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Toronto Comic Convention Report

Posted: Wednesday, September 1, 2004
Posted By: Filip Vukcevic

This past weekend (Aug. 27-29) I attended the annual Canadian National Comic Book/Sci-Fi/Anime expo. This is easily Canada’s largest comic book convention, and also happens to be one of the largest cons in North America. It’s no San Diego con, but it is a good rival for the Chicago Wizard World con. This year their sci-fi guests ranged from Patrick Stewart (who had to cancel due to health reasons, but will be back in a few months – he was replaced with Michael Dorn and Levar Burton), George Takei, and a slew of other Trek (Jake and Nog from DS9, Travis Mayweather) and Buffy (Jenny Calendar, Harmony, Darla) guests.

However what you really want to hear about is the comic guests. Luckily for us Canucks, we had some heavy hitters. From Joe Quesada to Michael Turner to George Perez to Rags Morales to Brian Azzarello to Mike Deodato Jr., there was an excellent line up. Enough to make any comic book fan weak in the knees.

All in all it was a very fun –if exhausting- three days and while I left with a much lighter wallet, I also left with some great memories. Namely, two sketches that I really love. First, Jill Thompson (artist on all of SANDMAN VOL 7: BRIEF LIVES) was kind enough to draw a sketch of the Sandman himself for me. Check it out Morpheus fans



Secondly, I’ve got what has quickly become one of my favorite possessions and quite possibly the most beautiful thing I own, a George Perez Wonder Woman sketch.



She’s gorgeous and I can’t stop looking at the damn thing.

What I’ve done is summarize my impressions and any information I’ve got, and organized it pertaining to the creator in question.

I’m only sorry that I couldn’t get more, believe me, if I had been two people I could have attended more panels/signings and this would be twice as long. Alas, I am only one person, and a Buffy and Trek fan at that, so this was one long weekend characterized by line-waiting.

So without further ado, we have my report from the Toronto ComicCon 2004:

Joe Quesada
The following notes pertain to the two Q&A sessions that were held with Joe Quesada -- one with him and C.B Cebulski, and the other with those two, Mike Deodato Jr., and Steve McNiven.

Generally speaking, Joe Quesada struck me as a very personable, interesting, and cool guy. I have never seen him speak before and right off the bat I liked him. He was very comfortable and honest with us and I never got the impression that he was ‘hiding’ something (other than spoilers of course) or that he had anything but the best interests of the comic industry, and comic fans, in mind. All in all while I may not agree with everything Marvel does, I now feel totally comfortable with the company knowing that a man like Quesada is in charge. He knows exactly what he wants and how he wants to do it, and most importantly, he seems to know who he is doing it for: the fans.

Another thing that struck me as very nice about him was that he had a genuine interest in caring for the careers of the creators that work under him. He said that for somebody like Roberto Sacassa, they promoted him too much and the industry rejected him because of it, and Quesada thinks that is wrong. He said they are being very careful to manage the careers of their writers and artists in such a way that fans become familiar with them and don’t have a knee-jerk reaction to their introduction on a main book. He used Mike Deodato Jr. as a good example of somebody they are slowly working through the system to ensure stability.

I’ll also include a negative impression, only to balance things out. Now, Quesada is a first-rate guy and a real fun person to listen to, however personally, I have a small beef with the way he runs Marvel continuity. He said many times that he is willing to ignore continuity (bring back a character, etc.,) if the story is right. Personally, I would prefer if he had a more stringent philosophy on this as it sort of takes credibility away from a creator’s run when one year down the line everything they have built towards is undone – re: Morisson’s NEW X-MEN run. That isn’t to say that I’m not willing to see things shaken up, that is totally different. However, I would prefer if Marvel continuity meant more.

Keeping you, the gentle reader, in mind, I’ve tried to streamline the information as much as possible. As such, I’ve basically put all of the points that might be of interest to somebody in dot-jot form to make them easier to read or browse through. If a point is related to a question (as opposed to a comment) it will have a ‘Q’ and then an ‘A’ as the response; these are found at the bottom of the dot-jots.

-Joe started off the first panel by saying that no, he doesn’t know when the next issue of SPIDER-MAN/BLACK CAT will be out. He said he gets asked that all the time and thought he would get it out of the way.

-SHE-HULK has been approved to twelve issues, and there will probably be more. Quesada believes that it, in addition to DISTRICT X, need to be given more attention.

-The remark Captain America made pertaining to the French in ULTIMATES “made sense for the character” and “has gone down as one of the most memorable lines [in the past few years]”. After all, he said, it is done by a Scottish guy and a Brit... A month after the issue came out, Millar had a signing in Paris; needless to say, it didn’t go well.

-When Quesada took over several years ago they had virtually no Trade Paperback department, it has grown much in the past several years. However there are only two people that run it all -- does this show, perhaps, with the lack of extras in most Marvel TPBs and the push to pump out the books as fast as possible? He said he is happy with the people, considering it is such a small team and they manage to do so much.

