Emerald City Comic Con was a full four-day event this year. But though Thursday was the shortest day of the convention, it was hardly a fluffy one. Once the doors opened I headed over the skybridge to beat the crowds, snag some deals, and wait for any creators who had partied too hard at Image’s Spring Formal the night before.
As last year, Comics Dungeon was an impressive option for those with time and a desire for more comics. Their trade selection was admirable, but the real draw are their bargain bins. I nabbed a couple of great Mark Waid Flash issues out of the $2 box before diving into the 3 for $1 bins. I grabbed some New Mutants issues and a long sought after issue of Thor for next to nothing. I even threw in some old Marvel Star Wars issues featuring THE DRAGON LORDS OF DREXEL because my Star Wars: Age of Rebellion players have stranded our campaign there because…well there are Dragon Lords there.
After that I ran out to the skybridge to get my issues of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers signed by Kyle Higgins and Corin Howell. I’d never met Corin before but she was lovely and I thoroughly enjoyed watching she and Mairghread Scott confuse Kyle as they geeked out over their ‘Starscream as the Grinch’ story from the Transformers Holiday Special.
Higgins, for his part, was thrilled with the response to Power Rangers. He made me quite happy by informing me that his new series with Rod Reis, Hadrian’s Wall, will be launching in August, but he really made my morning by saying that there’s a definite possibility of more stories in the world of C.O.W.L. in the next few years.
I chatted with some awesome creators at the Boom! booth for a while, but around 4:05 I had to run to make sure I’d have a spot in DC’s first panel of the show.
To be honest, I needn’t have worried. I strolled right in to DC’s All Access panel, no line or anything and found a seat near the front. That’s an oddity at a big convention like this.
Dan Didio was clear on his message that Rebirth was viewed as a course correction for the New 52. He not only called it a return to DC’s core characters, but to the core of shared universe comics, claiming that the goal was to reintroduce the vibrancy of DC’s universe and reestablish the primacy of the comics in a world full of video game and cinematic adaptations.
Robert Venditti echoed the sentiment, saying that Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps would focus on the triumph of will vs. fear, not only in Hal’s case but the entire Corps’. Sinestro is still the ultimate peacekeeping authority in the Galaxy and Hal believes that its his responsibility to take him down again, but the rest of the Corps is about to return. He pointedly mentioned the sense of freedom he feels from DC editorial.
Steve Orlando spoke about the upcoming Supergirl or, as Didio called it “Supergirl…Finally.” For Orlando it’s about reintroducing the comic reading audience to the Maiden of Might, making them understand that “Supergirl is a character whose compassion is as mighty as her strength.” Asked about the relationship to the popular TV show starring the character, Orlando said that he would be drawing some inspiration from it, introducing National City, incorporating versions of Cat Grant and the DCO similar to their TV counterparts, and trying to mirror the feeling of positivity that he credits with the show’s success.
Didio also stated that the sales of Poison Ivy: Cycle of Life and Death have been very strong and that based on the fan demand, more Poison Ivy comics are a very real possibility.
One clear takeaway of the panel is that Dan Didio loves embarrassing people. HE’S MAD WITH POWER. One particularly interesting example came when he asked Amy Chu and Emanuela Lupacchino what they did before working in comics. Chu bashfully admitted that she has three degrees, a BA from Wesleyan, a BS from MIT, and an MBA from Harvard. Though she tried not to brag, she admitted that this experience informed her writing of Poison Ivy as a brilliant, career oriented woman. As for Lupacchino, she worked in the biotech industry, investigating the DNA sequence of the salmonella bacterium.
The biggest announcement of the day, however didn’t come from anyone on the stage when the panel started. Part way through, comic writer; former DC intern; and My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way took the stage to announce DC’s Young Animal Imprint.
Young Animal is something of a tribute to the classic Vertigo titles, creating a space for weird, wild, adult stories to take place inside the DC Universe. The greatest inspiration for Way was clearly Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol and, unsurprisingly the line is anchored by Way’s take on the classic oddball franchise. The new Doom Patrol won’t only be inspired by Morrison’s take, with Way promising that it would honor the full history of the team.
The second book for Young Animal is another classic reinvention. Meet Shade, the Changing Girl from Cecil Castellucci and Marley Zarcone. The series will star an alien inhabiting the body of a teenaged bully.
Before announcing the third title, Way explained a childhood hobby of his. As the wikia generation can probably understand, Way used to spend a long time looking through his copy of Who’s Who in the DC Universe for obscure characters. It was here that he discovered a little known splunker named Cave Carson. The interesting thing about Cave’s entry was that it, in Way’s estimation, contained essentially no information, save for the fact that Carson had an utterly unexplained cybernetic eye. So, with some fanfare, Way introduced Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye by Way, Jon Rivera, and Michael Avon Oeming.
Finally the initial line is rounded out by a new character, Mother Panic by Jody Houser, Tommy Lee Edwards, and John Paul Leon. Not much is known but Mother Panic also seems to be designed to highlight the integration of this line into the larger DC Universe, being set in Gotham City.
To Way, Young Animal is a way of putting DC comics in the hands of new audiences, one that’s just appearing or one that has never been interested in superhero comics before.
