The final panel of the day at Wizard World Chicago on Friday, June 27 was supposed to be a debate between illustrious writers Brian Michael Bendis and Geoff Johns about the comic industry's biggest issues; instead they hijacked their own panel and turned it into the first co-Marvel and DC Comics panel ever.
After jokingly tackling each other when they took the stage, Bendis explained the original idea behind the panel.
Every time Johns and Bendis talk they end up having passionate discussions about comics. While they have similar philosophies about story telling, they approach things very differently which leads to a lot of great debates.
They wanted to included the WWC fans in on their ongoing conversations, but then they found out programmers added a "versus" to the panel description which changed things.
Bendis says both Johns have been reading about how it's Marvel versus DC, and both companies writers and artists don't like each other - which Bendis said couldn't be further from the truth. He said they talked to some friends and had some names to call out...
Ethan Van Sciver.
The goal, Bendis said, was to talk about all the cool stuff about comics, and discuss all the big issues that all the fans argue about everyday.
With that he opened the floor to the audience for questions.
First question out was directly for him - how come he couldn't grow any hair?
Bendis said he's seen what it looks like and it's not pretty. He says if it's starting to go, that he think people just need to let it go. "It frees your mind," he said to applause.
The first serious question for the panelist was related to the lateness of comics. The fan asked - is it really a problem in the industry? And what can be done with it?
Simone said more hours in the day would help, while Bendis said someone needed to take away their video games.
He added seriously, though, that books shouldn't be solicited until they are really done. He then talked a little bit about "Secret War" and how everything was going great until it got derailed, but it wasn't something that Marvel could really plan for.
Bendis said that fill-in artists are an option, but not one that is great for anybody.
Johns talked about how the lateness problem has snowballed. "Ethan and I were working on '(Green Lantern) Rebirth' and we were two weeks late on the last issue and thought it was the worst thing in the world," Johns explained. "Now that's nothing."
Everyone seemed to agree that only when sales fall will someone actually do something about it.
Johns added that DC is very sensitive to late books right now.
Bendis asked the panel what each of the creator's favorite excuse was that they've given or had heard.
Finch said if he is running late he doesn't lie. "I just say I'll turn it into tomorrow and then I don't," Finch joked. "So it just ends up being a lie."
Johns said the best excuse he ever had heard was from a penciller. The artist said his Grandmother had died recently, but flooding pushed water levels so high that his Grandmother's coffin floated away so he had to help find her. Johns said the company was understanding, but unfortunately a year later the artist tried to give the same excuse.
Reed said that since he is just starting out in comics he tries to follow Bendis' philosophy to work six months ahead at all times or panic. The most recent issue of "Secret Invasion: Frontlines" was the first comic he was writing that wasn't done before being solicited.
The next question was about inter-company crossovers. A fan pointed out that with DC's multiverse crossovers should be easier since now Marvel can be one of the 52 worlds...
"Next march...'Secret Crisis,'" joked Johns.
Continuing with the multiverse theme, a fan asked about the approaches both Marvel and DC take with their alternate worlds. She asked the panel what they thought the pros and cons were for how each company handled them.
Bendis thought that with DC having 52 universes they have still have to have a dominant one and that can create storytelling problems.
Johns said it is obvious that the DC Universe proper was the main one, and that while he agrees that the multiverse was probably overused at the beginning they are working to scale that back.
"Is that the end of Final Crisis?" Bendis shot back.
Johns said it wasn't
The next fan asked - which company is really better Marvel or DC?
"The point of the panel is that we don't think one is better than the other," Bendis said to some jeers.
Then Johns put the question to the audience. Shouts of "Marvel!" and "DC!" erupted, prompting the panel to ask instead for hand raising. DC fans won the day with more fans in the crowd identifying themselves as DC fans.
Bendis had the last word when he shouted, "SALES" to laughter.
Panelists were then asked for their opinions on the other company's big crossover.
Van Sciver was first, saying he really liked "Secret Invasion," and that he thought it was Leniel Francis Yu's best work. Johns complimented Bendis and how he was structuring the Avengers titles with "Secret Invasion."
Bendis said that he has a unique opportunity with his contract to try and tell long form stories.
An audience member then asked what the panelists thought of Wizard's list of top comic book characters.
Simone said that Kitty Pryde (the top ranked female) was crazy. She said Wonder Woman was the number one female in the world and she is the reason other female comic book heroes exist.
