Cartoonist Jaime Hernandez is happy to talk about Love & Rockets, the seminal indie comic series he's been writing with his brothers Gilbert and Mario for more than 30 years. Just don't ask to photograph him posing as a superhero.
"It's a comic book about real people," says Hernandez, who admits he occasionally gets the superhero request anyway.
Distinct from the Marvel and DC stories he grew up reading, the comic features people Hernandez knew from his childhood in Oxnard and girls he met in the early days of the L.A. punk scene. It's an entire community of characters, each with a distinct history that has grown in depth and definition every year since the first issue was published in 1981, when Hernandez was just 18 years old.
"It started on a whim," she says of Busty Girl Comics, "because I was frustrated at my boobs and just wanted to vent it." But Warren's gripes resonated with a lot of readers. She notes that the comic peaked with about 250,000 readers coming to the site every day. Busty Girl Comics also appeared on Buzzfeed twice and was featured on the Today show. Since the comic ended, she's been working on a new one called Ahtspace, about artists living in Massachusetts.
When she was working on Busty Girl Comics, Warren considered the diversity of her characters. Diversity was something she discussed earlier in the day at a panel called "Wonder Women in Comics." When we met at her booth, Warren reiterated how important it was that she incorporate characters of various ethnic, racial and religious backgrounds. She even took gender into consideration, noting that there are busty individuals who don't identify as female. "I wanted to make sure that I represented my audience as effectively as possible and as accurately as possible," she says. "A lot of my fans really, really appreciate that."
"I became really fascinated with what was going on in social media and activism and how social media was becoming a tool to assemble and organize protests throughout the world," says Milano. That led to an interest in the computer-savvy activists known as Anonymous. She was intrigued with the concept of Anonymous, essentially, the lack of personal identities associated with them. Milano wondered, "What if Anonymous was one guy who was using an organization as a front?"
From there, more questions arose. "Who would he need to be? What skills would he need to have?" she says. "Obviously, he would need to code and program, but also have an incredibly compassionate heart to want to affect positive change in the world. What would that guy's day job be? What would that guy do during the day?"
Milano was inspired by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, who is also her son's godfather. "He's the only person I could think of who could possibly be that guy," she says, "who started a hugely popular social media site, using that as a front to be the greatest hacktivist that the world has ever known."
Ben Blacker had just arrived at San Diego Comic-Con when we met. The writer was preparing for a whirlwind of events surrounding Thrilling Adventure Hour, the live show he created with Ben Acker eight years ago. There's a signing, an official Comic-Con panel and four sold-out evening performances of the stage show that's captivated live audiences in Los Angeles and Nerdist podcast listeners worldwide.
Inspired by radio drama, Thrilling Adventure Hour has everything a genre entertainment–loving, pop culture fanatic could want. Tales of science fiction, mystery and, of course, adventure unfold with help from a cast -- known as the Workjuice Players -- that includes cult TV stars like John DiMaggio (Futurama, Adventure Time) and James Urbaniak (The Venture Bros.). Their roster of past guest stars -- including Patton Oswalt, Neil Patrick Harris and Nathan Fillion -- reads like a who's who of geek-world icons. Despite the cred, Thrilling Adventure Hour hasn't had a presence at SDCC until this year.
Grant Morrison is moving on to a new challenge. On July 31, his time as a Batman scribe ends with the release of Batman Incorporated, issue 13. It's a big change. Morrison has spent more than half-a-decade writing for the superhero. Not that this was his first foray into the world of the famed DC character. Years before, Morrison penned the acclaimed Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth. His most recent run on Batman was no less noteworthy and it took all sorts of unexpected turns.
"He tends to travel in circles," says Morrison of Batman. "I think what we tried to do with this seven-year cycle was take him from a particular place and then try all kinds of new possibilities with him."
When we spoke by phone, Morrison was in Scotland. He had only recently finished his finale, but still needed to go back and "tidy up the dialogue" after the art was complete.
"He's this voice that's been in my head for seven years and he's not there anymore," Morrison says. "Sometimes I don't know what to do without him."
It's a given that Sean Z. Maker would grow up to create comics — he's been drawing them most of his life. That he would also produce one of the most intriguing comic book events in the country is a little unexpected, especially for him.
Maker, né Holman — his new name is a combination of his pen name, Sean-Z, and a Facebook handle — founded Bent-Con, an annual November event that's one of the few fan conventions dedicated to LGBT pop culture. In just three years, Bent-Con has gone from a one-day show in a small, vacant Silver Lake storefront to a weekend-long hotel bash at the Burbank Marriott.
Maker, 37, refers to Bent-Con as a "celebration" rather than a convention. "Everything that I do that is involved in Bent-Con is a reflection of my past," he says.
Growing up in Indianapolis, "I was always afraid of becoming the starving artist," he confesses.
Still, he went on to art school and, by 25, was a successful freelance graphic designer in Chicago. He was "miserable" working for corporate clients, however, and after a bout of bronchitis and some good advice from his mom, Maker moved to Los Angeles.
That wasn't easy. The uninsured FedEx delivery containing nearly all of his artwork went missing. There were jobs he thought would happen that didn't. In between such hardships, Maker created Myth.See also:
Jorge Cham got his introduction to cartoons as a child in Panama. His parents were engineers who worked on the Panama Canal. When an American family they knew moved away, they left behind a big box of comics, including Archie, Richie Rich and Peanuts.
Cham devoured them. His only other exposure to the medium was through anonymous underground newspapers. These were the Noriega years, and the papers carried biting political cartoons that satirized the ruling regime.
But it wasn't until many years later that Cham began to draw. He was a graduate student in robotics at Stanford, facing tremendous pressure to compete and succeed. As an outlet, he started sketching a cartoon that satirized the grad school experience and poked fun at the professors who ruled his existence. It was called Piled Higher and Deeper — Ph.D. — and it ran in the Stanford Daily.
Cham spent another five years in grad school before getting his doctorate, then a teaching job at Caltech. He did cartooning on the side, while focusing his research on "brain-machine interfaces."
"You know the plug in The Matrix?" he asks. "I was working on that plug."
"A couple years into our run, we introduced the concept of an emotional spectrum," Johns says while sitting in a meeting room at Golden Apple Comics in Hollywood.
The premise of the "emotional spectrum" is simple, as Johns explains it. You have Green Lanterns. They're identified by a color and are the embodiment of "power and courage." So, why not have other Lanterns who were also identified by colors and emotions? John gives a brief breakdown. There are the Red Lanterns, "people and beings who lost somebody, who were driven by revenge." There are Blue Lanterns. They are motivated by "faith and hope" and live by the motto "All could be well."
"It wasn't the colors that made them different," says Johns, "but the emotions that they were driven by."