There’s a lot going on in the DC Universe right now, both story-wise and behind-the-scenes, so this panel at this year’s C2E2 in Chicago was a must-attend.
Joining the fray were the Strange Adventures trio Tom King, Mitch Gerads, and Doc Shaner (look for our interview with them running soon), Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo (Teen Titans: Raven), Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti (Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey), and Joe Hill (Basketful of Heads, Plunge). The panel was moderated by DC Daily’s Amy Dallen.
There’s one thing to point out before I begin: this panel was just hilarious. Drop dead funny. It may be hard to articulate with my meager words, but everyone had a great time and King and Hill stole the show.
Dallen kicked off proceedings by asking the panelists to introduce themselves, talk about their favourite characters, and offer some Chicago tips if they had any. King immediately turns against every native Chicagoan in the room and said that Chicago “think soda’s called pop and they’re f*cking wrong.” This elicited a big response, and Gerads doubled down by stating that he doesn’t like deep dish pizza.
Picolo tries to answer the question and talks about how he started drawing his favourite character Beast Boy online which led to DC approaching him for work. While Conner says that she couldn’t stay away from Harley Quinn for very long after a short two year break, Palmiotti cheekily answers that he likes long walks on the beach and is a Leo. Hill starts off by saying that he writes scary stories. He loves Swamp Thing, particularly Alan Moore‘s take on the character, as he put the character through so much including making him a murderer, getting him high and laid, and sent him to hell.
Dallen asks the Strange Adventures crew about new takes on old characters. King talks about how DC created a slate of characters in the 1950s and 60s which portrayed idealised versions of America after the war showed them the hellish version of themselves. King and his crew like to take that idealised version and tear them apart. He considers DC to be pure and perfect and what America at one point thought of itself. Thus, Strange Adventures is a bucket of laughs, he joked. Dallen wonders how Gerads and Shaner translate this vision into a visual style. Gerads says that King writes characters that are human first and superhero second. He’s more interested in drawing that than superheroes who try to be human. Dallen asks about the one takeaway they hope to get from this project, to which King says that people see Shaner’s art is better than Gerads’. He wants to make something about the current moment, where a lot of people are lying to us constantly.
Bouncing off of that, Dallen asks Conner and Palmiotti why now was the right time to bring back Harley Quinn. Palmiotti jokes that they have mortgage payments. He said they weren’t planning on it but Black Label was created and were tempted by Dan Didio who said they could do whatever we wanted.
King chimes in, saying “So you’re saying the head of the company said you can do whatever you want, and they got rid of him?” This got a huge reaction from the crowd. Obviously, King refers to the departure of DiDio from his position as co-publisher of DC Comics.
Palmiotti continues, saying that the movie was due soon and that it wasn’t an offer either of them could refuse.
Dallen asks Garcia and Picolo about their take on the Teen Titans. Garcia says that DC asked her to write Raven, who happens to be her favourite character. She wanted to tell a story about a teenager who happens to have superpowers, and didn’t want to dismantle the character and make her into something different. She saw Picolo’s art online and noticed that he drew the Titans in regular clothing, so she asked DC to hire him. Picolo says that with their new OGN Teen Titans: Beast Boy, they were both far more comfortable in the writing and drawing departments.
Hill is asked about his Hill House line of comics that he’s curating. He talks about the British invasion comics were his drug when he was younger. Comics from the likes of Moore and Neil Gaiman and Grant Morrison. They inspired him to start a new line, like Blumhouse in comics form. He says that more books are boiling but it’s up to the readership if they get another season of titles.
Garcia is asked to talk about her Black Label series Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity. She wanted it to feel like a procedural, or like a serial killer novel but without having to write so many words. To her, if the Joker was real he would be the scariest serial killer ever so she wanted to depict him as more sane and methodical. Hill asks her who she thinks the scariest live-action Joker is, to which she responds with Heath Ledger. Hill asks the crowd to rank scary clowns with a reaction.
First, he asks what they think of Harley Quinn. There’s no reaction at all, and then names Joker. There are some cheers. He names Pennywise which produces a healthy, loud response. He caps it off with Ronald McDonald, which brings the house down; we have a clear winner.
Garcia talks about how her true fear when she was a child was that alligators lived in sewers. Palmiotti and Conner assure her that in Florida, alligators are everywhere and nothing can be done about it. Hill cheekily says, “When Killer Croc is arrested, is the headline Florida Man commits murder?”
Dallen moves on, asking the creators about their partnerships. King replies that he thinks Ronald McDonald has technically killed more people than any of the other clowns, through heart disease. It does real damage, he says. Hill says that the audience may be laughing but McDonald’s is pulling all of their DC sponsorships as they speak.
The panel is asked about what inspired them to create. Palmiotti grew up reading horror comics, Sergeant Rock, and Jonah Hex. He’s always connected to the genre comics. Shaner loved reading Joe Kubert‘s Tarzan, Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo‘s Fantastic Four, and Geoff Johns‘ Flash. Hill loved Peanuts and would picture an alligator jumping from the bushes and tearing everyone to shreds. Conner read Archie, Wonder Woman, Red Sonja, and loved Elektra. Gerads was a huge fan of Calvin and Hobbes, and reads the entire collection once a year. He also worships Batman: Year One.
King talks about Mayor McCheese, and how he’s won election after election. However, he knows he won’t win this time so he becomes the Burger King and takes power ala Hitler. Then you have a series focusing on Ronald McDonald taking him down. He then actually answers the question, saying that Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns were the books that the parents of his generation would give to their kids without knowing how mature those stories were.
Picolo is asked about how he discovered the Teen Titans. He doesn’t have any comic stories where he lives, so he had to rely on trade paperbacks. He used to read manga and watch the Teen Titans cartoon, then read Super Sons by Peter J. Tomasi and Jorge Jimenez who also had a manga background.
Dallen points out that everybody in the panel is either a writer or an artist except for Conner, who does both. Conner says that she hates writing and is much more comfortable at the drawing table. She does some dialogue but mostly sits and rearranges the stuff that Palmiotti has written. She feels like she knows Harley’s cadence because she lives with Palmiotti who is also from Brooklyn. King asks the artists on the panel if they get mad at the writers for coming up with wild stuff for them to draw. Picolo says that whenever he sees an establishing shot in the script he knows it’ll take him the entire day to do it. Hill exclaims that he can’t get over how slow most artists are, that they take an entire day to draw a page. He thinks he can do the whole book in an hour, and talked to DC about it to get them to save money.
Dallen asks the panel if there are any creative muscles they’d like to flex. Both Conner and Palmiotti bring up Stan Lee. Conner wants to have a Stan Lee-esque cameo in a DC film, and Palmiotti does a fantastic Stan impression that makes the crowd go crazy, saying that he should play Stan in a movie. Gerads wants to draw something his kid can read since his kid’s teacher will eventually find out that Gerads draws comics and will want him to show the class some artwork. Hill says that he pitched a Hulk story to Marvel early in his career that was inspired by how angry his toddler became, throwing toy trucks across the room in a fit of rage. He pitched Baby Hulk, a tragic story, but never heard back from them.
And with that, this is the end! It was a fun time and I’m glad I got to attend this panel. Look for more C2E2 coverage from myself and other writers for The Beat within the coming days.