Wizard World Chicago News & Views

Hello my little minions, it’s your Dark Overlord here reporting from Chicago on this weekend’s Wizard World Chicago Comic Con. Of course, I have my trusty lackey (Chris D) here with me to do all the work and make me look good. Say hi Chris”¦

“Hi.”

Hey, don’t speak for me. You can overshadow, but never put words in your lacky’s mouth.

Yeah, yeah, whatever. Anyway”¦where to begin? Ah let’s begin with our arrival today at the con. Or rather with our attempted arrival that is, all five of them. As any good lackey/chauffer would, Chris drove us to the convention center and tried to find the best place to let me out with the least amount of walking to be done. After circling the convention center like buzzards preparing to strike (for what seemed like an hour, and in fact most likely was), I instructed Chris to simply pay the exorbitant charge for “convention parking.” I then reassured him that Ben would reimburse him for any money’s he spent at the show as long as it was “Nexus” related. (Later tonight while we’re having diner I’m going to keep asking him if I spelled gullible correctly here in this post”¦)

What’s gullible mean? I’m called that a lot whilst doing Daron’s bidding. Oh, well. I think it’s a compliment.

Seriously, parking here was not fun at all. I can only imagine how crazy it is going to be tomorrow. After getting our parking situation straightened out it was a hop, skip, and jump into the con. The line for Press Registration was only six-people long when we got there. Yet, I had to listen to Daron complain as we waited for upwards of fifteen minutes in the line. Granted, fifteen minutes was a long time to wait, but it was better than the hundreds walking around in an endless corral-like queue just across the lobby area.

Yeah it was only six people, but the line wasn’t moving. Of the fifteen minutes we waited, the first ten we didn’t move at all. Meanwhile the teaming masses kept moving on their marry way”¦even though (as my minion said) there were hundreds if not thousands of them. Anyway, getting to the con itself”¦

After procuring our badges, we decided to do a quick lap around the main floor just to check out the layout and whatnot before heading over to the Wildstorm panel. It was at this point that I remembered that we were supposed to attempt to be able to buy (and yes I said that right) the con exclusive She-Ra figure for my good friend (and 144Anima.com artist Sean Long”¦what you thought I could go a whole column without a shameless plug? Silly monkey.) Anyway, we went over and picked up a couple tickets for the drawing, when something caught our eyes. She-Ra. No, not the figure, the model. Mmmm She-Ra.

She-Ra was pretty damn cute, I must say. We made frequent return visits to the Mattel booth to check the status of the lottery (ie. Oogle She-Ra). Sorry, Sean, but getting your She-Ra figure didn’t come anywhere near satiating an underling’s hormones. Isn’t this the most asinine situation you’ve ever heard of? Not only do companies like Mattel expect you to come out to a convention to get a rare piece, but then they don’t even make enough for every patron that wants to buy one.

As a whole the convention floor was a wonder to behold. Lot’s of bright lights, shiny things, and other objects of interest (like She-Ra) to keep a word monkey that is locked away in front of a computer in the dank, dark dungeon of The Nexus 350 days of the year. It’s not a bad existence though. Anyway, it was then time to tag along with Daron into the Julius Schwarz conference room and the Wildstorm panel. Daron was about to step up to the podium and begin a Q&A about 144Anima, but I was able to talk him down, before he was seen. The thought of losing out on free swag and the chance to oogle She-Ra more quickly brought his takeover scheme to a close.

Wildstorm: Comics Unplugged
Freaturing: Brian K. Vaughan, J. Scott Cambell, Editor, Scott Dunbier, Director-Sales & Marketing, Patty Jeres, and special (unannounced) guest Jim Lee.

The first panel of the day actually opened to a pretty small audience. Patty Jeres and BKV warmed up the audience (while waiting for Jim) by explaining that they MUST buy Ex Machina.

The first question that was asked (before the presentation actually began), was whether or not there was anything going on with Y: The Last Man in regards to Hollywood. BKV responded by saying that New Line had in fact bought the option to produce a Y: The Last Man feature film, and that the screenplay had actually already been written (even though BKV hasn’t read it yet.) And then there was a long discussion on exactly how “options” work in Hollywood and whatnot, but seeing as how this won’t help me conquer anything, I’m not going to bother reporting on all the rest of that.

