Ryan Stegman is Donny Cates' artistic partner on Venom, Absolute Carnage and the upcoming King In Black. But it seems he is also being nabbed to do a cover for the upcoming series Crossover by Donny Cates, Geoff Shaw, Dee Cunniffe and John J Hill. Certainly if this variant cover by Stegman for Crossover #1 we have come across by nefarious means, coloured by Dee Cunniffe, means anything. Which it does.
It also suggests that Cates and Shaw's God Country, Redhawk and Atomhawk co-created by Cates will be part of Crossover, which we probably knew. But from this cover, also Erik Larsen's Savage Dragon, Eric Drooker's Flood, Robert Kirkman and Cory Walker's Invincible, and Michael Allred's Madman.
Which also suggests that this variant cover may be the first of many? I've heard from a handful of retailers already that they've got correspondence with Image Comics in early, before the solicits for the series have dropped, to try to cut ahead in line for an exclusive cover and a piece of what promises to be a very lucrative pie.
I'm told by a lucky few individuals who have read the issue #1 already that one of the main characters of the series is a comic shop retailer and that comic shops feature prominently in the series, which should provide lots of potential for, well, a crossover.
Even before Donny Cates tapped into Venom, it was God Country that put him and Geoff Shaw on the map. Now Image Comics has snatched him back and if this cover offers any hints then he may have brought some of his Marvel artists back with him, a bunch of comic book characters from all over the place, and some Marvel-style launch event tricks too…
Crossover will be published by Image Comics in November.
Donny tells us "I will tell you what Crossover is to me. Crossover is the scariest goddamn book I have ever attempted to produce in my entire life and that as to why it is the most exciting thing that I've ever done my teammates here will help me to try and elaborate and explain this thing to you because again it is insane" and defines it as "Imagine Avengers Endgame but as Cloverfield." And he points to the origin of this three-and-a-half years ago. "On January 11th of 2017 , Geoff Shaw and I released a book called God Country and Geoff and I were sitting around in my in my apartment then such a long time ago talking about, we had just done a signing, multiple signings here in Austin, and we were talking about, this is before I was at Marvel or anything, and we were talking about the nature of event books and how really the last story, the story that's never been told… is the story of that guy on the sidewalk selling hot dogs and how utterly terrifying it is for that person."
They talk at length on this video panel, with Geoff talking about how he's never seen anything like this in a comic book. And we did get to see some artwork… with some familiar archetypes.
They also point to issue 6 having the most epic storytelling in comic book history – but also want to remind people that this is all about the human element. That the main character is a comic book retailer. They hint at other Image Comics characters arriving in the story. And they end up turning Colorado into a demilitarised zone. So, as well as the creative team, Donny Cates states that "our story editor on the book is a young upstart young man named Mark Waid because a book of this magnitude I had to call in for some backup. I needed someone that I could call and be, like, hey am I losing my mind." You are, Donny, you are. "Am I… is this insane and Mark being the encyclopedia of all of comics knowledge that he is, has been a godsend for helping out in that way."
This is how it was previously previously dubbed as 'God Hates Masks'.
Telling us that he was "Logging off folks. Another long day writing sprint. Something about the quarantine is making me write like a demon! Tonight was something new for Geoff Shaw that y'all are gonna love!! Wanna see a few (non-spoilers, I promise, this is just the tip of the iceberg) panels?" Turns out we did.
Donny Cates commented "and yes, that's a comic shop being firebombed. Which, in these times, sure, might be an uncool thing to show. But this book is about a lot of things. And one of the more important things is how comics shops are places we can escape to and feel safe. And how they need saving."
That would make for one hell of a GoFundMe appeal as well. As to the comic, he says "beginning to sense a theme? Well even if you are, I promise….you'll NEVER see what game this book is playing until the beginning and the end of the 1st issue. It's a WILD book, y'all. #GodHatesMasks." I dunno, Donny, right now everyone needs to be wearing masks, right? Read the room. Here are the images that he teased previously.