MegaCon '09 Day 3 Report: Dan DiDio, Amanda Conner, More

The Shows of February: Mega Con

The weather may have been downcast for the final day of MegaCon 2009, but rain and cold winds did not keep fans from flocking to the Orange County Convention Center to meet their favorite stars and creators and buying more comics and toys. It has been the busiest weekend of MegaCon yet, according to MegaCon organizer, Beth Widera, and with a bigger hall, it provided plenty of room for not only the comic show itself, but for the robot wars, the costume contests, the Lego pit, the anime activities, and so much more.

Dan DiDio at MegaCon
Dan DiDio at MegaCon
Dan DiDio at MegaCon

The morning got off to the right start by talking for a bit at the Hero Initiative booth with DC Senior VP/Executive Editor Dan DiDio, who hadn’t been to MegaCon in some years. He said that he has not been disappointed by MegaCon and he’d like to think that the future could hold more of a presence of DC at MegaCon. He added that regional conventions, such as MegaCon, are essential to companies like DC and Marvel, since they allow them an opportunity to meet fans face-to-face who can’t make it to the bigger shows, such as San Diego Comic-Con.

DiDio first discussed the Milestone characters that were recently brought into the DC Universe. “One of the things [DC] wanted to do was to continue to expand the scope of the DC Universe. We’ve used a lot of characters and explored those characters in the DC Universe over the last few years, and one of the things we want to do is give them a chance to rest for a little bit while we see some new characters come in. The Milestone characters have an incredible pedigree. They are well-constructed, well thought out, interesting characters that had their own books and line for an extended period of time, and it’s wonderful to finally be able to work with the people who created them and bring them into the DCU.

"And it’s not only just Icon and Hardware and Shadow Cabinet in the Justice League and Static in the Teen Titans, but then we might also be seeing some interesting crossovers and team-ups in the Brave and the Bold with some of the Milestone characters with DC characters as well.”

DiDio next talked about the Red Circle (or Impact line) characters that are owned by DC. “What we have right now is that originally we were going to bring them out slowly in the Brave and the Bold, written by Joe Straczynski. But Joe wanted to give these characters more of a chance to open up and breathe, so instead, we are going to be coming up with four one-shots later this summer featuring the Red Circle characters, showing their origins, and then ultimately we have more plans in store for them after that.”

Asked about the Year One mini-series that DC has recently been publishing (i.e. Metamorpho, Black Lightning, Huntress), DiDio replied that DC is giving those mini-series a rest for the time being. He indicated the ones that were told were for characters they felt needed clarity, as there were some slight changes and they wanted to put them back on the page with a very strong foundation upon which they could build from. Also, they went down the road with the recent "Omens & Origins" stories, in which case, they were able to refresh people’s memories of certain characters’ origins, but more importantly, teased what is possibly in store for those characters in the future.

The discussion then turned to the fans’ concerns about the generational characters in the DC Universe, such as Green Arrow, Green Lantern, Flash, Atom, and others. DiDio stated there are long-term plans in place for a number of these characters. Wally is going to be prominently featured in The Flash: Rebirth series, while Connor’s story was told recently in Green Arrow. Kyle Rayner will be front and center in Blackest Night, not surprisingly, and Cassandra Cain will be featured in one of the Battle of the Cowl one-shots and possibly one of the series that follows. DiDio knows there is a lot of interest and a lot of fans for these characters, and with the question of whether or not they can support their own books, DC wants to keep them in places where they can still be in the spotlight.

DiDio then addressed a concern that with the addition of the Milestone characters and Red Circle characters into the DCU proper, plus all the generational characters, could the DC Universe become overcrowded? He said DC’s goal is to be able to concentrate on the characters that have good stories, to bring them to the forefront and tell the stories in the best way possible, and hopefully, to rotate them through, and if there is a big storyline that carries them for a while, then they will stick with them, and they’ll take turns to give other characters a chance to shine. With 50 to 65 books put out each and every month, that’s a lot of material and a lot of opportunity for characters to be seen.

Could bringing back an anthology title resolve this problem? Probably not, according to DiDio, who, even though he loves anthologies, knows that with fans closely following continuity in today’s comics, it makes it very difficult to have characters moving in and out since it does not allow the opportunity to explore the characters with any depth.

