Here We Go Again: San Diego Comic-Con 2009 Report


I’m back at home after the short flight from San Diego to San Francisco and in the midst of unpacking, but I thought I’d take a break and share with you some thoughts and reflections from the 2009 edition of the San Diego Comic-Con.  This year marks my 8th visit to San Diego for the largest comic book convention in the world.  Every year as I walk down First Avenue in San Diego, Jamba Juice in hand, I laugh at how it feels a bit like Groundhog Day, in that every year we arrive and power through 5 days of con madness and then return a year later to do it all again.  But each year is different and unique in its own wonderful way, and that’s why we go every year.  Because you just never know what’s going to happen, and the opportunity to immerse yourself in this wonderful sub-culture of comic books that we have is too good to give up.


With that, I’ve put together a small list of observations about San Diego that crossed my mind as I wander the exhibit hall:

1. Everyone in Comics Works Their Ass Off
I think I realized this year why I’m attracted to the comic book industry: the work ethic.  I am a strong believer in working your ass off, and that is exactly the type of people who are successful in comics.  Now while this applies to writers and artists who are out there hustling and getting their work out there to either be noticed and find work, or on the other end of the spectrum, get more attention for the projects to increase sales.  But there is an entire world of people who work their asses off behind the scenes, with names you’ll never hear: the people who build and man the booths, the PR and Marketing people who handle the media and panels,  the people who keep the con moving and on schedule, the crews of website and media types who are covering what’s going on at the con, the list could go on and on.  There are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of people who work their ass off in order for San Diego Comic-Con to be something that is both a spectacle and an experience for the hundreds of thousands of people who walk through the con floor.  It’s these people who I have to tip my hat to, because while of course we wouldn’t have much without the amazing creators and character being discussed, without the people behind the scenes we wouldn’t have much of anything at all.

2. Tyrese Is For Real
To build upon the idea of working your ass off, I have to step up and testify that this Tyrese Gibson guy is indeed for real.  If you haven’t heard about it yet, singer/actor Tyrese Gibson has co-created a comic book at Image Comics called Mayhem.  Now, to be fair, I haven’t read the comic yet and I have heard and been involved in conversations that you would expect along the lines of “Another Hollywood person invading comics…” as die-hard comic fans who have been burned so many times before by Hollywood types are oft to do.

That said, Tyrese was everywhere at the con this year.  Clad in a Mayhem t-shirt, he and his crew were working their asses off to promote his book.  And people were responding.  Nearly every time I walked by the Mayhem section of the Image Comics booth, there was a crowd and people yelling “May-hem!”  and I saw a ton of people walking away with the comic.  Whether you’re a fan of Tyrese or not doesn’t really matter here.  What does matter is that Tyrese was there in the trenches with other creators working his ass off to get people to check out his book.  I have to admit, it was quite the scene to witness and really pretty cool to see.

3. Comics are Growing Outside the “Big 4”
We all know that Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Image Comics and Dark Horse Comics are the dominant forces in comics.  There are smaller independent publishers that we’ve enjoyed as well over the years.  But for really the first time I was uniquely impressed by the offering of products available by publishers like Oni Press, Top Shelf and Archaia Studio Press.  Now I don’t know if it’s the natural evolution in those companies as they grow and get better at what they do, or if it’s a reflection of the times, with the increased interest in comic books by Hollywood and the media etc.  But whatever it is, this year several publishers upped their game and it was hard not to notice. 

Oni Press has taken a leap both in how they present themselves
with their new booth and in the quality of their books.  Between new graphic novels, like You Have Killed Me and Festering Romance, and collected editions of previous releases like Wasteland, Barry Ween and others, Oni Press is making graphic novels that just look amazing both inside and outside.  Top Shelf shares that same distinction of quality products being released.  Every book at the Top Shelf booth was something to marvel at while holding it in your hands.  The Essex County Trilogy collection (in both paperback and hardcover) is just as fantastic as I hoped it would be, the new Lost Girls packaging is beautiful and the special limited edition Surrogates collection was awesome and a must-have before the movie comes out.  Archaia Studios Press definitely impressed me both with their booth this year, with a bold banner hanging above and the placement (between Marvel and Image) shouting to everyone that their making a go at things.  Led by Mouse Guard, with the second series hardcover being released at the show as well as a breathtaking oversized hardcover black and white edition of the first Mouse Guard series, Archaia seems to have a solid line of titles coming out, bolstered by the news of their deal with the Henson Company. 

It’s great to see such diversity available in the comics industry, where these smaller companies are no longer overshadowed by the big 4 and are possibility putting out superior products here and there, proving that not only are they here to stay, but things over the next few years are going to get interesting.

