SDCC 2018 Panel Recap: Tom King
Jonah Puskar / Emertainment Monthly Comic Books Editor
With some hot talent at this year’s SDCC, DC Comics put a spotlight on top writer Tom King. Joined by frequent collaborators, artists Clay Mann and Mitch Gerads, King took time to discuss ongoing projects like Batman and Mister Miracle as well as his special upcoming event, Heroes in Crisis.
The panel began with moderator Constance introducing Tom King, Clay Mann, and Mitch Gerads
Mann had brought King a soda which when opened sprayed King.
Constance got the panel back on track by congratulating Gerads on his Eisner Award nomination and to King on his win. King took the chance to thank his fans who supported him towards the win and for having stuck around after the controversy surrounding Batman #50
King and Gerads were asked if they wanted to talk a bit about Mister Miracle, what has been going on with that series, and where it’ll be going. King answered that he loved working on a series that he could draw from his own experiences for. He also said he realized how odd it was to discuss those moments for crowds, saying “The worst moments of your life you will have to reveal to a huge audience.” He elaborated that Mister Miracle was inspired by panic attack King had dealt with and moments where he had felt like he was going crazy. He added that the series dealt with those emotional moments, but also healing from them, “Mister Miracle is about a guy rebuilding himself with the love of his wife and then the love of his child.”
When Gerads was prompted to discuss the series, he joked that the art style was forcing him to view life in 9 panels now. Gerads was also excited for the reveal of Mister Miracle #11 cover, adding that he felt proud of the little details he had snuck in.
King then explained the upcoming crux of the series, what fans will have to be anticipating. According to King, readers will now see if Scott Free decides whether to risk billions or hand over his newborn son, Jacob, to Darkseid to end their war. Fans in the audience were noticeably intrigued, and King played it up a bit for the crowd, “You guys excited to see where Mister Miracle goes?” King asked for a raise of hands with each and then prompted the audience with where they think the series ends up as it concluded. “Who thinks its a dream? Who thinks he’s dead and trapped in hell? Who thinks he dead and trapped in heaven? Who thinks Darkseid is manipulating him? Who thinks Tom King is manipulating him? And who thinks its actual DC continuity?”
Constance then turned the conversation towards King’s other work, the current Batman series, and asked if King wanted to talk about Batman #50. King sarcastically stated “Yeah that went well,” followed by “Never talk to the fucking New York Times.” This was in reference to the dramatic ending of the 50th issue of the series when Catwoman breaks her engagement with Batman, something the New York Times spoiled early and cause King to receive death threats from fans.
King compared Batman to Indiana Jones and Han Solo at specific points in their respective films, having been close to greatness and having it slip out of reach. According to King, Batman always gets back up, so Bane needed to break his heart. King felt that for the character, losing the optimism and hope of love is more painful than physical torment.
When Constance asked how many artists King had working on Batman #50, King mentioned that there were 21, including Mann and Gerads. When asked what it was like to bring them in on that issue King sarcastically scoffed, “These two? Sucks.” before quickly adding “These two are my brothers. I’m always bothering them.” He went on to praise Gerads and Mann, mentioning that while they don’t draw alike, they have the same sensibilities. King stated he liked how they work from his barebones scripts, flesh them out, and make them seem real.
The conversation then turned to an artist not present, Lee Weeks. Weeks’ work with King on the Batman/Elmer Fudd Special #1 earned an Eisner Award nomination. King discussed how he was excited to work with Weeks on the book, though assumed that because it was Elmer Fudd weeks could take a break with this book. According to King, however, Weeks responded with “I’ve never heard of such a thing as a break.” and proceeded to blow King away with the art for that book.
Constance then asked what fans shoudl be expecting next in the main Batman series. King drew attention towards upcoming art that was being shown depicting Batman and James Gordon, which King quoted Gerads as having called it the “perfect Batman.” King then said he had to correct Gerads at the time that it wasn’t Bruce under the cowl, but Dick Grayson who was temporarily stepping in. He also said that he was happy to return to working with Nightwing.
That lead into discussion on the upcoming Batman #54, which King said would be a deep dive with Dick and Bruce’s relationship. He explained that currently Bruce doesn’t want to talk about the heartbreak, so King is using that in the story to parallel Bruce’s issues now with Dick losing his parents 20 years prior, with Dick taking on the emotional support role this time. King also told the audience he’d be working with artist Matt Wagner on this issue, who he then praised.
