SDCC: Top Cow Hunts Talent, Kickstarts New Projects at Comic-Con

Top Cow's Saturday panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego was packed with announcements of new titles as well as updates on the future of current ones. Top Cow President and COO Matt Hawkins was joined on stage by Top Cow founder and Image Comics co-founder Marc Silvestri, September Mourning's Emily Lazar, Editor Betsy Gonia, Story Editor Bryan Edward Hill and artists Stjepan Sejic, Linda Sejic and Isaac Goodhart.

After introducing the panelists, Hawkins started by announcing that the publisher had launched a new Kickstarter campaign centered around the multi-media project "September Mourning." Featuring singer Emily Lazar, AKA September Mourning, the comic book component will be created by the all-female creative team of writer Mariah McCourt and artist Sumeyye Kesgin, with Silvestri providing concept art and designs.

EXCLUSIVE: "Witchblade" to End in October, Sejics Now Top Cow-Exclusive

Next talked turned to Top Cow's flagship title, "Witchblade," which will wrap up as it reaches its 20th anniversay this October. Issue #185 features a number of classic Witchblade creators coming together, including a rescripted story by Matt Hawkins over original artist Michael Turner's work and a main story by long time writer Ron Marz. The book will mark the end of Sara Pezzini's time as the bearer of the Witchblade and the end of Top Cow's longest running title. To mark the anniversary, Top Cow will release a series of prints and a limited "Art of" book covering 20 years of Witchblade.

While the main series and Sara Pezzini will no longer be around after October, the same month sees the launch of a different take on the concept in "Switch" from writer/artist Stjepan Sejic. He described the book as an "Ultimate" take on Witchblade where "someone" other than Sara Pezzini obtains the Witchblade. "Switch" #1 will be a double-sized issue and Sejic encouraged fans to check out the series, which began life as a fun side project for him, on his DeviantArt page.

Moving from the Top Cow Universe to the company's Minotaur Press line, Bryan Edward Hill spoke about "Postal," the monthly series he co-writes with Hawkins drawn by Top Cow Talent Hunt winner Isaac Goodhart.

"'Postal' is the story of a small town with big problems because everybody in the town is some sort of criminal," said Hill. "The town is run by an intense, draconian Mayor who has a zero tolerance policy on crime, which is working out well until they find a body in the middle of Main St. The story follows Mark, who is the mail man for the town, hence the name 'Postal.'"

Silvestri then credited the series' success in part due to the art by Goodhart. "People said that the Talent Hunt was a gimmick, but Isaac is now a professional comic book artist," said Silvestri. "That's because of the Talent Hunt."

Goodhart added, "I've heard from more than one person that it takes ten years before you make a name for yourself and get anywhere significant in the industry. Because of the Talent Hunt I cut that down to five years. That has less to do with me than it has to do with Top Cow being, maybe, the only company giving people a chance to get on the comics radar."

Hawkins turned the discussion to "Tales of Honor," which he writes based on novels by David Webber. The book's second volume, drawn by Linda Sejic, kicked off in May. Unlike the first, the new series is an original story by Hawkins not based on one of the novels. "It's an honor to add something original to the 'Tales of Honor' canon," said Hawkins.

Another fan-favorite series by Hawkins will return this year, as he and artist Rahsan Ekedal will launch the fourth volume of "Think Tank" in September. Entitled "Creative Destruction," the storyline also marks the leap from black-and-white to color for the series, which Hawkins described as a "passion project." "Think Tank: Creative Destruction" follows misfit scientist David Loren and his team as they attempt to make "Iron Man" suits a reality. Needless to say, complications ensue.

While it had been mentioned several times throughout the panel, Hawkins revealed that the Top Cow Talent Hunt would be returning this year, this time focused on the "Aphrodite IX" section of the Top Cow Universe. Hawkins showed a list of the various Talent Hunt winners from over the years and said this year applicants would actually receive feedback on their initial submission, allowing them to resubmit before the close of the competition.

RELATED: Top Cow Talent Hunt to Return, with a Few Changes to the Competition

Not to be outdone by her husband, Linda Sejic talked about "Blood Stain," a new series she will both write and draw about a young woman who has been unable to keep a steady job and eventually winds up working for a mad scientist. Already available on her Deviant Art page, Top Cow will be collecting and publishing the series in print in January.

Newly minted Story Editor Hill then announced his own new series, "Romulus," with artist Nelson Blake II. "It's about the first human colony in space. I call it 'Deadwood' in space," Hill explained. "It follows a soldier who takes a mission to start a colony on a barren world, but when he gets there he finds that technology has improved when he was in cry-sleep to the extent that when he gets there, he finds a fully functioning colony."

Another new series slated for next year is "Eclipse," set in a near future where a solar flare has made it almost impossible to live under the sun's rays, forcing society to become nocturnal. The story centers on a killer who murders people by dragging them into the sun's rays and a blue collar worker who must investigate who the killer is.

The final new series announcement of the panel was "Symmetry," written by Hawkins and drawn by Raff Ienco. Hawkins described the book as a "Romeo & Juliet" story "about a utopian society where everything is not as perfect as you think and where people are born without gender. They choose their sex at age 13 and all races are completely segregated." The series will debut in November or December.

Returning to some current and recent Top Cow books, Hawkins said his "Wildfire" series with Linda Sejic would begin a second arc later this year. "Cyber Force," the first book ever published by Top Cow, will release new installments on digital platform Webtoon that will tie into the ongoing "Aphrodite IX" series.

Next Hawkins spoke about "ADR1FT," a 6-issue miniseries that ties into the video game of the same name coming soon for Xbox One, and later for a range of VR headsets. The panel showed video of footage of the game which evoked movies such as "Gravity" and said the first issue was already available free online.

During the Q&A section with members of the audience, Silvestri was asked about the top secret project for another publisher he's been teasing online. While he remained coy about it, he described it as a "bucket list project" and said to expect an announcement to be made soon.

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