NYCC 2012: Image Comics Panel Features Hickman, Gillen, and More

Shut out of the Buffy 15th Anniversary Panel, we headed to the announcement-filled “Image Experience Panel” at New York Comic Con. We came in late, but got the scoops! On the panel were Andy Diggle, Kieron Gillen, James Asmus, Jim Festante, Jim McCann and Jonathan Hickman, moderated by Eric Stephenson.

First, Jim McCann chatted about his new book with Janet K. Lee, titled ‘Lost Vegas.’ It was originally about a daycare at a casino in outer space, but, “If I were Grant Morrison, I would do that,” said McCann, drawing laughter from the audience. Turns out it’s about a casino in outer space, minus the day-care angle. It’s a four issue mini-series heist story.

Then, James Asmus talked about his new book "The End Times of Bran and Ben" with comedy buddy Jim Festante. It’s about what happens when slackers encounter the actual biblical apocalypse. “This is the most fun I’ve had writing a book,” said Asmus, who also plugged its release in January, when not a lot of comics are dropping, and asked the fans to give it a chance.

“So the tagline is: 'It’s January, what else are you going to do?'” asked Hickman to laughter. “I’m in.”

Hickman then talked about his book "East of West" with Nick Dragotta, his collaborator on Fantastic Four. The book is about the four horsemen of the apocalypse teaming up in the future to kill the President and will hit stores in April. "Feel Better Now," a book about four psychiatrists who come up with a game to screw with their patients, is also on the horizon. Hickman said the book is a return to the themes he worked with on "Nightly News" and "Pax Romana."

Last was a one-off by Paul Pope, with more from Pope coming up soon.

Opening up to questions, Gillen talked about his book "Three," which seems to be somewhat a riff off "300," about slaves on the run from Sparta.

Noting the guy who asked the question was wearing a hydra t-shirt, Hickman said, “I designed that logo. I don’t get any money from it.”

“Hail Hydra,” said the fan.

“Hail dollars,” shot Hickman right back.

When it comes to submissions, Hickman said a few punchy sentences are key, and added that if you’re going to shell out money for an artist, four- or five-page comics will be noticed.

“I really recommend pitching stories about British Pop music,” joked Gillen.

Asmus added that he bombards friends with pitch ideas to get feedback, and the ones that stick are the ones he pitches to publishers.

A fan then asked how you get a chance to pitch the book to Image. “You wait after this panel, and give it to me,” said Stephenson, to supportive applause, and cheers of “good luck!” from the audience.

Then there was a question about female characters that are good for new readers, with McCann plugging his book "Mind the Gap." “I didn’t set out to write a female character, it was just my New York experience,” said McCann, adding that the racial and sexual diversity is just part of how he experiences life.

Stephenson added that Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios are creating a female-centric Western next year, with Gillen chiming in that the upcoming, new volume of Phonogram will be female-centric.

Hickman noted that this may not be what the fan was looking for, but in "Feel Better Now," there’s a psychiatrist that helps men with erectile dysfunction by giving them blood thinner.

Another audience member asked what's hardest part of a story to write, and said she had particular trouble crafting a solid setting. Asmus advised her to push further. “If you want flaws, look at everyone you know,” said Asmus to laughter.

On planning out a story, Diggle said that he usually has a vague sense of the beginning, middle and end of a story when he approaches it, then breaks it up into issues. Then, you divide the issues into scenes, and then break down the scenes into pages. He added that the more you do that, the better, and the closer to a twenty page comic you get.

Hickman also added that he likes to talk a few weeks to think about a project before he tackles it, but when it’s go time, you have to actually buckle down and write the book.

Panelists were then asked which story they wrote most quickly. McCann said he was once under deadline the first day of NYCC, and finished a script in twelve hours while at a hotel. “The fastest I’ve written a script is three days, and that was me hammering down!” said Diggle. “I have to up my game.”

This was followed about best place to come up with ideas, with the whole panel agreeing that showers were the best, followed closely by in the car.

The rest of the panel talked about listening to film scores, or really just staring off into space... Anything that leaves your brain free to churn ideas.

Talking about their free issues on the Image Comics App, Stephenson plugged that by the end of the year, pretty much every number one issue published in 2012 will be free online.

A fan then asked about the amount of time it takes to put a pitch together from the artistic end. Hickman talked about making mini-comics, taking seminars and competing in contests, until he finally decided to put together his own pitch, writing and drawing. He drew a pitch in a week, submitted it to Stephenson on a Monday, and got approved on a Friday. “So it sounds like two weeks is the answer,” quipped Asmus.

Following up on that, a fan asked about motivating artists, with Stephenson joking, “If you figure out how to do that, let us know.” Hickman recommended being okay with guilting people. “Are you married?” asked Hickman. “Almost,” said the fan. “Well, you’ll figure this out soon,” joked Hickman, adding that if you can lovingly guilt people, it’s not a bad thing.

Hickman added though, that, “You have to remember they have the harder job.”

And that was it! See you at the next panel.