CCI: Top Cow Announces "Darkness" Movie, New "Witchblade" Team and 2011's Pilot Season

Fans of Top Cow Productions were treated to announcements for a slew of new books for the "Top Cow: We Create Excitement" panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego. Publisher Filip Sabilk introduced Top Cow president Matt Hawkins and founder Marc Silvestri to talk about everything the publisher has planned in the coming months.

The panel began with a trailer for the upcoming video game, "The Darkness II." Picking up where the first game left off, the trailer showed Darkness wielder Jackie Estacado dispatching bad-guys in a variety of creatively violent ways mixing guns and supernatural powers. "That's so badass," said Silvestri after the trailer. "And so for the kids."

"We try to make this stuff for the kids," joked Hawkins. "Top Cow is all about family friendly entertainment."

"I think I was proudest when we got banned in Singapore," Silvestri said, referring to the first "Darkness" game, which was banned for excessive violence.

"The Darkness II" will be released for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 February 7. "It's the perfect Valentine's gift," said Hawkins.

As far as "The Darkness" in other media, Silvestri brought up Dave Manpearl from Mandeville Films to make a special announcement. "The Darkness" will be making his way to the big screen with a theatrical movie.

"Marc also announced that we've cast Justin Beiber in the lead role," joked Hawkins.

"He agreed to shave his head for the role," Silvestri added.

Jokes about Hawkins and Silvestri's "sparkling personalities" aside, Manpearl showed great respect for the creative properties created by the company. "We love Top Cow. We love everything you guys do," Manpearl said. "These guys make great books, they write good stories, and they make great characters. The Darkness is the epitome of that."

Speaking of which, "The Darkness" comic will celebrate its 15th anniversary in October and continue with a new creative team after #100 releases in February of next year, the last issue written by Phil Hester. The new writer of the book is still a secret, but it will be drawn by "Artifacts" artist Jeremy Haun.

Top Cow has also been working with digital distributor comiXology to create a dedicated "The Darkness" app to download the books directly. "This is the digital stuff where you won't go to Hell for downloading it," Hawkins said.

After discussing "The Darkness," the panel moved on to announcing the new books on the way for Top Cow's 2011 Pilot Season initiative.

"The Test," by Joshua Fialkov and Rahsan Ekedal was the first book presented. When a group of amnesiacs wake up in a seemingly perfect urban utopia, they have many questions. The most pressing, however, is about the mysterious voice telling them that they have been chosen to save mankind.

"The Beauty," by Jeremy Haun and Jason Hurley, is a science fiction procedural that asks questions about society, human nature, and according to Silvestri, "why it's good to get an STD." In the book, The Beauty, is a sexually transmitted disease that makes its carriers gorgeous, but two years after the world is changed by its makeover, two detectives discover there may be a horrible catch to being attractive.

Written by Shannon Denton and Brad Keene with art by Alex Sanchez, "Fleshdigger" is a classic monster story. When a good samaritan is killed defending a woman from muggers, the tragedy takes a twist when it's revealed that the woman practices ancient witchcraft and raises him from the dead.

"City of Refuge" by Morgan Foehl and Dennis Calero takes place in the last bastion of civilization in a post-apocalyptic world. To keep the peace in the city, every resident is implanted with a chip that prevents them from acting violently, which sparks a mystery when crimes start occurring.

Moving away from sci-fi and the supernatural, "Misdirection" by Filip Sablik and Chris DiBari is a more grounded story about a down on his luck racecar driver in need of a break. When an old friend offers him a job driving some folks around, he never expects that his lucky break will actually be breaking the law. When he arrives to pick up his clients, he ends up the reluctant getaway driver for a group of bank robbers.

"Theory of Everything," by Dan Casey and Thomas Nachlik, dives back into high concept with an inter-dimensional crime heist story. String theory and quantum physics come into play as thieves steal from other realities.

"Anonymous," written by Alan McElroy, tells the story of a former covert soldier whose handlers won't let him go. After faking his own death, he creates a false persona and becomes a new man to watch over his grieving father.

Finally, Lance Briggs of the Chicago Bears trades the pigskin for a pen for "Seraph." Co-written by Phil Hester and art by Jose Luis, "Seraph" combines faith with action as Briggs explores what it means to believe in something. "I thought of a character, a young man that had everyone he'd ever loved systematically taken away from him. You have a guy here that was brought back to life by God himself with a new set of roles to live by and some kick-ass powers," Briggs said. "Basically, he's sent out to do Heaven's dirty work and reclaim his faith."

Moving on to the Minotaur Press imprint, a hardcover release of "Echoes" and a new series, "Cutter," are on their way. Top Cow will again team with Heroes and Villains Entertainment for a new project. The partnership that previously created titles including "Netherworld" and "Epoch," announced their next project, "Son of Merlin" and a film adaptation of "Tracker." "We've been working with these guys for two years and it's been a pretty badass partnership," Silvestri said.

"Artifacts," the Top Cow Universe event written by Ron Marz continues and panel goers got to see a sneak peek at #9 with art by Top Cow exclusive artist Jeremy Haun. "It's been a great experience," Haun said. "I'm having a lot of fun drawing the book."

Top Cow then announced that the series would become an ongoing rather than the previously announced 13-issue maxiseries. "We're continuing it, we're not restarting the series," said Hawkins. "We're not rebooting it like a lot of books in September." Issues 9-12 of "Artifacts" will be drawn by Haun, followed by Dale Keown for issue 13 and Stjepan Sejic will join Marz as the new regular artist beginning with #14.

As previously announced, the "Witchblade" creative team of Ron Marz & Stjepan Sejic will depart with #150. Following up the longtime team on the title will be writer Tim Seeley ("Hack/Slash") and artists Diego Bernard and Fred Benes. "I'm basically following a guy who wrote seventy-five issues and redefined the book, so I'm really happy about that," Seeley joked.

The new creative team will take the book in a new direction that sees Sara moving to Chicago for a new job and isolating her from Top Cow's shared universe. "It's going to be a dark fantasy and crime noir story," Seeley said. "She'll have a reason for not really being tied to the rest of the Top Cow Universe for a while, which is kind of connected to 'Artifacts' so I won't spoil it for you."

The group also showed some preview art for "Mysterious Ways" by Jason Rubin and Tyler Kirkham which Hawkins jokingly describes as "a feel good story about a serial killer killing pregnant women." Another new book, "Killionaire," by Russ Cundiff and Milo Ventimiglia, will also hit the shelves soon.

The panel ended with some news about Emily Lazar's cross-media project, "September Mourning." "It's like its own little universe," Lazar said. "We are taking this story and we're making this universe for you guys to control." Lazar announced she and Top Cow are working with MTV Geek to create webisodes for the series along with a one-shot comic book.

"'September Mourning' is a massive, massive undertaking of cruelness," Silvestri said. "This is a character that crosses the bridge between the living and the dead. The basic story is Emily Lazar will eat your soul, but only if you're bad."

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