Following the “Green Lantern: The Future is Bright” panel, a significant number of attendees vacated the hall designated for Saturday afternoon’s “Irredeemable One-Year Anniversary Panel” at the Emerald City Comicon. When the exodus subsided, the massive room was left with an anemic smattering of fans. Mark Waid, who led the panel-and was similarly the center of attention at a much better-attended “Inside the Writer’s Studio” panel last year-had a sense of humor about the sparse crowd. “Hi, those of you who couldn’t get into [the] ‘Cup O’ Joe’ [panel]”, he joked.
Admittedly, Waid and co-panelists BOOM! Studios Managing EditorMatt Gagnon and Ross Richie, BOOM!’s co-founder and Chief Executive, didn’t have a presentation prepared for the panel, which was ostensibly designed as a look back at the first year of Waid’s successful “Irredeemable” ongoing series. “It’s been a year of hard work,” Waid said of the series, which was originally conceived as following the adventures of a Superman analogue gone evil. The acclaimed comics veteran, however, ultimately spent more time discussing the “Irredeemable” spin-off series “Incorruptible,” which inverts the premise of the former. “[‘Incorruptable’] couldn’t be the kind of stuff we’ve seen before,” Waid said. He confessed to struggling to find an interesting take on the villain-turned-hero trope, and said that “it didn’t coalesce at all in my head until I decided that he [had] a 16-year-old sidekick named Jailbait.”
He said of “Incorruptible” protagonist Max Damage that “he’s learning from scratch how to be a superhero. He doesn’t know where the grey area is.” He alluded to the character being a Randian, Objectivist figure like Rorschach from “Watchmen,” saying, “In his mind there are no moral choices to be made, there is only right or wrong.” Apparently exploring moral dilemmas is what Waid most enjoys about writing comics. He cited the famous author Ernest Hemingway: “The human heart in conflict is the only thing worth writing about.”
From there, the freewheeling, casual panel soon veered into extraordinarily off-topic territory, but before Waid moved on to topics as diverse as his favorite comics supervillains and who he thinks DC Comics’ best writer is (spoiler: it’s Grant Morrison, who he called “a genius”), he offered some parting thoughts on “Irredeemable” and related projects. “I’ve got more layers of that onion to peel back for a couple of years to come,” he said in reference to “Irredeemable” protagonist Plutonian. He also stated that readers can expect a confrontation between “Incorruptible” protagonist Max Damage and the Plutonian soon, as “Max has an anti-Plutonian plan.” Waid also revealed that he has an idea for another BOOM! comic, which will also start with the letter “I.” Waid and Richie playfully argued over whether or not it would fit in with “Irredeemable” continuity-Waid, apparently, remains undecided on the matter.
A fan dressed as “Skyman”-a hero of his own invention-had a rather surreal interaction with Waid during the panel’s anything-goes second half. Waid asked him what “Skyman” desired, and the fan laughed and said “power!” Needless to say, it was oddly redolent of the Plutonian.
Soon after, Ross Richie floated Superman as a discussion topic, and requested that Waid retell a story he told at last year’s con (which is also available on his website in essay form) about the first time he saw “Superman: The Movie.” Waid passed on recounting his highly-emotional story, but he did share his thoughts on how his Plutonian character differs from Superman in crucial ways. “Plutonian doesn’t have the inner strength to do what he does just to make the world a better place,” Waid said. Superman, the writer suggested, doesn’t need to be loved and does what he does simply because it’s right, and because he’s compelled to.
Another topic from last year’s “Inside the Writer’s Studio” panel which cropped up once again was the ill-fated CrossGen Comics publishing house and its founder Mark Alessi, whom Waid referred to last year as a “bully.” For this year’s ECCC, he stepped up his invective, comparing Alessi to megalomaniacal supervillains like Dr. Doom, whose ambitions are to rule the world. Like Doom, Waid intimated that “inside [Alessi] was this insecure guy.”
In all fairness, Waid took some shots at himself once or twice, as well. “Thor, Wonder Woman, and the Joker I can’t write,” he admitted. He also expressed that writing a book as dark and relentless as “Irredeemble” has been a challenge for the longtime optimist. That said, Waid doesn’t expect the tone of the book to be making any dramatic shifts in the near future.
Richie backed this up, saying, “It’s not called ‘Forgiven.'”
“Nothing will ever bring closure to [the Plutonian]” Waid said.
One final tidbit Waid shared with the panel’s loyal attendees involved the motivation behind the death of “Irredeemable” character Scylla. Waid was eager to use “Carrie” as a nickname for Scylla’s twin Charybdis (now “Survivor”), and so Scylla-whose name Waid was “tired of typing”-had to go.
Despite the diminutive crowd, Waid stepped up and led a geeky, laid back conversation. While “Irredeemable” might be a hit in terms of sales, few of its fans turned out for Waid’s panel, but those who did expressed their admiration for the title and its philosophical undertones. Waid seemed grateful, and hopeful about the future of his doomy BOOM! books.