Now a convention staple, the Sunday Conversation panel is typically hosted by DC Comics’ Dan Didio, but the recently-crowned Co-Publisher was over in Florida attending MegaCon, leaving Senior Story Editor Ian Sattler to lead Sunday morning’s informal panel discussion with fans and readers at Seattle's Emerald City ComiCon. Sattler’s been a fixture at previous Sunday Conversation panels—just don’t call him Didio’s “boy wonder”—and so his substitution felt natural. Admittedly, Sattler has a whole different style than the excitable Didio, and he addressed this upfront. “I don’t have as much energy as [Didio],” Sattler said. As for rumors that Sattler is about to step into his mentor’s former role as Senior Vice President – Executive Editor, he only said “It’s a little weird that they put my name on [this panel].”
In keeping with past Sunday Conversations, the mood was remarkably laid-back and open. Sattler was joined by DC Comics writers Eric Trautmann (“Action Comics,” “JSA vs. Kobra”) and James Robinson (“Justice League: Cry for Justice,” “Superman”), who occasionally chimed in with their thoughts on various subjects. While Sattler almost immediately opened the floor up to questions, he began by emphasizing how much he’s enjoying working at DC Comics at the moment. In particular, he expressed his (admittedly biased) opinion that DC Comics’ books right now are stronger than ever—singling out “Blackest Night” #8 as a comic that’s going “to melt your face.” He’s also, apparently, found another love: Seattle’s own Top Pot donuts. “As if there wasn’t enough good food in this city!” he joked.
It was obvious that while Sattler may have been a little surprised to be hosting the panel, he was in no way out of his element. “[This panel] is my favorite thing that we do at conventions because the conversations are always so awesome,” Sattler said. “If you’re here, at this time of the day, you’re probably a pretty serious comics fan. [We want] to talk about comics and why we love them.”
One of the first questions came from a fan in the audience wanting to know what happens in “Blackest Night” #8. Sattler merely replied by saying, “Yeah…” He then laughed and brought up yesterday’s DC Nation panel, where fans with questions were offered a free donut. “I think I’ve found the anti-life equation for [annoying] questions, and it’s donuts,” he kidded.
Sattler took a moment to turn the tables on the fans, Didio style, and asked them all which DC books they felt was underappreciated. One audience member mentioned “Doom Patrol,” another, “Detective Comics," an answer that may be a bit puzzling, given that Greg Rucka and JH William III’s Batwoman run has been widely publicized, awarded, and well-regarded. The ever-cagey Sattler wouldn’t comment on the future of "Detective Comics," but did reveal that readers can expect a Batwoman solo book “soon.”
The subject of James Robinson’s new "Shade" miniseries—announced yesterday—was brought up, with Sattler expressing his excitement at the in-development series. Robinson felt it was time to return to the character after writing him for the first time in years in the “Blackest Night” tie-in issue of “Starman.” “I had to listen to what the fans want,” Robinson said. He added that his plan for the book is to borrow from Grant Morrison’s “Batman and Robin” narrative structure, where a year-long, overarching narrative is broken up into smaller self-contained arcs.
A Wally West fan in the audience wanted to know where he could get his “fix” of the legacy character, and Sattler jokingly answered “Tiny Titans,” before explaining that “It’ll be pretty obvious where he is. Everyone has a place, sometimes we can’t say where that place will be.” Sattler was similarly cryptic in responding to fan questions about Wonder Woman and Batman Beyond. He wouldn’t say who’s going to illustrating J. Michael Straczynski’s “Wonder Woman” run, and said that the writer of the upcoming “Batman Beyond” miniseries will be announced next week.
One attendee wanted to know more about the new optimism and “positive vibes” that DC Comics seems to be pursuing with “Brightest Day.” He compared this change in line-wide aesthetic to Marvel’s “Heroic Age.” Sattler began to take a dig at Marvel Comics by saying, “The fact that Marvel came out with ‘Heroic Age’ so coincidentally…” but then followed up by explaining that “Brightest Day” is not necessarily an optimistic story. He said that it will have both dark and light elements, and that the bi-weekly series will be seamlessly crossing over with a number of specific DC Comics titles, including their upcoming “Green Arrow” relaunch.
The most emotional moment of the panel came when a fan asked James Robinson to discuss working with famed DC Comics editor Archie Goodwin. “He was always very supportive, he taught me a lot about writing,” Robinson said. “Everybody that knew him loved him.” Robinson also mentioned that Goodwin used to perform pratfalls at conventions of yore, a neat bit of trivia that surprised Sattler and Trautmann.
Most of the rest of the audience’s questions were solicitations for advice on writing or how to get published, but one remark about DC Comics’ strategy for accommodating new innovations in technology (like the iPad, etc.) started a lively last-minute discussion. Sattler and Robinson defended the tactile pleasure of reading printed material—with Robinson pointing out that you can’t replicate the effect of a page turning or a double-page spread in digital media—but Trautmann was less certain. He also rose to the defense of proposed “pay-on-demand” models for comics distribution, a system that would dramatically reinvent the way comics are sold and made available. Trautmann, who is also a comics retailer, felt that if the system were made economically viable, it could be the ideal scenario for readers, publishers, and retailers.
As would be appropriate for a Sunday Conversation panel, things closed with a bit of humor. An individual wandered up to Sattler before the panel finished and asked him if “this was ‘Breaking into Comics The Marvel Way.'” Sattler teased her about her confusion, as that panel wasn’t to begin for a few more minutes, and she was actually early, not late, as she had thought. “Did you fall back instead of spring forward?” he said, in reference to daylight savings. Sattler’s parting remark was another wry stab at DC Comics’ chief competitor: “Ladies and gentlemen, that’s how you break into comics the Marvel way,” he said, smiling sarcastically.