At WonderCon 2013 this past weekend, the Senior Vice President of Marketing for DC John Cunningham and writer Scott Lobdell got together for a panel called ‘DC 101.’ It was described as a different kind of comic book panel. It would cater to people who weren’t habitual comic readers and might not know how to approach the DC universe. That seemed like a pretty great idea because not everyone who comes to these ‘comic book’ conventions read comics any more. They have really become an entirely different beast all together. Unfortunately, the panel had a few set backs. Hardly anyone was actually there for the panel itself – almost everyone was waiting on the Teen Wolf panel that came after – and even though they were able to get in some teasing and what not I think that really was a set back for the two panelists who hadn’t known what came after. A very few people even had issues with being teased and seemed to be offended. (Or maybe they were just bitchy. I don’t know.) One girl actually yelled out asking they why they kept trying to alienate all of these potential readers. It was uncalled for and uncool. Her shouting, not their teasing.
The biggest set back, though, in my mind was that this was not what it had been made out to be. It was not DC 101. This was an hour long marketing brief. They didn’t feature hardly any comics at all in the presentation – just the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo adaptation. Instead they showed trailers of upcoming cartoons, movies, video games, etc.
As someone who was there to hear what they thought good ways to jump into the DC comic universe would be, I was sorely disappointed. So I pen this letter to you, John Cunningham (and you, too, Scott).
Dear John and Scott,
Let me begin by saying thank you for attempting to do a non-conventional comic book panel. I agree that so many of the comic-related panels are geared towards those individuals who are long time fans of whatever franchise or series is headlining the panel. The demographics of events like Wonder Con, Comic Con, and all the other comic book conventions are changing. It’s not just old school comic book fans now. It’s a new generation of pop culture savvy kids who have been introduced to the various characters and properties through other forms of media.
But that doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t be interested in comics.
Most people at conventions, I think, don’t understand that. You’ll hear people whining and complaining about crowds and tickets and pricing and how these conventions used to be so much better when it was just the real fans. Just because they started out with comics they think they are the real fans. The truth of the matter is that there are plenty of fans of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight who would love to read the Batman comics or fans of Joss Whedon’s Avengers who would gladly pick up a few issues… if they knew where to begin. Comic books are complicated. The timelines never set in stone. Characters die and come back to life. Villains redeem themselves and then are suddenly evil again. It’s complicated. They need help.
And this is where I have to say that I agreed with the angry Teen Wolf girl. Now, I didn’t mind that you teased the fans at all. I think most of them took it pretty well and most of them were probably fans of comic book characters from cartoons or something, too. It’s not your fault that Wonder Con scheduled the Teen Wolf panel after yours. But she did make one point. You were in a room for of people who were not traditional comic book fans and in a panel that was supposedly geared towards helping people get into DC comics. You had all these people right there who would have listened to every recommendation you made.
Instead, you used it as a one hour marketing ploy for upcoming movies, TV shows, and games. You mentioned one comic book and it wasn’t even one of DC’s main properties. It was Vertigo’s Girl With the Dragon Tattoo adaptation. That was actually probably a very good recommendation for people. That’s a great way to get into reading comic books. Give someone a story they already know, adapt it as a graphic novel, and see what they think.
But that’s just not why I was there or why I’m sure anyone who actually had come to the DC 101 panel for the actual DC 101 panel was looking for either.
I love comic books. But I’m more of a Marvel fan than a DC fan. So I’m always looking for a way to get more into DC comics. I thought what we would get were some recommendations for story archs or one shot comics that we could read to get a feel for DC and then maybe a few recommendations for more approachable series. Hell, I would have been okay with you guys talking about the New 52 for the full hour and telling people how that worked and giving us a jumping on point with certain series. I read Dial H and it was a great sort of off the wall series for people to get into without needing to know anything else about DC. That would have been a good recommendation. Or if you wanted to recommend a good one-shot there is always Superman: Secret Identities coming out this month.
There were so many things you could have done and said to give people in that panel more of an education about DC comics. Telling us about the TV shows, movies, and games was all right and everything but nine times out of ten we already know about those. We see those every day. We’re exposed to them constantly.
So I hope you guys do this panel again sometime. If not at Comic Con then at other conventions or even Wonder Con 2014. And I hope that this time you’ll actually use it as an opportunity to court new readers as opposed to an opportunity to try and sell us DC characters in pretty much anything but comic books.
Thanks and sorry for the douchey Teen Wolf fans.
– Sam Wildman
If these guys do another panel at Comic Con this summer or Wonder Con next year, I’ll definitely go check it out. If just to see if they’ve changed things around a bit or not. I hope they do, though. People who want to be comic book fans are always looking for good recommendations and help in making the most of the medium. It’s a great idea for a panel. It just needs to, you know, actually help people find those recommendations.