A large hall filled with upbeat techno music and scores of excited fanboys and fangirls set the stage for the anticipated panel of the hit webseries “The Guild” at the 2011 Emerald City Comicon in Seattle, Washington. Excited chatter from gamers and comics fans dressed as Jedi, superheroes and characters from the show quickly transformed into whoops and hollers as stars Felicia Day, (Codex), Wil Wheaton (Fawkes, the guild leader of the Axis of Anarchy) and Amy Okuda (Tinkerballa) took to the stage, kicking off an hour of laughter and friendly back-and-forth between the cast and the audience.
The show, a popular internet webseries with episodes ranging from five to eight minutes in length, focuses on the exploits of a six-member massive multiplayer online game guild, each with their own goals and hang-ups. Originally debuting on YouTube with the help of online donations, the show quickly grew in popularity and is now regularly featured on the X-Box Live, MSN Video, iTunes, Amazon.com, DVDs and their own website.
Senior editor of the alterna-rag “Portland Mercury,” Eric Henriksen, a dyed in the wool “Guild” fan, moderated the panel. Radiating excitement, Eric recalled for the audience how he jumped at the chance to do anything with the cast of “The Guild.” When asked by his girlfriend if he had ever moderated a panel before, he responded with, “Nope. Don’t care.” Henriksen then proceeded to introduce the stars as the laughter died down.
Day professed to be nervous addressing so many people at once, leading her pal Wil Weaton to attempt to calm her down with a quick drawing of a “wiener.” “Ah, professionalism,” chimed in Okuda. After the crowd’s laughter died down once again, Eric launched into his questions.
When asked how the cast felt, making a show about an online game which is promoted online for viewing online, then coming to ECCC and seeing real life people dressed up like them, Day answered, “It’s amazing. This is a show that still shooting in my garage, was never advertised on billboards and it has this crazy following. Now there’s cosplay costumes next to icons like Batman. It’s amazing.”
“At Gen-con last year,” added Wheaton, “there was a girl in a fetish Codex outfit made out of rubber or something, so that was a little weird.”
On the subject of why Wil and Amy play such jerks on the show, they both told the audience, they have no input on their characters and are at the directorial whims of Felicia Day. That said, they both love playing the bad guys. Wheaton explained, “According to my friend Grady, the villain is the hero of his own story.” Wheaton continued, describing the complexity in the relationship between Fawkes and Codex and how it was important to show the audience why these two characters would be attracted to each other. “Basically, Fawkes is a bully, he has the loudest voice. So he’s drawn to Codex who he sees as his equal. And it’s great when he gets his comeuppance. His uppance comes, he papers over his insecurity and general douchey-ness with intelligent sounding stuff.”
Henriksen asked about the behind the scenes work necessary for the show, wondering if the cast ever felt constrained by the web format. Day explained that the script for an episode is typically eleven pages long but gets cut down to seven in order to keep up the clippy, fast-paced tone the gamer audience loves. She mentioned that while it may be interesting to extend an episode for a full thirty minutes, she has no plans to do so. She’s a busy actor and plans to keep the same pacing and timing for season five. As she is still writing the season, she asked the audience to refrain from asking about spoilers, especially since anything she discussed likely wouldn’t make it into the final product anyway.
Day then took some time to plug the “The Guild” comic published by Dark Horse. She professed to being a proud creator who loves her characters and extending their story in comics form was a dream come true. Also, it’s really hard to write comics. Being a fastidious worker and giving herself the name “No Fun Felicia,” Day took the time to write the first six pages of the “Tink” one-shot while shooting an episode of “Eureka!” with Wil Wheaton. Felicia spoke about how great it was using six different artists on the “Tink” book and expanding the story of the character, which she described as “the most complex thing I’ve ever written.”
