Kelly Sue DeConnick clearly has her hands full. The current writer of Marvel Comics’ “Captain Marvel,” co-creator of Image Comics’ “Pretty Deadly” with artist Emma Rios, the upcoming “Bitch Planet” and co-writer of Dark Horse Comics’ Ghost” — among various other projects — began her spotlight panel at WonderCon 2014 in Anaheim with a chuckle as moderator and writer Ben Acker asked the audience, “You know Kelly Sue DeConnick, right?”
“Let’s hang out with her as a person,” Acker continued as DeConnick laughed again, waving at the packed convention room’s numerous Captain Marvel cosplayers.
Setting a casual and light tone that the two would sustain for the rest of the panel, Acker began quizzing DeConnick about movies she had seen recently to which DeConnick said she enjoyed Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” She also settled a bet for Acker by confirming that she pronounces the Carol Corps, the name “Captain Marvel” and DeConnick fans have dubbed themselves, as “core,” not “corpse.”
“A Carol Corpse would be a bad thing!” DeConnick said, mock admonishing Acker.
“These questions aren’t in any order: how is my moderating?” Acker retorted as DeConnick and the room cracked up. Acker then asked if there was a release date for “Bitch Planet,” the new Image series DeConnick announced at Image Expo.
“‘Bitch Planet’ will be out in November,” DeConnick said, immediately gasping after she saw two little girls sitting directly in front of her in the first row.
“They need to know about planets,” Acker joked as the audience and the children’s mother laughed.
“I swear too much — yesterday I told a story about a diaphragm fitting,” DeConnick sighed as the room burst into laughter again.
Acker followed this pronouncement by asking DeConnick what her favorite swear word was.
“It’s j-a-c-k-a-s-s,” DeConnick carefully spelled out.
“They can spell,” the girls’ mother said.
“No! Literacy!” DeConnick yelled, shaking her fist as the mother and audience laughed.
She and Acker then became confused about how much time they had for his questions versus those posed by the audience, so Acker declared that he was going to start a “lightning round.” This prompted DeConnick to recall that her great-grandfather was once struck by lighting.
“My great-grandma found a body in a cistern,” DeConnick added. Audience members immediately interrupted, asking if her great-grandma put the body in the cistern (she did not) where the cistern was (“rural Ohio”) and if her great-grandmother solved the murder (she did not). DeConnick then had to explain to Acker what a cistern was, joking, “it’s a hillbilly water tank.”
Acker announced to the giggling room he was going to ask an NPR “Terry Gross” question and he wanted a serious answer: what was DeConnick’s definition of community?
“The purpose of fiction is to make us feel connected to one another — so fiction is about creating community even if it’s just in your head,” DeConnick said.
Acker inquired if that sense of community led the writer to create the Carol Corps. DeConnick countered that it was a fan movement that evolved organically over the Internet and Tumblr, “The only place on the Internet where people are nice!” DeConnick joked.
She also explained that the Carol Corps was anarchic and leaderless, something she really admired.
“There’s no vetting process, you don’t have to do anything — though we do have cards apparently you can print off the Internet, if you want to be a card-carrying Corps member,” DeConnick said.
“Do you have guilty pleasures?” Acker asked.
“I have no guilty pleasures, I tend not to feel guilty about my pleasures,” DeConnick said. She then told the audience as far as reading went she was a big fan of “Mind MGMT” by Matt Kindt.
The two then turned the floor over to the audience for questions, the first from a fan dressed as Quentin Quire who asked which character DeConnick would love to write but had not gotten a chance to.
“Modesty Blaze,” DeConnick said, adding, “And Jamie McKelvie would draw it.”
A fan dressed as Carol Danvers asked if Captain Marvel will show up in any of Marvel Studios’ upcoming the movies.
“I don’t know, they don’t tell me this stuff!” DeConnick laughed.
“Marvel is very clearly aware of the fact that Carol has a following — Carol is in some of the animation now as Captain Marvel in the proper uniform. Something is happening, I’m not privy to it,” DeConnick continued, adding, “We can’t get her hair consistent across the line, but as problems go I’ll survive that.”
A male fan thanked DeConnick for her “Avengers Assemble” work and asked about the possibility of a Jessica Drew miniseries.
“I would love a Jess book, I had a pitch for a Jess ongoing but had to withdraw it because I didn’t have time,” the writer said.
The next question came from a fan who wanted to know whether Carol’s crazy continuity and long history made it difficult to write “Captain Marvel.”
“[Comics is] the longest running continuous narrative in human history,” DeConnick said, plugging author Sean Howe’s “Marvel Comics: The Untold Story” as a great resource for understanding that history.
“Continuity is the devil. You need to do your research — you can get completely hamstrung by it if you’re not careful,” DeConnick added, stating she thought the important thing was to get to the core of the story you want to tell and not worry about the past.
The same fan asked about crossover possibility for “Captain Marvel” and the new “Guardians Of The Galaxy” seeing as how both were set in space.
“You think that would be something Marvel might do,” DeConnick said as the audience laughed. “It sure seems like something that would be in their character!”
Turning to questions from Twitter, DeConnick stated she was writing a series of personal essays about her relationship with her body, to be illustrated by Lauren McCubbin, and was starting a novel in June.
