Fever Dream: San Diego Comic-Con 2009

It is with some hesitation that I start this article, given that Ron and Jimski have both written excellent Comic-Con overviews (click on their names to see ’em), but I’ll rationalize it this way: I went to a bunch of panels while the guys did their interviews, so I’ll try to go over what I learned before I pass out. Oh, for those of you who don’t know, I somehow managed to get sick–really sick, like 102° fever for at least two days sick and still feeling double plus unwell as I write this–during Saturday night at the Con.  I don’t know what it was, I mean, I tried for my sickest moves on the dance floor, but those are designed to convey sickness, not actually generate illness. (I was dancing to Paul Pope DJing a party on Saturday night, there’s a picture of him playing down at the bottom of the article.)

I tried to do my best and send out twitter updates throughout the panels, but I wasn’t able to share everything (yes, I know they are called “tweets,” but that sounds lame to me), so let’s see…

I went to at least two Marvel panels and continued to hear pretty much the same thing…nothing. I mean, everything they talked about they had already announced, so there wasn’t much news to be made other than they have finally gotten the rights to Marvelman, which is apparently quite a big deal, but unfortunately, the momentous nature of the announcement was lost on most people in the audience, myself included. They really should have talked about the history of the character a bit more to get us excited about him, and give us an idea of how they plan to use dude in the current universe.  (The pic of the guy below? The sleeping stormtrooper? That was after the Marvelman announcement, I kid you not.)

In fact, nobody at Marvel seemed to be that excited about anything, which is pretty much totally the opposite of last year. Perhaps the folks at Marvel are not able to get excited when they don’t have some kind of event to introduce?  Many of the panels opened up with little Flash-based animations, but they were mostly about web comics and upcoming animated flicks.  The talks typically had about 20 minutes of “content” then the rest of it was handed to Q&A, which, I will just say, is an easy out and pretty disappointing. I didn’t have my hopes up for anything, I admit, but still, let’s do something–it’s San Diego! Perhaps they want to do more of their announcements at WizardWorld?  I dunno…

I attended a few DC panels, including a Batman panel that was somehow completely devoid of Grant Morrison.  I am not sure how you can even begin to discuss the Batbooks without him, but they did it.  There was lots of backslapping about how great the books have been, and, well, it is deserved.  They completely changed everything and it somehow works.  I would have loved it if J.H. Williams III was there (his work on Detective Comics, as you know, is amazing, and apparently it just gets so much better), but there seemed to be (at least from what I saw) a lot more emphasis on the writers rather than the artists. They did have Phillip Tan there, who admitted that it was going to be really hard to follow Frank Quitely on Batman and Robin, he said something to the effect of, “Well, we’ll see how it goes.” Not very inspiring, to be sure, but he definitely got the short end of the “followup artist” stick (shaft?) on that one. 

Batbooks aside, it was clear that DC Comics might just call itself GJ Comics–Geoff Johns is really behind most of the exciting stuff going on right now.  There was some good discussion on the Blackest Night storyline, but most of it was in the vein of “which dead superhero do you want to see come back?” which I thought was tiring.  I did ask a question about when we were going to see Superman actually deal with the death of Batman–like, we’ve seen a few panels of him looking sad at a funeral, but really? That’s all we get as one half of one of the greatest superhero duos dies?  In response I got some mumbling then a “Oh, wait–we forgot to tell you about the new World’s Finest series!” which sounds compelling.  They are going to basically pair together members of the new Batman crew and members of the new Superman crew–for example, issue one will be the new Nightwing and Red Robin–but still, no answer to my question.

I also got a similar, but needlessly snarky non-answer from Bob Wayne, DC’s VP of Sales, when I asked when we were going to see an Absolute All Star Superman.  The exchange went a bit like this:

BW: Did you buy All Star Superman Volume 1?
Me: I did.
BW: Did you buy All Star Superman Volume 2?
Me (seeing where this was going): I did…
BW: Then take them both, glue the covers together and there’s your Absolute All Star Superman.

It was a lame jokey answer and the quality of the laughter made me feel a bit better; I mean, all I want to do is give him more money, you’d think I could get a more reasonable answer than that.

