Over the years there have been certain panels that I try to see whenever they happen. Whether at SDCC or Wondercon. The Mark, Sergio, and Stan Panel falls firmly into that category. I must have seen some iteration of this panel at least 6-7 times over the years. Why you ask. Well, I'll tell you. Because the panel never fails to bring a smile to my face.
So what better way to kick off Wondercon 2017 then a panel I know will make me happy. The panel was titled Mark, Sergio, Stan, and Sometimes Tom. The people whose first names are given in the panel title all work on the Groo comic books. Starting with Mark Evanier, writer, Sergio Aragones, artist, Stan Sakai, letterer, and Tom Luth, colorist. As it turned out the Sometimes Tom portion of the panel title was expanded to be Sometimes Tom and Sometimes Stan, because neither Sakai or Luth were in attendance, Sakai is currently on vacation in Japan and Luth was not in attendance either, we were told he is probably busy coloring Groo now. This meant we would have more Mark and Sergio, and the two had no problem filling the time.
The panel started out with Mark and Sergio plugging their current and upcoming Groo books. Next up will be a new mini-series, Groo: Play of the Gods, which should be out soon, as Mark said he was going to go work on the letters page when the panel ended. The series follows up their recent series Groo: Fray of the Gods, and will be followed after with Groo: Day of the Gods, which Mark said would be the last of them in that title run because he can't think of any other rhymes. Mark said they are also currently working on Groo Meets Tarzan, which will be out in a yet-to-be-determined year. Thomas Yeates, who currently works on the Prince Valiant comic strip and did the Conan side of the Groo vs. Conan books, will work on the Tarzan side of the book. Mark is also currently working on his "big, exhaustive biography of Jack Kirby", and hopes to have it out next year.
From there it was on to stories. Sergio said that as he gets older he keeps adding more detail to his work, and he is doing more than he ever did before. Mark said the reason for this is, "he hates Tom Luth."
Sergio shared a funny story about the time years ago that he had to bring art late at night to Stan Sakai's house for Sakai to letter. When Sergio got to the street he could not remember Sakai's exact address. So at 11pm at night he started walking up and down the street yelling "STAN SAKAI", until Sakai finally came out of his house and called Sergio over.
I was able to ask a question about dealing with the licensors on projects such as Groo Meets Tarzan. Mark said, "I write a little overview to tell them what we want to do and I meet with them and show them how adorable we are. And they say oh we trust you, go do what you want. Then we ignore the outline and do whatever we want and no ever notices." On a more serious note Mark said, "When you build up that trust they know you're not going to do anything really stupid."
Sergio responded by talking about dealing with DC, Marvel, and Star Wars on the Sergio Aragones Destroys books. he said the only change the licensors requested was from the Star Wars people, who were not happy with the size of George Lucas' chin that Sergio drew. Sergio also said that everyone in the Lucas office wanted to be drawn as a character into the book.
The panel was also asked their feeling about ebooks. Sergio said, "It screws me up so badly, economically, because everybody who is doing it has taken the copyright rights of every artist and wiped their asses with it. They steal everything, because when someone does it they say it's already there. There's no logic in there approaches of anything. When they bought the rights to put out the ebooks of comics, they went to Marvel and DC and they offered a dollar per comic. They say a dollar per comic, we have 20 million comics out, yeah sure. They make a lot of money. They come to me, and say Sergio we want to buy your Groo for ebooks. How much will you pay for it? A dollar a copy. I only have 120 copies, which means they want the rights to my comics for only $120." Sergio also went on to talk about how he will not change from pen and paper to computer for creating his comics.
Honestly, there were even more funny stories told by both, including Sergio's ten minute or so rant against Mel Brook's movies and Mark talking about his annoyance with the Lucas Film people over their refusal to watch Mark's amazing show Dungeons and Dragons, without Mark signing a release, but then I would have to write for another hour on this article, and honestly I think what everyone should do is find a way to get to a convention and bathe in the wonder and glory that is a Mark and Sergio Panel. Again the panel did not disappoint and I would highly recommend the panel to everyone if the opportunity presents itself.
For further musings from Joshua Stone, you can follow him on Twitter @1NerdyOne, but it is not required