Henriksen then opened the floor to questions. Attendees quickly and eagerly made their way to the microphones at the front of the room and within seconds, three lines, twenty people deep formed. First, an excited young man asked Day, “Will you every write a book on how to make successful online videos?” With a flick of her hair, Felicia answered that she was first inspired by Wil Wheaton’s short story “The Hunter” to start the webseries and suggested people try what worked for them — the pay-as-you-go system. Donations played a large part in financing “The Guild” after the initial episodes and were a great help in understanding what worked and what audiences like. Day also mentioned that she did not plan on writing a physical book since it seemed an odd thing to do for a project that exists completely online. While she had no immediate plans, she said she would like to create an online guide next year. Wil Wheaton then offered the audience member a drawing of a wiener.
An audience member asked a question on most everybody’s mind: “Will there be a Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog sequel?” Day quickly responded, “Man, I’ve been answering that question for two years. Not right now — I think Joss Whedon is busy with a little thing called ‘The Avengers.'” Felicia did acknowledge that while there are outlines for stories and a title, there is nothing in the works.
When asked by a costumed audience member if girl gamers are represented well in media, Day commented that it didn’t matter. While she has very strong thoughts on what it means to be a gamer girl, she doesn’t want to preach, choosing instead to lead by example. Specifically, just be the geek you want to be and don’t be afraid to take great interest in something and express it. There is no gender, just geeks. Wheaton chimed in, adding, “Remember, guys, when you meet a girl who’s a geek, don’t be a dick.” He stressed men shouldn’t act weird and move beyond gender roles.
As a follow-up, a gamer asked Day how she responds to players when they ask if she’s a real girl when she’s playing a female character. The actor smiled and joked, “Well, I was pre-op.”
The audience was curious about the experience on set, which Wheaton described by first regaling the audience with how much he appreciated the process on set, both as an actor and as a writer. The cast can change and tweak lines until they feel right, making the scene tighter and more fun, without having to be worried about a studio executive or a network giving notes. Day added that she loves the opportunity to make the show as good as she can make it, working with the script and actors on set until she is satisfied, especially since the buck stops with her. Everybody who works on “The Guild” is invested whole-heartedly. Plus she feeds a lot of people. While working on “Dragon Age,” a “Guild” spinoff series, Day ordered a coffee truck every day. “Ugh, I hate ‘Dragon Age!'” complained Okuda as Wheaton quipped, “It’s the DS9 of ‘The Guild.’ It gets all the money. I hate the new baby!”
Another costumed audience member was curious about whether or not Felicia ever feels pigeonholed into geek roles. Day confidently answered, “No,” stating she is quite happy with what she is doing now. “I want to do projects that people who like what I do will super enjoy. The kinds of things I have fun with. When I did ‘Eureka,’ they wrote that part for me, based on what they saw online. It was funny and dramatic. If you start to beg as an actor, trying to be everything to everybody, you lose your compass.”
The next question centered on what the stars thought of fan art and fan fiction. The cast all agreed they are honored and love the art, hanging much of it on a wall on set. “I can’t draw, so I find it astounding that people put their talent into this. It’s wonderful. I haven’t seen any fan fiction, though,” Felicia answered. “Once you do, it can’t be unseen,” added Wil, to the audience’s amusement.
“What do you see the future as? Features?” queried another audience member. “Well, ‘The Guild’ is feature length on the DVD. It doesn’t have the credits in-between episodes,” Day answered, adding her hope to see more independent features flourish with increased budgets and technology staying within the grasp of everybody and not just in the hands of corporations. She added she would love to see people do their art and continue the spontaneous nature of the internet.
Wheaton jumped in, adding, “Independent artists have never been more threatened by old media.” In his opinion, corporations are attempting to divide the internet in order to protect profits. The egalitarian nature of the internet gives people more choice about the type of content they can watch, a concept which scares the old guard. Wheaton advocates net neutrality and urged the audience to contact their lawmakers and demand it.
Finally, the crowd wanted to know what comic book character the stars would have sex with if they could. Day responded honestly, naming “Dick Grayson. He’s hotter than Bruce and he’s humble.” With no hesitation Wheaton responded “Catwoman!” while Okuda answered, “the Ryan Reynolds Green Lantern.”