Mental illness has been a trope in comics-related properties ranging from Peanuts to Gotham, but do new sensitivities to mental health issues mean that it’s time for this to change?
JUGHEAD #1 Cover by Erica Henderson
Chip Zdarsky (Sex Criminals, Howard the Duck) and rising star artist Erica Henderson (The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl).
NYCC variant cover edition of JUGHEAD #1 by Francesco Francavilla. Limited to 1000 copies, this convention exclusive cover will be available for $10 at the Archie Comics Booth #1836 while supplies last!
Archie Comics Panels at New York Comic Con 2015
Thursday, October 8 from 2:45 p.m. – 3:45 p.m. in Room 1A18
Discover comics’ most ambitious new imprint asAlex Segura (editor of Dark Circle Comics), Mike Pellerito (president of Archie Comics), Duane Swierczynski (writer, The Black Hood) Frank Tieri (writer, The Hangman), Dean Haspiel(writer/artist The Fox) and colorist Kelly Fitzpatrick expand the groundbreaking universe of titles coming from Dark Circle Comics with exclusive news and reveals! Find out why The Black Hood, The Shield, The Hangman, and The Web will be your new favorite comics!
Archie Comics Forever Friday, October 9 from 4:15 p.m. – 5:15 p.m. in Room 1A05
Just in time for the all-new JUGHEAD #1, this panel has it all! Get exclusive news on upcoming titles, including the smash-hit ARCHIE series! Featuring Jon Goldwater (co-CEO/publisher),Victor Gorelick (co-president/editor-in-chief),Mike Pellerito (president), Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (chief creative officer/writer of Afterlife with Archie, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina),Chip Zdarsky, Erica Henderson, Dan Parent, moderator Alex Segura (SVP-publicity & marketing/editor of Dark Circle Comics) and more!
Archie Comics Creator Signing Schedule (Booth #1836)
1-2pm: Dan Parent (Betty and Veronica), Fernando Ruiz (Archie Vs. Predator)
4-5pm: Frank Tieri (The Hangman), Duane Swierczynski (The Black Hood), Kelly Fitzpatrick (The Black Hood, The Shield)
5-6pm: Ryan Jampole (Mega Man), Jamal Peppers (Sonic the Hedgehog), Jennifer Hernandez (Sonic Boom), Matt Herms (Sonic the Hedgehog)
10-11am: Chip Zdarsky (Jughead)
12-1pm: Dan Parent (Betty and Veronica), Fernando Ruiz (Archie Vs. Predator)
2-3pm: Chip Zdarsky (Jughead)
3-4pm: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Afterlife with Archie, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina), Robert Hack (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina)
5:30-6:30pm: Chip Zdarsky (Jughead), Erica Henderson (Jughead)
11am-12pm: Chip Zdarsky (Jughead)
1pm-2pm: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Afterlife with Archie, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina), Robert Hack (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina)
2-3pm: Alex de Campi (Archie vs. Predator), Fernando Ruiz (Archie Vs. Predator)
4-5pm: Dan Parent (Betty and Veronica)
5:00-6:00pm: Ryan Jampole (Mega Man), Jamal Peppers (Sonic the Hedgehog), Jennifer Hernandez (Sonic Boom), Matt Herms (Sonic the Hedgehog)
12-1pm: Dan Parent (Betty and Veronica), Fernando Ruiz (Archie Vs. Predator)
3pm-4pm: Ryan Jampole (Mega Man), Jamal Peppers (Sonic the Hedgehog), Jennifer Hernandez (Sonic Boom)
Also Available at the Archie Comics Booth
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.
MORE things to do and get signed at NYCC, with lots ofr preveiws of Abrams Spring 2016 line all at booth #2228 and 2016 Abrams calendars with every purchase over $50.00 while supplies last (limited one per customer). And advance copies of the above book about Alan Turing by Jim Ottaviani and Leland Purvis.
Advance copies with authors and creators on hand to sign — all on sale at a discount!
John Leguizamo’s Ghetto Klown will be available early and the man will be there to sign.
100 advance, signed, and numbered copies of Star Wars: The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume 1 by The Topps Company and author Gary Gerani
Adventure Time: The Enchiridion & Marcy’s Super Secret Scrapbook!!! with authors Martin and Olivia Olson (a.k.a. The Lord of Evil and Marceline the Vampire Queen)
Only What’s Necessary: Charles M. Schulz and the Art of Peanuts with Chip Kidd and Geoff Spear
My Little Pony: The Art of Equestria advance copies will be available
Signed advance copies of our new title Trashed by Derf Backderf
Will Eisner: Champion of the Graphic Novel with Paul Levitz on hand to personalize copies.
Ruins will be available for purchase at a Comic Con discount, and author Peter Kuper will be at artist’s alley booth # T3 to sign copies.
Free Peanuts stickers! Visit the AMP/GoComics booth (#2219) and ask for an “Abrams” ticket. Attendees can take this ticket to the Abrams booth (#2228) to receive a collectible “Peppermint Patty” sticker. Once the sticker has been acquired, attendees are encouraged to show the sticker to the AMP/GoComics staff in exchange for commemorative 65th anniversary prizes.
Galleys of the forthcoming graphic novel The Imitation Game: Alan Turing Decoded by Jim Ottaviani and illustrated by Leland Purvis will be given away while supplies last.
Galleys of The Creeps: Book 1: Night of the Frankenfrogs will be given away while supplies last.
Prints pre-signed by Jules Feiffer with purchase of the new title Out of Line: The Art of Jules Feiffer.
The Wimpy Kid School Planner pre-signed by Jeff Kinney will be sold at a Comic Con discount
Friday, October 9th
11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
75 Spirited Years: Will Eisner & the Spirit
Geppi’s Entertainment Museum (GEM) presents a behind-the-scenes look at the largest Will Eisner art exhibit during The Spirit’s 75th anniversary year. This career-spanning show, curated by Eisner expert Denis Kitchen and presented with the full cooperation of Eisner’s family, combines original art and rare artifacts, some of which have never been publicly shown. Join with the Panelists in celebrating the incredible legacy of this brilliant creator and learn about what GEM is doing to promote it. Featuring: Denis Kitchen, Jeff Vaughn, Paul Levitz, Missy Bowersox, Michael Solof, and Karen Green
Saturday, October 10
12:30 p.m.–1:30 p.m.
Celebrate the Launch of Adventure Time: The Enchiridion & Marcy’s Super Secret Scrapbook!!!, Featuring The Lord of Evil and Marceline the Vampire Queen
A conversation with Martin Olson (The Lord of Evil), Olivia Olson (Marceline the Vampire Queen), Rick “Dienzo” Blanco (Illustrator and Vice President of Creative for Cartoon Network Enterprises), Mahendra Singh (terrifying illustrator), and moderated by Eric Klopfer (Senior Editor, Abrams) about the highly anticipated book Adventure Time: The Enchiridion & Marcy’s Super Secret Scrapbook!!! Attendees will have a chance to see never-before-seen art, a terrifying new book trailer, musical performances, and Surprise Guests from the show!
4:00 p.m.–5:00 p.m.
Will Eisner: Champion of the Graphic Novel
Already a legend for his creation of The Spirit in 1940, Will Eisner—with the 1978 publication of his A Contract With God—would be instrumental in popularizing the graphic novel format, changing the world of comics forever. Join us and find out how and why Eisner did it, with moderator Paul Levitz (author of the upcoming Will Eisner: Champion of theGraphic Novel) and panelists Todd McFarlane (Spawn Creator & Image Comics President), Raina Telgemeier (Smile), Dennis O’Neil (Batman) and Denis Kitchen (The Best of Comix Book).
6:45 p.m.–7:45 p.m.
Truthiness is Stranger than Fiction: New Reality-Based Graphic Novels
Comics can be the best medium to explore the real world – through science, autobiography or wild adventures rooted in real experience. But working with “the truth” brings its own set of challenges. . . . Featuring: Maris Wicks (the goofy and educational anatomy tour Human Body Theater), Peter Kuper (Ruins), Jennifer Hayden (the funny and wise cancer memoir The Story of My Tits) and Troy Little (the manic adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas).
Thursday, October 8
1:00 p.m.–2:00 p.m.
Darryl Cunningham will sign The Age of Selfishness at the Abrams booth #2228
Friday, October 9
3:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m.
Chipp Kidd and Geoff Spear will sign Only What’s Necessary: Charles M. Schulz and the Art of Peanuts at the Abrams booth #2228
Saturday, October 10
1:45 p.m.–2:45 p.m.
Martin and Olivia Olson will sign Adventure Time: The Enchiridion & Marcy’s Super Secret Scrapbook!!! in the autograph area table 25
2:45 p.m.–3:45 p.m.
John Leguizamo will sign Ghetto Klown in the autograph area table 24
5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Paul Levitz will sign Will Eisner: Champion of the Graphic Novel at the Abrams booth #2228
Sunday, October 12
10:00 a.m.–11:00 a.m.
Tom Angleberger will sign The Origami Yoda series at the Abrams booth #2228
12:00 p.m.–1:00 p.m.
Neil Swaab will sign Secrets to Ruling School (Without Even Trying) galleys at the Abrams booth #2228
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.
Marisa Acocella Marchetto’s name might be most familiar as a cartoonist for the New Yorker or as the author of the acclaimed graphic memoir Cancer Vixen. Her newly released graphic novel Ann Tenna tells the story of Ann Tenna, an influential gossip columnist who because of a freak accident meets her higher cosmic self. Faced with the choices she’s made in her life and how they’ve affected her humanity and her place in the world, she is challenged to live with positive intention and change her life for the better.
At San Diego Comic-Con 2015 Marisa was kind enough to share some time with The Beat and provide additional insight to Ann Tenna.
Victor Van Scoit: In transitioning from working on Cancer Vixen to Ann Tenna, even though Cancer Vixen was personal and a real life experience, looking at Ann Tenna it seems there’s still some personal things involved in there.
