Spencer: My whole con experience is colored by the fact that I’m spending a portion of each day working at Artist’s Alley. There are some downsides — both of us can’t be away from the table at the same time, none of us like to be left alone for too long, etc. — but I feel like the upsides more than make up for it. Beyond saving a bundle on food so far, I also enjoy having a home base I can return to to sort out the increasingly growing contents of my backpack, but the greatest advantage of all is having access to the floor an hour before it opens. By the time guests started rolling in, I was already talking to the first artist I wanted to meet, and I ended up meeting all four of the creators on my wish list before lines could even form. It was an auspicious start to a fantastic day at Wizard World.
The first artist I had the pleasure of meeting was Ethan Van Sciver, who signed my copy of Justice League of America (v2) 20, a Flash/Wonder Woman-centric story he illustrated, as well as my hardback of Flash Rebirth (and he even threw in a little lightning bolt doodle!); when I pulled out an Impulse trade, though, his eyes lit up. Impulse was Van Sciver’s first gig with the Big Two, and he was obviously nostalgic; he even flipped through the book, grinning from ear-to-ear but also criticizing his own youthful work. I had a ball chatting about Impulse with him; we’re both in agreement that DC needs to release more trades of this series, and that it’s a shame that an Impulse trade has to be labeled a Flash book to get anybody to buy it.
Also, you didn’t hear it from me, but chances are we’ll be seeing Van Sciver doing some guest work on Justice League in the near future!
Next up was Marv Wolfman, who may be the most exciting and most personal guest at the Con for me, as The New Teen Titans was my gateway into comic books; The Judas Contract was the first trade I ever bought, and I’m so happy I got to tell Wolfman that. Wolfman was appreciative, and even shared some anecdotes about finishing work on the recent The New Teen Titans: Games graphic novel, which was actually delayed for over 20 years. As we were chatting, a Deathstroke cosplayer walked past. Deathstroke was created by Marv Wolfman, and while he didn’t even bat an eye at it, the idea that people were dressing up as characters this man personally created before I was even born kind of blew my mind for a little while. The history, the legacy behind comics is just so fascinating, so awe inspiring to me.
Jim Calafiore was my next stop; he was pretty psyched to meet a backer of his and Gail Simone’s Leaving Megalopolis Kickstarter, and we discussed his and Simone’s partnership, working with Kickstarter, and how the sequel is progressing. J.G. Jones was my final stop of the morning, and he was easily the nicest, most enthusiastic, and most talkative creator I spoke to; that’s not an insult to any of the above artists, but rather, a testament to Jones. While he signed my copies of Final Crisis we actually ended up talking about the cat that lives in his studio — the bigger news is that he recognized Retcon Punch when I showed him my business card, and that he seems to know and like our work!
The only artist I didn’t get to speak to was Greg Capullo, who I’ve yet to actually see at his booth. Oh well, I guess that’s something to look forward to tomorrow!
I was able to sneak away to two panels today. For my first I ended up waffling between two panels being held at the same time — one was “Let’s Review the New 52”, which certainly seemed more pertinent to what we do here at Retcon Punch, but the second was “You Could Be Batman!”, which sounded a lot more fun. I chose the latter, and it was definitely the right decision.
The “You Could Be Batman!” panelists consisted of many lifelong Batman fans and former Batman writers; the panel was supposed to be about what it would take for someone to become Batman in our world, but that was quickly glossed over — at one point they pulled up an infographic about the real world cost of Batman’s uniform, and it immediately devolved into giggling about Batman’s $5,000 codpiece. Later on the moderator asked everybody in the audience who wanted to be Batman to raise their hands, and then the panelists started asking the audience members why, and raised objections about how awful Batman’s life is in return to each answer (“If any of you are parents and your kids are raising their hands right now, I’d start worrying about that.”).
The panel ended with some brief Batman trivia, with the winners receiving a free Batman print from Rob Prior. The first question involved naming all the big screen Batman actors, including the 1940s serials. Nobody knew those last ones, so I ended up winning that round, as I was able to name all the other actors (including the bonus answer of Kevin Conroy, since Mask of the Phantasm received a theatrical release). Check out my (very, very awesome) prize!
Anyway, while I can’t say this panel was very informative, it was a blast, and that’s exactly what I was looking for. There was one juicy bit of information, though, and it came from Scott Beatty, a prominent Batman writer during the 90s and early 2000s. In 2001 he wrote a story called Joker’s Last Laugh that ended up expanding into a line-wide crossover, but Beatty told us his original pitch, which involved the Joker discovering that he was dying and deciding to go on a rampage to put all his former rampages to shame, beginning by murdering the Elongated Man and draping him across a building like a flag as a declaration of war. At the end of the story the Joker would wind up dead at the hands of the person whose loved ones the Joker had harmed the most: Dick Grayson. Beatty said he wanted to create a crossover with actual lasting consequences; DC actually approved this idea, and Beatty was even creating a new Joker, when all of a sudden DC said, “Y’know what? The Joker sells a lot of action figures,” and completely changed the entire ending of the story.
Also, Beatty has very strong feelings about how unnecessary the upcoming Gotham television series is. Very strong.
My second panel of the day was “How to Write Comics” with Marv Wolfman, Joe Caramanga, Scott Beatty and Danny Fingeroth. It’s probably no surprise to any of you that I’ve wanted to write comics professionally for pretty much my entire life — I’ve been writing them for as long as I could write at all — and while I’m not as sure about that dream at this point in my life, the subject still interests me enough that this panel was right up my alley. The panelists first talked about how they break down writing a script (almost all leave panel descriptions for last, and Wolfman specifically will write a page’s entire dialogue before even starting the descriptions), and then discussed character-driven stories vs. plot-driven stories.
Beatty had an artist horror story to share (he spent paragraphs describing this panel of Batgirl waterskiing behind the Bat-boat that he that really wanted to pop off the page, and the artist ended up drawing it so small it could barely be seen), but for the most part there was a tremendous amount of respect among the panel for the artists, with almost all of them mentioning times when they got pages back from their artists that were so good they immediately started getting rid of copy on the page, and all of them warned us to respect our artists (“we can write a tw0-page spread in one paragraph that will take them three days to draw”) or reap the consequences (“ask them for that two-page crowd shot full of horses and soldiers and you’ll end up with a worm’s eye view of a horse’s nostril,” which I can only assume must come from personal experience). Finally, they closed the panel by discussing how to break into writing. Their advice was to finish something and get it out there, either by self-publishing or putting it online. Editors want to see finished works, and they want to see actual comics with art, not scripts (also, being famous or having an in with the publisher helps, ha).
Besides meeting creators and attending panels, I spent much of the day watching cosplayers, which is quickly becoming my favorite part of the con. The following are my favorite cosplayers of the day:
I had such a great day, and tomorrow looks to be just as fun, and even more daunting. Will Spencer make all the panels he wants to make? Will he put up with an hour long line to meet the Doctor and Amy Pond for thirty seconds apiece? What cosplayers will he see this time? Tune in tomorrow, same Retcon Punch-time, same Retcon-Punch channel!