Katie Cook‘s spotlight at Anaheim’s WonderCon 2014 shined a light on the popular writer/artist behind comic book titles such as “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic,” “Fraggle Rock,” “Star Wars” and her creator-owned webcomic “Gronk.” Speaking to a small but dedicated group of fans, many of who were dressed as My Little Ponies, Katie and moderator Thom Zahler kicked the panel off as Zahler told the audience that he started a hashtag, #askkatiec, and encouraged the audience to tweet questions.
“The first question I got was ‘Mommy, did you get me a Frozen dress?'” Zahler said as Cook laughed.
“Did you know the only thing my daughter wants is the only thing you can’t get at the park, which is the Elsa dress?” Cook said. “The high-end one. The expensive one,” she added as the audience laughed.
Cook plugged her work, pausing as fans cheered for “My Little Pony,” and jokingly recalled telling her father about her spotlight panel at WonderCon.
“He said, ‘I bet five people show up and one of them is the moderator,'” Cook recalled, the audience booing and shouting that she should take a picture to prove him wrong. “I’ll just copy and paste you guys over and over,” she laughed.
Cook then spoke about working with artist Andy Price on “Friendship Is Magic,” joking that whenever they disagreed on a part of the book she would add more ponies for him to draw. Immediately opening the panel to audience questions, Zahler pointed to a little girl dressed in a pink Spider-Man costume who asked if Cook was going to write more Queen Chrysalis in the “My Little Pony” comic book.
“I hope so! I really like Chrysalis; I think she’s a great villain and just the right amount of a little scary and a little funny,” Cook said, adding, “I’d love to use her again.
A fan who labeled herself as the mother of a ten year old asked Cook how she balanced appealing to both kids and adults in her writing. Cook said that she felt her “Fraggle Rock” work was the best example of hitting both and named the Muppets as the prime example of characters and stories that kids and their parents both enjoy.
“Think about ‘The Muppet Show!’ That was a prime-time sitcom that was made for an adult audience, and now everybody thinks of it as a kid show, but it worked on both levels…I hold that as the gold standard of making both parties happy,” Cook said. “I want stuff for me and my kid. I don’t want to be sitting there during ‘Yo Gabba Gabba’ and going, ugh, when is it over?”
A fan asked if Cook would write a story arc in “My Little Pony” that lasted longer than four issues.
“I really think Four is the most you can do with a kids comic before you lose attention…this is not ‘Crisis On Infinite Earth,'” Cook said.
An older male “My Little Pony” fan then asked Cook about her “personal interpretation of the divinity of the royal pony sisters,” as on the Internet, and to his mind, “very clearly [show creator Lauren] Faust intended them to be goddesses, and then when Jayson Thiessen took over [as showrunner] he took them down quite a bit, but in the comics…there’s a lot more room to do things they couldn’t do on the show.”
“I like taking them down a notch…one of my least favorite superheroes is Superman because he can do anything,” Cook said. Clarifying that she had no plans to expand the main characters’ powers, Cook added, “Everybody riffs on ‘Celestia’s hurt and can’t help again.’ Well the reason is…she’d solve the problem and the episode would be four minutes long.”
“I like people to have problems they have to overcome and if you have a godlike character…that’s annoying. So no,” Cook said.
A woman shouted from the audience she always thought of the ponies more as Greek Gods, powerful but not omnipotent. “You will like issue #19 of ‘My Little Pony,’ then,” Cook told her as the audience laughed.
Cook also stated that while she knew some of the people who worked on the “My Little Pony” TV show, other than getting notes and occasionally changing plots so as not to contradict the show she does not work closely with the writers.
Cook cheered as a “Gronk” fan asked her to speak about the webcomic. Explaining that she came up with the idea of a strange little creature, it took seven years before she put pen to paper and created a website to host her creation. “Four years later I’m still on Thursday night saying, I gotta work on Gronk!” Cook said.
