Strollers aplenty lined the aisles of San Diego Convention Center's Room 4 as a beleaguered crowd of parents, children and fans braved the Sunday morning crush of Comic-Con 2014 to hear all about the latest news from IDW about comics aimed at juvenile audiences through a cacophony of crying infants.
On hand, IDW editor Sarah Gaydos moderated a panel with editor Bobby Curnow, editor Carlos Guzman, managing editor David Hedgecock, writer Erik Burnow, "My Little Pony" artist Andy Price, artist/writer Katie Cook, artist Tony Fleecs, legendary writer Louise Simonson and artist Derek Charm.
One of the biggest projects discussed was the huge crossover "Super Secret Crisis War," which now expands with a series of one shots. "Johnny Bravo" will came from by Eric Burnham with art by Erika Henderson. "The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy" is written by Kate Leth with art by Troy Little. Rising star Jim Zub is writing "Cow and Chicken" with art from Jorge Monlongo, due at retail in September. In October, fans would see "Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends" written by Ivan Cohen with Paulina Ganucheau on art. Finally, "Codename: Kids Next Door" was on deck in November from Scott Peterson and Ryan Jampole.
Burnham noted that he wasn't much like Johnny Bravo, but had some wisdom about getting into the character's voice. "I know an awful lot of people like Johnny Bravo," he said. "A couple of lines [of dialogue] I actually heard on nights out. The funniest ones I fit in there are real life. He has no business going up against robots and the rest was peppering in confidence and idiocy. And a squirrel. God, I love that squirrel."
"Eventually he'll get his own series," Simonson said.
"I'm fine with that," Gaydos added.
They noted "Samurai Jack" #11 would be coming with art from Andy Kuhn and a cover by Andy Suran. Issue #12 will have the villain Aku confounding Jack after the samurai's sword breaks before leading Jack to fight a giant scorpion. A volume two trade paperback is coming -- a collection of one shots with lots of artists on deck for October.
"My Little Pony" #23 was discussed next, a happy point after "almost two years of ponies." The titular characters go missing, and their pets must find out what's up in this almost silent issue. "Princeless" writer Jeremy Whitley is joined by artist Amy Mebberson for an adventure through time and space with the Ponies in issue #24, and Cook and Price return in issue #25.
In "My Little Pony: Friends Forever" #8, the odd couple Applejack and Rarity will go on a road trip in an issue inspired by the classic John Candy/Steve Martin film. The issue is called "Planes, Trains and Carts and Wheels." Issue #9 will showcase Granny with the Flim Flam Brothers. Burnow said that the goal was to "have lots of fun, have a funny story but also have a lot of heart."
The Power Ponies make an appearance in the upcoming annual which features not just Maniac but more villains as well including the Phony Pharaoh and Long Face, as the story is based on a fictional story in the Pony's world. "This is my favorite kind of comic," Fleecs said, "because it's tied into the show. They would read this comic in the show!"
Next up, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Animated" #14 has Donatello creating a perfume that he thinks April will love, but instead attracts insects. Landry Walker wrote the book with a cover and interior by Dario Guzuea. Issue #15 will have the villain Fishface altering a training course devised by Donatello leading to big trouble for the heroes.
Hedgecock promised answers in the "Angry Birds" series. "We're going to learn why the birds are so angry and why the pigs are always getting blasted. We've got plans for all kinds of wacky adventures, they're self contained stories and totally all ages appropriate. For parents who hand over the iPhone for a few minutes of respite, now you can have fifteen minutes of respite," he said.
The publisher also promised "summer mash ups," including "Angry Birds" with "KISS," "Popeye," "Mars Attacks" and "Dick Tracy." Art is being handled by Jose Holder, David Baldeon, Jarrod Geccek and David Garcia Cruz. Of course this was topped off by an "Angry Birds/Transformers" mash up in November to coincide with the release of the new Rovio game. With a movie-inspired cover showing an Angry Birds-ized Optimus Prime riding Grimlock, the battle between the Autobirds and Deceptihogs will have regular Transformers artists on covers.
"Skylanders" #0 debuted at San Diego with an exclusive cover from Fico Ossio and David Garcia Cruz. Developed in close conjunction with Activision, stories count in the game.
IDW is also tied together with retailers to make Micro Fun Packs which will be sold in Game Stops, Toys R Us, Wal-Mart and Target. They're like the regular comics, just shrunk down to a smaller size, packed along with stickers, temporary tattoos and candy. The properties getting this treatment include "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," "Skylanders," "Transformers" and "My Little Pony."
The panel was opened up for questions, and a line of children formed quickly, with only one adult along to accompany a shy girl in the back. The first question was about how the characters are approached.
"No matter what," Charm said, "your style is going to filter into it. Different directors, you can tell the slightly different styles."
"One of the things Derek does really well," Simonson said, "is he draws how the characters feel. One of the things I do when I write a story is think about what characters feel and what they want. Cartoon Network characters have pretty strong agendas. Buttercup is always mad at something; she's always grumpy. Derek lets you know exactly what they feel in every panel. He does action so well too. Derek really puts the action into action, and it's just great."
"A lot of yourself is gonna sneak in there without even trying," Fleecs said. "The more I put into it, the more exciting and fun the pages are."
Cook said that her daughter had watched the "My Little Ponies" episodes a lot, and that gave her a familiarity with the characters. "For me, it's just knowing from being a fan how characters would react to situations I put them in. They have a little Katie twist to them. I make Rainbow Dash a little snarky. Rainbow Dash would react to this situation kind of like your friend who's kind of a jerk. I keep them in character, but with a little of that Katie-ness."
