SDCC 2010: The Recovery


"So, that happened."

I trust you already got the news from Comic-Con here at iFanboy (from the hardest working man in comics journalism, Paul Montgomery), but I figured I would discuss a little of what I saw at Comic-Con and get your reactions to the news that Marvel and DC announced this year.

Now, to be sure, I did not make it to all of the panels. I mean, I did not make it to most of the panels that I wanted to attend, just like I did not get a chance to meet most of the folks that I wanted to meet.  This show…if there was a theme to this show, it wasn't Scott PIlgrim Takes Comic-Con (which it did), it was, really, There's Too Much To See, Too Much To Do, and No Time To Do It.  Con.

As I write this, yesterday was the first "last day of Comic-Con" when I truly felt–really felt–that I wasn't ready for it to be over. Like, seriously, this time last year, I was dead. Sick and dead.  This year? Well…I am certainly not well, but I definitely feel like I could stick it out at least one more day.  

One thing I keep forgetting about San Diego is just how truly hardcore the lines are. Like, if you want to see the 10am panel, you need to get to the 10am panel at least an hour and a half early, if not two.  If not three. All this is well and good if you get to bed at 11 after a nice warm glass of milk and being tucked in by your mommy, but clearly unrealistic (though, I suppose, not impossible) during Comic-Con. Maybe I am getting old, but when I am in bed at 4am, I can't get up at 8. Every morning for four days straight?  I can't do it, captain.

Every morning this year, I started out with clear disadvantage of having woken up just a bit too late to get my con in gear. I had a blast, to be sure, but I failed to get into the more high profile panels, though I did see Warren Ellis gloat about how much money he made for the rights to his story during the Red panel, which featured Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Mary Louise-Parker and Karl Urban, which was pretty cool, I guess. I am fan of the book (reminds me more than a bit of Destroyer), but it is clear that this movie was basically inspired by the story, which is fine. The panel was kind of a snore, to be honest, especially when you compare it to getting a chance to see the entire Avengers cast get up on stage.    Damn.  (Incredibly, Ellis didn't stay for any other panels…maybe that's not a surprise, but still, please provide us with a break.)

Sadly, I was only able to eek out one update during the con, and while I did record a few video segments, I wasn't able to post them during the convention itself. Remember that one SDCC when the guys did an iFanboy Mini episode every day during the con?  There's a reason this hasn't happened again.  There just isn't enough time, folks, to participate in the con, cover the con, write about the con and post about the con more than a few times. [Editor's Note: Well, that, and the iFanboy Minis were canceled.]

But all is not lost.  I went to a few comic book panels, and, while most of them were basically ten minutes of news most of us had already heard followed by 50 minutes of mostly awkward Q&A sessions, I did have a few items I wanted to share with you.

As Paul posted, Grant Morrison was at Comic-Con this year (Conor got an interview with him. I can't wait to see it) and there was much ado about Batman in the DC panels. I was there when they discussed Bruce's return, and the whole Batman, Inc. situation that is coming in the months again.  I don't have much to say about this–it seems like the only real way to keep the Dick/Damien dynamic in the books while getting Bruce back into the picture.  Truly, this is an interesting dilemma, this tension of the seemingly obvious choice to bring Bruce back in, but at the cost of having Dick wear the cowl, which, seemingly, readers are not really ready to pay, you know?

Grant was asked about Mr. Pig several times after the main presentation, mostly along the lines of, "Where did he come from?" and "How did you think of him?"  Grant used these questions as a way to discuss the challenges of creating characters who will stay "alive," who will be available for future creators to bring into stories "years after everyone on this panel is dead."  He reminded the audience that The Joker came out of nowhere, that it was 50-60 years before anyone attempted to provide him a real backstory and how when you provide a backstory when you introduce a new character that you deny the audience the opportunity to imagine one on their own, you deny the magic of mystery to happen.  Mr. Pig comes out of nowhere in Batman and Robin, and he is all the more terrifying because of this sudden entrance.  Grant was strongly of the opinion that it was best not to explain at first, "let creators and fans fill it in later," he said.

Mr. Pig, by the way, was apparently inspired by the song "Pygmalism" by Momus, which is told from the point of view of a transformed girl, like Eliza in the play Pygmalion, later made in the musical My Fair Lady.  He wanted a real deranged villain, one that was, I guess, obsessed with forcing transformation on his subjects.

