CCI: Sunday Conversation with Dan DiDio

Joining DC editor Dan DiDio at the very informal and fan interactive panel were DC Comics Vice President of Sales Bob Wayne, DC Comics writer Eric Wallace, "Tiny Titans" creators Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani, DC Comics writer Geoff Johns, DC Comics executive editor Mike Carlin, DC Comics senior story editor Ian Sattler, and last minute addition, current Marvel Comics writer Steve Skeates. As always, DiDio was impressed by the fans who showed up, because they're the "real" fans who stick it out through the whole convention due to their love of the medium. He's proud of the industry to have fans like these.

Before the interactive question and answer period could begin, Dan DiDio shared a very personal and emotional story with everyone in attendance. He was supposed to be there for the entire convention, but instead could only make the last day today, telling everyone that his Mother had died Monday. Slightly teary eyed, he told everyone that he had questioned whether or not to do this panel, but in the end decided to tough it out. He can't help but think of his Mother when he discusses comic books and their impact on his life, because she was such a big part of his life. When he was child, she would take him to get comics, she bought him the very thing he now spends his life creating, and so much of who he is now is because of her. He loves his Mother and will miss her, but is very happy she got to live to the age of 92.

Moving things along, DiDio explained he is very proud of DC Comics at the moment, and while there have been some 'mistakes' in the past, he feels the next year of stories planned are the strongest yet. And with that declaration, he began questioning the fans.

First off, he asked everyone to have their hands raised if they read comic books, and asked to the drop them as he ran off years in relation to how long they have been reading. Everyone assumed the winner would be veteran Bob Wayne, having been reading comics for the last 50 years, but surprisingly, one fan beat him out with 53 years. DiDio commented that he loves seeing fans who have only been reading for a few years, because it proves they are doing something right. He admits it can be a bit tough having so many fans who have been reading for over 10 years or more because they can be hard to continuously surprise, joking that they're all disillusioned by the fact their favorite character has probably been killed off more than three times.

He directed his next question to the new readers in the audience asking them what drew them in. A common answer was television and movies, with one fan giving the example of "Justice League Unlimited" as the source of their new fandom. Opening up the question to everyone, answers still carried the television themes, but ranged from George Reeves "Superman" to just plain "Linda Carter."

After one fan gave the 1989 Tim Burton "Batman" movie as their inspiration, DiDio asked Bob Wayne about the state of the DC offices at the time. Simply put by Wayne, "Crazy!" No one outside of DC Comics believed it would be hit until the day after the movie premiered.

Dan DiDio directed the next question to the creators on the panel, asking them about their first comic book.

Ian Sattler said "Wild Dog #1," which DiDio jokingly denied, telling the audience, "Ian is lying, he's been trying to get a new Wild Dog series at DC for years!"

Mike Carlin's first book was a Batman Annual, featuring the story "Robin Dies at Dawn!"

Eric Wallace said it was the "Birth of the Gibbon" storyline from way back in "Amazing Spiderman."

For Geoff Johns, it was "Batman and the Outsiders #13." He didn't know who anyone was, but he loved it, and has been hooked ever since.

Steve Skeates mentioned a Batman story, "Death Knocks Three Times," as his first, also mentioning a "Teen Titans" story featuring the Ant around the same time.

Bob Wayne went all the way back to 1959 describing a Superman story where an imperfect duplicating ray created an adversary called the Super Menace.

Art Baltazar actually brought two copies of the first comic book he read, the worn out original he's had for years, and a better condition copy he just bought at the convention for $2. The story, from an issue of "Amazing Spider-Man," featured the villain the Jackal chasing after an apparently naked Gwen Stacy. As Bob Wayne looked through the original copy, he couldn't help but joke, "Hey, the Gwen Stacy pages are laminated!"

Lastly, Franco Aureliani mentioned his first as being a "Teen Titans/Doom Patrol" crossover. It may not have been his absolute first, but it was at least the first comic to make him start caring about continuity.

DiDio quickly pulled Marvel Comics editor Steve Wacker and "Lying in the Gutters" writer Rich Johnston onto the panel to join the fun, once he realized they were in the audience.

Asked by DiDio what the weirdest place they bought a comic book was, fans answered back with putt putt golf courses, dry cleaners, and even a McDonalds, which had longboxes along the counter where you picked up your food.

