The Friday afternoon DC Nation panel was about five minutes late getting underway at C2E2, prompting some jokes about the recent firing of Dan DiDio impacting DC panels. Eventually the creators arrived and the panel got underway.
The moderator, Amy Dallen of DC Daily, introduced the panelists and asked how they felt about being in Chicago. Tom King, Mitch Gerards, and Doc Shaner, all working on Strange Adventures, had different takes on the city. King challenged the audience for calling 'soda' by the name 'pop' (the only true name, as any Midwesterner knows). Gerards mentioned he was from Minnesota but hated deep dish pizza. Shaner said he was from Michigan, which was closer than Minnesota.
Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo, working together on a Beast Boy novel and a Raven novel, remarked about how nice it was to be at their first C2E2. Jimmy Palmiotti, on the panel with Amanda Conner, said he liked all kinds of pizza, as long as there were no vegetables on it.
Finally Joe Hill, working on a Hill House line of horror comics, mentioned that as a kid he always believed Metropolis was New York City and Gotham City was Chicago. In response to the next question, about working at DC, Hill said that he was always impressed with how Alan Moore did everything with Swamp Thing – brought him to life, changed his origin, killed him, brought him back, got him high, got him laid, had him fall in love, and took him to the moon. It cemented a love for DC comics for him.
King said he likes DC because he feels their characters represent a purer time in the world. Gerards said he prefers working on characters who are people with emotions first, then superheroes. That led into more of a discussion of the goals of Strange Adventures. King said the team was trying to see what they can say about our current situation with these older characters, talking about our current moment in a metaphorical way. To that end, Strange Adventures is about how people are lying to us and how we can end up seeing the truth. He added that Shaner was drawing the lie, and Gerards was drawing the truth.
Dallen then asked Palmiotti why now was the right time for him and Conner to return to Harley Quinn. Palmiotti joked that now was the time because they had mortgage payments to make. He added that former publisher Didio had told him they could do whatever they wanted with the character, prompting King to jokingly ask if that was the truth behind why DiDio was fired.
After a good laugh from the audience and the panel, Palmiotti added that the first issue of their new run begins several hours after the last issue of their previous run.
Garcia said she likes working with Picolo because of the way he draws characters in normal clothes. She said when she was offered the chance to work on the Titans novels, she wanted the characters to not always be in superhero clothes and DC matched her with Picolo. He added that he loves seeing people at cons cosplay as his version of the characters.
Hill said that his favorite books were from the old DC horror line, and that he sees his new Hill House lined of books as the Blumhouse version of DC horror. He's writing some books and bringing in new and old DC creators with horror experience. The first book was Basketful of Heads, which he described as a typical love story where a girl meets a cult's murderous axe. He added that there are more things boiling, though there hasn't been a second season of the books announced yet, then added that he wasn't announcing a second season by saying more things were boiling.
Turning back to Garcia, she started talking about her series Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity, which features Joker as a serial killer and Harley as the profiler trying to bring him to justice. She added that it was a crime novel written as a comic. Garcia explained that she didn't find insane Joker scary, but rather found the scariest Joker to be a character completely in control of his mental faculties. She said she felt someone doing something horrible because they are deluded isn't as scary as someone doing something horrible because they wake up in the morning and want to do something horrible.
This prompter Hill to ask the audience a question about clowns, specifically about which clown the audience felt was the scariest. Harley got no votes, Joker some, Pennywise a lot, and Ronald McDonald about as much as the Joker.
Garcia said she was always scared of Pennywise the most because as a kid she had heard there were alligators in the sewers, and the thought of a clown in the sewers along with the alligators was too intense for her younger self. She added that was why she couldn't live in Florida, because of the alligators.
Palmiotti and Conner, long time Florida residents, said that the alligators weren't just in the sewers, they were anywhere there was grass. Conner added that the alligators didn't bother you if you didn't bother them, but did sometimes attack dogs. Tying it back to the DC universe, Hill asked if Killer Croc was referred to as Florida Man whenever he was arrested.
Dallen then asked the group how they felt about working on a team, but King jumped in and said that he felt Ronald McDonald had killed more people than any of the other clowns mentioned had. He added that it had just occurred to him that restaurant mascots were basically Batman villains. "Do you think Burger King named himself that?" he asked the audience.
Garcia tried to bring things back on task, answering the question about working on a team by saying that she liked how working with a team was based on bringing different perspectives together. Dallen then asked what got the creators into comics. Palmiotti said he loved all types of books as a kid: westerns, sci-fi, horror, super heroes. Conner said she first found Archies, then Wonder Woman, adding that she wanted to be Wonder Woman and was disappointed to grow up and find out that wasn't an actual job one good get. She added that Red Sonya and Elfquest were also big influences.
Hill joked about buying his young kids Elfquest only to find it contained nudity. Then he mentioned that he loved reading Peanuts and always hoped an alligator would come out of the sewers to eat Charlie Brown. Garcia said she loved the Frank Miller Daredevil run. Picolo said he was never into comics as a kid, preferring anime, and said the first time he really read comics was with DC Rebirth.
Shaner said the Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo Fantastic Four run, the later the Geoff Johns' run on Flash brought him into comics. Gerards said he rereads the entire Calvin and Hobbes collection once a year and that he always has Miller's Batman Year One nearby when he's working. King mentioned his parents giving him Watchman and The Dark Knight Returns as a child, with them thinking they were comic books that couldn't do him any damage, only to find out they did him damage. He then turned back to hamburger characters, asking the audience to picture a Mayor McCheese who finds out he isn't allowed to run for re-election deciding to call himself the Burger King. He laughed and asked Hill if this could be a new Hill House book.
Dallen then asked if there was anything they wanted to do. Conner said she wants to do a Stan Lee-like cameo in a superhero movie, causing Palmiotti to joke that he wants to play Stan Lee in a movie. Gerards said he dreads the day his kids are older and a teacher wants him to bring in his artwork for a show and tell and said he had asked King if they could do a sequence with the Super Sons babysitting Mister Miracle's child so he would have something family-related to bring in.
Garcia said she gave DC a list of artists she wants to work with, not knowing one of the names on the list was deceased. When called on it, she said she knew the artist was dead and was saying she liked their style, but she knew editorial knew she was faking it. Picolo said he wants to just keep doing what he is doing and keep on learning his craft.
Hill pitched a story for Baby Hulk story to Marvel when he first started writing comics, a story that would have an actual baby get bombarded with gamma rays and gain Hulk-like powers. He said Marvel had never gotten back to him on the pitch.
Based on Garcia's comment about working with a dead artist, Dallen closed the panel by asking the creators who they would want to work with if they could work with any living or dead creator. Hill said Hal Foster. Palmiotti said he would love to be able to work with Darwyn Cooke again. Conner said she would have loved to work with Chuck Jones. Picolo didn't have an answer, but Garcia said she would work with Ray Bradbury. King said Alex Toth, even though everyone hated him. Gerards jokingly said he would want to work with Shaner and King, Shaner said Stan Lee, with prompted King to say 'You'd get a script that just said 'Outer Space! See you in 30 Days!' This led to a brief discussion about scripts, with Hill saying his script for Locke and Key issue 2 was 75 pages long. As the audience started to leave, King reminded everyone to look out for the upcoming Mayor McCheese limited series.