ECCC 2008: Oni Press Panel

Oni Press had the honor of being the kick-off panel -- or, as one of the Oni panelists called it, “the hangover panel” -- on Sunday at the 2008 Emerald City ComiCon. Mediating was Oni Editor-in-Chief James Lucas Jones, and joining him onstage were Oni Marketing Director Cory Casoni, writer Jim Massey (“Maintenance,” “Tek Jansen”), writer-artist Bryan Lee O'Malley (“Scott Pilgrim”), writer Greg Rucka (“Whiteout,” the upcoming “Stumptown”), and artist Matthew Southworth (“Stumptown”).

Things began with a quick mention of Rucka’s “Whiteout” film (which is coming out in the fall) and the fact that he and artist Steve Lieber have been working on a third volume in the “Whiteout” story. It will be another short miniseries involving U.S. Marshall Carrie Stetko in Antarctica.

Talk of the “Whiteout” film led Rucka to begin questioning O’Malley on the movie that will be based on his “Scott Pilgrim” series. O’Malley said the movie is supposed to start production in September, and he likes the people working on the project. He said he’s read every draft of the script, given notes, and said, “They seem to take me seriously.” Edgar Wright (“Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz”) is directing the film, and Michael Cera (“Superbad,” “Juno”) will play the lead.

Both Rucka and O’Malley then discussed the fact that comic books and movies are different mediums, saying one can’t necessarily transfer one over to the other without changes. Although, when a concerned fan asked O’Malley if the “dance battle” scene from the first book would be in the movie, the writer-artist replied that “most of the first book appears in the film…near verbatim.”

Greg Rucka then talked about his new series, “Stumptown” which he is creating with Matthew Southworth for Oni. The book is about a private investigator in Portland, a concept Rucka said goes back to his early desires to write P.I. novels. The writer said he had a childhood love of “Rockford Files,” and was likewise fond of other detective shows such as “The Inheritors,” “Magnum P.I.,” and “Simon & Simon.” He then complained that “all TV detectives nowadays do is talk to dead people.”

“Stumptown’s” main character is a female P.I. named Dex. Rucka then smiled and informed the audience that her name is a “joke” we’ll learn about in the first issue. He also added, “Wait till you hear the names of her siblings…”

When asked about the book’s setting, Rucka said he picked Portland because he loves the town and its “great texture and great history.” Even the name of the city fascinates the writer, as the name was decided by coin toss between the town’s founders. Rucka also likes the fact that the city has a working harbor, and that he could weave a “Native American population that is omnipresent yet invisible” into his tale. On top of this, the city’s climate worked in the story’s favor. As the scribe said, “What’s a detective novel without rain?”

Portland has one other factor that worked in its favor for “Stumptown”: drawbridges. Rucka said there are three working drawbridges in Portland, and he has a large car chase in issue #7 that he can’t wait for readers to see.

As for how Southworth got the job of drawing “Stumptown,” the illustrator explained he used to work for artist Stefano Gaudiano, whom Rucka was talking to about the book. Gaudiano couldn’t clear his schedule for the project and recommended Southworth. Rucka saw and liked his work, and the rest is “Stumptown” history.

Rucka also informed the audience the publishing schedule of “Stumptown” would be like that of a TV season. He said Ono would be publishing the book monthly in four-issue arcs, but taking four months off in between arcs. The book will be published in color, and the first issue should hit stores in the fall.

Next, Jim Massey finally got his turn to speak, and talked a bit about his comedic book, “Maintenance.” The title stars two custodians working in a lab for super-evil geniuses. The newest trade paperback of “Maintenance” stories will be named after an old Carpenters song: “Fighting Occupants of Interstellar Craft.”

Like every other member of the panel, Massey has had his comic optioned as a film property as well. Warner Bros is currently developing a script, and McG (“Charlie’s Angels”) is attached to direct.

In addition to “Maintenance,” Massey also has another project coming out from Oni in the near future: a series of one-shots with the title of “String.” The writer explained, “It’s a book that’s set in the old west, but it’s not a western.” The story involves a retired gunfighter who opens a bowling alley saloon. And for those who think this sounds slightly incredulous, Massey explained that he conducted research and bowling alleys did indeed exist in that time period. According to Massey and his editor, the book contains “lots of swearing” and is very humorous.

After completing a fun audience quiz and handing out a few Oni Press prizes, the panel then concluded and the nursing of hangovers commenced.

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