FanExpo Canada: Darwyn Cooke vs. Amanda Conner… To The Death!

The last panel we hit up at this year’s FanExpo Canada was easily our most anticipated. For those of you still not familiar with the famous Canadian Sketch Duels, artists get suggestions from the audience for sketches, they do as many as they can in an hour, and lucky audience members walk away with their sketches, free! And in the meantime, the creators chat about their process, and more! And this one? Amanda Conner vs. Darwyn Cooke, for the title of KING OF CANADA.

Okay, not really, but we did get a spirited discussion from the two friends, and some kick-butt sketches, so here we go. The first characters requested were Conan, Wonder Woman, Squirrel Girl, and Daenerys Targaryen. Conner agreed to – no joke – do a mash-up between Squirrel Girl and Daenerys Targaryen. When Cooke entered late, professing to have no idea who either character was (when asked whether he watched Game of Thrones, he quipped, “What am I, twelve?”), he instead ended up Wonder Woman. “So do I have to draw her as, like, a squirrel?” joked Cooke.

While the two got to drawing, the questions started. On how they met, the two thought it was probably through Jimmy Palmiotti, at a convention, though they weren’t 100% sure. However, they clicked immediately, and working on Silk Spectre has been an incredible collaboration for both. “It worked out better than we dreamed,” said Conner.

“I think it used to be male dominated,” said Conner. “It has less to do with sexism than women who knew how to draw didn’t go into comics, because you didn’t make a lot of money.” She also noted that there was more money in advertising, and that after the ‘50s or ‘60s, female readership dropped off. “If you don’t read comics, you don’t want to get into comics,” continued Conner. “I’ve been looking at a lot of portfolios of girls who just came out of high school or college. Give it five or ten years, you’re going to see a lot more female artists.”

On the same note, a fan asked about portrayal of female characters. “Twenty years ago there were male writers that did really strong female characters,” said Conner. “For example, Elektra is one of my favorite characters. Then there are writers who don’t get out much. They don’t have a lot of experience, and you end up with the women in refrigerators. People want more than one dimension to their characters. It has less to do with the sex, that what you’re saying with your drawing and your writing.”

Cooke noted that J.G. Jones told him a rule, that the artist would never work with anyone who wasn’t dating a woman. “I think Amanda is being too kind, there’s a lot of men in this business who don’t have any respect for women,” said Cooke. “You’re a strong, talented woman. As soon as you leave the room, that’s when the talk starts.”

Moving to a new topic on how to make comics better, Conner said she just tries to do the best work she can, while Cooke said, “It’s a good question, but I honestly think it’s already happening. Take a look at the Internet, and all the publishers that are viable out there. Take a look at Chew, could you honestly imagine a book like that existing ten years ago? I think we’re already there.”

The next question was what they thought about Kickstarter, with Conner saying, “Rather than trying to go and find investors, it’s having your audience that’s already there being your investors. I think its a really smart idea.”

Then a fan asked about inspiration for the setting of Silk Spectre, Conner said she talks to her aunts, and gets funny stories from them. “I took a look of drugs as a kid, so I’m just winging it,” joked Cooke. “But actually a lot of research went into making sure the period was right… But Amanda went way over the top with it. Amanda mapped the whole neighborhood.”

“I wanted to keep the flavor of our reality, but there are things that didn’t happen in our reality that didn’t happen there,” said Conner. She noted that in the original book, Comedian is reading a paper about a heart transplant operation, before the event could have actually happened. “I feel I’m allowed to mess around with the timeline a bit,” said Conner.

Talking about his Parker series, a fan asked if Cooke ever met writer Donald Westlake. “He was a funny man, and dry, and had absolutely no faith in my ability to do this,” said Cooke. Cooke then talked about going back in forth, sending paintings, and Westlake continually shooting him down, even to the point of refusing to tell Cooke what Parker looked like. It was once Westlake saw that what Cooke wanted to do was, “visually present the character as he saw it, he wanted to do it.”

Cooke also professed sadness that he was planning on having a signing with him and Westlake in San Diego, when the author passed away… But that he’s found since, hundreds of readers have discovered not just read his graphic novels, but also Westlake’s books.

On the Watchmen movie, Cooke said, “It was like being bored to death in slow motion,” to huge laughs from the crowd.

Talking about weird Con stories, Conner said the weirdest request she ever got was for a “Princess Diana Centaur.

Then the question came up about licensed work versus original work. Conner said she knew the right answer was to say original work, but the “nerd in me” always is drawn to more mainstream work. Conner said he got all his dream projects, and will probably focus on original work going forward.

Next up was least favorite sketches. Both agreed that more complicated is worse, with Cooke saying, “Anything designed by Jim Lee.” He also added, “Spider-Man is terrible, and it’s worth it. The Huntress is terrible, and it’s not worth it.”

On whether they like to work in a small group, or large group, Cooke said he’d prefer to be a cartoonist, like how he is with Parker, where he handles nearly every aspect. “But then again, it’s great to work with your friends… But I find the bigger the pot, the more trouble,” said Cooke. Conner noted that she’s a “good soldier, I do like working with people. But I’m a bit of a control freak, people sometimes need to bend to me.”

Asked whether we’d see more of Parker’s friend Grofeld, Cooke said yes, in abbreviated form – that the two linked novels will both be adapted into forty-eight page halves of a graphic novel that will be released in 2014.

Then it was time for the art! Here we go:

…And that was it! Thanks Canada, you’ve been real, we’ll see you next year.