The PoP! Stars narrow it down to the cream of the crop in categories ranging from (but not limited to) Comics, Movies, Toys and Geek Culture in general. This is the PoP! Top 6-Pack.
For comic fans, spring time means one thing: convention season. While there are occasional opportunities to meet people in television and film no other medium provides so many chances to have a face to face interaction with the people that craft the entertainment you love than comic books. Once you get to the convention there are multiple ways to talk to your favorite writers, editors and artists. You can see them in artists alley, at a signing at a publishers booth or even at the hotel bar when the show is over…as long as you’re not a creep or a stalker.
For those that crave the most up to date news and information about a creator’s plans or a publisher’s new slate of titles the biggest draw of the convention scene is the panels. Chock full of new info and big reveals, panels also have the added bonus of bringing together groups of creative talent and editors in one place and make them available for the question and answer session that accounts for the last half to quarter of any panel. As great of an opportunity as this is it often becomes the most tedious, tiresome and frustrating segment of any panel.
This year we’re going to give you guys a couple of tips on how you can maker the most of your convention and panel going experience (and make sure that the other people in the audience don’t want to kill you when your time at the mic is over) by giving you the top 6 worst questions you can ask at conventions. Let’s face it, once you’ve gone to a couple of panel sessions you find yourself hearing a lot of these, sometimes all of these, and they can be easily replaced with interesting and potentially informative questions if we put a little thought into what we’re going to say. Trust us, it’s for your own good.
1. “I have this problem where…” aka You Are The Only Person With This Problem
Okay, let’s stop right there. In our excitement that there’s “people in charge of comics” right in front of us, we often lose sight of the fact that while we may have an issue or problem that’s really bugging us it may not be an issue that everyone else can relate to or understand. I’ve been to conventions where the same person has asked, at every single panel they we attended, about a publisher’s mail-order subscription service. Yes, apparently that still exists. I don’t know how many folks are still using it but I’m reasonably sure I’ve been to panels that have had more attendees than there are people still using mail order from the publishers. No matter the issue, if it requires a back-story, exposition or set up that takes longer than a minute or two it’s best to try to find the time to approach the people from the company at their booth or possibly when the panel is over so they can give you the personal attention you may need. I’m sure they’re more than willing to help out and keep you a satisfied customer and it works much better than eating up time at a Q&A as they try to understand what you’re talking about. Which leads us to…
2. “I know this is panel is about the comics but in the movies…” aka These Aren’t The Panelists You’re Looking For
As open and accessible as the comic community is not everyone who has everything to do with getting them into your hands is going to be in attendance. Using the last question as an example, the editorial and marketing departments may be at the show but the people who actually run the subscriptions office probably aren’t. Furthermore, as comic culture spreads beyond the panels on your pages there are going to be other departments, offices and companies that take care of the movies, television and other media appearances of your favorite heroes. Here’s a helpful tip: was someone on the table introduced with the words “television” “movies” or “video games” in their title? No? Then they probably won’t be able to tell you about when that TV series that was announced as “in development” last year is coming out, why they picked this villain for the movie instead of the villain you wanted or why you can’t play in that heroes other costume in that fighting game that you just bought. So many of the multimedia decisions are made at much higher levels than comic book publishing, and while there’s some crossover depending on the company, odds are you’re barking up the wrong tree. Try loving the ones with you’re with instead.
3. “So what happens after…” aka Tell Me How This Story Is Going To End
It’s natural to get a little riled up when the information about things coming out later this year hit our hot little ears but one of the things to keep in mind is that there is a very controlled flow of information when it comes to publishing, especially when it comes to big superhero event books. It can make asking about the future of your favorite characters a little difficult, but there’s still no reason to lead with “So are the X-Men going to defeat the Avengers?” or “Is Peter Parker Really going to die?” Panels are there, for the most part, to get you to buy they stuff they’re selling you not so they can ruin the end for you. Chances are you’ll read about it in USA Today the week before you can buy the book anyway. The same goes for “Is so and so going to stay dead after this thing that happened this past week?” or “How are they going to get their powers back?” or “Are they ever going to get off the island?” Even if they do just say the ending of the story they’ve been telling Spoiler Alert: Everyone in the audience wanted to read it for themselves first. Good luck making it to the exit.
4. “I’m a writer/artist and I want to work for you…” aka Surprise, Here’s My Resume!
