What does it take to make a memorable monster? Four men who know from experience are holding court at C2E2 to share the answer – and more.
At this special event on the first night of the convention, Donny Cates, Ryan Ottley, Ryan Stegman, and Frank Tieri are giving it all away to the fans present… and when we say, “all,” we don’t just mean responses to fan questions. In addition to an exclusive Q&A panel, attendees to this ticketed two-hour event are also going to get limited edition collectibles, selfies and more. And if that means some surprise monster moments, well, that’s just part of the plan.
Popverse is going to be here for the entire thing, sharing details and stories from the event via liveblog, so keep this page bookmarked for the latest. Alternatively, you can come back when it’s all over to read the entire thing, start to finish.
Interested in checking out what else Popverse is up to this weekend in Chicago? Check out our expansive C2e2 coverage round-up.
Our live coverage of this event has finished.
It's Friday night and we're already in the room. There's a long line outside for this ticketed event, but you're here with us. (You're welcome.)
The fans are coming in, and in order to do so, they not only check their ticket, they also get a photo with Cates, Stegman, Ottley, and Tieri. Many poses are being thrown.
The photos are still being taken, in case you're wondering, but the line is moving quickly!
And now they're on the panel! Cates is starting by asking how many children are in the audience. "You came in an After Dark panel with me and Frank Tieri, so you're gonna learn some new stuff."
Tieri and Cates are talking about the last time they did an After Dark panel, the police got called on Tieri. "Here's what happened last time," Tieri says. There's a story about his stealing a balloon statue of Harley Quinn to bring to the panel, which tends to be the kind of thing that leads to the police being called. "Someone reported the statue stolen," Tieri says. "Donny turns to me and says, 'I'm so fuckin' proud of you, man.'"
"Rule number one, never talk to the police unless you have to talk to the police," Tieri says. "Come and get me balloon police, what you gonna do?"
"That's the second time I've been around you and you almost got arrested," says Cates. "What was the first time?" asks Tieri. "San Diego, public indecency?" Cates reminds him. "Different kind of balloon."
"You guys like comic books or not?" asks Cates, to applause. Stegman and Tieri are talking about a book they were working on together that never came out. "Some kind of motion comic shit," Tieri remembers, vaguely.
First question already! What is your favorite symbiote? Cates: "Uh, Venom? After Carnage, it kind of drops off pretty hard." "I don't know any of this shit, man," says Tieri.
"What about the T-Rex? What's that, Barney?" asks Tieri. "That shit's good." (It's a V-Rex, created by Mark Millar, apparently.)
Where did the idea for making the Hulk a mech suit come from? When Cates first got to Marvel, Tom Brevoort was asked to pitch for Hulk, but he was told that it was going to be a "bake-off," which has multiple writers pitching on the same book. "It got down to me and one other person, and that person was Al Ewing," he says. Tieri laughs.
Cates' pitch for Hulk wasn't accepted because his pitch was "too out there," according to Brevoort. He was told that, once Immortal Hulk ended, he would get to write his run. "I didn't foresee that would be the greatest run of Hulk ever," he says. "Mine was just 'Hulk is a rocket ship!'"
Cates says that he was talking to Ryan Ottley about a different project entirely, but told him about his Hulk plans. "Next day, Ryan tells Marvel he's drawing that, so I was like, 'I guess I'm doing that, then.'"
Tieri asks for the lights to be lowered. "I feel like a chicken nugget up here!"
Cates talks about the upcoming Hulk arc, "It's called Hulk Planet, because I'm a thief." Says that he works loosely with Ottley because he doesn't want to restrict him.
"It's not the deepest thing, but I disagree with the idea of high art and low art," Cates says of his Hulk run. "You don't judge a rollercoaster for its plot points, you know?"
"Frank, what do you like about my Hulk run?" asks Cates. "Nothing! I don't read your shit!" yells Tieri.
Cates jokes that he's written a lot of Tieri's work. "My balls!" yells Tieri.
A fan asks what needs to be done to resurrect Cates and Stegman's podcast. "Oh, shit," says Cates. "I have, like, 20 jobs, and we have a Substack, and these guys got new jobs. It's hard, man. It's hard to find things to talk about into a mic." "I have no idea about any of this," Tieri interrupts.
What's the hardest single issue you ever wrote? God Country #6, Cates says immediately. "I'd outlined it, I knew it had to end that way, but I fought it so hard." He also says that Venom #200 was hard to work on, because it was his final issue on the series.