Marisa Acocella Marchetto: I guess for me. The whole thing about Ann being in the world of fashion and gossip, it’s a fun world but it can also be kind of dangerous because you can say the wrong thing or I think there’s a lot of, for me—the whole thing about karma played out. Kind of like you are who you transmit.
VVS: It also seems like there’s more than one idea at work in Ann Tenna. Identity, pop culture, and I know mindfulness is a big thing in the cultural environment right now. In the book there’s a certain mindfulness in finding what your purpose is and what you’re really about.
MAM: That is a lot of what this book is about. I think because I had this life threatening diagnosis it really made me think about what it was I was doing with my life—who I was, what I wanted to become—it made me sort of be more conscious of my actions and who I wanted to be around. Basically what kind of imprint I wanted to leave once I actually left the planet. I thought a lot about that. And that experience—having your expiration date extended, made me sort of think about and inform Ann Tenna.
VVS: It’s funny though because, especially when I think about how mindfulness is portrayed, it’s about being calm, taking stock, and going through a process. But the pace of Ann Tenna, the book itself is a little bit more frenetic in art, style, and pace. Was that a conscious choice as a different way to approach mindfulness?
MAM: First of all I don’t think Zen. I guess I sort of vibrate on a different plane. And you know what? For me, my higher self would be saying “What do you think you’re doing with your life?” I think about potential and who you want to be, and who you should be and what you should be doing. I would think that that person, or my higher self, would be saying “ Are you crazy? Is that what you really want to be doing with your life?” Those are the conversations I have with myself.
VVS: The idea of how can you approach what you’re doing with some integrity. Ann is a voice and has a large following, but asking the question of how can she do it with more integrity?
MAM: I definitely feel that that is an aspect of Ann Tenna and definitely where I am as an artist. I think about the intention of what it is I’m trying to say. Not just trying to get something out there, but what kind of impact it will leave. Like that whole scene [in the book], the father of quantum physics says something like, “You’re reality is conscious. The mind is the matrix of all matter.” Your reality is consciousness of all thought.
VVS: One of the things I enjoyed in the other plane is that you bring in a few cameos from a fashion, design, and science standpoint. Did you do much research on those people? Were they always feeding your own personal trip?
MAM: I did research but in the creative process it’s sort of like—if you let things happen or ingest, and try and pay attention to the signs—I sort of put that in the book. I had my antenna up when I was drawing.
VVS: That’s cool because normally in another medium you have to worry if they’re alive, or if you have access to these people. Here you can leverage your imagination and draw them into existence. You can have those imaginary conversations.
MAM: Those were really fun to do. To have Coco Channel come in and say that’s she’s redesigning the pearly gates. Or when Gianni Versace is doing Liz Taylor’s dress for the Golden Galaxy awards.
VVS: Exactly. And if there is an afterlife or another plane of existence you can kind of expect those people to not stop doing what they’re passionate about. Post Cancer Vixen, is that the key learning you took away and applied to this book?
MAM: Definitely. 100%. I mean I’m sure Oscar de la Renta is now designing dresses but he’s using the fabric of the universe.
VVS: That plays really well with the concept of particlization in the book. It’s almost like manifesting your reality.
MAM: There’s a lot of it.
VVS: What do you hope that people take away from this regarding manifesting their own reality? Cautionary tale? Something to learn from?
MAM: I see it also as a hopeful tale too. It’s a story about your potential. Everybody has got a super version. You’ve got a Super Victor, and I have a Super Marisa. Do you want to realize that potential and do you want to listen to that voice? That higher consciousness voice that will guide you. Or do you want to just go on your little way and your reality will be unconsciousness of thought? That is definitely something that was in my mind when I was writing this.
VVS: Who is this book for?
MAM: I would like it to reach a very wide audience. I think anybody who—there’s a spiritual quotient here, there’s a fashion quotient, there’s a gossip quotient here. There’s a lot of different tentacles.
VVS: The gossip quotient. There’s a real nice satire going on. Is that your own personal reflection or experience?
MAM: I’m definitely conscious of the negative side of gossip. And I try not to do it. You know when you’re talking and the words are coming out of your mouth and you just want to put them back in? I do think about what you transmit and I’m much more conscious of that now. Especially in this electronic age.
VVS: Speaking of this electronic age—how do you show and sell the book while still maintaining who you are? Maintaining who you are without doing something that doesn’t make you happy?
MAM: Oh this makes me happy! Because I feel like this is still part of the writing process. You did the work. It’s like giving birth. Writing is like—you’re pregnant, you’re pregnant, you’re pregnant. Now it’s like it’s coming out and then you’ve got to make sure it grows up to be as healthy as possible.
VVS: That perfect. I’m smiling and laughing because it takes me to the beginning of Ann Tenna where there’s a literal birthing of Ann Tenna.
MAM: Yeah that’s so funny. I didn’t even think about that.
VVS: This is fiction yet isn’t any less personal that Cancer Vixen. Did you have to draw a line between your life inspiring or influencing too much?
MAM: I was just really thinking about the story. I use this whole experience to inform the book. I was just trying to think of a way to make the story as compelling as possible and move it forward and make it fun. If I thought it was fun, and I liked it, then I was hoping everyone else would too.
Marisa Acocella Marchetto is a cartoonist for The New Yorker whose work has appeared in The New York Times; Glamour; and O, The Oprah Magazine, among other publications. She is also the author of Cancer Vixen (Knopf), and Just Who the Hell Is She Anyway? (Crown). Ann Tenna (Knopf) is available now.
The Elite Beat Staff is a trained squad of ninja masters.
It’s 11am on Saturday at SDCC, and the DC Comics booth is buzzing — quite literally — with large packs of fans craning their necks and smart phones to catch a glimpse of the latest DC trailers, and answering trivia questions to win prizes. But I’m not focused on those loud bells and whistles. My mind is 100% Batgirl as I watch the creative powerhouse team of writers Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, and illustrator Babs Tarr file into the roped-off interview area.
Batgirl has become my unlikely entry point into the main DC Universe. Of the big two, I’ve always been a Marvel fan — the only DC I read was Vertigo. But Gail Simone’s New 52 Batgirl reboot from a darker past, full of questionable editorial choices, got me interested. From there I went back to classics like Batgirl: Year One and fell hard for Babs Gordon as Batgirl.
I found myself further charmed by The Batgirl of Burnside and so jumped at the chance to interview Stewart, Fletcher and Tarr: the team behind the book. But before the nervous growling in my stomach could settle, a young girl walked up to Fletcher in a yellow t-shirt embroidered with the logo of his other book Gotham Academy. When I heard her say: “Gotham Academy got me into comic books” I told DC’s Clark Bull that she should take all the time she needed.
When my turn came, I was pleased to hear from Stewart that he regularly reads The Beat — something a lot of people I met at SDCC shared with me. I talked with the Burnside Batgirl crew about their creative origins, how the look that launched a thousand cosplays came to be, how to handle creative criticism, and their earliest con experiences.
So tell me about the origin story of how you all came to work together on Batgirl.
Cameron Stewart: I got a call from — at the time — the editor of the Batgirl book. The current writer, Gail Simone, was departing. They wanted to bring somebody new in, but they wanted to change it up a bit, to kinda go in a different direction, try and inject some fresh life into it. So I was asked if I wanted to take it over as writer and artist.
Unfortunately, I really wanted to do it, but I didn’t have the time, because I’d just taken on another job. So I thought, “how about if I’m still able to be involved, but bring in some friends of mine?” People that I wanted to work with, that I thought would not only help me have the time to do it, but bring some stuff to it that I wasn’t able to bring to it.
So I brought in my friend Brenden, as co writer, whom I’ve been friends with for like 15 years, we’re old friends. He and I have always had very similar ideas about comics, about the direction of particular superhero characters. And I found Babs on the internet! I was following Babs for years on tumblr and instagram, I just love her work and I knew that we wanted to work with a young woman and have her voice present.
I wanted someone whose work showed an animation influence, was really stylish and knew a lot about fashion and contemporary culture — and she just hit all those beats. So I emailed her and said,”I can’t tell you what it is yet,” because I didn’t have the job yet, but I was like: “I’m working on a book maybe for DC comics and I think you’d be good drawing it, would you wanna do that?” And she didn’t believe that it was a real thing.
Did you flip out?
Babs Tarr: I was like, “just a couple problems: I’ve never drawn comics before?” And my style didn’t look like anything DC was publishing at the time, so I kinda got the email and I was like: “I’m really flattered, but okay let me know when DC wants to hire me.” Like I didn’t quite believe him. But eventually, I got an email from you [indicating Stewart] and it was like: “okay, it’s down to two artists!” And then I was like, “Oh my god that’s real! That’s a real thing happening right now!”
I did a couple test pages for DC because I hadn’t done comics before to show them that I had at least the bones to build some skin on —
Stewart: Yeah, a solid foundation.
Tarr: And then I got offered the title the very next day after I submitted them.
And the rest is history! So I wanted to ask: did you feel intimidated by the success of Gail Simone’s run —
How did you balance honoring the look and personality of her Batgirl with your personal take on the character, both look and story?
Fletcher: I think from a story standpoint, what we were doing was approaching Barbara Gordon’s current psychological state. She is a woman who is suffering PTSD, and she continued going through all of these really dark, challenging things in her life and you could see through the arcs that the Batman editorial group were putting her through that it was pushing her to a limit.
We took that as our cue to take the character and make her realise that this was a place that she didn’t want to be and to pull away from it, and to make great changes in her life. And that allowed us to re-examine who Barbara Gordon is, and allow her to find where her happy place is, really. Let the character be comfortable, happy, and be the best Batgirl that she could possibly be. And that was the goal for our first arc.
In designing the new, and much lauded outfit — deservedly so — did that come before you decided on your interpretation of who this Barbara Gordon would be? Or did the design help lead to the personality?
