I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with the good people over at Comic Book and Movie Reviews to talk about Comics, Theatre, and of course Catwoman and Cat-Tales. The final excerpts deal with the state of mainstream comics and creators' relationship with readers.
CBMR: What was the first comic book you ever read?
CD: The first panels I remember reading was a Dick Tracy story when I was… God, I have no idea how young. Maybe 7 or 8 years old. I only got into reading seriously when I got to college. There was one of those wonderful stores right off campus -- in a basement -- you had to go down these steep stone steps to get there. Open the door, there was that smell of old paper. Wooden shelves with wicked rusty nails sticking out; you’d probably need a tetanus shot if you got spiked. Half the place was old paperbacks, and half were comics. Guy behind the counter: geriatric hippie. I would not have been surprised to learn he was at Woodstock in ‘69. I would not have been surprised to learn he was wearing the same shirt -- I loved this store.
Oh! And of course; it was back issue heaven. The first major arc I read there would have been the Doug Moench run prior to Crisis on Infinite Earths that went back and forth A/B/A/B between Batman and ‘Tec. I want to say drawn by the late Gene Colan, but I think there was some Tom Mandrake in there too.
CBMR: What is your own opinion on the DC’s current run of Bat-books?
CD: Don’t have one. I haven’t looked at anything from DC in years. But they do get top marks for getting Norm Breyfogle back to draw pointy ears and scalloped bat-capes again. I would hope, now that the dust has settled on the New 52, that they’ll move him to a more prominent book.
CBMR:If you could sit all of the big-wigs from DC down in one room together, and impart some advice on their line of publications, what would you tell them and why?
CD: Honestly, I think I’d take them out for a beer and talk about anything other than comics for at least half an hour. Find some common ground, whether it’s Italian food or college football or ‘puppies are cute’. Because, I think the situation that has to be addressed before anything else is: the reader is not the enemy.
I’m a theater gal, and one of the best artistic directors I've seen gave what’s called a curtain speech before every performance of every show. And he’d talk to the audience like they were old friends, and you could tell that he was genuinely excited to show them what the company had been working on. And that enthusiasm was contagious. We were excited to see it too. The positive feeling was contagious. They’d been working on this to please us -- to entertain the people who came to see the show. You know, entertainment is very much like sex: your partner can tell if you don’t care about them and are only in it for your own gratification. Those curtain speeches conveyed that this is a partner who was obviously getting their pleasure from bringing about yours. And that’s the ballgame. That’s how you build up the trust with an audience that sees you through giving them a couple bad shows. You build up a lot of good will over all the good shows, so the occasional oops isn't a deal breaker.
That’s where comics started out. Now it’s devolved into the kind of defensive-combative dynamic you’d expect between the White House Press Secretary and the press corps. So that needs to be repaired first. And along with it, the idea that displeasing readers, angering and disappointing them, is just as good or better than pleasing them. That attitude’s got to go. None of the other problems matter if you don’t solve that one, because it doesn't matter if they know what to do to please the audience if they just don’t care to.
So we start off with a beer. Hopefully build some bridges. And after that, we’re going to dinner. And if Mr. Bigwig has ordered lasagna, we’ll have a little chat about what is on his plate. How the kitchen did not bring him fried chicken or grilled trout. They brought him layers of noodles and beef in tomato sauce and topped with cheese because he ordered lasagna. If he wanted chicken, we would have gone to a chicken place.
If, on the other hand, this place has some hotshot chef who has decided everybody is tired of lasagna made that way and he’s going to give us his ‘interpretation’ of the dish with layers of banana mash in place of the meat and maple syrup instead of the sauce… guess what? We’re leaving. We’re taking our business elsewhere, to a restaurant where they give you the food that you order. If a chef wants to make a noodle napoleon of banana mash with maple syrup, great! Go for it. But you don’t get to call it lasagna. And if you don’t want to make noodles and beef in tomato sauce and topped with cheese, then you have no business working in an Italian restaurant with lasagna on the menu. And frankly the owners never should have hired you.
CBMR: What is the one thing that makes your site stand out compared to other comic book sites?
CD: Cat-Tales are the stories that make you feel good, because we love these characters as much as you do. We understand that you want to be these characters, so you can trust your imaginations to us, knowing that we’re not going to take that away tomorrow by changing everything you came into the series for in the first place.
An excerpt from Catwoman: Cat-Tales - Say Hello to the Theater of Comic Books | Comic Book and Movie Reviews