SDCC 2011: Show Highlights & Comics Haul


 Well, it's been a few days and I'm about as recovered from the San Diego Comic-Con as I'm going to get. As in previous years, I like to take a few days and process the insanity that we just experienced and come back here and share some of my thoughts about the show with all of you, as well as the fantastic comics I was able to pick up.

When people ask me what I thought of the San Diego Comic-Con this year, I've been responding with the opinion that it was a down year for Comic-Con… but it was still awesome! That sounds a bit contradictory, but the way I look at it, there's two cons going on. There's the pop culture extravaganza that's been embraced by Hollywood and the mainstream, and then there's the comics side of the con. A lot of people like to complain about this, but I'm able to separate the two.  As far as the Hollywood spectacle-fest, it was considerably less than last year or previous years.  Sure, there was movie and video game marketing and the like (including a giant inflatable Smurf, that I apparently missed seeing), but it wasn't as overwhelming as last year.  I couldn't even tell you what the "hot" movie was, that's how quieter it was this year.  Over on the comics side of things, it continued to be THE show for comic fans.  Every publisher was there, tons of creators, tons of panels, tons of dealers etc.  I've said it before and I'll say it again, if you're a comics fan (and you can look past the Hollywood bullshit), then there is no better celebration of comics than the San Diego Comic-Con.  The access to the people making the books you love is unprecedented and ultimately, as many of my colleagues have said, Comic-Con is what you make of it.  Personally, I made it to be a fantastically fun time, both professionally and socially and it went by far too fast.

With that said, after absorbing the talk on the con floor and our coverage as well as that on other sites, here are some highlights from my point of view in the form of awards:

Publisher of the Show: Image Comics

When it comes to pure comics and the announcements around making comics, Image Comics was the clear winner at San Diego Comic-Con. Between the two panels Image hosted (The Image Comics Show and Creator Owned Comics), fans were treated to a roster of talent that included Robert Kirkman, Nick Spencer, Scott Snyder, Jonathan Hickman, Frank Cho, Jonathan Ross, Tim Seeley, John Layman, Ben McCool, and tons more, including the return of Brian K. Vaughan on his new book Saga.

The BKV news alone was the news of the con. The only announcement that had people texting me and asking me about it in the halls of the show was BKV.  But that shouldn't overshadow the nearly overwhelming display of talent, innovation and dedication to comics at Image Comics., it's so much, I need to break it down into bullets:

  • Getting more information about Jonathan Hickman's recent re-commitment to creator-owned comics made this fan of his work psyched. Feel Better Now can't come soon enough.

  • I don't think there was a better teaser image than the one delivered by Frank Cho and writer Joe Keatinge for Brutal (on the right).  If this is any indication of what the series will be like, this is gonna be a fun one.
  • Anyone who was in the Creator Owned comics panel was treated to a Jonathan Ross delivered bomb as he announced numerous new projects with Tommy Lee Edwards, Sean Chen, John Paul Leon, David LaFuente, and Bryan Hitch (you can see Ross give us the scoop on an upcoming video show). It's clear Ross is loving making comics and he's got some of the best artists around helping him out
  • The news of Howard Chaykin bringing Black Kiss to Image for the next volume is huge news for fans of that racy series. 
  • Robert Kirkman isn't one to be ignored, in addition to having an oversized hardcover of new series with Rob Liefeld, The Infinite, at the show, he also announced a new series of oneshots  with longtime collaborator on The Walking Dead called Album
  • One of the best single issue debuts of the show was Scott Snyder's creator owned book, Severed, which has all the makings of another hit from Snyder who's already come into his own over at DC Comics.  


It was clear at the show amongst the avalanche or announcements from other publishers, that Image is continuing to establish themselves as one of the most exciting places in comics doing the most innovative work.  In a show that is filled with hype, it appears as if Image is delivering where other comics companies are falling short.  If there was ever any question that the creator owned movement as outlined by Robert Kirkman a few years ago actually has legs, this was the year that Image proved it does.  You have to wonder why Brian K. Vaughan and Scott Snyder didn't take these books to DC/Vertigo and why Jonathan Hickman is at Image anot not at Marvel/Icon.  Clearly Image has momentum and the support for true creator owned comics and a commitment to making the best comics they possibly can. As a comics fan, this is not only refreshing, but infinitely exciting.


