Moderator Christopher Irving braced himself for a storm of strong personalities talking about their experiences pushing the boundaries of humor in comics, further complicated by the face that there were a gaggle of young teens in attendance to remind creators to try to put a lid on the almost unavoidable profanity that was bound to emerge. Frank Cho (LIBERTY MEADOWS, SAVAGE WOLVERINE), Evan Dorkin (MILK ‘N’ CHEESE, BEASTS OF BURDEN), Tim Rickard (BREWSTER ROCKIT), and Peter Bagge (HATE!) took up their positions to shock and amuse, but what emerged was plenty of dialogue on their all too serious struggles with the status quo. Bagge kicked things off by explaining that he was sharing a table with Dorkin this year and hearing his endless kvetching about the state of the comics industry was making him want to kill himself. Dorkin seized and edited Irving’s introduction notes before allowing things to proceed and Cho, who had been ill, bravely took his seat, only to be handed a note from a young lady working at the con explaining that “Frank Cho went home early”. This was pretty much the kind of craziness that the audience was expecting from such an esteemed line-up.
They all commented on the fact (a feature of discussion at the con) that a Republican convention was happening in the Charlotte, NC convention hall at the same time and was giving them some terror and fodder for their jokes. Dorkin, for one, had “never seen such rude behavior from well dressed people”. Irving bit the bullet and asked the panellists to tell tales of censorship in their work, and Cho had a host of anecdotes starting from his earliest days in college papers. Working in syndicated strips more recently, he often had work returned with post-it notes reading “reduce breast” and “reduce buttocks” in a pattern he described as “constant censorship”. Working for Image and Marvel, he was “back to square one” with censoring, particularly with SAVAGE WOLVERINE, but despite that he said that “Marvel has been good to me”. Rickard, who works more locally to Heroes Con has faced a lot of “limiting” in syndicated strips, including papers refusing to use his strips despite relatively harmless images. One example he provided was a panel where a dog is “scootching across the carpet” the way dogs do, and another was a strip depicting TSA “full body searches” and for both he was asked to make changes that would cause the work not to “make sense” any longer. The general tenor of syndicated work, Rickard said, is that one complaint equals 100 and one compliment equals one compliment, also known as the “grandmother test”. No one’s grandmother should be offended by a comic, apparently.