One of the most interesting things about the recent mini-boom of licensed comics is that they seem to be genuinely focused on quality, instead of popularity, when it comes to publishing. Rather than choosing studios based upon brand building or market share, businesses, eager to translate their properties to the comic book medium, are going with small press companies, such as Dynamite, Devil's Due, IDW, and, most recently, Slave Labor Graphics.
Publisher Dan Vado was joined by "Gargoyles" creator/writer Greg Weisman (who recently went In Depth with CBR News), and "Gargoyles" artist David Hedgecock at the Slave Labor Graphics panel on Day One of Wizard World Los Angeles.
"So it's our twentieth anniversary," said Vado, "and we're pretty proud of that. One of the things we've got going this year is that we've got a license from Disney and we're doing four comics that are based on Disney properties."
The four comics are "The Haunted Mansion," "Tron," "Wonderland," and "Gargoyles." Each book's acquisition occurred for different reasons, the impetus for one coming from Vado's love of The Haunted Mansion ride.
"Basically, it's ghost stories," said Vado, "but the visual images in the ride are so strong and lend themselves to storytelling – you know, a house full of 999 ghosts, thus there are 999 stories."
"There will be no issue 1,000," interjected Hedgecock with a laugh.
The second licensed book will be the April debuting "Tron."
"If you are one of the people who think that 'Tron' is like the 'Wizard of Oz' then you're going to love this comic," said Vado.
The comic takes place after the events of the videogame and features hero Jet Bradley. "One of the things that Disney wanted us to do was to expand upon the videogame notion," said Vado.
"As you would imagine," said Vado of Jet Bradley, "a guy whose brain's been zapped by a laser and thrown into a computer – not normal. He's got this phobia of technology, doesn't really trust it, and finds himself being pulled back into the computer world against his will."
"The third book is 'Wonderland,'" said Vado as he showed pages from the book currently being solicited.
This take on "Wonderland" is unique from past interpretations, in that it focuses on a girl named Mary Ann who actually lives in Wonderland, and she has managed to co-exist with the inhabitants with little or no problems. Unfortunately, Alice's arrival and subsequent adventures have put the denizens of Wonderland on the look out for a human girl.
"Mary Ann has survived by staying under the radar," says Vado. "Alice showing up and creating chaos in Wonderland for the Queen of Hearts creates some issues for Mary Ann because all they know is that this human girl messed up my stuff."
The final book is, of course, Weisman and Hedgecock's "Gargoyles," which will pick up after season two of the animated series, the last season that Weisman worked on the show.
"Really, I'm just very excited about it," said Weisman, "I'm just very glad to be telling Gargoyles stories again."
"This is what's gratifying for me," said Vado, "because everybody that's working on these comics has an emotional connection to them."
Next was some artwork for the new creator owned book "Cemetarians" by Gilgrim. "Basically this goes from the point of view that not all monsters are bad…monsters as monster hunters type thing."
After that was "Ursa Minors," which will be in next month's Previews. "This is about three kids in bear suits – mechanical bear suits – fighting crime," said Vado. "It's 'Gun-fu Hustle' in bear suits, that's all you really need to know."
"Farewell, Georgia" creator Ben Towle returns with "Midnight Sun," a comic set in 1928 that tells the story of a reporter investigating the disappearance of an Italian airship over the North Pole.
Finally, Vado concluded with a look at the latest toys coming from SLG, featuring the eagerly anticipated Milk N' Cheese vinyl figures. In many ways, this was the perfect note to end the panel on:
"If you know our company, you're familiar with Milk N' Cheese," said Vado, "these are the guys that everyone's been waiting for."
CBR's coverage of Wizard World Los Angeles is Sponsored by Comics Unlimited.