Stewart: I think it was a bit of both? I knew I wanted to design something that was very fun. I wanted to do a fun, bright comic that was kind of not really what DC was doing at the time. I wanted to stand out and be the comic that was the kind of fun, bright, pop-y thing. And also since the lead character is a 21-year old young woman, I wanted to do something that was kind of reflective of that and be the kind of costume that a young woman might actually want to wear aside from being a superhero. Something that was cool and fashionable.
So that was the starting point, and yeah, it just came from there. And it came from studying contemporary fashion and trying to make something that would resonate with the audience we were trying to attract, which was young women.
[To Tarr] And that’s where you come in.
Tarr: Yeah, Cameron had this great base costume design. And when you handed it to me, and I added a little detail to it, to contemporize it, look like something she could’ve picked up out of a thrift store. We wanted it to be her own, like she owned it, it wasn’t a costume that Batman provided for her. Like she went out and picked out all the things herself. We even have a great page, a montage page —
I love that page!
Tarr: Where she’s like, sewing and there’s little needles in her mouth and she’s doing it.
People have said, In contrast to the sort of, Spider-Man, “how did he make that with no design background?” That [Batgirl] was very realistic.
Tarr: and like, girls are kinda craftier, so she could, definitely! [laughs]
And who was [responsible for] the snaps on the cape?
Stewart: That was me.
That was you? Bravo. I just I had to get that in there because that’s so great. That’s so long we’ve needed that.
There’s a real sense of joy in your run on Batgirl, there’s excitement, believing she can actually make a difference in Gotham. How do you balance the depth of Batgirl, both her art and her story without making her seem frivolous or too precious?
Fletcher: I think that’s seemed like a challenge, or seemed like we were challenged by it? By a lot of the readers, the perception that they’ve had the things that we’ve had said to us? Like, she seems…
Tarr: They see the selfie cover, and then they assume —
Fletcher: But in fact it was part of the arc, it was part of what we were putting her through, to push her to the other side of it. Where she wasn’t so ensconced in the Bat-world and in the darkness, and trying to be a young person again and trying to feel like she could have frivolity in her life without losing who she was.
We put her through that in the first issue of our arc, you see that all of the trials and tribulations that she goes through in the subsequent issues are a result of that. So our first arc is her finding that balance, so what you get in the trade paperback, the hardcover that just came out, volume one, is that story of how she attempts to have a bit of frivolity in her life, but maybe goes to far and pulls back and finds her center.
Tarr: And I like it as a girl, ‘cause it’s like, just because you take selfies doesn’t mean you’re shallow or an airhead. And I feel like we show that.
I take far too many selfies.
Tarr: Right? So it’s just like: that doesn’t always hand in hand, like people shouldn’t assume. And I feel like our Batgirl fights that ideal a little bit.
Fletcher: Part of the first arc is like her claiming her own image and defining who she is. And that’s part of it.
Have you heard of the #365feministselfie project?
It’s a project where media critics and feminists came together and took a selfie every day as an act of owning your own image. So the selfie cover — I think maybe some people came on the wrong side of that. I thought it was effective.
So: many comic fans that I know personally were actually really impressed by how your team handled the criticism of the Dagger Type character, and I wondered how that experience informed how you move forward with Batgirl?
Fletcher: Woah. [looks to Stewart] Go for it. Yeah, you can handle the heavy ones.
Stewart: Yeah! I mean it was kind of an unfortunate blind spot that we had, and we —
Tarr: We listened. And we fixed it for the trade.
Stewart: We took the criticisms to heart. It hit us pretty hard when we read about it. We paid a lot of attention, and we were very careful in considering what to do next. We feel really good about it, we took the criticism to heart and tried to make really positive changes. For me, even, I think, for all of us, aside from being comics creators –just from people. I think it was a really positive step forward for me, it opened my eyes to a lot of stuff that it’s —
Tarr: That it’s a blind spot.
Stewart: Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s something that’s made me better, and more aware, as a person.
Tarr: Yeah, all of us, the whole team.
Did you consult with any younger siblings, cousins, friends, to help keep the youthful vibe of the book authentic?
Tarr: I handle all of that [laughs].
You do all that? You’re the youth vote?
Tarr: [laughs] Yeah! Well I’m 27, so I’m not too far from a 21 year old, I definitely was in that spot where I’m trying to afford to buy cute clothes and also go to school and balance your social life with your school life. And Babs just has that extra layer of also balancing a crime-fighting life. I tried to make it super relatable.
Stewart: Which is the reason why we brought her onboard.
So you just have to stay forever young in mind [laughs].
Tarr: [laughing] That’s the goal.
Last question: what was your first comic con experience, either as a creator or as a fan?
Stewart: San Diego or any con?
Fletcher: Oooh I’ve got a good one. The very first con I went to was the debut of Image in Chicago. It was the Chicago Comic Con where Image had this big party —
Tarr: What year was that, Brenden? [laughs] 19–*coughs*
Fletcher: Yeah, it was 1965. And it was Karl Kerschl, my illustrator for Gotham Academy and I showing up there I think we were, what, 17 or something? Guys who just wanted to make comics and we met all of the creators. We met Jim Lee, basically we idolized Jim Lee, so it was a moment where we couldn’t talk. We just stood in front of him and went: “uhh, uhh” *with jaw dropped*
And Karl showed his portfolio for the very first time to anyone at that convention and it was to the line of creators there: Todd McFarlane, Erik Larsen, Jim Valentino. It was a huge experience. And then we just spent the weekend being dazzled by — oh, actually, this is a better one! Our very first meeting, sitting there, in the audience waiting to meet those guys was Hank Kanalz! What’s his position now at DC? VP of…?
Stewart: Something important. [Kanalz is Senior VP of Publishing for Vertigo and Integrated Publishing at DC]
Fletcher: Hank is VP of something very important at DC now, and he was the very first person I ever met in comics, and he sat with Karl and I and just talked to us about what it’s like to be working in comics.
He was really generous to you.
Fletcher: It was so important.
So does that sort of inform now how you relate to fans in this environment?
Fletcher: Absolutely. When I have young people sit with me, or they come to a signing…
Like that Gotham Academy fan who just came by before!
Fletcher: That’s right! It literally just happened. And I always think back to Hank talking to Karl and I when we were like 17. Amazing.
Any con experiences you guys want to share?
Stewart: I would not have a career if I wasn’t at San Diego Comic Con. It was meeting an editor at DC Comics here that launched my whole career.
Tarr: This is kind of like a bookend for me, because my first book and my first time I met these guys and my first time as a comic creator was this con last year. So it’s like a one-year anniversary for all of us.
The trade paperback collection of Batgirl Vol. 1: The Batgirl of Burnside is available now. Follow the writers and illustrator on twitter: Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, and Babs Tarr. Tarr’s instagram, that nabbed her the job on Batgirl, is here.
Edie is a New York-based writer, reporter, interviewer, and publicist with a passion for entertainment and geek-related media.
As many have noted, this year’s San Diego Comic-Con was a success in that, unlike years past, no one got run over by a car, fell off a gate, got stabbed in the eye or died trying to get into a Twilight panel. The last few years of the Con, everyone has gotten used to the whole “It’s too big and crazy!” mindset so they’ve figured out how to deal with whatever logistical nightmares need to be overcome to experience Peak Con Moment. I wasn’t even hungry once this show, for reasons I’ll explain in down below. (Spoiler alert: trail mix.) However I joked around with the original “eating scraps” crew, filmmakers Jordan Renneart and Patrick Meaney about the bad old days many times. I think everyone joked about the bad old days when we didn’t know how to survive Comic-Con. We’re Navy Seals now, trained and elite.
The con was a little bit smaller than last year, and last year was a little bit smaller than the year before. I don’t mean in terms of people—there seemed to be more look-e-loos than ever milling around the Gaslamp. No, smaller in terms of movies, sure, but also pop-ups, parties and massive marketing pushes from studios. Now granted the “activations,” as “they” call the events and booths and Giveaways and experiences, were huge and complicated, from a Scream Queens vertical drop ride, to the hellish Adult Swim theme park our behind the convention center. People slept outside for 24 ours to get into the Star Wars panel and they were rewarded with a once in a lifetime concert march and complimentary lightsaber. That was a very big activation, and I’m sure people will be talking about it for years to come. All the X-men on one Stage taking a selfie with Stan Lee. Warner Bros.’ $600,000 surround screen and Batman v Superman trailer. These were big things. But it’s a thrifty time in Hollywood, and studios now realize that just because a movie is boffo at Comic-Con doesn’t mean it will be boffo in real life. The big promotions were all for films coming out far in the future, not next week, as with notorious underperformers Scott Pilgrim, Cowboys and Aliens and even Snakes on a melon-farming Plane.
When I say Comic-Con was a little smaller, I mean just that: a little smaller. In years past every pedi cab was decked out with Dexter or Comixology. Not any more. The party scene was much less extravagant this year. Float was as busy as ever, but no giant parking lot bashes. (One popular empty lot is being turned into another hotel.) Fewer storefront conversions as well—the rising costs of renting out these venues caused even Hollywood to say, hm, maybe not. Additionally, the Comic-Con model is being exported to D23, Star Wars Celebration and CinemaCon, with maybe a little SXSW thrown in, although I hear that has peaked as well.
And here’s one fun fact that really stunned me: The Wired Cafe only ran for ONE DAY this year, Thursday. Formerly the place to be seen milling around like a nerdlebrity in training, it got too crowded last year, and I guess Wired decided that one day was enough Game of Thrones beer guzzling for the Entourage set. Nobody goes there any more, it’s too crowded.
Not that there still wasn’t plenty to do! Off site video game lounges, Funko fests, parkour courses, zombie runs, and the TV Guide yacht are all still there. And what wonders will the new Marriott Hall hold when it opens next year? Comic-Con is going to stay wild and exhausting and too much to see and do for the foreseeable future but it’s going to evolve, like everything else.
