Milkfed Managing Editor Lauren Sankovitch sat down before a small but crowded panel room at Comic-Con International in order to discuss the goings on at Kelly Sue DeConnick and Matt Fraction's Milkfed Criminal Masterminds Inc and their upcoming releases with special guests Gabriel Ba, Fabian Moon, Chip Zdarsky and Bill Sienkiewicz.
Greeting the crowd, DeConnick described Milkfed Criminal Masterminds as the business endeavor she started with her husband and fellow comic creator. Due to an ill family member, Fraction himself was unable to attend the panel, though he did attempt to appear over Skype, albeit unsuccessfully. "You all sounded like hellraisers," Fraction got in before he signed off for good.
As executive assistant Kit Cox tried to connect with Fraction via Skype, fellow comic creator Brian Michael Bendis entered from the back of the auditorium with a birthday cake, as DeConnick's birthday is coming up on July 15. "That is so sweet," DeConnick said after she blew out the candles. "Except for the part where it says I'm 61."
"You look good!" an attendee called from the back, to the audience's delight.
After failed Skype reconnection attempts and the birthday surprise, DeConnick introduced Sankovich, Cox, Ba, Moon and Zdarsky to the audience.
"Kit and I share an office," DeConnick said, recounting a story about how the two labeled their workspace the "Fun" office until Fraction pointed out that a truly fun office wouldn't need to label itself as such. "We've decided that we're the #Feels office," she concluded.
Sankovitch pulled up a presentation she created for the panel, and DeConnick ran through a list of Milkfed's major players. Majordomo Wendy Klein, who was not in attendance, got an honorable mention with DeConnick describing her as the person who holds the office together by running all the crucial errands.
The next slide presented all the titles currently in motion from the Milkfed team, including "Casanova," "Pretty Deadly," "ODY-C," "Sex Criminals" and "Satellite Sam." DeConnick also teased her upcoming book with Sienkiewicz, "Parisian White," though she didn't offer very many details about the book itself.
"'Bitch Planet' is speculative fiction, a feminist riff of the exploitation films of the 1960s," DeConnick explained as she tabbed to the next slide. She called its fifth issue a "downer note," promising however, "it's going to be okay." She pulled up a teaser image from Valentine DeLandro, the artist on the book, which featured the Megaton lineup from the upcoming issue.
Next, Sankovitch pulled up a slide for "Casanova: Acedia" from Fraction and Moon. Sankovitch revealed that the book would be back shortly and that the third issue was headed to the printer before announcing that Michael Chabon and Gabriel Ba will provide backup tales. Ba will also guest artist on every fourth issue of the series.
"You keep trying to make books that are experimental... We're still trying to make sense of 'Casanova,'" Ba said, before joking, "At the end of 'Casanova,' everyone who reads the issue will die."
"I brought presents for Kelly Sue," he added, pulling out a family portrait he had done of the Fraction and DeConnick's family.
"I'm going to cry," DeConnick said.
"I brought you a gift, too," Zdarsky chimed in, offering up his personal case as a joke. "It's a Garfield container with half a penis cookie left. Happy birthday?"
After the gift exchange, Sienkiewicz admitted that he felt guilty he hadn't known it was her birthday, and therefore hadn't brought her a gift himself. "Your presence here is gift enough," DeConnick assured him.
As "ODY-C" came onto the screen, DeConnick pointed out an Odyssia cosplayer in the audience. The cosplayer took the stage after some thunderous applause, and DeConnick handed her a signed "ODY-C" poster.
Sankovitch revealed that the sixth issue will come out in August. In this issue, Fraction and artist Chrisian Ward will check in with He, the man who started the Trojan War. "We will continue to entertain you and throw shit at you," Sankovitch said, sgharing the sixth issue cover as well as some new interior artwork of the goddess of whores.
"Parisian White" from DeConnick and Sienkiewicz came up next. "Just based on what I've received so far... I'm already feeling protective [of the character]. I haven't been this excited since I've done 'Elektra,'" Sankovitch shared, revealing an image from the upcoming book.
