Before Watchmen panel at C2E2
With the official merchandise for the convention and the con guide both sporting a Before Watchmen image, I was surprised that one of the most anticipated panels of the weekend was occurring in a room this size, it fits 4 maybe 500 and as I sat down, there is queue is snaking outside still, the staff do their best to fit everyone in, single seats are filled, people are standing.
A DC group stand to one side, all blokes, casually dressed, shirts or t-shirts out of jeans in an attempt to look less overweight and then the svelte Amanda Conner turns up.
John Cunningham is in charge, and introduces the people on the panel, and first up is Dan Didio Co-Publisher at DC, then its Mark Chiarello VP – Art Direction and Design , Will Dennis, Senior Editor then the writers and artists, Brian Azzarello (BW;Rorschach), Lee Bermejo (BW;Rorschach), Amanda Conner (BW; Silk Spectre), Adam Hughes (BW; Dr. Manhattan), J. Michael Straczynski (BW: Nite Owl), Len Wein (BW: Ozymandias, Curse of the Crimson Corsair)
First off much mention is made of the online promotion, called New Frontiersmen, apparently this online presence will have ‘Hidden assets’ and ‘Teasers’, I smiled as the website was referred to in corporate jargon as a ‘vehicle’. The graphic novel of the Watchmen is quoted as being the ‘best selling of all time’. I hear that just during the lead up to The Watchmen movie, while the trailers were just showing, orders for the GN hit the million mark.
There is an element of crowd pleasing here, this mob love the idea of the comic, and one can feel their excitement, especially when they are asked if they want to see sequels. Dan explains in sporting parlance, that you ‘Don’t leave the best players on the bench when you want to win the game.’ and that the game is selling comics, he mentions how they had created books similar, I think a reference to the ‘After Watchmen’ one shots, that abounded, but they were not popular.
Dan sounds genuine when he says that he was ‘Looking forward to more negative action’ how he was ‘disappointed’ that there was not more negativity and he was ‘ready to answer questions’. He implies he wanted to meet the angry people but there were not so many.
He then calls for mildly sceptical people, and at random, one is chosen, offered to come to one side and with a chap from marketing is shown a ‘Green Book’, exclusive images and details and artwork, that retailers were shown, in an effort to convince him. It seems to work well, and he is referred back to on a number of occasions. The guy is visibly impressed, describes it as ‘Beautiful artwork’ states his ‘Scepticism is put to rest’ and this feeds the hungry crowd.
Then Joe Kubert (BW: Nite Owl) strolls on stage, and the room applauds and applauds. Joe explains how he was not that acquainted with Watchmen but that he son Andy, was very much so and working with his son, was ‘Blessing and a little difficult’, which gets much laughter.
pressed if he was really happy, responded with a ‘No, I wanted to draw Night Owl.’,
Adam Hughes explained how he was working in a comic book store and sold the issues as they came out, was a fan from the beginning and when ;pressed if he was really happy, responded with a ‘No, I wanted to draw Night Owl.’, again to much laughter as he is on Dr Manhattan.
JMS fields the question about how he is dealing with criticism. He explains that on an ‘Emotional level’ he ‘gets it’, but goes on to state that DC ‘Legally and contractually have the right.’ to do this. As an analogy for the use of Watchmen characters, he makes mention of Hyde from League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and wondered Robert Louis Stevens approve of Mr Hyde raping a character to death. He of course makes light of this analogy, saying it will be reported out of context, but I don’t think the specific is the issue, rather that this is a weak argument, Stevenson is dead, and the copyright for his character is available, Hyde is used cleverly in another work, not rewritten as a whole novel. Its a poor comparison, and one that sits badly with me, but the crowd lap it up.
Amanda Conner describes her book, as ‘Little bit like a romance comic but with beatings’ while Lee Bermejo describes his work as a ‘Grind house movie from the year of punk rock’. Len Wien talks about The Crimson Corsair, being another DC title in the alternate history universe of the Watchmen and describes how John Higgins artwork is ‘Astonishing’ and how it was difficult to do 34 cliff hangers.
Each book is stand alone, but there are subtle links to one another, apart from the Crimson Corsair, but they can be read individually.
Then images are put up on the screen, we get to see covers for Issue 2 of The Minutemen and The Comedian, who is in a very Vietnam feeling setting. Then Jim Lee’s variant Silk Spectre is shown and it explained that all his variants will fit together using Police line-up imagery.
Black and white pages are then shown, in collage, and there is much applause, and subsequently, quick flashes of a variety of artwork, full pages, coloured covers, zoom across the screen, yet slow enough for people to get excited.
There were many questions – none were negative and I did my best to use heat ray eyes on the guy who said he ‘spoke for everyone’ and gushed onwards. I was unfortunate not to get chosen to ask a question, my arm held up for a long time.
But, I decided that I should not walk away when it was drawn to a close.
I waited a little, then approached the stage, and walked left and then right, trying to catch Dan Didio, eventually I did, and he leaned over, and I said; ‘I’m one of those angry guys, you’ve pissed me off with this, and I didn’t want you thinking people like me are not here’.
He stopped, came down, and we chatted. He was eloquent and mannerly, and also clever, not patronising at all. I explained my issues, he explained his reasoning, we spoke for some time, we had to leave the room as it was being readied for the next panel, but he wanted to continue to talk and engage and we walked slowly and chatted. he did not rely on -soundbites- or various -company- lines, he spoke quite straight. I explained I write and edit fanzines, and that there has been much discussion therein.
I wasn’t convinced by any of his argument, of course, I am tremendously conflicted by what has occurred and am indeed angry and pissed off by Before Watchmen.
Yet he was not the corporate monster I wanted, he didn’t use hyperbole and seemed genuine in his feelings, he engaged in good discussion, and knew I had my feelings, and that they were strong, He respected that and we agreed to disagree once we parted.
For those who want this series, it’s looming large, for me, at least I got my opinion across.