Comic-Con… and On… and On


The timing couldn’t be better, of course. Just as I have a problem caring about comics, I find myself driving down to San Diego for Comic-Con 2008, where the entire industry makes sure that if you stick around and really take advantage of everything the conference has to offer, you’ll care–and care deeply–about the world of comics.

Much is being made about how Comic-Con is more crowded, more commercial and how the emphasis on comics is being sidelined in favor of Hollywood and video games. I disagree. If anything, I think the panels and seminars on comics were more engaging, more diverse and more entertaining than ever. Yes, there were a lot of panels on various movie and television shows, but they were the kinds of movies and television shows that comic book people want to see in the first place.

There are plenty of websites to catch up on what was announced about the show, but I would talk about a few of the panels that I really liked and reflect on what I learned about comics and comic book culture from the various conversations I had with people.

Panelriffic!

As usual, one of the biggest challenges of the show is navigating the many, many panels and presentations. While Saturday tended to have the really high profile presentations (there were people in line 7pm the night before for Hall H where the Lost and Heroes panels were being held), it seemed like I was always missing something whenever I was attending a particular panel. A good problem to have, to be sure but sometimes you can’t help but think they schedule these things to frustrate you on purpose.

While the various DC and Marvel panels were pretty good (though there were no big announcements, which was kind of a relief, in a way), I thought that Entertainment Weekly did a fantastic job with its Visionaries panels. There were three different versions — one for comics, one for movies and one for TV. I didn’t plan on necessarily going to all of them, but I did, and I am really happy I did so. You can read about the comics one here, which had a great conversation with some of the most influential comic book creators working today. Jim Lee talked about how his biggest frustration was having to deal with continuity, how he found it limiting when telling new stories, which I thought was interesting.  Mike Mignola discussed watching his work and characters being taken away from him, in a way, to be used in movies and video games and how he had to learn to make peace with those changes. He also talked about no matter what he did in comics, if he died today, most new stories would refer to him as the man behind the Hellboy movies. Pretty cool stuff. Grant Morrison, true to form, moved the conversation beyond comics and talked about the seismic shifts in the kinds of stories that were coming out, and drew a connection between the sun reversing its polarity and how this the shift was reprogramming our brains and our society to move away from the post 9/11 culture of fear and intimidation to a more open and positive society (I’ll find some links on this and add them to the comments). Very cool. The TV show-runner panel was really great and Kevin Smith brought the house down with Judd Apatow during the movie panel. Actually, Smith deserves a special shout out — he was basically the court jester of Comic-Con this year, hosting several cool panels in addition to participating in the movie discussion, and was just thoroughly entertaining throughout — the  Zack and Miri Make a Porno discussion with the cast and producer had everyone in stitches.

I am a huge Battlestar Galactica fan, and this year’s panel, the last one to be held while the series is still going, was no disappointment. I have seen the actors discuss the show before, but everyone seemed to understand just how special this particular session was — it was very much a great chance to say thanks and bid farewell to the cast and the producers as they started moving on to different projects. One of the most touching moments in the entire convention was at the end, when the members of the cast, Ron Moore and David Eick gave the audience a standing ovation while we were giving the audience a standing ovation. A great moment — you can watch it here (happens with 35 seconds left, started by James Callis). Damn, I’m gonna miss that show.

On the flip side, the Marvel to the Nth Degree panel (Marvel’s mobile content story featuring never-before-released Stephen King stories (never released for a reason, I bet) was interesting, if only to see a total train wreck happen before your eyes. I’ll never forget the look on Joe Quesada’s face when people started leaving as soon as they found out about the project was all about. It was a total mess, and presented so poorly — the first few minutes were just all this lame marketing speak about how this was a way to get a story on your own terms, how it was a totally new way to get content that was designed expressly for a mobile device, blah blah blah. I mean, people just didn’t care at all, and it was  great example of something sounding cool in some far off corporate office only go be shown just unimpressive it was to actual normal people. As people were filing out, Quesada tried to get people to stay, pleading, “Hold on, don’t leave, we’re going to show you what it looks like!” People just kept on walking, despite the fact that it was a fun way to see Alex Maleev’s awesome art on a large screen.

