Sablik started with a slideshow of Artifacts preview art by new artist Haun, including a rather spoilery upcoming cover featuring a baby. Haun commented on what it was like to be working on a project with the scope of Artifacts:
"It's as intimidating as hell, but that's part of the fun...I'm used to drawing a lot of people talking in rooms, and it's cool to be able to draw people fighting or f**king."
Speaking of Artifacts, the giveaway playing cards are ready to ship to Diamond -- and just to add an incentive to an incentive, for every 10 sets one will have a gold foil stamp on the back.
Another cool giveaway for readers will be Witchblade #144's matching digital download card. The issue will be the first retelling of Sara's origin since the beginning of the series.
Somebody who will be having a big year in 2011 is Jackie Estacado, as The Darknessgears up for a soul-shattering 100th issue. Sablik commented: "The Darkness is going to have a pretty awesome year" -- to which Hester added: "Awesome for us...sh**ty for Jack." The upcoming arc leading to #100 (with Haun on art) will be "a status quo changer for The Darkness," leaving him "permanently changed."
"We’re going to dump in everyting you wanted," teased Hester. "Anybody you want to see die, we’ll kill, any scores you want settled, we'll settle." Also expect the return of fan-favorite Darkness characters as the landmark issue gets closer.
We were also shown exclusive screenshots from the upcoming Darkness II video game, and were promised that the Darklings, who have a bigger role this time around, will do "really messed-up stuff to people." Players will also have four "arms" to use -- two to hold weapons, and two "Darkness" arms.
Moving on to Top Cow's new imprint Minotaur, Sablik promised an intense ending to the popular Echoes miniseries: "You will not see the end coming." He said after he read the script for the final issue, he called writer Joshua Hale Fialkov and asked, "Where's my silver lining, man?"
Sablik also talked about his own Minotaur title that he's doing with John Mahoney and Thomas Nachlik, The Last Mortal-- "If a book about a suicidal immortal sounds good to you, I highly recommend you check it out" -- and announced the winners of the Netherworld art contest.
Sablik ended the panel with a comment on the comic industry today: "There's fewer and fewer places in comics that are really pushing the boundaries." He felt that the bigger comic companies are more tasked with maintaining their licenses than creating new material, and that what made Top Cow unique was their focus on creating new ideas. "We need to stake out new territory," Sablik commented on comics as a whole, describing the industry as currently "stagnant."