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For the past several days, I've been caught up in the whirl of San Diego Comic-Con. Going from panel to panel, with trips to the Exhibit Hall in between and meeting up with friends for dinner after, SDCC is fun, exciting, and exhausting.
Sometimes, if you want to go to a particular panel, you need to get there early. Sometimes you even need to sit through two or three panels before the one you want, just to make sure you get a seat. And then there are the panels like the DC Digital panel.
DC Digital refers to DC's line of, well, digital comics. These are reasonably priced books (99 cents!) which are released on Comixology first, and only come out in print versions much later. They aren't getting a lot of attention, which is a shame, since I'm really enjoying some of them ("some of them" not including "Injustice: Gods Among Us", sadly.
When I walked in and sat down, the room was only half full, and remained that way throughout the panel. Bob Wayne, DC's Senior Vice President of Sales and an old hand at panel wrangling, acted as moderator.
The panel was fairly typical, with little new information except that DC would be bringing out an ongoing Vampire Diaries comic in digital-first format. One thing I did take note of is that nearly all of DC's titles targeting kids are now digital-first comics. With the cancellation of Superman: Family Adventures and the Green Lantern Animated Series comics earlier this year, DC has almost no print comics for a younger audience. Their digital line-up, on the other hand, is filled with kid-friendly titles like Batman: Beyond, Li'l Gotham, Batman '66, the upcoming Beware the Batman and Teen Titans: Go! to be released later this year.
I love the low price point for these books; I just hope parents know about them and actually buy them for their kids. In a recent interview, the prolific author James Patterson pleaded with parents to actually buy digital books for their children, saying, ""With my adult books, for the first six weeks or so, it’s about 60 percent ebooks in terms of sales. The kids books, it’s like 5 percent, which means that the parents, the ones that aren’t going into stores now, they’re no longer buying books for their kids." Parents, if you're looking for comics for your kids, look no further than your computer or tablet.
Speaking of tablets, a funny thing happened when the panel invited people to ask questions.
It all started when Bob Wayne said that the "best question of the panel" as determined by the panelists would receive a prize.
Now I had been at an earlier panel where they handed out prizes for good questions and seen what those prizes were: they were baseball caps with the word "Batman" or "Superman" printed across the front. Perhaps nice prizes for some, but not ones I was particularly interested in. I did have a question, though, so I got in line.
I started off by asking them to clarify whether the upcoming Batman: Beyond Unlimited digital comic would be a continuation of the existing Batman: Beyond comic. This was very important to me, because Batman: Beyond just introduced a new Batgirl character, and I am very, very interested and excited to see more of her. I was assured that she will be continuing to appear in future issues of Batman: Beyond and that the series is not being replaced.
Then I mentioned how much I love Li'l Gotham. It's so silly, light and fun, and any series that has Jason Todd playing Scrabble with Batman is a good series in my book. However, I was curious about something…why did the cameo of Stephanie Brown have her hair re-colored back in the very first issue of Li'l Gotham?"
Mr. Wayne used his favorite "I'm not going to answer that question" line: "In case any of you couldn't hear her question, she said, 'thank you all for coming out all this way today!'" (This is the kind of thing which was much funnier in person than when I write it down. ) I laughed, but didn't move. Instead I said, "No, but really, that was so bizarre! What was up with that?"
Bob Wayne said nothing. Dustin Ngyuen, who did the original art and was the one asked to re-color it, said, "That was weird," and left it at that. Most of the rest of the panelists said things like, "I don't know anything about that," or "It happened before I was working in that department." I thanked the panelists and sat down.
That was not the funny part, though.
There were only four questions at the panel – remember, the room was half-empty to begin with. So when the last questioner sat down, Bob Wayne turned to the panelists and said, "So, which panelist had the best question and should receive the prize?"
One of the panelists said, "Well, Batgirl was the only one in costume, so I think she should get the prize," and the other panelists concurred. I smiled, appreciating the sentiment and preparing to decline graciously or suggest that one of the other questioners should receive the baseball cap prize.
But instead of a baseball cap, Bob Wayne pulled a sleek black box from behind the podium like a magician pulling a rabbit from a hat, and said that the prize was "A brand-new Amazon Kindle Fire."
My mouth dropped open.
I stepped up and accepted my amazingly generous prize, stammering my thanks, perhaps just a little bit in shock.
To be honest, I haven't even had a chance to turn it on yet in the whirl of SDCC, but I do know that the first digital comic I'll be loading onto it will Li'l Gotham's newest issue, a convention-themed story which was released on Sunday morning. And after I finish reading it, I'll hand it to my daughter to read, too.
The Final Squeak
Of course, no sooner did I accept my unexpected prize than people began talking about it
on the internet, saying things like, "They're trying to bribe her," and "They're trying to buy her off."
I found such comments both a little hurtful and also pretty funny. Hurtful, because anyone that thinks I would stop asking questions after receiving such a prize, well, all I can say is you really don't know me very well. No, if you actually think that about me, then you don't know me at all.
On the other hand, the comments were also funny, because if DC's trying to discourage people from asking awkward questions, they sure have a funny way of going about it! I was explicitly rewarded for having the "Best Question". As another panel recap article put it, "Ask the hard questions at DC panels folks – they’ll give you tablets."