-MAX was never meant to be an imprint ala Vertigo. They want to use it only to tell certain kinds of stories, like SUPREME POWER which is “[one of the] best books we’re putting out.” We also won’t see Icon explode into many books. Quesada kept saying that Marvel wants to keep its ‘imprints’ (like the Ultimate line) “very small” – only a few books.

-RUNAWAYS will be re-launching in 2005, the new designs are ready.

-They are trying to put a spin on ALPHA FLIGHT. They don’t want it to become “another X-book” so they’re asking themselves how can they make it different. When somebody asked why they didn’t have a Canadian writer on the book, Quesada replied that they would give the job to whomever could show the best work, irregardless of their nationality. He used the example that if an Asian guy submitted the best proposal for BLACK PANTHER, he would get it as opposed to an African American. C.B. Cebulski humorously added, “the writer agreed to get paid in Canadian dollars.”

-Quesada is on NYX for seven issues but he doesn’t know what will happen with it after that first storyline has been concluded. He said he loves all of the characters and that they are very personal to him.

-Joey Q. said that he felt a great resource for beginning writers is the Marvel.com submission policy. He said the necessity for the forms and signatures is that, as a large corporation, they are very scared of getting sued by someone claiming that Marvel stole their idea. On that note he said that not only would they never steal anybody’s idea, but why would they want to? He says they have more then enough ideas as is. He also says that they spent many months working on the submission guidelines. With past submission systems, most submissions wouldn’t get read, however now you WILL get a written letter, “The Marvel submission policy works.” They hired 20+ new people in the past year in this way.

-Quesada spoke on the alternate cover issue. “It’s a shame [but] the button has been pushed” and they had to go with it. He said that variant covers falsely inflate interest numbers and hurt lower-tier books. People only have a limited amount of money to spend each week/month and since all comic fans are also collectors, the draw of an alternate cover is quite big and this bites into the money they would otherwise spend to try out another title, or take a risk on a different book. He said that variant covers lead to a false market, and while he will do them, he would like to do them sparingly. What is the deciding factor? The marketing people and sales.

- GHOST RIDER fans will be “happy fans” in 2005. Will Ennis be on the book? He could not confirm nor deny.

- The issue of Colossus’ death and return: While Quesada said he is very much into the philosophy that ‘dead means dead’, he also said that he is willing to have a character return if the writer can prove that they have a really good reason to do it. As for Whedon’s return of Colossus, Quesada “couldn’t say no” and “[Whedon] nailed it.” Joe also said that they will never have a character return from the dead if their death is a ‘classic’ death. Who would be an example? Gwen Stacey or Captain Marvel.

- Peter David is working on six issues of HULK, #77-81

- In terms of the Marvel characters and the changes they go through, Quesada said that he is very insistent on staying with the times. If you don’t change, you’ll go out of business. Stan Lee told him this.

- 1602 exceeded expectations. There are plans to do more within that world, but not with Gaiman. He left them an outline to work with.

- Q: Is Doop from X-STATIX going to be seen again?
A: Don’t know.

- Q: What’s up with the Ultimate Secret?
A: In the ULTIMATE TEAM-UP issue with the Hulk and Spider-Man a conspiracy was hinted at, and the Ultimate Secret books will go to reveal that. Quesada says that by the next-to-last page of ULTIMATE NIGHTMARE you’ll understand exactly what is going on, “who’s been a traitor, who’s been a spy.” I suppose this indicates that somebody out there in the Ultimate universe IS a traitor or spy.

- Q: What are Marvel’s plan for Joss Whedon?
A: They want him on for more, but it is all dependent on him and his schedule.

- Q: Will he want a cameo in the Clerks sequel?
A: He’ll take it if Kevin Smith calls him up and asks. Joe then did a funny impression of Kevin Smith on the phone, “Hey…uh…dude, you…uh, wanna be in my movie?”

- Q: How did they decide who would die in the ‘Avengers Disassembled’ arc?
A: He, Brian, and the editor talked it over. However, he says that Brian wants to kill everybody. He called him up and asked if he can kill the Black Widow, Joe said, ‘Ok, but you have to let me kill Jessica Jones’ to which Brian shouted, ‘Damn you!’ and droped the issue.

- Q: How did Bryan Singer get involved with ULTIMATE X-MEN?
A: Quesada said that he has Avi Arad and their West Coast Office to thank for that. Bryan and his crew visited him and Buckley and together they gravitated towards the idea of doing an X-Men movie on paper. Singer liked the world of the Ultimate X-Men because it was similar to his movie universe.

- Q: What’s the deal with IDENTITY DISC? Is it just a cheap rip-off?
A: Quesada swears that the truth is that when IDENTITY DISC was written, it was called THE SIX, however they already had a book called that through the Ultimate line so Quesada suggested they change the title, however it just so happened to be scheduled to come out at the same time as CRISIS. In response to Loeb calling it ‘IDENTITY DISS’, Quesada joked, “This is the guy that created FIGHTING AMERICAN. . .”

- Q: How many teams will Wolverine be on?
A: “How many we got?”

