The September SKTCHD/Off Panel Chat-stravaganza, in Transcript Form!

Earlier this week was the second ever SKTCHD and Off Panel Chat-stravaganza, with this one standing in place for the September Mailbag. The idea is simple: I answered reader, patron, and subscriber questions for a little over and hour, as everyone sent me questions and I took them on head on. We made some magic happen. It was a super fun chat, where we talked coffee, G.O.D.S., X-Men comics I’d want to be in, and a whole lot more, and I’m planning on doing more of these in the future…maybe even next month!

David Harper: Hi all! Just finalizing my coffee and then kicking it off! Lots of questions in the queue.

Scott H: How do you make your coffee? French press, Mr. Coffee, chemex?

David Harper: This is a topical one, so let’s start here. At home, I make it with a Nespresso machine, and because I am an urchin who doesn’t like the taste of actual coffee, I make myself a caramel americano with steamed half and a half. My friend who was a barista tested drinks on me until I found one I liked, and that’s one she made and it’s set forever. I am doing this at a coffee shop, though, where the amazing folks at Black Cup made me the same drink.

Will E.: You could talk to any deceased comic book creator and ask them one thing: who would you talk to and what would you ask?

David Harper: The natural lean is to go with a legend, like Jack Kirby or Stan Lee or Mœbius or someone of that sort. I’m going to go with someone more personal. There aren’t many artists who were more specifically up my alley than Mike Wieringo, the guy who co-created Impulse and did some of my favorite work on The Flash, amongst a whole lot of other things.

I wouldn’t have any big life questions for him, but he by all accounts was a wonderful person and incredible artist. So, in lieu of something big, I’d ask him how he brought so much joy into his art, and what was the key to doing that? It’s very difficult for me to not look at Mike’s art and just smile, which is a rare gift.

Michael D: I know Mark Millar is polarizing and your mileage may vary on his line of books but have you been reading any of his recent output like Night Club, Ambassadors, Nemesis Reloaded or most importantly Big Game? He continues to work with great artists, yes, but beyond that curious of your thoughts on the books. (I for one have enjoyed a great deal of them)

David Harper: I have not been reading much of it. I started reading Ambassadors because of the art and I liked the first issue, but then my shop was shorted #3 and I never finished it off. I could have bought the trade but I just didn’t. The biggest draw to Millar’s work these days is the artists he works with. He brings some of the best to the table. That said, while I used to really enjoy his work – as recently as Starlight, I loved his work – it hasn’t worked for me in the Netflix era. It isn’t that he’s trying to make shows. It’s just it all feels mean-spirited and like it’s going for a vibe I’m not into.

I passed on The Magic Order volume drawn by Stuart Immonen, so you know how hard that pass is these days.

Scott H: If Off Panel had been around in the late 80’s – early 90’s and you not only invented podcasting but also made friends with Jim Lee, what issue of X-Men (or maybe something else) would you have wanted him to drawn you into?

From Uncanny X-Men #271, I believe, art by Jim Lee, Scott Williams, and Glynis Wein

David Harper: Congrats to me for inventing radio in the 1980s or 1990s! Bigger congrats to me for meeting my friend Jim Lee!

That answer is shockingly easy, and I’ve known it since I was a kid. It IS NOT the scene where Gambit, Wolverine, and Jubilee play basketball, though. The first full X-Men story I read was X-Tinction Agenda, the crossover between Uncanny X-Men, New Mutants, and X-Factor, and I always loved this page and its “dramatis personae.” Everyone looks cool as hell, but particularly Jubilee, Wolverine, and Psylocke. I want to specifically be in that panel with them, looking cool and vaguely tough. Then I want to never appear in an X-Men comic again, and everyone will be like, “WHO WAS THAT GUY?!”

It was me, the inventor of podcasts. And you’ll never know why.

G.O.D.S. Plan: There’s a lot of talk about G.O.D.S. and how expensive it is and everything. Are you still going to buy it?

