Joseph Schmidt writes for Bleeding Cool:
Nick Dragotta, Joe Casey, Amy Reeder, Brandon Montclare, Rick Remender, Ed Brubaker, and J Michael Straczynski were in attendance for the Image Comics: What's Next? panel, moderated by Eric Stephenson.
Brubaker started the discussion by summarizing the latest issue of his hit, Fatale, which is set in the grunge era in Seattle. "Our immortal incarnation of the femme fatale has amnesia and is living in a mansion with a one hit wonder rock band."
He then talked about Velvet, his new comic with Steve Epting. "Five years ago I told Steve about this project called Velvet and it's taken him this long for him to finish his commitments at Marvel to do this thing."
Velvet, a Moneypenny-type character, is thought to be responsible for the death of her James Bond-esque companion. It's found out she's the deadliest woman in the world. Brubaker was chided into summarizing the story, panel by panel.
Joe Casey then began discussing The Bounce. "It's a weird story of a Spider-Man character who smokes a lot of weed."
He then discussed the book Sex. "Now you can go to your comic book store, and get Sex. He's a retired super hero, who finds out without the costume or lifestyle, he doesn't have much of a lifestyle at all. It's weird, wild stuff."
"So, Nick, you've been hard at work with East of West?" Stephenson asked.
"This is my first Image book with Jonathan Hickman," Dragotta said. The book is set in a dystopian future where the civil war never ended. In issue 5, the other Horseman want to kill Death to kickstart the Apocalypse, because Death is in love and doesn't want the world to end.
"Now we're playing it fast and loose, it's a very organic creative process," Dragotta said. "It's an artist's dream to find an artist that's so into the design process.
"When you support image, you create a better industry." He then thanked the fans and retailers to applause.
Amy Reeder and Brandon Montclare then spoke their new book, Rocket Girl. "The future she comes from is an alternate version of 2013," Montclare said. The book is inspired by Back to the Future. "Where are the flying cars and the setbacks?"
"In this alternate 2013, they are all teen cops," Reeder said. "That was the way of getting rid of the corrupt police force of the '80s, replacing them with idealogical teenagers."
Next up Rick Remender talked about new book, Black Science, his return to pulp science fiction. "I'm telling a story about a guy who is a member of a league of anarchic science, and he's playing with science that he should not." The book should be a complex mystery filled with "off-kilter moments." Matteo Scalera, who seems to be cloned as of late, will be contributing art, among others.
Remender's other book from Image, Deadly Class, was brought up next. "A story about an assassin's high school." Set in the mid-80's. The kids are expected to grow up and become killers. "The dagger in your back is not metaphorical." It sounds like a darker take on similar concepts explored in Jimmy Robinson's Five Weapons, but interesting regardless.
Next came JMS's slate of Image books, Ten Grand and Sidekicks.
Stephenson then asked the panel about doing books they couldn't do at DC or Marvel.
"I can fucking kill these people," Brubaker said. "You killed Captain America, but everyone know he was going to be back eventually." He said he can do things in Velvet he couldn't do other places.
"There's also the purity of attention," Remender said. "Being able to build something… and build characters out of thin air… I've had a wonderful experience with creator owned books."
"Doing Fantastic Four, I'm a second rate Jack Kirby," Dragotta added. "Doing East of West, I'm a first rate Nick Dragotta."
Stephenson asked Reeder about her work at DC.
"They were good experiences," she said. "What really matters about creator owned stuff, I get more say on the work I do." She mentioned inking herself, coloring and designing everything. "That's something I really like to be able to do."
Stephenson then asked the panlesist how they work for themselves without having bosses.
"I work for my artists," Brubaker said. "They'll get mad. If I slow down, Sean [Phillips] will kill me. I need to have those books come out and Sean needs pages to draw."
"I find for me, when someone calls me to ask about deadlines it doesn't help," Reeder said.
"I was the person who would call her at DC and yell at her," Montclare chimed in.
"When I worked for DC, I was more productive on the weekends because I wasn't stressed out about any phone calls or bad news," Reeder added.
"This is the greatest job you could ever have, to make comics," Casey said. "It harkens back to being a kid in wanting to do comics… I really love it. It's not a vacation, but I don't need a vacation. For a publisher to put out whatever goofy ideas you have, I'm not gonna waste it."
Stephenson asked who made comics for themselves.
"It's just a love of storytelling," Dragotta said. "I love stories and creating them… I'm drawing a page a day whether I want to or not."
Remender said he was inspired by creator-owned comics, so he got involved with making his own. "It was so fulfilling that I couldn't stop."
Thus begun the Question and Answer session.
Brubaker was praised for his run on Catwoman and was asked about his treatment of female characters. "I like those kinds of characters," he said of strong females. "I don't want any woman to pick up a comic and be offended.
Stephenson was asked about digital exclusives.
"I believe people should own it," Stephenson said. He spoke about Comixology and iBooks, "They're not selling the files, they're selling the experience." He didn't detract from those services, calling them vital. Stephenson simply wants the most accessibility for anyone that wants to read comics.
Next, JMS was asked about Babylon 5 comics and whether he would revisit it in comic form. He respectfully said no, because if he'd go back he'd "poop all over it." At least he's honest!
Any more plans for Incognito?
"We're certainly talking about it," Brubaker said, but he and Sean don't know where they want to go next. It hasn't come to him about what he wants to do next with Incognito, but he has thought about a Blade Runner-esque story with Sean Phillips.
Remender answered a fans question about continuity versus plot, mentioning his fascination with building something from scratch opposed to having to research something. "I think that they're just different pieces."
Brubaker added that starting a series from scratch is much harder than rebooting Fantastic Four. "There's an added detail to launching these things that we don't always think of."
"It almost makes it closer to screenwriting," Remender added.
The next fan asked the best tips to break in. He got the advice to be original, be a great storyteller.
"You need to care about what you do, and you need to fight for it," said JMS.
The next fan asked what the Bounce means. She was promptly chastised for her ignorance, having not read the comic at all.
The next question asked about the references and inspiration he had for East of West. "[Hickman] said, Make Death likable." He then praised Frank Martin, his colorist.
A female fan asked if it's hard to create characters that aren't sexist.
Stephenson said, the majority of characters were created decades back under a different mindset.
JMS chimed in, "Women characters tend to be objectified, men characters tend to be idealized, and if you treat it that way in the drawing it will come out."
"It is easier when you're creating your own characters," Reeder said. "There's ways you can make something without seeming sexist. Like, they can have normal posture."
Amy's comment brought a roar of applause, and with that, the panel ended.