4. We Bitch About Hollywood, But Maybe We Shouldn’t
Even I’m groaning about the number of times I’ve written the word “Hollywood” here, but it’s hard to ignore the influx of entertainment at the San Diego Comic-Con.  Over the past few years, we’ve gotten used to the presence of movie studio booths and panels, as well as video game companies.  This year showed an increased presence by TV shows as well, with many networks/studios showing previews of upcoming shows. 

I’ve had a lot of discussions about the future of comics and what it will take for the industry to survive etc.  And as far as I’m concerned, the attention from “Hollywood” is welcome, because it means that so many talented and deserving creators have their opportunity to not only share their creations with millions of people, but to make enough money to enable to keep creating amazing stories.  When I saw the news break about Terry Moore and his current title Echo getting a movie deal, I couldn’t have been happier.  To see the anticipation building for the Scott Pilgrim and Surrogates movies is great for comics.  The Marvel booth was packed constantly as people just wanted a glimpse of Iron Man armor from the movies.  Even beyond what was reported, some of the deals I heard about that aren’t public news yet are great opportunities for some awesome creators. Say what you will about the invasion of Hollywood, but I think it’s a good thing.  Sure they’re going to screw up a movie or two here and there, but I think when we look back to this time, the ends will justify the means. 

5. No More “News” In Comics
When talking to people in the halls at the San Diego Comic-Con, there has been an evolution in what’s discussed.  A few years ago, Comic-Con was all about “news.”  Panels would break news like what creator went exclusive to what company, or what new titles were announced or things like that. Which lead to the conversation starter, “Hear about anything cool?” as everyone tried to keep up with the news.

This year though, I noticed a shift in the conversation. Less questions about what I have heard, and instead the question became “See anything cool?”  Meaning did you see anyone or any art or anything that was worth noting.  The Comic-Con experience has become less about acquiring knowledge, and more about living the experience.  Meeting that writer who you love reading.  Getting that sketch from that artist you waited in line for.  Sitting in the audience for a panel about your favorite creator, comic title, publisher etc.  It’s the experience now, and if you ask me that’s a ton more fun than worrying about the “news” of the con.

The passion of comics fans is what fuels this industry, and to see thousands of people clad in Green Lantern related t-shirts (which, by the way, Green Lantern related merchandise was EVERYWHERE) or to see the reaction creators received at panels and the line of questions during the panel is just inspiring.  It shows that even though times are rough and maybe sales are what they once were, comics are alive and well and being celebrated.



No con experience would be complete without surveying the haul.  Having just finished unpacking, I took a moment to capture my own personal haul from the show:

Starting clockwise from the top:

– Strangers in Paradise Omnibus
Which came with a tote bag because it’s too big to carry, and I got a sketch from Terry Moore inside Vol. 1, which impressed even Terry himself.

– Phonogram original art
Only 2 are shown here, but I picked up the 4 pages I purchased from artist Jamie McKelvie to add to my original art collection which at this point is about 40% McKelvie.

– Image United Preview Book
I can’t contain my excitement for Image United, it takes me back to being 14 and discovering Image and that’s a good thing if you ask me.  And the art looks awesome, they’re really pulling this jam book thing off!

– Surrogates Special Edition Hardcover
Containing the first and the newest Surrogates stories in one volume, in a sleek hardcover, this was an awesome get.

– The Essex County Trilogy Collection
Almost as thick as the Bone: One Volume edition, and just as good if you ask me.

– Sketch and Signature from Darwyn Cooke in my copy of Parker: The Hunter
This one speaks for itself.

– Sketch from Jeff Lemire of the Hockey Player brothers from Essex County Vol. 2
I’m a total geek for Lemire and had to get a sketch while I had the opportunity.

– Scott Pilgrim “LOVE” T-Shirt
In what’s becoming a con tradition, I picked the “LOVE” T-Shirt from the 2 Scott Pilgrim themed t-shirt’s Oni Press had this year. 

Not a bad haul, eh?



Finally, I want to take a moment and reflect upon and thank everyone that made this year’s San Diego Comic-Con so special for me, personally


iFanboy
When Josh and Conor first ventured to San Diego back in 2001, I would never have thought our con experience would grow to what it is today.  In addition to the folks I mentioned above, Josh and Conor should be honored for being 2 of the hardest working guys in the comics media.  I couldn’t ask for better partners in covering the con, consummate professionals, even when exhausted. It’s their dedication that keeps mine going and I’m continually impressed by them. 