Flo’ for Sho’

I’m not really sure what I can talk about regarding the show floor other than if you are planning on attending next year, just forget about getting much done on Saturday and Sunday. Saturday was the normal Saturday packatude, but Sunday, since I guess it was kid’s day at the con, there were just so many strollers everywhere… ugh, I should have worn shin pads. I am not really sure what they are going to do next year — there is just not enough room to really see everything, and I went by the floor every single day of the con! I barely spent any time in the Marvel and DC booths — I wanted to do, but it was just a wall of human flesh every time I swung by. I did notice quite a number of video game companies represented on the floor, which struck me as new this year. I guess those companies realize that this is a good way to reach the folks that couldn’t figure out a way to get a pass into E3. Those booths were crazy too, since many of them had little gaming stations where people would crowd around to see the various demos.

Oh, there was a Blizzard panel that followed the Cup of Joe panel and I have to say, those World of WarCraft folks take their stuff seriously! So many people were dressed like what I assume are their WoW characters — and they were hungry for the panel, like sprinting to the front once they were let in. I stopped playing WoW a while ago but it was great to see all of these hardcore people so excited for the various announcements.

I spent less time on the floor this year than any other year, which is odd, because I stayed at the con longer than I have before. I guess it’s a testament to both the quality and quantity of the various panels, as well as my just being pretty uninterested in dealing with the unceasing pushing by and dodging of the masses. Still, it was a lot of fun and I am sure the guys will have more footage of what was going on in the floor with the upcoming podcast.

Best Comic-Con So Far?

On a personal level, I felt like really was the best Comic-Con I have been to. Of course, I had much to look forward to, seeing old friends and meeting new ones at the iFanboy meet up and having the opportunity to talk with my favorite creators. But beyond just hanging out with folks, I felt like I was learning a lot about comic book culture and history, too. I was lucky enough to have some conversations with Darwyn Cooke and Grant Morrison at Darwyn’s Booth (2207 rocked the house!) and time and again I realized that these guys, indeed, all the creators I talked to, took their work very seriously, that they definitely understood that their stories were part of a larger tapestry, that it was the responsibility of comic book creators, especially those dealing with the more well known characters, to honor the work of those creators that came before them.

This idea that we are all part of a larger story, that as readers and creators we are part of a greater whole, really struck me. Throughout the panels, writers and artists would talk about their inspirations, how they wanted to return to stories that originally inspired them to get into comics, to bring back characters that were popular in the past and introduce them to modern audiences. You really could feel that the artists and the writers truly love their work — they have a passion that was truly infectious. We have all talked about how this is a great time to be into comics, and I think it continues to be, you know? And it’s a total give and take — if the readers don’t like something, the great thing about these conventions is that they can talk directly to the writers and editors and tell them so. Dan Didio was getting a lot of jeers regarding Countdown (same as he did for Amazon’s Attack!) and once the crowd calmed down, he went right back and asked what was wrong with it and just kept calling on people to explain what they felt was wrong. He even brought a few folks onstage to stick around on the panel and answer more questions!

We’ve discussed this before, this bond between creator and reader, but it is here in Comic-Con where the bond becomes physical. Yes, it can be a bit much to constantly get the questions about who is stronger or why they killed one character or yet another mention of Ambush Bug, but overall, the questions are thoughtful and the answers insightful. It is also great to see this kind of interaction in other panels — I mean, where else can you ask Judd Apatow, Kevin Smith, Zack Snyder and Frank Miller questions all at the same time? The feedback the crowd gives Hollywood helps them make films that everyone seems to enjoy–remember the excitement about Iron Man last year? Comic-Con was instrumental and building buzz for a movie we all thought was going to be really good. The attendees of Comic-Con helps the industry deliver quality work.

Yes, Comic-Con is changing. But I don’t think it’s a problem. I personally like having the movies, TV shows and video game panels and booths. While it’s less about comics, true, for me, it’s becoming even more about inspiration. I mean, sure, you could listen to Frank Miller ramble on about The Spirit with (literally) thousands of other people, but you could also just walk downstairs and talk to Rick Spears about his upcoming book. San Diego is about celebrating creation, whether you are creating comics or making movies, designing video games or learning how to paint. My interactions with people, I’ll be honest, made me want to go home and write, to find auditions and to take a drawing class. Almost everyone I talked to at the end of the show talked about how inspired they were to write more, to read more, to sketch more, to create more.

