KLC Press, the imprint created by Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman, recently had a spotlight panel at this year’s Emerald City Comic Con. I was fortunate enough to attend, as the duo fielded fan questions and revealed upcoming projects that will fall under KLC Press. They also discussed their work on Venom, including the event miniseries Absolute Carnage and King in Black.
The panel started with both artists discussing the name of their imprint. Cates revealed that it came from a quote that Image Comics co-founder Todd McFarlane said while sketching the character Overt-Kill: “Kids love chains.” It was a saying he took to heart: no matter what series he worked on, he would aim to do “crazy s***” and have fun while doing it. Stegman echoed these sentiments, also calling McFarlane one of his major artistic influences.
The list of projects they are working on includes the creator-owned series Vanish, which will be published by Image next summer. While discussing the series, Stegman described it as “Harry Potter meets Inglorious Basterds.” Other series from KLC Press include The One You Feed by Cates and Dylan Burnett that is described as “The Walking Dead but they turn into werewolves”, and the sci-fi thriller Flood which Cates co-created with his wife Megan Hutchinson-Cates. Stegman said that he was also working on some other projects, and that Vanish marks his first creator-owned comic.
The duo then opened the floor for a Q & A session. When I asked them how they got into comics, Stegman revealed that he originally intended to be an animator but decided that comics would be far easier. Cates revealed that he never intended to be a comic writer; he ran a chain of comic shops and went to art school to draw. One of his teachers flat out told him he wasn’t going to be that good of a penciler, and after an internship at Marvel, he began to write. They were also asked what characters they’d like to work on and both unanimously said Spider-Man. “I’m not leaving this earth without writing Peter Parker,” Cates declared. Other picks included Wolverine for Stegman and Batman & Superman for Cates.
Cates also regaled the audience with a tale of how he came close to scripting Keanu Reeves’ comic book debut BRZRKR and even gave a pitch-perfect impression of the actor. He also briefly touched upon the shifting nature of established characters when asked how he approaches a new assignment; once his run on a character is finished, he tries not to look back. He also “puts on blinders” when approaching writing a character as he wants to put his own stamp on things. A key example is Hulk, whose solo book Cates recently boarded; he mentioned that fans on Twitter were not too happy that he took a detour from Al Ewing’s work on The Immortal Hulk. “I try to write Donny Cates books. That’s what you guys are drawn toward.”
Finally, a fan asked what influences the two while creating. Stegman listed manga among his influences, along with the work of comic artists like McFarlane and Greg Capullo. Cates surprisingly said that he tends to avoid previous runs when crafting his comics, and picks up novels that span different genres. For example, when writing Thor he started reading science fiction; Cates also said that the Marvel Universe’s take on Thor is more akin to Star Wars than the original Norse myth.
KLC Press is the result of two comic creators who have a passion for the medium and pour that passion into every project, whether it’s established characters or creator-owned work. I look forward to their future projects, especially Vanish.
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Collier “CJ” Jennings is a freelance reporter and film critic living in Seattle. He uses his love of comics and film/TV to craft reviews and essays on genre projects. He is also a host on Into the Spider-Cast.