Sunday afternoon saw DC Comics close out its Wizard World Philly programming with its new convention tradition, the "Sunday Conversation with Dan DiDio" panel. CBR was on hand to witness the fun and surprises.
"You guys are the die hards," DiDio began, complimenting the Sunday crowd. DC's Senior Story Editor Ian Sattler and and Publicity Manager Alex Segura joined him up front. In explaining the concept of the panel, which is meant as an open forum for fans to talk about their favorite, or weirdest, or first comics experiences and to allow pros to confess their fannish origins, DiDio joked about the "Conversation" panel at the New York Comic Con, where Marvel editor Tom Brevoort accidentally joined the rival publisher's program.
DiDio then asked for a show of hands of fans who had been reading comics for at least 1, 5, 10 years and so on until the last hand raised spotlighted a gentleman who had been a reader for 45 years. His first comic was "Hulk" #1, which he bought from a drugstore comic rack. Later, another fan said he had been reading comics for 50 years.
When DiDio asked who had lapsed out of comics at some point, there were a fair number of hands raised. "I stopped when my parents threw my comics away when I was 13 years old," one fan said. He got back in when he lived across the street from a comic shop.
On the subject of entering comics through characters' portrayal in other media, DiDio admitted that the Adam West Batman TV show and the Spider-Man cartoon got him into comics.
"Sgt. Rock" writer Billy Tucci then joined the panel, brandishing a mock rifle. "It's not that kind of panel," DiDio said.
Tucci said he first got his comics when his mom took him to 7-Eleven, but wasn't able to be a regular reader until college when "I spent all the money I made on them."
After a bit more banter regarding Tucci's weapon, the writer quipped, "I'm not the one who keeps a hand grenade on his desk." "He gave me a hand grenade," DiDio explained with a laugh, admitting that he does in fact keep it on his desk.
"We're always looking for ways to bring things back," DiDio said in the midst of discussing war comics and anthologies. He also mentioned that, at a dinner in San Diego, everybody said "I know how to fix Aquaman." DiDio indicated that every interpretation is "just slightly off from each other," which makes a definitive take harder to nail down that characters who are vastly different, like Hal Jordan and Kyle Rayner.
Grant Morrison "can make anything cool," DiDio said, after discussion of his Aquaman and Superman Red/Blue in JLA.
With only a few fans voicing support for the "water hand" version of Aquaman, one fan who did like this interpretation concluded the discussion by wondering, "Could he breathe his own hand?"
DiDio asked for fans' weirdest favorite character. The winner (of sorts) offered up Detroit-era JLA hero Vibe, and his brother Reverb. "Yeah, Reverb--let's compound a bad idea," DiDio laughed.
On the subject of weird characters, Billy Tucci said he would like to pitch a Lord Malvolio story. He explained that this renegade Green Lantern showed up in an issue of "Action Comics Weekly," where he fought Hal Jordon and destroyed Hal's ring. Hal ended up with Lord Mal's ring, but the issue ends with the villain smiling mischievously. "It was never followed up on," Tucci said.
Another character mentioned was Gunfire, who had his own series in the 1990s. "Does Gunfire appear in 'Superman Beyond?'" DiDio asked Sattler. He replied by shaking his head at the possible spoiler, and said simply, "If he does, he'll be in 3D so he'll be coming right at you."
The discussion eventually led to the subject of" Cancelled Comics Cavalcade," a compilation of completed comics that were never commercially published due to the 1970s "DC Implosion," in which numerous DC titles were cancelled. DiDio said he was give a copy of both volumes when he came to DC. "I was so excited when I got them, no lie," he said. "When I read them, they were crap!" He remembered reading the issues of each series that were published and enjoying them, but his perspective had changed since his first experiences with the material.
DiDio then spoke of his own favorite silly comics moment, an issue of "Marvel Team Up" where Manhattan had broken off into the Atlantic and Hercules dragged it back into place. "Even at that point I remember thinking, what happened to all the bridges and tunnels?"
Changing to a discussion on whether Bruce Wayne can ever be replaced as Batman, the host said, "Let's say something really bad was about to happen to Batman..." DiDio then teased a woman who had been distressed about Nightwing's future in other panels, and who started laughing immediately at the mention. "I said Batman, not Nightwing, don't worry," DiDio said.
"Mr. Brevoort's back!" Once again, Tom Brevoort approached the stage to offer DiDio a copy of "Captain America" #152, which the DC boss had discussed at the New York con. DiDio then repeated the story of how, in his youth, he had hunted everywhere for a copy of this issue missing from his collection, only to see it on a spinner rack after boarding his school bus one day. "So I got off the bus to buy it," he said.
One fan suggested that if Bruce Wayne is not Batman then there shouldn't be a Batman, which Brevoort, joining the panel, agreed with.
Talking about first or early comic book experiences, one fan said he learned the difference between stalactites and stalagmites from an Atom comic, a distinction he remembered 13 years later in a high school earth sciences class.
"For years I thought I had 'Superman' #1 the original," one fan said of the 1980s John Byrne relaunch.
"Two comics I bought were "Hulk 152" and "Avengers 100," DiDio said. "Why? Because they had the most characters on the cover." He said he "had no idea" what was going on in "Avengers" 100, which was the middle of an arc, but that it made him want to read more.
Art Baltazar and Franco, the "Tiny Titans" team, then joined the panel.
"My very first comic was the one with the Jackal, and he's scratching Spider-Man, and he threw a table on him, and he cloned him and stuff, and Gwen Stacy came running out naked, and that was my first comic," Baltazar said. He said he traced the comic and drew in it, and "now it's in a plastic bag just to keep it alive."
One fan said his mom's first comic was Sheldon Mayer's illustrated Bible, which she then bought for other members of the family. "That's not a continued story, is it?" Didio smiled. "They keep promising a sequel," another fan joked.
The panel ended with a discussion of what comics could be used to bring in non-comics readers. Suggestions included "Y: The Last Man," "Strangers in Paradise," "Watchmen," "All Star Superman," "Sandman," "Dark Knight Returns," "Batman Year One," and "Lucifer."
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