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WonderCon Anaheim 2013: The Panel that Almost Wasn’t

On Sunday at WonderCon Anaheim, BOOM! Studios’ all-ages imprint KaBOOM! was scheduled to have a panel about all-ages publishing and the newest addition to their line up, The Regular Show, which is based on the Cartoon Network series. This was the panel description:

Redefining All-Ages Comics with KaBoom!

As the leader in all-ages publishing, KaBOOM! Studios has been at the forefront of redefining how to do comics that appeal to the young, the old, and everyone in between! Now, exclusively for WonderCon Anaheim audiences, KaBOOM! unveils the Regular Show comic, based on the hit Cartoon Network animated show created by JG Quintel and Regular Show comic writer KC Green for a lively discussion about this new series and the future of all-ages comics publishing.

Being a Sunday, the room was a little sparse of attendees, which surprised one attendee, who thought more people would come to see Regular Show creator JG Quintel. As we waited for the panel to start, the podium was suspiciously empty. One of Wondercon’s staff started playing one his personal videos of an old cartoon, and after 10 minutes, announced that no one had arrived for the panel, and there had been no contact from KaBOOM! about their absence. I was disappointed by this, since I had passed up another panel to attend this one.

Before too many people left, though, two attendees stepped up and volunteered to speak to the audience. Nat Gertler and Stephanie Gladden, the writer and artist, respectively, of KaBOOM!’s Peanuts title.  After quick introductions including their experience in comics and TV, they took questions from the audience.

They were asked about the challenge of adapting properties in the Peanuts comics specifically, and just comics in general. Adapting animated projects was seen as easier for the artist, since they have model sheets from the show to work with. Peanuts was more difficult, since nothing was consistent. Charles Schultz would break his own rules all the time. One negative both guests could agree on was the input from editors and creators. They could get lots of notes from either the editor or creator of a project about changes that could sometimes bring the project to a standstill.

Stephanie spoke about the challenges of bringing a script to life. There is no consistent way of writing a script. Some writers will just write “fight scene” and leave it to the artist to script the fight, while others can be very specific.

Both Nat and Stephanie were asked about working with licensors, and, not surprisingly, they said it could be difficult. Some licensors are specific about what stories can be written and want script approval. Writers have to be careful, especially when doing a comic for an ongoing show, where a writer’s idea might be similar to one already in production. Creators can be raise difficulties too, such as complaining about the creation of new characters for a comic. Sometimes, licensors will want stories to cross media, so there are tie-ins between, say, the comics and the TV series. Stephanie, who worked on several of the Cartoon Network comics from the 90s, was of the opinion that it’s OK for the comics to be different from their original media. The comics are meant to bring new stories to the audience. I completely agreed with her on this point, as long as the story keeps some of the original’s continuity.

I asked both panelists what they thought about the state of all-ages comics in the industry, since the original panel was supposed to cover it. Their answers mirror a lot of what we’ve said here on Good Comics For Kids: Get the books into more libraries and bookstores. That’s where the core audience is. Also, publishers need a digital strategy for their all-ages books, either getting out mobile apps or getting the books onto comiXology, where they can be seen and read by the more digital savvy kids.

The final question was about the current art style of cartoons and comics today. Stephanie said the styles were cyclic. Cartoon Network started out with the Hanna-Barbera style.  Cartoon Network was originally Hanna-Barbera Studios. But with new artists and stories it was changed and grown, and with shows like Adventure Times seems to be swinging back around.

While I was disappointed at first at the failure of KaBOOM! to show up or even call to say why they weren’t coming, I’m really glad that Nat Gertler and Stephanie Gladden stepped up to speak to the crowd. Stephanie had a lot of interesting stories due to her extensive experience at Cartoon Network. It was also interesting to hear from the people working in the trenches about their thoughts on all-ages comics rather than from the PR people. You can check out Nat Gertler at his home page. Stephanie Gladden has a web comic (which she was also promoting at WonderCon), Girls of Monster Paradise. You should check it out!




Lori Henderson About Lori Henderson

Lori Henderson is a mother of two teenage daughters and an avid reader. She blogs about manga at her personal blog Manga Xanadu as well as contributing and editing for Manga Village. She blogs about all things fandom (mainly Doctor Who) at her other personal blog Fangirl Xanadu. She's been at it so for over 5 years now and counting!

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