There’s more to do and see at New York Comic Con than even the most dedicated geek could possibly take in. So while you were snagging an early look at Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency in Madison Square Garden or queueing in Hall 1C for your big Marvel’s The Defenders reveal, we checked out a few great under-the-radar panels. Here’s what you need to know:
1. Bringing Books to Life
Authors Patrick Ness (A Monster Calls), Lev Grossman (The Magicians), Blake Crouch (Wayward Pines), Ezekiel Boone (The Hatching) and Sarvenaz Tash (The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love) weighed the pros and cons of having their novels adapted for film or TV. Although, as Crouch put it, “There are so many things just languishing in Hollywood that it’s amazing to have anything on the air,” the panelists mostly expressed a combination of awe at seeing the worlds they created expanded on screen, and anxiety over letting go of the stories they once had total control over. The notable exception was Ness, who as a screenwriter (he’s the brains behind the upcoming Doctor Who spinoff Class) came into his negotiations for A Monster Calls with a spec screenplay already completed. Ultimately the studio allowed him to be the sole screenwriter for the film that’s due out in January.
Best quote: “The pilot of The Magicians goes one-third of the way through book one, and I worked so hard on book one!” — Lev Grossman
2. The Tradition of Military Comic Books Past and Present
This Friday morning panel featured longtime G.I. Joe writer Larry Hama, Garth Ennis (promoting his new Dark Horse series World of Tanks), and Ethan Young, the creator of Nanjing: The Burning City. The panelists noted that while more realistic comics like Nanjing offer a harrowing portrayal of war, even over-the-top characters like the Punisher, who both Hama and Ennis have written, teaches an important lesson about how revenge “both torments you and satisfies you in odd ways,” as Hama (himself a Vietnam veteran) explained.
Best quote: “The old adage that fact is stranger than fiction is never truer than in war.” — Garth Ennis
3. Celebrating Will Eisner and Jack Kirby: Two Centuries of Genius
Will Eisner and Jack Kirby both would have both turned 100 next year, so expect to hear even more than usual about these immensely influential comic book artists as those centenary celebrations gear up. The panel included Danny Fingeroth, a former Marvel editor and the chair of Will Eisner Week, Jack Kirby Museum director Rand Hoppe, and Abrams Books editorial director Charles Kochman. They were joined by Paul Levitz, who wrote The Legion of Superheroes during the 1970s and 1980s and more recently Will Eisner: Champion of the Graphic Novel. The panel noted how both artists were profoundly affected by living through the Great Depression and World War II, but the specifics of their experiences — for example, Kirby served as a front line Army scout in Europe, while Eisner stayed in the U.S. illustrating military instruction manuals — explains their distinctive drawing styles.
Best quote: “You see it in their fights. Will’s fights are movie fights. Jack’s fights are the fights he saw on Delancey Street on the Lower East Side where guys were just beating the hell out of each other.” — Paul Levitz
4. Wonder Woman 75
You’ve probably already seen the big announcement from this panel: DC is releasing a crossover miniseries next year combining Batman ‘66 and Wonder Woman ‘77. Artist Yanick Paquette also mentioned that he’s currently pencilling the second volume of Grant Morrison’s Wonder Woman: Earth One (while lamenting that Morrison’s scripts are “weird” and completely unlike any other writer). Jill Thompson, whose new graphic novel Wonder Woman: The True Amazon was just released, said she hadn’t been a fan of Wonder Woman before starting her run penning the character in the 1990s. “I was more of a Phoenix gal or Catwoman gal,” Thompson said, adding that she worked aspects of those two characters into Diana Prince. At the end of the panel, host Brian Steinberg told the audience they’d get to see a special treat — before showing the disappointed crowd the Wonder Woman trailer that already premiered at San Diego Comic-Con in July and currently has more than 25 million views on YouTube.