In addition to my brothers in arms, this year was special as we had the strongest representation of iFanboy folk at any convention.  Gordon the Intern clocked in for his 4th San Diego Comic-Con and has become such a fixture, I can’t imagine it without him.  Having staff writers Mike Romo and Sonia Harris in San Diego for the second year in a row was great as seeing their love and passion for comics come to life at the show is a great reminder when my ankle feels like it’s going to explode and I just want to go home.  To have Jimski present was something I never thought would happen and his recent write up of the experience is 10 times better than any words I can come up with, but it can’t go without saying that Jimski is as great in person as he is written.

And then there was Paul.  Sure it would have been great to have Paul in San Diego, but then we wouldn’t have been treated to his epic video series as well as his top notch Jimmy Olsen impression, posting about the news we’d be interested in from home.  Paul continues to prove himself an invaluable addition to the iFanboy team and even though he wasn’t there in person with us, he was just as important as any one of us there.

The iFanbase
The representation from the iFanbase continues to leave me in bewildered awe.  Not an hour passed on the con floor where I wasn’t stopped by one of you to say hi.  Every day I saw people in iFanboy t-shirts.  To have comments made to us by creators like “So many people have told me they bought my book because they heard about it from iFanboy…” is amazing.  To add to that, to have people comment to us about how they’re seeing iFanboy t-shirts all over the con is something I never would have expected to happen.

I wish I could name everyone who we hung out with, drank with, laughed with and enjoyed the con experience with but I would be afraid to leave someone out.  Thank you for coming out to our party and rolling strong throughout the rest of the weekend.  I’m completely honest and sincere when I say that it’s because of all of you that we do iFanboy, so thank you for reading, listening, watching and continuing to support iFanboy.

The Industry
The comic book industry has been a fascinating and awesome one to be involved in, even in as limited of a capacity that we are.  Some of the most friendly and welcoming people work in comics and we’re lucky to have such fantastic friends and relationships within comics publishing and comics media (web sites and podcasts) and comics retailing.  The fact that we were out nearly all night every night, with old friends, meeting new ones and getting up early the next day to do it all again really stands for something.   Again, I wish I could list and thank everyone, but the list would be far too long, I know I would forget someone and besides, no one really enjoys a name-dropper, do they?  Let’s just leave it with the fact that I cannot think of a single person that I talked with this past con that wasn’t awesome at what they do and someone I’m glad to know.


Alright, enough gushing.  This is me closing the book on the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con, but it’s not over for iFanboy. Stay tuned for our excellent con coverage videos which will take you through much of August.  I can only hope that our excitement and good time can come across in video.

See you next year San Diego!

PS – Thank you Thomas Jane.

Comments

  1. Great article, Ron. With how crazy things get in the con, it’s nice to see you kept a good perspective on things. As often as the crowds can upset me in bigger conventions, it’s important to remember all the fun, positive things. I’m glad you all had such a great time.

    I’ll see you out there next year!

  2. The flow of Thomas Jane related twitters that emerged on Saturday night was amazing.

    I NEED to be there next year. It was depressing just to read about everybody else being there. Can’t wait to see the rest of the con coverage.

  3. Sounds like everyone had a great time.  I’m hoping to go next year.  You have a great haul from this years con.  I really, really want that Essex County trade.  I’ll have to check my store to see if they got it in on Wednesday.

  4. Ron, it’s great to see your passion for all of this.  And I have to agree with you on your fourth point up there.  Without the SURROGATES movie coming out, would my library have bought the two trades?  Would I have even heard of the book?  I doubt it.

    Anyway, thanks for the breakdown.  I’m looking forward to seeing the videos whenever you three get a chance to relax and get to the annoying job of editing.  Good luck! 

  5. GREAT SWAG!

  6. "I just want my kids back!"

  7. Since you mentioned it, you are quoted in the I kill Giants ad that is running through Image Comics.

  8. Great article Ron.

    What up baby? 🙂 You forgot to mention how white Tyrese’s teeth are. 😉

  9. Hey Ron, so I ordered the SIP Omnibus from DCBS…question, How is the readability of those things, obviously they are huge, but they open up nice without feeling like you are going to ruin the book? Actually if anyone else has them too, let me know

  10. I am so jealous of your McKelvie art, I really want to get a copy of the spread from Phonogram #4 but I know I’ll never be able to.

    Looking forward to picking up Essex County from Jeff at Fanexpo in Toronto at the end of August.

