WONDERCON 2015 [The Bible Scale, Pt. I]: For Indy Comics, twas a most VALIANT effort.

If you followed our coverage of E3 and San Diego Comic-Con last year (and I know you did), THE BIBLE SCALE should sound familiar to you. This particular editorial feature was a huge success during “convention season” last year, so why not do it for WonderCon 2015

Yeah?

And, before we get to the bible breakdown of all the panels we saw during the weekend in Anaheim, let’s make sure you’ve got our dynamic WonderCon 2015 Wrap-Up Show playing in the background, though…

Yeah?

(From left to right): Dana, Stephanie, Travis, Spencer.
(From left to right): Dana, Stephanie, Travis, Spencer.

Yeah!




1 Bible.
1 Bible.

Adventure Time Comics (with Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb) – Let’s get this out of the way: Adventure Time is awesome. The show is awesome, the characters are awesome, and even the comics are awesome. This panel was.. not awesome. Not for a moment. There is no doubt in my mind that both Paroline and Lamb are ridiculously talented artists, but their panel presentation skills are simply non-existent. To be honest, I was more so interested about the curiously forgotten Egg McMuffin sitting under the seat in front of me, instead of the panel itself. The energy, especially for something related to Adventure Time, simply was not there. To be honest, I almost can’t remember a single thing that was said. I made my early departure shortly after the duo passed out papers of a blank faced Jake and urged the audience to add their own expressions (to their credit, it was billed as an interactive workshop). I figured it was my time to depart early. I wonder if the Egg McMuffin is still there… – Dana Keels

Yup: Still there.
Yup: Still there.

The Most Dangerous Women in Comics – …screamed out to this Lady Croft as the ultimate female panel to go to. I was instantly drawn to hear more about the best female villains in Comics. However, it was terribly disappointing to find only two women on the panel to be informative: Dr. Janina Scarlet who uses Superhero Therapy, and Devin Grayson, former writer of Catwoman and Black Widow. The panel brought attention to the lack of interesting substantial evil characters. Most female villains are seen using sex, henchmen and poison as their main tools. Another unsatisfying laugh came from the realization that most of them are stepmothers that are thrown over cliffs, or that come to understand their “bad choices” so they throw themselves off a cliff. Also, the topic of reforming these villains into anti-heroes gives readers a lack of villains with purpose. Most of us — including the panelists — came out desiring more from female villains, ones that are written in an authentic woman’s voice and backed with sound reasoning for their choices. These panelists seemed unprepared, and out of respect (and the fact that I sat in the front row) I didn’t walk out. I hope this panel gets figured out, because it has tons of potential. – Stephanie Panisello




2.75 Bibles.

Batman (DC Comics) – First let’s preface this review with: I was forced to attend this year’s Batman panel in order to have an honest opinion for you, our lovely readers. I’m also not the biggest fan of the direction DC has gone with Batgirl. So, naturally, I asked my favorite Batgirl scribe Brendan Fletcher, during the audience Q&A, why he chose to disregard Barbara Gordon’s strong survivor past to recreate a new villain — whom was never given a name but alluded to be the “Oracle” by Frankie’s character — to be an evil twin algorithm of Barbara while she was paraplegic. Brendan quickly cut me off to say Babs was NEVER the Oracle, as I continued to ask why recreate her paraplegic “state” as a villain. He retorted by saying that the science behind her being able to walk again also carried her dark PTSD past, and that now that she is the Batgirl that everyone needs her to be; she deserves to forget her past, have fun and dance with her friends. Hrm, I guess even a Batgirl writer can’t answer or fix the reasons why DC chose to keep her past of being shot by the Joker– but not that amazing survival and growth that she gained from being the Oracle. On the other hand, Babs Tarr, Batgirl‘s artist, whose art is also featured on the WonderCon 2015 program and official T, seems to genuinely believe the quirkier and more light-hearted personality of younger Babs. Tom King, the co-writer for Grayson, turned the panel around. Sure– he got poked fun of for his honesty, but it was refreshing, too. He went on to claim that comics were expensive and not worth the fans’ doe unless given “nothing but the best”. A comic book should be episodic, like watching Breaking Bad, blown away by a cliffhanger waiting for the next one. King loves the comics community, and appeased some of the unhappy by claiming that the writers are fans of the Pre-52 comics and are aiming to take more risks with newer stories. – Stephanie

I'm down with "the King".
“Hell yeah, I’m down with ‘the King'”

