Editor’s note: DC Comics President Paul Levitz returns to blog about this weekend’s big festivities in New York. Special thanks to Vaneta Rogers for supplying some pictures.
by Paul Levitz
Dateline: New York Comic Con: my first comic convention was the 1971 New York Seulingcon, after I finally convinced my parents to hold off our annual trek to the Catskills for the summer long enough for me to go. That show set a record for attendance at a comic convention, with about 3,000 attendees…or roughly the number of people who were in a single panel room this weekend, watching the new trailer for The Dark Knight. I haven’t heard an attendance estimate for the overall convention, but it seems safely past 20 times the ’71 show. Especially refreshing was the diversity and youth of the audience…one observer compared to a tribal event, watching the anime tribe move past the comics tribe, and then the cosplay tribe weave in and out.
My moments for the con included attending the event naming Stan Lee their first “Legend” (like anyone needed to make it official?). I made it to my second visit to Stan’s house some years ago before being an embarrassed fanboy and forcing him to sign my bound volume of AVENGERS #1-16 before going out to dinner. Despite that he still lets me hang around and buy him dinner occasionally… * Filled in the Space Ranger series in Unexpected for my collection, a small moment of Silver Age DC history that had slipped away. I try to collect a series or two at any point, just to remember why I love the comics themselves, and to have an excuse to paw the longboxes. * Said a sad farewell to Steve Gerber, who bizarrely and appropriately enough showed up as ashes in a cracked container to be celebrated by old friends in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood he loved in New York. We were close for several years in my youth, and I learned a number of things from him, including how to do lettercols well (one of his least-recalled gifts), which was probably a very good thing, since I think I ended up writing more of them than anyone in my generation, and about the many ways we needed to make comics a better place for creative talent. * Joined Keith Giffen in chatting with a roomful of Legion fans celebrating the 50th anniversary of the group (and got Teenagers from the Future, a new book analyzing those five decades), toasted Joe Kubert, Will Eisner, and Phil’s old New York Cons at various panels. So many panels, in fact, that I started to feel like Mark Evanier, but my backyard’s more prone to deer than the kitten he’s coping with.
The best part of the con, as always, was simply hanging in the DC booth and walking the halls, talking to old friends from the 95 year old Joe Simon to the 9 year old Nick Pappas Jr., and hearing how people feel about the work I’ve done or that DC’s doing today. Very few people have the good luck to keep in touch with as many folks as I’ve had the privilege to have in my diverse professional life, and cons serve me as a sort of perpetual high school reunion: who’s doing what, how life’s treating people, and how people feel my team’s treating them. We had more people at DC’s main talent party than were working in the entire comic book business when I started, and it’s incredible to hear about all the projects in motion either with us or elsewhere in the field. We got some good press on some of our announcements (I’m still checking the web to find out what we broke at the show—the gang doesn’t always tell me), and I met some of our newer contributors and touched base with some of the veterans.
Oh yeah, and I got a $10 item that, in the words of a credit card commercial, is priceless: a copy of Newfangles #44, in which Don & Maggie Thompson recommend Etcetera, the fanzine Paul Kupperberg and I had just started, as a worthy successor to theirs. We had clipped out the quote and kept on the cork wall in my bedroom, but the rest of the mimeo zine had long since vanished. Got Maggie to sign it, too!
All in all, a good weekend.
* * *
John Smith asked “What qualities do you think makes a successful comic shop?” The qualities I hear people talk about most are the friendly atmosphere, the sort of relationship that makes customers want to be regulars like they might at a local pub, and increasingly today, depth of selection that separates the best comic shops from bookstores, along with the knowledge to help people find what they want when they don’t really know what they want. But bear in mind that the last time I worked in a store that sold comics it was a “used book and comics” store before the direct sales system was even created, and when putting old comics in mylar bags was as revolutionary as slabbing is now.
* * *
“What are your thoughts on the event driven nature of superhero comic storytelling? Necessary evil? Harmless fun? A barrier/entry way for new readers?” asked Evil Twin. This one’s a little more than schizophrenic. As a reader, the first comic I remember buying at a newsstand was JLA #21 with “Crisis On Earth-One” and I recall the early ‘events’ of my childhood very fondly. As a writer, I’m not fond of them because I preferred to write off in quiet corners of the DCU that I could “control” and not worry about others’ continuity (think what proportion of my stories were set on Earth-Two or in the 30th Century), and it’s no secret that the various events during my Legion years caused some pretty awkward retconning. As a publisher, they seem to be a very successful tool for attracting readers new and old, when done well. Of course, when you blow one, it’s a major mess.
* * *
“As someone who is trying to brainwash children into becoming comic fans, I would be curious at to what Mr. Levitz thinks are effective means to inspire new readers,” says Mylar Lad. I vote for reading to them, preferably a little bit less than they want to be read to—giving them the incentive to pick up the books and read.
* * *
“Has any thought been given to publishing a collection of the various comics history articles that DC ran over the years – From the Wonderful World of Comics in the 1960s to ‘Behind the scenes’ in the 1970s to the articles and interviews in Amazing World of DC Comics?” asks Scott Rowland. Really, isn’t there enough blackmail out there available on me? I wrote the Behind the Scenes series as some of my first professional assignments, and a lot of the Amazing World material in my woodchuck years. I remember them fondly, but I think they’re of the time…there’s much more information easily available today on the web.
* * *
Arion wants to know “How could an undergrad student get a job in DC?” We take a few summer interns each summer, but you need to have a college program that will give you some form of credit for it, and a way to survive in New York for the summer, since internships don’t pay (and New York is insanely expensive these days). Applications should go to the Human Resources department in spring.