Johns said that no offense to Marvel fans but Batman (#2) was way better than Wolverine (#1).
"Then why are you killing him?" Bendis asked,
"R.I.P. could mean a lot of things..." Johns replied with a smile.
The next question was for each creator, asking what they found appealing about both DC and Marvel.
Johns said that he appreciated Marvel's more grounded and gritty characters, and that the DC doesn't have characters like the Hulk, Ghost Rider or Punisher. He added that was why he liked Black Adam so much.
For Simone she said the concept of the X-men was great, but Marvel's female characters need a little jazzing up. She says what's great about DC is the wide range of options, if you want to right a kid story, adult story - you can do anything.
Next up was Reed who animatedly talked about how with DC literally anything can happen and how that doesn't fly in the Marvel universe.
"Wonder Woman can come home and have gorillas in her living room and people are like, 'that's cool,'" Reed explained. "If Professor came home and there were guerillas, fans would be like, 'that doesn't make sense.'"
Cebuliski said that legacy is something DC characters have that Marvel's doesn't, but Marvel has more characters that people can actually relate to.
The real world aspect of Marvel is what sometimes frustrates Finch as an artist. He said for Marvel projects, you constantly have to draw real buildings and it would be great to just draw Gotham and not have to worry about the authenticity of the backgrounds.
Exclusive contracts came up, with one fan wanting to know if each creator had a choice of books to write or draw for the other company, what would it be?
Simone - Spiderman
Johns - Hulk
Van Sciver - Ghost Rider
Coipel - Legion
Reed - Batman
Cebulski - Teen Titans
Finch - Batman
Bendis - Vertigo Plastic Man with Alex Maleev
Van Sciver applauded his choice and the long-time Plastic Man supporter enthusiastically said, "See? Bendis gets it."
The fan wanted to see Bendis write a Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne golf outing. "That would be a strip club issue," Bendis replied.
Comic book movies were the next topic.
A fan wanted to know if the creators discussed comic book movies, and what were their thoughts on each companies movie slate.
Simone said she and Van Sciver were talking about them just before they came on stage.
Van Sciver praised Marvel's recent attempts to crossover their movies within each other using the recent Hulk and Iron Man as examples.
The discussion shifted gears a little when Bendis said he felt the movies had a tremendous impact on bringing people into stores and getting people interested in the characters. Van Sciver disagreed, however, and said that he doesn't think they have a long-term impact.
Creators were then asked if one of their own comics had ever made them cry.
"You mean like self-loathing...?" Bendis joked. He then admitted that when he is writing sometimes he gets so deep into a scene that he can really feel it.
When drawing "House of M," Coipel said that a scene with Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver and Magneto really made him emotional. He said it made him want to transfer that emotion into drawing it and make it really pop.
In "New X-Men" #111, Van Sciver said Grant Morrison had Professor X (possessed by his sister) make Beak beat Hank McCoy with a baseball bat. He said he was overcome by the betrayal and wanted to just nail the scene to make it come alive.
It can work the other way as well, Johns said. For example, Jonhs had written a scene in Green Lantern when Kyle was possessed by Parralax, and when he saw Van Sciver's art along with the dialogue it really hit him.
"Final Crisis " #2 was brought up, with one fan asking the panel if they were bewildered by it.
Van Sciver admitted that he wasn't a continuity expert and was confused by the first issue, but then in the second it clicked and he thought it was great.
Bendis compared it to another of Morrison's work - "Filth." At the time he didn't get the first couple of issues, but then by the end he was like "Wow. that's the best comic of the year."
A fan asked panelists if they thought readers continuing to buy a book no matter what, even if the quality decreases, can hurt the industry?
"Why are you looking at me?" Bendis laughed.
He said it was a great question and related it to a discussion he had on his message board. A fan joked with him he must not be a sports fan because he admitted to dropping titles after his favorite creators left them, much like a fair-weather fan might do.
He gave Frank Miller's "Daredevil" and George Perez's "Wonder Woman" as examples of books he left when those creators left.
But a lot of fans appreciate the character no matter what.
The panelists all wanted to keep going, but were told that they had to go, but they made sure a young kid in the audience got to ask one last question.
To end the panel they were asked - what is your favorite character in the "other" universe?
Johns - Captain America
Van Sciver - Jean Grey
Cebulski and Finch - Batman
Coipel - Legion
Reed - Green Lantern
And with that, a busy Friday in Chicago came to a close.
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