ECCC: Oni Press

Independent comics label Oni Press brought some thought-provoking discussion, information and laughter to the Emerald City ComiCon last weekend. Oni Press Marketing Director Cory Casoni led a panel discussion alongside two of the publisher's stars, Lars Brown ("Northworld") and Ted Naifeh ("Courtney Crumrin").

Before diving into conversations on those creators' books, Casoni talked about some of the comics on Oni's publishing horizon. "Festering Romance" by Renee Lott, which was first announced at WonderCon earlier this year, is due out in July. "It's a love story about a woman who's literally living with the ghosts of her past," Casoni said. It will be Lott's debut work in comics, and Casoni recommended her website - FridgeWithFeet.com - to the attendees.

Fans of Oni's apocalyptic "Wasteland" will be happy to know that issue #25 of the series will be double-sized (40 pages) with full-color watercolor art by series artist Christopher Mitten.

Casoni also plugged the similarly-themed "Resurrection" series, written by Marc Guggenheim. "If you like 'The Walking Dead,' you'll love 'Resurrection,'" Casoni said. The series explores the psychological ramifications of a zombie apocalypse. He recalled Guggenheim's original pitch for the book: "I always wondered what happens the day after an alien invasion."

"Resurrection" follows the mysterious disappearance of alien invaders on Earth after ten years of warfare, and is about to come back in a big way. April 29 will see the release of a trade paperback collecting the first six issues and the Annual issue for only six dollars. The series will resume as a monthly in June, with a new artist and full-color art for every issue.

Casoni let Naifeh and Brown ogle the cover for the first new issue on his laptop, and teased about its depiction of a "smoldering Capitol Hill."

In addition to the inexpensive "Resurrection" trade paperback, there will be a #0 issue for Free Comic Book Day that acts as a standalone story accessible for new readers. Casoni said the close proximity of the trade release and Free Comic Book Day is no coincidence - it's all part of a larger plan to lure new readers to the series.

Both Brown and Naifeh expressed their admiration for "Resurrection," and the conversation was momentarily derailed by an enthusiastic dissection of a particular scene in which two men fight to the death for who gets to be President of the United States. According to Casoni, the victor "crushes his opponent's head with a rock."

"That would have been a better campaign," Naifeh quipped. "Obama's spry, but McCain has experience."

In explaining why Volume Three of his "Northworld" series is comprised of standalone stories instead of focusing on the character Conrad, Brown said that "Northworld" is "about the universe - what it is and not who is in it."

For those unfamiliar with his series, Brown described it as depicting what it would be like "if 'World of Warcraft' happened in real life." However, "in the fourth volume, it's going to resemble less the real world and more the fantasy world."

Brown added, "I'm going to be focusing on enlarging the world of the 'Northworld.'"

Writer-artist Ted Naifeh said he felt similar to Brown in that he wanted to expand the world of his creator-owned comic "Courtney Crumrin." "I kind of wanted to branch out from [hard fantasy] and do something a little more horror-oriented. The last two issues of the series were recently collected in the trade paperback "Courtney Crumrin's Monstrous Holiday."

Naifeh said that werewolves and vampires will soon be added to Courtney Crumrin's comic book universe, and that "the new monsters represent new elements of her life." He promised that future issues will be "delightfully fun and full of pathos...a little bit gothic but not this genre-specific thing."

Naifeh's other creator-owned Oni series, "Polly and the Pirates," is expected to resume once a new artist for the series is recruited. A fan asked Naifeh where he found the inspiration for all of the inventive designs for the ships seen in the book. "I live in San Francisco," Naifeh said, "and there's a lot of kooky houses around there." He thought to himself, "You know what would be cool is if they were giant flying ships..."

Another attendee asked when the next "Whiteout" story will be coming out, and Casoni said it was totally up to Greg Rucka, who penned the first two "Whiteout" stories with artist Steve Lieber. "'Whiteout 3' will be out when Greg has time. There's no rush. The door is always open."

Rucka's other Oni material, the series "Stumptown" with artist Matt Southworth, is still waiting to have enough art finished before it can be considered ready to launch.

With regards to what is undoubtedly Oni Press' most well-known and regarded graphic novel, Casoni said that "it's a little early" to announce what the publisher's plans are for any comics or merchandise timed to coincide with the upcoming film adaptation of Bryan Lee O'Malley's "Scott Pilgrim" stories. "Bryan's hard at work on #6. We have some ideas. Book 6 will definitely come out before the film."

The hype, attention and praise surrounding the "Scott Pilgrim" books remain unbelievable for Casoni. "It's insane. Totally insane. It's just this cultural phenomenon and it shocks me daily," he said.

Casoni then talked about some more of the upcoming comics that will be coming out through Oni. Brandon Graham's series "Multiple Warheads" is going to start featuring beautiful pastel coloring, and Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt's "The Damned" will be returning with a three-part miniseries called "Daughter's Dance."

Jim Massey's series "The Maintenance," however, is temporarily on hiatus as Massey is taking a break from cartooning to focus on fatherhood, since he recently adopted two children.

And while it may seem that many of Oni's announcements were related to color appearing in the pages of their typically black-and-white books, Casoni wanted to emphasize that - in keeping with Oni's idiosyncratic approach - it does not necessarily mean that the publisher is moving towards having color in all or most of their titles. Even though the cost of printing in color has gone down, the decision is still always based on the material itself. "It we get an idea, and if color works for it, then we'll do it," Casoni said.

Casoni also brought up one of the other ways in which Oni Press remains distinct from the larger comic publishers: "We really do have something for everyone, except superheroes. Not having superheroes is intentional. We like to explore other genres."

Naifeh added that Oni has "a certain identity, but it's a much broader identity [than other companies]." The illustrator and author wanted to leave the panel attendees with a sense for what makes Oni Press a unique and laudable publisher - "It bridges the gap between art house books and mainstream books."

Casoni gave out some free comics to three lucky fans before the panel officially wrapped.

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