NYCC 2012 – Day 0

The two panels I went to on “Day 0” of New York Comic Con didn’t have any manga content, but definitely contained points of interest, particularly to me.

First I dropped by the “Editing Graphic Novels” panel, which was hosted by Heidi McDonald of Publisher’s Weekly, and featured editors from Vertigo, Lerner, First Second, Yen, and Oni. Yen talked about their Interview with the Vampire tie-in, and how to match a good artist with a story. This is, in fact, the artist’s first work. They also mentioned Nightschool, and noted Svetlana had “too many ideas” – even after pruning, it was still 4 books instead of the original 3!

Vertigo is an old hand at this sort of thing, and mentioned their new GN Right State. A graphic novel lets them get away from the ’22 pages then a cliffhanger’ problem that floppies have. Right State is political, and was timed to come out near the election. They also talked about Colleen Doran’s new work she’s doing art for, Gone to Amerikay, which is historical but also relevant to today’s world, something Karen Berger (Vertigo’s speaker) tries to work with.

Oni Press mentioned Crogan’s Vengeance, which is also a historical-themed manga with pirates. This artist actually had the first book completely thumbnailed when it was sold – when he did the third book, needing an outline first was a bit vexing. Naturally, Scott Pilgrim also came up. The editor considers it one 1200-page book that had to be put out in 6 parts. Also, as the series grew the editor was promoted, and had to find a balance between editing and the administrative aspect of Oni.

Lerner is a school and library publisher, so are usually looking for educational or younger comics. A Game of Swallows is a memoir of one harrowing night in Beirut, and was translated, but barely needed any editing. They noted they do sometimes have to censor, due to age groups – breasts, etc – but they were allowed to leave the guns in this story, of course. They also mentioned Chicagoland Detective Agency, which had the funniest part of the panel, as they came up with a ridiculous premise… that the execs loved, so they had to find a writer. Luckily, Trina Robbins loved the idea as well. Its artist is a webcomic artist, so had to adjust to the different ways of working – there’s actual editing this time! They also discussed how to give feedback and criticism to “a famous person” such as Trina.

First Second talked about its GN Sumo, and noted the way that mini-comics can be a good stepping stone to finding out if an artist can work with deadlines and larger publishers. The author, who did not really know how print runs worked, suggested each copy be hand bound – and that he could do it if needed. They talked him down from that. There’s also a comic due out next Spring, Relish – My Life In The Kitchen. It’s a biographical memoir that uses food as a bit of a mnemonic, and also has recipes.

Smaller publishers noted they mostly get creator-driven ideas, rather than farming ideas out. They also discussed working under the umbrella of a much larger company – such as First Second with MacMillan, or Vertigo with DC/Time Warner. They get to blame the “corporate overlords”. Lastly, there was a discussion of how to refer to what an editor does. Someone suggested it’s like the director/producer of a movie, and “project manager” is one one editor referred to it. More importantly, it’s a relationship between an editor and a creator – you have to make it work, know how to deal with people.

After this invigorating discussion, I waited for Hasbro’s My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic panel. At the panel were Hasbro Execs Mike Vogel and Brian Lenard, producer Jason Thiessen and writer Meghan McCarthy. I had thought, given it was a Thursday panel, that it would be more marketing oriented. Nope, this was pure 100% fan panel. They got the ball rolling by discussing Equestria itself. The show isn’t a serial, but there’s a lot of world building within the self-contained episodes. They like to do subtle visual cues that point to future episodes, rather than have actual continuity. They also like that the new series is its own thing, and doesn’t reference the earlier 80s series. Hasbro gets premises and outlines to approve, and notes they do listen to the audience – though they will not be crossing over with Transformers. They discussed doing something with a human element to it (as in actual humans in the show), but it didn’t seem to fit. It’s a magical fantasy world, so they try to keep it low tech. Unless they don’t – see the DJ equipment, etc.

It’s a mythological based world, which helps to make the show timeless – Twilight Sparkle will not be using Twitter. They also do have sometimes heated discussions about the show with Hasbro, much more than any other Hasbro property. (A clip from Hearth’s Warming Eve played here). They want to explore more of Celestia and Luna’s past, and note that there are three separate “pasts” in the show – Hearth’s Warming Eve, Discord, and Nightmare Moon – that aren’t worked out beforehand, but they try to fit together. This was not planned out in detail from the start. (At this point they joked about how it’s OK if they spoil Season 12, and noted Rarity and Spike were married after Equestria passed the Pony/Dragon Marriage Act.)

