Friday at noon, early in the first full day of Emerald City Comic Con, DC Comics held their “Uncharted” panel. Hosted by Vertigo and Young Animal editor Jamie S. Rich, whose voice sounded rather husky, but he assured everyone he is feeling better. Panelists included Justin Jordan, Evan “Doc” Shaner, Jeff Parker, Tamra Bonnvillain, Nick Filardo, Gail Simone, Dave Justus and Lilah Sturges.
Talking about Everafter: From the Pages of Fables, Lilah Sturges expressed the “amazing cool feeling” of being on a panel as Lilah for the first time. She said had known artist Mark Buckingham for many years and he came to them with an idea for the current issue, #7. She and Justus worked to create a script that he would like to draw. Justus said, regarding the main storyline, their focus was to make magic seem realistic, and ask “what if” kids came across magical artifacts and because they had been bullied, decided to fight back with magical weapons, even if they didn’t fully understand them. Sturges said the storyline is about the misuse of power, which of course has no bearing on our current social reality in this country. Creator Bill Willingham met with them in Minnesota and provided suggestions on how to make the story better, but for the most part, he’s happy to let them do what they want.
Talking about Clean Room, we welcomed Gail Simone who had just arrived. Working on a third arc of the psychological thriller, Simone said that each issue of the book you learn a little more about what Astrid’s all about and Chloe’s part in it. We also get more questions about what’s going on, she said. One of the most creepy lines she’s ever written comes out of the mouth of a baby, she said. Working with Walter Geovani right now on the book, following the work of Jon Davis Hunt, picks up from Simone’s work with Brazilian Geovani on Red Sonja. It was a seamless transition, she said, and “he’s delivering one scary book”.
She worries sometimes an artist might say to her “I just can’t” because she asks for such extreme things. But both Geovani and Hunt had positive responses and were even exciting to draw the extreme horror. She has definite opinion on horror, liking the kind that “comes from the inside and lingers and hangs around”. She apologized for anyone reading the comic and having nightmares. Issue #18 is the end of “Season 1” for the comic, Rich said, but it will be back. For this “mini-ending”, we learn a lot about Astrid’s motivation, and things get “flipped”, but in Season 2 it’s going to be even stranger since life and death get “flipped” too.
Talking about Savage Things, Jordan explained the premise of the comic that launched this week, following kids that have three qualities that are used to identify psychopaths. A group kidnaps and trains kids to be “living terror weapons”. Their “remit is pure terror and to terrify the enemy into submission”. The group were deemed a liability and killed off, but some survived, and now they are out for revenge. It’s “espionage horror”, showing “evil vs. evil”, he said. If you look at the “dark recesses of the intelligence community”, it is true horror, Jordan said. It’s about justifying horrifying acts in the pursuit of “allegedly noble causes”.
As an old-school Vertigo kid, he was happy the book was picked up by the imprint. Working with Ibrahim Moustafa, who has a clean, realistic and filmic style, Jordan finds his realism becomes even more horrific than a stylized approach. Rich agreed that Moustafa’s action style really flows. Creating narratives of childhood and adulthood, integrating those scenes smoothly, is tricky, Jordan said, especially as the plot moves faster. It’s a challenge. There’s “epic chaos” in the story, but the storytelling is perfectly clear due to Moustafa’s skillful work.
Moving on to Young Animal, Rich pointed out that Nick Filardi has had a long history with Michael Avon Oeming, who is drawing Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye. They’ve been working together for 13 years, he said. He throws out a lot of suggestions, like doing “flip books in the corners”, and on a double page spread burrowing in the earth, they put a body in the cross-section of a Green Lantern. They get to do a lot of fun things with the DCU because the whole mood of the comic is “experimental and odd”, Filardi said. On Cave Carson #7, it was his first time working with a modern Superman in the DCU. Filardi said that everything that has to do with Cave’s eye gets tweaked more. He’d like to do something with 3D glasses. Anything the eye does lets him play with coloring in a way that’s unique, he said. In one instance, Cave is reconstructing a crime scene, and his eye is seeing it in the past, but there are also shadows of the future. He thinks he brings unique work to Cave Carson through the function of the eye.
