NYCC: Wildstorm

At last weekend's New York Comic Con, Hank Kanalz, Vice President and General Manager of Wildstorm, led and informative and occasionally raucous panel spotlighting the DC Comics imprint's releases for the coming year, and discussed the fallout from the recent apocalyptic events across the Wildstorm line. Joining Kanalz were the writer and artist of "Mysterius The Unfathomable," Jeff Parker and Tom Fowler, respectively; writer of "Resistance" Mike Costa; "WildCats" writer Christos Gage and artist Neil Googe; editor Ben Abernathy; and the head of Wildstorm, hugely popular illustrator Jim Lee.

Kanalz started off with "WildCats", urging Gage & Christos to share their plans for the title in the coming months. Gage revealed that issue #8 would be focus on Ladytron and be drawn by Pete Woods. He described it as "a kind of Mad Max story only with a female lead cyborg." Issue #9 will start gathering threads in the running conflict between Spartan and Majestic, with everything leading to issue #12. "Things get worse" after that, Gage assured.

Ben Abernathy was then tasked with discussing "The Authority," as series writers Andy Lanning and Dan Abnett were waylaid in the UK due to the recent weather problems. He described the post-apocalypse Authority as "humbled." "They're simultaneously trying to rebuild their shattered world and their shattered team." He also hinted that a particularly Asian nemesis from the Authority's Warren Ellis-written past would be making a big comeback, clearly intimating a return for Kaizen Gamorra.

Abernathy said Gen13 were trapped in a time loop after the recent apocalypse, and are now trying to get from New York City to the town of Tranquility, the only place they imagine to be safe after these cataclysmic events. This is of course the setting of Gail Simone's "Welcome To Tranquility."

Kanalz then touched on the reprinting of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' seminal "Point Blank" and "Sleeper" series. "Sleeper's" two volumes will be collected in one omnibus-sized book. Kanalz then told the audience that the movie adaptation of the book, featuring Tom Cruise, is still coming. It was then noted that fans of Tao from "Sleeper" should look forward to a backup story featuring the character running through all of Wildstorm's titles in the coming months.

Kanalz talked about Wildstorm's creator-owned titles, starting with the ongoing "Ex Machina" by Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris, which is entering its final issues this year. There will be an upcoming one-shot special with art by John Paul Leon releasing in March.

Jeff Parker and Tom Fowler then discussed their title, "Mysterius The Unfathomable." Parker assured the audience, "If you look really deeply in the comic book, you'll see that Stormwatch, The Authority, even The Monarchy and Gen13 all kind of culminates in our book, 'Mysterius The Unfathomable.'" He chuckled, "But you've really gotta read closely." Parker described the world of the book as one where really successful magicians actually do have connections to the supernatural. Fowler described Mysterius as "Doctor Who if he was magic and an asshole."

Kanalz then revealed a new title called "Killapalooza" by Adam Beechen and Trevor Hairsine. Editor Abernathy explained that the title was about the best band in the world, who moonlights as the best team of assassins in the world. After a big gig at Madison Square Garden, the band "must go out and shoot dudes." The art, by "Captain America" and "X-Men" vet Hairsine, looked fantastic.

Before Kanalz moved on, it was briefly noted that "Astro City: The Dark Ages" would begin its third volume in 2009.

He then opened up the discussion about the imprint's extensive licensed material. First up was "Fringe," written by Mike Johnson with art by Tom Mandrake. The book promises to have a unique take on the television series, as each issue is split into two stories. One will involve the early years of John Bishop and William Bell's experiments, and the second depicts the modern day repercussions of those experiments. Kanalz noted the series was worked on with input by two writers on the show, and that as the first season progressed, the two projects influenced each other. According to Kanalz, the comic team created the look of the iconic and mysterious "Bald Man In A Suit," who has appeared in the background of many episodes of "Fringe."

Jim Lee then discussed "Gears Of War," describing it as part of an unofficial initiative Wildstorm has been "quietly" undertaking. He described Wildstorm as filled with gamers who love the medium and found that many in the game industry felt the same way about comics. Video game licenses have been broadening Wildstorm's market, as they can now sell books in game stores. Lee also said that working on books with the input of many game makers has been a rewarding experience.

