Saturday 10th May 2008
"Hypotheticals - More fun than you should be allowed to have at a convention"
– Mike Carlin
"The situations may be hypothetical, but the answers are probably the truest things you'll ever hear comics professionals say. You don't want to miss this."
– Antony Johnston
Welcome to the Hypotheticals page for Comic Expo 2008.
I’ll be your host for the next couple of minutes, and if you still want to know more about me, feel free to click here to be taken to my blog.
Hypotheticals is often, and only partially accurately, described as a “panel hosted by Lee ‘Budgie’ Barnett and Dave Gibbons.” OK, so far it's true enough, except that, as you'll see, it'll be Dave who hosts it. I’ll be there all right, but it’ll be Dave’s baby from the moment that the panel starts.
Before I tell you exactly what Hypotheticals is, let me tell you what it isn’t. Although it’s a role playing panel, you won’t see comics professionals pretending to be heroes. Well, not super-heroes anyway. They’ll probably come out looking like heroes, but if it’s anything like previous years, then the main reaction from the audience will be a new respect both for them and for the decisions they have to take in real life.
"Hypotheticals is such a fucking blast that I'm simply not allowed to talk about it!"
– - Joe Casey
"Appearing on Hypotheticals will guarantee you free drinks for the rest of the convention. Well, it did in my case!"
– Chris Weston
So what is Hypotheticals? It’s a role playing panel wherein comics professionals take a set of interlinked and developing hypothetical scenarios regarding the comic book industry and play them out. There’s no audience participation, other than, I hope, the audience getting a lot of enjoyment out of it.
It’s simple, great to watch and with the right panel, fascinating to see the ideas get bounced around. And since it is a Hypothetical, there’s nothing to stop, say, one panelist being asked what he’d do as, say, a writer faced with an outrageous editorial demand, and then ask him immediately afterwards, what he’d do and say if he was the editor faced with that reaction from an intransigent writer?
Dave Gibbons is the moderator of the panel, and by means arcane, known only to him, for the duration of the panel, he transports everyone in the room to that strange unforgiving planet known as... Earth-Dave.
"Hypotheticals reaches the parts other convention panels aren't old enough to think about. Shocking truths, equally shocking lies and a chaser of cracking jokes make for a heady brew that's three parts comics' Question Time and two parts comics' Jackanory, as presented by Zippy and Bungle."
– Jamie Boardman
"The Hypotheticals panel has been the highlight of my weekend for three Bristols running... "
– Regie Rigby, Fool Britannia
We look at some of the ethical dilemmas that can occur in the comic book industry and what people do when faced with a dilemma. In our first few years, we covered, among other things:
- the speculator market
- The relationship between an artist and a writer
- What a company might do if they suddenly discovered they never owned the rights to their flagship character
- A writer quits a book and trashes the editorial team and the artist in public - do the editorial team or artist respond, and how?
- if a books gets a new creative team - how does a comic shop owner decide what level to order?
- what decision making process is involved in deciding to outsource the production of a comic book line?
- Why might comic books get cancelled when they're still making profits?
- What do creators think of fanfic? And the writers who write it?
- Do editors regard fanfic as a useful training ground for new writers or are the writers ripping off the company?
- Is a guest at a convention ever "off duty"?
"If there was a Hypotheticals panel at a con you were attending, would you: (a) attend, (b) skip it, (c) plan to attend but fail due to being hungover after that drunken ramble with Mike Conroy the night before that you barely remember, but you've nonetheless got the souvenir lingerie to prove it? Note: Answer 'a.' No, really. A dizzying, demented, not-to-be-missed experience."
– - Kurt Busiek
"A rare chance to insult everyone you're ever worked with while escaping a sound thrashing."
– David Bishop
And, as a specific example, here's a chunk from 2007's "script" of questions that I write for Dave. Obviously, the panelists have no idea what they're to be asked:
Jon Browne - Welcome back. Bet you're glad you said yes, aren't you? Well, let's see what we can do to change that. You're expecting Battle Lord #100 to arrive this week; it's the culmination of a year-long storyline and issue #99 left readers desperate to know what happens in this issue; you've got orders for it, and yeah, you can see this coming. It's delayed. Your immediate reaction?
OK, well, being delayed shouldn't come as a huge surprise, since the past six issues have all been delayed and resolicited, several times in some cases. What's that done to your orders for the issue?
Patty Jeres. Hello Patty. You're working for Wonder Comics in marketing and you liaise with comics shops constantly; you've been getting angry calls from retailers about Battle Lord, haven't you? What have you been telling them?
