A Writer’s Response to WizardWorld Philadelphia 2007

This past weekend, many comic writers, artists, and fans of all ages, sizes, genders, and race (I believe I saw some Klingons and some Skrulls) made their way to Philadelphia for the city’s annual WizardWorld comic convention. If you were not impressed with the cities beautiful architecture, the magnificent City Hall and the Liberty Towers (which I was), then you were no doubt too excited by the prospect of meeting Brian Michael Bendis, Greg Pak, or Joe and Andy Kubert. Or maybe you were more eager to meet the towering Lou Ferrigno, TV’s The Incredible Hulk. Maybe you were looking for that hard to find issue of Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing knowing that there would undoubtedly be good deals from the numerous vendors set up. Wherever your real interests lie in the world of comic books, WizardWorld is the place to find it and usually lots of it.

My interests in the world of comic books have now been geared towards writing, as a realization that my art is just not good enough to hack it in the world of comics, and I make my way to the conventions to try and meet some new and upcoming talented writers, as well as some more established ones. I try to talk to some artists that are looking for people to write their stories, probably after coming to a similar realization that their prose is not cut out for the world of published material. I view the comic convention not as a place to spend hoards of money, but as a networking event where people of similar interests in the sequential art form can come together to discuss their ideas and make arrangements for collaboration.

WizardWorld Philadelphia did not seem to be geared towards writers, but instead took a more artist friendly persona. The panel discussions were mostly presented by artists or pertained to entering the medium through one’s artistic talents. Joe and Andy Kubert presented a closer look at getting into the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art, and Angel Medina presented his take on the “Philosophy of Comics.” The majority of the panels were presented as pure marketing agendas to hype up books and crossovers and upcoming events. For writers, there was very little outside of Brian Bendis’ “Bendis Presents” panels, where he interviewed first David Mack and Michael Avon Oeming (with an arm-wrestling match at the end!) and on Saturday, he interviewed Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief, Joe Q himself.

The interview held with Mack and Oeming was interesting and insightful for people trying to get into the business. Oeming gave a short talk on his page layouts and the importance of the space between panels. The panels themselves represent a period of time, but the space between represents all the time that has elapsed between those snapshots that the artist chooses to show us. That black or white line between the panels can vary to paper thin, or a quarter inch thick and that depth elicits the pace of the story. I ended up skipping Bendis’ interview with Joe Quesada fearing that it would simply be another chance to let people know the upcoming events in the Marvel Universe.

Back in February, I attended the New York ComicCon and sat in on Jim Steranko’s discussion of sequential art, and it was by far the best panel of that Con. In Philadelphia, the guests had the opportunity to sit in on another Steranko panel, this time accompanied by Carmine Infantino, another living comic legend. Unfortunately, this panel was not geared so much towards the medium, but revolved heavily around the history of comics. The panel was inspired by Michael Chabon’s Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Chabon’s muse for the novel was Mr. Steranko, and the novel offers a “historically fictional” account of the Golden Age of comics, referring to events and people, but not always using the proper names. The two creators talked about their early lives in the comic book business, but rarely touched on the art form itself.

The final panel of the convention was by far the most interesting. Marv Wolfman, who has had great success in the medium, gave a quick retrospective about his work in the business, as well as his work on TV shows and novels. Wolfman touched on all the major works of this life in the comic business, from his early days of writing fanzines, to taking over Marvel’s Tomb of Dracula, to his marathon run on The New Teen Titans. Wolfman let the attendees in on some of his personal writing style. He told us that his stories evolve from the characters within them. When he writes, he lets the setting, pace, and plot come out of the characters that he has in mind. He explained his vision of the Titans as being equivalent to Marvel’s first family, the Fantastic Four; they were young, but they were still a family.

My biggest disappointment from the convention was that Brian Bendis did not have a spotlight panel, despite being the guest-of-honor. I was very much looking forward to seeing him sitting in front of a room of hundreds of fans and giving us an exclusive look into the mind of the man that has helped revitalize the industry. Brian K. Vaughn and J. Michael Straczynski each had similar panels in New York, but nothing doing in Philly. My suggestions to the organizers: more writing panels! I understand the need for artist panels and discussions, as well as portfolio reviews, but the artist is only half the battle when putting together a comic. Hopefully next year will present a more balanced effort to reach people trying to break in to comics from all angles. Regardless, the convention was a success. The fans came out in the thousands and showed their love for a medium with ever-increasing notoriety in the world of literature. Marv Wolfman summed it up quite well: the 40s are considered the Golden Age, but the quality of stories and art that has emerged in the medium over the past decade has given us a new “golden age.” This is the best time in its short history to be in comics!

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