Brian K. Vaughan, popular writer for "Y: The Last Man," "Ex Machina" and "Runaways," brought his sharp wit and affable personality to a loose, free-wheeling Q&A session at this year's WonderCon.
In response to questions from the audience, Vaughan talked about how he broke into the comics industry as a "film school geek at NYU." He said, "There was a Marvel Comics editor, James Felder, who had decided that comics had become too incestuous. At Marvel, the writers were former editors, who were former assistant editors, who were former interns. They said, 'Let's go to NYU and find, as it were, classically trained people.' NYU wasn't a huge fan of comics. We had to meet in secret, like Anne Frank, but Felder and Marvel taught me the ins and outs of comics writing."
Vaughan has maintained his relationship with Marvel Comics over the course of his career, writing issues of "Mystique," "Dr. Strange: The Oath" and "Ultimate X-Men." He recently completed his tenure on the popular "Runaways" ongoing series with artist Adrian Alphona.
He said, "Adrian and I felt that this last arc, the one that ended on Wednesday, was the best one we had done so far. We had more ideas of what to do after that, but they were never quite as good as the high points we reached. Since we were always slightly on the bubble, we always knew that if we ever did something less than our best, it might kill the book. So we thought, 'Maybe we should cede it to somebody else, someone new who we could turn it over to. When Joss Whedon expressed interest, that's just too big an opportunity to turn down."
Vaughan said that he has been tremendously influenced by the creator of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and is excited at turning the authorial reins over to him. "It still doesn't make sense to me. It's like George Clooney joining the cast of 'Scrubs.' It's cool and it kinda makes sense, but why are you doing that?"
Vaughan said that he has read Whedon's first three scripts and that they are "aggressively good."
According to Vaughan, Brian Michael Bendis has plans for the Hood, another Marvel character Vaughan put his stamp on. Vaughan said, "In some way I feel like a traitor in taking a break from Marvel for while, but I always say that with Bendis doing something with the Hood and Whedon taking over 'Runaways,' it's like my kids have been adopted by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. It's sad to leave them, but their new parents are hot, rich and will take very good care of them."
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One woman in the audience praised Vaughan for his well-rounded depictions of his female characters, particularly in "Y: The Last Man" from DC Comics/Vertigo. She asked whether he gave special thoughts about spreading a feminist message through the adventures of sole surviving male Yorick Brown.
Vaughan said, "When I was writing 'Swamp Thing,' people never asked 'How do you write a talking plant?' But I do get that a lot, 'Why do you write women who are not idiots?" It's disturbing to think that's not the norm in this medium. I never thought to set out with a mission. I write people like people in my life. I have a wife who's pretty OK and had a strong mom and sister growing up."
About his collaboration with "Y" co-creator Pia Guerra, Vaughan said, "I think people assume we work along stereotypical gender lines on that book. But Pia likes drawing people riding motorcycles and crashing through windows and I like people quietly talking."
Asked whether his politics match those of Mayor Hundred in "Ex Machina" from Wildstorm Comics, Vaughan said, "I guess I would rather hang out with him rather than Yorick, who's just a bit of a douche. I'd like to go out to dinner with Mayor Hundred but I wouldn't necessarily vote for him."
A number of audience members wanted to talk about "Pride of Baghdad," the DC/Vertigo hardcover Vaughan created with Nikko Henrichon. Asked about the accuracy of the story, Vaughan said, "Well, lions do not talk. That's strike one."
He then went on to say that he had always wanted to do a talking-animal book and a book about the Iraq but had never thought about bringing the two ideas together until he read in the foreign press a tiny article about four lions escaping the Baghdad zoo during the American invasion.
Vaughan said, "It sounded like a really bad idea to talk about Iraq inside of a talking animal comic book, but that's usually when I get most passionate. It would either be a spectacular mess or something really good."
With "Runaways" finished, "Y" closing in on its conclusion and "Ex Machina" soon to be his only ongoing series, Vaughan was asked about his plans for new work in comics. His answer: "It's off to TV. Screw you people."
Actually, Vaughan still has a number of superheroes projects in the pipeline, including a "Midnighter" issue for Wildstorm, a Faith-based storyline for the Dark Horse Comics "Buffy" series, and he and Eduardo Risso of "100 Bullets" are doing "a crazy Wolverine thing" for Marvel.
"Working with Eduardo and on 'Dr. Strange' are probably my swan song to company-owned superheroes," Vaughan said. "Not that I don't love them, but I think other guys do a much better job with them than I do."
The film and television industries are reaching out to Vaughan, however. He has completed drafts for move adaptations of "Y" and "Ex Machina," and he recently joined the writing staff of the hit ABC series "Lost."
Asked whether he knows the solutions to the mysteries posed by co-creators J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof, Vaughan said, "I do. I know all of the secrets of 'Lost.' I'm only three drinks away from telling you any one of them."