"We're doing great on this one," DeConnick said when an Emma Rios cover for "Pretty Deadly" appeared on screen. "We're very ahead. It moves ahead a bit into the first World War. It'll follow Cyrus, who you met in the first tale... Now he's a grown man. You'll see more reapars. It will continue the tales of the bunny and the butterfly. Rios and [Jordie] Bellaire are so good... [The artwork] comes in, and I just don't even know what to do."
The "Satellite Sam" slide came paired with the announcement of a deluxe hardcover, which will arrive in October 2015. Sankovitch also revealed that the 15th issue will be in color, a big change for the series, which has been done in black and white only so far. The upcoming issue will also feature mock ads from the era.
Asked if he wanted to speak about "Sex Criminals" #11, Zdarsky joked, "No, not really. This is Matt's job. I'm so shy." On a more series note, he said, "Issue #11 is finally coming out. We had some legal problems; we went to the printing plant to draw on a thousand covers... I was awake 35 hours. We drew Batman shitting on Commissioner Gordon. It was a lot of fun! I got home, and I checked my e-mail and we got an e-mail from Image Comics that said, 'What're you doing?' Four lawyers later... We basically had to start over."
"We have 1000 unsellable copies," DeConnick laughed.
"We gave a few away at HeroesCon," Zdarsky said, "But the rest have to be burned... we'll put it in an urn and sell it for charity."
"A lawyer is in the room. Shep, is that legal?" DeConnick asked and, upon receiving an affirmative, the audience cheered.
"That's why there was such a delay," Zdarsky said, "But I think it was worth it. Not that worth it. It's going off to printer next week. I'm sorry about, um, everything."
A new series from Fraction and Terry Dodson called "Adventureman" was also announced, though no details were revealed at the time.
When a slide for Universal Television came up, the audience roared with approval. DeConnick mentioned the previously announced news that Milkfed will work with Universal Television to bring "Sex Criminals" and "The Wicked + The Divine" to the small screen, teasing that they have "So Much Other Stuff" in the works.
DeConnick spoke briefly about the Milkfed newsletter she writes with Fraction, which releases teasers and behind-the-scenes information. Cox will also begin to write for the newsletter soon, and DeConnick said that they would include recipes as well.
An attendee asked about DeConnick's non-compliant origin story, referring to the term from "Bitch Planet" that describes women who go against societal norms. "I was born full of piss and vinegar," DeConnick responded. "Young women -- all of us -- go through this period... usually in adolescence... when we think, 'Well, we're not like other girls.' All that crap. It's super annoying, but it's actually pretty smart. Women are low status in our culture... and women are not idiots, and we aspire to be high status, so we don't identify with low status. As you mature and you 'get woke' (I know, I'm a white girl), as we start to see the ways in which the world marginalizes women and people of color... As we start to become more aware of that, you have an identity shift... If you're lucky, you start to see your responsibility there. I suppose that's as close as I get to a non-compliant origin story."
Asked if there will be an eventual crossover between "Sex Criminals" and "The Wicked + The Divine," Zdarsky took the mic and said, "Sure? There was a crossover in the comic already. McKelvie and Gillen have threatened to get back at us."
After a question that suggested she and Fraction swap books for an issue, DeConnick cried, "That would be weird! The 'Sex Criminals' that I wrote would be so mean and not funny, and 'Bitch Planet' would be wacky! No, not really."
When it came to a question about representing minorities in media, DeConnick offered some of her experience and advice: "You want to make sure you're not making the mistake of speaking for a group of people, ever. I don't even want to speak for all 45-year-old white girls... But when you create characters, you use your research, you creativity and your empathy to speak with them. I think you have to trust your own empathy, your own instincts when something feels inauthentic or forced. I think it also helps to have friends and readers who come from the experience that you're trying to portray, to let you know if something feels wrong to them. But you also have to remember that they're talking about them. The other thing is to be culturally sensitive. Don't be a dumbass. Don't make proclamations; speak to the experience of the characters. Come at it willing to learn."