Marvel Editor C.B. Cebulski led a fan-friendly Q&A session at Emerald City Comicon Saturday, where the audience dictates the direction of the panel. Joining Cebulski is a sample of their writers and editors that included Daniel Way (Thunderbolts), Sana Amanat (Ultimate Spider-Man editor ), Jeanine Schaefer (X-Men editor), Mark Waid (Daredevil and Indestructible Hulk), Sam Humphries (Uncanny X-Force & The Ultimates), Matt Fraction (Fantastic Four, FF and Hawkeye) Cullen Bunn (writer, Venom), Brian Posehn (Co-writer, Deadpool) and Gerry Duggan (Co-writer, Deadpool).
Question: Explain the way you each individually view heroism; how you want to portray the best of us? (No one wanted to jump into this intimidating question but after Daniel Way took a swing at it, the rest started to warm up).
Way: When it comes to entertainment, it's hard to define. It's a very selfish thing to define it with your own terms as a writer. So I like to contrast that; what it's like not to be hero and then push it up against the wall. For example with the Thunderbolts, they're doing the right thing, but is it the heroic thing? I don't know. It's tough.
Humphries: My Grandma used to butcher a quote from someone who I forgot, along the lines, don't ask for strength for challenges, ask for challenges that will give you strength. That's why Cap is President in my Ultimates, they needed someone to step up and bring back America. He didn't ask for this role, but someone had to step up.
Waid: The real moments of heroism (for me) is when your character makes interesting choices. Spider-Man specifically, has the dichotomy in there. Peter Parker wins, Spidey loses or vice versa. The choices seem impossible, there doesn't be a clear victory either way.
Posehn: We write fart jokes and puns. [Audience laughs] We write it like an action movie where you take out your brain to watch, but with more escapism and we take our brains out when we write it.
Fraction: It changes for each character, each book, each situation. I don't understand the metric,and I don't mean to be obtuse but I think there's one too many variables. If you can work in pathos and self-sacrifice, that's good too.
Bunn: I want the characters to guide me in that decision, which sounds like a cop-out, but I try to be right by the character vs. what I would like to do (in that situation).
Amanat: Editors come in as a reader, and we give notes as a reader, a hero puts everyone before him or herself in general terms. Anyone can be a hero, it doesn't have to be super powered, but it's about being selfless.
Question: A fan wanted to know if the creators could be nice to Spider-Man for a change and after debating whether he wanted Spider-Man to do anything at all in a comic, Way captured a solution perfectly.
Way: Peter picks up a jacket he hasn't worn in a long time and finds $5 in the pocket. [Audience laughs]Question: With the rise of digital comics, how hard/easy is it to grab minority and fringe readers because of gender roles?
Amanat: Because I'm a minority woman, my life, my experiences as an Indian, a woman, a short person... I think about what I would respond to, or my niece? It's still a difficult thing. The comics community can be an exclusive place and hard to break in. When we try to break from it, then you get the reaction where people say it's a break from that character. Times have changed, for example it was time to change Ms. Marvel and that costume.
Fraction: It's really hard. We've been told that women and girls don't read comics, and then you have girls reading a ton of Manga! When it comes to comics, people wonder "why do I have to preorder?" It services, it exists for white males. It's a perceived wisdom, a revolutionary moment in the evolutionary moment for direct market. First off making them available is the first step and then changing the way of thinking. We're losing more and more of the direct market stores.
Way: We can write to a certain specific market, it's writing to a broad market that's the tricky part. But if that specific market doesn't have the buying power to keep it around, we have to put in things to attract the larger market. The leveling of the playing field is in digital.
Cebulski: The availability is there, as day and date used to be an issue but now it seems everyone is doing day and date digital publishing.
Waid: You want to support brick and mortar, but there are whole swatches of cities that don't have a comic store near them. The penetration we can get in the new newsstand is digital. If you're buying comics with digital codes and you don't use it, give it away to your friends and family. It doesn't cost us anymore to redeem it.
Cebulski: The digital market is growing in a great pace; graphic novels are selling, so that makes the publisher happy.
Way: How many of you are like me, when you walking into a person's house, you look at how close their library is to the door? It goes back to if the market can support it. People are used to reading it digitally, some of them are used to not paying for it. If we can monetize it somehow it in the way we print it, by making the printed edition a well-made deluxe edition, then you give a reason for people to buy it.
Humphries: People who don't make their content accessible to a reader in ways so they don't feel excluded in order to find new readers, you will be left behind.Cebulski: We have some big news in terms of digital publishing after the South by Southwest Festival (SXSW) [What is Marvel FIRST being announced at SXSW?].
Question: The joke is often made about Wolverine and to a lesser degree Spider-Man and Iron Man, but how is continuity balanced when one character is spread so thin? The example that is constantly used in the panel as an example is Wolverine having a bad experience eating a ham sandwich and should never ever be seen eating them again.