During the presentation we were treated to some of the first images of Wildstorm’s new series The Intimates, which was co-created by Jim Lee & Joe Casey. Before the creators could even finish talking about it they were asked if Jim himself would be doing any art for the series. Jim explained that while he will be drawing the panels of featuring a comic book within the comic, the actual artist for the series is Giuseppe Camuncoli. Besides a few preview images not much was said about the new series. We know it’s supposed to launch in November, and the basic plot behind it is that of a group of 5 teenagers who are being secretly trained in the use of their super powers. (From what little we were shown and based on what was said, I get the feeling that it’s going to be a re-imagining of Gen13 with new characters. But it’s really too early to tell at this point.)

We then learned about J. Scott Campbell’s new project, Wildsiders. Following a group of five suburban teens with an interesting twist. Instead of being imbued with powers the teens will each have a suit of armor that will emit holographic projections that give them their powers. Wildsiders is a five-issue miniseries that will debut next summer. Campbell said that he prefers finite series with a, “beginning, middle and end. Like a two hour movie.” He hopes to revisit Wildsiders with a second miniseries as well.

There was some joking about the use of the word “Wild” in a couple of upcoming Wildstorm books (Wildsiders and Wildgirl). This was merely coincidence and not any attempt at branding by the company. Brian K. Vaughn joked, “I’m doing a book called, Oscar Wild,” which got a big laugh from the crowd. Another fan asked if there were going to be girls in Wildsiders. J. Scott Campbell assured the crowd that there would be girls. Jim Lee’s response, “There will be five”¦naked girls!”

Sounds good to me. At this point, I was about ready to visit the Mattel booth and check on those pesky lottery tickets again (*cough* Oogle She-Ra).

That basically wrapped up the presentation, and the actual Q&A portion of the panel began. One of the first fans to speak, started by thanking Jim for producing Sleeper which was met with a surprisingly strong reaction from the crowd (and I didn’t even have to threaten them.) The fan then asked how Sleeper was doing from a sales perspective. Jim responded that trade sales for Season 1 were good, and that they were already getting underway with a second printing, but that Season 2 single issues “could be better.” Jim went on to explain that Sleeper is a book that everyone at Wildstorm feels strongly about and therefore is a title that has earned its right to find it’s market. Jim then hinted that he would have no problem going into Season 3 with sales figures where they are now to let the title try and find its audience.

As the discussion of Sleeper began I noticed Daron visibly perk up. I shouldn’t tell you, but Daron had a stun prod at ready to put the audience in line if they didn’t cheer loudly enough for Sleeper.

Jim Lee was asked when he would return to Wildstorm and do a regular book. He announced that when he was done with Superman he had one more project for DC then he’d be back at Wildstorm in 2006.

When asked about WildCATS, Jim said, “I have no idea, but yes we have plans. Probably 2006.” Stormwatch was also promised a 2006 return, but whether that’s because Jim Lee will be working on either book, or if it was just a offhand joke, we’re not quite sure.

It was mentioned that the Global Frequency pilot went into production on Monday. There are no firm plans for more Global Frequency, but Scott Dunbier mentioned that he’d like to do a 100-page graphic novel. Hopefully centered on the character of Alice April. Of course, he needs to convince Warren Ellis that’s the way to go. So, we’ll have to wait and see. Considering the last issue of the maxi-series was about eight months late, doing Global Frequency as one-shots is the way to go. At least in this lackey’s opinion.

With no leading question, Brian K Vaughan informed the audience that he has a forthcoming Tom Strong one shot that everyone should check out, “It’s the highlight of my career,” BKV said, “working on an Alan Moore character.”

Brian was then asked about the plotting of Ex Machina and whether it was tightly plotted or not. Brian said that he plotted the series, “like a long drawn out novel,” with each story arc basically being “chapters” in the larger story. He also explained that Machina was set to run for 4 years (the entire length of the main characte’s tenure as Mayor of New York) and that it was being told in “real time.”

For those of you who have yet to try the series, I think BKV summed it up best when he said, “If you like the West Wing, and I don’t know”¦F—ing Ironman or whatever, you’ll like Ex Machina.” (This of course was met with an uproarious applause, and brought the panel to a close.)

Once the panel was over and people started leaving, we approached the creators to talk to them about the sight (ala stroke our own egos.) While I was off conversing with Brian K Vaughan (who remembered me from an email conversation we had a few weeks prior) and J Scott Campbell, Chris was off schmoozing with Patty Jeres, who told us that we (the site) were on DC’s radar. (Be on the lookout for some future “special features” that will be the result of that conversation.)

After the Wildstorm panel we did another lap around the convention center, if for no other reason the to check out the wonderfully talented She-Ra model. Man that girl can wear a nicely revealing plastic outfit. After that, we headed over to the Avengers Disassembled panel.

Avengers/Marvel Heroes
Featurng: Joe Quesada, Brian Michael Bendis, Dan Buckley, David Finch, Robert Kirkman, Adi Granov, Jimmy Cheung, Mark Ricketts, and special guest Sean McKeever.

