DC co-publisher Dan DiDio continues what has become a tradition at Comic-Con International: San Diego: DC's Sunday Conversation panel. Historically a more laid back affair than the energetic and entertaining DC panels that DiDio has presided over, the panel on the last day of a bustling convention gives weary fans a chance to catch their collective breaths and just talk comics in a smaller and quieter setting.
In addition to DiDio, this year's panel also consisted of creators Dan Jurgens, Kami Garcia, Robert Venditti, and Tom King. DiDio kicked off this year's conversation welcoming fans and thanking them for coming early on a Sunday - and joked there is no breakfast being served, before welcoming the panelists. DiDio referred to himself as Dan Oprah as he welcomed the panelists, to which King abbreviated as "Doprah."
DiDio referenced DC's recent USO tour to the Middle East, and asked King how it was to connect with comic fans in the military overseas. "It was a moving, religious experience," said King. "The people there were ecstatic about comics. When I was a kid, reading a comic meant people were going to punch you. But now, the people who kick the most ass love comics. I feel like we fought a war - and won."
DiDio then spoke to Jurgens, who credited the Adam West Batman TV as his inspiration for getting into comics, at the age of 7. DiDio asked how it felt to have a landmark arc like "Death of Superman" on his resume. "I loved the death of Robin, and that inspired me to eventually do the death of Superman."
After asking fans to name their first comic, DiDio turned to Garcia. "I loved Wonder Woman as a kid. Wonder Woman is powerful. I loved Lynda Carter - Wonder Woman kicked ass. I loved the Justice League cartoon - anything with Wonder Woman."
DiDio then talked to Venditti, remarking that he didn't start out as a comic fan. "I didn't read them growing up," Venditti said. "I didn't really start until my mid-20s. But when I was young, I wanted to be an artist, but even at a young age I knew I sucked at it. When I saw comics, I saw that I could 'draw' art with words, and someone else could handle the art."
DiDio called King a hard core fan, asking him how he tried breaking into comics. "Around 2012, I stood in line waiting for Scott Snyder, Walt Simonson, and others, and showed them my self-published graphic novel. I did that many times. I set up in Artists Alley at SDCC trying to sell my book, and give away free magnets. I was on the other side of Hall H, and that's where everyone seemed to end up."
Jurgens was asked by DiDio about his early days at SDCC. "I was here in '92, and people just walked past us. But in '93, after "Death of Superman," DC had this massive both, and it was crowded, and we would sit there and watch people coming to us, as well as the other publishers like Image."
Garcia talked about her thoughts on writing, especially darker stories. "You don't need a degree to be a writer - you just need to have a pen and a good idea. I told Dan (DiDio) I'm not a traditional periodical writer. But I understand a dark brain - you just need to find a good artist."
Venditti was asked by DiDio what he needed to get into a particular project. "I want to write about topics that I don't particularly fully understand in my own head, but through the characters formulate my thoughts on it. I try to challenge myself every time by doing something different. Sometimes they fail, but they make me grow as a writer. That engages me and hopefully translates to the audience."
DiDio asked Jurgens how it was to leave a character for awhile and then come back to it. "Every character is different," Jurgens said. "A character is like a tapestry, so hopefully when you leave it, it's a little better than before. I think it's hard to find that connective point with a character that will work for you."
DiDio then gave King a chance to plug his upcoming Adam Strange series with Mitch Gerads. "It's going to be something new," King said. "It's not about trauma."
Venditti then added what he tries to bring to his upcoming Hawkman series. "I don't know all these deep continuities. When I was asked to pitch Hawkman, I didn't know much beyond general pop culture knowledge. But it allows me to have a fresh perspective."
Garcia added, "Even though I love Wonder Woman, I wouldn't necessarily want to write Wonder Woman. I'm interested more in dark, damaged characters, and Wonder Woman is just too good a character. For me to write a character, I need to first know what their damage is. I'm interested in characters that have a lot of layers and issues, and how they can deal with that."
Jurgens was asked about writing Nightwing, and what he needed to do to get a grip on the character. "Nightwing was shot in the head, and lost his memories. He's a Robin who doesn't remember being Robin. Once you get a handle on what that means, you can write the character."
"Remember the phrase, 'You don't know Dick?' Now it's 'You don't have Dick,' Jurgens added.
DiDio asked King about the upcoming Batman/Catwoman, and what he brings from himself into Batman. "I think it's the same that a lot of writers bring to Batman - he can stand with Superman and Wonder Woman, who are gods. He thinks, 'They have powers and I don't, but I can still stand with them.'"
Garcia was asked by DiDio how she brings light to her darker stories. "I ask myself, how dark will a character go? How do you lose yourself along the way, with no empathy or compassion? And once you do - once you've committed these horrible acts - how can you fight against it, and come back to the light?"
DiDio asked what the panelists love about comics. Jurgens chimed in that once he discovered comics, he became enamored with the fusion of words and art.
"I couldn't run or play sports as a kid," King added, regarding why he was drawn to comics. "When you're young you're bullied all the time, and in comics the good guys fight back."
Venditti added, "Comics exemplify the attitude of good."
Garcia said, "Comics bring words to life with pictures, and I love collaborating."
DiDio ended the panel in usual fashion by asking for a show of hands among the fans regarding how long they've been reading comics. The winner was a fan who professed be reading for 60 years. DiDio then thanked the fans for attending.