Schaefer: It just starts with an awesome editor-- [Laughs] We have a chart that tracks how many days each story takes in Marvel time. It's a boring answer, but there are a lot of spreadsheets and I have a time line with Wolverine's whole entire life with important dates and why he doesn't like ham sandwiches.
Way: It's more about consistency, not continuity. We have to forgive the physical continuity.
Fraction: Continuity is the devil because it makes bad stories. It's trivia. It becomes comics about other comics. It's alienating. What's interesting for a character is its own art form. Like Morrison's template for Batman is that every story happened, Bat-Mite existed.
Duggan: I like the email explaining why we can't use Dazzler because she's in another universe.Way: You have to be careful when that is taken out of context, that we don't care about continuity, but what does it mean to you? It's perceived wisdom, as a writer you imagine nails going into your feet into the floor.
Bunn: I used to obsess over it, at some point you just forget about it. Then I wrote comics and it all flooded back. I wanted the sheer world aspect, but if I get obsessive, then my research shows. As other writers we talk to each other to make it mesh.
Posehn: Gerry and I would like to announced we're doing Wolverine vs. Ham Sandwiches.
Question: This is specifically for Daniel Way and the Deadpool writers; concerning the Thunderbolts , did you intend for the cast to be put in all wearing red and what are the challenges of writing Deadpool?
Way: Venom could be any color he wants to match the others who have a red motif. He's a soldier. I was ignorant to the uniforms, honestly then I read the proofs and thought, 'This is a really red book!' What I like about Deadpool, and the continuity of character, he cuts a a wide swath, characters stand the test of time, it's a narrow definition. His story oscillates, you can project and is spits out something else. I could go anywhere, it was a great exercise in not putting too much of myself into it. However, there are some characters I cannot identify with no matter how hard I try.
Waid: I disagree, you dig, dig, and dig until you find something. Like Hulk, I had to drill down, drill way down until I found something to identify with. I'm looking at the DNA of my characters, writing Hank Pym was a challenge. It takes weeks sometimes. I don't mean to jump on you--
Way: No-no, I've been wanting to have this conversation for a long time. There are characters where the reason they stuck around was because of a particular hook.
Waid: It took a while to see why Thor was popular, I finally decided that the secret to Thor, when it really works is when Odin is a part of the book. It's about a son who can't please his father no matter what he does. Now I get Thor.Duggan: Anyway that is how we all write about Deadpool [Laughs]
Question: When a woman stepped to the microphone to declare herself as one of those new readers. Not knowing how assignments are assigned, she asked, "What is your dream project?"
Way: That is such a loaded question. As a writer everything is a possibility, you have to narrow the probability.
Humphries: It's a little rude to say I want to write a book that others are working on, but I'd write the shit out of Devil Dinosaur. You get attached to a character based on what another writer brought to it. You love it because what someone else did, not what you did.
Bunn: There are so many characters I'd want to write, then there's obscure characters that would love to do. Rocket Racer? Let's go!
Way: Getting what you want, means you're done. It's a genetic thing, we don't want to be satisfied. I did that with Deadpool, where he got what he wanted, but he was asleep.
Schaefer: From an editorial side, I wanted to work with X-Men, I've worked with DC Comics, and I feel very lucky to work on what I worked on, but I've been dying to work on X-Men. I thought, 'Holy shit! It has happened,' then it turned into 'Oh my gosh I am going to screw this up. I don't want this anymore and I'm going to be sick to my stomach.'
Question: A retailer from Vancouver had no question but said "If you write good, people will read it." She also commended the panel for Marvel Now, and the strong women in comics. Even though it wasn't formed in a question, this retailer sparked some good dialogue. Waid asked Fraction to recall a quote he had about thinking about his daughter while writing.
Fraction: Having a daughter I had to answer for the many sins because I work in an industry that's not been good to half of the world.
Waid: That's not the quote I was thinking of. [Laughs] It was more along the lines of, 'If you did not create something that your daughter couldn't dress up as at Halloween--"
Fraction: I want to put women in pants; Someone came up to me today to say, 'thank you' for creating a character they don't have to shave their legs to dress up for.
Way: I could not process it. It wasn't until I got to work with writer Marjorie Liu, who explained it to me as what I already knew. I needed her language.
Question: Fraction was asked about the future of Hawkeye.
Fraction: #9 is #8 from womens' perspective, #10 is about the guy who's coming to kill Clint. #11 is a Pizza Dog story, then Barney comes and you get to see what it's' like to be abused. Oh and I want to do a story done in sign language, so look for that.
Question: In Mark Millar's Ultimates, Captain America was a dick, did you purposely soften him so that he could be president?
Humphries: You have to consider what Jeph Loeb, and Jonathan Hickman wrote. If you just got defrosted out of ice, you'd be a dick too. After time passes and you lose/and win people in battle-- he changed. I don't think Cap is a mellow character, but he's not the reactionary guy coming of of being a Popsicle.