Amazing Arizona Comic Con 2014 took place at the Phoenix Convention Center last weekend, January 24-26. I represented BOOM! Studios at our booth, along with writers Paul Jenkins (“Deathmatch,” “Inhumans”) & Eric M. Esquivel (“Bravest Warriors,” “Loki: Ragnarok and Roll”) and artists Wook-Jin Hunter Clark (“Adventure Time: Flip Side,” “Megagogo”) & Missy Pena (“Bravest Warriors”), plus BOOM!’s Marketing Assistant, Stephanie Hocutt. They’re all awesome people! Below are some memories from throughout the weekend.

This weekend was the 5th annual Long Beach Comic & Horror Con at the Long Beach Convention Center in California. It was a mellow show with a consistent stream of excited fans who were interested in the BOOM! Studios and Archaia line-up, and indie stuff in general. Below is a small gallery of my favorite photos of the show, taken from behind the BOOM! booth!

Had my mind blown today reading First Second’s “The Moon Moth” by Jack Vance & Humayoun Ibrahim.

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It’s about an insane world where instruments and the music played with them are used to determine class status. Masks convey one’s social worth. Now, picture Captain Kirk on this planet hunting a murderer, wearing a moth mask and ignorant of the musical customs — that’s where things begin.

I took pictures of Alyssa Milano with fans at the BOOM! Studios/Archaia Entertainment booth during Stan Lee’s Comikaze Expo this past weekend in Los Angeles. Scored a quick selfie!

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Alyssa was promoting her upcoming comic book with Archaia, “Hacktivist,” due out in January 2014. And scope this — when I humble bragged about this photo on twitter, Alyssa tweeted back:

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Word.

During Comic-Con International in San Diego last month, I covered TheOneRing.net’s “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” panel for Spinoff Online!

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“TheOneRing.net Brings “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” to Comic-Con” — Click to read full article

“With Peter Jackson absent from Comic-Con International in San Diego to finish production on The Hobbit trilogy, the duty of bringing Middle-Earth to Comic-Con fell to the staff of the TheOneRing.net. Consisting of TheOneRing personalities Alex and Kellie Rice, Josh Rubinstein and Rebecca Perry, with Cliff Broadway and Cathy Udovch driving most of the dialog, the panelists dug deep into the The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, the second film of The Hobbit trilogy.

Releasing December 13 with limited information currently available from which to draw theories and deduce conclusions, the panelists energetically showed off their expertise of Tolkien lore, analyzing known sequences adapted from the novel. The most fun came when the panelists cut loose theorizing on new scenes and relationships from Smaug, including a larger role for the wizard Radagast, the inclusion of new elf character Tauriel, talking giant spiders, a Jackson-created side story for Gandalf, elven goddess Galadriel seeing combat action and Bilbo’s impending encounter with Smaug the dragon, voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch.

Breaking down the structure of Smaug and its parallel with the chronology of J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel, the panel took the crowd through the film’s outline, beginning with Bilbo Baggins and his dwarven allies meeting the giant bear-man Beorn. This encounter precedes The Company venturing into the dangers of Mirkwood, wherein lie the deadly spiders teased in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

“I want to see the ponies and sheep come out and do that catering gig at Beorn’s place,” Broadway commented with enthusiasm, referencing the anthropomorphic servants of the giant bear-man. A still shot of Beorn’s house was shown, as the giant animal played by Mikael Persbrandt towered over the small companions.”

At Comic-Con International in San Diego, I covered IDW Publishing’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” panel for CBR!

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SDCC: Turtle Power Energizes TMNT” — Click to read entire article

“At Comic-Con International in San Diego, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator Kevin Eastman took the spotlight during IDW Publishing’s Turtles panel, alongside ongoing series writer Tom Waltz, “Secret History of the Foot Clan” co-writer Erik Burnham and editor Bobby Curnow.

The big announcement was the latest installment of the “TMNT Villains Micro-Series” line featuring the Turtles’ arch-nemesis, The Shredder, written by Paul Allor and featuring art from the artist who launched IDW’s TMNT revival, Dan Duncan. Then, following the fan-favorite “City Fall” storyline in the ongoing TMNT title, “Northampton” will launch, with art by “Glory” artist Ross Campbell.

