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IMAGE EXPO: Aaron, Johnston, Flores & More Discuss Upcoming Titles

Following Publisher Eric Stephenson's Image Expo keynote address and presentation, creators Jason Aaron, Chynna Clugston Flores, Shane Davis, Michelle Delecki, Brian Haberlin and Antony Johnston met with fans at the Yerba Buena Center of the Arts in San Francisco to discuss their newly announced Image Comics series.

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The forum was briskly paced, opening with Flores talking about her musical tastes. Flores, who announced earlier in the day that her "Blue Monday" and "Scooter Girl" will now be published through the Northern California-based Image Comics, expressed her affinity for a wide range of musical genres. "I just put music into my comics because I saw 'Love and Rockets' do it, and Evan Dorkin, and I thought I could do it, too. It seemed to work."

Pointing out that "Blue Monday" is titled in reference to New Order's dance floor thumper of the same name.

"I like song titles, and I like ripping off song titles," she joked.

Creators and married couple Davis and Delecki discussed their upcoming series, "Axcend." The series protagonist evolves into a living weapon, and eventually, an epic nuclear holocaust reaches a global level. Davis expressed that the story was born out of the perception that violence in video games leads to violence in the real world. "I thought that there's a story with how some people have a problem knowing where reality and fantasy begins and ends," Davis said. "I thought there's a real tragic story there, with an adult or a kid who can't distinguish that, or doesn't care enough."

In terms of Davis and Delecki's work dynamic, Davis was playfully tongue and cheek. "I'm writing it and drawing it," he said. "She's usually criticizing it and inking it."

IMAGE EXPO EXCLUSIVE: Shane Davis, Michelle Delecki Talk Gaming Gods & Troubled Teens in "Axcend"

Johnston spoke with much zeal about his newest project, "Codename: Baboushkka." Co-created with artist Shari Chankhamma, the series offers a new wrinkle to the spy genre, described with the pitch, "What if the sexy, Russian femme fatale was actually the hero?"

Johnston elaborated on his fondness for spy stories, recalling his younger days in the United Kingdom. "There's a grand tradition that on every holiday, there would be a Bond movie on TV. For many years, we only had, like, three channels, so chances are you were watching a Bond movie. That's why there's this whole generation of English who grew up watching and loving Bond movies."

Explaining that the James Bond character transcends generations, Johnston relayed his vision of creating a character that can do something similar. "With 'Baboushkka', it was about making a character in that mold, that I felt could be compelling, and could endure through a series of stories for, hopefully, many years to come." The twist on the sometimes-marginalized femme fatale is a very deliberate one, he explained. "This idea that that type of character is someone that could be the lead of a series."

Johnston said that the new project is a chance to switch gears from a creative standpoint, as well. "I've done the cerebral type of story, but I specifically wanted to do something more pulpy, more fun -- if you call stories with snapping peoples' necks fun."

During Haberlin's keynote presentation, where he unveiled his and artist Skip Brittenham new project, a space adventure titled "Faster Than Light," Haberlin let his main character do almost all of the talking. Literally, via a short, animated video featuring his main character speaking to the audience in a "Captain's Log" sequence.

At the panel, Haberlin, a "Trekkie" in every sense, professed his love for the franchise, and acknowledged that the animated video had some obvious nods to "Star Trek," pointing to his experience ghost-writing an episode of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine."

Haberlin drew parallels between how he feels about the original "Star Trek" films and "Star Trek: The Next Generation," with how he has approached "Faster Than Light." "I loved the original 'Star Trek' films because they get into trouble because of their hubris and action. Jim Kirk would go, 'Okay, let's do it! Let's go!' said Haberlin. "What I hated about 'Next Generation' was it always was, 'What do you think we should do?' And then they got into trouble because they didn't do anything."

In the end, the core approach Haberlin is taking to "Faster Than Light" is, "we get ourselves into trouble, and it's up to us to get ourselves out."

When it came time to describe "The Goddamned," Aaron, an Alabama native, pointed to his upbringing Southern roots, having grown up attending a Southern Baptist church each Sunday. "As I've gotten older, I've lost the faith part of the equation, but I'm still fascinated by the story part of it. I've always been fascinated by the stories in religion. I lost the faith, but not the story behind it."

After about a decade of work and development on the project, Aaron finally found a home for it at Image, where he's reuniting with his "Scalped" cohort, R. M. Guera.

"It's a straight take on the creationist view of the world. The world is thousands years old, not millions. Dinosaurs are running around with man. It's a stark and brutal take. If you believe the story, it was a stark and brutal world," he said of the series' premise. "The subject matter and setting may be surprising, but it's still a crime book. It's biblical noir. Take out the guns, and give them sharpened rock."

A fan made it a point to thank Aaron for donating proceeds of the variant cover for "Southern Bastards #10" to the victims of the shooting massacre in Charleston, South Carolina. "[Jason Latour and I] do a book called 'Southern Bastards,' so it felt like something we needed to address, in terms of all controversy about the confederate flag," Aaron said, noting that it felt appropriate considering the interior of the issue focuses on the character of Esaw, who has the word "Rebel" tattooed on his neck. "We had the dog tearing up the confederate flag on the cover with 'Death to the flag. Long live the South,' on it and give to a worthwhile charity."

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