A teenage fan asked if she had always wanted to be a comic book writer and artist. Cook stated that when she was young she wanted to make comic strips. “I have no backup plan, if this falls apart I have no other survival skills. I’ll go to the Starbucks and say, I have a minor in art history and they’ll say, ‘You’re hired!'” Cook joked as the audience laughed.
Speaking about her Marvel work, Cook said that because she was a funny writer and artist she did a lot of short gag stories for the publisher, like having Hulk go through the stages of grief (with one of the stages being “smashing”).
“I’d love to do something longer but I’m kind of the niche market of cutesy-smootsey,” Cook added.
In response to a fan who wanted to know how she went from an artist to a writer, Cook said it was not by design and that she fell into writing “My Little Pony.”
“Let me tell you the broad, elaborate tale of how I got picked to be the ‘My Little Pony’ writer: I tweeted, ‘I like this Pony show! It’s cool!’ Two days later, [IDW editor] Bobby Curnow said to me, ‘I saw your tweet. You want to write the comic?’ That’s the entire story. I was like, ok, I will do that, work, yay!” Cook said as the audience laughed.
“People come up to me at conventions to sign their pony books and go, oh, you can draw too? And a little part of me grows blacker and dies,” Cook added as the audience laughed again.
The next audience question came from a fan who wanted to know why Cook painted watercolor commissions at her booth in artist alley. Cook stated that she had been creating watercolor paintings at every convention for the past ten years as she wanted to be able to interact with people while doing art. “When I get weird requests it sparks a conversation,” Cook said.
An audience member asked if there was any moment Cook had to censor herself on her books. “I think at one moment Applejack said, ‘Buck this,’ and I thought, I probably shouldn’t do that!” Cook said.
Speaking about her “Clone Wars” webcomic and her Topps trading card illustrations, much like “My Little Pony,” her work was all the result of being a “giant Star Wars” nerd and running into those who worked on ‘Star Wars’ while networking.
“Eventually it was like, hey you like ‘Star Wars,’ I like ‘Star Wars,’ I work for ‘Star Wars,’ you want to do something for ‘Star Wars?'” Cook said.
“Old Star Tours or new Star Tours?” an audience member asked, citing the changes Disneyland made to their “Star Wars” ride.
“Alright,” Cook said, pushing back from the onstage table and rolling up her sleeves as the crowd laughed.
“My biggest problem with new Star Tours is that I’ve now ridden in Orlando and here eight times, and I always get Kashyyyk!” Cook continued, naming the version where the ride goes to the Wookie home world, as the audience laughed again. “I’m at a point where if Chewbacca hits the front of that thing one more time I am going to Hulk out in that gift shop!”
As for whether she prefers “Star Trek” over “Star Wars,” Cook told the room that her parents were huge “Star Trek” fans and that growing up they even decorated their Christmas tree with “Trek” ornaments.
“I defected to ‘Star Wars’ in college — for a long time as a child I thought the movie ‘Space Balls’ was ‘Star Wars,'” Cook said.
Going to a question from Twitter, Cook said she was excited to see “Star Wars” episode seven, immediately shaking her head as one fan booed.
“What is wrong with people who are mad about more ‘Star Wars!'” Cook said. “It’s like the most delicious pie you have ever had, and you’re offered more. Do you say, no, I might not like it this time? No, you say I would like some more pie!”
Cook added that she felt the same way about the possibility of an Indiana Jones reboot, rumored to be in the works with star Bradley Cooper. “Anybody who claims they don’t want Bradley Cooper in things is male!” Cook said as the audience laughed.
Cook also spoke about doing the Princess Luna micro-series, telling a young boy that writing for “My Little Pony” was fun but intense.
“The current arc that just started is giving me nightmares over how people are going to take things,” Cook said, adding that she has gotten emails and Tweets from a small part of the Pony community “Who do not like me…and write me very long emails.”
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“What part of the fandom?” an audience member shouted out.
“4Chan,” Cook said as the audience laughed.
