ECCC 2018: Writing For DC Comics With Julie & Shawna Benson, Jody Houser, James Tynion IV, Mark Russell, Jeff Parker
by Gary Catig
Have you ever wanted to know what it’s like to write for DC Comics? Friday at Emerald City Comic Con, the publisher held a panel featuring some of their best writers appropriately entitled, The Write Stuff. Included among the guests were Batgirl and the Birds of Prey scribes, Julie and Shawna Benson, from Mother Panic and Super Girl, Jody Houser, Detective Comics’ James Tynion IV, and from the Hanna-Barbera line, Mark Russell of The Flintstones and Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles, and from Future Quest, Jeff Parker.
If that wasn’t enough star power, moderating the panel was Brian Michael Bendis. He first asked about their writing process and how they became involved with their current titles. Russell discussed how there weren’t high expectations initially for his titles so that allowed him to have more freedom and take bigger chances as he wrote. Initially, he received some pushback from Hanna-Barbera about the direction he was taking these classic characters, but Dan Didio was able to smooth things over with them. Parker first came aboard the Future Quest when the late Darwyn Cook suggested he and Evan Shaner build the universe. Because most of these properties originated from the past, he wanted to modernize them and make them more relevant.
For the Benson Sisters, they have the same voice so they can divide and conquer when they write scripts. They usually work together to develop a big picture outline than split up the work afterwards. When they’re done, they swap and edit each other’s work to ensure cohesiveness. Since Tynion was working with so many characters in the Batman world, he found it important to find each one’s center voice. Houser was approached by Young Animal head, Gerard Way, with a premise for Mother Panic. She ran with that premise and created sample pages. He was so impressed, she received the gig. Way liked her work, especially with the back story, he offered her the title of creator for the character.
Some shared challenges the writers faced was because DC is such a large universe, they have to pay attention to all the other projects. Especially when they use a character that’s in multiple titles, someone else could come up with the same idea for a story, or even the opposite idea. During the audience Q & A, they were asked since there is a push to make a more inclusive universe, how do they write characters different from themselves. They all agreed that they talk with friends and colleagues who are representative of those people and do research in order to receive an authenticity of voice and representation. They want to approach these characters with empathy and take them seriously.
During the Q & A, the panel were asked about fun hypothetical situations about different characters they would like to write for. For which other main DC title they would like to write for, Parker would want Jason Blood, and Russell would want Swamp Thing because of the ideas he came up with while working on Young Monsters in Love. Tynion would love a shot at Teen Titans using the Geoff John’s roster and Houser expressed her love for Catwoman. Julie would write Louis Lane while her sister would want to helm Green Lantern.
Since DC is getting into the crossover game, the guests gave some interesting ideas of who they would want to crossover to their current projects. Julie and Shawna would want a Marvel universe mash up bringing in Dazzler and Storm respectively. Houser would want one of her other creations, Faith to jump into the DC universe. Tynion has a great horror story with Freddy Krueger and Russel would like a chance to incorporate Flaming Carrot. Parker would add some spy intrigue by adding 007, James Bond.
Other interesting panel notes:
- Russell has submitted to DC another 2 issues of Prez and they are somewhere in their archives. He doesn’t know if they will ever be released.
- On Future Quest, Shaner would always add Dino Boy into the backgrounds of panels even though he wasn’t part of the roster. He did it so much, that Parker eventually wrote him into the story.
- The Benson Sisters are writing Green Arrow Annual #2 which comes out in May. It will be a tie in to the No Justice event.