David Harper: That’s good to know that there’s a lot of talk about GODS, because I have not been hearing it, even though we’re now I believe under a month from release. The answer is yes, though. I am of course going to buy it. I do not like that it’s $9.99, but it’s triple-sized, it’s Jonathan Hickman writing, it’s Valerio Schiti drawing, and it’s Marte Gracia on colors. More than that, it’s Hickman taking a big swing on a new idea, something he’s always best at. At a bare minimum, it will be cool and look incredible. At a maximum, it will be a Marvel comic unlike anything I’ve ever read. That’s a desirable range!

According to my pals at Big Bang Comics, it doesn’t sound like I’ll be joined in reading it, or even anticipating it. I was surprised to see Marvel EIC CB Cebulski respond to them and say that they didn’t break up the length as per a request from Hickman. That makes me more excited, even if it does bring into doubt whether Cebulski fully comprehends why Big Bang was saying orders are going to be low.

It also makes me think the reason we know almost nothing about it is because it’s Hickman and he hates revealing too many details. That air of unknown makes me more excited. But we shall see in about a month!

Michael D: You’ve mentioned previously about your love for Star Wars Rebels so I’m dying to know how Ashoka is landing for you thus far.

David Harper: It’s been…okay. As with all of the non-Andor shows, Ahsoka’s pacing has been not the best. It also is running into imagination blocks (due to cost, I am sure) that Clone Wars/Rebels didn’t simply because of budget. I’m still in on it, and I like a lot of it, but it just feels a bit undercooked so far, and I’m waiting to feel like the episodes are as long as they are for a reason rather than “this is how Disney+ does it.”

Plus, I have really grown to loathe The Volume, the place where Disney shoots all big budget stuff now. It turns everything into visual tofu, and not in a good way. Andor popped for a lot of reasons, but its use of actual sets actually made a big difference. Oh, and I NEED MY THRAWNNNNNNN!!!!! *cries* (Not really but I am excited for my guy to show up)

Mark Tweedale: So it turns out LEGO wants to take an independant comic and do a whole bunch of sets from that comic’s world and they’ve put you in charge. What comic do you pick and what are some of the flagship LEGO sets?

David Harper: At first I missed the “independent comics” and my immediate answer was The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.

I’m going to go with Bone, though. Feels like a good fit. Gran’ma Ben’s home. Barrelhaven Tavern. Somehow they’ll make a set for the Great Cow Race. There would be caves involved. I just think that would be fun, and I would love to have mini-figures of that cast.

Mike Lanuzo: Do you play Poeltl?

David Harper: I have, but I don’t play it regularly, I greatly appreciate the trend of little games popping up online that involves words or sports, because they are up my alley. Poeltl, Wordle, Quordle, Framed, and varying forms of Immaculate Grid are things I have played. I just don’t play any of them consistently because I either get too busy or just forget. I do the New York Times crosswords more often, though. I do the Monday one each Sunday in the bath, because I am both a weirdo and creature of habit.

Mark Abnett: Good morning Mr. Harper. Whats your favourite ongoing right now that was pitched to you by your local store and how did they sell it to you?

David Harper: I love my shop, but my shop currently lacks in handsellers on its staff. It’s been years since someone pitched me on a book, let alone successfully or with a book that resulted in a big hit.

The last person who worked there that would do that was this one clerk named Megan, who was the best and the last in a legacy of incredible clerks who pitched great books. Megan mostly hit me up with Marvel deep cuts and indie books I missed, but I cannot recall what they are. I miss that! My shop actually discourages people from spending too much time handselling which has always bewildered me.

Rasmus: Hey David

David Harper: Hey Rasmus!

Rasmus: Let’s do a tough one: Why comics?

David Harper: Oh boy.

That really depends on what we mean by “Why comics?”

Why do I read them? Because I love the art form, it’s an excellent way to tell stories, I love the inventiveness the form can behold, and because it’s the home to some of my favorite stories. I look at comics just like any other storytelling medium, whether it’s movies, TV shows, books, or whatever. If you enjoy the right story from any of them, it’s magic, and it’s always worth the pursuit of magic.

As for the other side, “Why do I write and podcast about them?” That’s an interesting one.

I’ve thought a lot about getting into doing another podcast where I interview folks in other spaces, or trying my hand about writing about basketball or something of that sort. But a) those would be starting completely at ground zero and b) I also don’t know as much about those things as I do comics. Plus, I have a lot of questions about comics that I like to try and answer. I fundamentally understand basketball, but things in comics still surprise me because I am not capable of doing those things.