Tom Waltz opened the day’s Turtles discussion, touching on how the events of the ongoing series have led to the surprising and dramatic transpirings of “City Fall,” where Leonardo has been seduced by Shredder and the Foot Clan. “We spent a lot of time bulking the backstory of the characters, which is a distant separation from past backstories of different Turtles iterations — we fit certain parts in,” Waltz said. “The family dynamic in our series is different, especially regarding conflicts between the brothers. We had Leo and Donnie bumping heads, where in the past it was Leo and Raph. It had us thinking about Leo more and his place in the pantheon. He’s the Cyclops of the team — the straight and narrow, by the rules kind of guy, so we thought, lets shake that up a bit and manipulate his psyche and — forgive me for saying this — bring him over to the dark side.

“Leo and his demeanor is something Shredder in the modern world is attuned with and it appeals to him,” Waltz continued. “In being resurrected from Feudal Japan, Shredder has an old school attitude and he isn’t too keen on Karai. She’s female and he does not believe she’s able to lead, even though she’s capable of doing so — and Karai knows that. So bringing Leo into the fold changes things in not only what he’s doing in the mythos, but in adding conflict — family conflict. We have two families at war with one piece, Leonardo, being tugged back and forth.””

Spoke with new “Lady Rawhide” writer Eric Trautmann about reviving the 90s “Zorro” character with Dynamite Entertainment!

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“Trautmann Cracks the Whip with ‘Lady Rawhide'” — Click to read full article

“Lady Rawhide first appeared in 1995 as a “Zorro” spinoff series published by Topps Comics in the height of the decade’s “Bad Girl” comics craze. Now, Trautmann continues the legacy of Anita Santiago, introducing her into the new millennium for a different generation of readers.

Writer Eric Trautmann spoke with Comic Book Resources about his “Lady Rawhide” run, explaining how he’s adapting the character for a modern audience, the way her revealing costume serves a story-driven purpose and even giving his take on “Rawhide” creator Don McGregor’s comments about Dynamite’s relaunch.

CBR News: Eric, Lady Rawhide hasn’t been seen in an original comic book story since the 1990s — how are you approaching her revival in the new millennium for a modern audience? Are you sticking with her ’90s “Bad Girl” roots?

Eric Trautmann: Pretty much, yes, though I’d argue Lady Rawhide has been mislabeled as a “Bad Girl.” I ran a small comic shop in my hometown in the middle of that period in the ’90s, and Lady Rawhide always stuck out to me as being more akin to classic “Good Girl”/pinup girl art in style. Certainly the costume was revealing but just seemed more “cute” than her heavily sexualized contemporaries of the day.

I’ve endeavored to not make any changes to her origin. If anything, I’ve pushed her timeline ahead a couple years.

Joseph Michael Linsner’s cover for “Lady Rawhide” #1 looks identical to her original outfit. Does the interior art by Milton Estevam reflect this or does your interpretation of Lady Rawhide don a new look?

I’ve stayed faithful to the original material; her costuming remains unchanged.”

Covered the “Mega Man” and “Sonic the Hedgehog” Archie Comics panel at San Diego Comic-Con International last weekend, where the creative teams for both universes talked details on what’s coming next following the “Worlds Collide” crossover!

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“SDCC: Flynn, Kaminski Power Up ‘Sonic’ & ‘Mega Man’ After ‘Worlds Collide'” — Click to read entire article

“Archie Comics’ Sonic the Hedgehog and Mega Man panel kicked off in style at Comic-Con International in San DIegowith an 8-bit beat soundtrack playing under a trailer of things to come in the wake of the current “Worlds Collide” crossover event.

“I’ve been working on this story for over a year now, and I still get excited watching that trailer,” said Paul Kaminski panel host and Editor of both “Sonic the Hedgehog” and “Mega Man.” Other panelists included “Sonic,” “Sonic Universe” and “Mega Man” writer Ian Flynn, Archie Comics President Mike Pellerito and artists Ryan Jampole, Jon Gray and Evan Stanley. The main topic of discussion was, of course, the conclusion of “Worlds Collide” and what happens to all three titles in the event’s fallout.

