A Few Questions With Ian Sattler

March 20th, 2009 by | Tags: , ,

During the panels of a Con, there is often a tug-of-war going on between panelists and attendees. The attendees ask question after question, trying to pull any possible information out of comics publishers, while the publishers bob and weave, trying to – all right, I’ve gotten a dodge ball metaphor in my tug-of-war metaphor, but the point is, the panelists try to keep as much information to themselves as possible.


And this year no one had to work as hard to duck the fast-flying continuity questions as Ian Sattler, the senior story editor at DC. Even at the sparsely attended Sunday Conversation panel, trying to get fans to stop asking continuity questions was like trying to pry a British Bulldog off a burglar’s ankle.


Sadly, I didn’t get anything out of him either. (If I had, I wouldn’t have had to post that list of possible Batgirls, I would have simply been able to name a new Batgirl and reap the sweet, sweet indignation of the two-thirds of fans who would have been disappointed with any one choice.) However, I did get a look at how DC plans out its longer stories, and how it handles what happens when continuities collide.


So what is the secret, according to Sattler?


“Continuity can’t be specific.” He says. If they nail down that Batman was fighting the Joker at 3:10 AM on February the fourteenth, there is sure to be someone who notices that the Outsiders were talking to him at 3:09. Leaving a few issues in which no one speaks directly of what happened to a character doesn’t just build suspense, it builds plausible deniability.


And what happens, I ask, when that plausible deniability runs out. With so many titles being released, there have to be a few times when two stories flat-out contradict each other. What’s the procedure then, throwing up your hands and saying oh well?


“Nothing that nonchalant,” he says. “We try to work around it, spinning it until it fits. That’s when collaboration between a lot of different people comes in.” Different stories and characters have to bend slightly, until the continuity works again.


But, Sattler stresses, they work to make sure that that kind of problem doesn’t happen. “I could give you the stories of where people are currently until 2011. [Writer’s Note: Hear that? He’s got things planned out to 2011, so no more wimpy questions about what happens three months from now, okay? Go all in. By San Diego he’ll probably have 2012 nailed down.] We try to steer things away from continuity problems.”


That, I say, must take a lot of prioritizing. What happens when there’s a potential Batman story that conflicts with a Green Lantern story? Are there any storylines he’s had to cancel in order to fit in with large continuity?


What he will say is that sometimes he’s glad he has to turn down some stories, because six months later, there’s a “better opportunity” for them.


Fans, however, are rarely interested in delayed gratification. And the internet certainly helps them make their displeasure known. Does he ever read the things that fans post on sites like the DC message boards or, ahem, 4thletter.net?


Finally, he looks a little wary. This, after all, is an unfair question for comics professionals. It’s the equivalent of, ‘When did you stop beating your wife?’ There isn’t an answer that makes anyone look good.  Saying that you consider it all will make you look like a suck-up.  Saying that you don’t consider it worthwhile will just infuriate people.


“Of course I read that stuff. You try to take the best of it – no one wants fans to be miserable with what we do – and work with it.”


He kind of trails off before telling me what he does with the worst of it beyond a brief remark about ‘knowing where to stick it,’ but I get the picture.


The problem, of course, is that even fans who give out reasoned arguments and helpful feedback [Writer’s Note: Ahem.] can turn into rabid nutcases, foaming at the mouth if anyone crosses the wrong character [Writer’s Note: AHEM]. And so the tribulations of the story editor, and the fans, continue.

Similar Posts:

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

Comments are closed.