NYCC ’17: Oblivion Song, Red Neck, Slots & More – The Skybound Panel With Kirkman, Cates, Panosian And Co

by Hannah Means Shannon

At the Skybound Panel at New York Comic Con on Friday morning, Robert Kirkman, Donny Cates, Sean Mackiewicz, Daniel Warren Johnson, Lorenzo Di Felici, and Dan Panosian graced us with their cheerful presences despite most folks in the audience staying up late the night before, as they admitted.

Talking about “Comics You Should Buy”, we started off with The Walking Dead, Kirkman said #173 might seem to be a “reassuring” cover, but you should not take it that way. And all-Negan issue is coming up in December, and now Here’s Negan is out in shop as a deluxe hardcover (landed this week). Kirkman said it was “fun” to distribute it in 4 page chunks, and make each one “matter”, which made it a better story, he felt. In #175, the “New World Order” storyline kicks off, and we see who Eugene has been talking to on the walkie talkies for years now. There will be “more people than we’ve ever encountered before” and there will be “vastly different” types of clashes than in the past, with plenty of new characters.

Dan Panosian’s Slots #1 landed this week and has sold out, going back for a second printing. This is a story about a “loveable loser” and is based on Panosian’s “loser” experiences, he joked. The character is based in Vegas, where everything is “luck based” and he feels he’s “run out of luck”. He believes in “signs” and feels it’s times to try to “right his wrongs”. There’s a lot of “punching” in this book, he promised.

Kirkman said that Panosian is one of his favorite artists in comics, and giving him a platform at Skybound has been a great thing. Kirkman likes giving artists voices for writing, too.

The first issue ends with a “horrible relationship between a father and son” and it gets worse before it gets better, Panosian said.

Talking about Kirkman’s newly announced series coming out March 7th, 2018, Oblivion Song, artist Lorenzo Di Felici was introduced. A lot of Philadelphia will appear in the comic. There’s dimension-hopping, Kirkman said, in the comic. Character Nathan will be hunting for people trapped in another dimension with his own equipment, contrary to the wishes of the government, fighting monsters and saving people. He’s up against “insurmountable odds” in this “apocalypse adjacent” series, Kirkman explained.

De Felici said it’s a “fun experience” working on the comic, an “unexpected” opportunity in his career. De Felici said it was exactly what he likes to read and draw, so it was a “jackpot” for him. He also did a raft of variant covers for Skybound books earlier in the year, ahead of this announcement on Oblivion Song, and his upcoming work was teased at that point, as you may remember if you follow Skybound online.

Talking about Extremity, which just appeared for a seventh issue, Daniel Warren Johnson gave a brief precis of the series for fans, about the series of clans who exist in the world of the comic and our central character, who’s an artist and during war-time has her drawing hand cut off.

The main character have lost the “thing that has made them who they believe they are as a person” and therefore replaces that with the role of warrior.

The floating island worlds of the comic appear in the second and last arc of the series. The series will end with issue 12. DWJ already has another project at Skybound, he said, and is on a second issue in terms of work that will follow Extremity.

Cates spoke about Red Neck, which has concluded its first arc. In that series, the Bowmans are vampires who try to keep a low-profile in Texas running a BBQ joint drinking cow’s blood to survive. In the first arc, one of their own gets killed, and it stretched the boundaries of “hiding” and “keeping the peace”, Cates said. At the end of the first arc, they were forced to “flee” their home. In the second arc, starting in November, they are “on the run” and hiding again. If the first arc was about “revenge”, the second one is actually the scariest and “most brutal”.

After the “very dark” first arc, they wondered if they should “put the brakes on”, but instead it somehow ended up being “the most brutal thing we’ve ever done”. Issue #7 is the one with the biggest conversation with “maybe we shouldn’t” do this or that because it was too extreme. Mackiewicz commented that it’s a series that works well as a tense monthly, but also in a trade edition.

Cates said that arc two will move into the past for at least an issue or so. His favorite one, in arc two, is set in “’Nam”. He’s not trying to “punish” fans, but this arc is very dark, he laughed.

Cates spoke about the “Texas Forever” shirts they’ve made for charitable purposes to donate to Houston’s recovery from the recent hurricane. All the proceeds go to Houston Coalition for the Homeless. It will be released next week.

They are also doing a cover that will be the “same deal”, drawn by Nick Derrington, who is a Texan. It hasn’t been revealed yet.

The Pride shirt for Red Neck that they released awhile back actually raised over $12,000, Cates said. Those shirts are still for sale at the Skybound booth.

Talking about Outcast, issue #31 is a “standalone” story that sets the stage for an “Invasion” storyline that starts in December. There will eventually be a “strange cult” forming, amassing followers for our main characters. The government are actually the “bad guys” as things ramp up, Kirkman said.

Invincible only has four issues left to go, Kirkman said, which was both “exciting” and “sad”. This is setting the stage for “Robot War”, a super-massive event issue coming up, all in one issue. #144 will be a double-sized issue. Things are “taking a dark turn toward the end”, Kirkman joked, or perhaps he was serious when he said, “Everybody’s gonna die”.

Talking about Gasolina, which also debuted in order to go back to print, Mackiewicz revealed the second printing cover, as well as the “Megabox” cover. The book is about newlyweds living in Mexico working on a sugar plantation, and in the first issue the bride’s nephew is kidnapped and he asks the couple to negotiate in order to get his son back. This draws them into conflict with a brutal cartel. There is a big “monster” element as horror begins rolling into issues #2 onward, though. Mackiewicz wanted to feature realistic “romance” elements with a central couple being stressed by outside factors as well as by the newness of their marriage.

Evolution is their next new book coming up at the end of November, featuring a big group of Portland-based writers, and the story is telling what happens when evolution has suddenly jumped forward for certain humans.

Kill the Minotaur, a six-issue miniseries, is also coming to collection in January. This is also in development at Universal Studios, Mackiewicz said, with the creators writing the script.

During the Q&A, the panelists were asked if there would ever be a “shared universe” at Skybound. Cates said in reading Redlands and working with Jordie Bellaire made him want to have a “southern” crossover.

Kirkman said there’s a “tiny nod” to another Image book in issue #8 of Red Neck. The sword from God Country also turned up in Skottie Young’s I Hate Fairyland, too. But generally no, there are no plans for a shared universe, Kirkman said.

Kirkman said that there’s going to be a Walking Dead VR game, and lots they are doing with VR right now. Mackiewicz said that Telltale Games are in the works for Walking Dead, too. There’s a tabletop game launching late in 2017, he said. Original fiction and licensed books based on Skybound properties will also be forthcoming from Simon & Shuster, Mackiewicz said.

Asked if he was facing stereotypes in Red Neck, and whether the increased popularity of creators setting other comics or stories in Texas in the Southwest will affect the second arc of Red Neck, Cates said the characters are based on real people and that influences him. It’s “his state” and he wants people to “back the fuck off”, he joked. The reason he was able to do these stories was because forerunners “opened the door” for him on settings like this and it helped out. He concluded that there’s “plenty of room for everyone”.