“About three months before Archie got the Mega Man license, I thought a Sonic/Mega Man crossover would never happen,” Flynn said. “But I plotted one out anyway because I thought it’d be fun. Then, Capcom said they wanted to do a crossover with Sonic.”

“So the crossover’s great, but lets talk about the aftermath beginning this fall,” Kaminski said, passing the buck to new “Sonic the Hedgehog” artist beginning with issue #252, Evan Stanley.”

At San Diego Comic-Con International, I covered Nickelodeon’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” panel, complete with character design reveals for Season 2 and included every major voice actor from the show — it was awesome!

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“SDCC: Nickelodeon’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” Team Parties with Fans” — Click to read full article

“If there’s one thing fans can accuse Nickelodeon’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” cast and crew of, it’s having a party even when there’s no pizza. The energetic and lively panel hosted by Executive Producer Peter Hastings played to a packed house at Comic-Con International in San Diego and included EP Ciro Nieli, Story Editor Brandon Auman and the voices of Raphael (Sean Astin), Donatello (Rob Paulsen, who voiced Raphael in the 1980s “Turtles” cartoon), Michelangelo (Greg Cipes), April O’Neil (Mae Whitman) and The Shredder (Kevin Michael Richardson).

“‘Ninja Turtles’ has only been on the air for ten months now, and it’s already become a global phenomenon — so thank you!” Hastings declared. With Season One wrapping in August, the “Ninja Turtles” team has big plans for Season Two, and the panel had fans mesmerized with teaser footage and character reveals throughout.

“We’re launching into Season Two with new characters and places to go,” Hastings continued. “Everybody was like, ‘This show’s gonna suck! I hate it! They’re messing with my childhood!’ But the response has been so great.”

Commenting on Roseanne Barr voicing Prime Kraang, Hastings said, “We just thought who’s the scariest person we can get?”

“People often ask what drew me to the part of Raphael. Nothing did. It’s Raph!” Astin said. “When Cipes is voicing Michelangelo, we’re laughing so hard it costs the studio money.”

“I’m just so excited voicing Mikey,” Cipes said in his normal speaking voice — which sounds exactly like his Turtle character. “Growing up as a kid watching the 80s cartoon, he’s made me who I am today. He got me into martial arts, skateboarding, meditating, eating pizza.””

In her first official interview ever, Siya Oum spoke with me about her creator-owned series with Aspen Comics, “Lola XOXO.”

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“SDCC: Siay Oum Wanders the Wasteland in Aspen’s ‘Lola XOXO'” — Click to read entire article

“Siya Oum has been working in comics for the past decade coloring covers and interiors for Aspen Comics. Now she makes her creator-owned debut with Aspen’s “Lola XOXO” as both writer and artist, announced at Comic-Con International: San Diego and slated for release in 2014.

“Lola” stars a merchant woman surviving in the ruins of a great war, as she travels from location to location, bartering goods and supplies essential for survival. With a small hand-held arsenal at her disposal, Lola tries to break free from her past and look towards a brighter future.

Oum spoke with CBR News about “Lola XOXO,” revealing more details on the newly announced series and tells her story of how “Lola” came to become a reality at Aspen.

CBR News: Siya, before jumping into “Lola XOXO,” can you tell us a little about yourself, how you broke into the comics scene and ended up doing steady work with Aspen?

Siya Oum: It started about thirteen years ago when Top Cow Productions was exhibiting in Seattle, WA for a convention. I brought my sample pages with me and David Wohl was kind enough to look at my work, giving me great constructive criticism. I started to keep in touch with David years later, and he showed my work to Vince Hernandez at Aspen. My skills did not quite develop enough yet for pencils, but I was coloring my work digitally since college, so they started me off on color assists, then covers. Of course, I had to keep working at my art on the side, doing other projects for whatever I could get my hands on.

Not much is out there on “Lola” aside from the image released in a brief press release — what can you tell us about the story and who she is as a person?