“I used to be on swim team, and when I was on swim team I used to fantasize about running because when you’re swimming the force you push down… you don’t actually go that far,” DeConnick said. “Working in comics it feels like swimming — I have an idea for a story and I write it into a script and then it’s interpreted by an artist and your beats have to conform to page shape.”
“There’s a part where I fantasize, can I just write the story? Right now the idea of writing the novel is so freeing!” the writer added.
Acker asked if she would consider a crossover between “Captain Marvel” and “Pretty Deadly,” which made DeConnick laugh.
“What about the new ‘Ms. Marvel?’” Acker said.
“With ‘Pretty Deadly?’ Sure!” DeConnick joked.
The next Twitter question came from an online fan who asked what drew DeConnick as a writer to outer space. DeConnick revealed that her father was a pilot and the history of aviation interested her, but she was so scared of flying she refused her husband’s offer to get her flying lessons as research for “Captain Marvel.”
“I don’t even like slides!” DeConnick laughed. “I like the idea of space, I like it as a frontier — I like what it means to Carol.”
Another Twitter questioner asked about DeConnick’s favorite fruit, leading DeConnick and Acker to compare notes on the multiple food-based questions they repeatedly received during the convention.
“Someone asked my favorite vegetable,” DeConnick said, turning to the crowd and asking if there was a Marvel cookbook. A fan in the middle row of seats shouted back there was, and it included things like “Hawkeye’s mac and cheese.”
“I can’t imagine eating something Clint made,” DeConnick said as the audience laughed.
DeConnick then rated the Marvel writers as cooks, saying she would not eat anything from, “Brian Bendis, for sure. Not Jonathan Hickman either, I bet he’s like the people who cook with liquid nitrogen.” She finally decided she would probably eat a meal cooked by Jason Aaron as the room applauded.
Speaking more about November’s “Bitch Planet,” DeConnick explained it was a “women in prison riff,” inspired by 1970s exploitation films.
“In this society you are either compliant or noncompliant, and if you are continually noncompliant you are shunted off to this prison planet,” DeConnick said, adding that, in this world, noncompliance might mean anything from being troublesome to being fat or having unpopular opinions.
“There are five prisoners we will be centered around on this planet,” DeConnick added. “It’s going to be mean and funny and bloody.”
She also told the room that part of the inspiration for the series was wanting to do her own take on the exploitation prison tropes, like the obligatory shower scene, without being exploitative.
“So maybe we see the women come into the shower and we stop watching them and watch the men watch them, so they are the ones objectified, and we linger too long there,” DeConnick said as an example. “And if someone is watching through a peephole, maybe they get an ice pick to the eye.”
“Patriarchy is bad,” she said to the two little girls at the front of the room as the audience laughed and cheered.
DeConnick promised the series will be weird and “more instantly accessible than ‘Pretty Deadly.'” The writer also stated the comic would have a page of fake classifieds at the back for items she would actually have and, “If you send a dollar to the P.O. box I’ll send it to you!”
DeConnick then told Acker she got her signature from a comic classified, wherein she sent a dollar and got back three different signatures on paper. She picked one, practiced it and still uses it today.
Naming Lois Lane and Wonder Woman as her favorite characters growing up, “It didn’t occur to me anyone wrote comics!” DeConnick laughed. “The first comic I looked up the writer was Marv Wolfman and I was like, no one is named Wolfman!”
The writer responded to an audience question that she has not seen “Orange Is The New Black,” the Netflix original show about prison life, as she was worried about being influenced by the writing.
“What I’m interested in was the cheese factor, and my understanding of ‘Orange Is The New Black’ is it’s more real. This is science fiction, this is ‘B Planet,’ not ‘B Institution,’ so I want it to be overwrought and science fiction-y,” DeConnick said. She was holding off on reading Hickman’s “East Of West” until after she finished “Pretty Deadly” for the same reason.
The next question came from a woman who wanted to know what three pieces of advice DeConnick would give her younger self. DeConnick said she would “beat the crap out of herself” for all the time wasted before she had children.
“If you intend to have children and a creative life, you should probably get started right now!” she laughed. “While your time is your own, don’t be cute, get on it; if this is a thing you want to do get serious about it. That would be my advice.”
A Jamie McKelvie fan asked if he would ever draw interiors on “Captain Marvel.”
“Kieron Gillen has him — I think they’ve been surgically attached?” DeConnick joked. She then confirmed they had plans for something together in the future. “Don’t tell Gillen!” she added as the audience laughed.
The last question came from a fan who wanted to know how long “Pretty Deadly” would run, and how long the writer planned to stay on “Captain Marvel.”
“With the ongoings, they tend to reevaluate every six months or so,” DeConnick said. “Carol’s solo book will continue as long as the sales support it.”
As for “Pretty Deadly,” while she and Rios already know how the story will end, “Right now we’re shooting for four arcs,” DeConnick stated. Explaining that there will be breaks between arcs, “We will probably do a trade after each and a hardcover for two arcs that will have bonus material in it. That’s the plan right now,” the writer added.
Acker then brought the panel to a close as DeConnick began playing with the Tribble toy a fan gave her for her children, thanking her audience and Acker as the room cheered.