    Seeing the SiP Omnibus has me pretty convinced not to get it now though, I think I’d find it too hard to read compared to the nice Digest editions.  I have the giant Calvin & Hobbes collection and I almost never look at it because it’s so huge which is just such a waste of something so pretty

  11. @muddie900 pretty cool huh? i saw the ad as well and was psyched to see that

    @ludusmaximus I had the same concern too but last night I was flipping through them and they’re totally readable – it may be one of the nicest hardcover sets I own now

  12. Great article Ron. That Surrogates HC looks amazing and wish I had known it was coming out so I wouldn’t have to double dip.  As far as the Surrogates being know without the movie, I would like to thank Jiminski for pointing it out to me earlier this year on this very site.  Now I have no idea if that would have happend if the movie is coming out or not, but as you said in your article some of these books would never had been picked up (at least by me) if not your your guys backing or just pointing it out.  My collection of trades and books has exploded since finding this site and have yet find a cluncker yet here.  So thanks to you Ron and the rest of the iFanboy team for helping me refind my love for comics. 

  13. Great article Ron, thanks for the insight.

    I think I have the wife convinced to let me go next year, better start saving now.

  14. Cool article.

    On the "Hollywood" topic: I wholeheartedly agree that we should be glad that movie studios are paying attention to comics, and in general I think the licensing of comics properties into motion pictures and tv shows is good for the industry.

    On the other hand, what’s with movie and tv studios using the Comic-Con to show off properties that are completely non-comic-related? It’s REALLY annoying and disheartening to see. Okay, it isn’t bad for NBC to show off Heroes, for example, because that show is basically a comic come to life. But it doesn’t stop there. It doesn’t even stop at sci-fi/fantasy properties like the new Alice in Wonderland film. I go to other sites online, sites that specialize in movies and video games, sites that have NOTHING to do with comic books ever, and yet they have "San Diego Comic-Con Reports!", talking about properties that have ZERO to do with comics or even "fanboy" culture. I mean, film and tv (and most video game) companies are obviously far larger than Marvel and DC Comics. So are we seeing the comic industry’s favorite trade show being invaded and slowly hijacked by companies that want to push more mainstream entertainment? I think we are. The big comics movies of the past decade–films that mainstream audiences wanted to see–alerted the big studios that the Comic-Con is a good place to advertise movies, whether or not they’re comic-related. It’s just weird, and a little sad. I wouldn’t be surprised if next year’s Comic-Con features a panel with the ladies from Desperate Housewives, an American Idol try-out area, a James Patterson book-signing, and the filming of a special Oprah show where she talks about new ways to decorate your kitchen.

  15. I have to ask, what are the other two pages of Phonogram you got? I’d be so jealous if one of them is the page where they open the Blondie record in Phonogram #4. I NEED that page 🙂

  16. Sorry I didn’t run into you at the con, (did see Conor, Josh and Gordon) sounds like you had am awesome time. And I totally agree wit. You on the Hollywood angle. The question though, is what do you think about the only vaguely borderline genre properties latching themselves onto the con world – Twilight, Ghost Whisperer, Big Bang Theory…

  17. I had Jamie McKelvie sketch me a Death. It totally rules. I tried to bum a cigar from Thomas Jane and he gently explained that one doesn’t just bum a cuban cigar.

  18. I missed out on this whole Thomas Jane story on Twitter? What happened with him Ron?

    Even though I wasn’t there, I think the rest for ‘no news’ at SDCC was because…..well there wasn’t really any big news this year. Last year it seemed like DC/Marvel had bombshells left and right. For this year’s con, it didn’t seem like there was anything to report. Most of the news I read about was already reported or they aren’t that big of news to gush about. Other then MiracleMan and the end date for Dark Reign; I can’t say anything else of importance that happened.

  19. I too am sorry I didn’t  run in to you guys, I hope to start my collection of original art next year…this year was all about dollar bin back issues of Geoff Johns Action Comicsand Green Lantern, Robinsons Superman, Brand New Day Spiderman, Incognito and half off Invincible and Fear Agent trades.

  20. Awesome. I’m glad you guys enjoyed yourselves. Thank you for doing this for us every year.

  21. @Wonderali – I bought the page from issue 4 where they dance to Atomic – so after they take the record out and then dance and jump and high five.  The one where they open up the record before it may be still available!

  22. You guys have gotten pretty big in the last 8 years. Maybe in a few years you’ll have your own both and the Artists, Writers and rest of the industry will come to you for interviews. That’d save your feet from a little abuse.