At the heart of it, though: I love what I do, and when things are going well, there’s a great joy to SKTCHD and Off Panel that no other work has ever offered me. It almost…doesn’t feel like work!

Daniel Warren Johnson’s commission in my Superheroes Doing Ordinary Things theme sketchbook

Mike Cancel: Do you have any comissions lined up for NYCC or do you ask for sketches from artists when you get there?

David Harper: My pal Gavin Guidry is going to do something for my Superheroes Doing Ordinary Things theme sketchbook! I have him not just lined up but paid him a WHILE ago. I was going to see if Kyle Starks/Ryan Browne might be interested in doing something for the book, as they would be fun fits. And I was going to ask around. But we’ll see. To be honest, it’s so expensive to fly to and then stay in NYC that I’m kind of like…”Should I really spend money at the convention?” (The answer is yes and I absolutely will)

Brett Schmidt: Ha! I was just forming an NYCC question, just curious of any other show plans. 😃

David Harper: I have a very fun idea for a unique podcast I am going to record there, but that will come later. Let’s just say this: it will have lots of guests.

I’m going to be selling something at the convention that will be a one of kind thing that, if supply sells out, will only be sold at NYCC. I’m even going to be tabling while doing that and will make sure people know about that, but I am JACKED about that.

I will also be appearing on my first ever panel as a guest. I’ll be on the Meet the Press panel at…I believe 10:45 am on Friday. That should be interesting. My expectation is I will either be super good at them or super bad at them.

Besides that, just wandering around chatting with folks and possibly lining up some interviews. And going to some of the business track stuff on…Thursday, I want to say. And eating food! Hope to see you there, Brett!

Mark Abnett: Why are you afraid to do a zoom? Were you disfigured in an accident? Accidentally slipped into a vat of toxic ooze? Are in fact an AI which aims to bring down the comics industry with insightful analysis and cat related shenanigans? Tell us the truth Harper!

David Harper: All of these things are true. I am an AI that was disfigured when they slipped into a vat of toxic ooze.

Mark wanted to do a Zoom chat instead of this. That’s the back story of this question. The truth is I do like 10 Zooms a week for work, plus four this week for interviews/podcast for SKTCHD/Off Panel. Doing this as a Zoom doesn’t feel like it would be fun to me. It just seems like work. This feels quaint and fun comparatively. Maybe someday, Mark! And then we can all find out what an AI looks like after a terrible toxic ooze accident!

Brett Schmidt: I will be at NYCC on Thursday and Friday, so likewise!

David Harper: Sweet! Let’s say hey! I will be there every day. My wife and I are even getting in the Friday before so we can have a getaway, see some friends, and go see a Knicks game with the Incredible Mulq (Jack Mulqueen). Which should be rad!

Mike Lanuzo: What’s been your favorite first issue in the last five years?

Pepe Larraz’s cover to House of X #1

David Harper: This is a tough one on the spot. It’s a very good question, though.

I think I am going to say The Nice House on the Lake #1.

Wait, no I’m not.

House of X #1.

I still remember where I was when I read that. I went to my comic shop, then went to a local bakery and bought a sandwich, inhaled it, and then went in my car and read it as I listened to Johann Johannson’s Arrival score. The otherworldly feel and general mystery and big vibes and extreme new to it just blew me away. X-Men fans have been chasing that HOXPOX feel ever since.

Charles F: I love events but they are not always the best. What’s the key to a good event comic?

David Harper: I also like events a whole lot, but I think the simplest possible answer I have is they need a reason to exist beyond sales.

You can tell when a story exists for one reason and that’s sales. But Judgment Day, for example, stemmed from Kieron Gillen’s work on Eternals and Immortal X-Men. It felt important and properly emotional because of that connection. It was born of story not of bottom lines, and that’s a key to me.

Bon Alimagno: Why don’t direct market retailers force Marvel to charge less for these tentpole issues? They have all the actual purchasing power but continue to act totally powerless.

David Harper: Bon, it is hilarious that you asked this, because I thought of this same idea yesterday. I wondered what would happen if every retailer, or at least every big account, zeroed out orders for GODS #1 at FOC. Just as a statement of “This is not working for us or for our customers.”

