The past several years have seen a boom in all-ages comics, a big part of which is due to DC Comics' kids imprint and the success of some of the guests featured at the DC Kids panel during the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo. Moderated by Ian Sattler, the presentation featured the always-energetic Art Baltazar and Franco, the minds behind the wildly successful, Eisner Award-winning "Tiny Titans" and the upcoming "Superman Family Adventures." Joining them was Christopher Jones, artist of "Young Justice" (also written by Baltazar and Franco) and DC Comics editor Jim Chadwick.
The panel, a lively affair during which the panelists took sketch requests from young audience members (Baltazar and Franco had already done over 500+ free crayon sketches during the weekend), began with discussion of the DC Kids release for Free Comic Day, on May 5th 2012. This year's offering is a flip book featuring a story from the animated "Green Lantern" written by Art and Franco, a Young Justice story and the debut of "Superman Family Adventures," also by Baltazar and Franco.
Baltazar asked everyone in the audience if they have been watching the "Green Lantern" animated series and the crowd answered with cheers and applause. He let fans know they should keep an eye out for him as he may appear in promos for the show in footage shot during last year's Comic Con International in San Diego.
It was revealed by Baltazar that a new DC Super Pet debuts in the second issue of "Superman Family Adventures" -- Fuzzy The Krypto Mouse will team with Superman to battle Bizzaro. Fuzzy, who originally appeared in a Superboy comic in 1963, shares the same powers as Krypto The Superdog. The team described him as an adorable furry squirrel drawn with a golden age aesthetic.
Fans of Baltazar and Franco's previous work will be pleased to hear some of the characters from "Tiny Titans" will pop up in the new series. They will be a little older, go through superhero training and have all-new costumes. Baltazar said he got emotional drawing the final issue of "Tiny Titans," illustrating the last page first and then all the pages out of order so it was easier to deal with. Discussing his approach to illustrating kids comics, he said, "I get insight from my six year old daughter before editor," to audience laughs.
Christopher Jones took the mic next to discuss "Young Justice." Issue #16 will be a series of three vignettes featuring team-ups of "Young Justice" heroes and their older counterparts like Batman, Green Arrow and Flash. Jones stated that the comic is "tightly coordinated with the show" and works as a companion piece to the popular Cartoon Network series. Future backdrops for stories will include Gorilla City and Atlantis. When asked about the challenge of drawing a team book, Jones quipped, "The more I do this, the more I appreciate George Perez."
Art Baltazar opened the panel to audience participation by asking the kids in the audience, when they are reading a comic and come across a character they don't know, how do they find out about them? Do they look it up online? Ask their parents? A few kids confirmed they asked their dad, an answer that put a big smile on Baltazar's face.
Asked "What were the Tiny Titans like as babies?" It was confirmed that they would be more or less the same, just in diapers and maybe be called "Tinier Titans."
Next, a very young child asked, "Why are there so many word bubbles?" to which editor Jim Chadwick responded "Are you an editor?" Baltazar explained that there are so many so you can understand what was going on in the storyline.
An eager young fan asked if the characters of "Young Justice" could get a pet. Jones reminded the child that Superboy has a pet wolf, but that didn't seem to count because the kid wanted the team to have a "crime-fighting pet."
After a few more questions and answers, including an impressive story pitch from one young fan, the panel briefly discussed Franco and Baltazar's nearby comic store, Aw Yeah Comics, thanked the audience for attending and left kids and parents alike excited for Free Comic Book Day and the further adventures of their favorite costumed heroes.