At Santa Monica High School in California on May 4 and 5 one of the largest Young Adult book festivals occurred. Yallwest is in its fourth year and I and my family went to the event. We had gone two years earlier and had a great time. My oldest daughter was in heaven because some of her favorite authors were there and she could meet them and get them to sign her books. There were several tents sent up full of freebies, such as book bags, bookmarks, pins, posters, postcards, previews, etc. We couldn’t go last year, so my children were excited to meet authors such as Richelle Mead and Jenny Han this year.
I was excited because there were going to be two comic book panels and Hi De Ho Comics & Books would be hosting signings. Don’t get me wrong, I was going to see my daughters have their fan moments, but if there were comic book pros there as well…
At twelve noon was the DC Panel, moderated by Jim Lee. Panelists included Marguerite Bennett, Robert Venditti, Kami Garcia, Gwenda Bond, and Danielle Paige. The panel was on the floor of the high school gym, giving it a nostalgic feel of classic conventions, before social media and million dollar film franchises.
Lee opened the panel by stating that DC is in the first stage of a large publishing plan by having characters in other places than the direct market of comic books. Additionally, DC is looking for new voices to discover their characters, so DC approached Page and Garcia to write for them.
Each panelist was asked what drew them to DC comics, what was their gateway to the characters. Marguerite Bennett said it was Batman: The Animated Series. She loved the anti-heroes: Catwoman, Poison Ivy, and Harley Quinn. “I didn’t read comics until my mid-twenties,” Robert Venditti stated. “I was working at a Borders and a friend got me into them.” Kami Garcia said she likes the darkness. “I always loved Batman. He’s a regular dude.” She likes characters who receive powers, didn’t want them, and now they’re stuck with them. “I love that. So YA.” Gwenda Bond answered, “I’ve always loved superheroes. I’m drawn to the pure. I love Superman and Lois Lane. I was a friend to Neil Gaiman’s personal assistant and (Neil) sort of adopted me.” Danielle Page responded by saying it was the Batman movie with Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson. “I love transformed characters,” she added. “Catwoman getting bit by all those cats was fantastic.”
Lee then asked Page if Mera, whose adventures she is currently writing, is a villain. Page gave a definite no. “She doesn’t know she’s doing the wrong thing and she can redeem herself.”
The question of working with artists came up next. Venditti said that the stuff that Bryan Hitch is turning in on the upcoming Hawkman series is “crazy.” The demands and quality from artists is grueling. “When writing a million green lanterns, I try to do them in space. In a city, just a few. You (as a writer) try to balance it out for the artist.” Bennett added, “I want the artist to be happy. I want to work to their strengths. Communicating with each other is key. It’s a partnership to create the best story you can.” When it was brought up that writing is the easier job of the pair, Venditti concurred, “One hundred percent.” He went on to say, “DC has moved over to plotting, not full page script. So much of the writing is the emails with me and Bryan Hitch. It’s so invigorating. Hopefully the energy and enthusiasm shows through.”
Lee asked what the first component of each writer’s process was. Paige began, “I had the luxury of being ignorant. I pitched an Aquaman series as the Little Mermaid: Aquaman: A Whole New World. I was serious. DC told me that I couldn’t do it because he grew up on land…but Mera did.” That became her pitch. Garcia said she tries to approach writing as a fan, which helped in her writing of a teenage Fox Mulder story for IDW Publishing. Venditti agreed with research. “The challenge of Hawkman is reading all of his origins and figuring out what works. His continuity is so confusing!” He added with a smile, “To be determined if I’m successful in June.” Bennett said she loves history. “From a young age I was steeped in history.” When she was approached to pitch for DC Bombshells she sent an eighteen page document instead of the standard three.
The final question was how the writers deal with fans, since the Internet fires up fans both positively and negatively. Bond smiled and said, “I was lucky. My book (Lois Lane: Fallout) was done before the fans found out.” She continued by saying that she was happy that the response was positive with the online community. Bennett said that she’s been off social media for seven months because she felt like she was becoming a character, having to respond all the time to questions. Garcia had a bad introduction to fans when it was released that she would be writing an X-Files story of teenage Mulder. People online didn’t seem to read the article that announced what she was going to do, instead sending mean tweets and messages. “I don’t engage with fans online.” Paige said she wasn’t worried until the night before her book Dorothy Must Die was to be released. “It didn’t hit me Dorothy was bitch (in my book).” She enjoys the fan art that she sees online.
Lee ended the panel by saying, “Superman had a mullet and he survived. Thanks for attending, everyone!”
I was hoping that questions could be asked of the panelists, but that didn’t happen. It was really neat to see these writers and hear them speak, as the only other place I’ve seen them is at the San Diego Comic-Con, and that’s a much larger, and much, much more crowded, venue. Hopefully DC will return next year to Yallwest and hopefully this will inspire other comic book companies to attend.