At last weekend’s New York Comic Con, the creative teams and executive heads behind DC Comics, DC’s imprint Vertigo and “Mad Magazine” gathered at the Heartland Brewery in Manhattan for the publisher’s official NYCC party, celebrating the convention and all things DC. CBR was on hand to document the occasion, speaking exclusively with creators and editors as they kicked back and enjoyed the beginning of the convention and the success of the recent company-wide relaunch, a move that both increased the number of books DC publishes as well as the number of DC comic book purchases made by fans new and old in September.
“What’s already happened is, we’ve got fans coming up, saying, ‘Man you were right, you convinced me,'” DC Executive Editor Eddie Berganza told CBR, explaining that the actual release of the books quelled fan fears about the relaunch. Standing next to DC Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras, the two smiled when asked where DC goes after September.
“I think now it’s the fun of, where do we go to next, what’s happening in terms of story,” Harras answered.
Writer and artist Dan Jurgens, half of the creative team replacing George Perez on “Superman” as of March, told CBR he thought the relaunch was reinvigorating on more than just the fan side.
“I think, from a creative standpoint, that’s what we’ve all been waiting for,. Really, we’ve been working on this so long, and then we get the initial reaction from people when they know it’s coming based on the solicitations and the news, and now we finally get it based on the books themselves,” said Jurgens.
“[NYCC is] the first convention since the New 52 [launched], so it’s great to see the reaction. ‘Animal Man’ in particular, for some reason, the response has been so passionate, so it’s really great,” “Animal Man” and “Frankenstein, Agent Of S.H.A.D.E.” writer Jeff Lemire said. “The Flash” colorist and co-writer Brian Buccellato added that his reaction to glowing fan and critical reviews of “The Flash” was equally positive — and loud.
“You know when your favorite sports team wins and you’re like, ‘Yeah!’ I was like that!” Buccellato said, pumping his fist in the air with a grin.
“Wonder Woman” and Vertigo’s “Spaceman” writer Brian Azzarello was equally happy with response, though he had to put it all into perspective. “At the con, you only talk to people who like it. None of the haters ever come up to you and hate face to face. They never do that. I wish they would,” Azzarello said. “That would make a great conversation!”
Focusing on “Wonder Woman” specifically, the writer confessed that after months of fan debate over every detail, from Diana’s pants to her parentage, he was surprised by exactly how well received the book was by both new readers and longtime Wonder Woman fans.
“The experience here has been fantastic. When Cliff [Chiang] and I were signing today, people were thanking us, [saying] ‘Thank you for what you did to Wonder Woman,'” Azzarello said. The fact that the book, traditionally a low-selling title, sold exceptionally well in September also put a smile on the writer’s face.
“I’m really happy with the numbers. We’re not too high, it’s a real sweet spot, and honestly, I think in November it might grow — we’re definitely one of the word of mouth books, which is so weird because it’s Wonder Woman and Wonder Woman shouldn’t be a word of mouth book,” Azzarello said, adding that in terms of bringing in readers and sales, “I’m glad we’re doing that for her.”
In fact, all present expressed their belief that DC had accomplished its goal of bringing in new and lapsed readers, with editors and creators citing sales and fan anecdotes from the convention.
“In general, sales are crazy!” laughed Tony Bedard, the writer behind “Blue Beetle” and “Green Lantern: New Guardians.” Explaining “New Guardians” was now hitting about 45,000 readers rather than the 15,000 he and DC expected, Bedard told CBR that every DC writer must remember, the audience is no longer as insular as it was before September.
“I have to keep in mind that I’m not writing for that audience so much anymore — not to dis anybody who liked it before — but we really need to keep in mind that most of the people that are checking out the books are not all steeped in this stuff.”
“A lot of people were very happy, saying that they hadn’t started comics or they left it for a while and they feel they could be part of something again,” agreed writer Peter Tomasi, the man behind “Green Lantern Corps” and “Batman And Robin.” Speaking about new readers specifically, Tomasi added, “DC really seems to have captured the new readers they wanted, because without those new readers adding onto the fan base we already have, if you can’t grow you die.”
