in the audience, describing it as "what if the mean girls had magical powers?"

The "hard sell" very briefly went a little soft around the edges when Casoni, with mock emotion, presented the Oni Press kids/all ages line of books, a line Casoni is obviously very proud of. Choking back fake emotion and wiping a tear from his eye, Casoni said, "It's important to have books for kids to read." He was cut short when "Petrograd" writer Phil Gelatt commented aloud, "You should have seen Cory when he watched 'Up.'"

The presentation next turned to the launch of two ongoing books that were featured during this year's Free Comic Book Day -- "Power Lunch" from J. Torres and Dean Trippe and "Sketch Monsters" from Josh Williamson and Vinny Navarrete. Both will launch on the same day and, in Casoni's words, are "quality reads -- the kind of books you would read with your kids." The "hard sell" rolled on to "Super Pro K.O" volume 2, which Casoni described as a book about family and friendship and "is the best wrestling comic you never wanted to read."

From there, three slides of artwork from the Japanese editions of "Scott Pilgrim" were shown along with the announcement that they were on sale at the Oni Press booth. With that Casoni claimed to be done with the "hard sell." To the amusement of the panel attendees, Crook whispered the words "soft sell" into the microphone without missing a beat.

Next up was another book making it's CCI debut, "One Soul," by Ray Fawkes of "Possessions" fame. An experiment in narrative structure, Fawkes said, "it's a complex book that took two and half years to complete," presenting 18 different narratives, all with the same single underlying and interconnected message give the book 19 ways to be read. Deliberately vague when asked about the significance of the title, Fawkes said he "wants people to read it and form their own opinions of it."

The next title to be discussed was "Petrograd," by Phil Gellat and Tyler Crook, also making it's CCI debut. Drawing comparisons to "From Hell" from the crowd, Gelatt described the book as "a historic fiction graphic novel, about British involvement in the assassination of Rasputin." Crook said he landed the art chores after submitting his portfolio for review at the Stumptown Comics Fest, saying it is technically his first pro work, pre-dating his upcoming run on "B.P.R.D." for Dark Horse.

Casoni then praised Joe Harris and Brett Weldele and their work on "Spontaneous." When questioned about the genesis of the book, Harris discussed his childhood fascination with spontaneous human combustion stemming from watching "Spinal Tap" and episodes of "That's Incredible." Casoni pointed to the fact that Weldele was in fact drawing the book by hand, is a departure from his typically digital work evident. Casoni marveled at the fact that Weldele "doesn't do late books" and was in fact drawing issue #5 whilst at the Oni booth that very morning.

"Ghost Projekt," along with Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt's "The Sixth Gun," was recently revealed to have been optioned for TV by the Syfy channel, thought details are practically non-existent at this time.

When it came to discussing "The Sixth Gun," Cullen Bunn spoke about the genesis of some of the more supernatural elements of the book, saying some of them "stem all the way from my childhood nightmares." Casoni led the crowd in an appreciation of Bunn's other Oni book, "The Tooth," as well as Hurtt's artwork from "The Sixth Gun." Bunn himself joked that Hurtt "likes to be challenged. That encourages me to write more and more insane stuff."

Casoni, having worked all the way down the panel of creators, then introduced Brendan Hay of "Robot Chicken" fame, who was there to launch his new book "Rascal Raccoon." Drawn by Justin Wagner and stylistically rooted in classic "Merry Melodies" style cartoons, the title will feature comic violence and pseudo familiar characters and settings. Billed as, "What if the coyote killed the road runner and then has an existential crisis?" Rascal Raccoon will be available in December from Oni.

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