Personally, I think it’s hard not to love Comic-Con. I mean, you have to work to be cynical about a an event where you can have meaningful discussions about art and literature with someone dressed up in a Wonder Woman outfit. And while it can be frustrating to have it so crowded, it just means more people are hanging out and taking part in the conversation. If you’ve never been, come on down. If you were at the show… we’ll see you next year!



Mike Romo is an actor in LA and is trying to figure out a way to get an audition for Yorick in the upcoming Y: The Last Man movie — he’s got the hair and he loves monkeys! You can view his photos of Comic-Con 2008 here.

Comments

  1. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    I will hate you until this time next year.  

    Meals with Cooke and Morrison.  And only to spite me.   

  2. Glad to hear that you had fun Mike.  I’m jealous of all that you got to see and do, but I don’t think I would have enjoyed the throngs of people.

  3. I agree with Neb – sounds like a great time, but people piss me off.

  4. I’ll disagree with one thing: Saturday turned out to be one of the lighter days, at least on the exhibit floor.  Preview Night was ridiculous.  They need to just call it a five day convention and add programming or get rid of it.  They don’t need it as a selling point to sell more four day passes.  Obviously.  Friday was just as crowded as people took a three day weekend to SDCC.  But Saturday had enough major programming to get folks off the floor and into panel rooms.

    i’ve spoken to several artists who had books to sell and they did really, really well.  Sunday was a surprisingly good day for independent artists selling anthologies and such.  It’s as if people held onto their money in case they saw something better then started scooping up stuff on the last day. 

  5. Tad, you might be right about Saturday…truth me told, it was so damn crowded on the floor every time I went out there that I just spent more time in panels.  It is a problem, no doubt, with the crowds…I just wonder what they are going to do next year.

     That’s great about the indie books selling well. 10 minutes before closing I went to the Top Shelf booth and bought Too Cool to be Forgotten, Box Office Poison and 2 Sisters for $40!  I forgot to talk about last minute shopping in the article–if you wait until end of day Sunday, you can get some really good deal from vendors who just want to get rid of stuff so they don’t have to pack as much for the trip home…

     But yeah, if you are not a people person you’d be massively miserable.

     

    -m

  6. Mike again another great article, funny enough this comic con really re-energized me about comics and i hadnt even know that id lost some of my passion for them. Great hanging out with you on friday.

  7. The coolest panel of the con as far as I’m concerned:

    http://www.1up.com/do/blogEntry?bId=8824011&publicUserId=5696848 

  8. Mike very nice summary of the con. You basically went to all the same panels i did. It was a bummer about the lines though to get in but besides that they were fun. I thought Kevin Smith stopping by the DC Nation panel was great and i think Dan Didito did a fantastic job at that panel. I was a little bummed though i was kinda short on cash this year and couldnt pick up the Ruckas Queen and Country trades i wanted to. Also it seemed as if every Batman trade i tried to get was sold out but its to be expected. Well besides the fact that i dont have any friends who collect comics so i was resigned to travel the Con by myself all and all it was a good time. Now i just got to find some friends to talk comics with and all will be well. Im glad u enjoyed it as much as I. Till next year

  9. Awesome write up Mike. I really appreciate the positive spin centered on creation. SDCC is bigger than r (even in a recession year) so there is something for everyonw to enjoy. My compliments to Whit for her awesome costume.

    Also, props to everyone for the cidoes and to Pauf for cranking out those articles to tide us over. It’s areaat time to be in the Ifanbase!

  10. w00t the con was SO fucking awesome!! cant wait for my next one in NY

  11. I love checking out the indie creator section. They are quite friendly and seem genuinely appreciative when you buy there stuff. But I always feel sad when I go to someones table and am not interested in buying anything You can feel the desperation coming from them sometimes: "Please buy my book."

  12. It is so easy to get caught up in how frustrating the crowds can be that a person can almost forget how much fun it all is. I know that happened to me this year. But, in all honesty, it was a big, enjoyable week of likeminded, generally respectful people and some very nice creator-types.

    I’m just sorry I didn’t find booth 2207 or any of you iFanboy guys.