The announcements weren’t done yet. For a long time Dan Didio has been fiercely protective of Kamandi. It’s been something of a quiet understanding in comics that everybody wants to do Kamandi and Dan DiDio loves the franchise, but nothing ever came of it. Dan explained that this was out of a desire to wait for a pitch that would do Jack Kirby’s creation justice, but it never quite came along. But the publisher and his team have come up with a new idea that will return the Last Boy on Earth to the shelves: The Kamandi Challange. Inspired by DC Challange, the Kamandi Chalenge will be a round robin story from a randomly paired pool of industry greats including Neal Adams, Greg Pak, Tom King, Kevin Eastman, Marguerite Bennett, and Walter Simonson.
During Q&A one fan asked about a possible return for the JSA. Didio said that DC recognizes the popularity of the characters but has nothing to announce at this time. It is worth noting, however that he also mentioned, in response to an unrelated question, that we have not seen the full extent of Rebirth yet. There will be more.
Perhaps inspired by the JSA question, one fan came to the mic to ask about “the Robins”, seemingly referring to the contingent in We Are Robin and mentioning Duke Thomas by name. It was a slightly awkward question as Didio immediately pointed to Damian and Tim Drake’s place in Rebirth, but would or could not address the fate of the Robin movement.
My next panel was Boom!’s Discover New Worlds panel. Hope Larson and Brittney Williams spoke about their super stylish girl detective miniseries Goldie Vance. For the creators the relatively quick production schedule of the series has actually been a benefit allowing them to both be designing and influencing each other simultaneously. Larson described the series as Eloise of the Plaza Hotel meets Nancy Drew and assured us that anyone who like mysteries and racing will be on board.
Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly spoke about working with Marcus To again on their new series Joyride. “We have a brain thing,” Lanzing said of the trio. Apparently it was To who came to the writers with a desire to draw an optimistic, exuberant series about a group of teenagers who steal a spaceship and go to space, an idea he has been interested in since his youth. Oddly enough, Kelly and Lanzing were, at the time, working on a screenplay called ‘Grand Theft Starship’ about, get this, a group of teenagers who steal a spaceship and go to space. Fate was clearly on their side so they approached Boom! with the idea.
The pitch was accepted but To had a request of his own. Contrary to the practice on Hacktivist, where Lanzing and Kelly have made a game of asking for increasingly mind-blowing page structures from To, To handles all the layouts on Joyride himself, allowing the comic/screen writers to write in an extremely free style.
Lanzing and Kelly describe the series as a ‘punk rock teenage Star Trek’, likening it to TOS. That use of terminology led Lanzing to ask how many Trek fans were in the audience. The lack of response was surprising. Regardless, the duo explained that Uma, the series’ lead character, is kind of a Captain Kirk type. Basically she’s leading a small crew into space on a sort of episodic series of adventures to various worlds, but, where Star Trek usually asks what social issue can we explore, Uma tends to ask “can this become a party? Can I make out with that?”
Sam Humphries talked about his series Jonsey, which is about a teenaged girl who can ship IRL, and took the opportunity to needle Kyle Higgins for (in)famously not knowing what that means. Intrigued, Humphries polled the audience on their knowledge of the term. He triumphantly pointed out that more people at Emerald City Comic Con know what shipping is than like Star Trek.
Si Spurrier explained the story behind those ominous ‘swallow the spider’ teasers that you may have seen on the back of your recent IDW purchases. Lacking interest in the traditional versions of the ‘superheroes in real life’ stories, Spurrier basically posed the question ‘what if instead of loyalty to any particular principle those imbued with these amazing powers only held loyalty to eachother’ and, once that idea was in place, he realized that, effectively, what he was describing was organized crime.
The panel also announced a new series: Kong of Skull Island from James Asmus and Carlos Magno. Joining the panel, Asmus announced that he had been in close contact with the estate of Merian C. Cooper and that there was a great deal of material fleshing out the world of Kong. Based on these notes, Kong of Skull Island will look at the first contact between Kong and the people of Skull Island. There will be humans, there will be dinosaurs a-plenty, and there will even be multiple Kongs…Kong? A pack of Kong(s)? A savage? A Kingdom? Asmus jokingly urged us to share our opinions with the hashtag #AGroupOfKongs. Asmus didn’t have much more to say at this point, but he praised his artist and editors, saying that the project felt like a creator-owned book.
And with that my day came to an end. Or rather, my day in the convention center. Afterwards I headed out to the peculiarly top floor venue of Oni Press’ Fresh Romance Mixer, the Rock Bottom Brewery. It seemed like the party was something of a secret, which is a shame, because it was pretty awesome!
Entering guests were invited to write their name and what they were looking for on their nametag alongside a pre-generated character name. In addition to filling out a networking bingo sheet, we were encouraged to track down the other member of our Fresh Romance character’s ship. I spent the early part of the night talking to journalist, editor, and Jade Street Protection Services writer Katy Rex, who is awesome, and Lumberjanes writer Kat Leyh, who (based on general knowledge and one night of chatting) is also awesome. We had a really fun conversation about X-Men and how the in universe stories of oppression have often been slow to openly acknowledge minority eperiences. Long story short, no one is truly happy with this scene.
I also spoke with some awesome people working in lesser seen roles at Oni and Boom! Studios and bore witness to School Spirit artist Arielle Jovellanos’ mad mingling skillz. Apparently if you put it into the form of an icebreaker party game, she can and will become a networking juggernaut.
The number of awesome people working in comics at the party was incredible but it made me wonder if not enough people knew about this. I sincerely hope that Oni will do more of these, so if you were there or if you wish you were there you should tell Janelle Asselin that you’d totally go to another.
I know I would.