“Lola XOXO” takes place thirteen years after a huge war. The majority of the United States has become a large wasteland of mercenaries, raiders, merchants and people barely getting by with their day to day lives. Lola was seven years old when she was separated from her parents right before the conflict began.The story is really about her struggle to adapt in this new world and separate herself from her past.”

“Aspen Comics exclusively revealed to CBR News covers for four new titles releasing in 2014, including Frank Mastromauro, Vince Hernandez & Mike DeBalfo’s “#Cosplay,” Mastromauro & Marco Lorenzana’s “Awaken Skies,” Hernandez & Giuseppe Cafaro’s “Fathom: Kiani” and “Legend of the Shadow Clan” vol. 2 by David Wohl, Brad Foxhoven & Cory Smith.”

“SDCC EXCLUSIVE: Aspen Announces “Awaken Skies,” “#Cosplay” & More” — Click to read entire article

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Based on the email conversation I had with him regarding his “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Villains Micro-Series: Alopex” one-shot, writer Brian Lynch is very much a TMNT fan!

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“Brian Lynch Hunts the TMNT with Alopex” — Click to read full article

“Brian Lynch spoke with CBR News about the origin of Alopex and what it was like to find himself working with TMNT co-creator Kevin Eastman on designing the character. We also discuss how the “Alopex” one-shot ties-in with the current TMNT “City Fall” storyline and venture beyond the TMNT universe to touch on his other projects, including his “Despicable Me” prequel, “Minions,” and hope to return to the Buffyverse for a new “Spike” story.

CBR News: You introduced Alopex in the “Raphael” one-shot — was she a character you initially pitched to IDW? Can you talk about how she come to be?

Brian Lynch: She was a character I pitched to IDW, yessir. Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s original “Raphael” one-shot was the first appearance of Casey Jones. Casey burst onto the scene fighting with Raph, but then quickly became an ally. I thought it would be fun to reverse that storyline — we introduced Alopex as a potential ally, and then have Raph deduce that she’s the enemy.

Alopex was to be blindfolded and taken to the Turtles’ home, but she could still find her way back because of her abilities. For this plan to work, we needed an animal with an incredible sense of smell. I checked out this new site called “wikipedia” (you should go look, it’s amazing!) and learned foxes have insane senses of smell. The white arctic fox lent itself to two visuals we liked: a pristine white fox in the middle of grimy New York — that seemed cool — and if she got blood on her paws, it would really pop and stand out.

Alopex is an arctic fox that was mutated and trained by Shredder — everything she is, is because of him. She’s one of his most loyal soldiers. The humans in the Foot don’t know what to make of her — they’re a bit weirded out by her, but she doesn’t care. As long as Shredder is okay with her, she’s happy.

Her personality, her powers, her name — that was all in the original pitch. Bobby Curnow helped flesh out the story details. The brilliant Kevin Eastman came in and designed her, coming up with the idea of war paint on her face and the shark’s tooth, among other things. Then Franco Urru brought her to life so beautifully when he illustrated the issue. That first issue was a fun process. Alopex had an easy birth.”

With San Diego Comic-Con commencing this week, TJ Dietsch and I broke down our top must-have exclusives available at the show! Below are a couple highlights, but click the link to see the master list.

“TOYING AROUND: The 2013 Comic-Con International Wish List” — Click here to read entire article

“TJ Dietsch and CBR Assistant Editor Andy Liegl decided to run down the coolest Comic-Con International merchandise exclusives. These are the pieces we’re waiting in line to spend our hard earned cash on, including Transformers and TMNT figures, Pop! Vinyls, a Deadpool Corps collectors set, a Star Wars Black Series Boba Fett figure, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers pieces, “Iron Man 3″ MiniMates and lots more.”

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TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES | At last year’s show, Nickelodeon had a killer exclusive TMNT Leonardo action figure and this year they present his arch-nemesis, The Shredder. The Hollywood Reporterrevealed the figure last weekend, which comes with a removable mask in all its bladed glory. Expect this one to go fast — Leo didn’t last very long.