Cates says that he doesn't keep copies of his own work. "It's like watching a sex tape of yourself. Is that too specific a reference?" "I watch sex tapes of myself all the time," Tieri says.
"I did go and buy a copy of Venom #1 by Al Ewing, and that was fucking weird," Cates says. "Here's the weird thing, Venom keeps coming into my life. I'm working on a Venom project right now I can't say anything about." The fans want to know anyway.
Another question: How do you find your voice in a crowded market? "This is my voice, it's what it sounds like!" yells Tieri. Second question from the same fan: What's the lesson Cates learned from God Country? "We're all going to leave, it's what we leave people with," says Cates. "You've got me thinking about God Country now."
Cates is saying that he worked on a number of comics that were "fun but kind of hollow," but then he almost died. "When I got out of the hospital, I had something to say. I was about to quit comics, I had three comics back to back get cancelled, so [God Country] was my Hail Mary."
"Finding your voice is, what do you want to read that isn't already out there," Cates continues. "I could not tell you, gun to my head, what a Donny Cates comic is." Talks about a Venom joke he never got around to, to make a self-parody comic where Venom teamed up with Punisher, Doctor Strange, and Ghost Rider, but in the final act, everyone gets knocked out except for Venom, who picks up Strange's cloak, the Punisher's guns, and Ghost Rider's chains, "and he's Spawn."
Panelists are now distracting the panel by talking about what happened in the Chris Claremont panel just before this one. (We'll have a report up tomorrow, don't worry.) "He doesn't care, that's for sure," says Stegman. "I can't wait not to care," Cates admits. "I'm five years away from not caring."
Stegman says that he found his voice through repetion, but says that he thinks Ottley was fully-formed. Ottley says that he's "all Todd [McFarlane]" in terms of influence, before naming much of the initial Image Comics creative line-up as his pivotal influence. "We're all children of Todd, man," says Cates.
Tieri is talking about his origins as a writer. "I was an intern at Marvel," he says. "And then, I was actually on staff, I worked for Marvel.com as editor and head writer, and all the time, I was pitching stuff." He co-wrote Iron Man with Joe Quesada before taking over as full writer when Quesada departed. "I got offered Wolverine, and that was that. This is my voice."
Cates is telling everyone his favorite thing Tieri has ever done is an ad for New York Comic Con where Teiri plays a cab driver who just insults cosplayers. "Just look up me as a driver," Tieri says.
The God Country movie "is looking real good. Netflix bought it, I think that's public," Cates says. There's a director, Cates wrote the script, and they're at the casting stage. "Childhood heroes of mine are doing things," he says critically. Did he sign an NDA? "Yeah, dude!"
The God Country director was stuck in New Zealand shooting Sweet Tooth, Cates revealed.
Sylvester Stallone was interested in the lead role for God Country, but Cates wasn't convinced. "You're not from Texas," he jokes.
A fan asks about what to do educationally to get into comics. Stegman says that people have to be passionate, and they need to form a peer group. "I didn't go to college for drawing, but I wish that I'd stayed focused on drawing with all that time. I lost a good four or five years when I could have been drawing." Cates says that it's not worth going into debt to work in comics. "If your drawing of Hulk isn't as good as that guy's drawing of Hulk, no-one's checking degrees."
Stegman says there was a point when his comics career wasn't working out, but he realized, "well, I can't do anything else." He had to work through that until it worked.
"Comic books as an artform and a business has the lowest bar to break into," Cates says. "If you want to break into comics, find a friend and make a comic, you're in." The trick is, he says, "breaking out," as in making a name for yourself.
"I didn't have to pay taxes until I was 27 years old, I made so little money in comics," Stegman says.
Griffin Sheridan has come up on stage to pitch his dream final Fast and Furious movie, in which Dom and crew travel back in time to meet Henry Ford and help him create the first car.
How old was Ryan Stegman when he started drawing the stegasaurus? "I was 27, that's when I started making money!" he jokes. The first time was in the last three issues of Jonathan Hickman's Fantastic Four run.
And now we're back to people asking about Chris Claremont. "Did you guys look it up? It's nuts!" says Stegman. "He had a lot to say about every topic." Aren't you looking forward to tomorrow's report?
And with that, the Q&A portion of the panel is over, and fans are lining up to get their books signed! That wraps up the liveblog, so thank you for reading along! Start holding your breath for that Chris Claremont write-up.