The reason they don’t, though, is simple: a retailer has little power, but all the retailers in combination do. And, as you likely know, getting them all to move in the same direction is not going to happen. Ever. Even if they all agree!

Let’s say Brian Hibbs organizes said FOC zeroing. And his Bay Area peers know this. They pretend they’re going to zero out, but instead one orders heavy and corners the market. I’m not saying something like that would happen, but FOMO and distrust is enough to convince folks to not go this route.

But I agree, I think shops should do what they can to make statements with their orders. It’s just incredibly difficult to get everyone aligned to do so. GODS #1 would really be the place to do it, though. They might do it accidentally from the sound of it!

Cameron: Do you watch What We do in the Shadows?

David Harper: I do, or have. Love the movie. Love the first two seasons. Feel like it’s been a bit lost since. My wife and I have not watched any of the most recent season. We will, though!

I actually have grown to like Wellington Paranormal, the other spin-off, considerably more. It’s so good and clever!

Scott H: Since (I believe) you’re still on Twitter, are there any myths about the comics industry that you wish people would stop perpetuating? Or even just something you see people saying all the time that is obviously incorrect about the industry?

David Harper: I’m a loiterer on Twitter but I am just using it for promotional stuff at this point. It’s a broken platform. I do wish people would judge comics less based off random panels. That seeing a single panel out of context is enough to bring out the knives always seems self-defeating to me.

I also wish that people wouldn’t speak with such confidence and certainty about industry side things they don’t really know anything about. You could probably say the same about me, of course, but I at least put in the work and talk to people.

The truth is, if you take away our ability to speak with confidence about things we don’t understand, Twitter would go away. See: all sports fans ever. People are just going to do their thing and I’m not going to police them for that. Even though I’d like to sometimes!

Jenner Lathrop: Because I’m nothing if not predictable, I’ll ask are you picking up any comics today? It seems to be a pretty light one from the independent side of things…

David Harper: I am! The funny thing is when I am not doing The Pull, I don’t actually look at release lists. So, for that reason, the only comics I know I am getting are Birds of Prey #1 and Immortal X-Men #15, both of which I’m excited about.

It does speak to the state of comics marketing and the larger comics conversation a bit that even through an area of effect, someone like me has no idea what is coming out today in comic shops. Next week is the main event, though. Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki’s Roaming! Get hyped, everyone! (I tried booking them for Off Panel through D&Q and never heard back. Alas.)

Mike Lanuzo: I’ll be in San Antonio for Wemby’s first couple of games. What do you recommend in the city?

David Harper: Mostly food, to be honest. I don’t really do a lot of tourist things there, but my god, there’s some amazing food. Go to Shea Serrano’s favorite breakfast spot, Mendez Cafe. Super unassuming, cash only, unreal tortillas, elite breakfast tacos, migas that will make you weep. Tito’s has the best Carne Guisada you could ever ask for. Tour The Riverwalk, because it genuinely is quite cool (but eat somewhere else).

It’s a lovely city, but I mostly stay way outside the city center. The art scene is really cool and there’s lots to do, so be open to the cool stuff and eat local! (Unless you’re having Taco Cabana because their breakfast tacos are cheap and delicious)

Gene Ha’s cover to Top 10 #8

Jenner Lathrop: I recently picked up the Top 10 omnibus on your recommendation, and for those of you that didn’t read Top 10 20 years ago, or whenever it was, this is a mistake you need to correct! Out of the entire Top 10 saga that you have read what is your favorite part? Who is your favorite character? Which issue of the initial run specifically grabbed your attention the most? Was it your familiarity with this that led you to read Kaijumax?

David Harper: My favorite Top 10 issue is everyone’s favorite. The one where there’s the teleportation/fast travel accident that Peregrine deals with. That one breaks my heart. It’s so lovely.

Favorite character is probably…



Kemlo. I love a good doggo.

And the issue that grabbed my attention initially the most was the same one I mentioned before. Top 10 #8. It’s so good.

And actually, my reading of it had nothing to do with reading Kaijumax. Fun fact, I didn’t even know Zander worked on Top 10 until I wrote about it for SKTCHD 1.0 in 2015! I didn’t pay as much attention to credits when it first hit and you can imagine my surprise. I picked up Kaijumax because I loved the idea, I love kaiju movies, and I love prison stories. What’s not to like?!

