SDCC: Oni Press Continues to RevolutONIze Comics

Imagine you're a big-time movie producer who just finished filming all three movies in your mega tent pole trilogy -- and the first one flops. With your career in Hollywood sunk, what do you do next? How about hiring a real serial killer to consult on your new horror film?

That was the question posed during Oni Press' RevolutiONIze panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego, and also the situation facing Nathan T. Rex, the lead character in just announced "The Auteur," a the first ongoing series from writer Rick Spears ("Teenagers from Mars," "Black Metal") and artist James Callahan.

"I'm very excited that Oni is letting me do this," Spears said to begin the Oni Press panel in San Diego. "I only hope they don't regret it."

In addition to Spears, the panel included new director of publicity John Schork; Editor-in-Chief James Lucas Jones; editor Jill Beaton; "Wars in Toyland" writer Joe Harris, "Diesel Sweeties" creator R. Stevens and "A Boy and A Girl" artist Natalie Nourigat.

Beaton turned the conversation to Oni's current slate, including an update on the release schedule for Ted Naifeh's "Courtney Crumrin, which Oni has been re-releasing in full color. The fourth color volume, "Monstrous Holiday," is due in October. Volumes 5 and 6 will collect the recently ended Courtney Crumrin 10-issue series, with each volume including five issues apiece. Volume 7 will collect the long out-of-print "Courtney Crumrin Tales" which features Courtney's mentor Aloysius, also in full color. Volume 7 should arrive in late 2014/early 2015.

Nourigat spoke about "A Boy and A Girl," her upcoming project with writer Jamie S. Rich that's due in November. "It's colored with a single color, and it was the first time I'd drawn something like that, so it was really fun to experiment with that," Nourigat said.

"A Boy and A Girl" was originally announced as one of the titles set to debut as a part of Oni's webcomics initiative last October. The publisher planned to relaunch their website in January, but Jones said technical difficulties delayed it.

"We actually just last week got the alpha of the site to a place where we felt comfortable moving it to beta," Jones said. "We are hoping to have beta access for that sometime next month. We have so much great content loaded up for it. We just wanted the user experience to be good and for things to work the way they needed to. We desperately wanted to avoid an Apple Maps situation."

Initially they considered launching a separate site for their webcomics, but decided last summer to combine it with their existing website, which presented "some logistical issues we weren't anticipating," Jones said.

Jones described "Mysterious Strangers" by Chris Roberson and Scott Kowalchuk (originally announced as "The Strangers") as a "spy-fi" series that is a love letter to TV shows like the 1960s "Batman," "The Prisoner" and the Steed and Ms. Peel "Avengers."

"The trend in comics for the last several years has been longer and longer arcs, doing more and more ongoings that take five, or six, or seven, or eight issues to get a complete story done," Jones said. "One of the things we really wanted to do to set the 'Mysterious Strangers' apart is that everything is told in two-issue arcs. There are continuing elements in the story that move from issue to issue as we progress, but with every two issues you're getting a complete story."

"Diesel Sweeties" creator R. Stevens arrived at the panel late, walking in as Schork put a couple of Stevens' comics up on the screen to "read quietly." Oni will release "themed collections" of "Diesel Sweeties" strips, with the first music-themed edition, "I'm a Rocker, I Rock Out" due in August.

"I've always described it as 'Peanuts' with sex jokes," Stevens said.

Following the trailer for "Wars in Toyland," Harris talked about his most recent project with Adam Pollina, which debuted at the convention. The "dark children's story" is about boy named Matthew who journeys to Toyland to save his brother from a teddy bear dictator named Roxbury.

"When Adam and I were growing up -- we've been childhood friends since we were teenagers -- we both shared a love for stuff like 'Babes in Toyland,' 'The Wizard of Oz' and a lot of the darker children's stuff," Harris said. "We've been working on this for a long time. It's gone through a lot of different incarnations, and it's something we've been trying to get off the ground for a while."

After working with Oni on "Ghost Projekt" and "Spontaneous," Harris said he felt Oni was the perfect place to bring it.

"It's a dark children's story," Harris said. "I think it reads kind of simply, kind of storybook-like, but has this dark undercurrent to it. It's about growing up and letting go and making war, which is something kids do."

Jones said it's not in a traditional comics format, but is told primarily in large, double-page spreads in a landscape format. "So you're really seeing things on a wide canvas," Jones said, which is something artist Adam Pollina wanted. "It really reinforces the epic nature of the whole thing."

During the question-and-answer session, an audience member asked if Judd Winnick would ever return to Barry Ween. Jones noted that while Winnick is working on different projects for book publishers right now and there were no immediate plans for Barry Ween, "We still love Judd and we still love Barry. Barry was one of the reasons I wanted to come work for Oni," Jones said.

Nourigat asked when the next volume of "Spellcheckers," a title for which she has drawn fan art for, would be available. It's due out in October.

Jones said Brahm Revel, who is also working for Marvel on a new X-Men miniseries, is working on more "Guerillas."

A couple of Greg Rucka projects -- "Queen & Country" and "Stumptown" -- were also brought up during the Q&A portion of the panel and Jones confirmed "Queen & Country" will be back.

"It will be not what people expect," Jones said. "There's going to be some changes. While the format will still be floppy comics, the characters involved and the political situations will be real time, so we'll be picking up now with where the special ops team is, and who is on it, and what bad decisions they've made now."

When asked about more "Stumptown," Jones said yes, in 2014. "Next year promises to be a very big Greg Rucka year at Oni Press," Jones said. "We have been hatching plans for the last six months or so for a variety of projects."

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