The other big question of the con was what place comics hold in it. Yes yes, comics are the HEART of Comic-Con, but as I reported for PW, it’s become a total brainer for some people. Anina Bennett and Paul Guinan announced they aren’t doing big shows any more; Eric Shanower gave up his long time booth for an artist’s alley table because of the costs. I’ve seen a lot of quiet grumbling on FB and in person about sales not being enough to offset the costs and headaches. Of course a lot of people had great shows, but it really is all about the exclusives and show specials now and those are mostly toys and art prints.
The biggest change at Comic-Con isn’t the cosplayers or the celebrities, but the Collectors. Since getting a badge is a lottery, the people who are most motivated seem to be people who want those exclusives and the overall “activation” not people who want to buy comics, what with about four comic cons every weekend to choose from, and great shows like TCAF and Emerald City for more hard core comics people. I think the fretting I heard from people was about this demographic change and not the show being “too big.” I’m not sure how to change this. You can’t set aside a bunch of tickets just for people who want to see Sergio Aragones and David Aja, although that would be nice. CCI itself does as much as ever to make sure comics are included, and the programming is the most comprehensive in the world, but comics folks may need more motivation to brave the craziness…and I have no idea what that would be.
And littler or not, it is still crazy. I’m sitting here two weeks to the day after I left for Comic-Con, but that doesn’t count the month of intense planning before hand, the mad rush to get everything done just for those five peak days, or the literal months of planning that go into exhibiting at the show for publishers and studios alike. The last six weeks were an insane sleepless grind, but as I sit here I can’t believe it ever happened. I always say Comic-Con marks the end of the fiscal year for comics. For whatever reason those of us caught up in the experience spend the whole year building to it, imagining what might go wrong, or right, how to accomplish everything in the time allotted short of a Time-turner, then blam it happens. Decisions must be made: do that thing you like that you’ve been doing every year for 20 years that you only get to do once a year…or try something else? It’s the ultimate FOMO of YOLO.
Since everyone else has written their con report and no one cares anymore, rather than shape this into a majestic essay, I’m going to go to the bullet points for further observations, then to the Travelog of pictures and then WE’RE DONE. I have exactly 365 days to plan for Comic-Con 2016. Better get started.
• The Eisner wins for modern comics stars Gene Yang, Raina Telgemeier, Ed Piskor, Noelle Stevenson and so on was rightly seen as a watershed but I haven’t seen as many people including Comics Alliance’s win for Best Journalistic Presentation included in that group. CA has been at the forefront of promoting this “modern” view of comics, and when they won early in the evening that should have been a clue as to what was going to happen. It’s about time they won and congrats to the whole crew, especially Beat prodigal Steve Morris.
• I kept hoping to run into people like Michael DeForge and Chip Zdarsky just to hear how they liked Comic-Con. I saw DeForge and Patrick Kyle checking out the Marriott pool early on and he seemed to be having a good time, and then I moderated a panel he was on, but perhaps his twitter feed was the best indication. I glimpsed Chip once but the crowds kept us apart.
• So many people leave badges at the front desk of the Marriott Marina that they have an entire log book just for badge pickup. That kind of blew my mind. I stayed at the Marriott for the first time since…oh the 90s, and it was awesome. My room happened to be the one closest to the elevator so I could get from a much needed lie-down to a panel in room 23AB in 13 minutes! (I timed it.) Marriott 4 life.
Congressman John Lewis. At Comic-Con. In costume. (Recreating his trench coat and backpack from Selma 50 years ago) pic.twitter.com/T4EHdbKZhs
— TopShelfProductions (@topshelfcomix) July 11, 2015
• Congressman John Lewis cosplaying as himself was probably the most awesome thing at this year’s show.
• While the show was generally smooth, the Funko booth has turned into the New Hall H! It was a hotbed of dissent and chaos. Normally I drop by there late on Sunday just as the show closes to get a thank you present for our cat sitter, but they wouldn’t let me in! Turns out, there were problems all week, as the Unofficial Comic-Con blog reports
According to Funko’s Marketing Coodinator Cameron Deuel, once the convention kicked off, Funko was “noticing a disturbing amount of people lingering around [their] booth before the floor was even open,” which likely meant that exhibitors were swapping badges with regular attendees and hanging around the booth, an unfortunately common occurrence at Comic-Con. This led to frustrating situations for fans who had been lined up for hours, as that combined with the already mad-dash to the booth made it one of the most frustrating lines of the convention.
“My friend and I got into line for Preview Night at 9:15AM on Wednesday,” Stephanie Kariott said. “We were one of the first 10-15 people near the escalators at the G Hall entrance. When we were let in, I booked it to the Funko booth, and as I’m sure you know, by then it was already a madhouse. I jumped in line and spent about 45 minutes not moving at all and not even knowing if I was really in line or if they were going to cap it off in front of me.”
To avoid the camping out in front of the booth Funko started giving away tickets for each day, but didn’t announce it. You can read about how it all worked out in the above post. Some people didn’t get their toys—including The Beat! Here’s just ONE account:
My friends and I tried getting Funkos three different days. The first day (Friday), the security guards told my BFF and I that the line started at 1pm, and we couldn’t hang out around the booth. They said, “If you hang around here, we’ll remember your face and will kick you out of line.” That put the fear of God in us, so we went and hung out at a nearby booth (luckily we knew someone working at the booth). We kept seeing the same people hanging out at other booths and circling around like sharks. Another friend tried to sneak up a little closer. As he describes it, Funko announced that the line was open. In the time it took for him to reach for his phone in his pocket to let us know, they immediately announced the line was capped. Pretty disheartening, but I tried again Saturday. That’s when I found out about the ticketing. Decided it would be worth a shot to ask if anybody in line could buy for me. I lucked out, and the first person in line was only getting one or two things, so they bought most of what I wanted. When I talked to my larger group of friends that night (we had a full group of five), we discovered that there were two different stories for ticketing, according to the security guards: 1. They would be passing out tickets in front of G. 2. They would be passing out tickets at the booth. We decided to shoot for G first on Sunday. Nobody was there, so we went immediately to the booth. Our group attempted to fan out amidst the ever growing mob, and of the five of us, two managed to get Group 2 tickets. So our experience wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been, but it was definitely a lot of work.
• Artist Ben Templesmith is one of those who decided to host his own offsite, Squid Con, held at the Hilton Bayfront Bar, as reported on by the LA Weekly’s Liz Ohanesian:
The Seattle-based artist describes SquidCon as an “experiment,” a chance to manage his presence at the massive pop culture convention the way he sees fit. “I’m doing it my way this year,” he says. Templesmith, who is from Australia, but has lived in the U.S. for seven years, started attending SDCC in 2001. Two years ago, though, he called it quits on a convention that had ballooned into a major destination for people with a greater interest in blockbuster films and television epics than comic books. “It got too expensive,” he says.
That’s a complaint that plenty of people have had about SDCC. Attending the convention can be a complicated, and pricy, ordeal. Whether you’re going for fun or work, the process of getting a badge requires a rush to the online registration site months in advance of the July gathering. Status as a media professional is not a guarantee for a badge, let alone a spot in one of the hotels that take reservations by lottery. Lodging comes with a hefty price tag too. Even if you are part of a large group crammed into one room, you can expect to pay at least a couple hundred dollars to stay the duration of the con. Then there are the fees for parking and other transportation-related needs, plus food. If you’re an artist, you can add the cost of getting your work to San Diego and running a booth from Wednesday through Sunday to your budget. Even for someone like Templesmith, who has enough of a following to have run several successful crowd-funding campaigns, that’s big pressure to produce sales.
While one man in a bar isn’t the SlamCon that Tr!ckster once seemed to be about to become, is this an idea that may someday catch on? Marriott Hall?
• One venue that was set aside to be comics centric was the San Diego Public Library where panels were held for three days. Unfortunately, from what I heard it was under attended. This is a great venue that should be part of the show — and it isn’t THAT far away as you can see its dome just beyond Petco from the skywalk over Harbor Drive. Hopefully this will be implemented again next year but maybe promoted more.
• You’ll read more about this below, but one of the signature moments of con for me was during a preview night tour of the AMC booth where the women who runs activations told me about how they plan the zombie stuff around iconic scenes from the previous year’s show. “WE don’t have much room to work with,” she said. “Our booth is only 20×40.” That’s 800 sq. ft. Pretty big for a NYC apartment but small for a major booth by one of the hottest properties in pop culture. “Have you ever tried to get a bigger booth?” I asked. With a wistful expression she said “Oh we’ve been trying for that for years. Maybe some day.”
That really brought home to me the real estate crunch on the show floor. Now granted, AMC also had the whole Hilton outside area for a Fear the Walking Dead activation, and parties every night, and a lot of space, but the show floor is super super crowded not just for comics but for EVERYONE. A lot of people have been suggesting that the under the sails area be turned into something more practical than autograph signing, but that would mean my shortcut from the mArriott to room 24AB would be gone, so I’m not sure I like that idea. Anyway, everyone has the same space issues at Con.
• SPekaing of WALking Dead, even though he had THREE TV SHOWS—Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead and Outcast—and a movie—Air—being promoted, Robert Kirkman was the biggest no show. I’m told he’d had throat surgery and in some cases you just can’t talk after that or you have permanent irreversible damage. I hope he’s feeling better and back up to chatting with Chris Hardwick real soon.
• The CBLDF Party was OFF THE HOOK THIS YEAR. So many people! I barely got to talk to all of them, but it was so wild and great and fun. This has really become THE comics party of the year, and it doesn’t even need free drinks.
• During my one trip to one of the major media hotels I was invited into the nerve center for one of the BIG BIG BIG websites and holy shit, it was like NASA mission control with a couple dozen guys at computers. Made me sitting in the press room with a laptop feel naked and alone.
• A Cat Cafe opened on Island just off Third St!!! I never got to go, alas, but one comics pro who I told about it cancelled her plans and raced off immediately.
