Last weekend, I attended Fan Expo 2009 in Toronto, Canada, a convention featuring science fiction, comics, anime, horror, and games. I paid the most attention to the comics stream (obviously) and attended panels by five publishers and sat in on two sessions by Len Wein (creator of Wolverine, some of the New X-Men, Swamp Thing, etc). Here’s what I pulled out of it, straight to you, hot off the presses.

    Aspen MLT Inc

Frank Mastromauro, Peter Steigerwald, Joe Benitez, Micah Gunnall, Mark Roslan, Alex Konat, Dave Wohl and Marcus To did the A to Z of Aspen comics. It’s hard to believe that Fathom is ten years old and finishing its third arc, and that it’s got a movie deal. Soulfire, Aspen’s other flagship book, is five years old. Aspen has lots of other great titles on the go, including Dellec, Shrugged and especially Executive Assistant Iris. Part of this year’s business strategy will be to do more trades so that fans can easily catch up on their books as new story arcs come out. Executive Assistant Iris also seems to be laying the groundwork for other executive assistant books and stories that would really round out that milieu.

    Marvel Digital panel

Joe Quesada showed off the Spider-Woman and Astonishing X-Men motion comics. This was the first time I’d seen either one, and I was impressed, but not sold of the medium. I asked a question about the business model, and they’re using access to motion comics through iTunes sales as a platform to reach new audiences. Smart idea, I hope it works. My only question here is, since when did Jessica Drew get a British accent? Maybe I missed something in Secret Invasion.

    DC Universe Editorial Presentation

Dan Didio and a big DC contingent talked shop for an hour and answered questions from all comers. One of the most interesting things I found about this was the focus that DC is doing on each of its eight cornerstone franchises. The franchises are obviously Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, the Flash and Wonder Woman, as well as the three team franchises: the JLA, the JSA and the Titans. One question that came up was “Where’s the love for Aquaman?” Didio diplomatically and rightly pointed out that Aquaman was never really that popular (same with Hawkman). Sure, they both have fans, but they don’t have the same draw as the flagship characters. Neither has the same sort of unambiguous, iconic image in the public’s eye that someone like Batman does. And, with a cast of characters as large as DC has, it makes sense to focus on a few flagship brands, make them really good, so that you can do more stuff with the people and characters and situations around them. I think it’s a great decision and I was pleased to hear that Wonder Woman was part of the lovin’ too.

    Cup o’ Joe

Joe Quesada took us on a review of the Marvel universe, but mostly answered questions. One of the most important things for me, personally, was hearing the news about Marvel’s submission policy for people who want to write for Marvel. That was why I went to the con, and I was pleased that I was able to talk to C.B. Cebulski afterwards to get more details. In the session, I asked Joe a question about the Immortal Iron Fist, and how I thought it was a really quality book, but since it didn’t hold the readers in numbers to justify keeping it around, what could they have done differently creatively? There were also plans for Danny Rand after the current Immortal Weapons miniseries. They called it a cooling off period to build up anticipation. I hope it works. IIF was a brilliant series. Someone else asked a question about Dr. Strange, and I was glad to hear that Marvel had plans for him as well.

    BOOM! Studios

BOOM! Studios really gave the impression of being dynamic and on the go. They’re hitting new markets, acquiring licenses left and right, looking at new distribution systems, and putting out quality books. Very impressive… They rightly pointed out the sales successes of Irredeemable and Unknown, and especially the artists that they were able to pull in who wanted a chance to work with Mark Waid. Everyone should be keeping an eye on BOOM!