Dan DiDio, Senior Vice President - Executive Editor of DC Comics, looked at ease Sunday afternoon as he invited attendees to Seattle's Emerald City ComiCon to join him for an informal discussion about comics. Didio, decked out in a vintage Mariners baseball hat, acted as host for an hour of back-and-forth about comics--and why fans (and pros) are so in love with them.
Present for the discussion were some of DC's heavy hitters: Kurt Busiek (writer of the upcoming weekly series "Trinity"), and Bill Willingham (creator of "Fables" and one half of the writing team behind DC's recently-announced political series "DCU: Decisions"), along with Senior Story Editor Ian Sattler.
Busiek played fanboy fact-checker, correcting DiDio and attendees who dropped references to specific stories or issues. It was the fans, however, who got to do the most talking, as DiDio kept the lively discussion going with a series of questions, such as “what was the first comic you ever read? Everybody remembers the [issue] number of the first comic they got," a remark which the crowd affirmed with laughter and nodding.
One fan told the panelists and crowd that he got into comics because of cartoons appearing in Playboy Magazine. "That's where I started," the fan said.
"That's where you should finish, too!" DiDio shot back, and the room erupted in laughter.
As DiDio strolled up and down the aisle talking with the crowd, inevitably some of the current hot topics in the industry were raised. Some fans spoke up about feeling fatigued by all the major event stories that have been coming out of Marvel and DC Comics lately. DiDio was contemplative about how to make these events connect with readers.
"The hardest part about it is making it feel like it matters…We want everything to matter, everything to have consequence, but nothing changes," DiDio said, referring to himself as part of the collective community of comics readers. Fans will have the opportunity to see how well DiDio has been able to negotiate this conflict when DC's major summer event "Final crisis" hits shelves later this month.
Another popular topic was delayed books. One fan cited the "Action Comics Annual" #11, as a good example of "a really emotional story," but many felt put off by how long it took that particular storyline to wrap up. DiDio said that the lateness of that book was "very painful" for DC, and that delays are "not good for the talent, not good for the character, not good for the fans, not good for anybody."
Continuity and grimness were also discussed, with DiDio expressing reluctant determination about working within continuity, and defending the "grim" aspects of recent DC stories.
One fan spoke up about their love for DC's "Blue Beetle" title. Someone else in the audience yelled, "I miss the old Blue Beetle!"
Not missing a beat, DiDio said, "He's got a bullet in his head," referencing the death of the Ted Kord character in the lead-up to "Infinite Crisis" in 2005.
Levity returned at the end of the panel, when DiDio asked the convention-goers what the silliest comic story they've ever enjoyed was. There were many hilarious answers, but Busiek got the most laughs for his retelling of a ridiculous silver age Justice League story in which Batman and Superman agree to wipe one another's memories.
Everybody left the panel laughing and smiling, having enjoyed their informal conversation with some of the comic book industry's biggest figures-who, it turns out, love comics just as much as everybody else.
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