By David Nieves
A gathering of some of DC Comics top talent took place in room 6DE to kick off Comic-Con Friday. In what has to be one of the funniest panels of SDCC these creators gathered to tell embarrassing stories and share insights on their journey to comic book stardom. The company known for secret origins had their story tellers reminisce about their own the in DC Comics: My Secret Origin Panel
The panel opened with a bulletin board-worth of announcements for upcoming panels and the We Can Be Heroes campaign. Moderator Bob Wayne is introduced to the audience. Wayne sells the purpose of the panel and calls out the panelist, which included Jimmy Palmiotti, Gail Simone, Bernard Chang, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo (who isn’t sitting next to Snyder!). Then to thunderous applause none other than co-publisher Jim Lee joined the group. Finally, Amanda Conner walked in after everyone else, with a fashionably late entrance.
The stories kick off with Scott Snyder talking about how he first wanted to be a comic book artist. After dealing with the hard schedules of schooling and mastering both crafts he concluded that writing would be his true love. After college he got a prose book deal about writing, of all things, a story about a comic book writer. The horrible experience he had on it led him to start writing for his love of the art and not money.
Gail Simone then talked about growing up as the weird girl, writing stories about puppies that eat people. She talked about having to become a beautician and enjoyed it but never lost her passion for comics. Simone also touched on her story postings on message boards that led to arguments about the female characters role in comics. After writing her own uniquely voiced columns on the internet, Bongo Comics spotted her talent first and started her on her way to being the superstar we all love now.
Jimmy Palmiotti regaled the crowd with a very Brooklyn story about going to art school and drawing backgrounds in friend’s apartment. During his high school years he was inking Gene Colan pages for practically nothing. After college his path took him to a job in advertising until about the age of 30 where he decided to give comics another chance. This time he found himself doing backgrounds for his friend Mark Texiera in the Marvel bullpen. Those events led to his partnership with Joe Quesada and the rest is history.
Greg Capullo played the role of comic’s bad boy, doing impressions of a high school math teacher he would torment by just drawing super heroes on his math test. Capullo in a way made his shot happen by just walking into the Marvel office and talking his way to getting editors to look at his stuff. He credits Larry Hama, a difficult taskmaster at the time for Marvel, with being his first real teacher in comics. The relationship between the two started out rocky with a lot of “Heck you!” being traded between the two.
Jim Lee interrupted Capullo’s story with the beginnings of a math train problem, Capullo’s response “ I don’t know but I can draw the heck out of the train.” Greg was offered AvX by Marvel but after talking with Jim Lee about the relaunch of Batman it “got his nipples standing” so he decided to go down that road instead.
Jim Lee’s secret origin started with him studying to be a doctor. His dream was always to draw comic books. One of his first memories of buying comics as a kid included him buying them, with his parents, at an adult bookstore that hid them in the back of the shop. To this day he can’t figure out why comics excite him so much. Lee opened up about the challenges of getting into the business. Including talking about shoving a rejection letter he got from Howard Mackie back in his face at cons as a joke.
Amanda Conner was up next to talk about her early days after the Joe Kubert School. She was working at a place that did color separations before the digital age took over coloring. After the headaches of doing that job got to her, she made phone calls to editors and did test stories for them till they “grew tired of me and just decided to give me a short to draw.”
Bernard Chang got his start at SDCC of all places. As a freshman at Pratt institute doing architectural design he read a lot of Jim Lee’s X-Men run. After doing an internship with a DC editor that involved moving his furniture, he came out to San Diego to meet with editors from different companies. He found Bob Layton and Valiant Comics. When he couldn’t get work from DC he called up Bob and got on Archer & Armstrong. The man who tutored Bernard on how to draw those characters? None other than the legendary Valiant Comics creator Barry Windsor Smith himself.
The panel concluded without a Q&A but no doubt, everyone was satisfied with the intimate tales of these superstars’ humble beginnings.