Last Sunday afternoon at Fan Expo Canada brought the Sunday Conversation with Dan DiDio, an ongoing convention tradition where the DC Comics Executive Editor hosts an informal chat with fans. Working the room without a microphone and not even hesitating to move up and down the central aisle, DiDio used this panel to reach out to the Canadian audience and asked for their thoughts about comics through a series of questions.
Q: Where's the strangest place you've ever bought comics?
Fans' answers were all over the map, including one who purchased comics in the boys' washroom at his school. Another fan said there was a chip French fry cart run by a gentleman with a thick Ukrainian accent who sold comics and fries. He insisted before you could order your fries that you picked a comic book first.
DiDio's personal favorite contributions to this discussion had come from Jimmy Palmiotti and Paul Levitz. Palmiotti had purchased comics by the pound - a guaranteed way to get variety in a comic diet. Interestingly enough, there was a vendor on the Fan Expo floor that weekend who was selling comics by the kilo. The going rate was $10/kilo. A kilogram was estimated to be 10 comics by the vendor, but he did have a scale on hand so you could weigh out your own kilo.
Levitz, while on his honeymoon in Greece, temporarily abandoned his new bride to track down his own work from "Legion of Super-Heroes" in Greek.
Q: Why do you buy comics? What are you looking for?
One fan wanted to find comics that could be shared and enjoyed with his kids. DiDio wanted to know, "Did you read them with your father?"
"No," the fan said.
"Case in point," DiDio replied.
When that was challenged, citing "Justice League of America" as an example, the fan said he read "JLA" when he was 8, but did not feel it was appropriate for his eight-year old. DiDio replied that these are "different times."
DiDio continued, saying that he believes the strength of the DC Universe is that everything changes - except Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. When he first came on board, DiDio was concerned that Dick Grayson would one day be older than [Bruce Wayne] Batman since Grayson continued to grow as a character and was now within a decade of Bruce Wayne's age. "That's why we had to get rid of [Wayne]!"
The Sunday Conversation is extremely organic and tends to cover a broad range of topics, rarely staying true to the original questions. DiDio eventually found himself offering up the revelation of, "One thing I didn't like about one of our books, 'Amazons Attack..." The audience groaned at that one. "Bear with me. One scene, not the bees-" the audience laughed at that comment - "You laugh, but that means you bought it! Who's laughing now?" DiDio continued his story, revealing that the scene he didn't like was when Batman used a magic spell from Zatanna to defeat Circe. DiDio felt Batman using magic was out of character.
DiDio also shared his interpretation of the difference between Marvel and DC heroes - "DC heroes go out and do good. They are proactive, they receive their powers and immediately put on a costume and go out on patrol. Marvel characters have situations put upon them and focus on 'my life.'" DiDio then used this to explain the reasoning behind DC's push to make Hal Jordan a strong hero again. "His power is completely based on his strength of will. If Jordan's will was weak enough to allow himself to get drunk, that's counter-intuitive to the core concept of the character." DiDio offered up his personal favorite line of Geoff Johns' writing: In "Green Lantern: Rebirth," Green Arrow used the power ring, channeling his own willpower into the emerald weapon. Straining to make the ring work, Arrow asked Kyle Rayner, "Does it hurt like this every time you use it?" That scene, DiDio feels, illustrates just how strong Hal Jordan is.
Pulling the session back on track and answering the original question of, "What do you look for in a comic book?", one fan said he didn't mind when comics had finite endings. He added that he didn't want to wait too long for comics with his favorite characters, like "Power Girl," which was announced over a year before the first issue came out. DiDio chimed in, "Aquaman," which drew laughter out of the attendees.
DiDio then decided to focus on Aquaman, who along with Hawkman, in DiDio's opinion, have been adversely affected by the various interpretations each character has endured. Each interpretation is a slight adjustment from the previous and DiDio said that tends to detract from what makes the character great.
Q: What is about Aquaman that everybody loves?
"He's kind of lame - but that's what makes him cool!" said one fan.
Aquaman is a character DC is trying to get right, DiDio explained. They want to figure out how to make the character appeal to the widest number of fans possible without ignoring what makes the character special. DiDio also mentioned, "Hawkman is something we're focused on in the offices, but I don't want to talk comics. I know, it doesn't make sense."
DiDio returned to the topic of Aquaman, stating that he is personally frustrated by Wonder Woman and Aquaman. These characters have been around since the 1940s, but DiDio is concerned that they are perceived as boring.
Wanting to know more from the fans about Aquaman, DiDio asked the attendees to name five Aquaman villains. After DiDio disqualified Quisp, Major Disaster, Killer Shark, and Manta Men (from the Filmation cartoon of the 1960s) there were only four characters named: Black Manta, Fisherman, Ocean Master, and Human Flying Fish. "Number four is Human Flying Fish," DiDio lamented. This emphasized his point that the character needs some attention.
DiDio ended the panel by asking everyone what they would do if they had his job. Answers included:
"Bring back Lillith Clay."
"Hawkman comic with an Aquaman co-feature."
"Don't bring back Bruce Wayne."
"Figure out Grant Morrison's master pan."
"Kill Jimmy Olsen."
"Steal Bendis away from Marvel."
"Change Wonder Woman's costume."
With time running out, Dan DiDio thanked the crowd for taking the time to meet with him and fans returned the favor with rousing applause.