WC13: The Big IDW Panel - The Spirit, Star Trek, Rocketeer & More

Just as IDW Publishing's Dirk Wood was about to kick off their panel at WonderCon in Anaheim, Mark Waid ("Daredevil," co-founder of Thrillbent) strode in, followed by a gaggle of fans that filled the seats.

"You guys are just following Mark, right?" asked Wood. "He's like the pied piper of comics."

Waid joined a plethora of other panelists already on stage, including Chris Ryall (IDW chief creative officer and editor-in-chief), Greg Goldstein (chief operating officer), John Barber (senior editor, writer on "Transformers"), and Mike Johnson ("Star Trek").

To accommodate Waid's busy schedule, Wood jumped ahead to make a big announcement, complete with musical fanfare: Waid is writing a Rocketeer/The Spirit crossover book for IDW, with former "The Spirit" penciller and inker Paul Smith on art. The four issue miniseries, entitled "Pulp Friction" goes on sale in July.

Waid said he wasn't 100% into the project at first. "But when [they] threw out the name Paul Smith, oooo! That's the name I wanted.

"If you put together a wishlist of artists all writers want to work with, Paul Smith's on there."

"Pulp Friction" is a trans-continental murder mystery where The Spirit takes to the Pacific coastline to investigate a case -- a wealthy New York City business tycoon is found dead there, with the body arriving faster than any known mode of transportation.

Owned by DC Comics, "The Spirit" is not the only property IDW is working on in conjunction with the company. IDW is also collecting all of the "Superman" newspaper comic strips from the 50s and 60s, and it's thanks to Waid they were able to obtain a complete run.

"Mark is an obsessive collector of the 'Superman' strips," said Ryall, "and many of the strips in our multi-volume series are coming from his personal collection."

"I'm the only carbon-based lifeform in the the universe who has a complete run of Sundays," said Waid. This collection has great historical significance, he continued, because they feature original stories comic book readers may not be familiar with.

"In the 40s, 50s and early 60s they were doing completely original scripts," said Waid. "You'll see that Lois and Clark were married for a couple of years in the 1950s. You'll meet versions of Bizarro and Metallo and the other Superman villains that are not quite what you expect them to be. They were changed for the strips. Many times characters debuted in the strips, making their way into comics later."

The collection is released in three volumes entitled "The Golden Age," "The Atomic Age," and "The Silver Age." It includes both the weekday and Sunday strips.

Waid teased another project -- "We shook hands on something else this morning I can't talk about for a while... Something I've wanted to tackle for at least six or seven years."

Waid then had to depart the panel to maintain his schedule, but left the room to applause from both the audience and his fellow panelists.

Jumping back to their presentation, Chris Ryall was excited to announce IDW is publishing "The X-Files: Season 10," a cannon continuation of the series written by Joe Harris and overseen by series creator Chris Carter.

Ryall and Harris met with Carter, hashing out the stories behind "Season 10." "This is what [Carter] would have done with the TV show had the show continued -- or the movies or what have you -- with an unlimited budget," said Ryall.

IDW is also collecting all the past "X-Files" comics into trade paperbacks, releasing alongside the launch of "Season 10."

Next attention was turned to "T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents," a property from the 60s about United Nations employees whose superheroics were just part of their day job.

"It took some very big leaps for its time," said Greg Goldstein. "It was the first superhero comic to kill off one of its heroes, and not in the 'ha ha ha, he'll be back in two issues' kind of way."

"We've talked 'T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents' before," said Ryall, "announcing Phil Hester is doing the story for us. What we haven't announced before is Andrea Di Vito ("Avengers Academy") is drawing it." Jerry Ordway is drawing the cover for the first issue and Dave Sim is contributing at least one cover.

A fan asked if Sim is doing other work for IDW. "We're working with him to do a thing of his own he would write and draw," said Ryall. "We're working on the details but he's excited about doing a lot of stuff with us."

Wood brought up a slide about IDW's various all-ages books. "One thing I've heard is the difference between a good comic shop and a great comic shop is the kids section," said Wood. "I tend to agree with that."

First on the list was "KISS Kids," starring the legendary rock band's on-stage personas as children, "Tiny Titans" style. Ryall co-writes with Tom Waltz ("Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles") and added, "If you're a KISS fan, there's going to be a ton of nods and in-jokes and characters from their songs. But it's going to play to five and ten year olds and twenty year olds and fifty year olds."

Next Ryall talked about IDW's recently announced partnership with Cartoon Network to make comics based on their multitude of shows. "Samurai Jack" has input from series creator Genndy Tartakovsky, and "The Powerpuff Girls" coincides with the show's upcoming relaunch.

Mike Johnson's "Star Trek" ongoing series was discussed, where they announced a tie-in with the upcoming "Star Trek: Into Darkness" feature film, an epilogue storyline called "After Darkness" taking place in Johnson's book.

"We have been doing a de facto sequel between the two movies," said Ryall, "and now we're doing something after the second film that makes this big, long, cohesive storyline."

Up next, Greg Goldstein discussed the weird history and future of "Dinosaurs Attack!" A set of trading cards released in the 80s, "Dinosaurs" was in the vein of the successful "Mars Attacks!" card line of the 60s. The over the top artwork, which paid homage B-movies, made for an easy transition to comics. "In fact, Eclipse Comics back in the day started to do a graphic novel," said Goldstein, "but it was at the end of Eclipse's time. They ran out of money and they never finished it."

Writer Gary Gerani and artists Herb Trimpe and Earl Norem still managed to complete most of the material -- Norem has committed to complete the story, told in five issues.

"'Mech Warrior!' Now here's an announcement," said Wood, switching gears. IDW is launching a new series set in the "BattleTech/MechWarrior" universe, where humans spread out across the galaxy to war endlessly with each other, using giant Battle Mechs. John Barber is scripting the new series, set to drop in late fall.

"In my regular life, I don't do enough comics about giant robots," joked Barber, who also writes numerous "Transformers" comics for IDW. "If you like some of the political action and the personal stories we're doing in 'Transformers' these days -- plus, you know, the giant robots fighting -- I recommend you check out this book."

"Black Dynamite!" said Wood to chuckles from the crowd. "He's a powder keg of black fury that's about to explode!" IDW is launching a new "Black Dynamite" comic standing independently from both the movie and animated television show of the same name.

"The comic is an iteration of the character," said Barber. "It's all original stories, building this intentionally un-cohesive Black Dynamite universe.

"We're doing a lot of nods toward specific comics stuff from the 70s we feel that Black Dynamite, were he a character in the 70s, would have been a part of."

Before they opened the floor to questions, a coffee table art book of graffiti-style artist Jim Mahfood was announced. "If you ever get a chance to see Mahfood do a live art show, it's fantastic to watch," said Ryall. "He's just up there on a wall with a can of paint, and he's painting these lines that don't seem to have any coherence with one other -- then they all amass into this amazing picture."

A fan asked if the Dungeons & Dragons comic "Fells Five" was going to continue again, and the panel assured him it was only a matter of scheduling that prevented more issues from coming out. Another fan asked what happened to "Let's Play God," the punk serial killer thriller from writers Zane and Brea Grant and artist Eric J. They explained the creative team had run into delays, but everyone was working on getting it back on track.

As the audience was packing up, Wood let slip a teaser for IDW's upcoming Hasbro properties panel: a "My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic" special comic has been slated for release in May.

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