• The Lion cold brew coffee at the Lion Cafe on 1st St. is great every year.
• All during Con I kept thinking “When this is over I need a massage” and when we got to ur friend’s house in LA where we were saying she announced she was getting a massage the next day. OMG. Little House Spa. It was a real James Bond massage with the ladies walking on my back and I was sore for two days but it was amazing. A new con tradition.
• Probably something I’m forgetting. Anyway. PICTURES.I’m going to split this into a couple of pages to prevent browser crash.
Conan O’Brien’s four night stand hosting his show was the most promoted thing when I arrived, as the luggage belt advertising shows, and I thought it would be the biggest thing at the con. Henry went to one of the shows, and I heard Conan himself was seen out and about on the street enjyoing the scrum, but this soon got lost in my own scrum.
The first night in town we stayed at the Horton Grand for old times sake and had an amazing room right on the corner of Island and 4th. The only problem with the room was that it was very far from the wireless router and the internet was appalling. I had to sit in the bathroom to get a signal. Oh well.
Here’s where I was standing in the above picture from the street.
On Tuesday before the show I went to visit IDW and got a tour from Alison Baker. As I think I told her and Ted Adams, IDW may just have won the office space race among comics publishers. Granted I have a lot to go to, but it will be hard to beat the clean-lined high ceilinged vibe of this former army barracks.
Perhaps the best part of the office tour was this authentic Kevin Eastman Habitat!® Not an office, a habitat.,
Eastman was also the subject of the first display in the art gallery attached to the offices. This is a great space, and the area itself is something of an up and coming arts space for San Diego. A lot of potential!
This is apparently the Dirk Wood habitat? There is a little band rehearsal space to let off steam. If any other publisher has such a space please let me know.
So many instagrammable moments. After the IDW visit, I went to the nearby Trader Joes and stocked up on trail mix, Kind bars and a bottle of wine for emergencies. That was really all I needed. I never set foot in Ralphs and I never got hungry!
Speaking of Ralphs, everyone is in the spirit of the con now.
After dinner and a party at a haunted loft, we walked back to the hotel and discovered a gang of feral cats living in this little park on the opposite corner. Every time I passed by for the next five days we’d see some of these cats! Hope they are being taken care of. They looked pretty happy.
The first line, on Tuesday, apparently just to get in and get those exclusives.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.
By Harper Harris
Miss out on the ‘Grant Morrison: The Multiversity and Beyond‘ panel at this year’s San Diego Comic Con? Never fear! Hear Morrison talk to DC’s VP of Marketing John Cunningham about his ideas for The Multiversity and how the project took form, as well as info on his upcoming Wonder Woman: Earth One, Multiversity Too, and Batman: Black and White books! Morrison and Cunningham go pretty in-depth here, so feel free to grab your copies of the series and follow along, it’s a fun ride!
The Elite Beat Staff is a trained squad of ninja masters.
A great comic book let’s your brain relax and enjoy as you take in each page of the story. You’re not trying to figure out which panel to read next, or be taken out of the story unexpectedly. Instead the creator has made choices in storytelling that take you smoothly through the story and subconsciously informing your mind with all the metaphors, themes, and subtext required. First Second’s What’s in a Page panel aimed to give the audience some insight into those choices from four of their creators: Asuf Hanuka (The Divine) Aron Nels Steinke (The Zoo Box), Scott McCloud (The Sculptor), Gene Luen Yang (The Shadow Hero).
The panel limited each of the creators to just one page from their graphic novels to walk the audience through. Calista Brill of First Second moderated the panel and asked each of the authors for additional insight.
It was mentioned to Steinke that when constructing a page of comics for a western audience it’s expected they will read from left to right and from top to bottom, as is true with text. Being a teacher was that something he thought about when putting together comics for kids and using ways of reinforcing easy reading?
Aron Nels Steinke: “I definitely think about that. Most of my students I’ve worked from 1st-3rd grade. It’s very rare when a student doesn’t understand how to go left to right. But there are times where they do but they kind of get it after a while. If you make it so there really only is one way, then they’ll understand that really this is the next sequence.”
Hanuka had chosen a very vivid page and it was noted how the lead character is handsome, and nice and symmetrical. You’re not afraid to get really grotesque. What drove that choice?
Asuf Hanuka: “It’s really hard to do something beautiful without showing something ugly. I guess it’s just a way of creating contrast. We did have red lines for stuff we didn’t want to do.”
The notion of a red line, or line the creators wouldn’t cross, was a bit humorous considering the amount of violence in in the book where people have brains and spines ripped from their bodies. So it was surprising to hear there were lines the creators wouldn’t cross. The crowd laughed at McCloud’s quip regarding how that violence was portrayed.
Scott McCloud: “But tastefully”
For McCloud’s page he kind of cheated having chosen a two-page spread. This spread in particular from The Sculptor was chosen to show how he was experimenting with auditory experience of the main character.
Scott McCloud: “The reason I like this spread is because it was an opportunity when I’m doing everything visually to see if I could do something auditory. Where it’s all about somebody trying to find a real person in a crowd. And so I just have voices, and voices, and voices and this is what Times Square is. I wanted you to have a sense of what it is to be like inside of his head.”
Gene began with two pages from separate the separate books of his two volume series Boxers & Saints. He joked that he immediately regretted the choice as they’re probably not comics in the McCloud definition. He picked them so he could talk about the duality of the two scenes based on the themes in the graphic novels
Gene Yang: “The reason I did two volumes [Boxers and Saints] was because I couldn’t decide who I sided with. I couldn’t decide who the protagonists are. So the protagonists in one book are the antagonists in the other. So that’s what these two panels are all about. I just wanted to visually represent that resonance between the two cultures.”
After having gone through each creators selected pages the floor was opened up to questions. The first one allowed for some interesting insight from the creators. It was asked “What informs your choices when choosing the panel layout and which panels or pages will be contained vs a full bleed?”
Yang’s response came from a narrative point of reference—
Gene Yang: “I actually had a debate in my head about whether or not to make these [the two pages selected] bleed. I think visually it would’ve been more striking. But narratively each of the larger images represents something that is happening in the heads of the characters that are at the bottom. So by containing it in something kind of a panel it’s sort of a visual representation of that.”
while Steinke’s was born from humorous practicality.
Aron Nels Steinkie: “First my answer involves the laziness on my part. When you do a bleed you’re drawing art work that won’t actually get printed. It’ll get printed and it’ll get chopped, by the chopper. Because it bleeds and goes off to the edge of the page. One of my favorite cartoonists is the cartoonist Joe Socko and he does a lot of bleeds. And I think about all the inches of artwork that we don’t get to see because it’s been chopped from the paper cutter. That’s one reason and another is I try to use it for emotional impact. So whenever I do go to the effort to make that extra effort it’s got to be for a reason.”
Hanuka’s response was more rooted in the experience of comics and it’s physical medium—
Asuf Hanuka: “I think it’s a question of taste. For me I prefer to never go to a bleed because I believe the magic of the comics language is that you’re seeing a universe through a window. And so you need the window. And if it goes all the way to the end of the page, then you’ve seen the end of the page—and it’s paper and something about the illusion disappears. But I think that in some cases you can do it. But for me it has to be really—like—if the Earth explodes. Yeah, let’s go to the edge. Save it for the important moments.”
and as to be expected McCloud’s response blended metaphor, theory, and art.
Scott McCloud: “I do use bleeds a lot. I think the most important thing for me about bleeds is that they are well named. It’s a really good name—bleed. If you think of any panel as a kind of container it’s like an organ that contains fluids. And it contains time. If you have three panels in a row—boom, boom, boom—then it has this nice staccato rhythm. It’s telling you “Here’s an instant. Here’s an instant. Here’s an instant.” Or maybe a span of time. But it’s a container. It contains your sense of the duration of the panel. That this thing is—holding, time, in— and so it has a nice feeling of containment. When you lose that edge something happens in our perception”…
“What happens when you have a panel bleed is it really almost literally bleeds time. As it goes to the edge of the page there’s a sense the duration just flows outward. If you have a bleed at the beginning of a spread for example, that instant will seem to become a lingering moment. It has an echo. It has a reverberation. And it tends to bleed throughout that spread. You can sort of feel it sinking in. That’s why they’re so good for establishing shots. You have a nice bleeding establishing shot and then that sense of place in that one little box becomes a sense of place for the whole spread. If the whole scene takes place in that place, then you have that sense of place throughout. It escapes time. Time—bleeds—out. It’s well named.”
Another audience question brought up how audiences are also reading digitally now, and how that’s increasing with, “I’m curious about what kind of impact digital is having as far as laying out the page?” At this McCloud had to leave so he could make it to the other side of the convention center to participate in another panel. It was another humorous moment for the audience considering McCloud’s many thoughts on the topic, hence his own jab at himself leaving on the digital topic.
Scott McCloud: “And also, I’ll never stop talking.”
The rest of the panel seemed to still be working that question out for themselves as they work, realizing it’s two worlds still very much sharing space from a creative endeavor.
Asuf Hanuka: “Personally I don’t read any digital comics. I only read on paper. But everything I do and create is digital. It’s on computer. Even the penciling—it’s called penciling, but it’s really a Cintiq pen on a screen. The thing I like about digital is that I know the color will look exactly like it looked on the screen. And the printing quality will be always [sic] perfect for everyone and that’s amazing. But I don’t have any specific changes that I will make in the layout design, or the storytelling, or the drawing style because it’s going to be on the screen and not on paper. For me it’s the same thing.”
Aron Nels Steinke: “My published work I’m generally thinking about turning a page in a book. That’s how I enjoy reading comics the most.” …
“I would like to see digital versions of my books or any other books done panel by panel. I really like the way my friend Zac Soto—who has a group called Study Group—a lot of times when they put their work online it’s an infinite canvas going vertically. Because that’s how you’re scrolling if it’s online.”