Not all the animals talk, and it was noted that what they try to convey is that it’s the “hooved animals” who can speak, while others, such as Angel Bunny, are mute/more of a normal animal type. They then discussed ensemble darkhorses, and showed a clip of Luna from Luna Eclipsed. Fans adore Luna, even though she’s barely appeared. Octavia took them entirely by surprise – they had no idea fans latched onto her. Vinyl Scratch, on the other hand, they knew would be loved. It’s all part of “the circle of pony”.

Discord, with a clip from The Return of Harmony. Dragonequus is unique to the series, and was designed by Lauren, who also suggested/requested John DeLancie in the role. It was the perfect combination of design, animation and voice acting. They noted DeLancie acts with his body like a stage actor, so sometimes managed to exhaust himself. There was lots of bits they had to cut out with Delancie, and Hasbro hinted it may be on a future DVD release. They also discussed him returning, though this read more like a troll.

Other villains were discussed, with a clip of Chrysalis from A Canterlot Wedding. Meghan scripted it, but was blown away by what the designer came up with – the holes in the legs, etc. Someone asked that she be made larger. The panel then teased about things Jason and Meghan wanted to write about in future. The griffon society was mentioned, insofar as we know nothing about their society. Luna’s abandoned moon colony? Is there something beyond Equestria? All things not yet written down (so not spoilers), but food for thought. Equestria’s map was deliberately left with unfinished bits so they could fill this in.

We then got a spoiler clip with the Crystal Empire, which I won’t spoil here, except to say that Pinkie Pie continues to be very Pinkie Pie.

They then opened the floor to questions, and discussed Lauren’s creating the pony personalities as archetypes, which makes them easy and fun to work with. Someone asked if the new season was only 13 episodes – rather than answer, Hasbro noted that everyone adores the show, and that episode number has nothing to do with popularity. Hasbro loved that this is an all-ages show that kids as well as adults can enjoy – they compare it to Pixar. Gilda was asked about, she simply hasn’t come up again yet. Star Swirl the Bearded would be hard to work with, given he’s in the past. If only they had a world with magic in it… The panel agreed that Fighting Is Magic looked really cool, though Hasbro of course cannot officially admit they have seen the awesome gameplay.

They love the bronies, but also like that they’re just a piece of an even larger all-encompassing fandom. Jason lives next to two young boys who wanted Rarity toys for their birthday, so they’re also crossing gender barriers at a young age. Even the Hasbro interns, who were very grudging about having to watch this, admitted they loved the Cutie Mark Crusaders. Official Video games and RPG-style FIM was brought up, Hasbro gave a ‘sounds like a good idea’ response. A fan asked about Fluttershy, Applejack and Scootaloo’s parents, and got no real answer, though it was noted when asked about Cadence and Shining Armor’s marriage having difficulties that that would have to be “A very special episode.”

A soundtrack CD was also brought up, and they’re considering it. Someone noted certain comparisons between Hearts and Hooves Day and Discord, and Jason noted “you know, we only do these panels with you guys to get ideas for future episodes.” They like to use Greek mythology, but note that they can also dip into other things. They are VERY excited about IDW’s upcoming comic series, and note that they’re working closely to make sure it “feels like Pony”. Pinkie Pie’s parents were brought up. “They’re still farming rocks. The rocks must keep flowing.”

Movie? “Mmmmmmaybe.” Broadway was also mentioned, the panel laughed. It was also noted that, despite using Flash rather than hand-drawn animation, it still took a great deal of time and effort. It’s all still frame by frame. They want to explore the nature of the “monarchy”, and how the power structure works. Lastly, Alicorns were brought up (or ‘pegacorns’, as they apparently called them before fans used alicorn so often they gave up and switched it in the scripts). They’re “special” ponies who will rarely be seen. Celestia’s age was not mentioned exactly, but it’s noted she is at least 1000, and looks fantastic for her age.

It was a fantastic Day 0, even with only two panels. Tomorrow, the manga coverage begins.

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