DC Comics Executive Editor Dan DiDio along with Senior VP — Sales & Marketing Steve Rotterdam, writer Sean McKeever, writer Franco Aureliani and editor Jann Jones met with fans at last weekend’s Baltimore Comic-Con for DiDio’s For the Love of Comics panel, what he called a breather from the everyday grind of comics.
DiDio immediately turned the panel into an open forum for all in attendance. "We always start with one thing — who's been reading comics for five years?" DiDio eventually found one person who’d been reading comics for over 50 years. He put that fan in the spotlight and asked him to describe what was important to him.
"I look for a good story, good artwork. I don't really care about maintaining continuity," the veteran comics reader said.
DiDio asked his panelists to identify the first comic they ever read. Jones answered "Batman: Mad Love," which a friend had loaned to her before banning Jones from from borrowing comics ever again, because she crinkled the book. Aureliani said a Spider-Man book was his first, though he wasn’t sure which one. "Jann took my story,” McKeever said. “I was like three-years-old, and while we were at a pharmacy, I saw a comic [‘Amazing Spider-Man' #149] and begged my parents to buy it for me."
Rotterdam revealed his first comic was “Tales To Astonish” #67, towards the end of the Giant-Man run, which he obtained from his brother Steve: He got a comic from his brother.
DiDio surveyed the weirdest places Baltimore fans had bought comics, and shared that “Jonah Hex” and “Power Girl” writer Jimmy Palmiotti had once purchased comics by the pound in one or two-pound bundles. Later in the discussion, DiDio found a fan in attendance who had actually purchased a comic from a vending machine, and at the time it cost only 25-cents.
Another topic of discussion included the weirdest routes to get comics, which was topped by a soldier who had hopped a convoy to get to the larger supply center where he could buy comics, while serving in the Middle East.
DiDio asked fans what was most important to them as comics readers and what they’re generally looking for. Some of the answers included: a strong supporting cast, like in "Manhunter"; relatability, like in "Green Lantern"; and the sense of escape, where the heroes can use their powers, but afterwards have the same issues we face.
Overall, the fans who spoke up seemed to really enjoy comics in which it was obvious the creators enjoyed what they were doing.
"What about covers?" DiDio asked. The room’s opinion ranged from specific artists to variants. Some fans asked for covers drawn by the artist who creates the interior artwork, while others said they preferred covers that features some action or clue into what's going on in the story within the book.
Asked about his favorite covers, Rotterdam said he liked Michael Turner’s Supergirl work. "I go for covers that could be a poster," he remarked.
"In general, the Romita covers,” McKeever said, citing those from the landmark Spider-Man storyline “Kraven’s Last Hunt” as specific examples.
Aureliani decided on "the Spider-Man cover with the Tarantula."
Jones answered, “Dave Johnson's Montoya/Two-Face cover.”
DiDio also called out Romita, referencing a cover depicting “Spider-Man with Green Goblin standing over him.”
Regarding new readers, DiDio submitted that once fans find their way in to superhero comics, “they’re hooked,” and asked the panelists when they realized they were hooked. McKeever explained that at the tender age of 12, en route to a hardware convention with his parents, he encountered “Secret Wars” #1. Once they arrived at their destination, McKeever begged his folks to give him $100 to get caught up on what he missed.
Aureliani laughed, "I knew I was hooked when I quit comics. Twelve times."
"When I did my first 'Previews' order,’ Jones said.
DiDio asked how many in attendance were lapsed readers and what brought them back. Several people cited Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns” as a reason for getting back into comics. Another fan said he walked into a store and bought “Countdown to Infinite Crisis” for a dollar, and has since accumulated twelve or thirteen boxes of comics.
DiDio then asked the audience what they would suggest to non-comics-reading friends. Answers included: "Earth X," "Watchmen," "Superman: Secret Identity," "Preacher," "Identity Crisis," "Fables," "The Invisibles," "The Sandman," "Kingdom Come," "Blue Beetle," and "AllStar Superman."
Jann Jones asked the crowd, "How many longboxes do you have?" Fan response ranged into the dozens in some instances, with DiDio himself admitting he has 100 longboxes, all of which existed even before he started with DC.
The paneli asked the Baltimore audience what their all-time favorite comic book stories were, and some answers included: "The Sandman: A Game of You," "The Flash: The Return of Barry Allen," "Green Lantern: Circle of Fire," "Superman: Exile," "Superman: Up, Up and Away," "The Flash: Wonderland," "The New Teen Titans: The Judas Contract," "Green Lantern: Rebirth," "Whatever Happened to Truth, Justice and the American Way?" and "Bone."
“The one I recommend the most is 'DC: The New Frontier,’” Rotterdam added, while McKeever cited "Jar of Fools." Aureliani mentioned a Teen Titans story in which the team goes looking for the Doom Patrol, and the classic “Justice League” issue in which Batman knocks Guy Gardner out with one punch. Jann Jones likes the Hellboy Jr. “pancakes and hot noodles story,” and DiDio referenced “Giant-Sized Man-Thing.”
Asked to name the silliest comic moments, attendees listed: Daredevil wearing his glasses under his mask; Captain America as a wolfman; Green Lantern always announcing that his ring could not affect yellow; and that if you had double L's in your name, you could be in line to be Superman's girlfriend.
Rotterdam mentioned the “Phantom” comic strip, saying whenever the hero left his kingdom, the Phantom would put a trenchcoat, hat and sunglasses so no one would recognize him.
“Aunt May and Galactus,” McKeever said.
“Batman teaming up with Babe Ruth,” Aureliani added.
Jones cited her work with Keith Giffen and Robert Loren Fleming, saying what they try to sneak into “Ambush Bug: Year None” is pretty silly.
DiDio wrapped up the panel by asking what the audience would do if they were granted the powers of DC Comics Editor in Chief. Fan response ranged from bringing back a 15-year-old, pictograph-thinking Bart Allen to putting the JLA and JSA on separate Earths. None of DiDio’s panelists wanted to take the job away from their fearless leader.