Prior to the panel getting underway, Sean McKeever took a few moments to pimp his stuff. Even though he has nothing to do with any Avengers titles he let the crowd know that, “you won’t know the entire story of Avengers Disassembled until you’ve read Mary Jane”¦and Mystique.” Sean’s hilarious warm-up served as a precursor to the hilarity that ensued as the panel progressed.

As Joe Quesada came to the stage an audience member made a sly reference to his appearance in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, by asking, “Do you have the pizza?” Joe’s response, “No. But your mom’s following right behind me. She’s got it.”

The Joe and Sean Comedy show took an interesting turn as Joe Quesada offered Sean McKeever an exclusive contract if he “took a trip to his room.”

Oh, but wait there’s more!

Quesada was asked about the casting of Jessica Alba as Sue Storm. Shockingly Quesada played things pretty straight for a while. He talked about an acto’s chops being the key for most casting. The best choices weren’t always apparent to fans at this stage in the process. He used Michael Keaton as a pretty good example of early buzz not being so good on casting, but in the end it worked out quite well. Of course as soon as he finished this lengthy description he concluded with, “besides, she’s hot.” And then a moment later he continued, “I would kill you right now for Jessica Alba!” Truly a strange beginning to what would be a panel that offered some good info, but great comedy.

After the panelists finally settled down the slide show began. Most of the stuff they showed was previously announced at San Diego (or before) until they got to the final image of the slide show New Avengers #1. That’s right, on top of the swanky relaunch and new team, the book also gets a new title with the addition of the word “NEW.” Well enough on that”¦the info you really want; the New Avengers’ lineup.

The picture they showed for the lineup was very dark. It showed a couple characters very clearly (Captain America & Iron Man, with a few others in heavy shadows but still recognizable. These three characters were Spider-Man, Wolverine, and Spiderwoman (Jessica Drew). The last two characters in the picture were way in the background and completely unrecognizable, (Bendis joked that it was Superman & Batman since they were “Justice Leaguing” the book), but their identities were revealed as the panel went on. They were Luke Cage and The Sentry from Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee’s acclaimed maxi series.

A few minutes later, once the actual Q&A began, a fan asked if this meant that Wolverine would no longer be seen in the pages of the various X-titles. Dan Buckley responded simply, “Wolverine will be in the new Thunderbolts book. (At this point the publisher was joking, but you won’t see me putting any bets against the possibility.)

In regards to Bendis’ New Avengers he had a few things to say about the series. First and foremost, Bendis is well aware of the apparent discrepancies in personalities of all these new characters, whenever anyone asked about this anything in regards to the strange arrangement of the team he responded with a stock answer, “it sounds like good drama to me.” Of course only time will tell”¦

Bendis informed the crowd that during his tenure on the book we will see no less than 87 old marvel villains making their way back into the pages of the Avengers. The Masters of Evil and the Wrecking Crew were mentioned as only a taste of this list.

Joe Quesada really got behind three books repeatedly at the panel. District X, Amazing Fantasy, and She-Hulk were considered to be prime examples of books that were well received, and although reported differently on other sites, are safe and continuing for the foreseeable future. Marvel’s Publisher, Dan Buckley, verified that a She-Hulk collection was in the works, the only decision was whether it would be a trade paperback or in digest format. Definitely good news for fans of these young, critically acclaimed titles. It was also reported that Mary Jane is not on hiatus, but is going to be a series of mini-series.

With the wide array of titles covered, it was a little surprising that the title that Joe Quesada pimped the most was Young Avengers from the team of Allan Heinberg (a writer on the hit series The OC) and artist Jimmy Cheung. On more than one occasion Quesada said that this was “the best pitch he’s ever seen and it’s going to surprise a lot of people. It looks like young versions of Thor, Hulk, Captain America, and Iron Man to me. Clearly there’s something interesting brewing here. Whether it’s going to be as good as Quesada claims, we’ll know in early 2005.

Speaking of 2005, Joe Quesada promised a more cohesive universe throughout the Marvel line. There’s never going to be a return to the way Marvel was when Stan Lee was writing all the books, but Marvel’s listened to the pleas from fans and a real effort will be made. It’s high time for Marvel to have some semblance of cohesion from title-to-title again. Don’t expect footnotes, though, guys. Quesada said they’re basically gone for good, unless they’re used as a gag. Oh, well. You can’t have everything.

In “Other” Marvel character news, Quesada informed the crowd that both Namor and New Warriors would be coming back in the near future. Publisher Dan Buckley responded by saying that, “both Wolverine and Venom will be part of the New Warriors.”