At this the moderator mentioned “Design for devices and print should be designed for that medium. But usually not both.”
Gene Yang: “When I am writing my own comics, and making my own comics, I almost always am just thinking about the print version. Mostly because like Aron—I love that page turn. I can’t imagine doing without it. It seems to me that most comics, even if they’re presented digitally, are still formatted for print. There’s still the concept of the page which is purely a print thing.”
In finishing his thought Yang helped the moderator sign off the panel on another laugh.
Gene Yang: I know Scott—it’s too bad he left!
Moderator: If he had stayed this would be a whole other panel.
The Elite Beat Staff is a trained squad of ninja masters.
At San Diego Comic-Con I had a chance to sit with Scott McCloud where we talked about industry changes and how storytelling has changed as our world has gotten smaller, creative anxieties and mindful awareness, the art of visual communication, and how that all influenced his latest book The Sculptor.
Victor Van Scoit: To start anecdotally, the last time I got to speak with you I attended your workshop. It was in L.A. and I was in the workshop that had what I believed was a normal class size. We had 12 people.
Scott McCloud: Oh yeah. That was the little one. Yeah, yeah I remember that—
VV: It was really interesting because you said how that was oddly a small class size. Normally you’re used to around 30 people. Also we only had one or two women.
SM: Yeah usually it’s pretty balanced these days.
VV: That’s one of the things I wanted to mention. Around ten years ago I remember seeing you speak in Texas and you’d mentioned you were really looking forward to this convergence. What you expected to happen with Western storytelling and this manga influence that these young boys and girls were getting that would eventually grow up to be creators.
SM: Especially the girls. Those girls, sitting cross legged in Barnes & Noble reading Fruits Basket and all. Yeah I had this prediction.
VV: And we’re seeing it! I mean I think we are.
SM: Yeah! We’re going to pass 50 percent pretty soon. It’s going to be a majority female industry.
VV: I think it’s been real great just to see the convergence of also the storytelling. You’re working with First Second and one of the books I think of is Last Man over from France which has this great mixture. What’s it been like for you? You’re not the type of person to say I told you so, but it’s got to make you feel good to see that you’re reading the vibe correctly.
SM: [laughs] In this one case I’ll definitely do an “I told you so” just because I sort of laid an informal bet about that majority female industry. I marked it as 2024 so I’ll definitely crow a little if I was right about that one.
VV:I think you’re on point.
SM: The readership is already approaching 50/50 but we want to get the industry and the output of the industry also lined up as well. We want to have just as many female characters for example. I’ll definitely do a little Snoopy dance if I get that one right. That’s a nice long term prediction to make.
But manga was definitely an important part of that. And that manga boom was a fascinating Big Bang for that phenomenon. You know at a certain point about 15-20 years ago it occurred to me that of these three big nations of comics—I think of them as The North American tradition, the Japanese tradition, and the Franco-Belgian tradition which spread out over Asia, Europe and North America—each one had its own way of looking at comics. And the important thing with manga was making you feel like you were part of the story. And the important thing with the European tradition was world building. I thought it would be real cool to put those two together, and I was trying to do that with the latest graphic novel. It’s very strongly in the manga tradition but also has a really heavy world building feeling to it too. Like New York is almost a character in the book. It’s a very international book that way.
What’s funny is that if you look at Japan in the 90s and the 2000s you start to see the European influence coming over. You start to see manga artists influenced by European artists. And sure enough who do we think of when we think of that internationalist theme? We think of [Hayao] Miyazaki and we think of [Katsuhiro] Otomo, right? And what both of them have in common compared to a lot of their manga contemporaries is that they were world builders. They were incredibly obsessive world builders. They took the time to draw every last little little part of their world.
VV: I’m glad you mentioned how you approached that in The Sculptor. That’s one of the things I was interested in. We started talking about how young kids are going to be influenced by this convergence and that’s subconsciously driven. But how did you approach it more consciously and take steps to bring those two storytelling worlds together?
SM: Well it was easy for me because I got a head start. Back in the early 80s I was working at DC Comics. This is 1982. I got a job at DC Comics in Manhattan right out of college. In fact I got the job three weeks before I left college. DC Comics was in Rockefeller Center and they were three blocks away from Books Kinokuniya, the biggest Japanese bookstore in all of Manhattan, and the whole second floor was comics.
VV: I love that bookstore because of that.
SM: And they didn’t shrink wrap the fuckers.
SM: They did not shrink wrap them. So I could go on my lunch hour. I’d get either a hot dog, or a knish on the street, or I’d bring a sandwich. But the point is lunch lasted four or five minutes for me, and then boom I was out the door and I would spend the rest of that hour stand reading. This is something Japanese businessmen did, is they would just stand on their lunch hour and read their comics. Just stand. Read. Stand and read right in the shop and that’s what I did. I bought a lot of them but I read many, many more. That’s when I discovered all these techniques. It took me a while to sort of list all these techniques that they were doing in Japan but not here. There was a point, a kind of eureka moment where I saw that they were all essentially the same idea. Which was making you feel that you were in the story instead of watching it. Making you feel like a participant instead of an observer. Make you feel like instead of watching a character move across the scene, you were the one doing the moving. You were the one experiencing the emotion. You were the one absorbing all of the sensations in your environment. That’s the Japanese way. There may be no coincidence that Japanese comics were 30 times as popular as in North America, twice as popular as in Europe. That was all a long time ago and I incorporated it into Zot! and I incorporated those ideas into Understanding Comics so in a lot of ways it’s been with me for so long that it came naturally. It was actually a very natural thing.
VV: I remember reading it in your comics but especially began to see it in some of the mainstream comics that thing that Japanese manga and animation has always been real good at is taking the moment to pause. Slowing the clock down. Having empty frames in there. I noticed from a pacing perspective in The Sculptor you’re definitely doing that. There were also portions that I would just zoom through.
SM: Oh yeah. People read that book very fast, often in one sitting, despite the 500 pages it can clock in at two or three hours.
VV: It seems daunting at first, but I killed it all at once. Is that a common occurrence that you’re hearing?
SM: Extremely common. It’s almost a cliche now that when I talk to somebody about The Sculptor chances are one-in-two that I’ll find out that they read it in one sitting.
VV: Do you think maybe it’s because it’s playing a movie in their head?
SM: It’s definitely cinematic. It definitely has that narrative momentum, but it also has that sense of participation. So if I’ve done my job right you should feel like you’re there because of those Japanese techniques. And you should feel like the world is a rich, sensory environment because of that European approach. That can create a kind of traction, a kind of friction, where you just want to know what happens on the next page. You know? All you have to do—it’s very simple like a binary thing—all I have to do is on any given page make you want to read the next page. If I can just do that every page—I’m done. You’re going to keep going
VV: I like how in the book there’s a few panels that feed literally into that. The panel transitions into the next page. Like you’re purposely doing that.
SM: Yeah like my hand—I’m grabbing your hand and turning that thing. Time is so important in this book. We’ve got a character who has 200 days to live, and that idea of slowing the clock becomes front and center. Towards the end of the story without giving too much away, there’s a moment where the ticking of the clock becomes like this really loud feeling and you just want to reach up and just stop the hands of the clock. I’m talking about a sequence which is a series of full page spreads one after another, after another, where barely a fraction of a second is going by but you have these huge images. What I’m essentially trying to do even as you’re paging through the thing and going very fast you’re also, I hope, experiencing that sensation of the whole world slowing down and the desire to stop time from proceeding. Because comics is such a temporal medium. Because it’s so much about the passage of time in a spatial medium. That to me is very comics. Even though I tried to create a story where you wouldn’t be thinking about all the formal stuff. It’s still there. It still has its voice.
VV: Those full page spreads you’re talking about I imagine you hope people stop and take in everything that’s going on
SM: I know they’ll flip by them fast. [laughs]
VV: But if they do stop and allow for that decompression of time… it makes me think of a study that came out recently that one of the best way to remove the anxiety of life and time slipping by is to have a moment of awe for the day. Whether it’s seeing a great movie, beautiful artwork, or a beautiful sunset apparently it shows that that moment of awe can let you decompress time a little bit and make it seem a little less imposing.
SM: This is what I call narrative density. There are tiny little panels that I’ve stared at for a really long time because there was so much to see. There was so much information in them. Not detail, not just lots and lots of lines and lots and lots of objects. But objects and details that had presence, that had meaning, that had some kind of narrative density. There’s a little panel in a book called Jar of Fools by Jason Lutes that came out back in ‘94. I stared for a really long time at this panel because all it was was the room of the protagonist. The protagonist comes home to his room and there were so many details in that room that told you about the protagonist – an empty birdcage, a bare lightbulb, bars on the windows, lots of liquor bottles over a bare sink. There was so much that was telling you about him that it slowed you down. But that whole thing was no bigger, the actual panel, was barely bigger than your thumb. But it had narrative density. What you’re just describing, that idea of what slows down the clock for us—also things like mindful experiences during the day. I’m a great believer in mindful eating. You put your feet flat on the floor, if you can if you’re not too short like my wife, and you let your whole body relax and enjoy the sensation of the food and think about the sensation of the food. I like that slow process to kinda happen with comics too.
VV: I think that awareness is key. Even touching back to The Sculptor that’s kind of what David is learning.
SM: Yeah. That’s exactly what he’s learning.
VV: I remember thinking that I really liked, I don’t think is spoiling anything, but when he gets the power to create whatever he wants his first result isn’t that great.
SM: No no. [laughs] It’s a failure!
VV: Yes you can do something amazing, but ultimately if you’re not creating art from a good place it still might be less than.
SM: Right, exactly. Getting all of your external obstacles taken care of is not necessarily going to solve your internal obstacles. And yeah it doesn’t solve his problems at all. Because he doesn’t have whatever it takes inside him to make this work is still not there. Now he comes up against the ultimate obstacle himself. That’s a much, much bigger wall to climb than he thought it was going to be.