- Q: When will we see the next issue of DAREDEVIL: FATHER?
A: Issue #2 has been in the can for a month (31-32 pages, double-sized). Will see it ‘shortly’ - in the next few weeks.

- Q: When will we see more work from Gaiman for Marvel?
A: Too soon to know.

Mike Deodato Jr.
In the panel with Joe Quesada, somebody asked Deodato what his dream project would be. He said he would like to do a black and white Captain America book with Frank Miller -- or something in Black and White. Steve McNiven said that he doesn’t know, or, he joked, that it would be what Deodato is doing, ASM.

I asked Mike, when I was getting my ASM books autographed, who came up with the idea to give Gwen Stacey daughter (?) the headband -- he said it was his idea. Personally I don’t think it’s a very good idea as first of all, who would wear a headband like that under a black mask, and secondly, it sort of beats you over the head with her image. I didn’t say any of this to him of course.

Overall, Deodato struck me as an OK guy, he just seemed rather quiet and not too enthusiastic.

Rags Morales and Brian Azzarello
For the record, Morales looks very little like his picture in Wizard, his hair is very short and he no longer has a moustache; or that kooky grin. Azzarello, in keeping with the current requirement of comic book writers everywhere, is bald.

Unfortunately the panel quickly degraded into a debate about how much mature material should be allowed in (unrated) comic books; obviously it was all in reference to the controversial IDENTITY CRISIS. This debate ran on for the majority of the panel and was basically the same two people saying the same things over and over. One guy seemed to get really pissed off over the rape scene in IDENTITY CRISIS, saying that he couldn’t give the comic to his ten year old nephew. Azzarello and Morales basically tried to tell the guy that not only is the comic not meant for younger children (there are DC books that are), but a child probably would find something like IDENTITY CRISIS boring anyways. Nevertheless, the guy kept bringing up his same boring points in a really agitated manner that sounded like he was looking for a fight. I kept expecting Azzarello to break out the F-bomb, but he was surprisingly quiet throughout the whole panel – he really didn’t talk much at all. Another guy kept trying to get Morales and Azzarello to say they would like to see a ratings system for books, but neither agreed with it.

In terms of my impressions of the two, Rags seemed to be a very serious and thoughtful individual. He said that he believed it was important to talk about more mature issues and he liked the controversy that IDENTITY CRISIS has caused. He said that he is “the idiot of the two” between him and Meltzer and this must mean that Meltzer is really smart as Morales struck me as a bright guy. He said that one of his favorite lines in IDENTITY CRISIS is the exchange between Wally and the Green Arrow where the Flash says that he thought Green Arrow and Hawkman were fighting all of these years over politics, and Green Arrow replies that it’s always been about politics. He also said that in the book, Brad is setting it up so that Wally is the voice of the fan whereas Ollie is the voice of himself, Meltzer.

When asked what the body count for the title would be, he seemed to contemplate actually answering for a moment, then he smiled and said, “More than one, less than . . . oh, fifty-four.” Also when I was standing in the autograph line, somebody asked him if there was any significance to the fact that in IC #3 we see a flashback to the Dr. Light fight with the JLA right before the mind-wipe, and in that flashback Batman is there, however in issue #2, when the event occurred, Batman wasn’t actually there. Morales smiled, “no comment.”

George Perez
Unfortunately there wasn’t a panel with Perez -just a workshop on drawing the Avengers - but I couldn’t talk about the other guys above without mentioning something about George Perez. And this is what I have to say: the guy is the best.

I have been going to comic conventions for about five years now and I have never met a creator as cool and as nice as Perez. Now most guys are fine, and a few are really cool (Quesada, Palmiotti, Romita Jr., etc.,) but I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone quite like Perez. First off, he was a good half an hour EARLY to his autograph session. People were lined up outside the autograph room doors and he began signing books for people as they waited in line. Then when we were let in, he sat at his table and told stories and jokes for everyone to hear as he signed books. He was also very warm and talkative with every single fan. I told him how cool I thought it was that he was such a nice guy and that he came early and everything, and he said that he liked to do whatever he could for the fans. Most creators say that, but I believed him more if only because I actually witnessed his kindness.

Later on I decided that even though it was expensive, I would go ahead and make the $50 donation to A.C.T.O.R. and get a sketch from Perez. Once again he was very cool, talkative, and nice to everyone in line as he sketched. Always making jokes and making sure everyone left happy. As I waited in line I debated with myself over what I wanted to get from him…Superman? Batman? A Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman? Nah, it wouldn’t be very detailed.

In the end, you guessed it, I ended up going with Wonder Woman. I might as well since he is THE definitive artist for her . . . and boy am I glad I did.

I’m a bit ashamed to admit it, but I think I’m in love with his Wonder Woman sketch. I just can’t stop looking at it, it’s so beautiful!

I’ve met many great creators over the years and I have to say that George Perez is by far the nicest guy out there. If you ever have the chance, talk to him. You will leave with a smile on your face, and really, what’s better than that?


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