Saturday afternoon saw IDW's former President/Publisher Chris Ryall and Editor-In-Chief John Barber speaking with New York Times Senior Editor George Gene Gustines about all things IDW Publishing. After 20 years, both Barber and Ryall are trying to be more than just "the alternative to Marvel and DC." In particular, IDW is looking to broaden their appeal by doing more non-fiction books with their Smithsonian Comics, going beyond the graphic novels IDW has done with the George Takai and the late John Lewis. The Smithsonian Comics line will collaborate with experts from the Smithsonian to tell different types of comic book stories based on "real" history many not be familiar with, distributed by Random House, as well as producing coloring books for children. This fall will also likely bring the Smithsonian coloring books to market and the graphic novels and different other Smithsonian books after that.
Also, coming in the fall will be a bigger push to have IDW books for sale in Spanish language editions, such as George Takai's They Called Us Enemy, Locke & Key, and Sonic The Hedgehog.
Locke & Key's next new miniseries In Pale Battalions have been approved, which will dig into the history of Key House and other generations of the Locke Family. It will start at the outset of World War I in Canada and goes abroad into the warzones of Europe all the way back to Key house. Joe Hill has been doing lots of World War I research for the book, and the three-issue limited series will serve as a prequel to the big IDW/DC crossover Locke & Key/Sandman by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez that is coming. That story was pitched by Joe Hill "to Neil Gaiman a few years ago" and has "direct ties to the Seasons of Mist storyline" from Sandman #21 – #28. Locke & Key In Pale Battalion #1 will be out in August, with #2 in September, #3 in October, Locke & Key/Sandman #0 also in October, with Locke & Key/Sandman #1 in November.
Ryall was asked about sales, and Locke & Key sales are up since the Netflix series has aired, along with sales on IDW Horror coloring books as the pandemic has kept many at home.
Barber then spoke on the new G.I. Joe book by Paul Allor and Chris Evenhuls which will be exploring PTSD in the G.I. Joe world in a different way since this G.I. Joe team is more "sort of ordinary people who have a skillset who get pulled into a G.I. Joe team as opposed to being people who come from a military background and in a world where Cobra has basically won". Larry Hama continues with G.I. Joe A Real American Hero that will be going into Special Mission type stories after the current long arc ends.
Next, the conversation moved to the news on Star Trek Comics with emphasis given to the second half of Star Trek Year Five, the new Star Trek Deep Space Nine miniseries that is a "murder mystery" of sorts, which is the first new DS9 series in 10 years. The news of a new Star Trek Voyager series was announced, and recommendations for the Transformers series for new readers to get into with the Last Stand of the Wreckers and Windblade topping the list. Also, a new Ultra Magnus story is coming starting in Transformers Galaxies #10 with Andrew Griffith co-writing and drawing.
Next year will bring Sonic the Hedgehog's 30th anniversary, and upcoming for the Sonic the Hedgehog comic long time writer Ian Flynn will be leaving but going over to write a new Sonic the Hedgehog series called The Bad Guys. Evan Stanley will be coming onto the main Sonic book as the writer and artist. The recently introduced characters of Whisper and Tangle will also be seen more. Ryall points out that original characters from Archie Comics are still off-limits to IDW to use in their comics, and they know that fans want to see them, but there is no change in being able to use them in IDW published series. On the other hand, IDW has heard the requests for a Sonic the Hedgehog / Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles crossover, but nothing is planned right now.
Switching over to a discussion about the Artist's Edition program, Ryall said they have a five-week event coming up that they can't go into detail about yet. Still, the program depends on Scott Dunbier, who is "the reason these books exist." Much of it revolves around Scott being "the Indiana Jones" of gathering artwork. Another factor for deciding on what Artist Editions to do is "which one[s are] going to resonate with the widest audience, but sometimes you do it just because you know" there are "people that love Ross Andru Amazing Spider-Man really love it. So it's' fun to do the books that you know or maybe not gonna have as wide an appeal, but you're really gonna hit an audience … in their sweet spot". Books like the upcoming Dave Cockrum book and the Bill Mantlo / Michael Golden Micronauts book appeal to those fans, and even with seventy-five of the Artist's Editions published so far; there are many more possible such as Art Adams or George Perez or Ramona Fradon.
In closing, Ryall wanted to share that the rerelease of the Darwyn Cooke Parker series as the Martini Edition will be followed by another volume next year with a new Parker story by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. The new story is a tribute to the Parker characters but to Darwyn himself. This upcoming book will be out the midpoint of 2021 and will have the new story titled "Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow A Grofield Story." Barber is excited for people to see the new Canto series, more Ghost Tree, and Sea of Sorrows, coming out likely next year.
You can watch the whole panel here: