BALTIMORE COMIC CON: Visionary Enters The DEADLANDS

Baltimore , Maryland COMIC CON August 20, 2011:  There is a new series of weird western one-shot books based on the popular role-playing game DEADLANDS.  Three books have been introduced so far, distributed through Image Comics, with the fourth one scheduled for release in October 2011.  Audience members of the Baltimore Comic Con Visionary panel were introduced to the creators, writers, artists and editors during a spotlight presentation.   They included writer/editor Ron Marz, writers Jimmy Palmiotti and David Gallaher, artists Lee Moder and Steve Ellis, and Visionary Comics executive director and writer/colorist C. Edward Sellner.

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L to R:  J. Palmiotti; R. Marz; D. Gallaher, S. Ellis, C.E. Sellner  (missing from photo: L. Moder)

Sellner explained that he purchased the publishing rights from Pinnacle Entertainment, owners of the DEADLANDS  role playing game property.  Visionary’s initial comic book debut began with the four one-shot titles (three of four released so far) and then a possible monthly series.  During the panel, the creators spoke a little about their specific titles as well as the opportunities and challenges that came with working within a pre-established game universe.  All the writers said they were pleasantly surprised by the freedom to create both new characters, situations, and even tinker with the landscape within the DEADLANDS game world. They half-expected Pinnacle Entertainment to lay down a long list of ground rules, and also insist on final editorial say on the books.  Instead, they have been very easy-going and cooperative.

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Ron Marz, who also serves as editor of the four books, commented how easy the job became. What it boiled down to is “just do a good comics story, and we’ll tweak it if necessary to fit the rules of the game world.”    He said he learned a valuable lesson about editing from working with Archie Goodwin many years ago:  “Hire the right people as editor and then get out of the way.”  Speaking about Pinnacle, Marz  said “we were allowed to write the kind of books that we’d like to read. They let us run within the world of DEADLANDS.”  Jimmy Palmiotti added that it’s “the most freedom I’ve ever had working in a licensed game world.”   Referring to Marz, Palmi0tti enjoyed the working relationship:  “Ron is easier to work for because he’s not an editor who thinks he is a writer.” - - - He is a writer who understands editing.

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Marz commented on DEATH WAS SILENT, the book he scripted with art by Bart Sears, calling it “the most violent thing I’ve ever written.”  He thought it would appeal not just to weird western fans but also any readers who crave “seeing comics with people doing stuff  and not standing around talking about stuff.” 

The world of the DEADLANDS game is a mixing pot of western settings, steampunk, horror, supernatural and mystical elements and even adds some science-fiction elements.  More on the game itself can be found on the official website:  www.deadlands.com

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There were some mixed opinions on whether the DEADLANDS comics would pull more of its audience from comics fandom or from gaming enthusiasts.   Ron Marz thought that the comics audience would be more aware of the books than the gaming audience. He’s hoping the gamers respond to the inevitable trade paperback editions.  (My comment: Probably a good point, especially if they are merchandised in the gaming sections of  bookstores and hobby shops, right beside the game manuals, etc.)   David Gallaher noted that he’d seen more reviews of the DEADLANDS comics on gaming websites versus comics sites.  “Gaming is very strong for many comics stores, and those that carry both seemed to do well with these comics.”  Sellner added that future plans may include some alternate editions geared for this audience, that would include gaming information in the extra features.  Steve Ellis said he suspects that gamers will take some of the created characters from the new comics and work them into their personal DEADLANDS world, using the comics to provide a back story / history.

The VISIONARY COMICS releases to date:

THE DEVIL’S SIX GUN (June 2011)  by writer David Gallaher and artist Steve Ellis.

MASSACRE AT RED WING (July 2011) by writer Jimmy Palmiotti + Justin Gray and artist Lee Moder.

DEATH WAS SILENT (August 2011) by writer Ron Marz and artist Bart Sears.

BLACK WATER (scheduled for October 2011) writer Jeff Mariotte and artist Brook Turner.

I’ve read the first three titles and thoroughly enjoyed them all.  I recommend them to anyone who enjoys weird westerns or just a well-told tale. You may expect to see some future reviews of the books on this blog.  You can learn more about this new project at www.visionarycomics.com.

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