Vito Delsante hosted a gathering of some of the purveyors of the gritty, and often all too reality-based comics handling crime and violence at Heroes Con, and when they noticed that everyone on the panel was bald, they decided that this was a call to “embrace the dark side of humanity” by shaving one’s head. This kind of genre writing almost calls for creators of these works to be put on the spot about their motivations, ethics, and what value they think crime stories have beyond sensationalism in society. But Greg Rucka (WHITEOUT, PUNISHER), Jason Latour (LOOSE ENDS, WINTER SOLDIER), and Jason Aaron (SCALPED, PUNISHER) were up to the challenge, and often spoke with even greater honesty than fans might have expected. It turned into quite a moving discussion about humanity and suggested that comics only portray the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the dark aspects of life in the 21st century.
Most of the questions that Delsante and the audience posed during the panel were hard-hitting, but it all kicked off with the most direct question of them all: what’s so appealing about working on crime comics, and what’s the appeal for readers? Aaron injected some dark humor, but was no doubt being deadly serious. “As a writer, I like doing bad things to good characters”, he said. Rucka took up the implicit suggestion that it might be odd to want to write about crime by saying, “Crime writers tend to be the healthiest people. I like writing about worlds that we don’t inhabit. Most of us don’t, at least, but we know they exist”. But Rucka added that though he comes to crime in comics via detective fiction, he has never really thought of himself as a “crime writer”. Latour’s response was that he likes to “project” himself “into scenarios he would never really be in”, and explore things he doesn’t “understand” or “have a grasp of” since writing helps him understand. Rucka jumped in to agree that such an approach is “legitimate” but that there’s also a “pleasure in doing horrible things to good people and also to horrible people” as a form of “wish-fulfilment”.