IMAGE EXPO: Snyder, Willingham, Gillen and More Discuss Their New Series

UPDATE 1/10/2014 3:15 PM PT: A previous version of the second paragraph this article contained an erroneous description of "Wytches," and has since been corrected.

Image Comics' one-day Image Expo continues Thursday afternoon with "I is for Incognito: Special Session with Surprise Guests," a panel with the show's surprise guests -- Scott Snyder, Bill Willingham, Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Kyle Higgins and Chris Burnham -- discussing their newly announced projects, with Image publisher Eric Stephenson serving as moderator.

Snyder begins with discussing his reasons to bring new horror series "Wytches" to Image, and reflected on his prior experience at the publisher, as co-writer of 2011 miniseries "Severed." "["Severed"]'s a horror book that takes place in 1916. Jerry Bruckheimer is not rushing to make that movie." Still, he says, Stephenson and his team were energized by that idea, which helped convince Snyder that Image was the right place for "Wytches," which is set in the present day.

"I love working at DC, I genuinely do," Snyder adds. "But it's great to have something completely your own, and have nobody looking over it."

Willingham says he was "spoiled" by creator-owned experiences early in his career, and is excited to be back in that world with "Restoration." Higgins expresses enthusiasm for entering the creator-owned world for the first time with "C.O.W.L.," based on his short film "The League." Burnham briefly talks the Grant Morrison-written "Nameless;" all three projects were announced earlier in the day.

Stephenson asks about writing full script versus other methods; Gillen says he uses mostly full script, but something of a hybrid with artists, like McKelvie, that he knows well. Higgins says he also uses a hybrid, and finds the "Marvel Method" tends to create twice as much work for him. "I write full script, but tend to panel very little," Snyder says. "It's very spelled out as a script, but I hate directing. I hate saying 'close up on.'" Willingham says 98 percent of his output is full script.

Higgins asks Stephenson how he approaches the writing of his book, "Nowhere Men." "We started off doing it as plot then script, then gradually became full script as I got more finicky about stuff."

First fan question asks if the Jock-illustrated "Wytches" will have a protagonist. Indeed it will: "The first arc is about a young father whose daughter experience a traumatic incident in the woods," Snyder answers, saying the book has a cold open that will leave readers saying, "I can't believe they did that."

How closely does "C.O.W.L." follow from "The League"? Higgins says he and co-writer Alec Siegel consider the short film a "trial run" for the comic series at this point. A lot of the characters from the short film are 1:1 translations, but others are combined. "The book's kind of 'inspired by' more than anything."

What's the visual influence of "The Wicked & The Divine"? "We have a style blog with any influences or fashion we want to bring into the book," McKelvie replies. Gillen says he's also posted a Spotify playlist of music that inspires the series. (Here's the blog; Spotify playlist here.)

Next fan question asks how the panel draws the line between "self-confidence and self-hatred." "I generally don't like anything I've ever drawn completely, but I think that's a good thing," McKelvie says. "I think there is no line," Willingham adds. "They're in continuous battle. They're always locked together."

"When I'm drawing, it's just a constant stream of horrible words I'm shouting at myself," Burnham says.

An aspiring artist asks about breaking in. Willingham answers that it's not necessarly about "breaking in" anymore. "There are still the gatekeepers," Willingham tells the audience member. "But the gates they're guarding have been busted open. With the technology we have now, there's nothing to keep you from doing comics. If you want to do comics, you can do comics." Willingham points to Karl Kerschl's webcomic "The Abominable Charles Christopher" as an example of what is possible.

The next question concerned how Higgins started writing comics, after starting his career as a filmmaker. Higgins says he doesn't seem himself as a "novel guy," but screenwriting and comics made sense to him. He still wants to direct -- "There may be something related to that pretty soon here" -- but he'll always write comics.

A fan asked Snyder how he makes a horror truly scary without resorting to "gore porn." Snyder says it's about not being afraid of putting your own anxieties into the story. "You have to be OK putting the ugliest things about yourself on the page."

At the end of the panel, Stephenson asks the creators what they're most excited Gillen: "It's something new. Just incredibly, incredibly new. That's incredibly exciting." McKelvie: "The character designs. I'm having so much fun with that right now." Burnham: "I'm just looking forward to the challenge of drawing things that can't be drawn." Higgins: "Playing against expectations. It's superheroes, but it has more in line with the teamsters of the '60s than the Justice League. Also for people to see Rod Reis' artwork, because I think he's going to be really big." Snyder: "I'm crazy excited to work with Jock again. And just to be as scary as we can be." Willingham: "I tend to always kill off the villains and the heroes -- I did this in 'Fables' -- early on, then tend to find out that I regret doing that. This time, we're actually starting out with that as a template. The first story arc starts with a cast of thousands that is winnowed down. At the end of the arc, whoever's left over, we're going to see the story through their eyes. I have no idea if that plan will work, but we'll see."

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