WC14: IDW Delivers the "Greatest Panel in the Known Universe"

IDW Publishing welcomed fans to "The Greatest Panel In The Known Universe" at WonderCon 2014 in Anaheim as moderator and self-styled IDW "marketing guy" Dirk Wood asked the small but vocal crowd to cheer for the panelists: IDW CCO and Editor-In-Chief Chris Ryall, "Locke And Key" artist Gabriel Rodriguez, Eisner-winning writer Eric Shanower, IDW President Greg Goldstein, writers Brian Lynch, Mike Johnson and Tom Waltz, and editors Scott Dunbier and Sarah Gaydos.

Starting the panel with their "Summer Blockbusters," upcoming creator-owned titles debuting summer 2014, Wood told the assembled listeners that while IDW is best known for their licensed work, "We also do a ton of great creator-owned stuff, and more than ever before," Wood said.

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Ryall said IDW aims to expand the number of original titles they publish, turning the discussion to the first of those titles being released this summer: "V-Wars" by author Jonathan Mayberry and artist Alan Robinson. The series will premiere on May 3 as part of Free Comic Book Day with a16-page #0 issue.

Based on the prose book by Mayberry, "It's a global look at a vampire virus and how it affects different parts of the world, and different regions are affected differently so it's not just the same vampires worldwide," Ryall said.

The next two original titles were "Winterworld," by writer Chuck Dixon and artist Butch Guice, and "Ragnarok," an original story debuting in June by veteran writer/artist Walt Simonson.

"Ragnarok is the end times so it's a very different world than other Thor comics you've read," Dunbier said of the title, adding that the idea had been kicking around between him and Simonson for over fifteen years. "It has Thor in it but it's much more than that, it has so many different characters from Norse mythology and other mythologies."

"This is not a happy kind of typical Thor book!" Dunbier added after Ryall pointed out the story opens with a large score of dead bodies.

The next book was an August release, "Little Nemo: Return To Slumberland," written by Shanower and featuring art by Rodriguez. Using the original "Little Nemo" strips by legendary turn-of-the-century creator Windsor McKay as basis for their story, Shanower and Ryall joked that they mainly wanted "Locke And Key's" Rodriguez to draw a book that "you can actually hand to a ten year-old!"

Told from the point of view of a child visiting Slumberland, Rodriguez said he wanted to draw the story due to a combination of respect for Shanower and the fact that his script kept the same sense of "whimsy and wonder" as the original McKay strips. Shanower, also an artist himself, will illustrate variant covers for the series.

"The Little Nemo that's going to Slumberland is a child from our day, and his name is not Nemo," Shanower added.

Ryall took a moment to praise Rodriguez's work on the title before announcing that IDW had just the artist to an exclusive contract.

"He's already been loyal and working for us primarily for the last decade -- he's all ours for the next couple of years!" Ryall said, pausing for audience applause.

Wood then announced all of the books announced were, "completely returnable, so if you go to your local comic books shop and they don't have them, they have no excuse!"

Moving to a book that had been softly announced over Facebook, Ryall highlighted "Chicacabra" by writer/artist Tom Beland. Citing Beland's work at Image as what grabbed Ryall's attention, he displayed pages of Beland's new IDW book for the audience, a supernatural tale about a teenaged girl.

"It's a story about a troubled sixteen-year-old -- but there's also a supernatural bent to it where she meets this supernatural character and it inhabits her," Ryall said.

Next up was "Monster Motors" by Lynch and artist Nick Roche. Lynch gleefully told the crowd the series is about Cadillacula, a vampire car that sucks the gas out of other cars. However, when genius mechanic Vick Frankenstein loses his truck to the vampire he decides to fight with a car of his own making, assembled from all the other cars hit by the vampire and dubbed Frankenride.

"There's Minivan Helsing and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hybrid -- we come up with a thing and we're like, is this too stupid? And I'm like, nothing is too stupid!" Lynch said as the audience laughed.

"I wanted it to be like when I first read 'Transformers' and 'G.I. Joe' and I got hooked, so I wanted to make it feel like that," Lynch said of the book which is being billed as all-ages.

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Ryall then pointed to a man dressed as Judge Dredd in the back of the room to announce their next title, "Judge Dredd: Anderson, Psi Division," written by "2000 AD" Editor-In-Chief Matt Smith with art by Carl Critchlow, one of the artists behind the 1995 "Judge Dredd/Batman" crossover.

"You'd think the Judges would be more excited about this," Wood joked, pointing at a small contingent of stony-face Dredd cosplayers who broke character to cheer as the audience laughed.

Turning to the "Star Trek" corner of the IDW slate, Gaydos announced that their big summer event was "Star Trek: The Gambit," written by Johnson with art by Tony Shasteen. Gaydos said the J.J. Abrams "Star Trek" characters will be introduced to Q from "Star Trek: The Next Generation."

"We've seen him interact with Picard and Janeway, but not really Kirk and Spock," Johnson said. The writer added that while the Abrams characters live in their own universe, Q will be exactly the same as his "TNG" self as, being an omnipotent alien being from another dimension, he exists in all realities.

According to Johnson, the six-issue June event will kick off as Q overhears Kirk speaking about not believing in the no-win scenario. "That just drives Q crazy. He's like, 'Yeah there is, there are no-win scenarios and I'll show you one!'" Johnson said.