Next Big Thing (Marvel Comics) – Why I still bother going to these panels defeats me (They wouldn’t answer a fan question about a looming Doctor Strange comic; instead, the company would rather dump all of this info the WEEK BEFORE SDCC, or only super lame corporate announcements via USA Today/EW; thus handicapping creators who have no choice but to sound like a broken record). OK, so I go, because it’s my job.. but also because I like the people on stage. Rick Remender is a good dude. After the panel I saw him strolling to the escalator, incognito amongst all of the oversized droids, victorian fishnets and the just-about-naked 11th-best looking gals from their respective classes of 2011. Not doing my research first, I just had to ask one of my favorite comic writers (Black Science, Deadly Class, Uncanny Avengers) one question: “Would you be willing to write a video game if Marvel ever decided to finally do their own version of Arkham (series)?” Of course, Remender already wrote the video games Bulletstorm and Dead Space. And I call myself a gaming guru. The good news is, Remdawg — despite a schedule unparalleled to most — would be open to the idea. HELLO MARVEL, WAKE UP! This guy hears Robert Downey Jr. in his head when he scripts Iron Man, and his dream character to pen before joining Marvel was Fantomex. And the original Secret Wars is what initially got Remender curious about comics. And he’ll be the scribe of a Hydra series spawning out of this summer’s Secret Wars (with art from Roland Boschi). And, yeah, he’s super rad. As for the rest of the panel, kudos to Marvel for going pretty “indie” with this one, not using any slideshows or making any other promises other than a nice lineup with plenty of time for Q&A. Sam Humphries (Legendary Star-Lord, the future Star-Lord & Kitty Pryde, Planet Hulk) gives this panel an extra half-bible for his Prince cosplay and rock-and-roll enthusiasm, even going so far as to slamming questioneers for all of this dastardly awful questions: “We’re all fan of Nextwave, so we’re just afraid of blowing it,” and “I’m sorry, sir, but that’s a (Battleworld) map; not an advertisement. Our photographer worked REALLY hard on that map”. His sarcasm kept me from snoozing. – Travis Moody




3.25 Bibles.

Convergence (DC Comics) – Let’s get this out of the way, kids: WonderCon is not the place for big studios and publishers to announce and reveal.. anything. It’s more a way to get closer to fans who aren’t lucky enough to get a ticket to San Diego Comic-Con (despite the fact most of this “breaking news” will hit the net the week preceding the convention), and a way for the creators to get a little more up-close-and-personal with the fans. DC Comics didn’t necessarily bring their current bigger guns to the table, so to speak, but they definitely delivered some legendary ones. I had to remind myself that the man who wrote my first ever Superman story (Death of Superman), Dan Jurgens, was staring me in the face, and that the guy who created my all-time favorite superhero (Wolverine), Len Wein, was sitting next to him. Not to be entirely outdone, the very comical and engagingly Elseworlds-loving Scott Lobdell — who scripted up some of my favorite X-Men stories ever — was in the panel, too. They’re currently at work conjuring up ONE HUGE “love letter to the fans” for the next few months: Convergence. If you haven’t read the #0 issue (and we’ll be reviewing that alongside the #1 later this week), using a city-bottling Brainiac as the stirring wheel for this event, Convergence will revisit, tie in, and evolve our favorite characters, events and earths in DC’s 75-years of publishing and see which emergences as new canon. (Continued below)

B-List Hero Heaven.
B-List Hero Heaven.

(Continued…) Unlike their now crosscountry rival, Marvel, the DC panel had cool slides, a sleeker presentation and more info on future releases. Highlights include: April 15’s Convergence #2, which finally introduces Thomas Wayne Batman to Bruce; Jurgens returning to mega fan-favorite Booster Gold on April 29th, with a pair of BG’s, Rip Hunter and Skeet returning for ish #2; Wein “coming home” to Swamp Thing April 22nd, with an artist he’s wanted for 30-years, Kelley Jones, delivering his Red Rain Batman on May 20th; Lobdell gearing up the Blue Beetle, not before he humorously “wrinkled up” a newly made Charlton Heroes T-shirt to trick Dan DiDio into giving him the go ahead to bring back Ted Kord; and, perhaps my most anticipated monthly title from the event is the return of Batman and the Outsiders, a book I picked up when I got back into comics about 7-years ago. Marc Andreyko (Manhunter, Batwoman) claims this “ultimate fan fiction” could very well be “Outsiders 22A & 22B”. Things get hot when a happily de-powered Metamorpho regains his controversial abilities when the Brainiac dome goes down. And, in case you were wondering… yes, Jurgens forthcoming Bat-Mite will take place in DC continuity. – Moody