Mike Cancel: Is the Judgement Day omnibus worth picking up? I know you mentioned it above as an example of a good event series but curious. Asking for a friend…

David Harper: I think so but it’s the definition of your mileage may vary. I loved it because I was totally vibing with what Kieron was doing in his other books, but if you don’t have that connection, it might not pop in the same way. I’d read Judgment Day #1 or Eve of Judgment on Marvel Unlimited or something before committing to an omnibus. If it works for you, do it. If it doesn’t, don’t.

Mike Cancel: What do you think of Bluesky so far? I find it lacking in content a bit, but it’s made up for it by being ad and (largely) brand free.

David Harper: I like it but I’ve quickly found my response to the destruction of social media is just kind of using all of it less. It does feel like there’s a massive divide between heavy users and casuals like me, but that’s the case with all social media.

Patrick/Challengers: “And, as you likely know, getting them all to move in the same direction is not going to happen. Ever. Even if they all agree!”

Like herding cats.

David Harper: So what you’re saying is the comic industry needs a pet sitter?

Totally true, though. Shouts to ComicsPRO for doing what they can!

Brett Schmidt: I love how you tell us about your comic shop habits, but where do you currently stand with web comics? Is anything retaining your attention over time and do you still explore new media from web comics these days?

David Harper: I’ve said this before but it’s impossible to keep up with everything. Webcomics are something that I have to sacrifice to keep up with what I do. I’ll intermittently read things on Instagram or Twitter, or binge something on Webtoon. But I struggle to keep up. To be honest, the number of things to read, watch, and listen to today is overwhelming and impossible to tackle. And that’s fine!

Jenner Lathrop: All right, DC movies are getting a do over, after their last do over, which redid the previous do over. To your mind, how do they avoid repeating history, what focus should they take to finally start making actually consistently good movies?

David Harper: Just focus on making good movies! James Gunn is a good pick in that regard. Stop focusing on building a universe and just take one step at a time. I think The Suicide Squad is a great example of that. Just let the stories be their own thing and build from there if you want.

Jenner Lathrop: And not to leave out the competition, but in your opinion, what does Marvel Studios need to focus on to course correct away from the lethargy that has set in after Avengers Endgame?

David Harper: Make less. Focus on good stories. Right now the big takeaway from Endgame seems to have been “HEY GUEST STAR CHARACTERS ARE POPULAR!” rather than “paying off great stories is good!” and I hate it. Just make good things, and make less of it because you’re out of control. Bob Iger is on that one it seems.

I will say, it sucks that I loved Shang-Chi and who the hell knows when we’ll see those characters again, if ever? The payoff of late has been subpar.

Mike Lanuzo: Who’s your pick for MVP, DPOY, and ROY? Bonus: if you have a take for it, who’s your WNBA MVP?

David Harper: MVP: Luka because I am a sucker forever.

DPOY: I’m going to say Jaren Jackson Jr. again this year just because with Marcus Smart the Grizz will be nasty defensively and JJJ is a perfect anchor for it.

ROY: Chet. Wemby is the easy pick, but I think Chet is going to be a beast for a very good Thunder team.

WNBA MVP: It has to be A’ja Wilson, right? Dropping 53 in a game and being the best player on the best team makes it feel like a lock, barring disaster.

Scott H: Do you ever feel what I will call “adaptation discourse fatigue”? I feel like I’m always hearing “this would make a good Netflix show” or “what does this mean for the movies” or something like that. I’ve starting to feel annoyed when folks talk about the value of comics as IP to be adapted. Maybe I’m just old and salty :D

David Harper: haha I do not, if only because if I see a discourse I run the other way. People look at things as adaptations too easily and readily, but hey, it’s how people engage with stuff. It’s just not for me.

Okay, the queue is cleared! We just passed an hour, so thanks to everyone for joining me. This was once again a whole lot of fun, and I really appreciate you taking the time. We will do one of these again, maybe even on Zoom to make Mark Abnett happy! But for now, back to work. Thanks all! Expect the transcript by tomorrow, and back next week on SKTCHD with a full slate!