“I was talking with one of the editors who worked at Marvel today, and he was telling me that they had their best sales month in September. They had their best month in the last fourteen months — so the rising tide is lifting all ships, and that’s beautiful,” added Bedard.
While many who CBR spoke with said the build-up to the relaunch was challenging, all agreed that the biggest hurdle at this point is maintaining the new readers and continuing to delivery quality stories.
“It was always a race to the number ones, but as we said, once the number ones are over, that’s just the beginning,” Berganza said.
“It’s part of an ongoing adventure,” agreed Harras.
Outside of the New 52, the Vertigo writers and artists present were excited to finally be able to talk about their books with Vertigo announcing new titles and upcoming story arcs at a convention panel just hours before.
“It’s kind of like ‘The Fugitive’ meets ‘True Blood,'” writer Selwyn Seyfu Hinds said, describing his new creator-owned Vertigo series “Dominque Laveau, Voodoo Child.” Explaining that the series takes place in New Orleans, Hinds continued, “‘Voodoo Child’ is about a young woman who is a student…who wakes up one day and discovers that there’s an entire supernatural side to the city that she never suspected. On top of that, every being in that world seems to be out to kill her.”
“Voodoo Child” is drawn by Milestone Comics co-founder Denys Cowan, whom Hinds knew from their previous television work together through BET as well as mutual friend and director, Reggie Hudlin.
“[Denys is] a living legend, so it’s great to do my first creator owned series with that kind of firepower talent,” said Hinds.
Writer Scott Snyder dove into talking about “American Vampire,” his and artist Rafael Albuquerque’s creator-owned Vertigo title, saying that the upcoming issues would feature a 1950s rockabilly vampire hunter who drives a hotrod and uses a pair of wooden teeth to “bite the vampires back!”
“We’ve been talking about the 1950s arc forever,” the writer told CBR, saying that he and Albuquerque were especially excited for the cover and promotional art, which takes ’50s commercial advertising posters and twists them to fit the “American Vampire” universe. “There’s one where it’s a picture of a car and it says something like, ‘There’s spacious room in the trunk,’ but then the trunk is open and there’s a dead body in there!”
The writer behind DC’s “Swamp Thing” and “Batman,” Snyder laughed again when reminded that at a Batman panel hours earlier, “Batman” artist Greg Capullo labeled him as one of the writers who is, in Capullo’s words, “going to be one of the legendary writers in our business.” Paying the compliment right back to his Bat-book co-conspirators, Snyder told CBR that he does not work in a vacuum and named his fellow Bat family writers and artists as a real family.
“I’m genuine friends with Kyle [Higgins],” Snyder explained. “I visit him in L.A. and he visits me in New York. I hang out with Pete Tomasi and his family, Mike Marts, I’ve been to his house and hung out. The same thing with Tony Daniel and his wife; we really genuinely like each other and we feel like it’s fun to share and fun to help each other with our books. In that way, it really is inspiring to get to work with guys whose work I look up to.”
With so many writers and artists in the same place, people couldn’t help but talk shop, such as artist Lee Bermejo who spoke about his latest project, a Batman graphic novel due out next year titled “Batman: Noel.”
“It follows the structure of ‘A Christmas Carol,’ but it’s its own story and the two stories intertwine,” Bermejo told CBR of his newest project. “So what you’re seeing is ‘A Christmas Carol,’ but Batman’s not wearing a top hat, none of that! It’s very much a Batman story that features Superman, Catwoman and the Joker.” Explaining that the graphic novel actually began as an idea he had for a children’s book, while the final subject matter is more mature Bermejo said he still kept visual elements that show the story’s origins.
“It’s definitely the children’s book format. There are some traditional comic book pages in there too, but the storytelling is a little bit more open and more montage-y page work,” Bermejo said. “I like the idea of doing books that, hopefully, comics readers and non-comics readers can get into it.
“I, Vampire” writer Joshua Hale Fialkov said he was happy with the welcome fans have given his title as part of the New 52 and touched on the book’s horror-romance theme, explaining to CBR, “Any good story is a love story.”
“You have to figure out what a character is in love with in order to know what they’ll do,” Fialkov continued. “Having the main characters love each other and hate each other, that gives you everything you need. Everything else sort of falls into place when you have this relationship where they literally can’t co-exist but also can’t be apart. They are so codependent that they need each other to exist.”
