WWC: Aspen Panel

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When arriving at the Aspen panel many in the audience had been given a set of inflatable "thunder sticks" emblazoned with the logo for Aspen’s new comic book title Dellec and both creators and fans were happily banging them together to make noise.

When the time came for the panel to start Vice President Peter Steigerwald managed to get everyone (somewhat) quietened down in order to issue the traditional Aspen greeting of "Aloha!" Steigerwald then introduced the other members of the panel: Frank Mastromauro, Aspen President, Vince Hernandez, Editor-in-Chief, Mark Roslen, Director of Design and Production, Micah Gunnell, writer on Dellec and J.T. Krul, writer of Fathom.

Steigerwald then quickly turned the podium over to Frank Mastromauro who began updating fans on Aspen’s upcoming projects. Starting out with what probably had the most interest; Mastromauro said that the Fathom movie is going well. A script has been turned in to the studio and they are studying it and the Aspen team expected to hear back on it next week. Fans were also assured that actress Megan Fox is very excited about the project and has been talking about it in the media.

Turning to the comic book version of Fathom, Mastromauro stated that issue #10 of volume 3 marks the end of Michael Turner’s original vision for the series. He assured fans that they have already been plotting out ideas for volume 4 and volume 5, moving forward based on Turner’s original ideas and continuing his legacy.

Executive Assistant Iris was up next with Mastromauro stating that they have been receiving good feedback on the story so far and he considers it a good story with good characters and a little bit of a departure from the usual Aspen fare. He also told fans that there is already some movie interest in the property.

Turning to Dellec, Mastromauro indicated that the team has been working on it for some time and that it was a real departure for Aspen. It is darker, with a touch of religion as it deals with the question of "what if the devil didn’t exist and it was really God behind all the bad things that happen in the world?" They also deliberately chose the $2.50 price point on the title to try to combat rising comic book prices elsewhere.

Mastromauro then drew writer J.T. Krul into the conversation to talk about Krul’s upcoming new series Mindfield. Krul described the series as: the government uses drugs to create a team of telepathic agents to use in the War on Terror. These agents are supposed to use their powers to find and stop terrorists but the downside is that they cannot control their powers and so they hear everyone’s thoughts around them – all the bad, smarmy things as well. Krul indicated the series should be out early next year.

In a rapid-fire run through, Mastromauro said that the Aspen Showcase would be back – different writers and artists tackling one-shots featuring a different Aspen character each issue. The upcoming issue would focus on the character of Kiāni. Also available would be the Aspen Splash – a special featuring splash pages by various artists.

Mastromauro said that the Shrugged trade paperback was finally available and that volume 2 would be on its way in the future. He then acknowledged that the company has not been able to get out as many trades in the past and it was something fans have always asked for. He stated that the company has made a commitment this year to trying to get more trades of their various series out into the market.

There was then quick mention of the fact that there will be more Michael Turner Sketchbooks published as well as some of Turner’s work for Marvel which has not been published yet but should be coming soon and that their webisodes for the NBC TV series Heroes is also continuing.

Mastromauro also said that he has been in touch with writer Geoff Johns and that Ekōs is still on its way. He explained that Johns’ schedule is tight right now and he is busy with Blackest Night from DC but is eager to get to Ekōs.

Next came the announcement that the Soulfire Vol. 2 hardcover would be coming out soon and that the Soulfire: New World Order series is coming out now and it bridges the gap between Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. He added that Valhalla Pictures is working on trying to get Soulfire as a motion picture.

Connected to that, Mastromauro said that Valhalla Pictures had approached Aspen with their own property – an idea called The Scourge which Valhalla Pictures has been trying to have made into a movie. The premise is that a man contracts a virus which essentially turns him into a gargoyle-like creature. This creature then goes on a rampage, killing and infecting others until the city is at risk of being overrun by gargoyles and one man has to try to stop it. Aspen intends to produce a comic book version of the property while Valhalla Pictures continues to try to pitch it to a studio as a feature film.

Mastromauro took a moment then to acknowledge that the past year has been difficult for everyone at Aspen comics with the passing of Michael Turner. He reminded them that they are a small publishing company with a small staff but he stated they are back on track had are making big plans for the coming year. He also thanked fans for all of their support and condolences and memories of Turner over the past year. He then opened up the floor for Q & A.

