WC: Image, Obama and ... Cannibalism?

While politicians and pundits continue to debate the merits of President Barack Obama's stimulus package, there's one area where the president has already had a positive effect on the economy - comic books.

In addition to Marvel's success with issue #583 of "Amazing Spider-Man," Image's "Savage Dragon" #137 - where the title character endorsed Obama as president last August -- has received national media attention and a fourth printing thanks to a guest appearance by the then Democratic candidate for the highest office in the United States.

When asked what inspired the endorsement, "Savage Dragon" creator Erik Larsen responded simply, "We needed a better president." Which was met with cheers by the crowd at the Image Comics panel at WonderCon on Friday.

Moderated by Joe Keatinge, Image's PR & Marketing Coordinator, the panel included Larsen, Richard Starkings, Duncan Rouleau and John Layman.

Larsen said it was a leap of faith, but it "worked out pretty well and sold out four times." But even before this latest event, presidential candidates weren't strangers to the "Savage Dragon" comic, as Larsen pointed out both George W. Bush and John Kerry had appeared in previous issues. The Dragon even punched a fake George W. Bush on the cover of issue #119.

And issue #137 wasn't Obama's last appearance, either. Issue #145 features Obama returning to the book, this time as president, which brought the story "full circle."

Keatinge kicked off the panel by announcing they'd be giving away copies of the WonderCon variant of "Savage Dragon #145" to fans who asked good questions during the panel. The cover of the variant features President Barack Obama punching Osama bin Laden while the Dragon rescues Lady Liberty from a weapon of mass destruction - "the greatest comic book cover of all time," Keatinge said.

Larsen joked that they considered putting Obama on all their covers, and the joke around the Image offices was that they would do them as campy Silver Age "World's Finest" covers - the kind that had Superman, Batman and Robin in goofy situations, like ice skating or running a three-legged race.

If an Obama appearance alone wasn't enough for the book, "Savage Dragon" will get another boost this May, as issue 148 is Image's Free Comic Book Day book. The story features the Golden Age Daredevil, whose name couldn't appear on the cover due to Marvel holding the copyright on it, "but we call him that inside all over the place," Larsen joked.

And when asked about a Savage Dragon movie, Larsen replied, "I just read a treatment this morning." While still very early in the process, he said he thought it was looking pretty good.

Obama and Savage Dragon weren't the only things discussed at the panel. Layman was on hand to talk about his new ongoing title, "Chew," with artist Rob Guillory.

"'Chew' is about a federal agent who is able to get psychic impressions from the things he eats," Layman said. "When there's a corpse that shows up in the sewers or the garbage dump, he is sent and has to chew on the corpse to figure out what killed them."

The story is set after a bird flu epidemic has wiped out the poultry population, and the agent actually works for the Food and Drug Administration "keeping you from eating chicken," Layman said. "Meanwhile he's solving crimes by eating really, really gross stuff."

Layman said he is "hoping to do for cannibalism what 'Walking Dead' does for zombies" and that his next project after it would be "Sex and the City" with barbarians.

Rouleau, who recently finished up a run on DC's "Metal Men," said he is "taking the plunge" with a new creator-owned series, "The Great Unknown." It's the story of an inventor who realizes someone else has thought of everything he keeps trying to invent. Everyone thinks he's making it up until an old college T.A. shows up and says he has been robbed of his future - so he goes on a madcap adventure to reclaim his ideas and his future.

A fan commented on how both "Metal Men" and "The Great Unknown" were about invention and science, and asked if Rouleau had any personal experience in those areas. Rouleau said he has two brothers who are in the science field, one of whom works for NASA. Rouleau also lives in a town outside of Los Angeles where the Jet Propulsion Laboratory is located.

"All my friends are really rocket scientists," he said. Fans of his "M. Rex" series will be pleased to hear that it will be back as well.

Starkings talked about his title "Elephantman." Issues 18, 19 and 20 will be drawn by a "great new artist" named Marian Churchland, who he called "a female Paul Pope."

Duirng the Q&A, a fan asked about new technologies, and Starkings was quick to pull out his iPhone and show off "Elephantman #1." He said the Web and iPhone aren't the future of comics - "they're already here." Electronic media aren't replacing comics, he said, but supplementing them, pointing out that if you were ever stuck in an airport without comics to read, you could always download them via Wi-Fi. He also touted Rantz Hosley's Longbox initiative, which he said was intuitive to use.

Keatinge listed several other titles Image discussed at the New York Comic Con, such as Josh Howard's Dead @17, which is moving to Image; Walking Dead Companion Vol. 1, which collects the first 48 issues of the series; "Viking" by Ivan Brandon and Nic Klein; and "Haunt" by Robert Kirkman, Ryan Ottley and Todd McFarlane. He also announced that Greg Capullo was returning to draw issue #193 of "Spawn."

He also showed artwork from the upcoming Image United crossover, written by Robert Kirkman and featuring artwork and characters of Image founders Rob Liefeld, Whilce Portacio, Marc Silvestri, Jim Valentino, McFarlane and Larsen. "FedEx is making tons and tons of money on this," Larsen joked, as each creator is drawing their own characters throughout the book.

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