The Thought Bubble Creating Worlds Panel With Brian K Vaughn, Si Spurrier, And Company
by Olly MacNamee
After Saturday’s smaller, compact theatre panels, it was a refreshing change to find that the panels for Thought Bubble on Sunday were in the main Town Hall site at Victoria Square. And while I had a good seat, it seemed something of an issue for people at the back of the auditorium who, I was informed, couldn’t really hear the panelists because of the substantial background noise created by the comic con crowds right behind the panelists. The flimsy projection screen was hardly an ample soundproofing system. This was, after all, the venue for fans and Emos to meet with their idol Gerard Way.
Reports of one inconsolable fan on Saturday punching a Thought Bubble volunteer upon hearing they wouldn’t get to meet their god, were not exaggerated. Thankfully, the victim was not shaken, but I dare say his pain was only doubled when he was sat down upon a chair that immediately broke from under him, only adding insult to injury.
But, you haven’t come here to think upon these one-off violent reaction and minor quibbles than otherwise amazing festival, you’ve come here to read about the Sunday lunchtime panel and the thoughts of writers, editors and artists upon the creation of worlds within comics. And who better to ask that the like of Si Suppier (Angelic), Brain K Vaughn (Saga), Sara Kenney (Surgeon X), Alison Sampson (Winnebago Graveyard), James Stokoe (Godzilla: Oblivion), Ariel Kristantina (InseXts) and DC editor, Jamie S. Rich (The Batman family titles) none of whom are strangers to fashioning, molding and sustaining complex, functional worlds within their own comic books.
Hosted by CBR’s Steve Morris, this was a very entertaining and informative panel and one that shared the wide and varied views of these creators with the audience.
So, for any would be comic book creators out there, here are my observations, shared with you dear reader, from the creative processes of each writer, artist and editor present on Sunday’s panel.
When asked where the creators got their ideas from when challenged with a plan page, Si Spurrier was happy to admit out took “an awful amount of thinking and horrid work,” while Brian K Vaughn joked that “world building is always hard (and) like everything that’s hard, (he) makes the arts do it all.” Sara Kenney stated that she always “starts with the character first and the worlds, situations and problems come out of that.” While, architect and artist, Alison Sampson claimed she created the world of Winnebago Graveyard visually and then Steve Niles created a script from her vision of this horrific world.
As for scripting and the amount of detail offered by each writer on the panel, working practices differed. Spurrier, admitted that thanks to reading the scripts from Alan Moore (described as love letters to the artist, but all in capitals so it sounds like he’s shouting) he writes much denser and informative scripts than other writers. For an illustrative example he mentioned that he could set a scene in a crowded club and then the artist “has to do all the hard work,” admittedly with somewhat of a wry smile on his face. Even going as far as admitting he was a “tyrannical” writer if he didn’t know the artist involved. Albeit, he did continue by saying that once he got to know an artist he was less so. But, only less so.
Again, sticking with the question of how exactly the different creators build worlds, answers were very diverse. Kenney would map out the environment and anchor points for characters. As these characters move around their environment, she then knows how it moves and changes with the movement of any character.
Meanwhile, Brian K Vaughn loves the fact that he can swap form one world to another week after week. He can work on Papergirls one week, which requires an awful lot of Maths but then change to Saga where he japed that, “it’s great to make stuff up.”
As for an architect, Sampson, she actually build a physical 3D model of the world for Winnebago Graveyard built up of parts she wanted and parts Niles wanted too.
Surgeon X writer, Kenney, based he near-future world on fact after conversing with doctors, scientists and other exerts around the field of medicine.
Spurrier likes his worlds to be fully functional. Worlds that can live on after the character’s story ends, and worlds that can then be returned to. Although, his new Image series, Angelic, with Caspaar Wijngaard, is less functional because it is a series aimed at younger readers.
Finally, before wrapping up, Sampson did observe that our real world is scary enough, and cited Winnebago Graveyard as a story we can all relate to as most people have probably been camping and the tent, or caravan/Winnebago flimsily metal walls are little protection from a killer.
A rather sobering thought to end the panel on, but with something more than a little ring of truth to it.