One fan asked if there would be more Iron and the Maiden in the future. Mastromauro stated that that title was creator owned and that when Jason Rubin wanted to work on it again they would be interested but for now Rubin had indicated he had other things on his schedule.

Another fan asked the panel which actress might play Grace in a Soulfire movie. After joking around a bit Krul responded that he would like to see Charlize Theron do it but that he also always had list of other names which would come to him at various times.

The next person asked if Soulfire and Fathom exist in the same universe. The response was that, while there has been a temptation of doing a big crossover of all of Aspen’s characters in the end Michael Turner had wanted to keep all the titles separate.

Another fan asked if Aspen was interested in adapting some of its properties as animated features instead of live action. Mastromauro said that it has taken them ten years to get Fathom to the point it is at for a live action movie and that originally it was meant to be an animated feature. He explained that there are some talks ongoing and it would be nice to see more in the future but there is nothing on the schedule right now. He informed the audience that they took their properties very seriously and that it was not just about getting a project out but in making sure it was the right project for the property.

In mentioning the movie, one fan asked if there would be any cameos by the staff in the films like Stan Lee has done in several of the Marvel movies. There were jokes all around but no serious plans.

Mastromauro then took a moment to inform fans that, for those who collect statues, the problems with the Kiāni statue had been fixed and that new bases for the statue would be shipping soon. After that they intend to start publicizing the new Aspen Matthews statue. He explained that they had not felt it was right to start talking about the new statue before they got the problems with the previous one fixed.

The discussion of statues led one fan to ask if Aspen has considered doing action figures. Mastromauro said that the tooling needed to create action figures is expensive and they just can’t do it right now. He did say that fans might see something around the time of the movie though.

Another person asked if they had ever thought about showcasing more of the secondary characters in the various comics. The reply came that this is what the Seasons series of books was for and that they were interested in bringing Seasons back. There was also some discussion about the possibility of doing some stand-alone graphic novels. Many fans indicated that they would be interested in such a project.

The next questioner asked if they had considered doing more digital media outside of their work for Heroes. The reply came that they were interested but they were trying to find a way to make it profitable; although they have been looking into putting their archives into a digital format and making that available to fans.

The next person asked if any other actors had been cast for the Fathom movie. Mastromauro said no then explained that they had to get the star lined up first, and then get the script and the director before they could work on the cast.

Another fan asked if there would be more Michael Turner covers. Mastromauro replied that there would be a few which they had been holding back and that Marvel had some things coming which Turner had done for them before his passing. He informed the room, though, that Turner had never worked very far ahead and so the amount of unpublished material they had left was very little. He went on to say, however, that his dream big project he would like to do in the future was to create a coffee table book with anything and everything Turner had ever done in it.

Related to that, another fan in the audience asked if they had considered asking people to send in scans or pictures of the convention sketches they had gotten from Turner over the years. Various members of the panel said that Wizard Magazine had already done that and published some and that others had been published online but it would be hard to get them all. This lead to a warning for fans to be careful of people selling Turner sketches on e-bay. Since Turner’s passing some people have been selling fakes. Fans were told that if they had any questions at all about the authenticity of any Turner art they could contact any member of the Aspen crew via e-mail or on the Aspen message boards and they would be happy to verify it or not.

The final question came from a fan who noted DC Comics recent direct-to-DVD animated movies based on some of their comic book story arcs have made sure the animation resembled the original comic book art. He wanted to know if DC had been in touch with Aspen about animating the Superman/Batman story arc introducing the most recent incarnation of Supergirl which had featured Michael Turner’s art. Mastromauro said that there had been no contact yet but he might make some phone calls.

With that the panel closed with yet another loud "Aloha!" since it is the Hawaiian word for both hello and goodbye.

Don't forget to check out the Aspen Dellec Production Blog here at Broken Frontier.

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  • Richard Boom

    Richard Boom Aug 9, 2009 at 2:33am

    wow...great coverage!! Thanks!!!

  • Tonya Crawford

    Tonya Crawford Aug 9, 2009 at 7:56am

    Welcome. But I"m tired now..... Whew, busy con for me this year!

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