Cook then said she didn’t mind the “Pony” fandom but she couldn’t handle “Doctor Who” fans, prompting a young man in the audience dressed as the Ninth Doctor to ask why.
“I was doing one of my paintings and this woman comes bay and asks if I can do a David Tennant ‘Doctor Who’ picture. I’m like, of course I can! She had a photo album that she was clutching…and as I’m painting it she leans over and goes, do you want to see my scrapbook?” Cook said.
“I took it from her and it was a white wedding album that was lovingly scrapbooked with very expensive scrapbooking stickers and flowers of photos she had taken from the Internet of happy couples — where she had photoshopped in her face and David Tennant’s face,” Cook continued as the audience gasped. Cook told the room that as she flipped though the entire book, past more doctored photos of their “wedding day,” eventually she hit a single blank page.
“She said, I’m going to put your painting of David and my day at the convention here.’ I’m like, I know how David Tennant dies! If he disappears while filming a movie in Seattle I’ll say I have information that will help!” Cook said as the audience cracked up.
“I have a cap of craziness that I have now seen…and not even the person who introduced a fox puppet as his son was weirder than that!” Cook added, shaking her head.
The same “Doctor Who” fan then wanted to know if Cook had ever written a story that was rejected or censored. Cook confessed she wrote a Pinkie Pie story that her editors deemed “too weird,” but she was still trying to push it through. She also said she doesn’t read fan fiction as she doesn’t want anyone claiming she stole from them.
“Some people call what Andy and I do glorified fan fiction, and its like, not if Hasbro pays for it!” Cook added as the room cracked up.
A fan asked if Cook would say yes to writing an episode of the “My Little Pony” TV show, to which she replied she would but had not been asked. This lead a cosplayer dressed as Ash from the “Evil Dead” series to ask Cook’s opinion on the end of season three — specifically of Twilight Sparkle’s transformation into a full princess — and what she, as a writer, would have done differently.
“I would have had it be more of a quest to the ascension; I really think the problem with that episode is that it’s so short, there needs to be more lead-in to that happening, or finding clues or solving some great mystery,” Cook said. “I would have made it longer and I would have made it a quest, a goal.”
However, Cook named Twilight as one of her favorite princesses because she “earns it.” Cook also said she knows what the keys are for but won’t spoil it for fans. A women then asked Cook what else she would like to work on.
“I’d love to do an all-ages Wonder Woman title,” Cook said as fans cheered. She added that she would also love to do an ensemble Marvel book with Squirrel Girl and MODOK and other unlikely team-ups. However, the major project she wanted to do but would never happen was to an all-ages comic about the Marauders from “Harry Potter.”
“I want Scottie Young to draw it and I write it — it’s James Potter and Sirius and Wormtail and what they were like as students,” Cook said.
Naming herself a fan of the webcomic “Girls With Slingshots,” Cook admitted that she didn’t read very many other comics. Cook also told the audience if she had a time machine she would go back in time to the ’80s and claim to write the “Harry Potter” series. To a “Star Wars” fan Cook stated she felt that the reboot of the “Star Wars” expanded universe made sense because there was too much conflicting continuity.
“If they do that after every movie, be mad, but everybody gets one,” Cook added.
Cook told an aspiring artist to draw every day, and that she draws traditionally with pen and paper rather than a computer. As for writer’s block, Cook stated that she reads and watching “Toddlers And Tiaras” to take a break and come up with ideas in a different way.
“How do you feel about Equestria girls?” A teenager fan asked. Cook replied that she enjoyed the DVD, stating that because it takes place in another world, “You can pretend it doesn’t exist if you don’t like it.”
Cook told an Adventure Time fan that she loved her first episode of that show. “My favorite character is Root Beer Guy,” Cook said, adding, “But the Lemons give me nightmares!”
Cook also told the audience that if fans came to her booth in artist alley she would teach them her favorite drinking song. “I know a lot of drinking songs. It’s probably not that great for an all-ages writer,” Cook jokes as the room cracked up, bringing the panel to a close.