Additionally, anthologies does not fit well or match perfectly with what else may be happening with those characters in other parts of the DC Universe, so, in the past, DC has not had much such success with anthologies. This doesn’t mean it will never happen, but simply that DC is going to try other things to put out as many characters as possible.

DiDio also explained that, with regards to Trinity, it was an epic story about how much Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are essential to the DC Universe, and not only how they affect our world, but also how they have affected other worlds. DiDio believes Kurt Busiek and Mark Bagley have really defined what Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman mean, which is essential to things that follow in the DC Universe.

This, of course, raised the question that if these three characters are so essential to the DCU, then why do fans always cry out how unfair it is that Superman and Batman consistently have multiple monthly title while Wonder Woman has gone decades with only one title. DiDio replied that the answer is simple – it all comes down to demand. If the demand is there, DC will print it. DiDio said that DC’s biggest concern is getting out a story that a story and direction that people are excited about, and a direction that has not just one possible, but multiple possibilities that will allow them to explore the character. DiDio said if the demand is built and the excitement is there and DC sees that the momentum for the book is there, then it is natural that something will be created out of it; but DC will not just create a book for book’s sake. DiDio would much rather see something grows organically out of what is established in the storytelling.

DiDio also addressed the continued complaints about certain storytelling techniques that may have come across as too difficult or complicated to follow by saying that he believes it is DC’s job to entertain and challenge. When people buy a comic that costs $3.99, or whatever that price may be, and if they can read that book in only five minutes, then they are not getting their value out of it. The story might seem confusing to someone who doesn’t take the time to read it, rather than sitting down to really enjoy it instead of just thumbing through or browsing through it.

With so much story being put into every page, and so much being put into every book, it’s not something where you can just stand in front of the newsstand and flip through it. Sometimes the material is dense, and that’s a good thing, not a bad thing as far as DiDio is concerned. So much time and effort has been put into making the most intricate story possible is what DiDio thinks is exciting about these types of books.

If Watchmen came out today, would people pick it up and read it, or would they be saying, “Too boring, I don’t get it, I don’t want to read it.” Perhaps stories that are dense, such as Final Crisis, are not for everyone, but DiDio believes they are essential to challenge readers. Maybe not for every book, he went on to say, but definitely right for books written by writers such as Grant Morrison, as that is the way he likes to write.

Moving on to the subject of the multiverse, DiDio assured that just like with some of the characters who are being given a rest, so is the multiverse for the moment. Right now, DC is focusing on the primary interpretations of their characters, so much of which will take place during Blackest Night, so we don’t need to see what’s going on in other universes, when we have so much going on right here in our own universe. When asked who made the decision to bring back the multiverse after such a long period of only one universe following 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths (which was supposed to “clean up” the DC Universe and eliminate the “confusion” of multiple earths), DiDio smiled and said that is a good, funny story for another day.

In wrapping up the discussion, DiDio talked about the DC Universe as a whole. He believes that DC is telling the best stories possible, with the strongest heroes, increasing the challenge, increasing the threat, and putting them in the direst of situations. This shows why they are heroic, why they act and behave the way they do. Some heroes make the right choices, some heroes make the wrong choices, and some heroes make choices that are questionable. And some heroes are very clear and defined in who they are, as a beacon to other ones.

The reason why DC does this is because they have a lot of characters. If every character acted and behaved the same way, then what is the point of having a lot of characters, if they are all going to do things in the same manner? From DiDio’s standpoint, what DC does is diversify their characters, not only in regards to who they are, but also how they behave based upon what they are trying to accomplish. What DC tries to do is to present as many points of view as possible. If DC’s heroes are working towards the greater good, what is that greater good? It should not be the same for every hero. It may be the same for some of them, but it can’t be the same for all of them. How they try to save the world is based upon who they are and where they come from, and it helps define them all. That’s what it’s all about.