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MIGHTY MORPHIN’ POWER RANGERS | What’s old is new again as the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers are storming the market place lately with new merchandise. Check out these exclusive character stands for Bluefin Tamashii Nations’ upcoming Red and Green Ranger S.H. Figuarts toys, which go on sale later this year. The 3-stand pack also includes a mystery piece for an as-yet unrevealed character from the MMPR line. Then over at Bandai, they’re offering a special edition Legacy Power Morpher, including the Green and White Ranger Power Coins. It’s limited to 1000 pieces, so don’t wait too long to pull the trigger!

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DOOM | Twenty years ago DOOM stormed gamers’ PC’s and truly defined the term “first person shooter.” The game was the most installed piece of computer software in 1995, even beating out Windows 95 (DOS for the win!). For the 20th anniversary of the game’s 1993 release, Symbiote Studios is offering this 3.5 inch Space Marine figure with removable helmet and the most coveted weapon of the game — the BFG 9000. Don’t know what “BFG” stands for? Google it.”

“When Brian Wood and Garry Brown’s ‘The Massive’ failed to appear in the past two Dark Horse Comics solicitations, fans were worried about what that might mean for the series Wood has said was slated for a thirty-issue run.

However, CBR has confirmed the series has not been canceled, and kicks off a 3-issue arc beginning with ‘The Massive’ #16 in September. Dark Horse has provided CBR with covers for ‘The Massive’ #16, #17 & #18 by artist J.P. Leon, along with the solicit information for #16. Below that, we also have an exclusive preview of ‘The Massive’ #14 which goes on sale July 24.”

“EXCLUSIVE: Wood’s “The Massive” Continues, Solicits & Covers Revealed” — Click to read entire article

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A highlight of my young comic book reporting career thus far was talking with horror master Richard Corben on adapting Edgar Allan Poe with Dark Horse!

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“Corben Combines Poe’s ‘Raven’ with ‘Masque of the Red Death'” — Click to read entire article

“When horror master Richard Corben revisits ‘The Raven’ this fall, he breaks away from the traditional telling of the tale and joins it with the Poe short ‘The Masque of the Red Death,’ an amalgamation similar to his latest ‘Usher’ adaptation, which seamlessly combined ‘Usher’ with Poe’s ‘The Oval Portrait.’ CBR News spoke with Corben about his latest Poe adaptations with Dark Horse, with the creator illuminating his process and reaffirming his undying reverence for the historic writer.

CBR News: In your latest ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ adaptation, you combined this well-known story with Poe’s ‘Oval Portrait’ poem. Unexpectedly, the first issue of ‘Usher’ tells ‘Oval Portrait’ in its entirety — your adaptation, however, plants ‘Portrait’s’ leading woman into the confines of the Usher estate. Why take the tale in this direction?

Richard Corben: I have done adaptations of ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ several times before, including a few non-comic illustrations. This time, I wanted to make the story different from the versions I had done earlier. There are similar elements in the two stories, such as a painter, his lover/model in a remote setting and especially their obsessions about inanimate objects that are living (the house in Usher, the painting in Portrait). In 1928 a French film maker, Jean Epstein, did ‘La Chute de la Maison Usher’ which combined both stories.

In my new comic version, the ‘Oval Portrait’ part seems to be over, but the painting of Madeline still is an important element in the second part, as you probably know by now.

Coming up with Dark Horse, you’ve blended Poe’s short story ‘The Masque of the Red Death’ and the poem ‘The Raven’ into one tale. Poe described The Red Death itself as spanning the course of 30 minutes and inciting ‘sharp pains and sudden dizziness, followed by profuse bleeding at the pores with dissolution.’ Do descriptions like this make you want to start drawing on the spot as a horror artist?

Poe’s description of the Red Death plague is pretty nasty, but if you research the real plagues that ravage the world from time to time, it might even seem to be comparatively merciful. After all, what’s worse? Suffering for 30 minutes, then dying, or suffering for several days, then dying. I think Poe had some special fear and distaste for the symptoms he described because they are similar to the effects of tuberculosis which killed several members of his family.”