The best panel by far was the Wednesday Comics Panel, which, perhaps for obvious reasons, did not list who was going to be the in the show guide, because if they did, it would have been been impossible to get to.  They had editor Mark Chiarello hosting Mike Allred, Paul Pope, Jimmy Palmiotti, Dave Gibbons, Lee Bermejo, Kurt Busiek, Eddie Berganza, Amanda Connor and Ben Caldwell (there might have been one or two more but that’s most of them) and proceeded to have one of the most thoughtful panel sessions I have ever been to. It was a multifaceted discussion about how the project came about and Chiarello was beaming when he admitted that everyone he dreamed of having on the project pretty much is on the project (there was one or two people who didn’t want to because of the format, much to their lameness) and it was really interesting to listen to the artists and writers talk about what a different challenge these pages have been.  Many of the artists realized that there was at least one, sometimes two “beauty shots,” where the whole story is either introduced with or build up to, with only two or three panels in-between. Even actually delivering the work was a challenge; they still had to scan the pages, they couldn’t photograph them, like in the olden days, which apparently made for some very long afternoons at Kinko’s (most of the artists drew in the actual tabloid size, except for Caldwell (who is doing the Wonder Woman story), who drew on 8.5×11 stock. That was interesting to find out because the Wonder Woman story is already almost impossible to make out on the bigger format–he must sketch reaaaaaally small.  Similarly, the writers had to rethink how they wrote comics. They had 12 pages each, and some of the writers, admitted that each page could take as long as a day.  Busiek explained that for the first 4-5 pages it took him a day a page, then, once he kind of figured it out, he was able to write the remaining pages in three days.  I could sense  a bit of tension by Chiarello when the discussion went to scheduling–there are still a few pages that have not been turned in yet–and Paul Pope quickly explained that of the late people, he is the latest of the late, which kind of goes with what we know about him.  Chiarello did say that just in case pages are not turned in in time, he does have three pages at the ready.  For the record, Kyle Baker turned in all of his pages in 3 or 4 days.

All of the creators expressed  that it was a real honor to go “back to basics” with the project, and how it really felt they were connecting the dots between comic history and and present. It was great to hear how much these guys (and gal) talk about their love of the old newsprint medium (which costs more than regular paper, by the way, which is one of the reasons it is $3.99) and to get a chance to create comics almost in a different time. For example, Kamandi is more like Prince Valiant, where there are no text balloons, just narration boxes. This not only changes the tone of the story, but really allows the artist to fill up every inch of every panel since he has more room.

There was much discussion about how these will be collected, and Chiarello said they were looking into it, but they wanted to make sure the collection would be affordable.  Towards the end, a few members of the audience shared stories of how people would come up to them in trains or buses when they were reading Wednesday Comics and getting really excited about it and everyone wanted to know if this somehow would be integrated into regular actual newspapers in the future. I guess USA Today is
carrying the Superman pages which is rad and apparently  enormously popular, which is cool (cool and rad!).  Dave Gibbons
went on to
explain that back in the day, comics were used to help sell newspapers;
a bit of fun and color to go with the serious news of the day and asked
if perhaps projects like
Wednesday Comics would be helpful in getting people back into print?  

I attended some other more Hollywood-focused panels as well, including a great voiceover panel, which was surprisingly entertaining and incredibly useful for people who want to know more about that very competitive business, and I even got the VIP treatment for the Chuck panel, where I was able to go backstage and talk to some of the actors and see what it was like behind the scenes in Ballroom 20 and the bowels of the San Diego Convention Center.  

I have more to write, but this is getting long, but suffice to say, I was again stunned by the love people have for all this stuff.  (You know when they get the casts to sign signature at the booth in the main hall? They don’t get paid for their time, they do it because they really want to meet the fans and, at least in the case of Chuck, thank them for their efforts to stay on the air.)  I met even more of you in the iFanbase and cannot thank you enough for the encouraging words, thoughtful discussion and occasional drink.  I am bummed I got sick; next year, I will just mainline vitamin C all week, but already I can’t wait for next year’s con.  Well, that’s not true. I can wait a few weeks.  But then–can’t wait.

Oh, and a special shout out to Paul Montgomery for rocking the site with new updates and his hilarious videos–well done, man, you made us all look very lazy.  You better come next year. You all better come next year.

See ya in seven!

Mike Romo is finally back in LA and is happy to report his fever has broken but is sad to say he has a cold sore. You can reach him by email, or on facebook, or follow the birdseed.


  1. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    You did an awesome job with the Twitter reporting, Mike! I genuinely appreciated those updates. 

    I couldn’t believe that All Star Superman response. I suppose they get that question a lot, but it’s still a pretty lame way to answer the fans.  

    Hope you’re feeling better after the con plague! 

  2. Thank you for this. I feel like I was there.

    It’s unfortunate that Marvel doesn’t have anything to get excited about. They have some quality work being done, but it just doesn’t seem to have the pop that DC’s stuff does right now.

    I share the general lack of excitement regarding MiracleMan. 

  3. I cannot believe that Bob Wayne would treat a customer like that.  It’s almost as if you were a nuisance.  He was at a comic book convention, you were asking a question about a comic book.  It’s not like you kicked sand in his face at the beach and then asked him where you’re Absolute All-Star Superman is.  I cannot believe such flippancy.

  4. @ato220 – Perhaps it is a bit like what happens on iFanboy when some asks where they should start with Green Lantern.  Perhaps Bob Wayne and crew have heard the same question so many times that they can’t take it seriously anymore.  Of course, that raises the question of why they haven’t produced that Absolute if so many people are asking for it. Regardless, it is still rude.