That was about it for the Avengers panel, there was quite a bit of banter between the various creators (and some of them should really think about getting a job in stand up), but we’re here to report on comics so my monkey minion and I will move on.

After the Avengers panel Chris and I did another lap or two around the show, seeing who was available to talk to and pawn a business card on (and more importantly to make sure no one had run off with our She-Ra. Mmmmm She-Ra. Next up, and also the last panel we attended for the day, Cup of Joe with pretty much the same panelists as the last one.

Cup O’ Joe
Featuring: Joe Quesada, Dan Buckley, C.B. Cebulski, and managing editor David Bogart.

As with all the other panels, this one started off with a quick slide show showing us more or less what the creators wanted to talk about. It was mentioned, though very quickly, that the new Dr. Strange miniseries would entail the definitive origin of the character, which to this date has apparently never been told.

In regards to The Ultimates, Quesada announced that Vol. 2 will launch in December with both Millar and Hitch. Buckley threw in (with a straight face) that Vol. 2 would be monthly”¦ “for the first six issues anyway.”

Another long out-of-print Marvel property was announced as returning at the panel. C.B. Cebulski took center stage to tell us the titles and lineups for the What If? fifth-week event shipping in December.

Here are the titles and creative teams:

“What if Jessica Jones had joined the Avengers?” by Brian Bendis and Michael Gaydos
“What if General Thunderbolt Ross had become the Hulk instead of Bruce Banner?” by Peter David and Andrea Divito, cover by Gary Frank
“What if Professor Xavier and Magneto had started the X-Men together?” by Chris Claremont and Cully Hamner, cover by Jim Cheung
“What if Victor Von Doom had become the Thing?” by Karl Kesel and Paul Smith
“What if Aunt May had died instead of Uncle Ben?” by Ed Brubaker and Cameron Stewart
“What if Karen Page had not died?” by Brian Michael Bendis, Kevin Smith, and Alex Maleev cover by Joe Quesada
“Wha’ huh?”… an all humor issue by Jim Mahfood with stories by Brian Bendis, Mark Millar, Robert Kirkman, Mark Waid, and Brian K. Vaughan

What IF? is a book that’s been off the radar for too long. These books all seem to have interesting concepts and outstanding creative teams. Hopefully this is just a precursor to another ongoing series.

The other big announcement was concerning Marvel’s new Young Guns initiative. The Young Guns for 2004 are six artists that Marvel considers their best up and coming artists. The list includes: Adi Granov, Trevor Hairsine, Olivier Coipel, Steve McNiven, Jim Cheung, and David Finch. Clearly names that most comic fans are aware, but all certainly warrant greater attention. Expect to see cover-slugs on the issues these guys work on throughout the initiative.

An impromptu raffle was held that arranged alternate covers for each of the first six issues of New Avengers with a Young Gun illustrating.

Issue #1 – Steve McNiven featuring Spider-Man
Issue #2 – Trevor Hairsine featuring The Sentry
Issue #3 – Olivier Coipel featuring Wolverine
Issue #4 – Jimmy Cheung featuring Luke Cage and Spider-Girl
Issue #5 – Adi Granov featuring ?
Issue #6 – Which is a surprise

There were other interesting tidbits mentioned. First, Joe Quesada promised the return of Ghost Rider next year with a “unique team.” Joe Quesada revealed that Ultimate Nightmare is only the first miniseries of a trilogy. Ultimate Secret featuring writer Warren Ellis and artist Steven McNiven will be the second mini. Expect Stan Lee as the writer on the forthcoming Spider-Man: The End with an artist to be announced. Finally, and even though it’s not a new announcement, the second season of Runaways will begin in 2005, and pick up a few months after the first series.

The panel closed out with C.B. Cebulski answering a fan question about Age of Apocalypse by promising something old and something new for the tenth anniversary in 2005.

With that we ended our panel going for the day. We spent our remaining time in the show visiting creators and doing our best schmoozing.

Of course we had to make one last stop over at She-Ra’s both before we left. As Chris said, that was about it for the show. We stopped by a few other creato’s booths to say hi and pimp the site, and before we knew it”¦it was 6:00p.m. and time to head out.

After dinner we went out for drinks with Beckett Comic’s Managing Editor and writer Gabriel Benson. We spent most of the night talking about comics/movies and our mutual love for the industries, and even a little bit of time talking to a few other creators who happened by us at the bar.

All in all it was a great opening day for the con, and Chris and I will be back tomorrow with coverage of Day 2 here in Chicago. Until then”¦