Tamra Bonnvillain, working on Doom Patrol, said she wasn’t totally sure how she got recruited, but it was a great opportunity and she loves working on a flagship title. Rich asks how she “parses out” all the detail, and she said she works in an odd way, laying in colors and throwing shadows until things are tied together. The creation of the Negative Zone, with all the odd colors and letters, keeps Bonnvillain and Todd Klein busy on colors and letters. Working on Gerard Way’s “incredibly dense” scripts is interesting, she said, but probably her favorite scene was when Larry Flint is “coming apart”.
Moving into the Hanna Barbera line, Future Quest #10 is out now, written by Jeff Parker and Evan “Doc” Shaner. Future Quest contains all the Barbera charcters in an adventure story, Rich explained. Parker talked about a caveman superhero and the important thing seems to be that all characters have a little black mask, including a giant robot and monkey. Parker wanted to bring in a new character, and in early talks Darwyn Cooke was part of the discussion, and Shaner designed him and brought him in as a legacy character, he said. They want it to be both “scary” and “optimistic”, and Shaner’s art makes it feel that way. Kids are less “sour” anyway, as characters, and still think they can win.
This world has the “coolest villains”, Parker said, and bringing them back was a goal. Issue #12 is out April 26th. Alex Toth designed a lot of these early characters, and that’s a touchstone. Parker wishes Toth could see what Shaner’s doing with it, he said. Fan reaction to the comic has included some anger. One British fan can’t stand the fact they put a girl on the team of the Impossibles. There were some issues Parker noticed, like none of the characters had mothers, and there were no women on the team. They decided to “unkill some parents” and add a girl to the team. But they had to be careful not to “tweak” it too much or people won’t feel it’s the original. It’s important to “reflect reality a little better”, Parker said, if possible. In issue #12, things are going to get critical, Parker teased. Characters may die.
Rich said that since the panel is “Uncharted” and about properties that don’t necessarily fit naturally in the DCU, he wanted to ask the panelists what they felt about this difference. Jordan said he likes the idea of writing poetry, writing within an unusual context and therefore being able to do more without normal constraints, like with Savage Things. Simone said she took Clean Room to Vertigo because she didn’t want any parameters in terms of content, which is not normally you can do within the DCU. They didn’t want any barriers “at all”, so that’s why Vertigo was a good fit.
Parker said that working on Hanna Barbera stuff in comparison to Justice League and creator-owned is interesting because you want to surprise readers but also give them what they want. Jordan said the tricky bit about working with characters who have existed for decades is that there’s a core of that character which has enabled them to survive, and you need to figure out what it is, and not change that. Parker said that you can have change and different situations, as long as the character stays true to themselves.
A fan asked about the recent announcements on the Looney Toons/DCU crossovers and which they are excited about. Elmer Fudd stalking Gotham City was the best, Rich said. There are Hanna Barbera title crossovers, too. Parker is working on Adam Strange meets Future Quest.
Asked how many titles are coming up for Young Animal, Rich says they are looking at a couple more possible mini-series, and so the pattern will be several ongoings and then shorter things. The challenge is finding things that fit the right tone, he said, and finding things that fit the world view that Gerard Way has, too. The next couple things will be interesting takes on old superheroes that have modern relevance, he said. As the year goes on there will be a more “organic element” to bind the titles together, too, he said.
In a question about working on long-running characters, panelists pointed out that Bonnvillain and Justus are working on the oldest characters, actually, in Fables. They get “lots of angry scrolls”, Justus joked.
Asked what cool, weird things Filardi wants to put into Cave Carson, he admitted there were many things, and every crazy idea gets thrown out there. He’s constantly suggesting weird stuff, and having worked with Oeming for so long, he feels it’s about “what he can get away with” and will beg forgiveness rather than ask forgiveness. In the recent drug-like trip as the characters take “night pudding”, it gets manic, he said, and it “straddles the line between what is real and what isn’t, which gets really interesting for color”, he said. It gets “metaphysical, which leads you to play a lot with color”.