NYCC ’17 Image’s Future Of Genre Panel With Ryan Browne, Wes Craig, Amy Reeder, Donny Cates, Tee Franklin, And More

by Noah Sharma

Image Comics editor David Brothers introduced the panel as a church-like experience, full of clapping and celebration before turning things over to the panelists.

Ryan Browne introduced Curse Words, written by Charles Soule. “A medieval fantasy world where the most badass man is a guy called Wizord” and he’s sent to New York to destroy it, only to discover that it’s kinda cool. He’s kind of a dick but a likable one and he’s got a talking koala named Margaret that is his moral and literal guide in New York.

Wes Craig spoke about Deadly Class first, pitching it as teenage 1980s San Francisco punk scene assassins and combining traditional action with some “shoegazing Morrissey stuff”. He’s also writing The Gravedigger’s Union, out in November, with art by Toby Cypress, based on an old story of his.

Amy Reeder received notable applause as she explained Rocket Girl, a teen cop from the future who goes back in time to 1980s New York. The second story arc has just ended with issue #10 and a trade will be out in December.

Next we turned to Gregg Schigiel, the creator of the middle-grade series Pix. The series follows a teenage superhero who beleives, wrongly or rightly, that she is a fairy princess.

Donny Cates, is a fountain of energy, as well as the writer of God Country, among others. That story follows a Texas man with Alzheimer’s who finds an enchanted talking sword in the ruins of a tornado that destroyed his family home. The sword cures him as long as he holds it, but the gods who own the blade want it back. Unfortunately for them, he’s of the “from my cold dead hands” persuasion.

Redneck is also set in Texas, and stars a family of vampires who run a barbecue shop where they’re trying to live peacefully, until one of their own is taken. Cates pre-apologized, warning that the second arc, the first issue no less, will “hurt”. He admitted that the series was born purely out of the pun of the title, and that he was shocked at how many Texas/vampire puns there were. Look for Volume 1: Deep in the Heart in stores now.

Finally he introduced Atomahawk as “weird”. Based on an idea that his tattoo artist, Ian Bederman, came up with, Atomahawk is a bizarre collaboration where Cates talks to Ian, Bederman draws what he wants, and Cates tries to script over it. Atomahawk starts the Cyberserker, who wields the Atomahawk, a blade that belongs to an imprisoned god he is on a quest to free.

Cates also announced that his Darkhorse series Buzzkill, by the same team as God Country, and Ghost Fleet: The Whole Goddamned Thing will also be collected by Image.

Unwilling to leave things with less energy than he began with, Cates then gave a copy of Atomahawk to a Lobo cosplayer who wants to make it in comics because, in his words, it’s proof that you don’t have to be that good to make it in this industry.

Tee Franklin just announced that Image will be publishing Bingo Love, her successfully kickstarted series about a pair of girls in a love deferred for almost fifty years until they meet again at Bingo. Franklin revealed that Cates was the one who initially put her in touch with Image.

Amy Reeder described Rocket Girl as someone who knows what she wants, something she respects. That tenacity even extends to her mission, to prevent  the rise of a sinister company that makes her ‘the future today’ timeline possible. Of course, that could erase her from history, but that’s what she’s willing to do to make things right. It also helps that in her future adults aren’t trusted as much as teens giving her even greater confidence as she travels back to the decade of excess.

Brothers asked Browne how he knows if something’s going to be funny on the page. Browne says its just practice and likened humor comics to being a standup comedian, uncertain if a joke was good for weeks or months. Though you don’t have the power of delivery and timing, Browne felt that it actually is an excellent medium for comedy because it allows you to control timing through panel size and to control the suspense of comedy through page turns.

Franklin was distracted from answering her question by the fact that not enough of the crowd watch Queen Sugar. She was hesitant to describe Bingo Love as a romance comic, but preferred to say that it is basically a “Lifetime movie thing”. It’s “a life” rather than a romance. There’s no scenes of them pressing up against their lockers but it’s all about their love and, as such, it’s appropriate that it’s releasing this Valentine’s Day.

Franklin also praised her entire creative team, singling colorist Joy San our for particular praise. Too many colorists don’t understand how black skin reacts to light, Franklin explained, and a similar phenomenon occurs with pencilers drawing black hair.

Craig spoke about the look of Deadly Class, based on the look of 80s punk posters. Though it was hard to ask colorist Jordan Boyd to pull things back, Craig wanted to communicate emotion through color. He thinks that it really helps to frame scenes from a character’s point of view and, with comics lacking music, colors, in his view, are the best tool to communicate how a character feels about the world.

Cates feels that Atomahawk is an “unbreakable” story, one that cannot be derailed by any concept. Aliens showing up in the Sopranos would kind of ruin it, but when the Cyberserker fights a “a tiger that’s invisible and shit” for the powerful crystals it contains, that’s just fine. Of course, it turns out, that that creation is called L-Ion. L-Ion was, obviously, supposed to be a lion, but apparently Bederman wanted him to be a Sabretooth Tiger and for those crystals to be the L-Ion’s teeth and those teeth to get punched out and for those crystals to sprout into a mushroom and the Cyberzerker to eat that mushroom and to start tripping “but like berserker rage tripping”. Cates wondered if Bederman actually reads his scripts.

For any loving insults Cates threw his way, Bederman seems to have his ducks in a row. He’s been putting up panels in his tattoo parlour and people have been asking for them. Apparantly he enjoys permanently marking people with support for his comic. Cates, for his part, just enjoys claiming their support, jokingly likening it to Kelly Sue Deconnick’s Noncompliant tattoos. Cates also stated that the layouts of the page are influenced by Bederman’s tattoo artist background, with very few square or rectangular panels because those aren’t suited to the curves of the human body. Cates did not mention if this was because of his habits or simply so he could use them as tattoos.

As Brothers began to ask Browne what his relationship with Charles Soule is like, Soule entered the room. Soule and Brown’s relationship as collaborators is an interesting one. This past summer they painted up a van to advertise the series and drove around the country, showing up at stores in wizard beards after doing donuts in the parking lot blasting Montell Jordan’s “This is How We Do It”. They then told some more van stories and declined to discuss the book itself in any more detail. The panel and audience deemed this more than acceptable.

Reeder admitted that she doesn’t really care for editors, preferring the freedom that Image allows to control the look of her book from script to finished product. Not having a colorist also helps her to be more experimental with covers.