Other jots I got from the Batman panel:

– We'll soon be seeing the second semester of Stephanie Brown's stay at Gotham University in Batgirl.  She'll get a love interest, a car and a dog.
– Paul Dini is doing sequel to Heart of Hush called House of Hush.
– Frank Quitely was supposed to come onboard again for Batman and Robin (and do more pages for Batman #700) but he's hurt his back and he hasn't been able to do as much work lately. (Feel better, Frank!)
The Spider-Man panel (read Jim's great report here) was interesting. By any measure, Brand New Day was a complete success and has energized the title. It sounds like Marvel is really interested in taking advantage of Spidey's resurgence, and looking to do yet another status quo change–Spidey's literally going Big Time. Dan Slott, who is taking over the book, is basically dragging Peter Parker out of the Charlie Brown category and more into the Bruce Wayne/Tony Stark/Reed Richards persona, where readers can (finally?) see Peter start dong well professionally–he's getting a career, people!  It also sounds like Spider-Man is going to be in more and more books…sounds like the Wolverine effect (or just more of the Spidey effect?).  The Spider-Man panel was the most nerdy of the panels I went to, with lots of gasps and cheers from the audience when they got a chance to see images from the upcoming books, of which there will be many, with lots of pages. The new books will be at least thirty pages, with an eight page backup, which will tie into other books, like the also-announced Spider-Girl book.  While folks were also interested in the Carnage miniseries (people cheered when they talked about it), I was bemused at the Osborn mini, which seems uncannily timed to mirror with what DC is doing with Lex Luthor in Action Comics.  Of course, it will be different (more Oz than Metropolis) and sounds a bit darker…but I am just so tired of Osborn… we'll have to see.  
It's funny; the "CC" in SDCC could mean "constant change"–there always seems to be a few panels where the creators gleefully announce how they are rendering the status quo to bits, that everything's gonna be different, better, crazier, bolder, huger, massiver, wilder, amazinger than before.  It's always fun (sometimes) to see just how different things end up (Final Crisis really didn't seem to change that much at the end of the day, really, you know?) and whether or not the readers really appreciate all the changes that the creators are so passionate about.  Of course, we are still waiting to see what is going on with Marvelman, which we learned about last year–wasn't there supposed to be a new book? Ah, well. 

The only other topic I need to touch on is the whole focus on digital comics this year. There were several different sessions that had the words "digital" and "comics" in them, and I ended up going to Marvel's presentation on what they were doing about the digital issue. Much of the session was about the upcoming motion comics, which was…well, it was a bit boring, just like motion comics. I know, that's harsh, but I personally have no interest in watching 60's-era Marvel cartoons coming back as John Siuntres quipped during the podcasting panel. They look bad, people!  That being said, the Thor & Loki motion comic looked much more animated than previous motion comics and looked…well, it looked pretty good, I have to say.  Still, I was much more interested in what Marvel (and DC) are doing with digital comics, and realize that Marvel is juggling quite a lot. First, they have animated, er, motion comics, then they offer the comics to look at online, which have nothing to do with the digital comics that I am interested in–the ones I can take with me on a digital device that may or may not have an active Internet connection. 

They only touched upon digital portable comics (Ultimate Thor will be day and date digital and print, no pricing announced), so I went up and praised them for their really nice iPad experience (they did not thank Comixology for that, by the way, which was lame) but pressed them for some answers regarding pricing. Specifically, I asked something much like, "While the guided view experience can be compelling and offers some extra value, I am willing to bet that not all users really want that guided experience and would be very interested in paying less money for 'just' the comic. I assume that adding that guided experience adds some cost to the creation of this digital comic and that Marvel could see some cost savings if they just put the page up there, perhaps for older issues, for a lower cost. Are you guys seeing anything in your research that shows readers feeling one way or the other on this kind of thing?"
Marvel's answer was both shocking and not surprising. First, they admitted that they haven't done much research (which means that they probably have not done any) on what the audience wants. They then said that they were pleased that retailers were actually happy with digital comics, because apparently customers were getting issues from iTunes and then going to the stores to pick other issues and trades. Then he challenged my assertion that the Guided View was not that compelling and how it was a differentiator from the pirated PDFs that were out there, and they were always looking at pricing.
Which did not answer my question at all.  
First, I find it impossible that Marvel is not doing research on this, I literally laughed out loud when he admitted as such.  I mean, is this the future of comics or not?  If so, shouldn't the publishers be working with their audience to make sure they do it right? Is this something they just plan on test marketing until they think they've got it right? From his answer, the best thing about digital comics was that retailers were happy that they were driving traffic to the stores.  So, are these mobile versions just promotional items? If so, how can they be so much money, and how does Marvel justify the price of the digital version of the Iron Man Annual being more than the printed version? It's schizophrenic at worst, clumsy at best and just angers the customer.  And I wasn't ripping on Guided View–I was praising it as something that helps make the story more dramatic, as something that provides value to the reader–I just suggested that they might build their audience by offering a lower cost version without that extra direction.
So, yeah–not impressed. Not impressed with their story–digital comics are not coming, they are here, and they are here to stay. I understand that Marvel has to play to both sides of this very crucial and emotional issue–they have to keep the retailers happy, I get that and I feel they should be commended for keeping the retailer in mind during this transition.  I also feel that digital comics do not mean the end of comic retail and that digital comics can broaden the comic book audience in hugely significant ways.  Seriously–if you have kids and a busy life and don't have that much time or you don't have a comic book store in your town, you just don't always have access to current comics. Digital comics can bring in people that would never go to their local comic book store. Digital com—
Sorry. I just…it's 2010, you know?  Comic book fans, the ones who are supporting these publishers, deserve better than wishy washy answers when we try to have honest discussions about what is clearly the biggest elephant on the show floor on a floor that has quite a few big elephants.  It's complicated, I know, and Marvel has better things to do than discuss this huge deal with some fan at a convention, but still–they should be engaging their audience a bit.
Well, SDCC is about community and conversation, and I daresay I got quite a bit out of just those three panels (I went to more, but those were the ones I thought would be the most interesting bring to you).  The rest of the con was super fun, too, and I just have to say to all of you who took the time to introduce yourselves and provide me feedback on my articles, you have no idea how much I appreciated hearing from you. I know all of us take your feedback and encouragement to heart and I–well, I really appreciated it. Thank you.  It was great to see folks at the parties, it was great to see you on the floor…my only complaint? It went too quickly.  I honestly could have used an extra day. Indeed, Brian and I discussed how the lines and the crowds are getting so crazy that SDCC needs to either cut back on the content (not going to happen) or add another day to the schedule. Make Wednesday a "real" day, make Tuesday night the new Preview Night. It would just give us all about a bit of breathing room and maybe make things a bit less frenetic, especially on the weekend.  Just an idea…a damn good idea if you ask me.  Also, my wife Whitney really wants everyone to start going to the Hilton instead of the Hyatt, since instead of standing around in a lobby, you can actually sit down on sofas and enjoy hanging out on patios above the water. I would add that the Hilton has 50% off drinks from 10pm-2am.  Would that be too much of a status quo change?
As they say in the old country, Big Ups to Paul, Jimski, David and Tom for keep the site up to date during the con. I had the best intentions but failed–you guys kept the site popping with content, so failure felt kinda good.  
Finally, it was a real pleasure to meet the folks at  They obviously love comics and are doing some really great work. I am really inspired by what they are doing and feel very lucky to play my very small part in this exciting story.
Finally, finally I did take some video of the last big unveiling that Marvel had at their booth: the Infinity Gauntlet movie prop.  If you weren't there, this is what it was like:

Honestly? I was under the impression there was going to be a lot more cheering and gasping, which is why you hear me burst out laughing. Ah, well; it was 4:00pm on Sunday. Still, people were pretty excited about the implications…which I could not grasp at all because I have not read the Infinity Gauntlet storyline.  I bought the book a few minutes later! (Conor made me.)
Have a great week and thanks for reading!


Mike Romo is an actor and writer in LA and, according everyone who has talked to him today, looks tired. You can email him here and read his wide-awake tweets here. Special thanks to Whitney and Sam, too–great pics!


  1. I’m looking forward to that Grant Morrison interview. Should be interesting.  Thank you for the update. 

  2. Great article Mike. Just wodnering who answered your Digital Comic question?

  3. hi guys–

    I dunno who it was, WR…didn’t catch the name.. 

  4. I think marvel hasnt tried to identify what the audience for digital comics wants, because they cant yet identify who the audience for digital comics is or at least will be. Right now it’s early adopters. in 6 months it may have expanded. or maybe not. The wants of techies who may try out a comics digitally for the first time in years will probably be different from those of a hardcore weekly fan who wants to make a move to digital for price/space issues. Once that audience is a little more clearly defined i think figuring out what they want will make more sense to them.

    But i highly doubt any of it will lead to 99 cent comics.

  5. Good article Mike. I think their "research" has just begun. With comics like Ultimate Thor being simultaneously releasing both digital and print copies, Marvel will crunch the numbers and see what is feasible. I agree that they should have had the ball rolling some time ago.

  6. As much as I look forward to getting back to Comic Con, I don’t know if I’ll ever go to one of the "good" panels. I just keep thinking, "I’ve got four days here, and I’m gonna spend one of them in a line? For a 45-minute presentation?" Whatever’s at the end of that line, I’m gonna have to like it a hell of a lot.

  7. I actually think that from a business perspective they see future of comics is Marvel Studios and Warner Brothers, and only see digital comics as a mildly interesting sideline.  They simply don’t "get it".  They have not done research but instead have a view of digital comics and motion comics as purely promotional items.  

  8. @cker–seems like they are treating digital comics as a passing fad, more than an opportunity to push the medium into the 21st century.

  9. I work for a publishing company (not comics, regular books) so I feel I can add to the behind the scenes on the digital/print question. Have we done research on this? Not tons. It’s not as easy as it sounds, and it is expensive and time consuming. I’ve seen our editors’ jobs turn from just editing and working with authors to blogging/tweeting and providing more marketing materials. I’ve seen our designers’ jobs go from strictly book layout and design to full service design: print and web. So while it would be deliciously ideal to have one person or a team working on this digital issue, it’s way more complicated. In addition, the entire publishing industry is running around like chickens with their heads cut off trying to figure out/waiting to see what is going to fly and what isn’t. Who’s buying the hardware? Who wants the digital product? How many units? How to market? And I don’t even want to say anything about rights management.