The Black Ink Irregulars vs. the Purple Pros

The Comic-Con International Pro/Fan Trivia Challenge

For years, there was an annual team trivia contest at the annual San Diego Comics Convention (a.k.a. Comic-Con International: San Diego). However, in 1994, after three years being on the championship teams, Jim Drew and Tom Galloway were banned from participating again. Len Wein, who also participated in the contest, suggested a pro vs. fan trivia match, which became a reality the very next year as the Comics Pro/Fan Trivia Challenge. The original trivia contest is now defunct, but the Pro/Fan Challenge lives on.

The Pro team is known as the Purple Pros (PP) and has been captained by Len Wein since the beginning. Mark Waid and Kurt Busiek were regular team members for many years. Other recurrent members are Roger Stern, Tom Brevoort, and Marv Wolfman. The Fan team is called the Black Ink Irregulars (BII). They are usually captained by Tom Galloway and consist of whoever he can get to volunteer. Initially his volunteers came from the rec.arts.comics.* newsgroup hierarchy, but the decline of Usenet now has him drawing volunteers from elsewhere. If they desire to participate, slots have been guaranteed to Jim Drew and David Goldfarb for being banned from the regular trivia contest, although neither has done so in recent years. Other recurrent members are Jim Murdoch, John Sardegna, David Oakes, Terence Chua, and Peter Svensson.

In each match, two teams of three to four people (one captain and two to three team members each). The first question asked is a Toss-Up, that goes to the person who buzzes in first. If he gets it right, the team gets 10 points. If someone buzzes in before the question is finished and gets it wrong, there's a 5 point penalty. If the Toss-Up is answered correctly, the winning team gets first crack at the Bonus Question, worth 20 points. If they can't answer, the chance goes to the other team. Questions continue until time or questions are exhausted. (Thanks to Terence Chua for summing it up so nicely.)

For your reference, there's a Who's Who page of the contestants and others involved. And finally, for the record, I have never been able to attend a Comic-Con in San Deigo, so all information comes from my digging through the Internet (primarily Usenet posts). Mucho thanks to Michael R. Grabois for this post which nicely summarized the contest up through 2003. It served as the foundation for this page.

Current standings: BII 8, PP 7

1995

Theme: None
Moderator: Jim Hay

BII (280) vs. PP (125)
Pete Bickford (rotation)
Jim Drew
Tom Galloway (captain)
David Goldfarb (rotation)
Eric Sturgeon (rotation)
Kurt Busiek
Ted Elliott
Roger Stern
Len Wein (captain)
  • Usenet thread (Report by Tom Galloway with a comment by team member David Goldfarb.)
  • Web page (Contestant Jim Drew's con report.)

1996

Theme: The Silver Age (Showcase #4 to Amazing Spider-Man #122)
Moderator: Jim Hay

BII (170)
a.k.a. Rogues' Gallery Revenge Squad
vs. PP (190)
Stephen Brumbaugh (rotation)
Tom Galloway (captain)
David Goldfarb
Greg "Elmo" Morrow (rotation)
Jim Murdoch (rotation)
Kurt Busiek
Roger Stern
Mark Waid
Len Wein (captain)

1997

Theme: Pre-Crisis
Moderator: Jim Hay

BII (195)
a.k.a. the Bismoll Chapter of the Mike Tyson Fan Club
vs. PP (160)
Jim Drew
Tom Galloway (captain)
David Goldfarb
Jim Murdoch
Kurt Busiek
Roger Stern
Mark Waid
Len Wein (captain)
  • Usenet post (Michael R. Grabois' con report. It's under Friday.)
  • Usenet post (T. Troy McNemar's con report. About two-thirds of the way down.)
  • Usenet thread (Lengthy Chicago/San Diego report by Elayne Wechsler-Chaput includes a paragraph on the Trivia Challenge. Follow-ups include comments from Tom Galloway and David Goldfarb.)
  • Web page (Jerry Stratton's con report)

1998

Theme: Pre-Crisis Superman Family
Moderator: Jim Hay

BII (135)
a.k.a. Usenet Chapter of the Jimmy Olsen Fan Club
vs. PP (150)
Jim Drew
Tom Galloway (captain)
David Goldfarb
Rich Morrissey
Kurt Busiek
Roger Stern
Mark Waid
Len Wein (captain)

