Avatar Press Publisher and Editor-in-Chief William Christensen was joined by writers Max Brooks, Justin Jordan, Si Spurrier, Mike Costa and Kieron Gillen to talk about their many projects ranging from "Dark Gods" and "Disenchanted" to "Uber" and "Extinction Parade," plus new projects from the world of Garth Ennis' "Crossed" projects.
Christensen began by talking with Jordan, one of the newest writers to take on the "Crossed" universe. "My arc on 'Crossed' was about maintaining hope and faith," Jordan said. "I wanted to see what would happen to someone who has a faith in god and somebody that was genuine and a good person and see how they would react."
Jordan also wrote a new "Crossed" special set at the beginning of the outbreak and takes place in a prison. "A number of fairly loathsome characters having to go up against people much worse than they are," Jordan said of wanting to tell a "Crossed" story in a claustrophobic environment.
Jordan's other Avatar project is an original one, "Dark Gods" The basic premise is that there is a primordial chaos before the universe existed that we can't describe but it still exists and seeps into the universe through the gods people worship.
Christensen said one of the book's unique eements is how the art changes in each issue with flashbacks and other fully-painted scenes. "There's a main narrative but we go back to the beginning of the universe and there are side stories," Jordan explained. "It's an opportunity to do a different kind of storytelling than what I've done before in comics."
Spurrier recently finished his own "Crossed" story, "Wish You Were Here," which was released as a webcomic before it was collected in multiple trade paperbacks. "The basic idea was I wanted to tell a story that didn't involve small groups of survivors on the move staying one step ahead," Spurrier said of his story, which took place in an established community following the outbreak.
To make the story personal for himself and readers, Spurrier opted to write himself into the story. "I didn't feel I could write this transgressive horror comic unless I was being honest, so I wrote myself into the story. The central character in the beginning is a version of myself," Spurrier explained. "There's a scene where the character is sitting in a coffee shop writing comics as the outbreak starts and I was sitting in that coffee shop writing that scene."
Spurrier was clearly excited about his current webcomics project, "Disenchanted," which is online at disenchantedcomic.com about creatures from European folklore who didn't disappear but took over an abandoned London underground station. "It's 'The Borrowers' meet 'The Wire,'" he explained, with these tiny characters engaging in magic warfare and drugs and interspecies relationships. "It's very grown up stuff masquerading as silly stuff," he said.
Christensen explained that they made an entire map of the world of "Disenchanted" which can be found online where people can zoom in and go crazy with it.
When the conversation turned to Mike Costa, he joked that he stole the premise of "God is Dead" from Justin Jordan. "All the gods from antiquity and mythology and as many pantheons as possible have all returned to Earth and a wage a war with each other," he said, "and they kind of destroy the world." Costa said this with a laugh, but readers know he wasn't being hyperbolic.
"At issue #6 we blew up the whole world, so it has been a very interesting storytelling challenge to continue to up the stakes," Costa said. "It's been fun."
Christensen added that there are two issues of "God is Dead," "Alpha" and "Omega," where Costa reveals one of the big secrets of the series and which also include short stories from others including Jordan, Gillen, Spurrier and Alan Moore.
Turning to Kieron Gillen and "Uber," the series recently reached issue #18, and with 60 issues planned there's still quite a way to go. Gillen described "Uber" as a take on superheroes, but it's much more of a war comic. "It's fundamentally, what if Nazi Germany had the bomb?" and described the birth of metahumans from research done during World War II.
"We're heading toward what's going to be a spy war," Gillen said of upcoming issues. "We go to an arc called 'The Great Burn' where people die. Then in the next arc even more people die."
Christensen spoke about "Crossed: +100" from writer Alan Moore and artist Gabriel Andrade, telling the crowd how much respect he has for Moore's work and his process. "It takes places one hundred years after the original outbreak and he has outlined everything that happened in the hundred years we don't see," Christensen said. Moore has thought out characters' family trees, their beliefs, how that affected the way they raised their children, how different cultures emerged. "It seems like wasted effort because none of it goes on the page, but it affects all these tiny aspects which make Alan look so brilliant."
"I just read issue #5 and was talking to him. He likes some of the characters and feels bad at what happens to them in issue #6," Christensen said. "If you've never read 'Crossed' before, there's nothing you need to know about it before '+100.' It's going to be something special."
Christensen then turned to Brooks to talk about "Extinction Parade," which he described as a zombie outbreak as told through the eyes of vampires.
Brooks explained how in life our weaknesses turn out to be our strengths and spoke about his own challenges with dyslexia. He said he was forced to work twice as hard to do half as well, but it taught him to be resilient and more prepared for life. For those who have never had anything bad happen, they can't figure out solutions to their problems. "That's vampires," he said.
The series is about how zombies represent an existential crisis for vampires. Zombies are eating their food source out form under them and they don't know how to fight or how to come together because of bad parenting -- Father Time and Mother Nature. "When the zombies start to rise initially, they don't care. It's a curiosity. When human society starts to collapse, they're relieved," Brooks said explaining his take on vampires and describing that as act one of the book, which has just entered its second act. "War is making them realize their limitations," Brooks explained.
"Instead of developing their own fighting skills and styles, they borrow from humans. They think, whatever humans do they can do better, but they're in for a shock at the end of Act Two. We'll see what happens in Act Three. If you like vampires, you won't like this," Brooks said with a smile.
Spurrier admitted that he is working on another "Crossed" project that's been plotted out but he can't talk about yet. "Increasingly when I think about 'Crossed,' I'm thinking about lateral applications," was all that he would say.
"Everybody has a couple good "Crossed" stories in them," Christensen said, "but it's a struggle to keep coming up with a fresh take on the series." That's why Avatar keeps recruiting new writers, explaining how excited he was about Max Bemis' upcoming "Crossed" story.
One fan asked Gillen about where "Uber" was going and he described issues #13-28 as the second movement of the book, again mentioning "The Great Burn," which he said "removes all the fun from the game."
Christensen closed the panel by mentioning that "Crossed: +100" comes out in December and Alan Moore's next project, "Providence," will be coming out in May. "It is a stunning piece of work," Christensen said of the book, which encompasses Moore's thoughts on horror and H.P. Lovecraft. "It's a stunning piece of literature and I'm thrilled to be a part of it."
Spurrier has read the scripts and compared the project to "From Hell," describing it as brilliant and "there are moments that will be spoken of for a long time to come." Gillen described the book as important, which Christensen seconded, adding "there's less wholesale slaughter than all the other books we're talking about."
"Sometimes you read a book and you think, 'What a fraud,'" Brooks said. "You read Alan Moore and you think, 'Wow, he deserves his legendary status.'"
Stay tuned to CBR News for more on Avatar's upcoming projects.