  5. Sounds terribly boring. Glad I didn’t waste a trip.

  6. Except we had dinner at the next table from your avatar.


  7. Do these grapes taste sour to anyone else?

  8. @stuclach  True.  But I think the question is viable because it hadn’t been answered before.  Another good question is why isn’t the vol 2 paper back available until February 2010.  Maybe he is more frustrated with the entire DC trade program.  Still, his answer reeks of elitism.

  9. @ato220 – Agreed.

  10. Nice article.

  11. you speak Newspeak double plus good. (shit I just dropped my last Victory cigarette down the memory hole)

  12. Jeff Reid (@JeffRReid) says:

    I went to a voice-over panel a few years ago when Rob Paulsen (voice of Yakko Warner on ANIMANIACS, among other things) gave a performance of "The Countries of the World" song from that series.  It was live, I don’t think he was reading off of a script, and he didn’t mess up once.  The crowd starting stomping their feet to the rhythm and clapping along.  Man, we nearly shook the room apart during that one.  It really made me love voice actors.  Hope your panel was just as fun!

  13. Now, the voiceover panel I might have wanted to see, if only for the chance to meet Laraine Newman.

  14. I love that picture of Deadpool.

  15. Typical union Stormtrooper. Sleeping on the job.

  16. I hope someone checked that Stormtrooper’s pulse. It looks like he might have passed out from heat exhaustion 

  17. I’ll buy you a drink next time, i had a lot of fun hanging out with you at Tivoli’s with our legal/ethical debate about comics, see you next year.

  18. Great article Mike, I was at the Cup O’ Joe panel where they made the Marvelman announcement, It was a little sad because i think maybe ten people yourself and me included knew who the character was, I only knew of him b/c of the iFanboy video show, I remember Jimm McCann twitter updating that their big announcement was SO big that even Jeff Loeb didn’t know about it, then when they did there was almost crickets. I guess what happened was something like what has happened to all comic fans at some point. We find out this awesome comic related news or meet a creator or get a sketch and want to tell everyone we know even those that don’t like comics, and the majority of responses from the non comic book fans is, Who? That is what happened at here, most of the people said Who? any way enough of my rambling.

  19. This is hilarious to hear, because *outside* the panel the Marvelman announcement was all I heard anyone talk about all afternoon, but inside all anyone apparently wanted to hear about was War of the Rainbow Hulks.

  20. I love that Deadpool pic, as well–he was trying to find out when he was going to get to meet a Lady Deadpool, which was pretty funny.  I was kind of surprised–there were several Deadpools around the con and they all looked pretty good!

    Yes, good conversation, Adrian! @Engish, I am glad you were there, too–I couldn’t believe how poorly it went over, it was a lot like last year’s iTunes Stephen King comic thing that they were trying to get everyone excited about..should be interesting to see what it’s like next year to see what people think of this newold hero.

     (thanks @conor for all the edits on my piece; I always overbold my articles and I didn’t know that Marvelman was one word…sigh)

  21. Ah, panels. Someone’s gotta do ’em! Thanks for the article. I steered clear of the big panels for fear I couldn’t get in, so thanks for doing the investigative reporting.

    It was great meeting you at Tivoli’s. Good times, though next time I’ll have have dinner before I start drinking so I can remember them better.

    @adrienhosseini- I think I was part of that debate…or maybe it was another. It was too late in the night for me to totally keep straight.

  22. I read about your Absolute All-Star Superman question in a few places and the response. I think he was just trying to be funny rather then say the typical "no plans"

    Are there any rules about "Absolutes" do they have to be a certain amount of years old? Maybe have some other arcane pattern for choosing them? 

  23. Great Deadpool pic. Thank you for your in depth ‘tweeting’ over the week Mike. I owe you a beer someday when I go down.

    I’m gald to read more about someone attenting the panels. Don’t get me wrong, it’s the stories around the con and outside of it that are entertaining. But I haven’t heard much about what went down this week in terms of news.

  24. I actually saw Mike at the panel room, I yelled "ifanboy!" but he ignored me!!! … or he may just not have heard. (you may have seen me ask a question at the Superman panel though, I was the second guy dressed as Superboy… you know the not so heavy one) Yeah the highlight of the day was that Deadpool looser, especially when Quesada made fun of him for not being able to find his Lady Deadpool

  25. Tell you what, you fall asleep in a storm trooper costume when I’m around with a camera?  You’re getting in the cold open of a convention show.

  26. Saturday Night Fever:  http://tinyurl.com/mrozdd

    5th picture down. Is that who I think it is?

  27. @NaveenM – I think it’s him. That is some orgasmically impressive dancing Mike.  Also, I want Jim Mahfood’s job.

  28. there will be an absolute all star superman, guaranteed.  what other response would one give when trying to make the most money off a product.

  29. Great Article Mike! Too bad I didn’t get to see your sick dance moves, there’s always next year!