VV: Yes there’s a couple themes in here. Whether it’s identity, anxiety of creative expression, but a really great one is that even some of my friends who are creators they can be amazing with what they’re doing but there’s always that little devil inside that makes them question it.
SM: Everybody has that. Absolutely.
VV: The story, there’s Meg, she kind of helps him get past some of those obstacles but because of that clock going away from him he’s, “Agh I finally found that thing!”
SM: Yeah as the clock gets faster and faster for him in terms of his work, she is helping to slow the clock. She’s helping to slow him down. Gradually he finds ways to slow himself down. It’s like you’re trying to slow your heart beat. You’re trying to place yourself almost in a state of suspended animation. One thing that we have to remember about this story is that this is a story about a guy who only has so many days to live and has to make the most of them. That’s not a fantasy.
SM: That just happens to be the truth. The actual fact of life for every single one of us—all of us have a limited number of days. It doesn’t matter whether we know the number or not.
VV: I can imagine how that must’ve been frustrating for you because I know how you like to take time with your work. Not because you’re slow—
SM: I’m pretty slow
VV: —but because you put a lot of thought and process.
SM: I’m also slow. [laughs]
VV: Well I’ve seen examples of all your Photoshop layers and thumbnails and the way you plan it all out. For each page as you drew that wasn’t finished you kept imagining that clock yourself.
SM: Oh yeah. Oh man. It was there. It was originally going to be a three year project. It turned into a five year project, and that was 11 hours a day, seven days a week
VV: The book [The Sculptor] has been out roughly now six months and you know the story you intended to tell and get across, but have there been any angles or surprises you’re hearing about that people are getting from the book that you didn’t expect?
SM: I wouldn’t say it’s a surprise because it was part of my basic intention but it has been actually gratifying to find out how many people read it straight through. It’s that common that it’s kind of funny now how I hear it almost every single time. [laughs]
So many people just plowed through that thing. Hearing about people who it kind of broke or who were grateful for something that sounds extremely painful and awful. People will describe it—Wil Wheaton talked about it, I forgot what he said exactly, but it was essentially like he had been beaten to within an inch of his life by a brutal gang. He didn’t use those words exactly. It sounded like a wounding experience. But it’s like people are ready for that. It was interesting people seem to be ready or even grateful for any work of art, any kind of story that can physically assault them. That makes them actually feel. That actually raises bruises. I guess that doesn’t happen very often.
VV: Or even confront certain things that they’re not prepared for, much like David has to deal with himself as an obstacle sometimes the right story comes along and asks the questions you really don’t want to answer.
SM: Well I’ve heard from a few people who found it disturbing how much of themselves they saw in David. I have a lot of affection for David. I don’t see it as such a hell to be him. But a lot of people found that the fact that they had a connection with that character they found disturbing. They found it a real challenge to themselves.
VV: This might sound strange, but you mention affection for David, which many others likely have. Yet in reality to start out with he’s not exactly the most likable.
SM: Oh he’s kind of a dick to be sure. [laughs] In fact he was even more of a dick in the earlier drafts. I just couldn’t go all the way towards dick. But there’s been stories of dicks before that people have related to. Even MacBeth if done right has some kind of bridge to our common shared sense of humanity. And that was the challenge for me, for David not to be the other in the eyes of the reader even as he was this prickly, arrogant, self-obsessed, narcissistic sort of a character. There had to be something about him that you could build a bridge to and I hope that I was able to do that for most readers to find some kind of emotional bridge. I also do have great admiration for his perseverance, for his honesty, for his willingness to adhere to these ridiculous promises he makes to himself. You know it’s a kind of virtue. At least he keeps his promises. [laughs] Again I do have that affection. But it’s interesting, it’s not quite as simple as that there’s a level of obnoxiousness that readers will not go beyond. You can be horrible. You can be Hannibal Lecter for God’s sake. You can be Walter White in Breaking Bad and people will still find some kind of a connection to [the character]. It’s an interesting formula. There’s a bit of alchemy to the creation of a character that you can identify with even as you find them detestable.
VV: I guess when it comes to yourself people love to identify you as the educational, almost a mentor in the comics world. You’ve finished The Sculptor. You’re now spreading the word and marketing it, but do people have to worry about you leaving that behind—that educational side of you? It’s seems like such a part of you I would almost find it impossible to stop.
SM: [laughs] Well there’s no danger in my completely stopping pontificating. My next book in nonfiction and it’s going to be about visual communication. Not about comics specifically, although comics is in the mix, but I want to talk about the way that we communicate with and learn from images
VV: Visual communication sounds perfect because maybe once again you’re on that rising tide or cusp moment of identifying into words what people feel. That “Oh! That’s why I consume these things that way” or “That’s why I enjoy this thing this way”.
SM: Right which was a phenomenon with Understanding Comics. A lot of people felt that was that little voice in their head finally giving word to something that they already were experiencing—that they already understood on some level. That is something I’d like to bring to the subject in visual communication.
VV: I hope so. One of the things I really loved from your workshop, reading your books, and hearing you speak is that idea of cognitive load. That conjoined with the potential for educational side of comics or any graphic medium or storytelling. People worried in the early days with graphic novels whether it was good for kids to learn from because sometimes there’s not as many words, but there’s sometimes so much more to deal with [compared to a book]. You mentioned that with Jar of Fools in that you’re taxing the brain in multiple ways even if there’s not as many words.
SM: Oh absolutely.
VV: Is that one of the focuses?
SM: That’s part of it, yes. I’m interested in everything from picture books to presentation—the philosophies that people have of presenting in PowerPoint and Keynote—and of course like data visualization, information graphics, nonfiction comics, animation. All of the different ways that we set out to communicate and then all of the ways that we communicate almost without meaning to.
VV: So this book will extend past the comic books format?
SM: Well I have to go—I have to stay true to my religion that comics can communicate anything. It’ll still be comics but it’s not going to be quite like Understanding Comics or Making Comics. It won’t stay within the panel. It’s going to be probably more graphically bold. But there will still be the narrator. I’ll still have the guy in the check jacket, getting ever fatter with slightly whiter hair, will be there explaining things.
VV: Hopefully it will touch people the same way Understanding Comics or Making Comics did to create, but from a presentation standpoint alone it seems like it could be the perfect thing to hand someone if they need to do a TED-like talk.
SM: That’s part of it actually. My philosophy of presentation is that something where I’ve actually been doing it [long enough] now that I’ve developed some pretty strong ideas. That’ll be part of it.
VV: If nobody has seen you speak before I highly recommend to do so. For my take it’s a way of getting a lot of information and sometimes not even realizing how much you process. Because you don’t use bulleted lists, few words, and the graphics once again bring in that cognitive load of taking in multiple items at once. Without even taking notes, afterwards being surprised at how much is retained.
SM: Thank you. I think that those dynamics that you just listed are in fact present in a lot of other disciplines. And that’s one of the reasons why it was exciting to me to tackle this as a book. I realized that, “Oh you know what?” people in presentations are knocking on some of the same doors that the people in data visualizations are, people in information graphics are, even the people who study facial expressions and body language a lot of them are looking at the same core principles and trying to reinvent the wheel. I want to see if I can find out what those principles are, the ones that run across all of those disciplines simultaneously. Are there a few fundamental core truths about the way we learn with pictures.
VV: I think it’ll be great. Outside of The Sculptor and your other books where can people potentially get to see some more of you? Are you doing any tours?
SM: I’m still doing speaking gigs with a busy fall coming up. You can find that just at scottmcloud.com in the sidebar. Though I have to update that sidebar because it’s clogged with the 100 straight days of touring we did in the U.S. and seven european countries. I always do lectures around the country and you’ll always find them at scottmccloud.com right there on the front page.
VV: Oh! One last question before it leaves me. One of the things that I appreciate about [your approach] and others like Gene [Luen Yang] is that you’re creators but you come at it from a—I think Gene mentioned it last year at a panel when people talk about the conflicted artist. He comes at it from almost a left brain scenario of not understanding that conflict. Just draw. It’s just like engineering. Just get it done. So it’s really nice to see both your approaches to be able to analyze.
SM: Well Gene and I—we’re a particular tribe. Gene and I are both I believe are the sons of engineers. I think his dad was an engineer too like mine. I could be wrong about that part. We’ll fact check that. (VV: Gene’s dad was indeed an electrical engineer)
VV: I just want people to know that you don’t have to be “Mr. Emotional” to be a creator.
SM: You don’t. You don’t. But I think for those who have a kind of emotional altitude over things—like Gene and I who like to analyze and that have a pretty sunny disposition—we do create certain types of work. We’re part of the ecosystem. What we can bring to the medium is one thing, and then what other people who maybe have that darker disposition they bring a different perspective to the work that’s equally vital, equally important. A lot of very conflicted, very dark, very sort of inarticulate artists have created some of the most lasting works. It’s like any ecosystem. You want all those tribes working simultaneously. We’re sort of in the teachers, the research and development wing, and the tinkerers—those guys—we serve a particular role in this ecosystem.
VV: I know it made me feel better because when I took your workshop I no longer have any artistic ability whatsoever by comparison to some of these professionals. It was reassuring that I could take your class having none of that, but could still take a lot from a learning perspective or if I did want to create how best to communicate ideas with an artist. So I think you’re doing great work on that side of the house.
SM: That’s wonderful to hear. Thank you Victor.
VV: Thanks for your time. We really appreciate it.
SM: My pleasure. This was fun.
Scott McCloud is a comic book creator best known for his work Zot!, theoretical and educational books Understanding Comics Reinventing Comics, and Making Comics, and most recently The Sculptor published by First Second Books and available now..
The Elite Beat Staff is a trained squad of ninja masters.
By Harper W. Harris
Archie fans certainly had a good time at SDCC this year: not only did the publisher talk about a new series in the Archie Horror line and tease us with the future of the Dark Circle line and the New Riverdale series of titles, but announced that the Riverdale TV series has been picked up by the CW. I had the chance to speak with Alex Segura, SVP of publicity and marketing and editor of the Dark Circle line, as well as Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, CCO and writer of Afterlife with Archie and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina to talk about the slew of exciting news that came from Archie Comics over the course of the weekend.
