Image assembled an all-star line up for it’s We Believe in Vision panel including Jason Aaron (Thor, Southern Bastards), Gerry Duggan (Deadpool, Analog, Dead Rabbit), Jen Bartel (Blackbird), Kieron Gillen (Star Wars, Mercury Heat, The Wicked and the Divine, Die), Stephanie Hans (The Wicked and the Divine, Die), Joe Casey (Sex, Jesus Freak), Daniel Warren Johnson (Space Mullet, Murder Falcon), and Jeff Rougvie (Music producer, historian, and more).
The panel opened by announcing Gunning For Hits by Jeff Rougvie, Moritat, and Casey Silver due out in January. Rougvie got his start in music just hanging around a record store until they hired him. He tried going to art school but eventually dropped out to move to Minneapolis. It turned out pretty well for him because five years later he was hanging out with David Bowie every night.
A childhood comic fan, Rougvie pitched his idea to Eric Stephenson, who connected him with Moritat and Silver. Rougvie was very involved in a hyper competitive field, getting the rights to music catalogues and calls the book semi-autobiographical. The idea of the book is that a guy in the music business in 1987 who’s figured out how to make sure, 100%, that the industry works, that every song that should become a hit becomes one. He calls it a “revenge fantasy” for all the songs and artists that didn’t get their chance. The cover seems to promises a different look at David Bowie, based on Rougvie’s own experiences with him and other music icons.
The series will come with a spotify playlist as well as a twitter account. The main character of the book is a little bit of a mystery, deep but with unclear origins. His twitter account will provide glimpses into his past.
Southern Bastards has just crossed a threshold. Though Roberta Tubbs has succeeded in uncovering the truth about her father and Coach Boss, she now has made the decision not to just kill him but to stick around and end everything that he built there. The next arc is called “Ribs” and it will look more at some of the football players that have been in the margins of the story.
Southern Bastards is a book that looks at the aggression, racism and violence of Southern culture. Asked if those issues have evolved since the comic started, Aaron replied “no, I think those issues are still there…” The series is a look at a place that the creators, both Southerners, both love and fear, though Aaron says that at times they have to try to remember to include the things they love about it to balance out the book.
The Goddamned was always intended to be a series of interconnected miniseries than a single story and we’ll get to see that with The Goddamned: The Virgin Brides. The story is about a group of young girls being raised in a “very strange nunnery” who begin to uncover what is really going on. The arc will connect to the first one and continue on from there. “I don’t just like stories about hitting people with sticks,” said Aaron, “I also like stories about hitting people with rocks. We do that a lot in this book…”
“We started imagining a world where the internet was so insecure that you would no longer send anything sensitive across it,” said Duggan of Analog, his cyberpunk neo-noir. This was in 2015 and, as subsequent events played out he started to feel that it was important to get the book published quickly. Later he caved and admitted, that, as a writer, he just wants to get rid of cell phones, so if you’re sick of the internet this book might be for you.
Based on some real events in his life, Duggan realized that, once revealed, people who hold hidden, ugly beliefs would suddenly have to be vocal and forceful about them if they want to survive. So after a mass doxxing, the world finds itself deeply tribal and violent. “It’s the future but it feels like the past,” said Duggan.
Dead Rabbit turns away from the bright superhero worlds that Duggan often plays in in favor of gritty crime and shit black comedy. It follows a crook whose retirement nest egg dries up in the modern post-middle class America and he has to take on more work to save the love of his life. The lead, Robert, focuses his thefts on corrupt institutions. Robert is definitely a crook, but he’s not going to be the biggest crook in the book, nor will they wear a mask.
“I was very naive,” said Jen Bartel on how Sam Humphries convinced her to illustrate a full comic. Blackbird is a love letter to the city of angels. Bartel and Humphries made sure to go out and explore the parts of L.A. that haven’t been represented in comics and media.
MCMLXXV is also a love letter to a city, in this case 1975 New York. It follows a woman named Pamela who has to survive a mystical, gentrified New York with nothing but his wits, her grit, and her enchanted tire iron. It comes to us courtesy of Joe Casey and Ian Macewan.
Jesusfreak teams Casey with Benjamin Marra for a biblical/historical pulp fiction adventure. “I mean look at that,” Casey said of the Jesus on the cover with genuine glee, “he’s doin’ kung fu!” Marra actually studied renaissance art in Italy, but Casey brought him on just because he loved the work that Marra had done in comics.
Johnson decided to write Extremity to put something he loved and could be respected for out into the world after releasing Space Mullet, which somehow doesn’t get taken seriously the same way. He said that he loves comics that are easy to read and fights to combine that with an epic level of detail and scale.
Murder Falcon is really about the healing power of music…and “monster-fighting birds and headbands and guitars, and…I donno it’s freakin’ awesome. I mean I don’t want to sound too obnoxious but this is a really great comic”. Jake, a down and out guitarist, is visited by a mystical force that imbues his guitar with the power of Murder Falcon who fights evil, but only as well as Jake plays.
Die is a story about comparing where you thought you’d go and where you’ve wound up. In 1991, six teens disappeared after playing an RPG. They returned two years later but would never say what happened. Now they’re learning that you never really escape. Gillen used to be “a proper angry young man”, but “as I get older I get sadder”. Die will be very “midlife crisis-y”. Gillen was reluctant to say much, especially about the world of the book, comparing a comic, perhaps knowingly, to stories about wandering into another world. Opening a comic is like opening the wardrobe and Gillen doesn’t want to take any of that away by spoiling the series.
Hans says that doing work for hire comics is very satisfying but it tends to be short term satisfying. You end up doing similar things because you get hired based on your past work. But on creator-owned work you have the chance to evolve and show what you can do. Bartel elaborated that working on classic characters comes with an incredible amount of stress. You have to live up to the visions of fans who hold these characters very dearly, but in creator-owned you can flip the script and make someone love a character for the first time.
Dugan also highlighted the quick turnaround on a monthly comic. That lets them be both unpolished and pure.
Die began with Gillen joking about what happened to the kids from the Dungeons & Dragons animated series. That night the story cracked itself for him and Gillen found himself crying. Casey added that you can always tell when a story is the one you should be writing if it’s the one that you think about when you need to be doing something else.
One fan asked if the RPG system in Die is a real system, prompting an aghast Gillen to wonder if he’d planted him. There is a fully playable ruleset that will be released roughly around the time that the first trade comes out. It’s intended to seem like it could have been created in 1991, but it does take from things that would come later. There’s a lot of Powered by the Apocalypse (an excellent system for beginner and role play heavy RPGs) and a dice pool mechanic that he really likes.
A questioner demanded to know the name of the antagonist before he picked up Murder Falcon #1, leading a self-assured Johnson to reply, “the name of the antagonist is Magnum Chaos…”
Asked about what makes a lead character click, Dugan says that it’s essential to know what they want and what they need. In that, it’s useful for him to start with the villains.
“So what villains did you work backwards from in Dead Rabbit?”
Dugan sighed. “The checkbook, the zero balance…the mafia, the cops, the insurance companies…they’re all really good villains.”
Johnson also chimed in, urging writers to be brave and put something of themselves into their characters. Extremity, for instance, stars a girl who loses her ability to draw, Johnson’s worst fear.
Bartel spoke about creating the protagonist of Blackbird and trying to create a strong female character. The fact is that women are people and people are not universally strong. For her it was essential to create a flawed, realized person and find the strength in that instead.
Jason Aaron cannot quite announce it yet but he assured the audience that he will have another Image book, something very different from what he’s worked on before, coming soon, quite likely next year around the same time as his other books return from hiatus.