Best quote: “I rankle when people say, ‘Oh, she’s too perfect.’ It’s like saying Superman is too perfect.” — Greg Rucka
“Oh, he is, ugh!” — Jill Thompson
5. Marvel: Infinity Gauntlet 25th Anniversary
Marvel will soon tap the 1991 Infinity Gauntlet storyline to bring together the separate parts of its cinematic universe in Avengers: Infinity War, due in 2018. Jim Starlin, the writer of that fan-favorite series was on hand to talk about its origins. Starlin was joined by former professional wrestler and current Drax writer CM Punk and Lorraine Cink, the author of Marvel Absolutely Everything You Need to Know. Starlin said that he created the Infinity Gems as a “throwaway,” without intending for them to become such a key feature of the Marvel universe. While Thanos is usually compared to (or derided as a ripoff of) Jack Kirby's Darkseid, Starlin said Thanos was originally skinnier and modeled after Kirby's Metron — hence the floating chair — and both cosmic villains “just sort of inflated almost simultaneously.”
Best quote: “Stan and I were always at loggerheads.” — Jim Starlin
6. Drawing From the World: Franco-Belgian Comics in Global Context
Francophone comics are having something of a moment, with 2013’s hit Snowpiercer adapted from the graphic novel Le Transperceneige and Luc Besson’s upcoming Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, set to hit theatres in 2017, adapted from the long-running French series Valérian and Laureline. This panel was also connected with an ongoing exhibition showcasing French and Belgian comics at Cooper Union in New York. As it turns out, while all the creators present had some connection to France, their origins were actually more widespread, including Israeli artist Asaf Hanuka (The Realist), Italian artist Alessandro Barbucci (Monster Allergy), and American-born author Jerome Charyn (The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson and The Magician’s Wife). Even if you're not fluent in French (don't worry, more English translations are on the way) panelists made the case that French artists and writers probably are influencing the books you're reading right now.
Best quote: “There’s no Israeli comics culture to speak of, so we don’t have any rules. We’re free to take influence from the French, from Manga, from American superheros and mix it all up.” – Asaf Hanuka
7. Scream Queens: Female Horror/Thriller Writers
Just in time for Halloween, YA horror authors Mira Grant (the Newsflesh series), Dawn Kurtagich (The Dead House), Danielle Rollins (Burning), and Tara Altebrando (The Leaving) discussed how they dream up creepy scenes and what keeps them awake at night. While Rollins, who also writes under the name Danielle Vega, said that she had no real fears, Kurtagich noted she was just the opposite. “My books come out of a place of real fear and over thinking that,” Kurtagich said.
Best quote: “If you think about the history of story, these are the first stories we were telling, ever: What happens when you go out in the dark, what happens if you go out into the woods without your family. It’s how we decide what, as a culture, we’re going to accept. It’s how we figure out where the boundaries are.” — Danielle Rollins
8. Star Wars: The Science Awakens
A highly educated panel included Chuck Liu, Ph.D., a professor of astrophysics at the City University of New York; psychologist Mara Wood, Ph.D., host of the Talking Comics podcast; Travis Langley, Ph.D., author of Star Wars psychology; and Monique Renee, a cosplayer and paleontology student at Harvard University. They were joined by Christopher Mahon and Janey Tracey from Outerplaces.com and Eliot Sirota, a VFX artist who worked on Men in Black 3. The psychologists speculated about Kylo Ren’s mental health: A possible diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, although the dark side of the Force might be analogous to substance abuse. Lin outlined why technology sophisticated enough to turn plasma into a lightsaber would more likely be used to level cities, why the Death Star laser couldn’t make a planet "just go boom," and how the 10 dimensions of superstring theory could explain why travel across vast distances through hyperspace sometimes seems to take hours or even days (like in A New Hope) and other times is nearly instantaneous (in The Force Awakens).
Best quote: “The gravitational binding energy of a planet is going to counter any beam energy that could cause a planet to explode.” — Dr. Charles Liu