ECCC: Oni Press "RevolutiONIze Comics"

Oni Press presented their "RevolutiONIze Comics" panel discussion Saturday evening at Emerald City Comicon. Oni Press Editor in Chief James Lucas Jones moderated a conversation with "Helheim" artist Joëlle Jones, writer Charles Soule, and the creative team behind "The Sixth Gun": writer Cullen Bunn, artist Brian Hurtt and colorist Bill Crabtree.

James Lucas Jones started the conversation by reviewing a few recent announcements from Oni Press, including the debut of the new series "The Strangers" on Free Comic Book Day. Created by Chris Roberson and Scott Kowalchuk, he described the book as a "60s power-pop super-spy thriller. We're really excited about it."

James Lucas Jones was also eager to let fans know about the green-lit pilot for NBC adapting "The Sixth Gun" for television. The pilot begins shooting March 18, and several casting announcements have already been made. Laura Ramsey ("The Ruins") will be playing Becky Montcrief, joined by W. Earl Brown ("Deadwood") as General Hume, Graham McTavish ("The Hobbit") as Silas Hedgepeth and Aldis Hodge ("Leverage") as Agent Mercer. The pilot episode will be written by Ryan Condell ("Hercules: The Thracian Wars"), directed by Jeffrey Reiner and produced by "Lost" producer Carlton Cuse.

Bunn touched on what fans can expect as the comic series "The Sixth Gun" moves past its midway point and heads toward its conclusion.

"'The Sixth Gun' has a definite ending. It's going to be ending with issue 50," said Bunn. "I think this arc, which is called 'Ghost Dance'...we've been sort of reaching the peak of the roller coaster and we're ready to start rocketing toward the end. This arc is one of the strangest...arcs of 'The Sixth Gun.' It's essentially Becky learning a lot about the history of the Six. She learns about her connection to the Six, and Drake's connection to the Six...It'll be a different kind of book than what you've read in 'The Sixth Gun' so far."

While "The Sixth Gun" has a definitive end point mapped out, Bunn and Hurtt were quick to point out that there may still be room for other stories taking place in the same world. They also hinted at future projects, including the possibility of a return to "The Damned."

James Lucas Jones was also eager to discuss the upcoming series, "Helheim," written by Bunn and featuring art by Joëlle Jones. It debuts March 6. James Lucas Jones presented a video trailer for the book, featuring an appropriately overblown narration and Joëlle Jones' brutal artwork.

Bunn described the book as a "Viking-era Frankenstein story."

"It is the story of a war between two witches, and there's this man caught in the middle of it, Rikard," said Bunn. "He's a noble and good person, and the most skilled warrior of his people -- and I kill him about halfway through the first issue."

But his story's not over, with Bunn adding, "It's basically his story as he's denied the peace that he deserves -- or he felt he deserved."

As Rikard has been through many battles, Joëlle Jones said she has to keep track of his scars when drawing him.

"I really like the main monster -- Rikard, as a monster -- and even though I have to do scar check -- he's got so many scars and staples and I think that I'm always putting them in the wrong places," she said.

James Lucas Jones then brought Charles Soule into the conversation, introducing Soule's new project, "Letter 44," with artist Alberto Alburquerque. It debuts in October.

"'Letter 44' is a political sci-fi thing," said Soule. "When a president is leaving office, they leave a letter on the desk of their successor that has all kinds of tips and tricks...So, we have a president that's leaving office that's known as, you know, not the best public speaker, kind of a moron, a war-monger who killed the economy, things like that -- that's his public personae, if you can imagine a guy like that. The guy coming in is a young, vibrant, 'America can hope again because everything's gonna change' -- that kind of president.

"He's got big plans for what he's going to do with the country," continued Soule. "He's inaugurated, and he reads the letter. The letter says, "Welcome, congratulations on being elected. The truth is this gig is a lot harder than you think it is. There's a lot about it that people don't know. Everyone thought I was a jerk...the reason, for me, that it was so hard is that about seven years ago NASA detected some kind of mining or construction operation going on in the asteroid belt. So, every decision I made in my administration was based around dealing with that question.'"

The story follows a pair of intertwined storylines, one focused on the new president as he confronts the situation, and the second focusing on a crew of astronauts dispatched to investigate the anomaly in the asteroid belt.

Soule explained that in writing the book, he was invested in rooting the premise in reality as much as possible. He visited NASA researchers in Florida and rooted his space-travel storyline in technology that could, potentially, be feasible. This attention to detail proved challenging at times.

"I feel like if I'm going to be a stickler for detail on the space stuff, then I also should be a stickler for detail on the political side. So, figuring out, you know, why the chief of staff -- what he does in particular. How the NASA security advisor fits into everything...I knew a lot of it, but you'd be surprised at how little you actually know about how the government works...Figuring all those things out and making sure it's right has been challenging," Soule said.

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