April 11, 2011

WonderCon 2011: Archaia Panel

Archaia Comics made a big announcement two weeks ago at C2E2, but they left some major reveals for WonderCon. Fans arrived to the panel early to hear the latest news. Editor-in-Chief Stephen Christy led the discussion featuring Marketing Manager Mel Caylo, Assistant Editor Rebecca Taylor, and special guests Joe LeFavi and Nate Cosby.

On Friday at WonderCon before the panel, they announced an anthology based on the Immortals movie. Joe LeFavi of Quixotic Transmedia facilitated the partnership between Relativity Media and Archaia, and he joined the panel to discuss the graphic novel. Tarsem Singh is directing; the release date is set for 11-11-11. It will be gritty and beautiful and according to LeFavi, “There are more abs in the film than there are actors.” The movie comes down to the last stand of mankind against a massive force of evil. They are tying the anthology into the movie, but it will be an original collection of short stories instead of a graphic adaptation.

LeFavi stated, “We're taking some of the best comic creators and we're allowing them to step within the world of the film and to go play. Take these characters and these major events and tell Greek mythology tales the way you've always wanted to tell them.” They announced that Nate Cosby, former Marvel editor, is editing the collection. One half of the book will tell about the gods on Mount Olympus before the events of the film, and then it will flip over and take readers to mankind's side of the story. Cosby said that everyone he pitched the story to was excited about contributing. The list includes the talents of David Mack, Ben Templesmith, Jock, Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, Jeff Parker, Chris Roberson, and Francesco Francavilla among others.

Stephen Christy pointed out that it is unique for a comic book company and studio to partner in this way. The graphic novel will be published through the Archaia Black Label division; this division exists specifically to work with the entertainment industry to bring stories to comics. LeFavi said the relationship has been amazing so far. The book will be released before the film, so as LeFavi mentioned, if fans do read the anthology before, “you will get a different experience from the film. You will have a richer viewpoint on what's going on... a lot of people can see a 90 minute movie and that's all they need but fanboys want more. They want those questions answered, and that's why this book exists."

Then they moved on to a discussion of another partnership – the one with The Jim Henson Company. In addition to Fraggle Rock and the Dark Crystal original graphic novel with Brian Froud, Archaia will be publishing a hardcover anthology of tales based on The Storyteller. Cue an audible gasp from the audience. Christy said that one of the wonderful things about their work with Henson is that they've had access to the Henson vaults the entire time. They uncovered some interesting treasures related to The Storyteller, including an original unproduced episode written by Anthony Minghella. Cosby is also editing this collection, and the anthology stories will center around this unproduced screenplay.

Janet Lee's Storyteller Art
The book will be released in September, and the list of contributors is dazzling. It includes Roger Langridge, Katie Cook, Janet Lee, Jim McCann, Evan Shaner, Marjorie Liu, Chris Eliopoulos, Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, and many more. Cosby said everyone he contacted about this project enthusiastically said yes. It is also his favorite Henson creation after The Muppets. The idea of this storyteller sitting by the fireplace telling arcane stories to his dog and the audience has powerful appeal. The stories are not original but rather derived from legends and fairy tales that go back hundreds or thousands of years. Cosby emphasized, “It's so much fun. It's one of the favorite things that I've ever edited.” The creation of the anthology has been supervised closely by Lisa Henson. It's important to Archaia that partnerships are actual collaborations and not just licenses. They want to make sure it's meaningful to fans.

Rust Cover
Next, attention shifted to Rebecca Taylor. She showcased two upcoming original graphic novels to be released this summer. Old City Blues will be available in June. The story by Giannis Milonogiannis is a cyberpunk police thriller set in Athens, Greece in 2048. Taylor said the story is really a straight up police drama that is a perfect cross between Japanese and European style comics. The other book, Rust by Royden Lepp, will be out in August. It focuses on a small farm where the family is just trying to get by after the end of third world war. Their life is shaken up when a young boy with a jet pack crashes into their barn. He was followed there by a huge robot leftover from the war. Mystery and drama ensue.

Finally, Mel Caylo made note of some upcoming forewords. Writer/producer/director Alan Ball will be writing the foreword for Lucid hardcover (release date in early May). Christy explained Lucid as The Bourne Identity meets Harry Potter. Mages, secret magic, power, and war are all a part of the comic by Michael McMillian. This is Archaia's first book in partnership with Zachary Quinto's production company Before the Door. Christy was also very excited to discuss another book they are working on with Before the Door - Mr. Murder is Dead. He told the audience, “It's literally one of the best comic books scripts I've ever read in my entire life.” He said the premise for the story by Victor Quinaz is, “What if Dick Tracy grew up, became a cantankerous old man, and became a bad guy?” The comic has flashbacks, and as it goes back in time, the art style changes. If they go back to the 1970s, the art will match that time period.

Caylo also mentioned the upcoming hardcover Days Missing Vol. 2 will have a foreword by Wil Wheaton. Archaia works with Roddenberry Productions on this story. It's a science fiction series about a character known as The Steward. He has the ability to fold a 24 hour period to repair dire situations.

The panel wrapped up with questions from the audience. Questions were about variety of Archaia titles from A Tale of Sand to Immortals to The Killer (someone asked if they were surprised by the success of The Killer to which Christy replied, “No, it's awesome”). One person commented on the high quality of Archaia books and even the posters they were handing out as giveaways for Immortals. Christy stated that the only way that print publishing can survive is if they are creating destination material. It has to be something that makes fans want to go out and buy a book as opposed to downloading it. They want to make quality product because they know fans spend hard earned money, and they want it to be worth it to the fans. Christy mentioned this key phrase: “We only publish books that we believe in.” That extends beyond the stories to the quality of the product. The passion every panelist had for the upcoming projects was palpable. It was contagious. Keep an eye on Archaia over the next year.

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