An Aquaman Little Mermaid Tale & Batman Meets Gossip Girl: DC Writers Talk Pitches & More @ Yallwest

by Gary Catig

Yallwest is a predominantly teen/young adult book festival that was held this past weekend. Though it may not be one of the more well known shows, it does attract very talented creators and publishers. DC Comics sponsored a panel where some of their writers spoke of their experiences with the company and their projects. In attendance were Gwenda Bond, who wrote novels featuring Lois Lane, conventional comics writer, Marguerite Bennett, and from the new imprints, Shannon Hale represented DC Ink and Melissa De La Cruz, Danielle Paige and Lauren Myracle represented DC Zoom.

Paige served as moderator and asked everyone how they were introduced to comics. Myracle spoke of how when she was young, she took long family road trips and would read Richie Rich to help pass the time. As a child, Bond stole her brother’s X-men and Superman books to read but also remembers her parents buying her Groo the Wanderer. De La Cruz remembers hanging out with a childhood friend and seeing his collection all bagged and boarded. When she wanted to read an issue, he carefully removed it and she noticed the reverence and respect he treated each one.

Not everyone became interested in comics through the books though. Television played an important role for Bennett and Hale because they enjoyed Batman: The Animated Series and Wonder Woman respectively. Paige loved the original Superman movie with Christopher Reeves and was touched when Superman literally turns back time to save Lois Lane.

When actually creating comics and graphic novels, most of the panelists, besides Bennett, came from the literature side and experienced difficulties adapting to the new medium. Some needed to learn the technical aspects such as breaking down each panel and utilizing page turns for dramatic effect. Also, it’s a different process with a different relationship with editors. As opposed to writing the stories to completion, they would have to script by parts to be efficient and allow artists enough time to draw with limited down time.

Each writer also spoke of their projects. Myracle wrote the recently released, Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale. She was drawn to Selina because she is an angsty street kid with no superpowers and for the story, was inspired by the grittiness of Gotham. Also, she hopes that readers will learn that no matter their background, everyone will feel alone at times and regardless of past actions that have negative stigmas, people can move on.

Hale has a graphic novel entitled, Diana, Princess of the Amazons, which will come out January of 2020. While watching the Patty Jenkins film, she was intrigued by the Themyscira scenes and wanted to focus on a young Diana with all the warriors for her story and have no men present.

De La Cruz had fun reimagining the characters for her Batman: Gotham High, where she looks at superheroes as teenagers. Her version of Bruce Wayne is Chinese, lives in Southern California and whose parents made their fortune in Hong Kong. She pitched it as Gossip Girl meets Batman. She guarantees it will be entertaining, sexy, cool, lush and delicious.

From the previous title, you can see the Zoom and Ink books are outside of continuity. The creators were given freedom to develop their titles but there were some limitations. Paige originally pitched an Aquaman as The Little Mermaid story but was told that Arthur had to grow up on land. She pivoted and changed her focus to Mera, which resulted in Mera: Tidebreaker. In the graphic novel, Mera originally sets out to assassinate Arthur Curry to help her people but becomes conflicted when the two fall in love. Like De La Cruz, she wanted to have fun with these characters and found it as an opportunity to push diversity as her Aquaman is inspired by Jason Momoa rather than the conventional comic character.

Both Bond and Bennett thought their previous experiences helped guide them on their titles. For Bond, she found her journalism background helped her write the Lois Lane novel trilogy. For Bennett, her parents were history teachers and growing up in that household helped inform her for DC Comics Bombshells. She wanted to create a worldly comic placing heroes all across the globe during the 1940’s.

It was an insightful panel on some of DC’s current and upcoming titles, particularly for the Zoom and Ink lines. I’m always intrigued when proven storytellers in other mediums are given opportunities in comics. They can bring new ideas and given freedom to work, can provide fresh new takes on beloved characters. Other writers have successfully made the jump from books to comics like Rainbow Rowell, Ta Nehisi-Coates and Saladin Ahmed and I’m hopeful these panelists will be able to as well.

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