Jon - does what Patty's telling you make your situation any better?
David Bishop - You knew things were getting problematic with the title because of one of the creators, Charlie Phone-it-in, the well known artist and convenient stereotype. His work's arriving consistently late. It's good work, but the pages are arriving later and later. What would you do to try and alleviate the situation?
Budgie - You don't get a welcome. But then you're used to that. After all, you're Financial Director and CFO of Wonder Comics. You're not popular. But you have noticed, as have others, that Charlie's not the only one delivering late comics; there's a cash flow effect as some major comics are being delivered to the shops late. What would you be doing to alleviate cash flow problems?
Jamie McKelvie - you know the reason Charlie's work is appearing at the offices later and later; he's discovered the internet, hasn't he? He's been participating in an online message board. A lot. Jamie, does the immediacy of communication online make it more tempting to respond to comments about your work?
David, you discover this when a rumour message board reports that you've told ol' Charlie to stop posting when he should be drawing. The responses on that board are fairly equally split between those who say that it's worth waiting for the book so that they can get Charlie's art, and those who say you should just get another artist.
What's involved in getting a fill-in artist for a special issue; after all this is #100, what would be the 50th issue of Charlie's run.
At the same time as this is happening, there's an accusation of swiping. It would be so convenient if it was Charlie who was accused of it, but it's not - it's the writer of the book.
Kurt Busiek - you've been accused of lifting the year-long plot for Battle Lord from a science fiction novel published in the 60s. As a writer, is there something different between the accusation of an art-swipe or a story-swipe?
Anyway, David, you decide to drop Charlie from the book, from both stories: the main one, and a short backup which was to be drawn by him but in a parody of the art style prevalent forty years ago.
The artists you ask to take over on that issue are... well, tell us; what would go into the decision of who to replace him with? Is it simply who's available at the time, or would you be looking for artists with a style not too dissimilar from Charlie's?
The two artists chosen are Jock and Jamie. Gosh, what a coincidence. How do you feel about the offer, guys? Any sympathy for Charlie?
It then transpires that the real reason for Charlie's lateness was nothing to do with the Internet, but was in fact due to personal problems. Does that change anyone's mind on whether or not Charlie should be dropped?
"It was truly scary fun. Rarely are pros forced to be that honest in a public forum, knowing that any hedging would win one the wrath of Budgie, Dave and the over-crowded room -- with the door at the back. I entirely lost all my training as a discreet publicist ... and laughed myself silly doing it."
– - Patty Jeres
"Hypotheticals is the one time that a Professional can state true thoughts and opinions to a packed audience, leading to often hilarious consequences - and not be fired, ostracized or blacklisted. Well, so Budgie told me before I went on. Now I do tricks for dollar bills in the gutter and DC Comics won't take my calls... Damn you, Barnett..."
– Tony Lee
As you can see, we've had some pretty superb panelists over the years: Mike Carlin, Mike Collins, Alan Grant, John McCrea, Steve Conley, Bob Schreck, Mike Carey, Joe Quesada, Jim Lee, Chris , Dez Skinn, Antony Johnston, Marcia Allass, Scott Dunbier, Andy Diggle, Joe Casey, Mike Oeming, Geoff Johns, Liam Sharp, Shelly Bond, Tony Lee, Jock, Jamie McKelvie, David Bishop, Kurt Busiek and Jim Valentino, just to name some of them. And let's face it, none of them are known for keeping their opinions to themselves when asked for them.
This year, we've got DC Comics Senior Vice-President and Executive Editor - Vertigo Comics' Karen Berger, writer, artist and comic book legend Walt Simonson, writer, editor and well, you get the picture, Louise Simonson, Manga artist, very nice person and very-nervous-to-be-on-the-same-panel-as-the-others Emma Vieceli, journalist and writer Keiron Gillen and - back for a third go - Jon Browne from comics shop They Walk Among Us. We're convinced that everyone will enjoy their appearances. Well, maybe not them, but hey, we can't have everything. Almost all of them taking their first steps on the unforgiving world that is... Earth-Dave.
"Hypotheticals is the most fun I've ever had at a convention - and usually I get drunk and go to strip clubs, so you can imagine how fun Hypotheticals is. It is a must!""
– Mike Oeming
"The most honest hour I ever spent on a panel talking about fictional scenarios. I laughed, I cried -- I give it 5 stars -- my highest recommendation!"
– Jim Lee
So, be there or... well, or nothing. Just be there.
Saturday 10th May 2008, 5:00 pm
Hypotheticals - There's Always A Crisis on Earth-Dave!