CCI XTRA: Aspen Comics Announces New Projects

Michael Turner and a group of Aspen Comics' artists and writers introduced an audience at Comic-Con International in San Diego to a slate of new projects, plans, and initiatives last weekend, including a secret Marvel project and the artist for the upcoming third volume of marquee property, "Fathom."

Artist and Aspen Vice President of Publishing Peter Steigerwald kicked off the panel by leading the audience in a hearty, "Aloha!"

President Michael Turner was joined on stage by Jason Rubin, J.T. Krul, Mark Rosian, Micah Gunnell, Francis Manapul, Vince Hernandez, Joel Gomez, Alejandro "Ale" Garza, C.B. Cebulski and Beth Sotelo. Following brief introductions, Executive Vice President Frank Mastromauro jumped into a slideshow highlighting Aspen's upcoming projects and releases.

Headlining the announcements was Aspen's new property "Iron and the Maiden," which was premiered exclusively at Comic-Con, and will be in stores next Wednesday -- "guaranteed." Each issue will have 28 pages. Writer and creator of "Iron and the Maiden," Jason Rubin was on hand to say, "It took two years from the day I sat down and started writing it, to this launch. It's a long process."

Rubin worked on video games before he started writing comic books. Turner asked him the difference between working on video games and working on comics. "Creating worlds is very similar," Rubin said. "Video games, nowadays at least, are much larger. It's a big production now. It was really nice to be able to go back to the 'Crash Bandicoot' days, working with small teams."

Joel Gomez and Francis Manapul created the interior artwork for "Iron and the Maiden" over the course of a year-and-a-half. "They would FedEx [artwork] back and forth to each other, which scared the living daylights out of me," Rubin said.

Continuing the slide presentation, Frank Mastromauro introduced "Showcase," which will be released next year. No exact date has been set. "What 'Showcase' is all about is putting together groups of different creators, different writers, and different artists," Mastromauro said. "People we respect, who we'd like to work with, that sometimes can't always commit to working on a full five or ten-issue miniseries or something, but if you give them a playground with a one-shot or a shorter story, it's much more enticing." Garza, Cebulski, and other to-be-announced talent will be creating content based on Aspen properties for "Showcase."

C.B. Cebulski described his "Showcase" story as a "high-school reunion" for Fathom that will take place chronologically between volumes one and two in the "Fathom" storyline.

Mastromauro also announced that Garza, who just finished up a run on "Supergirl," will be working on the third volume of "Fathom," which is "coming out sometime next year."

"Right now I am working on 'Teen Titans,' but I've always had a real affinity for the stuff Mike [Turner]'s done," Garza said. "I just want to do him proud. Just kind of put my heart into it."

A recurring theme of the panel discussion was guaranteed, on-time shipping of new releases. "No longer are we going to solicit, or are we going to be putting out books that are going to be late," Mastromauro declared. "'Soulfire' #8-10 are guaranteed shipped.

"So, what we're doing is postponing "Soulfire: New World Order" until [Turner]'s done with the entire series, and then it'll be guaranteed shipped as well. That way, every single issue will be in the stores when you expect the book."

Once Turner finishes up work on "Soulfire," he will start on a not-yet-announced project for Marvel that will be released next year. "The Marvel project is going to be insane," Mastromauro said. "So, you guys will be hearing announcements probably in the next couple of months."

Capping off the slide presentation, Mastromauro announced that the Fathom Kiani statue "is on the boat and on its way to America. It just needs to clear customs and should be in stores in roughly three-to-four weeks.

"We're now actually working on our next statue," Mastromauro added, "for fall of '08."

In other announcements, Mastromauro revealed that Aspen will continue working on webisodes for NBC's "Heroes" for the next three years, "including ancillary products." He said, "As long as the show stays on TV, we'll be doing some work for it."

Mastromauro also announced that Aspen is going start putting recaps in the beginning of new comic books to help acclimate new readers to ongoing storylines.

Finally, Turner announced that a "Fathom Ultimate Edition" will be released as soon as trademark issues and related "artwork clean-up" are resolved.

The panel concluded with two members of the AspenComics.com messages boards presenting Michael Turner with a stuffed "Ernie the Seahorse," which had been signed by Michael Turner fans from around the world over the course of two-and-a-half years.

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