Our first stop of the morning was the fulfillment room, where you go to pick up swag using tickets they give out at panels. I ended up with a leather Spartacus: Gods of the Arena armband, a Thor t-shirt, and a Cowboys and Aliens t-shirt.
11:00 Archaia: Jim Henson
I actually caught only the tail end of this panel. We were going into the room for the next one, but we did hit a major announcement: Archaia will be developing one of Jim Henson’s scripts they found in the Henson Company archives. Nobody even knew about it outside the Henson Company. It’s called “A Tale of Sand,” and it’s from the beginning of Jim’s career. He was working on it from the early sixties to the early seventies. It’s very existential, and shows Jim struggling with ideas that would shape his later career. They’ll be turning it into a graphic novel to release in summer or fall of 2010. Jim will never get the chance to make the movie he would have made, so they’re presenting it in a different format. Lisa Henson is supervising the process.
12:00 Spotlight on Dennis O’Neil
Denny O’Neil made huge strides in comics with his work on Batman, Green Lantern/Green Arrow, and other titles. This entry will be abbreviated, since my pen died mid-seminar!
Moderator: Scott Peterson
Scott was assistant editor to O’Neil in 1991. He remembers when an A-list painter was in town and they went to dinner. They had a great time till the painter said Denny’s work changed his life. Denny’s midwestern roots won’t let him accept praise, so Peterson really looks forward to this panel.
Peterson got many of his questions from other comic creators.
Q: From Chuck Dixon. Your heroes are human, with failings. Are you just drawn to those types of stories, or did you incorporate that side to make superhero comics more believable?
A: All heroes used to be the same. They had this Midwestern Boy Scout version of virtue. It just seemed natural to add some complications to that.
Q: From Chuck Dixon. When you were doing this, did managers see it as a stunt?
A: I don’t think they really knew what they were doing. They didn’t become aware of it until we started getting a lot of press.
Q: From Paul Levitz: When you were editing Levitz, he learned that his dialogue had a lot of extraneous words in it. Do you think you focused on that sort of thing due to your background in journalism?
A: Working as a reporter is the best training you can have as a writer. It teaches terseness. For comics dialogue, you have to sound colloquial and use 35 words per panel, give or take 10. Theater work also helps, teaching you to write with your ear. I always tell people to read their dialogue aloud after they’ve written it.
Q: You often take things away from your characters, from powers to gadgets. It’s sort of zen. Do you think this has anything to do with your interest in Eastern philosophy?
A: I was aware of it, just barely, back then. I have a formula for superheroes. One, what is this about? Batman was affected by his parents’ murder, Flash runs fast, etc. Two, if this guy really existed, how would he have to be. Gaining powers doesn’t change your nature.
Q: We did a count of editors at DC. There were 40, and 38 were Jewish or Catholic. You were raised a devout Catholic. How do you think that draws people into comics?
A: Louise Simonson says from an early age we’re told fantasy stories on an epic scale, and they’re about good and evil. We learn myths from age 5. It had to have shaped our zeitgeist.
And, sorry, that’s all I’ve got! He later covered stuff like trying to write feminist stories before he really understood what feminism was about (the “Harpies” story from GL/GA, for example).
I went to the exhibit hall for the rest of the day, picking up a few things. I caught one of MC Frontalot’s performances at the Penny Arcade booth. I stayed until the hall closed at 5:00. And that was San Diego Comic-Con 2010 through my eyes!