1999

Theme: Pre-Crisis (emphasis on Batman and Legion of Super-Heroes)
Moderator: Jim Hay

BII (130) vs. PP (140)
Alfred Day
Tom Galloway (captain)
David Goldfarb
Jim Murdoch
Kurt Busiek
Mark Waid
Len Wein (captain)
Marv Wolfman
  • Usenet post (Tom Galloway's initial report. The promised full report, if it ever came, doesn't appear to be in Google's archive.)
  • Usenet post (Anecdote from the match by Tom Galloway. Warning: adult language in a quoted post.)

2000

Theme: The Works of Jack Kirby
Moderator: Jim Hay

BII (85)
a.k.a. yancystreet.org
vs. PP (220)
a.k.a. Kirby Iron Chefs
Jim Drew
Tom Galloway (captain)
Tim Lynch
Jim Murdoch
Tom Brevoort
Kurt Busiek
Len Wein (captain)
Marv Wolfman

2001

Name: Rich Morrissey Pro/Fan Trivia Competition
Theme: Super Teams
Moderator: Jim Hay

BII (125)
a.k.a. Space Canine Patrol Agency's Human Auxiliary
vs. PP (135)
Tom Galloway (captain)
David Goldfarb
Michael Grabois
John Sardegna
Tom Brevoort
Kurt Busiek
Mark Waid
Len Wein (captain)
  • Usenet thread (Initial report by Tom Galloway followed by detailed statistics from him, plus comments from fellow contestants David Goldfarb and Kurt Busiek.)

2002

No match held. The briefly popular game show Beat the Geeks used Comic-Con to promote their show by having the geeks go up against the Pros. It took the place of the regular Trivia Challenge this year only. The event was moderated by Mark Evanier with questions written by Tom Galloway. The Purple Pros trounced the Geeks.

2003

Theme: JLA/Avengers (through 1986)
Moderator: Jim Hay

BII (195)
a.k.a. Snapper Carr/Rick Jones Fan Club
vs. PP (85)
Tom Galloway (captain)
Tim Lynch
Sidne Ward
John Sardegna
Kurt Busiek
Mark Waid
Len Wein (captain)
(Carlos Pacheco failed to appear)
  • Usenet thread (Tom Galloway's initial post of the results with comments by fellow team members Sidne Ward and Tim Lynch plus remarks from past BIIs.)
  • Usenet thread (Starts with "a blow by blow account" by contestant Tom Galloway and includes comments from opponent Kurt Busiek, question writer Jess Nevins, and several past BII members.)

2004

Theme: Supervillians
Moderator: Jim Hay

BII (25) vs. PP (40)
Tom Galloway (captain)
David Oakes
John Sardegna
Hal Shipman
Tom Brevoort
Kurt Busiek
Mark Waid
Len Wein (captain)
  • Usenet thread (Includes comments by contestants Tom Galloway and Kurt Busiek, plus question writer John Wells.)
  • Web page by David Oakes mentioning the trivia contest.

2005

Theme: Supervillians
Moderator: Keith DeCandido

BII (135)
a.k.a. Microsoft Technical Support
vs. PP (70)
Tom Galloway (captain)
David Oakes
John Sardegna
Hal Shipman
Paul Levitz
Mark Waid
Len Wein (captain)
Marv Wolfman

2006

No match held. Tom Galloway took the blame for not sending in the programming form in time, but said the match should return in 2007, which it did.

2007

Theme: The Multiverse
Moderator: Keith DeCandido

BII (230) vs. PP (130)
Terence Chua
Tom Galloway (captain)
David Oakes
Hal Shipman
Kurt Busiek
Paul Levitz
Elliot S! Maggin
Len Wein (captain)

The 2007 match was held Sunday, July 29 at 12:30 p.m. The topic was the multiverses of both DC and Marvel. Thanks to Terence and Michael Grabois for e-mailing me the results.