  23. Master of the Typo "bpth = booth"

  24. Interesting last point from Ron: It’s true, there wasn’t as much "big" news this year. I wonder if that’s because social media has kinda taken over in the "publicity" category. I like Ron’s idea that the con becomes more about the experience. I think that’s a smart way to handle these events. There’s very much a community experience that occurs within the comics side of the con. I think the industry is smart to really try to embrace that as we go forward.

    With regards to Hollywood: I thought about that a lot this weekend. I noticed there probably as many if not more people dressed up as video game characters as there were comic book characters. It’s a little disheartening in some ways to see comics get squished. I mean, comics are ALWAYS squished. Comicon was supposed to be our shining moment.

    That said, I also started thinking: you know, if just 1% of those Twilight girls discover the Dark Horse or Oni press booth, that’s a boon for the industry. If just a fraction of the gamers actually discover something on the comics side and they continue to buy because of that…? That’s great. If we separate out the comics and turn it into two different conventions (as I’ve heard suggested) — well, yes, we all get to celebrate our geeky little hobby, but we also  become even more isolated. And i"m not sure that’s a good thing.

    BTW, I picked up the Essex County hardcover on Sunday when Top Shelf had marked it down to $30. Gorgeous book. The hardcover was designed by Matt Kindt (Superspy), as I understand it.

  25. Thanks for the coverage Ron, and all you guys. Next year I will see you there and buy you a drink.

  26. @Ron – SO jealous! Those two pages made the book for me 🙂 I’ll have to see if I can find the other page.

  27. I think people were calling SDCC this year: ‘New Moon Con’ judging from the thousands of people that came in just to go to that panel.

  28. Great article, Ron! Nice haul, too. I ordered my SIP Omni and cannot wait for it to get hear. Also have the Surrogates HC pre-ordered from Amazon. Both look gorgeous!

    I really, REALLY want to make it out to SD next year. Really.

  29. how was the A Darker Shade of Ink: Crime and Noir in Comics panel?

  30. Ron, I just wanted to say that this article was inspiring. Your passion for everything in the comics world is obvious in this article (and in everything you do for this site and the show.) That being said. Is the iFanbase ever going to get the whole Thomas Jane story? I got some of the tweets but was having trouble piecing together what happened.

  31. I think Jane came in as the Punisher; told Ron to pick up the Ak-47….and they murdered the whole crew of ‘Punisher War Zone’

  32. Nice article.

  33. Great article Ron. I agree with most of your thoughts here. Especially the idea that Hollywood’s intrusion into Comic-Con may not be the worst thing in the world. But, I did giggle everytime I saw a "Twilight ruined Comic-Con" sign though.

    Tyrese wa really working it this year. I was right across the way from him the whole time and it was complete chaos, but in a good way. Not just on the con floor either. At our hotel he and his crew were talking up the book and getting people excited for it. At the after-party, in the panels. Everywhere he went it was all about promoting the book and honestly, that’s what people are here to do. He did it better than most this year.

    I am definitely jealous of your haul, but I got my few little things too. I’m happy with the bag o’ goodies I cam back with and am excited again for next summer.

    I can’t wait for the video highlights and I wanna see that hip-hop video podcast. You guys were really on to something with that one. Holla! 

  34. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Never leave me again. 

  35. Has Ron ever shown us all his sketches?  If not, can he?

  36. MAY-HEM!

  37. Great article Ron.  It’s inspiring to see people who get work with what they love, and share that as much as they can.  I would love to get to San Diego someday.  Being an art student with 2 babies way out in Texas, it looks kind of bleak but until then i’ll settle for living vicariously through you guys and the ifanbase.  Glad you guys had fun and gave me so much to be jealous about. 

    P.S.  I’m curious about how much some original art pages run, on average?

  38. @flaco original art can run anywhere from $50 to $600 per page – depending on the artist, the comic, the characters etc.  I’ve paid as little as $50 and as much as $300

  39. http://www.alexrossart.com/

    If you really wanna hurt yourself, he’s even got a JSA Kingdom Come page for sale. I would love to get a nice Batman or parhaps the Krypto on a Lionshead 20k though. 

  40. So, will Josh or Conor give reports too, or no?

  41. Tyrese was all over the place. Talk about enthusiasm. Has anyone read his book?

  42. @ron

    I am SO jealous of that Parker sketch right on your copy of the Hunter 

  43. I love the Darwyn Cooke and Jeff Lemire sketches. Two of my favorites.

  44. Well…now I may have to get that Stranger Omnibus, looks far to good to pass up

  45. Did anyone try and get I Kill giants at the Con? i tried all sunday but i think i was too late b/c they were all sold out.

  46. MAY-HEM!

  47. Is Tyrese on this board? MAY-HEM!