For issue #9 of "Gears of War," Lee will be providing a cover that introduces a new character that he promised would be "unexpected" to fans of the game series. While the first storyline of the series bridges the stories of the two games, issues #6 and #7 tell the back-story of Tai, a character from "Gears Of War 2." It will be drawn by perfectly suited legend Simon Bisley.

Abernathy then discussed Wildstorm's "Resident Evil" comics, having recently regained the license. They will be introducing two new characters to the game's mythos. Rick Sanchez will write the story with art by Kevin Sharpe.

Wildstorm will also be reprinting the "Fire And Ice" series that features art by Lee Bermejo, Carlos D'Anda, and Jim Lee.

Mike Costa discussed his "Resistance" comics, with his series also bridging the gap between the first game and the second. Ramon Perez is providing the artwork, and the comics will feature a backup story directly linking to the upcoming PSP game "Resistance: Retribution." Costa is working directly with the writer of that game.

Kanalz briefly discussed Wildstorm's "World Of Warcraft" comics as continuing to be lore-centric and that the company enjoys filling out details that are only hinted at in the game. This brought them to Blizzard Entertainment's other property, "Starcraft." Writer Simon Furman and artist Federico Dallocchio will tell the story of a new team of mercs who are tasked with assassinating Jim Raynor.

"Prototype," based on the Activision video game, will be written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray with art by Darick Robertson. Again, the team is working closely with the studio behind the game, and the comic book will flesh out what happens before the events in the game. The first issue features a cover by Jim Lee.

Before turning it over to the audience for questions, Mark Bernardin briefly took the stage to discuss the recently completed "Push" series, a prelude to the movie. The book delves into the beginnings of the entity "Division. " Bernardin described the book only as "better than the movie."

The first question asked was whether Wildstorm would ever pursue a Warhammer license. Kanalz said that it "would be cool."

When asked if any "Number Of The Beast" characters would be returning, Abernathy said "they'll be hanging around" and said they weren't just throwaway characters.

When asked about the final issue of "Planetary," Abernathy assured the skeptical audience that it would be out "this year." When pressed about any of the characters from that book showing up in other Wildstorm titles, the panel said it's a "possibility," but that they would prefer Warren Ellis' involvement, and his current Marvel exclusivity made that impossible for the time being.

A "Welcome To Tranquility" fan was told there would be a new series "hopefully this year."

When asked if The Doctor would be coming back to the Wildstorm Universe, Abernathy said the current state of affairs would seem to imply a great need for one, but that The Authority would have to find him.

A "Divine Right" fan was assured the team would be coming back soon, and Christos Gage added said readers should pick up next week's "Gen13" and "Stormwatch" the week after to learn more.

Kanalz assured a questioner that there is a "100% Chance" that Wildstorm will release a "pre-lore" story for "World Of Warcraft."

The panel was then asked about a return of solo books to the line. Kanalz revealed that there was "a very real possibility," but that the theme of the titles right now was rooted in community.

When asked if the "Resident Evil" comics would tie-in to the upcoming PS3 and 360 game, "Resident Evil 5," Kanalz clarified that no, they would not. They tie-in slightly to the game's story, but do not contain protagonists Chris and Sheva.

Asked if Wildstorm would ever return to the kind of publishing ethos that led to titles like "Automatic Kafka" and "The Intimates," Jim Lee said he's always looking for those sorts of titles and that it was one of the reasons he was at NYCC, to meet with those kinds of creators.

Lee was asked about his "WildCats" book with Grant Morrison. The artist admitted to "over-committing," but that the project would be coming when their schedules allowed it. He looked forward to seeing it as a collected edition and having the story appreciated as such.

When asked for more details about the "Welcome To Tranquility" sequel, it was revealed that Gail Simone will be writing the book with art by Horacio Domingues.

The final question was whether "World's End" started with Morrison's run on "WildCats" and "The Authority," and if the current apocalyptic storyline was the planned result. Abernathy answered that it was "pretty much planned" to turn out this way. And with that, the panel was closed.

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