The more I experience in this world, the more I find myself reflecting on the big questions. Why are we here? What is all of this about? In the end, what’s the point of it all?
When I say “in this world,” of course, I mean the world of comic book conventions, and when I say “experience” I mean at panels. I hope that came across.
Convention season is upon us, and… actually, now that I think about it, convention season is already over where I am concerned. Wizard World St. Louis had its triumphant debut in my home town a month ago, and the biggest and best iteration yet of Chicago’s C2E2 came and went last weekend in the blink of a bloodshot eye. That’s about as far as I’m willing to travel in a given year to see a grown man dressed as a Power Rangers megazord in a food court, so when I go I try to make it count.
This year, part of making it count meant sitting in on every panel I could that was remotely interesting to me, until it started to feel like I was trying to get a confession out of myself. The more repetition I saw during the Q&As–and I saw a lot–the more it gave me pause to reflect.
I showed no signs of this kind of reflection while at the Q&As themselves, mind you. At the panels themselves, I was like a child in a junior high cafeteria, rolling my eyes at the kids I wasn’t sitting with and making bets with my friends about who in the Q&A line was most likely to ask a question that made me embarrassed to be a human being. I have a kind of Q&A Bingo card in my mind, cataloguing the kinds of Qers you see at Q&As most often, and last weekend I got to check off every box at almost every panel:
- The Trojan Insult. “Thank you for doing these panels. I’m a huge fan. I thought it was a really interesting choice to make the third act of Age of Ultron seem more intense by making the first two acts so dull, lifeless and plodding. What was the process editorially for crafting such a boring beginning?”
- Occupy Microphone. “Okay, Sheldon. Your whole life has been leading up to this moment. This is your one chance, so once you have the spotlight do not let them pry you out of it until they have answered at least fifteen things you’ve been ruminating about since 1994. People are going to tell you you are holding 200 innocent listeners hostage when you could easily pull a panelist aside and talk to them privately at the end; those people are cowards. Now, remember: no one will notice what you’re doing as long as you bookend every answer by saying ‘Along those same lines, I also wanted to ask’ and then launching into a stream of consciousness that is nowhere near any of those lines. Take no prisoners!”
- Wikipedia Reader. “Hi, I know the writer of Spider-Man isn’t here, but I just wanted to know when Peter Parker was coming back. Like, specifically which issue. I’m a big enough fan to sit in this room for the last forty-five minutes, but not a big enough fan to read the story, so please just tell it to me right now in bullet points.”
- Surprise Autobiography. “This question is about Moon Knight. I first started reading Moon Knight in 1991, when my brother went away to college and left me his old long boxes. I still remember the thrill of gingerly opening those bagged books, like I was unearthing a treasure at the Smithsonian. Moon Knight was always there as an escape for me when my parents used to fight over finances after Dad lost his job at the bottling plant…..”
- Minority of One. “I have one of the world’s largest collections of Spider-Man Legos, and I traveled here today to ask the midlevel employees of the publishing company that licenses Spider-Man why the Venom Action Playset was abruptly removed from Lego’s release schedule after it was promised for fall 2012. I think I speak for all of us when I say I have absolutely no perspective on the world around me, and I demand answers.”
- Imaginary Friend. “I was just wondering: do any of you know of plans to use Videoman in any upcoming stories? Has there been any talk of an ongoing Videoman series or 3.75″ action figure? No? Okay, then my last question is about Age of Ultron. Where will we see how the events of Age of Ultron are affecting Videoman?”(See also: “Will we see any kind of flashback issue showing how events like the Trial of Yellowjacket were changed by Yellowjacket being dead?” which is a question I did not make up but rather heard with my ears.)
It’s easy to make fun of these people (and it’s a blast, and it passes the time like you wouldn’t believe!) but that doesn’t address the important question, the one I finally ask myself when reflecting later: if not this, then what? What should the point be? What line of questioning would be a good use of everyone’s time? That’s a little trickier.
I think process questions are good, and oral history is even better. How did this project come about? Who pitched it? What inspired it? Behind the scenes commentary can be interesting and provide insight when you’re not asking, “What is currently going on behind the scenes of a project that won’t be done for another year?”
I’d like to hear more questions for the artists that are actually about art instead of plot.
If someone stood up at a DC or Marvel panel and analyzed a series like it was any other piece of fiction, my head would combust. What is the author trying to say with Age of Ultron? Is it an allegory for mankind’s growing dependence on technology that increasingly “takes over” every aspect of our world? What does the Sue Storm/Wolverine chapter say about our desire to go back to a simpler time before this technology was so pervasive? Why are you all staring at me like that?
I would even settle for a little scurrilous spice. In line for the DC panel, I joked about what would happen if someone got up and asked, “Why do you keep making all your writers leave? Don’t you like them?” I needn’t have worried. I never heard anything like that even alluded to; the closest we got was, “Why don’t you have a booth here?” which got an answer that would have made a White House communications director slow-clap with awe.
What do you think? If you controlled the universe of Q&As, which Qs would get A’d? I’ll never know unless I ask.
Jim Mroczkowski is basically shoehorning in Age of Ultron to get on people’s nerves at this point.