The audience and panelists at the first of two sessions at this weekend’s WonderCon celebrating the 80th anniversary of Batman seemed to act the character’s age as the event began on Friday.
Host and comic-book writer Sam Humphries urged the crowd to "go from a 6 to a 12" as he introduced the panelists. The slow start didn’t bode well as participants even voiced how tired they were at the afternoon gathering in Anaheim.
The expected cadre of Batfamily cosplayers were also not to be found in the room. It took writer Scott Snyder, fresh from annoying his eight-months-pregnant wife, to liven up the crowd as he introduced his new take on the Dark Knight — a story that posits that all of this is in Bruce Wayne's mind as he has sits idly in a padded cell for the last 15 to 20 years after killing his parents.
Audible gasps ensued as he described his book “Batman: Last Knight on Earth” and remembered fellow writer Grant Morrison’s advice that he not be daunted by writing Batman. Morrison suggested Snyder write the beginning and end for his version of the character.
The crowd was even more enthused as Humphries showed art on the big screen in the North 200B room of the Anaheim Convention Center. Fellow panelist and artist Greg Capullo’s rendering showed Bruce Wayne in a cell, his butler Alfred coming to visit him and a few mementos from previous stories that illustrated Bruce Wayne's delusional mindstate.
Several other panelists discussed their visions of the Dark Knight and his legacy, their favorite artists and when they were introduced to the vigilante.
Artist Becky Cloonan talked about her first experiences with Batman through the animated series by Bruce Timm in the early 1990s, a common introduction judging from all the raised hands in the audience.
"The show had such bold stylistic changes in the way that Gotham was rendered," said Cloonan. "I also liked [the comic book] 'Gotham Central.' It's a Batman story without Batman in it... What do you do as a kid when you look up and see the Batsignal?"
Peter Tomasi, who wrote the current Detective Comics No. 1000, is helping introduce the Arkham Knight, a popular character from the Batman family of video games, into the comics. Tomasi hinted that the character would be playing a major role in the near future, but he wanted to make sure the character was new even to gamers.
"I didn't want to regurgitate the game stuff," said Tomasi. "If you're coming into the comic fresh," you don't need to have played the game to get the character.
Capullo talked a bit about the look of Batman, how he shouldn't be a "competition-ready bodybuilder," but this "slab of a man." Capullo also mentioned comics creator Frank Miller as one of his early influences.
"When Batman was in armor, wired up to fight Superman, Frank had this flat-nosed helmet. I just couldn't wait to put that in,” Capullo said, adding that it was “the only intentional thing” he took from Miller.
Artist Joelle Jones, who's primarily dealing with Batman's consort and arch rival Catwoman, said that Batman was ingrained in us all.
"Everyone is kind of born knowing who Batman is, right?"
Writer Tom King, who remembered that when he was a kid it wasn't cool to come to school with a Batman shirt on, made poignant comments about Batman creators Bill Finger and Bob Kane. King said their experiences shaped how the hero became a champion by overcoming his obstacles.
His comments brought it all back to the beginning, but the panelists’ future plans for Batman — and a sneak peek at the Dark Knight walking around the desert with the Joker’s head attached to his belt — especially enlivened the crowd.
Other Batman-related panels are scheduled at WonderCon, which continues through Sunday at the Anaheim Convention Center.
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