When discussing returning artists, Constance prompted King to discuss the return of Tony Daniel with Batman #55. King reveals that KGBeast comes in soon, and he is scarier than ever. King also said that when he gave Daniel a choice of villains to work with, Daniel responded“I wanna do King Tut!” King said that he was perplexed by the choice, as was DC when King asked for permission to use King Tut. DC, according to King, said they couldn’t see why it’d be an issue to use the character, only to call back and say “No King Tut” which prompted King and Daniel to create the villain “Phantom Pharaoh”
After explaining he had written jokes for the issue making fun of Phantom Pharaoh for having the letter “F” in his name and then discovering that “pharaoh” wasn’t spelled with an “F”, Gerads poked fun at King’s expense asking if he truly deserved “half of the Best Writer Eisner Award” which referenced the fact that King tied for the award the night prior.
Constance asked King and Mann if they wouldn’t mind discussing the new event Heroes in Crisis. The screen then showed the cover of the upcoming first issue, which Mann drew. King mentioned that Mann took the time to draw 80 superheroes in a field when in fact “I asked for a hand and a bird!” and not having expected something so detailed. King also explained that the series will have 5 leads, the main DC Trinity of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, while also having Booster Gold and Harley Quinn.
King said he had tried to set the concept of Sanctuary and the relevance of Booster and Harley in advance in Batman, stating that DC told him which characters they wanted for the series and he worked from there. When asked what it was like working with these characters, King mentioned that “This is a story about people making mistakes, people coming back from mistakes” and for King these characters worked well. He discussed having gone to Booster Gold’s creator Dan Jurgens for advice, who told King that Booster isn’t dumb, he’s well intentioned and might be one of the most well intentioned heroes and “Booster trips over his own feet but he always gets back up”
For added perspective, King discussed having talked to Harley cosplayers to gain an understanding of her character and why she appeals to so many people, noting that he heard one thing over and over, “She’s a survivor.”
Other details of Heroes in Crisis in terms of art were that Mann will do the overall art for the book while Gerads will be doing closeups of certain characters from time to time, which Gerads joked will include more 9 panel grids. Gerads and King explained the reason behind the grids, that Sanctuary is a trauma center and that the 9 panel grids are when residents are revealing truths to a camera for the healing process in the form of confessionals.
King said the choice of the story was because he felt that comics and cartoons were always presented as ideals, and he wanted to show what the heroes have been through to make them ideals.
More details of the story’s Sanctuary setting were revealed, with attention focused on the facility’s symbol. King asked Mann to explain meaning behind it since he designed the symbol. Mann said that fans might notice it’s a play off original the Superman symbol, with it’s more triangular shape around the “S” Mann also mentioned that Sanctuary also has a pin, which King explained. According to him, Sanctuary is anonymous, residents are masked, but when you leave you get a pin, like an AA coin, to recognize others who’ve been through it. Constance used this detail as a jumping off to let the audience know everyone would get a pin.
After the pins were handed out, the Q&A began.
The first fan, after praising Mann for his work, asked where inspiration for experimental storytelling comes from for King. The writer then flatly said “I steal from people, that’s the trick.” King explained that he is inspired by other writers, and quoted Alan Moore on that everyone should take from previous writers, especially multiple at once.
The next person began with asking if they could bring out David, Tom’s bodyguard, who then waved to the audience. The fan asked King jokingly if his bodyguard was ready for any blowback if King kills off Wally West in Heroes in Crisis. While King wouldn’t reveal details, he merely hinted “The pain is not done.” King explained that both pain and healing are coming, and “Good comics reflect life, and in life shitty things happen.”
After that, the next question was on which characters would the panelists want to work with next. Before allowing him to answer, Gerads joked that King should focus on winning a whole award next. King explained a superhero his son came up with, “Wrist-Fart-Man,” and said that was his pick. When prompted for a serious answer, King asked if fans would would Phantasm, from the animated movie, to appear in the comics. When the crowd reacted very positively, King randomly declared Batman #87 as when Phantasm would appear, joking it was now official.
The last question was what had been favorite characters to work with. King answered that he had written Hal Jordan for only one issue, but he was his favorite, having enjoyed writing him like Captain Kirk from Star Trek.
That was it for the panel. Plenty for fans of King, Mann, and Gerads to look forward to in coming months.