Ian Sattler mentioned the mythical comic book vending machine as his weirdest experience, which one fan surprisingly mentioned as having seen.

Geoff Johns mentioned an experience he and his brother shared, where they 'escaped' from a summer camp and discovered a florist shop selling a stack of magazines, which they at first thought were Playboys, only to discover to their increased delight that they were comic books.

DiDio shared a story he had heard from an Iraq War veteran, who set up a convoy through a hot zone, just so he could get to a army supply depot that had that week's new comic books for sale.

He then moved things along asking the fans and creators what comic book they have given or would give to non-fans to hook them in. People in attendance mentioned "Killing Joke," Geoff Johns' "Green Lantern," "Preacher Vol 1," and one father mentioned "Tiny Titans" for his kids.

Steve Wacker said he always gives people the first three volumes of "Animal Man."

Aureliani said anything by Geoff Johns.

Baltazar, with a smile, mentioned "Tiny Titans #18," which conveniently came out last Wednesday.

Wayne said "Watchmen."

Skeates said "Planetary."

Johns always give "The Golden Age" by James Robinson.

For Wallace it is the first three volumes of "Fables."

And Rich Johnston put it simply with, "Preacher, always Preacher."

DiDio opened it back up to the audience wanting to know what attracts them to a comic book. Many different answers were given, ranging from larger than life situations you can't even find in movies to "Wow!" moments to the personality traits of the characters.

Following up on one of those answers, DiDio wondered what everyone's biggest 'Wow' moment has been in comic books. A fan mentioned the last issue of "Green Lantern" before the start of "Blackest Night," which showed the character Black Hand blasting a hole through his head. Funnily enough, it was mentioned that the page right next to that scene was a conveniently placed ad for "Wednesday Comics" that simply stated in large bold letters, "Mindblowing." Other fans mentioned Maxwell Lord shooting Blue Beetle (a favorite scene for DiDio as it was such a dramatic and heroic moment), Animal Man's famous line "I can see you," Elemental Girl's tragic death in Neil Gaiman's "Sandman," and a early scene in "New Frontier" that had Johnny Cloud jumping into the mouth of a dinosaur with a handful of grenades.

Wayne joked that his "Wow!" moment was the "magic bullet" in "Final Crisis" which went halfway through Manhattan before striking its target.

Aureliani, having been reading through Geoff Johns' "Green lantern," mentioned issue #10, for it mentioned The Blackest Night as far back as 2005.

Editorially speaking, Wacker shared a story from when he was working on "52," when Grant Morrison casually said on the phone during a meeting, "What if Skeets is evil?" The simple phrase changed the whole focus of the series, giving them the hook they were looking for.

Geoff Johns described the Grant Morrison issue of "Doom Patrol," which showed the Chief shooting up everyone with a gun.

Mike Carlin mentioned a story he worked on during "The Death of Superman," which showed one of his favorite characters Bibbo lamenting to the sky above, "Why him, and not me."

Ian Sattler mentioned the end of the "No Man's Land" storyline in the Batman books, where the Joker shot Commissioner Gordon's wife.

The last question from DiDio was about everyone's "funnest" or silliest moment in comic books, giving Caveman Batman as an example.

For DiDio, it was an old scene in Marvel Comics' "Avengers," which had Hercules using his great strength to pull Manhattan Island back into place after a great battle. The scene was fantastic, and it didn't matter how he got through the bridges or plumbing. Fans mentioned classic scenes and characters like "One Punch!," " Topo the Octopus, the television series "batman Brave and the Bold," and Dazzler temporarily becoming a herald of Galactus.

Another fan mentioned an old issue of "Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane," where after deciding that since she can't have Superman, she can at least (somehow) travel back in time to before Krypton's explosion and seduce Jor-El. Eventually, by story's end, she gives up her crazy plan and breaks the fourth wall when she finally realizes, "I could have been Superman's mother!"

After one fan simply mentioned the "Green Lantern" character Ch'p, Johns reminded the audience how the character had been killed off on the planet Oa by a garbage truck that ran over him after catching him in its yellow headlights.

The panel flew by, and sadly ended far too soon, to the disappointment of many fans and creators.

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