Written by Shawn Bourdo
THE 2013 BLACK PANEL: After getting shut out of The World’s End panel, I was wandering the hallways when my ears perked at the sound of James Brown coming from one of the rooms and my decision was made. The Black Panel is hosted by Michael Davis and featured more mainstream entertainers with comic ties like Wayne Brady and Orlando Jones (Sleepy Hollow, Black Dynamite). It also featured more comic and music creators like Tony Rich, David Walker, and Tatiana El-Khouri.
The panel used to be about finding more outlets for African-American creators in comics. By 2013, I’m proud to report that this panel is more of a celebration of successes. With only one woman on the panel, I thought there needed to be more of an acknowledgement that African-American women need to be brought along in the movement, but it’s still great to hear the successful stories and the upcoming projects.
The star of the panel is the host Michael Davis. He works for Motown Animation and was one of the founders of Milestone Media (Milestone Comics debuted over 20 years ago to a market without mainstream black superheroes). Michael was in charge of what devolved quickly into a part roast, part party, part comedic free for all. He was part the blame himself but the room was eating out of his hands. I just don’t see enough panels that the crowd and the guests interact like they did here. At one point, Michael left the stage to go sit in the front row to let one of the attendees keep hosting. The chaos only multiplied as the great Reginald Hudlin (producer of Django Unchained) came out of the crowd to speak.
These types of panels don’t break any news. They don’t tell the crowd about upcoming projects. But it’s the kind of panel that needs to be programmed more by the Con. It’s folks who bring us entertainment that we love who look like they are having the time of their lives. I left that room laughing and feeling like I had just dropped in on a party not a panel.
SPOTLIGHT ON JOSE DELBO: I will freely admit that I didn’t know the work of Jose Delbo before this Con started. But it follows my unconventional convention thinking – I like to go see the older artists and creators to hear stories of the “old days”. Jose is an Argentinian artist who worked on old Dell titles like Monkees, Mod Squad, Twilight Zone, and the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine. I didn’t know until this panel that he was one of the first artists to work on Transformers and Thundercats.
Jose is elderly and often had to have the questions repeated to him. Yet he rewarded me with a few gems. I loved the story of him getting excited at a convention when a young fan asked him to draw Raphael and he started drawing the artist, Raphael, before the disappointed child told him it was wrong and that he wanted a Ninja Turtle. His insights into the early years of Transformers in the United States was interesting. For an artist, keeping the details straight of all the robots was a challenge that as an older artist, he didn’t realize the attention to his art that young fans of the TV show and toys would pay. I will keep going to see these older artists because I never fail to learn.
SUPERMAN: THE POST-CRISIS ERA: After John Byrne rebooted Superman in 1986 and eventually left the titles a couple years later, the four Superman titles became essentially a weekly title, telling stories that were linked across the four books. Few comics have been able to pull off having multiple editors, writers and artists work to tell a cohesive story, including the Death of Superman and Funeral For a Friend stories.
This panel was more about the process and less about the stories. That was a good move for the discussion. I think the uniqueness of what they were doing wasn’t in killing Superman, it was in the partnership that just doesn’t work usually. All of the creators were there, including Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway, George Perez, Louise Simonson, and Jon Bogdanove.
The story that stays with me was how John Byrne essentially went out in a blaze of glory and had painted the creative teams into a corner. The solution was to bring Superman back to Earth and make him more human. And as they tried to get back to him having a “weakness,” the only natural outcome of that was to kill him. That act was not the real story, the creative teams really took off after that event. I can’t imagine in the days before e-mails and Internet that these guys kept so organized. These glimpses behind the scenes of comics that you read 20 years ago is just the type of thing I like to hear.
THE X-FILES w/CREATOR, CHRIS CARTER: I missed the X-Files TV show reunion the previous day. I knew that would be one of the most desirable panels of the weekend and didn’t even attempt it. I knew that this comic-based panel hosted by IDW was one that would hold my interest. Mainly, I was interested in hearing creator Chris Carter talk about the print future of the show. To my pleasant surprise, the panel was hosted by one of the Lone Gunmen, Dean Haglund. The biggest bonus was the appearance of the very beautiful Gillian Anderson.
The panel was about the launch of a new Season 10 comic by IDW. The continuation of a Sci-Fi TV series has proven successful for Buffy: The Vampire Slayer. The comic series will bring back to life the Lone Gunmen and the tease photos look like the Cigarette Smoking Man is coming back in one form or another too.
Once the panel was opened up for questions, you can guess that most of them were aimed at Gillian. What I appreciate more than anything is how she embraces the fandom. She didn’t have to show up at a panel on the comics. She doesn’t try to distance from being Scully; she is perfectly happy to answer questions about her character, even though she didn’t create it. Just to be in the room with Gillian and Chris gave me plenty of pleasure for what they did for my love of science fiction on television. They made me actually think of going out to get a comic book based on the series.