"We want the characters to come across the way people know them," Price said. "I think we have a little bit of a disadvantage to doing a two-dimensional work because we don't have voice actors. It's our job to use the artwork to emote and tell the mood. I like to push the envelope a little bit further, I love doing the work because it's incredibly organic, even the buildings are a little bit wonky. I don't have to worry about rulers and cars and freeways ..."
"So in the next issue," Cook said.
"If I don't know the character well enough," Burnow said, "I weave through the people writing bad screenplays at Starbucks and watch cartoons for twelve hours. You people weren't supposed to know that. In the middle of writing a scene, I'll come up with a joke I didn't expect and make myself laugh and look like an idiot in that same corner of the Starbucks."
When asked by a child for tips for aspiring creators, Gaydos said, "Express yourself through writing and art."
Price agreed. "The more you draw, the better you're going to get." Charm concurred, saying "I was gonna say 'draw less.' I wasn't going to say that."
The panel was asked how did they know that they were set for a creative life. "I don't have a 'plan b,'" Cook said. "I've got nothing else, I have no other skill set."
"That was my answer," Fleecs said. "I've been drawing since I was four years old. I never stopped. I didn't have any other aspirations. I could lift things for people. I could work at Best Buy. In short spurts, I could move things."
"They're going to put you to work in the warehouse," Price said. Charm said he used to make his own versions of adventures for the Adam West Batman as a child, and Burnow said he started writing, "because drawing takes a really long time and writing does not."
"Yes it does!" Gaydos protested. "Not as long as drawing," Burnow replied.
Cook noted that her first full issue of being a comic book writer was an issue of "Fraggle Rock," and her second was "My Little Pony." "You can jump from being a cartoonist to being a writer."
"That sound was a million message board exploding," Price joked.
Simonson said she got her start writing book reports, altering cover blurbs to "dumber words" to make it seem like a child had created them. When she found a book that had no cover blurb, she wrote it herself and teachers accused her of copying it from an adult's writing. "If I write and it's as good as the book jacket, maybe I'll write stuff." Simonson wondered if it was a ploy of the teacher, to encourage her to write.
"You should write your own book reports," Gaydos told the children. "Don't do what Louise did."
A young girl asked which pony was the hardest to draw. "It used to be Celestia," Price said. "because not only does she have a big flowing mane and jewelry and the shin guards, because I've gotten better from repetition. Bobby would say Rainbow Dash because...how many panels was she missing her wings?" Curnow just shook his head.
"Fluttershy and then Rarity," Fleecs said.
What's the artists' favorite thing to draw? "Batman," Price said, which Charm agreed with. Fleecs said, "ET the Extra Terrestrial." Louise did draw ponies as a child.
A child wondered how distance mattered to the creative process. Cook and Price said they rely on the internet. "I text Andy until I go to bed at night like, 'I have an idea,' and he's like 'that's stupid, don't put that in.' While the book is being put together, it's a constant back and forth. We've been friends a long time." Price emphasized the importance of an editor coordinating, as he lives in Atlanta, Cook lives in Michigan, the colorist is in Colorado and the editor is in California.
Cook noted that a new set of villains called the Cattle Rustlers will be vexing the ponies. "Big twist," Tony Fleecs was proud of Fancy Schmancy, a character that he invented to be like a New Yorker cartoon. Another character named Marian is based on Marian the Librarian from "The Music Man."
A child wondered why allicorns get to be princesses, which was a decision Cook said was made by Hasbro.
Cook said that her favorite comic was "Locke and Key," but noted that it was not for children. "My favorite comic growing up was Archie. Archie is the most progressive comic now. It's amazing. But I also loved drawing hamburgers as a child. It was my spirit animal. Drawing is still my favorite thing to do. I draw my cats a lot."
"My favorite pony is Applejack," Price said in response to a question. "My favorite character we made for the comics is Luna's pet possum Tiberius."
"My favorite pony is Twilight Sparkle," Cook said. "My favorite we've put in is Kibbutz, the time management pony, a combination of Tim Gunn and my brother."
Fleecs liked Applejack and loves cloud gremlins, characters he created for the book. "I'm gonna make fetch happen," Fleecs said of the characters.
When asked how they focus on one thing when doing something else, Price said, "It's hard to focus, so practice. We drink a lot of coffee."
"Don't listen to this guy," Cook admonished.
Gaydos said that she liked to listen to instrumental music, and Price answered more seriously that he has the television on but doesn't pay attention, so it's never anything new. "If I'm drawing, I listen to audio books," Cook said. "If I'm writing I listen to music without words or I start writing the lyrics."
"I take on too much and the fear and panic drives me to finish," Fleecs said.
"I turn everything off," Charm said.
"I turn off the internet," Burnow said.
When asked what was their favorite character from any comic, the answers came fast and furious. Jughead, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Spider-Ham (Fleecs' answer), Howard the Duck. Price said, gleefully, "Batman."
A fan asked which turtle was their favorite to draw. "Donatello," Fleecs said. "He's taller and stretchier. Raphael's cool but rude." Price again gleefully said, "Batman!"
The eternal question of how you come up with stories was presented, and Simonson said, "I think about what characters really want and really need, then think about what would stop them from getting what they need. All you have to figure out is how they're going to get it."
Fleecs' last answer was how it was making fashion for some of the Equestria girls and said he got weird looks checking out teen magazines in grocery stores.