SDCC: IDW Summer Blockbusters Panel Examines Top Creator-Owned Titles

On Saturday morning at Comic-Con International, IDW Publishing let the minds behind some of their most anticipated creator-owned series take center stage. As editor-in-chief Chris Ryall moderated the panel, Walter Simonson ("Ragnarok,") Jonathan Maberry ("V-Wars",) Eric Shanower ("Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland,") Gabriel Rodriguez ("Locke and Key," "Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland,") Chuck Dixon ("Winter World") and managing editor David Hedgecock all discussed their upcoming projects and explained why IDW was the perfect home for them.

Ryall played trailers for each upcoming title, beginning with "V-Wars" by writer Jonathan Maberry. "V-Wars" is an anthology series, based on Maberry's novel series of the name, set in a world where vampires are real and fighting against humanity. Ryall said, "It's a really fun way to harken back to our roots. When [IDW] started, we did '30 Days of Night,' an extreme horror comic at a time when people weren't doing horror comics. 'V-Wars' is a different kind of vampire comic, but it feels true to the spirit of IDW's launch."

"There's a gene, nicknamed the V-gene, that everyone has," Maberry said, explaining the premise of the series. "It's part of our DNA. At one point, vampires were an offshoot of human development and we hunted the people who had the active gene to extinction, which explains all the vampire hunters in history. They were actually killing these people. They mythologized around them to make them supernatural but they weren't. They were part of science. In modern day, a virus is triggered that unleashes that gene and people start turning into whatever vampire is tied to their ethnic background. Somebody's whose ethnic background is Russian will be a different type of background then someone who is Japanese. Different vampires get different powers, but nothing supernatural."

"V-Wars" is currently being developed for television by Tim Schlattmann, one of the head writers and executive producers of "Dexter." His "Joe Ledger" series of novels is also being developed as a TV series courtesy of Lonetree Productions, producers of the upcoming film "The Equalizer." Maberry said Joe Ledger would be making a three-issue cameo in upcoming issues of "V-Wars."

Next, Ryall screened a trailer for IDW's new "Winter World" series, co-created 22 years ago by writer Chuck Dixon and the late artist Jorge Zaffino. "Winter World" is about what happens to the remnants of humanity long after an ice age has destroyed any semblances of society. The first issue of IDW's new series shipped last month. "It focuses on a cynical traitor who has survived in this brutal environment his whole life and he comes across this girl who we're going to learn is a lot tougher than he is," Dixon explained. "The world of this frozen future provides this constant threat and constant danger to all of them."

"Winter World" features the art of "Micronauts" artist Butch Guice for its first arc. Upcoming artists include Tomas Giarello on issue #5, a solo issue by Tommy Lee Edwards and covers by Steve Epting.

The Walter Simonson-created six-issue miniseries "Ragnarok" was next to receive the trailer treatment. "Ragnarok" is a re-imagining of the classic Norse apocalypse myth where Thor is not present in the final battle, so the Midgard Serpent is able to turn the tide of war and defeat the gods. After several hundreds years, Thor returns to even the score. "When Thor comes back, he doesn't know what happened and we don't know exactly where he's been," Simonson told the audience. "We find out in the first issue, but we don't know why. He learns very quickly what has happened. He learns his family is dead along with all the other gods in the Norse myths. His other friends are dead. He is the only survivor. As long as there is one god left, Ragnarok continues. So Thor makes his way back to Asgard and does what he has to do there. Then he picks up his hammer, goes out into the dusk-lands to find the enemies and discuss with them the matter of old things. That's my story."

"Ragnarok" will be told over several different series ranging from "two or three issues" but "no more than six."

Ryall said, "If you've read Walter's 'Thor' run at Marvel, I still think it's the run that all others are compared to. You can see this in the 'Thor' movies, where Walter's characters and storylines are brought out to the screen. Obviously, [he's] set a high 'Thor' bar for himself."

Finally, Ryall debuted a short trailer for "Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland" by writer Eric Shanower and "Locke and Key" artist Gabriel Rodriguez, a sequel to Winsor McCay's classic early 1900s newspaper strip set in the modern day and featuring a new boy's adventures in Slumberland. Ryall said, "[The original comic] felt a century before its time."

Shanower said he originally wanted to tell a "dark, psychological story where the child of the original Nemo has grown up and has these weird, weird memories of his childhood where he would go to these strange lands and totally bizarre things would happen to him every Saturday night, and he'd wake up Sunday morning falling out of bed. This would be very intense and dark. Then I thought, no -- let's do something a little lighter.

"I thought let's update it," Shanower continued. "We won't even use Nemo; we'll bring in a totally new kid. And so that's what we did. This is totally new, except it's not because Slumberland is still the same. But the child that goes to Slumberland is from 2014."

"I am also a huge fan of Winsor McCay's original work," Rodriguez added. "I think he was one of the masters of the genre."

Rodriguez said it's impossible to replicate McCay's work, so he tried to replicate Slumberland with "a new point of view but with the wonder and magic that was in the original strip. I tried to bring a new graphic language to the familiar world that Winsor McCay created... to become friendly with that world.

"After a six-year run on 'Locke and Key,' it's great to be working on a book I can actually show to my kids in its entirety," the artist joked. "It's great to be working on something not just for my kid, but for every kid and for the kid inside every adult, too."

Simonson added, "My hat is off to Eric and Gabriel because, really, the amount of courage it takes to step into Winsor McCay's shoes is astounding."

Asked if they had any plans to feature an adult Nemo in future stories, Shanower said, "'Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland' is a 4-issue miniseries. I haven't signed a contract or anything but we would love to do more. So buy it. I don't know if the original Nemo will enter as a story element or not."

"One of the blessings of working with a universe like Slumberland is that absolutely anything can happen there, so any magic thing that could happen that could tell a good story we are going to find a way to do it," Rodriguez added. "As Eric says, it all depends on how readers react. Fingers crossed!"

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