"Given the fact that Q has control over all of time and space he thinks it might be fun if characters from this timeline meet characters from the original timeline," Johnson added.

Ryall then asked writer Scott Tipton, who was sitting in the audience, to come up to stage and speak about his new "Star Trek: Flesh And Stone" one-shot, on sale in July. Working with XPRIZE, a technology research organization sponsoring an international competition to create a real-world tricorder, Tipton's story brings the six doctors from every "Star Trek" series together.

"The tricky thing is there is 200 years to cross, and I didn't want to do time-travel because I've done lots of time-travel stories, so finding a way to cross McCoy and Phox and the "Next Gen" cast was a lot of fun," Tipton said. "We might have McCoy in a Captain Pike wheelchair!"

Moving to IDW's "X-Files: Year Zero," Ryall began by showing off a cover by Francesco Francavilla. Written by Karl Kesel with art by Vic Malhotra and Greg Scott, Ryall added that the comic will give readers the "real story" behind the origin of the X-Files unit.

In August, Waltz will team with artist Tristan Jones on a new "Silent Hill" comic that fits in canon with the popular video game series. The new story follows Anne Marie from "Silent Hill: Downpour" and shows what happened to her before and after the events of the game.

In addition to "Silent Hill," Waltz will also write a sci-fi military drama called "The Last Fall" for IDW in July. The five-issue miniseries features art by Casey Maloney, and Waltz hinted it's a world he'd like to spend more time in.

"The story is about a man who has served multiple tours in a questionable war," Waltz said. As soon as the main character gets home his family is killed by terrorists, leading him back to the war. However, "He learns the true enemy isn't always who he thinks it is."

"This one is all-ages too!" Wood joked as the audience cracked up.

Goldstein then took a moment to address the fact that IDW has been known primarily as a company that put out comics about licensed properties and said that many of the publisher's upcoming moves will change that perception. "The presentation today is about showing you what we're doing in terms of creator-owned titles," Goldstein said. "'Summer Blockbusters' is just the beginning."

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Opening the floor to questions, Ryall told a a fan asking about the IDW "Godzilla" comic that it was not affiliated with the upcoming movie from Legendary Pictures.

The next fan asked Shanower how he kept the feel of the original McKay one-page strips when writing his four-issue "Little Nemo" series.

"I think it's going to be a surprise for readers, we're trying to do unique things in this book -- you will read this book in a different way than normal comics books. Eric has done a great job to capture the sense of storytelling and translate to the other format," Rodriguez said.

A fan asked about Rodriguez's artistic process on "Nemo," given that the artist was known for creating blueprints for the buildings he drew in "Locke And Key."

"We tried to capture certain elements from the architectural resources that Windsor McKay used...the fun thing about Nemo is that in Slumberland we're able to play with places that don't need to stay the same way," Rodriguez said.

The panelists told another audience member that "Nemo" was public domain and the upcoming IDW story plays homage to McKay's original work.

Ryall took a moment to hype the video game tie-in comic "Borderlands: Fall of Fyrestone," written Mike Neumann and drawn by artist Agustin Padilla, out in August. The new series picks up after the last comic, and will be an "in-game" story.

"We're looking at this being an ongoing series -- if you play the game, you'll love this comic," Ryall added.

Ryall and Wood took a moment to throw a couple more upcoming titles onto the big screen, highlighting returning IDW talent Ben Templesmith's new book "The Squidder," "The Beautiful War" by Ashley Wood and "The October Faction" with Steve Niles and artist Damien Worm.

The next audience member asked Lynch about the biggest challenge writing the all-ages "Monster Motors."

"The biggest challenge was to play it straight," Lynch said. "After we say Cadillacula we don't discuss how ridiculous it is.

The next fan asked about the plot and setting of the new "Anderson" book.

"It's kind of like the 'Year One' series of Dredd -- you see characters stumble a bit," Ryall said, adding that the series will show Anderson and the characters "getting established and becoming what they are."

Wood told the next fan IDW was not adapting the fourth "Transformers" movie but they were doing a 30 anniversary "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" issue with co-creator Kevin Eastman. This led another fan of the original comic to ask if IDW would publish a "Turtles" movie adaptation. While there were no plans, Waltz, who has read the script for the upcoming Michael Bay movie, told the audience that the film will be better than fans are expecting.

"I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised," Waltz said. "The thing they are sticking to in the script and the movie that we tried to do in our comic, and is what I think makes the turtles powerful, is the family element. I promise you that is in this movie and it's going to be a big part of the story and I think that's going to make it better."

The last question came from a "Star Trek" fan who wanted to know more about the "City On The Edge Of Forever" IDW comic being adapted from Harlan Ellison's teleplay by Tipton. Ryall explained that Ellison's original script was edited down due to time, special effects constraints and some subject matter, such as drug use.

"Forty-some years later we get to bring it to life in some way," Ryall added. The comic adapts the original script without any of the televised changes and without cutting the material.

"Harlan's written about that experience -- when you see this versus what actually aired it's stunning in its own way," Goldstein said.

Ryall added that the project came about after years of asking Ellison and CBS for permission to adapt the teleplay. "It's a joy to do this project," Ryall said.

Stay tuned to CBR for more on IDW's upcoming projects.

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