Shane Davis, the artist for “Superman: Earth One,” the second volume of which is due out in 2012, was also excited to discuss his work.
“In volume two, we’re going to see my take on the Parasite,” Davis told CBR. “I revisited the character, visually, with the science behind it and how his powers work to an extent that hasn’t been done before.
“I’m 95 pages done with it, it’s coming together, we’ve got the same team on it as volume one,” Davis continued. “I work very closely with [J. Michael Straczynski] and I’m feeling really confident in the art I’m bringing to the book.”
Whether they were there celebrating the New 52 relaunch, a title announcement or just dropped in for the never-ending platters of hors d’oeuvres, everyone seemed to be enjoying the convention and delighted to meet the fans — especially the ones in costume.
“I saw this one guy dressed as Master Chief from ‘Halo,’ and he was a really big guy, six foot seven or six foot eight, so he looked like he stepped out of the video game. That was something to see!” Hinds said with a laugh.
“I had a Guy Gardner back in San Diego that was a girl actually dressed up like a Guy Gardner,” Tomasi recalled. “She looked great, red hair and all. It was a cool costume and glowing ring! That was a good one.”
The night also stirred up memories of for many longtime comic book writers, including those of new “Green Arrow” writer Ann Nocenti, who arrived at the party with friend and “The Sopranos” actor John Ventimiglia. Drink in hand, Nocenti looked around the room as she began to reminisce about her time at Marvel Comics in New York City back in the 1980s and 1990s, working alongside Bob Harras.
“One of the things I remember was, Friday nights we’d look at the ‘New York Times,’ there was no internet, and we’d look through the movie section and we’d say, ‘What is the worst movie out there?’ And then Ralph Macchio and Mark Gruenwald and Mike Carlin and Bob and I would go to the worst movie!” Nocenti said, laughing. Reminiscing about days past, Nocenti told CBR that they would arrive at the theatre on 42nd Street and proceed to heckle the movie, from the minute the lights went down to the end of the credits.
“At first, people would be like, ‘Shut up!’ But the commentary was so funny that they’d get the whole place laughing!” Nocenti recalled. “I’ll never forget, I went to the bathroom. There was this girl and she was like, ‘You guys are so funny, but we go to these movies because we want to be scared because we want to dive in our man’s lap! And we can’t do that because we’re having fun!'”
“We ruined the 42nd Street date night horror film!” Nocenti said, laughing once more.
Jurgens, who has worked for DC through multiple reboots and relaunches, from “Crisis On Infinite Earths” to the New 52, told CBR that he thought this year at DC was different in scope from everything that has gone on with the publisher before.
“I’ve been on some pretty ambitious things, but this is overall the most ambitious thing I’ve been a part of,” Jurgens said. “By and large, if you look at not just continuity as a whole, but the idea of whatever we have for a universe now, this was a much bigger than the things we have done before. It was a much bigger grasp, it was really resetting it to the point where we are still talking about exactly what events did and didn’t happen and some of the characters lives and how it all tracks together.”
With waiters circling and drinks flowing well into the night, “Supergirl” artist Mahmud Asrar told CBR he felt there was something very special about the convention this year.
“I feel there is so much energy in the air,” Asrar shared. “I can’t really place it, but I think it must be the relaunch! There’s a lot of interest and people are really positive about it all. It’s really great.”
Harras agreed, telling CBR News there was a lot to be excited for from an editorial standpoint that year. “I think its really everything, it’s seeing the books come out, it’s looking at them digitally, which I never really have before; my son put them on his iPad and I was like, wow! This is how people now read books. So everything came together and there’s a real sense of energy and sense of excitement.”
“I feel really lucky,” Snyder told CBR, saying it was”incredible” that he was given the chance to work on Batman and Swamp Thing.
“I do this because I want people to read what I do and experience my point of view and tell stories. So it’s just having this great big stage to really showcase what I do and get it in front of people. I couldn’t ask for anything more,” added Fialkov.
The writer then paused, glass in hand, thinking for a moment. “Well, I could. Some cars would be nice!”