Harper W. Harris: I wanted to talk with Alex first a bit about Dark Circle Comics. First of all, in general, how do you plan to tell new and exciting superhero stories under the Dark Circle imprint–how do you want them to stand out among all the other superhero books?
Alex Segura: I think the key for us is just to be different and good. I really strongly believe that quality rises to the top. You can put as much dressing on something as you want, but if the story or art isn’t good it doesn’t matter. I talked about this on the Dark Circle panel, but finding voices that maybe are familiar to the tropes of comics, but aren’t beholden to them. They can bring in a different perspective–people like Chuck Wendig, Adam Christopher, and Duane Swierczynski. They know comics but they know other media like TV, novels, and movies. So they come at it from a different perspective. We’re building Dark Circle more as a network. Each book is its own little show, and maybe down the line they’ll interact with each other, but fans don’t have that same kind of company pressure where you have checklists of 20 books you have to get to understand one event. We don’t do events, we do stories.
HH: What can you tell us about the pretty newly announced series, The Web?
AS: The Web is Jane Raymond, she’s a 14 year old Korean American girl who is super into cosplay, and she’s a teenager. She’s one of these characters that once I read that first script, she feels like a teenager. She’s dealt with tragedy, her mother’s just passed away, and she’s stumbling upon being a superhero, which is insane. It really shows you what happens when a teenager gains enhanced abilities and has to face real problems like street gangs, violence, and teenage life. I mean, I can’t imagine being a teenager now–I remember how stressful it was being a teenager maybe 20 years ago. It’s really Dave White, who is the writer, who’s done a great job of trying to be true to the character and also a nod to the history but not weighing it down with continuity.
HH: The other thing that’s really cool about the Dark Circle line is how incredibly diverse it is. You’ve got action spy thriller to more wacky adventure to super dark crime, and horror–what do you think are the advantages of having such a diverse line while still being within the superhero genre overall?
AS: First of all, thank you for saying that. That’s really a testament to this gentleman [points to Aguirre-Sacasa] with the Archie Horror stuff. That really kicked the door down with Afterlife and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. All I have is my taste and my gut, and talking to Jon [Goldwater] and Roberto and Mike [Pellerito], and Jesse Goldwater. If it’s good, does it take up a new space in the line, and we really want to present fans with a variety and a seal of quality. To me, if you see the Dark Circle logo, it’s a company logo: it tells you that this is good. Whereas I think in other places, it just means you have a lot, or it means something else. I want people not to necessarily feel compelled to buy it because they’re completing a collection, but feel compelled to buy it because they want to read it.
HH: So shifting gears here a bit, I definitely have to talk about the Riverdale TV series that was announced as coming to CW yesterday. Roberto, what can you tell us about the tone or look of the show? I know earlier you’ve talked about it having a surreal tone–has that changed now that it’s on the CW?
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa: I think when we ended up pitching it, the very high concept pitch was that it was a teen version of Twin Peaks. And by that, it was sort of like how in Twin Peaks the whole story is kicked off by the murder of homecoming queen Laura Palmer. So imagine you’re telling that story, but instead of following the grown-ups of Twin Peaks, you’re following all of Laura Palmer’s classmates. That kind of story is kind of used to uncover all the secrets–that makes it sound like a really, really dark show, and though there are undercurrents of that and weirdness, it’s still Archie, there’s still a love triangle. Josie and the Pussycats are in it, there’s a lot of music in it. So it’s kind of a mix of light and dark, serious and funnier stuff–kind of like life. Coming of age is on some level is kind of a loss of innocence, so that’s a big theme. It’s kind of a hodge-podge of all that stuff.
HH: What other kind of TV shows and movies did you take inspiration from when writing the pilot?
RA: We talked a lot about it feeling like a John Hughes movie. Also movies like The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Spectacular Now, The Way Way Back; those are movies that are all touchstones in terms of tone. The core will always be the love triangle and the characters, so as long as their essences remain. We’ve also talked about Dawson’s Creek as being an inspiration, which Greg Berlanti, who’s the producer on this, worked on. We talked about Everwood, which is about a family in a small town. So all those different kind of influences just kind of all have been absorbed and trickled down into the show.
HH: I believe it was on the Reddit AMA that you mentioned that you hoped to do a Halloween special every year that is a little bit like Afterlife with Archie–is that still something you’re trying to do?
RA: Yes, absolutely! That’d be great. Every Halloween there’d be a Halloween episode. Kind of like on Roseanne how they did a Halloween episode every year, or Treehouse of Horror.
HH: So let’s talk about Afterlife with Archie a bit. Did you guys always plan on expanding that book to encompass more than just zombies? What other kind of monsters or horror ideas do you see coming up in the future for the book?
RA: You know, I think originally we did think it was just going to be a zombie book, but then as it went on it very quickly started encroaching on other horror genres, and now the sky’s the limit. The one thing we probably won’t do in Afterlife, because we have Sabrina, is witches. Even though Sabrina and her aunts have small parts in Afterlife, that’s the one thing we probably won’t dive into. Otherwise everything else is kind of on the table horror-wise. There’s still a lot characters in the Archie library that we haven’t yet met in Afterlife that we will be meeting.
HH: The storytelling in that book is really phenomenal. What’s the process like scripting and working with Francesco Francavilla?
RA: We talk about every issue in advance and kind of check in to make sure that this is an area that Francesco’s interested in drawing. Then I do full scripts–and they are full scripts. I usually give probably more art direction than Francesco wants, although obviously he’s a genius and if he changes around the layout of a page, then I’ll adjust based on that. It’s pretty traditional in terms of having a full script and Francesco doing his thing, and if something changes, it’s always better.
HH: Let’s talk about Chilling Adventures of Sabrina for a minute. How did you decide to make that a separate world from Afterlife, and what kind of research went into making that new world that takes place much farther in the past?
RA: You know, I’m not sure exactly what led into that. I know we wanted to do a book that wasn’t super tied to Afterlife, because it felt like if we were doing that story, let’s just put it in Afterlife. And I had wanted to do a period book for a while. So many of the movies and books that are an inspiration for Sabrina like Rosemary’s Baby or The Exorcist or The Omen, they all are all obviously retro now. It felt like this would be a slower burn and be a bit more psychological, so I thought maybe if set it in the ‘60s, maybe people won’t think it’s in the same universe of Afterlife. It’s a little weird that there’s a Sabrina in Afterlife and a different Sabrina who’s in Chilling Adventures.
HH: We’re used to that, we’re in comics, right?
RA: Exactly. Robert Hack, who draws, colors, and inks the book, he loves all the retro stuff. He has a huge library of visual references, much more so than I. I’ll say stuff like, they go to the movies and there are movie posters for movies that would be playing then, and he always fills in that stuff himself. He’s got a really good sense of that.
HH: There was another book announced in the Archie Horror line at the panel yesterday, right?
RA: Who is Vampironica, yes.
HH: What can you tell us about that?
RA: Not much. I can tell you that maybe two years ago maybe Dan Parent did two issues of Betty and Veronica that introduced this concept of Betty the vampire slayer and Vampironica. I was talking to Francesco, and he’s like, “I love vampires, I love pretty girls, I love Veronica.” We just started talking about it, and he got an idea about it. That’s all I can say about it. More news to come!
HH: So one of the grand traditions of Archie Comics are the wacky crossovers you’ve done in the past–Archie Meets Punisher, Archie Meets Kiss, Archie vs. Predator, and the recently announced Archie vs. Sharknado. Being that you two guys are running these two separate lines of horror and crime or more mature themes, are there any plans to cross those two universes, or cross books within those universes?
AS: You know, we haven’t had the formal discussion, but like Jon Goldwater always says, everything’s on the table if it’s a good idea. We’re getting Dark Circle off the ground, Archie Horror is rolling…so maybe someday.
RA: A lot of people have pitched a lot of crazy crossover ideas, but no one yet has pitched a Dark Circle/Archie Horror crossover.
AS: And we’re doing our first horror book at Dark Circle with The Hangman, so there’s definitely room to play there.
RA: And, not to tease anything, but don’t we have a big crossover…
AS: Yeah, we’re announcing a big crossover tonight–we’re announcing Archie Meets Ramones. I’ll be cowriting that with Matt Rosenberg, with art by Giselle [Lagace], who’s done stuff like Occupy Riverdale and her own cool comics. She’s a huge Ramones fan.
HH: So is that kind of a follow up to Archie Meets KISS?
AS: You know, Jesse Goldwater said, you’re kind of captaining the Archie music sub-universe, so there will be little nods that the fans that have read both will get. But it’ll be a fun standalone Rock’n’Roll High School kind of thing.
HH: Awesome! Last thing: what do you guys love about working for Archie? There’s so much to love–it’s a comic publisher that’s grown massively in the last couple of years.
RA: I love that risk-taking and being creative is rewarded. I don’t just wear this [points to his Jughead sweater] at Comic Con, I wear this everyday. I love people’s passion for the characters. That’s my favorite thing: when I say, oh, I do this for Archie, their eyes immediately light up because they have so many associations with these characters. To be at a place where I can work with them and take risks with them is just great.
AS: For me, I’ve worked on a bunch of major brands, and Archie is right up there with the likes of them, because everyone knows Archie. You know, you tell someone you work at Archie and their eyes light up because everyone has an Archie story. And my first comic was an Betty and Veronica Double Digest with a great Dan DeCarlo cover of them dancing. I remember the first time I read a Cheryl Blossom story. I love the characters, I think Jon is a great boss in terms of taking risks, being creative, and not being afraid. We’ll always try the new thing if it makes sense, and we’ll just keep rolling, I think it’s great.
The Elite Beat Staff is a trained squad of ninja masters.