Late Saturday afternoon saw a very special Devil's Due panel as they gathered to sum up what their plans are for this year. The audience gathered in the auditorium was different from the usual convention crowd: for one thing: there were far more woman and teenage girls than you would normally expect at a panel that didn't involve manga. There was a particular reason for that: Hollywood was in the house. Specifically "HEROES" star Milo Ventimiglia was in the house following the announcement on Friday that he and his producing partner Russ Cundiff were working with Devil's Due to publish his new comic series "REST".
Before Ventimiglia and Cundiff were introduced, the stage was taken first by the Devil's Due crew: Josh Blaylock, Stephen Christy, writer Mark Powers and writer-artist Tim Seeley. Ventimiglia of course drew the most applause.
The first part of the panel was given to announcements for the expansion of Devil Due's publishing plans in 2008.
The panel kicked off with a HACK/SLASH announcement: the popular title would get its annual in July. Apart from the script by Tim Seeley, he would also be drawing his own story for the first time since LOVE BUNNY & MR. HELL. "Murder/Suicide". The other big announcement was that the annual would guest-star The Suicide Girls. To kick off the annual, the first five pages are now online, with new page posted every weekday until the story reaches its end.
There was a slide of a Mercy Sparkx tattoo to promote the upcoming comic by Josh Blaylock.
July would see the publication of VOLTRON: A LEGEND FORGED, written by Josh Blaylock with art by Mike Bear. It would cover the origin of Voltron, which drew applause from the fans in the audiences how grew up on the series or have been catching up on it through the DVD.
This April will also see the publication of THE NYE INCIDENTS, a graphic novel about alien abduction from a story by Whitley Strieber, with the script by horror novelist Craig Spector, with art by Guus Flood.
The DRAFTED vol. 1 is a trade paperback that collects the series' first story arc, where aliens arrive on Earth, Jerusalem is destroyed and the human race is urged to initiate a draft to have enough troops to fight an intergalactic war.
July will also see the release of SPOOKS: OMEGA TEAM #0, written LARRY HAMA, art by Adam Archer, July 2008. The story about a cover ops team battling the supernatural is based on an idea by fantasy novelist RA Salvatore.
HALLOWEEN: NIGHTDANCE #4, the final issue of the miniseries based on the movie franchise created by John Carpenter, will be written by Stefan Hutchinson, drawn by Tim Seeley, and will feature cover by fan favorite Ben Templesmith.
POGROM, writer Matthew Tomao and artist Josh Medors' series about a man groomed to fight an apocalyptic war continues its 7-issue run.
The company will also be working with TINY TITANS creators Art Baltazar & Franco Aureialano to publish their new chibli humor project "NINJA TOWN", with tie-in merchandising like Vinyl figures, toys, a journal, Geeky Ninja merchandise, as well as Golden age Sheena,
Then the panel finally got to what the audience had come to hear about: "REST".
The comic series is a collaboration between Ventimiglia and Cundliff's company Divide Pictures and with Devil's Due. Ventimiglia and Cundiff's agent Michael Solokoff from the William Morris Agency had brought them and Devil's Due together to discuss the possibility of working together on possible comics projects. "REST" was based on a screenplay by Michael Sulluivan, about a pill that keeps people asleep , at their peak so they would be able to do more in their lives. But what happens when you can no longer sleep or dream? The story would deal with the chaos that ensued, and one man's struggle while on the drug, his tumult and downfall as he tries to save himself and the world.
Ventimiglia and Cundliff first met with Stephen Christie, who showed them the comics Devil's Due had brought out. It was the DRAFTED 99 cent preview issue that first caught the actor's eye. Ventimiglia was hooked. As for Cundiff,..
"Russ said it melted his head." Ventimiglia reported happily. They were blown away by the comic.
Mark Powers then expressed interest in writing the comic book version of "REST". The eal was done. Ventimiglia spend the next few minutes hyping DRAFTED and encouraged everyone in the room to read it.
"When I was shown the screenplay," said Powers. "I hoped it was good so I wouldn't have to pretend it was good. Fortunately it was. I totally related to it. Big element of wish-fulfillment in it. What could we do with extra time? What could we accomplish? It's not really going to be all good. Bad things come of it too. I felt what this guy feels. I think it's a great idea."
"I've been a big comic fan for a long time, ever since I was a kid." Said Ventimiglia. "My dad brought me to the store all the time."
The decision to work with Devil's Due came out of a conversation with his agent Steven Solokoff. At the time, Hollywood was on strike, but comic books were exempt from the strike, so it became a way to do some project development without falling fowl of the Writers' Guild of America's rules.
In "RESTED", John Barrett is overworked, doesn't have time, he's a guy that's out of shape, wants a better life but doesn't know how to get that. He has to do due diligence for his job. You're on the road, your mind isn't as sharp. He comes in contact with this experimental drug. Then his life changes. Drastically.
"I don't take any drugs, but the question is, would this benefit society or bring about its downfall? It's about the balance of time. But what do you sacrifice? I don't sleep much myself. I get about between two and four hours a night... If I got an extra four, I'd really enjoy it."
"This is a project they're incredibly passionate about," said Powers. â€¨These guys are gonna take over the world in a few years. When you guys pitched it to me, I just said, "DONE!" It was that good. We've been working on this for six months. It's great to finally tell all you guys we're doing this now."
"We're doing a 99 cent special, so it's cheap. I want you to order ten copies each. Then we're doing a four issue miniseries that we're collecting into a trade paperback."
"It's one of the best SF stories I"ve ever read." Said Ventimiglia.
Then the panel was opened to questions from the audience.