3.5 Bibles.
3.5 Bibles.

Where Creators Own Crime (Image Comics) – With half-assed efforts from the Big 2 this year at WonderCon 2015, it was up to indie powerhouse Image Comics to take the cake. And sure did they eat it. While my man Papa Justified will drop the knowledge from another outstanding Image panel, I’m here to talk about Crime– and it’s no crime giving these outstanding creators — Darwyn Cooke (DC: The New Frontier, the forthcoming Revengeance), James Robinson (Starman, upcoming Airboy), David Lapham (Stray Bullets!), Ed Brubaker (Gotham Central, The Fade Out) — your hard-earned cash. Certainly, it’s no coincidence that when Cooke and Bru wrote/drew their superheroes, they always preferred those tinged with tangible aspects (i.e. Batman, Catwoman). Both creators, though, appeared far more enthused to work on more intimate tales, especially Cooke’s first creator-owned project, Revengeance, a story about a libertine youngster with his sword and robot dog… (kidding, Gearheads)… who comes across his worst “Mickey Spillane moment”. You know, he swears he’ll kill them, but doesn’t know how to go about it. Cooke wowed the crowd — and an ear-covering Brubaker — on Revengeance‘s plot alone: “He hires a private detective to teach him how to be the bad guy… not just find [the bad guy]”. (Cont. below)

The Perfect IMAGE.
The Perfect IMAGE.

(Cont…) Perhaps the author who received the most praise for his crime comic fiction in this panel was Lapham, whose Stray Bullets certainly set the stage for the plethora of crime comics out in the stands today. The former Maryland resident, who never has a grand plan for his stories, claimed he wasn’t as “Baltmore as The Wire is”, and also explained his preference for the traditional 8-panel grid. “It hurt my head to see which panel [needed to be] cinematic or not. [The grid] is easy…a life-saver.” Since crime comics are what helped entice your Monsignor to get back into comics about 8-years ago, what the creators said about what made the best crime stories was the true highlight of this grand panel for moi. For Cooke, it was “inevitability”; for Brubaker and Robinson, “flawed characters”; Lapham, “raw emotion.” It was also cool to hear that these geniuses weren’t too snobby about current film noir either, as Drive was one of their most recent favs; no surprise, since Robinson expressed his love for those who are relentlessly driven to solve crime. – Moody




4 Bibles.
4 Bibles.

Where The Creators Own Everything (Image Comics) – I had the privilege of being in the same room as Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead, Outcast), David Lapham (Stray Bullets: Killers, Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses) and Ed Brubaker (CriminalCaptain America “The Winter Soldier” comics) and it was as entertaining as you’d think. Once the requisite praise for Lapham’s Stray Bullets had concluded (yeah, this panel too), the panelists riffed with one another and kept the audience laughing and engaged. The host also deserves particular mention for – not only asking questions that would prompt thoughtful responses – but also for allowing time for fan questions with incentives, in the form of comics, to ask questions. The discussion between 4/6 panelists was rife with chemistry and witty banter that mainly pertained to the benefits of creative integrity and owning your own creation. Eric Stephenson (Creator of They’re Not Like Us and Image Comics Publisher) talked to the audience like we were – gasp! — people and casually mentioned the publishing profits. Most companies I know, like YouTube, keep their creators under a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) where they are unable to talk about how the company makes money vs. the content creator. He also gave honest feedback and told a fan that the more complete your product is, the more likely it is going to be accepted by a company like Image Comics. I appreciate the honesty from Stephenson about these two subjects, but there was an underlying message that I was hearing as I was also watching a gentleman in front of me ONLY take photos of Kirkman. It’s a similar message I would receive at a TimeShare pitch: “If you work for us, there are benefits that you wouldn’t receive anywhere else. Marvel and DC Comics don’t publish comics that let you have creative freedom.” I’m paraphrasing of course and embellishing for effect but DC has published plenty of independent successful comics with Vertigo and Icon Comics with Marvel. Overall, the panel was informative and enjoyable which are the aspects that every panel should aspire to be – unlike the other two panels that I attended. Stay tuned for those in the near future. – Spencer Fawcett

I LOVE Danny Donovan!
“I love Danny Donovan.”