In comics the line between fan and aspiring creator is often very blurry. Sometimes it doesn’t even exist. If you’re looking to work for a comic publishers for a living I can assure you that they aren’t ready to look at your samples, hear your pitch or point you in the right direction after they’ve just gotten done laying out their publishing plan for next Fall. Guess what? You’re not on it. Not only is there a wealth of information on-line (y’know, where you’re reading this) about breaking in to the comic business every single major publisher makes it clear on their website what the policy for submissions are. If you’re at a larger sized convention, chances are there’s even an entire panel devoted to this very subject. If you’re so impatient that you can’t wait to do either of those things, let me tell you what Marvel, DC and publishers of their ilk are going to tell you if you want a job writing or drawing their characters: Make your own first. You are not going to send in a pitch or Batman and then start writing Batman next week. Come up with your own ideas, make a comic that shows what you can do and then find a way to put it in front of them. If they like what they see they’ll ask you for more. Can’t come up with your own characters or ideas? Then this job is not for you. If you want comics to be your job then treat it as such and do your homework before you embarrass yourself in front of a room full of strangers.
5. “When are we going to see…?” aka You Forgot My Favorite Character
Every character is someone’s favorite. Even the crappy ones. Marvel and DC have made a lot of characters over the years (some might say too many) and when you take into account there only seem to be a handful that the majority of comic fans are willing to pay money to read about we find ourselves with a problem. In this peculiar market publishers are only going to put their energy behind the ones people are most likely to pay for. Does that suck for a whole bunch of characters? You betcha. There’s a lot of characters getting the shaft out there, and while your favorite may be one of them a Q&A session may not be the best time to bring them up. I say “may” because there are some instances where this can work out, like a character who’s book just got cancelled or one that was just named dropped by a member of the panel. However, there’s a big difference between the Black Panther and Sleepwalker. One of them is going to get his own series again. The other…well, get that fan-fiction ready! Most importantly, be aware of announced or current appearances of these characters you’re asking about. Fan of the Runaways? They were just in Avengers Academy. Asking about the Justice Society? They’re in Earth-2. While not as completely pointless as all the others, the “where is my favorite character” question requires a lot of thought and should be used responsibly, especially if you’re asking about the Holy Trinity of Missing DC Characters: Cassandra Cain, Wally West & Stephanie Brown. Which leads us into our last question…
6. “I know you’ve been asked this a lot lately, but…” aka Just Because I Read Comics Don’t Think I Can’t Start Some Shit
You can please some of the people some of the time, but you can please comic book fans…well, one day we’ll find a way to please comic book fans. This is a turbulent time for the industry. Every publisher is making big moves in an attempt to grab mainstream press and bring in new and lapsed readers before more slip through their fingers. This has led to some pretty drastic decisions on both a publishing and marketing level and the responses to them have been…drastic, to say the least. Like the character question, this is a tough one. While there can be well thought out constructive criticism that be be delivered right into the faces of the people that make your comics, arguing or complaining about things like Spider-Man’s Satanic Marriage Annulment or the fact that DC did a reboot is kind of a waste of time. That stuff happened. Maybe it sucked, maybe it didn’t. Maybe some good came out of it and maybe it didn’t, but you have to make the decision to stick with a company, character or creator after a major upheaval. If so, great. If not…well, nice knowing you. When it comes to questioning a publisher’s current direction (or lack thereof) it becomes important to know what’s been talked about already and what hasn’t so that what you’re asking can be be used to gain new perspectives or insights from a publisher or creator, or even just getting them to clarify a position that was made on a topic earlier. Even then, it’s important to be aware that you’re treading on familiar ground that has more than likely been covered at the last convention they were at.
Here’s a final bonus point for those of you panelists on the other side of the table. While getting asked the same (and sometimes really stupid) questions can be exhausting, bear in mind that we’re there because we’re fans and we give a crap. Sometimes we care a bit to much and it leads to…extreme behavior, but remember to have patience and don’t brush off an interesting, original or even slightly confrontational question just for comedic relief or because it makes you uncomfortable. Yes, you’re there to entertain but giving a smart-assy answer to a question about a serious issue kind of makes you come off like a jerk.
With all that said and done it begs the question: what should I ask? Well, that’s up to you (within reason). Be original, be thought-provoking and try to come up with something that not only you but others might be interested in finding out. If comics have taught us anything it’s that we should use the power at our disposal for good and not evil. Let’s not squander the time and opportunity we have with those that make the entertainment we love.
Filed Under: PoP! Top 6-Pack