The first of several Imge panels at New York Comic Con, "I is for Infinite," began early Friday afternoon and featured creators Scott Snyder, Megan Levens, Amy Reeder, Antony Johnston, Josh Williamson, and Kieron Gillen. The discussion began with a quick rundown of the panelists’ current work, what inspired it, and the process behind the panels. The moderator began with Megan Levens, asking her to describe the high concept of Madame Frankenstein.
“My writer, Jamie S. Rich, once described it as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s My Fair Lady meets Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and I think that’s pretty accurate. It’s a jazz age period romance.”
“On Ghosted it’s sort of Ocean’s Eleven plus ghosts?” the moderator asked Williamson.
“Yeah, it started off as Ocean's Eleven in a haunted house,” he replied. “I just wanted to do supernatural stuff with a crime and horror mix. I often think ‘what is the worst thing someone could say in this instance?’ and I think, ‘That’s horrible, yeah, let’s do that!’’
Snyder was next in line to discuss his work, and said, “What we’re trying to do with Wytches is more drama than horror. I swear I don’t even let my kids in my office. My youngest has been having nightmares, and I was like ‘What’s the matter?’ And he said “I had a bad dream Daddy,’ and I said ‘What about?’ And he said corn… creamed corn. And I was like, ‘You’ve got to do better than that.’”
The moderator moved on to Johnston, asking if The Umbral was considered horror.
“I mean, officially we call it dark fantasy,” he said, “But yeah that’s horror. I’ve written my fair share of straight horror. Fuse is sci-fi cops. It’s such a simple high concept, and the original idea was what if Homicide was set onboard Battlestar Galactica.”
Reeder spoke next, stating that Rocket Girl is a sci-fi book, but it’s also set back in time so it’s a period piece. “The hardest part for us is that it’s a teenage character, but it’s not really meant for teens,” she said. “It’s meant as a nostalgia thing, and sometimes that’s really hard to pull off.”
“I always call The Wicked + The Divine ‘pop comics’ because I can’t think of a better way to describe it,” quips the moderator. “There’s a very wide appeal."
“Well I swear me and Jamie [Mckelvie] thought of The Wicked + The Divine as being commercial, not being weird this time,” said Gillen.
Suddenly, in the middle of the first audience question to Snyder, a bearded man scampered on stage and quickly assembled a banner proclaiming, “Chip Zdarsky AKA Sexual Canadian,” the man introduced himself before sitting down next to Gillen. The audience applauded and laughed as Zdarsky took the microphone and said, “I wasn’t invited… I just wanted to hear what everyone had to say.”
The question was repeated to the Snyder, with the audience member wondering if writing a dark, dramatic story like Batman influenced Wytches.
“It’s an interesting question,” Zdarsky began, with an appreciative laugh from the audience.
“I would say they are just different muscles,” Snyder said. “The thing with Wytches, and the thing I’m most proud of, it’s that it’s really personal. It’s like the terror of being a parent.”
The moderator directed another question to the new panelist before the audience Q&A continued, asking Zdarsky what genre Sex Criminals is.
“Superheroes,” he replied. “Am I in the wrong panel?!” He went on to say, “The comic was originally bad-gross. When Matt pitched it to me and we started talking about it we were just like, ‘Ohhh we’re gonna do this dick book and no one’s gonna read it and we’re gonna be broke.’ Yeah, it was kind of a slow process, where it actually became something else. And then you end up falling in love with your own characters and you don’t want to put them in situations that are more Chip-like than Matt-like?”
“It’s secretly deep!” said Reeder.
“Yeah… that’s Matt,” Zdarsky replied. “I’ll let him know.”
The next question was about digital comics, and how that movement has affected sales for the better or worse.
“I honestly think that a lot of the diversity we’re seeing now in the marketplace can actually be traced back to the manga boom of the early 2000’s,” said Johnston. “That brought in so many women, so many young readers - such a diverse audience. After they became comfortable with the form they transitioned to other comics, and started looking for other stuff.”
“I think mainstream comics kind of recognized that there was a huge audience there,” mentioned Levens. “And it wasn’t the art style, it was the stories being told. These were the stories we could relate to and are interested in.”
“I think a lot of the time, publishers don’t want to rock the boat,” said Williamson. “They just want to make sure their work is done at the end of the day. I think it’s really pushed on the creators to say that they want something different.”
“The idea that impossibilities are brought into existence by creators – that’s what the job is,” added Gillen. “Alan Moore has been saying that for 30 years. He’s a wizard.”
“In terms of digital," Zdarsky added," when Matt and I started working on the book we were like ‘Oh, we’ve got to push this digitally’ because there’s going to be so many shops in the states that aren’t going to carry it based on the title alone. And then all of a sudden we were banned digitally by Apple, and that actually drove people into the stores to get the print product.”
The next question from the audience was to Zdarsky, wondering what the mission of his one-man-convention was.
“Well originally I set it up outside of the Toronto Comic Convention because I hate the Toronto Comic Convention? Most things I do are based on hatred. After that it became to be soaked by rain, and that happened, and then to get heat stroke for two days and that happened!”
One fan asked about knowing when to lighten the mood when a comic starts to feel like it’s being bogged down by darkness.
“Dick jokes!” suggested Zdarsky.
“I only try to lighten the mood in Nailbiter when it’s part of the story,” said Williamson. “I have that feeling of needing to lighten something up for the sake of lightening it up.”
“I’ve just been given a tiny bat as a present because I’m none more goth,” added Gillen. “So lightening up is not my issue. It’s darker! Always darker!”
The last question of the panel concerned finding the time to do your creative work between all the other constraints and responsibilities of daily life.
“You don’t, at that stage,” said Snyder. “You have to make the time. I was at this panel with Stephen King and they asked how he knows a book is finished and he said, ‘When everyone is dead,’ which I thought was awesome. Talent is as common as table salt, it’s the work and that fact that nobody wants to do it at those times. You know you have to do it, get it done. There’s no secret.”
“Waiting for inspiration is your worst enemy,” said Levens. “Don’t underestimate giving yourself an hour just to work, it’ll add up.”