As Dan DiDio left for a panel, we managed to find Darwyn Cooke, who spent the entire convention drawing sketches for some very happy fans. Cooke, who said that he was thoroughly enjoying the show and will keep coming back so long as MegaCon will have him, admitted that there won’t be much coming out from him in the next few months, but in July, fans will see publication of an original graphic novel from him based on Richard Stark’s famous crime novel, The Hunter. Cooke said that he has some pretty big plans for the future with DC that he can’t let out of the bag yet, but he could say that he is going to do issue #50 of Jonah Hex, which is going to be slightly longer than the regular monthly issues.

Sitting next to Darwyn was Amanda Conner, who had a constant line of fans all weekend. Conner said she is working her butt off on Power Girl right now. She said the first issue hits the ground running. She remembered when Jimmy [Palmiotti] first gave her the script, she nearly fainted. Palmiotti and Justin [Gray] wrote a crazy script, and she managed to get it all done. She said it took her longer than she had expected to finish it, but it is a fun story.

Amanda Conner at MegaCon
Amanda Conner at MegaCon
Amanda Conner at MegaCon

Power Girl is basically taking up all her time right now, although she did manage to squeeze in a cover for one of Palmiotti's other series, The Last Resort, in-between her Power Girl issues. She said she has really been enjoying MegaCon, and that the fans have been so friendly, and although she has heard that DragonCon is known for its costumes, she thinks MegaCon is certainly coming a close second with the sheer number of costumes she saw over the weekend.

Across the aisle and around the corner, Steve McNiven looked up from his sketchpad for a few moments to talk about his work on Wolverine. He is finishing up the “Old Man Logan” story in a giant size finale, written by Mark Millar, and that after that, he just wants to take a long rest. He has resigned with Marvel, so fans can expect to see more from him there.

In a final look at the independent titles over in artist alley, we stumbled across a sign that asks the question, “Who is Saint James?” So needless to say, we asked. Creators Robert Russell, Jesse Young, and Sandra Lanz had a lot to say about it.

The Saint James crew at MegaCon
The Saint James crew at MegaCon
The Saint James crew at MegaCon

Based upon characters that appeared in Robert Russell’s novel, the story of Ex Occultus, published by Saint James comic book company, follows the adventures of Francis Wakefield in the 19th century, and is described as a cross between Indiana Jones, H.P. Lovecraft, and the X-Files. Jesse assured everyone, though, that it is not necessary at all to read Russell’s novel to understand the comic, since the comic will tell stories set before the events in the novel.

The first story takes place in Scotland, where Wakefield has been called by his friend and fellow occult hunter, Fergus Duff, to investigate some missing children, who the villagers claim were kidnapped by werewolves.

The comic is a full collaborative effort between Russell and Young, who writes the comic, and Lanz, who is the artist. The stories will be told in a series of one-shots, with possible 3-issue mini-series down the road.

When asked why they chose the self-publishing route rather than trying to submit it to one of the bigger companies, Russell responded that they chose to self-publish for two reasons – to maintain a level of control over the story and characters and so that the book would not be delayed while going through the process. They wanted to get the book out there for fans to read, and should the opportunity arise at a later date to publish through a larger company, they are by no means opposed to exploring such an option.

A free preview of the first story was given out at MegaCon and certainly whets the appetite for more, giving fans not only an 8-page preview of the comic, but also some storyboard pages, some early designs and sketches, and some behind-the-scenes look at the making of the comic. Russell and Lanz both agreed that they intend to make their work completely visible to everyone by making daily posts on their website blog about the progress of the book, always including storyboard and preliminary character, costume, and other sketches in each book.

Further, they will be using real places and real historical facts throughout the series, so that history or geography buffs will find recognizable facts and places that they hope will make the story more real to them. The first book is scheduled to come out in May, and for those who didn’t make it to MegaCon, you can check out a free preview of the book online at www.whoissaintjames.com.

And thus wraps up another year at Orlando’s MegaCon. According to Beth Widera, sales on the floor were up, attendance was up, and this was the best year ever. She indicated that the number of 3-day passes sold was up this year from last, and that Friday’s attendance in particular was up far more than last year. She has already begun signing up vendors and guests for next year’s event, which is scheduled for March 12th – 14th in the same hall as this year. We certainly look forward to what exciting things MegaCon will bring in 2010, and without a doubt, Newsarama will be there to bring you all the news!  

More from MegaCon:

Day 1 Floor Report

Day 2 Floor Report

Twitter activity