The latest installment of Image Expo continued with the “Image Comics Presents: Storytelling” panel, featuring “Wytches” writer Scott Snyder, “Bitch Planet” and “Pretty Deadly” writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and “Monstress” writer Marjorie Liu talking the craft behind their creator-owned works.
Panel moderator and Image Comics staffer David Brothers started the panel by announcing that previously scheduled panelist Brian K. Vaughan was at a signing, and wouldn’t be able to make the panel. Brothers first turned to Liu, praising her work on “X-23” and her characterization of that character and Jubilee. “I can’t believe you opened with Marvel,” Snyder said to Brothers. “I’m expecting the trap door to open.” Sticking with the non-Image theme, Brothers asked Snyder about the origins of Vertigo series “American Vampire,” which featured a story by Stephen King in its first issue.
DeConnick joined the panel in progress, and Brothers mentioned “Osborn,” the 2010 Marvel miniseries that marked the writer’s first collaboration with “Pretty Deadly” artist Emma RÃos.
Tying the conversation together, Brothers said he got to know all three creators from superhero comics, and now they’re doing very different material at Image Comics. Brothers asked Snyder why he brought “Wytches” to Image.
“I had talked to Vertigo about doing ‘Wytches,'” Snyder said, sharing that he met with Image Comics Publisher Eric Stephenson at a Comic-Con International in San Diego, and asked him if there was anything they had too much of the time — horror, sci-fi, etc. — to gauge their interest. “Eric looked at me — it was him and Robert Kirkman — ‘What do you want to do?’ They didn’t care at all about what was on the docket. It was about bringing the thing you wanted to do to Image.”
Snyder said he hired a publicist for “Wytches” because he wasn’t sure how to sell it. “You put your name on it,” DeConnick quipped to the frequently top-selling Snyder.
Moving to Liu’s “Monstress” — announced earlier today during Stephenson’s keynote address — the writer gave credit to artist Sana Takeda’s work, saying, “There are times when you work with artists and what you do together just feels so good, and it feels so right.”
DeConnick picked up on that thought, saying that when she teaches comic book writing, she emphasizes collaboration between writer and artist — as she’s seen the end result when that doesn’t happen. “There’s a coldness to that I don’t like, and you can feel it.” Speaking of the number of artists that have drawn “Captain Marvel” over the years, DeConnick said, “The nature of the book has changed, because half the DNA has changed — at least a third, the character, the artist and the writer.”
Snyder said the way he writes “Wytches” is different than any other comic he’s done. “It’s very personal, it’s about the fear that you’re a horrible parent, and you’re doing horrible things to your kids.” Speaking of his collaboration with series artist Jock, Snyder said, “I love working with him on it, because I know coming back, it won’t be what I pictured.”
Liu said writer and artist is a “very intimate relationship,” contrasting it to her more solitary prose work. “When it works right, it’s a very beautiful thing.” DeConnick said she often compares her relationship with RÃos to her relationship with her husband, fellow comics writer Matt Fraction. “They’re both so talented, I hate them. And also I really, really want them to like me, so I work really hard to try and impress them.”
Responding to a fan question about creating mythical worlds, Liu said, “There are truths in the world that cannot be adequately explained in reality. The truth of slavery. The truth of misogyny. The truth of racism. These are topics that when people are confronted with them in a ‘real’ way, they shy away.”
“You take the holocaust as it’s portrayed in ‘Maus,’ and suddenly people can read about the holocaust if it’s about cats and mice,” Liu continued.
“I believe the purpose of fiction is both to organize ideas for ourselves, and for us to find comfort in the idea that we are not alone in our experience in this world,” DeConnick added. “For me, that is the purpose of reading fiction, that is the purpose of writing fiction.” That’s part of her motivation for “Bitch Planet,” she told the crowd, to talk about issues that may not have been broached otherwise.
“I can’t watch ‘Mad Man,'” DeConnick continued. “I understand intellectually that it is a very good show, but it makes me murderously angry. If I lived in that period, I would be drunk or in jail, because that’s the only way I could manage that with my constitution. I can’t consume that. But I think if ‘Mad Men’ were a comic, where I could control the pace, I think I could.”
A fan asked the panel about overcoming writer’s block. DeConnick said what helps her best is stepping away from the computer — plus the program Freedom, which temporarily blocks access to the Internet. Snyder said he’ll go for a run or a drive, but the important thing to remember is that you still have to write that day.
“What separates the people who get to do it and the people who don’t isn’t really talent, at the end of the day,” Snyder said. “If you can’t be the person that does it when you don’t feel like, and get it done and treat it like a job, even if you’re the most talented person, you won’t do it. Some people have very little natural talent, and work hard, and become amazing.”
“I tell my students, ‘You can dream about being a writer as much as you want, but if you can’t finish your book, if you can’t finish your comic, it will never happen,'” Liu added. “You must finish what you write.”
“The idea is not the hard part,” DeConnick said. “The hard part is showing up and actually doing the work.”
At the close of the panel, a fan asked about doing research for those books. DeConnick said that a lot of her “Bitch Planet” research ended up not being used, due to the series not being as “future-y” as originally conceived — in part due to the inspiration of Margaret Atwood and wanting to be “10 minutes in the future in the wrong direction.”
“I tend to read a lot,” Liu said. “I read a lot of non-fiction. I’ve always been doing a lot of reading, for example, on Yellow Peril.”
Towards the very end of the session, Snyder — an ardent Elvis Presley fan — pointed out that today is the music legend’s birthday, and he would have turned 80 on this date.
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