David Nieves wrote from WonderCon for Bleeding Cool;
While it wasn’t their first convention of the year, this past Saturday Aspen Comics held their first panel of the year, during WonderCon. For those who have never attended an Aspen panel, the energy is unlike any other publishers panels. These convention veterans don’t just gather people in a room, they unite their fans and for an hour we’re all an Aspen family. This one was no different, beginning, as they usually do, by leading the crowd into a thunderous “Aloha” which I’m sure echoed all the way to the other end of the building.
Co-owner Frank Mastromauro led ceremony because of the absence of Peter Steigerwald who was working on getting their latest book Jirni ready for the printer in order to meet their April 17th release date. Assemblage consisted of Editor-in-chief Vince Hernandez, colorist extraordinaire Beth Sotelo, veteran writers J.T. Krul and David Wohl, Soulfire penciler Mike DeBalfo, Shrugged artist Jonathan Marks, and company production designer/ Broken Pieces writer Mark Roslan.
Frank began the Aspen news part of the panel by updating everyone on their current 10-for-10 initiative in celebration of the company’s ten year anniversary. Ten books debuting #1 issues over ten months with a $1 price point for each of the first issues. 10-for-10 began this past February with Wohl’s Legend of the Shadow Clan, this month we saw the release of Shrugged vol 2, we can expect J.T.’s new book Jirni in April, followed by Charismagic, BubbleGun, All New Fathom, the fan voted Overtaken, EA: Iris, Trish Out of Water, and wrapping it all up The All New Soulfire in November. The company is offering retailers, who order and promote these books, lots of incentives like low cost on the books and twenty plus exclusive covers for each book so far.
Aspen feels this is a great path in terms of building a new audience while still honoring the legacy left behind by company founder, the amazing Michael Turner.
Shadow Clan did great numbers in kicking off the new initiative. The book broke the Diamond top 70 for February coming in at #67 David Wohl comments on how Steigerwald helped him legitimize him self in Ninja writing by teaching him the plural of Ninja isn’t Ninjas. Let’s hope someday he gets his own ninja turtles title.
Shrugged vol 2, had been in the works for some time but were waiting for the right time to bring it back. According to Mastromauro it “fit in well with 10-for10.” Long time Aspen artist Micah Gunnell will be back doing alternate covers for the book. Volume two will deal with “fear, courage, and anxieties.” New characters will be introduced, and the existing cast will be returning. This volume will be six issues long. He and Turner had talked about this story way back when volume one of Shrugged was still being released.
Each of the 10-for-10 books will have their own interconnecting covers for their respective issue #4’s. J Scott Campbell doing incentive covers for issue #2’s. Eric Basaldua will be doing the alternates for the issue #3’s.
J.T. Krul shared his excitement over Jirni. Paolo Pantalena will join him on art duties. The book is described as “a big rousing love letter to all things science fiction.” Jirni is about a princess named Ara who’s mother gets kidnapped from her kingdom by a sorcerer with a genie slave and now she must journey across this mystical land to rescue her. He described his inspirations for the book as coming from sci-fi and fantasy things in his childhood like John Carter or Mars, Flash Gordon, and Conan. Jirni Ships in two weeks to be in stores April 17th. The Campbell cover image for issue #2 was shown and it received 2,000 likes on Facebook in the first hour.
Vince then sold the crowd on the return of his title Charismagic. A book about a Vegas magician who’s life gets weird when he acquires real magical powers. The book will pick up where volume one left off with the earth being destroyed, but his aim is to continue the story while still making it new reader friendly. He’s also introducing a whole new cast for this story, in which he describes his storytelling with them as “not holding back.” The book will be available the week of Free Comic Book Day. Amanda Conner is also doing a cover for one of the later issues.
Mark Roslan talked for the first time in public about his new book BubbleGun. A fun action story set in the future where according to him, “Mission Impossible meets Danger Girl.” The story is about a group of hackers who take on a job that gives them more than they were bargaining for. We follow two sisters that lead the team, which the youngest sister, Molly, is training to be part of the team with her only weapon against in surmountable foes being a paintball gun like armament. A never before seen rough sketch by J Scott Campbell for the issue #2 alternate cover was shown to the crowd, because everyone in the world loves him, we all went nuts.
