WC11: Aspen Comics

Aspen Comics made a splash with their return to WonderCon as the publisher made a number of exclusive announcements and premiers during their spotlight panel.

Colorist Peter Steigerwald opened the presentation in typical Aspen fashion leading a roaring "Aloha" from the Aspen team and the assembled audience as president Frank Mastromauro, who was running late, joined the panel. Alongside Steigerwald was editor-in-chief Vince Hernandez, artist Jason Fabok, colorist Beth Sotelo, writer David Schwartz, writer and director of design and productions Mark Roslan and artist Joe Benitez.

Steigerwald kicked things off with a rundown of several ongoing projects from Aspen, first announcing that Hernandez's creator-owned 'Charismagic' #0 sold out of its first printing and a second printing is coming out is being released alongside issue #1.

Joe Benitez's "Lady Mechanika's" reception has been "overwhelming." According to Mastromauro, "Lady Mechanika" has been a massive success, especially in Borders stores. Issue zero was launched in December, and so far three different printings have sold out. Borders alone reordered the book's second printing with a 50 to 70% increase on the first printing numbers -- and they still sold out. Benitez explained that he has been experiencing a number of personal problems that have slowed the book down, but issue 2 is 99% done.

Mastromauro addressed the issue of delays of "Lady Mechanika" and other titles in an honest fashion, explaining Michael Turner's death resulted in a long-lasting impact on the company, resulting in a necessary change in how they do business. One major problem has been the lack of press from the company resulting in fans not pre-ordering books from stores. In turn, stores are short ordering the books leaving fans without books to buy on Wednesday. Mastromauro promised that these problems are being addressed throughout 2011 as the company gears up for 2012.

Announced last year's 2010 Comic-Con International, "Broken Pieces" will finally be releasing in August of this year. "It's a monster odyssey," explained Roslin, the creator and writer of the series. "The story takes place about 20 years in the future. A massive catastrophe hits the coast of the United States. A biological bomb is destroying the Earth and the government has to find a way to stop it, so they approach a genius husband/wife scientist team. What they have to endure is what the story is about. There are monsters running around and they have to deal with that. It's a crazy, epic story." A preview will be available for this year's Free Comic Book Day

Mastromauro next announced a new book coming out -- "Idolized" is written by "Fathom: Blue Descent" writer David Schwartz and drawn by Michael Gunnell. The series is "along the same lines as 'Fathom,' in the sense that it is a big epic story, yet personal," said Schwartz. "It really centers around a girl overwhelmed by regrets in her life. One major regret is that she wants redemption and revenge. It plays out over a TV show which is not 'American Idol.' It will also be Aspen's first superhero story. It's 'True Grit' meets 'American Idol' meets superheroes."

Also announced were "Michael Turner's Fathom" volume four, written by Scott Lobdell, drawn by Alex Konat and colored by Beth Sotelo. Following the success of "Executive Assistant Iris," volume 2 of the series will feature the returning creative team of David Whol and Eduardo Francisco along with three expansion series: "Executive Assistant Lotus," "Executive Assistant Orchid" and "Executive Assistant Violet."

"Even through we've never done any companywide crossovers, it doesn't mean that we can't do a mega-event [based] in one universe," Mastromauro said. "Mike always believed each of the different universes are different. 'Executive Assistant Iris: Hit List Agenda' will start up in July with number zero, and out of that spins three new series. All three will be done by different creative teams and will be released weekly. The first week of each month will start with 'Iris,' followed by 'Orchid' in the second week, and 'Lotus' and 'Violet' in the third and forth."

"Executive Assistant: Orchid" will be written by Scott Lobdell and drawn by Michael Gunnell. "Executive Assistant: Lotus" will be written by Vince Hernandez and drawn by Oliver Nome. "Executive Assistant: Violet" will be written by Marc Andreyko and drawn by Pop Mhan.

Aspen also expanded on the news from an announcement from Friday morning revealing TV and movie director McG will be working Aspen in creating the "Haunted City" series. "Mike [Turner] was really good friends with one of [McG's] show runners. They came to us with this project. It will be a coproduction which us producing a great comic book while they will be developing it for future television or feature film. Not too much has been released, but it'll be a while lot of fun." The series will be centered around New York City and was described as "not a children's story."

Other announcements include the lost issue six of "Dellec" finally coming out this year, "Shrugged" volume 2 will be coming out soon, a non-scheduled and solicited "2011 Splash" will be coming out this year. Outside of Aspen, Mastromauro just finished writing a story for "JLA 80-Page Giant."

Mastromauro also revealed the current statuses of books that are finding their way into film. "We have the rights to the 'Fathom' movie back. It's not with Fox anymore. We are actually working on funding right now to produce the film ourselves. Megan Fox is still attached to the movie. We couldn't be more excited right now. 'Soulfire' had its first script treatment and is going out to directors. 'Mindfield' is being set up with a production house of an actor that wants to be attached to it. We can't talk about a lot of this right now."

At this point, several fans were given the opportunity to ask questions, the first being, "How come there are no crossover books, or it is completely out of the question?" Mastromauro replied, "Mike never really liked the idea of crossovers. He didn't want to ruin the integrity of the characters to have them meet each other. Ever since Aspen was started in '02 and '03, it was just never on our radar. But if 'Hit List Agenda' goes off well, we might have more down the line."

The next was a simple query: "What book are you must excited about?" "I'm most excited about Fathom," Mastromauro said. "It had seemed that this book was cursed. No matter what we did with that title, we could never get it on track, whether we got a new artist or writer. Finally, there will finally be a same team, and [it will be] coming out on time [while remaining] consistent with what Mike did to make the book so special."

The next fan asked what Mastromauro felt was the next big thing to come from Aspen, to which he replied, "Jason Fabok. I think once his new volume of 'Soulfire' gets released, he will be recognized. He is already attached to a upcoming huge project at DC."

The panel ended with Mastromauro promising that Aspen will rectify the mistakes of the previous year of delays and the lack of marketing. "We will be producing more titles this year than we have had in the previous few years combined. This will lead to Aspen having more exposure in the market and, hopefully, more titles in return." Steigerwald ended the panel in the same fashion as he began, leading a loud and rancorous "Aloha" from the crowd.

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