Heroes Con: The Creative Household Panel

Heroes Con: The Creative Household

“I’m totally talking for you,” comics writer Kelly Sue DeConnick stops midsentence and looked to Matt Fraction, also a comics writer, for a signal of approval. He didn’t look surprised. Neither did most of the panel at Friday’s The Creative Household panel at Charlotte’s Heroes Con.

One mid-sentence phrase should be enough to let you know they’re married, if you weren’t aware.

Taking a break from news, signatures and in-depth discussions of craft, three comic-producing couples –DeConnick (30 Days of Night: Eben & Stella) and Fraction (Immortal Iron First, The Order, Uncanny X-Men), Kathryn (Patsy Walker) and Stuart Immonen (Ultimate Spider Man) and Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer (Superman Adventures, Milk and Cheese), with their 2-year-old daughter, Emily, banging on microphones and interjecting – stopped to discuss how they wedded their art with a happy home and children.

And yet there was much swearing: this is family values, sequential art style, illustrated in one panel.

“She called me a S-H-I-T-B-A-L-L,” Dorkin said, referring not to his wife but to his daughter, playing innocently with a microphone, oblivious. “I heard this and I almost crashed the car.”

Despite the perception of glorious fights and intense ego-bashing, all three couples quickly bypassed most of the fan’s questions about content. They might have been whitewashing, but the trio of parents convincingly explained they reserve the drama for their scripts, computer screens or layouts.

Yet how they accomplish these things differ, largely because of their children’s ages – Emily nearly three, the Immonen’s son is 16, the Fraction-DeConnick duo are nine months into parenting – dictate their schedules and work habits.

Each couple also produce their work in vastly different environments. Both Dorkin-Dyer and the Immomens share a workspace, but Dorkin and Dyer also share their space with their young daughter.

And then DeConnick and Fraction, who met on Warren Ellis’ forum of old on Delphi, keep separate spaces.

“Picture, if you will, Diet Pepsi cans – everywhere,” DeConnick said, continuing to explain Fraction writes with three chat panes, music blaring and cans and food littering his space. “Picture, if you will, a Barbie Dreamhouse,” Fraction quipped back, taking advantage of his turn. “It’s painted an embryonic pink. It’s very girly and austere, a place where tea is consumed. At best, NPR is on.”

The three couples also learn to take criticism or suggestions from their spouses, valuing the ever-present sounding boards and support. Well, mostly: the only strong critique DeConnick offered Fraction was the amount of swearing in one of his stories, which stunned him.

The Immonens, who’ve been working as a unit since they first met in college more than 20 years ago, had the most practice with working together and learning when and how to offer tough love. “By now we know how to ask the right questions,” Kathryn Immonen said. “We’d been together a long time, our first work is work we did together. What we’ve learned, we learned at the same time.”

While they support is honored, each couple has projects where only one spouse is solely involved. Even then, while respecting each other’s space, DeConnick explained.

“I have learned a tremendous amount from Matt’s courage as a writer,” she said. “Because it takes a lot of courage to have the Immortal Iron Fist punch Modok?” Fraction interjected, to the fan’s laughter. DeConnick was referring to the finale of a Casanova issue in earnestness, undeterred by Fraction’s sarcasm. “His willingness to put himself out there.”

If any conflict arises, it’s more from the perception of fans than anything between the couples. Both Dyer and Kathryn Immonen had credits dropped from their work. Dorkin was disgusted with the attitude that his wife operates as his secretary, or their collaborations’ perceived faults are laid at Dyer’s feet.

DeConnick even explained earlier at Heroes Con an attendee asked her if she was tired of hearing compliments about her husband. As the conservation continued, the male attendee didn’t know they both worked in comics.

“It’s a little awkward sometime, being the little missus … “ she said. “I’m very proud I’m Matt’s wife but there are times when I want to say ‘Y’know, I read comics, too.’”

A little while later she swore more, apologizing after an innocent “shit” and cringing at the thought of corrupting a peer’s child.

Dorkin, who was no stranger to potty mouthery himself, retorted in mock anger. “My daughters ears are not garbage cans!”

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