4.5 Bibles.
4.5 Bibles.

25 Years of Valiant (Valiant Entertainment) – The first thing I did during GHG’s usual iced-coffee-and-breakfast-burrito pre-WonderCon meeting was ask my fellow geek parishioners if they’d be open to cover the Valiant panel. “Um, I’m not sure which one Valiant is– I think I reviewed something from that” was the typical answer this editor received. Bah. So, since our “Heirophant” Luke Anderson was 8,000-semod miles away, it took a Monsignor to crash a publisher panel best known for a pair named Quantum & Woody. And, let me tell you, it was the best damn thing I did all weekend. As far as a clear, coherent presentation (amazing teaser and image previews), intellectual yet entertaining panelists (including the almost too brilliant Fred Van Lente), and just raw energy for the material at hand, Valiant just.. had it. They even began their WC15 onslaught with their hero I likely know the least: Ivar, Timewalker. Van Lente was pumped to Break History in his second arc with a new artist he was “excited to steal” from DC, Francis Portela (Legion of Superheroes, Black Panther), who draws the fuck out of the 10,000-year old Eternal Warrior and cult favorite Armstrong, a character Van Lente actually penned back in the “more innocent times” of 2013. Portela, who apparently had a little too much fun with time-travel in issue #3, went so far as to sketch someone sketching a penis on Hitler’s forehead. Not to be topped, the former Incredible Hercules writer had more bizarre ideas about an evolved society. “We all leave our physical bodies and join twitter and 4chan. #timewalls!” (Cont. below)

Don't worry; Aric Dacia will REMEMBER this.
Don’t worry; Aric Dacia will REMEMBER this.

(Cont…) Valiant’s Director of Marketing & Communications, Hunter Gorinson, did a fine job introducing the eager panel-goers to the publisher’s many incredible titles and characters, including their newest, Divinity. Former Detective Comics inker Ryan Winn referred to the title character as an “identifiable” one — despite a stature not unlike Miracleman — whose story comes off more like a Nolan film, where superhero and sci-fi elements are pushed back for a far more subliminal, deeply psychological message. Of course, our morning chat didn’t go without mention of the Asshole-Ninja-meets-007 Ninjak; my favorite Valiant title this side of Q&W, Imperium, will Collect Monsters (literally) with a dysfunctional strikeforce consisting of a “psychic dictator” and a “loveable killing machine” better known as Sunlight on Snow, an alien assassin, and a Broken Angel. And– to think I didn’t even have time to get into this…

Let’s not leave without mention of Lewis LaRosa’s above showcased art, which takes Valiant’s meta-morphing “Punisher” through such impressive extremes as Twin Peaks to Hitchcock to Mad Max. No joke– they have arguably the finest stable of comic artists right now, and there’s surely no better time to celebrate all the publisher’s pretty pictures (and mind-bending stories) than now: Valiant’s 25th Anniversary. – Moody




5 Bibles.
5 Bibles.

Push Comics Forward: BOOM! Studios Celebrates 10-Years and Looks Ahead to the Next 10 (BOOM! Studios) – Coming from my first panel, this one had some steep competition… Finding myself in a less than half-way filled room I must admit my expectations for this panel weren’t the highest. Thank god my expectations were unfounded. From beginning to end, this panel felt like a dinner with friends (over pizza, if i had to pick), all giving their own retrospect on what got them into comics in the first place and what the medium is to them. Bryce Carlson (Hit: 1957), like many others I know, shared his introduction through the Marvel trading cards, before reminding all in attendance that “Comics are a medium, not a genre” which resonated with everyone in the room. A common theme of the panel was that comics have become synonymous with superheroes, and from the outside non-geek world, it’s easy to think that that’s all there is to it. But any geek worth their salt knows, reminded by this panel, that comics are not a genre, just like Film isn’t purely westerns, or Literature isn’t crappy teenage angst books or poorly written BDSM (sorry, I’m getting carried away). Another recurring theme of the panel is the notion that comics are for everyone, as evident by the different gateway books for many on the panel. Dark Horse for Trevor Crafts (Lantern City), The Punisher #10 for Matt Daley (Lantern City), and even Archie Comics and The Disney Adventure books for Shannon Watters (Lumberjanes). I loved that instead of simply patting themselves on the back for 10-years under their belt, they, instead, looked to the future and what they believe the comic industry can and will become, with a book for everyone. This is a medium we all love and it’s nice to see it’s in perfectly capable hands with the good people at BOOM! – Dana

Geoff Johns approved.
Geoff Johns approved.

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