NYCC Panel Recap: “Wondrous Worlds, Fractured Futures: Speculative Fiction And Image Comics”

By Patrick A. Reed

This most-wordily-named of panels was held at 11AM on Friday, the first full day of New York Comic Con. As a result, the downstairs hallways weren’t too crowded yet, and the room wasn’t quite filled to capacity. I got the feeling that many attendees had yet to figure out the floorplan – the sheer vastness of Javits Center can be overwhelming at first, endless hallways and boardrooms and staircases and caverns.

Anyway, point is, I found a seat pretty easily, and settled back to take notes and hear all about the intergalactic insanity of Image’s publishing slate.

The panel was moderated by Richard Starkings, and featured a grand selection promoting their new books: Ming Doyle, Brian Wood, David Hine, Joe Harris, Glen Brunswick, Fiona Staples, and Brian K. Vaughan. Discussion kicked off with a bang, as Wood and Doyle launched into a lively discourse on the concepts behind their new title “Mara”, a series set in a future world where citizens are given a choice between sports or war (“two career paths”, as Wood put it). The star of the series, the eponymous Mara, is an all-star athlete who suddenly begins manifesting superpowers, and as such, develops an unfair advantage over the competition. Doyle described how much free reign Wood is giving her to design things, and her dislike of drawing tech: “Everything in the future is a holoscreen, because those don’t have frames!”

The conversation progressed on to the other creators, giving each a chance to describe their new books. Glen Brunswick discussed “Non-Humans”, his new futuristic crime drama. Set in a dystopian future Los Angeles, he described it as a wild ride populated with a mix of humans and toys-come-to-life, including a drug-dealing teddy bear and a ventriloquist puppet serial killer. (At which point, the moderator incredulously interrupted: “Did you say ventriloquist puppet serial killer?”) The setting is an important character in the series, a city of monolithic shopping centers and massive housing complexes – the people rarely leave the safety of their buildings, leaving the streets to be populated by non-humans. Brunswick also discussed the general look of the series, describing the design concept as “architecture derived from personality”.

David Hine was next, talking up his upcoming limited series “Storm Dogs”. His story follows a human police team conducting an investigation on a far-off planet, how that world’s restrictions on technology affect their working process, and the personal interactions that result. Hine said considered it classic sci-fi in the sense that he and artist Doug Braithwaite were doing some intensive worldbuilding, trying to create a sense of makeshift cities that grow organically, and give “a sense of people living in a hostile environment and coping with that”.

Joe Harris described his new series “Great Pacific” as an environmental sci-fi epic, based on the phenomenon of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (a true-life mass of crud floating in the middle of the ocean). In this story, it grows and develops to the point where it becomes its own continent, a patchwork landmass of manmade debris. And the story follows a young oil baron, a man who renounces his wealth and privilege to go settle this new land – but as we find, his motives aren’t entirely altruistic. “He’s not a do-gooder, he’s an industrialist” said Harris, and implied that much of the story’s conflict will be not just be the survival tale of a man facing down a hostile environment, but also the protagonist’s conflicts within himself.

Lastly, Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan discussed their hit series “Saga”, and their experiences creating it. They both classified “Saga” as sci-fi in name only, as it’s an easy catch-all term to use when describing it to people. Vaughan had a greatly amusing discourse on how absurd the line between science fiction and fantasy is anyway (citing that “Star Trek” and “Star Wars”, often mentioned as being diametrically opposed, are both, at their core, totally absurd) – “It’s all fakey make-believe” was a refrain he used a number of times while talking about the genre and his work on this series. Staples also discussed how she was not a big fan of drawing mechanical details, preferring a more fantastic approach, and Vaughan commented on how he tailored his concepts to take that into account: “When I asked fiona what she liked to draw, she told me well, I’m not a big fan of drawing tech. And I thought, oh good, there’s lots of spaceships, we’re f**ed! So i just said, well, it’s a giant dragon skull that goes through space.”

The session wrapped with a brief audience Q&A, including one inquiry directed to Vaughan about his ideal cast for a potential “Saga” film… He replied that he didn’t write a comic as a pitch for a movie, he writes it because he wants it to be an amazing comic. “My ideal director for ’Saga’ is Fiona, my ideal cast is the people Fiona draws.” It was a great and succinct statement on the power of comics as a medium, and the perfect note to end the panel on.

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