When attending a comic convention you’d expect every panel to be a carefully curated, orchestrated show with scripted questions and a foolproof plan of how the panel will go. DC Nation is not one of those panels. Instead, it is a 60-minute open-forum symphony of controlled chaos between creators and fans. To put it simply- DC Nation is a wild, completely peculiar panel that shouldn’t be missed.
This year’s panel was lead by DC Co-Publisher Dan Didio with Adam Glass, Robert Venditti, Josh Williamson, Keith Giffen, and Emanuela Lupacchino serving as panelists. As Dan Didio put it, “The whole purpose of DC Nation is to be interactive and find out what you’re enjoying. And the best part about doing it on Sunday… is you’re all exhausted and hopefully you’ll take it easy on us.”
This sets the tone for the entirety of the panel that ensued. There’s no breaking news, no long awaited reveals nor tremendous teasing of upcoming events. This is simply an incredibly casual, laid back conversation between creators and fans about the DC Universe. It feels less like a panel and more like a ruckus open-house packed to the brim.
Questions directed at panelists were immediately turned and asked to the crowd, with creators routinely interjecting to crack a joke or add their own anecdote. The crowd was constantly erupting in laughter, cheers, boos, and even random shouting. Not once did Didio try to reel back the crowd, opting to lean in to the chaos and let the casual nature of the panel roll.
Didio grilled attendees for actually believing Batman would get married, sarcastically saying “Does anyone actually think Batman should be happy?!” after a steady stream of boos. Keith Griffen sharply told one attendee to “get out” when he said he preferred to buy trades rather than read single issues. Griffen even called his experience with comic conventions “f-----g agonizing” and deadline distractions. DC Nation removed the barrier between fan and creator and instead allowed for a genuine and extremely entertaining hour of interaction between to vital factions of the comic book community.
It wasn’t all zingers and jokes though, there were moments of heartfelt love and passion for DC properties shared between fans and the panelists. Didio made a point of polling the audience on how long they’d been reading comics, whittling the crowd down to four lone members who’d been reading comics for 50-plus years. The spotlight was then turned on these lifelong fans, with each taking a few moments to explain the importance of DC Comics in their lives. Each story was truly personal and would make any comic reader all warm inside, but what was more astonishing was how DC turned the spotlight away from themselves to those who truly make comics possible- the fans.
The same passion poured out of the panel too. Italian newcomer Emanuela Lupacchino explained what drew her to American comics in an impassioned speech. Teen Titans writer Adam Glass passionately spoke about the opportunity to write Teen Titans saying “Marv Wolfman and Steve Ditko’s original Teen Titans changed my life and literally made me want to be a writer. When I got the call to write Teen Titans, I think Dan knew it was a soft spot for me, so I said yes before he even finished talking. It was a dream come true for me.”
These moments of heartfelt passion from creators was sharply contrasted by the rambunctious, but entertaining, back and forth between Didio and the crowd. Didio was masterful at allowing the crowd to participate, yet had no problem throwing out zingers to those shouting suggestions and opinions throughout.
The highlight, was Didio’s lengthy explanation of his hatred of Nightwing, saying “Why everyone loves Nightwing is he aged with them. He was a young kid, he aged with Batman he got older, went to high school, became a team leader- he ages. Nightwing gets older. Batman doesn’t! I am afraid we are going to get to a point where we are telling a story where Nightwing is older than Bruce Wayne!”
The most telling moment of fan on creator interaction on such a large scale came at the end, when Didio invite audience members to throw out suggestions for story ideas for their favorite characters. Fans can tweet creators all they want, but there’s no guarantee they’re seen. Here, fans were put face to face with their favorite writers and invited to critique and share feedback on their work, something that can’t even be done at artist alley. The ideas ranged from wild, like a Hawkman and Looney Tunes crossover, to totally feasible and possibly in the works, like a Suicide Squad-Teen Titans crossover or a return of the Red Death. For the latter two, creators Adam Glass and Josh Williamson both nodded in agreement with Williamson even hinting something was in the works to introduce the Red Death once again.
DC Nation was not at all what I was expecting. I stumbled in assuming it’d be another crisp, pristine panel from one of the big two with little room for audience interaction. Instead, I was treated to a wild, delightful, hysterical, and downright fun panel that truly allowed for a conversation between fans and DC Comics. If your local convention happens to have a DC Nation panel, you cannot miss it.