2008

Theme: Young Heroes
Moderator: Peter David

BII (230)
a.k.a. Junior Justice Society
vs. PP (60)
Terence Chua
Tom Galloway (captain)
David Oakes
John Sardegna
Jason Luna
Robert Skir
Peter Svensson
Len Wein (captain)

This year's match was held Sunday, July 27 at 2:30 p.m., which was near the end of the con. The Pros original line-up included Kurt Busiek and Mark Waid, but both were unable to make it. Luna and Svensson were taken as volunteers from the audience to replace them. In order to ensure their "pro" status, Peter David paid them each $1. The originally scheduled Pros absence greatly hurt that team, but Wein correctly answered a question about his own work!

Thanks to Peter Svensson and Terence Chua for e-mailing me information.

  • Usenet thread (Tom Galloway's pre-match request for questions.)
  • Blog post (Johanna Draper Carlson repeats Tom's call for questions. In the comments, Kurt Busiek reveals he won't be attending Comic-Con after all, so his slot on the Purple Pros is available.)
  • Google Groups post (Terence Chua gives Comics Community SG (Singapore) a description of the event and mentioning why it wasn't all Legion questions.)
  • The first of three photos BII member Terence Chua took of the audience.
  • And seven more photos of the contestants on the stage.
  • Twitter post (Sidne Ward reveals that Waid had to leave Comic-Con early.)
  • Blog post (Peter David mentions the contest in passing, plus comments from Svensson and Galloway.)
  • Audio(!) (Jamie Coville recorded the match. It's the last entry under "San Diego Comic Con 2008.")

2009

No match held due to scheduling conflicts of various team members.

2010

Theme: Pre-Crisis DC
Moderator: Peter David
Question coordinator: Terence Chua
Question writers: Bob Buethe & John Wells

BII (90) vs. PP (60)
Tom Galloway (captain)
Michael Grabois
David Oakes
Kurt Busiek
Peter Svensson ("Mark Waid's pal")
Len Wein (captain)

This match was held Sunday, July 25 at 3:00 p.m. The theme of significant pre-Crisis DC events was chosen to honor DC Comics 75th anniversary. The fans won in a match that has generally been characterized as having questions that were too hard. Mark Waid had a last minute scheduling conflict that kept him from being present, which hurt the Pros. Once again, audience member Peter Svensson filled in.

  • Blog entry by Peter David (who says someone else can moderate if the questions are this bad again next year.)
  • Audio(!) (Jamie Coville recorded the match. It's the last entry under "San Diego Comic Con 2010.")

2011

No match held.

2012

No match held.

2013

Theme: 1963 Debuts
Moderator: Derek McCaw

BII (360) vs. PP (110)
Tom Galloway (captain)
David Oakes
Peter Svensson
Elliot S! Maggin
Martin Pasko
Len Wein (captain)

The match returned this year on Sunday, July 21 at 3:45 p.m. The theme was "characters and concepts who debuted in 1963 and celebrate their Golden Anniversary this year, such as the X-Men, Avengers, Doom Patrol, JLA-JSA team-ups, and more."

  • Audio(!) (Jamie Coville recorded the match again. It's the last entry under "San Diego Comic Con 2013." He's also my source for the score. Mucho gracias!)
  • Photo (Jamie took a photo of the panel as well.)

2014

Theme: 75th, 50th, & 40th anniversaries
Moderator: Tom Galloway

BII (130) vs. PP (135)
Derek McCaw
David Oakes
Peter Svensson
Michael Davis
Derek McCaw (until Michael Davis arrived)
Anthony Tollin
Len Wein (captain)

This year's match was held on Sunday, July 27 at 4:00 p.m. The questions focused "on characters [or events] celebrating 75th (Batman, Sub-Mariner), 50th (Daredevil, Teen Titans, and others), or 40th (Wolverine, Iron Fist, and others) anniversaries." Derek McCaw played for the Pros until Davis arrived, at which point he switched teams to keep them even. This made McCaw the first person to play for both teams the same year. And Len Wein answered a question about his own work for the second time ever, earning him a standing ovation.

  • Audio(!) (Jamie Coville recorded the match yet again. It's the last entry under "San Diego Comic Con 2014." That was my source for everything this year.)