The next part of the panel made me glad the world didn’t end last year. In addition to it being a ten year anniversary for Aspen Comics, it’s also the 15th anniversary of Fathom which was released in summer of 1998 through Top Cow, later becoming an Aspen flagship tittle. In order to celebrate, the company will be doing a major weekly Fathom event called, The Elite Saga. Personally, I’m excited for it because the Fathom universe has birthed so many elements, like the popular Kiani character, and we’ll see them all come to a head in this story. Vince and J.T. will script the whole event with a weekly release schedule beginning in mid June. It will be a lead in to the All New Fathom series and long time Aspen staple and Kiani creator Talent Caldwell will be returning to do covers on the weekly series including a five part cover. Aspen’s free comic book day issue will include a new story that leads into the event.
Frank talked about the title fans voted in, Overtaken. This story is Mastromauro’s take on alien abductions and what happens to the people you see on the sides of milk cartons. The artist on the book is Kubert school grad and newcomer Marco Lorenzana. Overtaken comes out in August.
The next Executive Assistant Iris comes out in September with no news announced yet on the creative team.
After that another new property debuts written by Vince Hernandez, Trish Out of Water. Described only as “a fun book, sort of related to Fathom but not really.” Some of the characters in the book will exist in both universes. We’ll have to wait until October when the book is released to see exactly what that means.
Finally in November we get The All New Soulfire. Mike DeBalfo is redesigning Grace for the book. Vince and Frank talked about how much DeBalfo’s interior art as grown by taking on new challenges such as new designs for the elemental dragons in the book. Every time I go to these panels the book is described as “Mike’s Baby”, so it will be fun to see how they keep Turner’s essence on the book in this next evolution.
Fans who preorder all the reserved edition books from their retailers will get a special poster with all of the 10-for-10 main characters on it. The poster will also be available online for those who didn’t.
Idolized #5 will be in stores this week, it remains to be seen if David Schwartz will have a story for a second volume but he does leave the possibility for it in volume one.
Scott Lobdell’s The Scourge will be collected. Possible follow up series for Mindfield, Broken Pieces, and Dellec.
Announced about a year ago under the name Zooniverse, Peter Steigerwald’s book has now been renamed The Zoohunters. Aspen’s free comic book day issue will have a four page preview. “Peter is insane, in a good way,” is how Mastromauro described Steigerwald’s ambition on this new title.
Aspen releases its first prose novel in mid April, The Lost Spark. Between this and Jirni Aspen should sell the whole month as J.T. Krul month.
On Aspen’s digital partners, fans can check out all the first issues they currently have up for free.
Aspen panelist took questions from the audience and handed out prizes for anyone who took part in the dialogue.
A fan talked about how he wanted all the covers but couldn’t afford them all. The panel noted an idea from the audience member about doing a book that includes all the art from the 10-for-10 covers. Frank also announced an Aspen 10th anniversary swimsuit book was in the works with some special guest artist to be announced.
No new Fathom movie news, but a David Wohl property is close to going into production as a feature, and one of J.T.’s books is in talks. Cartoons on some of their other properties may also be in the works according to Frank. Aspen remains firm on its stance of not relinquishing creative control of their IP’s to anyone just to see it get done, they want to make sure what comes out is what the fans know and love.
Another fan asked why we don’t see action figures from Aspen as opposed to the statues? Answer, the company is currently working with Diamond on developing some select style toys. There will be more on this in the coming months.
There were questions about the novels; were more novels on the way? Illustrations in the novels? There are plans for more novels from Aspen writers. The Lost Spark will not have illustrations but there may be a special edition with some included for San Diego Comic Con.
I spoke with Vince after the panel about a few things that weren’t addressed. First and foremost on my mind was Ekos. For those that don’t know, this was a book that was to originally be done by Michael Turner and Geoff Johns for Aspen. After Turner’s untimely passing, the property shifted to Johns and he still wants to do it but he can’t fit it in his superhuman writing schedule and DC executive duties. So Ekos remains on a permanent hiatus for now but they hope that some day when things align Johns will be able to do the book. Also, if all goes according to plan, fans will see Aspen apparel once again before the end of the 10-for-10 celebration. Vince and I talked a little bit about the past schedule inconsistencies on the books and how all the prep work and lead time they’ve done on the 10-for-10 has helped turned that around in a major way.
The editor-in-chief also talked about how great the fan support has been. Since the start of 10-for-10 Aspen’s order numbers have been above and beyond their wildest expectations, with titles well above . After the passing of Michael Turner in 2008 many people were doubting they could stay in business for even one more year and celebrating the company’s ten year anniversary is best way they can say thank you.
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