"Who do you think REST is going to appeal to?"
"Being a fan of comics, and being a guy on the production end, it's just a story anyone can identify with," said Ventimiglia. "Who wouldn't want extra hours in the day? There's a lotta reasons you can relate to this.
Powers: if you like SF, if you like good art, if you have a crush on Milo.."
A fan asked Tim Seeley who was writingHack/Slash movie.â€¨â€¨"Justin Marks, the Voltron screenwriter, is adapting it now," said Seeley. "He gets the characters. They hope to have an announcement at SDCC. Rogue Pictures will be producing."
A fan asked what comics Ventimiglia read as a kid, giving him a chance to prove his geek credentials.
"Submariner, not Aquaman. He's a little tougher. Batman. Russ liked Ape vs. Woman, 1967 DC. I like Ralph Snart. Ninja Turtles. I liked it all."
Ventimiglia was prompted by a fan to comment on setting REST in New York City and other locations.
"I grew up in Southern California," Ventimiglia answered. "I always appreciated the feet-on-the-ground feeling you get in New York."
Did the hero of "REST" have a family?"He does have a family, but not one he created," said Ventimiglia. "He has a mother he sees sparingly. The actual clinical study of the drug, very few people know about it."
"What are you guys bringing that Sci Fi and Virgin aren't?" asked an audience member, referencing the Sci Fi Channel and Virgin Comics' deal to create new comic series with potential to become TV series, and the latter's campaign to work with actors and directors to create comics as possible movie franchises. â€¨"Milo," said Powers. " They (meaning Ventimigila and Cundiff) understand comics. We deal with a lot of Hollywood people. These guys are by far the best we've worked with. All of us are a team on this."
"That's why we're bringing this project and not others." Said Josh Blaylock.
When a woman asked why comics were exempt from the strike, this prompted a brief discussion about the intricacies of WGA rules. Comics were publishing and fell outside the jurisdiction of the WGA. A comics adaptation of a TV show, however, might not have been exempt, but this did not apply to "REST".
"If you were writing a comics script, you'd be okay." Said Ventimiglia.
Someone asked if "REST" would become a movie or TV series in the future.
"Let's focus on making this a good book before it's a good movie," said Ventimigila. " Our goal is to make it a kick-ass comic. If it turns out to be as great a book as we want it to be, then there could be a TV series or a movie later."
When asked what he would be doing to help promote the sales of "REST", Ventimiglia quipped, "I'm going around to every single comic shop and selling it myself. I've got a stack in the trunk of my car."
Both Ventimiglia and Cundiff declared their support for independent content outside of mainstream Hollywyood. "We also go into independent movies, independent movies, independent art, so anything that's good, we will support."
"is it difficult to translate a movie story into a comic?" Asked a fan.
"No, it's pretty easy, " said Ventimiglia. "We could have turned this into a novel. We can turn stories into any kind of medium to get it out there."
"If the character can't dream, what drives him?" asked another audience member.
"I was hoping that's what's intriguing about the character," said Ventimiglia. "If you can't dream, what have you got to look forward to? It's not always a good thing."
Someone asked the inevitable question: "How do you feel about getting your own action figure?"
"Pretty stoked. I've got two. I stopped at the Mesco stand yesterday and I just stared at it. I just said, "That's me!" And the Mesco people just said, "Yeah."
"It's pretty cool to be an action figure. And a lunchbox too, but no thermos." He added with a hint of disappointment.
Powers confirmed that "REST" will be a 4-issue series with the 99 cent issue, so it would be 4.5 issues in total.
Someone had to comment that "Powers" was an awesome name.
Someone else asked if there was a superhero aspect to the plot.
"That question's definitely come up with all of us," said Ventimiglia.
"it's definitely more of a grounded story." Said Powers
"Imagine Batman," said Ventimiglia. "He has no powers."
"It's like a guy who dreams of being an artist," continued Powers. "But finds he never gets to realize that dream. But one day he finds something much bigger, and something to fight for."
"What's the hero's job?" another fan asked.
"He works in a pharmaceutical company," said Ventimiglia. "But that's not how he gets the drug."
"Do you prefer writing comics or making films?"
"I love all aspects of what I do," said Ventimiglia. "I enjoy working on HEROES. I enjoy doing features. It's the work. Adding another part ot who I am is joining Devil's Due and making a comic. I'm appreciating it all."
"Russ is a lucid dreamer. He thinks all this is real. Somebody give him a hot dog."
"How old are you?" asked a fan.
"What's your Craziest dream?"
"I have a lot of recurring ones. A lot of them have monsters and demons that chase me but they never catch me. No, it's not because I'm cool. Trust me, I'm not cool."
"How can you be Italian and vegetarian?" asked a woman from Queens loudly and with a great slathering of incredulity.
"My father is 100% Sicilian and he's been vegetarian for nearly four years," said Ventimiglia. "I know some East Coast vegetarians. It was something I was born into, so for me it's my lifestyle."
When asked which hero he related to most, Peter Petrelli from "HEROES" or John Barrett from "REST", Ventimiglia answered that they both represented a different aspect of him, with the latter's predicament being particularly intriguing.
"If you don't sleep for six months or a year, how can it positively or negatively affect you, or not?"
Another fan asked if he read SF outside of comics.
"Like Stephen Hawking?" joked Ventimiglia. "When I was a teenager, I used to check out all the Star Wars book. This guy (Cundliff) was a huge star wars fan. He used to think he was Luke Skywalker."
The panel ended not with a final question, but a "good luck" from a little boy who was obviously a fan of "HEROES".
Now discuss this story in CBR's Independent Comics forum.