Roger Ebert hosted for years a "shot at a time" session, examining a film with audiences and allowing viewers to ask for the film to be stopped so a scene could be dissected. This approach appealed to Heroes Discussion Group leader Andy Mansell, who was able to convince Mark Waid and George Perez to dissect "The Brave and the Bold" #4 (in which Supergirl and Lobo team-up) for an hour last Sunday afternoon at HeroesCon in Charlotte.â€¨â€¨
Before the panel even started, Perez goodnaturedly predicted that the panel could go one of two ways. "It'll either be very informative or be like 'Mystery Science Theatre 3000,'" he said. Fortunately for both participants and attendees, the panel proved quite informative.â€¨â€¨With only an hour to dissect the issue, Mansell, Waid and Perez fully conceded that they would not be able to address each and every page or panel in "The Brave and the Bold" #4. In introducing the panel, Mansell wanted attendees to appreciate two factors out of the issue in particular: 1) Waid's sense of humor and 2) that Perez "typically strives for excitement rather than drama in his fight scenes, he draws fights in explosive individual panels, each one giving us a visually exciting moment of the action. Each one virtually disconnected from the scenes in the panels before and after." Mansell was quoting R.C. Harvey's "The Art of the Comic Book."
Waid spoke about the process going into the "Brave & Bold" issues. "A lot of times I will work full script. George and I actually started out doing that on the first issue of the series. We got about halfway through and we both realized that was a foolish waste of George's storytelling abilities. My feeling is always when I'm working with an artist, if you see a better way to pace it, a better way to break it down, a better way of telling the story, by all means it's a collaborative process, it's not my story -- it's our story."â€¨
Perez spent several minutes explaining the pacing and layout of a scene where Blue Beetle grabbed Batman from behind. He said he was influenced by artists of the 1960s like Neal Adams, Gene Colan and Jim Steranko. "Hey, I have this entire page, I don't have to be bound by a [storytelling] grid." â€¨â€¨
After Perez's explanation of all that went into designing and researchingÂ just the top half of one page in the story, Waid confessed, "Interesting idea of how much George brings to the table in terms of storytelling, in terms of suspense and in terms of drama. Let me read to you how I described the top half of this page [in the script]. 'Blue Beetle tackles Batman before he can do any damage.'"â€¨â€¨
What readily came through in Waid and Perez's dissection of the issue was how much they like to challenge each other. Perez considers his biggest compliment to any writer (and he said it's one he has paid to Waid many times): "I curse his name when I get the script."â€¨â€¨"I like a challenge," Perez continued, "when they play to my strengths, when they they throw that little twist at me, that's when I become a better artist."â€¨â€¨
One challenge that Waid threw at Perez, the artist was able to throw back in Waid's lap. At one point in the story's development, Waid was trying to buy himself some time for writing and to stay ahead of Perez's art pace. "So I write [in the script] 'Next page what [Supergirl] sees Adam Strange and Green Lantern in aerial combat with and swarmed by as many Thanagarian Hawkcops as you feel like drawing,'" Waid said.Â "I thought, well surely this will keep George busy for a little awhile maybe a couple of days and it's only one image and it's only one image. So I don't feel so bad about it -- it's a full splash page."
Not only did Perez draw the splash page, he worked in four additional panels of action on the bottom of the page. So, as Waid noted much to his dismay, "I got four panels at the bottom where I don't know what they're saying. I honestly remember this page. I paid for my sin. This page took me an hour to write [dialogue for]."â€¨â€¨Mark Waid and George Perez clearly relished the chance to revisit the work. At the end of the panel, the storytellers thanked Mansell for moderating the panel by signing the "Brave and the Bold" #4 script and giving it to him.
If you're in the Charlotte area, be sure to contact Heroes Aren't Hard to Find to learn more about the Heroes Discussion Group. Next month, the group willl discuss Marjane Satrapi's autobiographical graphic novel "Persepolis," as well as watch the film adaptation.â€¨