Anticlimatic Story of the Show: DC Comics Controversy

One of the things I was looking the most forward to was the chaos of DC Comics and the fans reactions to what DC is dubbing, "The New 52", with their company wide relaunch.  Before the show, there was rumors of a protest and the programming schedule showed a panel called "The New 52" everyday of the con.  Surely there would be some overzealous fans who would make Dan DiDio's life miserable at the show, but that was about the opposite of what happened.

All the reports from the panels was that DiDio and company addressed the questions right up front, and while Thursday's (Day 1) panels were a little tense to begin with, the tide turned and by the end of that panel and for the all the rest of panels to excitement and anticipation.  Now, I probably shouldn't be surprised, but I was hoping for a little more drama.  As far as the protest goes, I don't believe it happened.  And if it did, I sure didn't hear anyone talking about it.  Utilmately, I think the fact that DC Comics vastly upgraded their booth, revealed tons of new artwork from "The New 52" and were open to discuss it reinforced the fact amongst fans that this was happening.  San Diego Comic-Con should be looked at as the moment where fans had to either embrace it and get onboard, or drop out.  We'll have to wait and see to see in September to see how many are on board and how many drop out.


Anti-Climatic Honorable Mention: Trickster

Another one of the hottest stories going into the con, was the "anti-con" or as it was later dubbed, pop up shop, called Trickster.  Set up across the street from the con, Trickster was a wine store that had a few tables where they were selling books, another room for panels (that cost money), and was a nightlife spot.  Positioned by folks as "The place to be" for the "real" comics people, Trickster was just another place with overpriced drinks. Maybe I'm a bit biased because the store model Trickster was using is essentially that of comic book stores I already shop at like Bergen St. Comics in Brooklyn and Isotope in San Francisco, so it didn't seem revolutionary to me in that regard.  All in all I was underwhelmed and expected it to have a bigger impact.  I spoke to one prominent DC Comics creator about it who said, "I come to San Diego for Comic-Con, not to stand across the street."  Again, it all boils down to what you want from Comic-Con, I find the con to be full of comics, but I can see why others would be attracted to Trickster or the idea of it.  But ultimately it most often came off as kids from Portland being too cool for school.  Did I mention the overpriced drinks?

The one great thing about Trickster was that on Saturday night I got catch The Gear, Mike Allred's band who throughly rocked and was the highlight of that evening.


Maintaining the Status Quo: Marvel

If one thing is clear right now, it's that Marvel Comics is on top.  They lead the sales charts, they've had numerous movie successes this year, they're the ones to beat.  And yet, Marvel really didn't trigger any waves or "oh my god!" announcements.  Sure, we got the news of The Defenders by Fraction and Dodson, and Hulk by Aaron and Silvestri but we've come to expect there to be one big, shocking announcement from Marvel every San Diego (i.e. the Marvelman announcement from a couple of years ago) and they just came up empty.  If anything, the news of Loeb and McGuiness on Cable Reborn was the closest to a big announcement, and well, even as a Marvel/X-Men fan, that falls a little short.

That said, their booth was huge (as usual, promoting next year's big movie release of The Avengers, and was always packed with people on line for creator signings or to watch whatever was happening on stage.  No one can question Marvel's dominance in the comics industry, and this year, they seem to just enjoyed being on top, which is totally ok.  But, something exciting would have been nice…


Book of the Show: Walter Simonson's The Might Thor: Artist's Edition

IDW has now established a level of expectation at the San Diego Comic-Con with their artist's edition.  Last year, we marveld at The Rocketer: Artist's Edition and this year was no different as we ran to the IDW booth to purchase our copies of The Mighty Thor: Artist's Edition and get in line to get Walt Simonson himself to sign the books.  As the con continued, this book was the topic of numerous conversations as we all appreciated the epic size and quality of Simonson's art.  Factor in the hype created by IDW in announcing the future Artist's Editions, and well, they earned this comic fan's dollars.  Now, this book is not for everyone, mainly focused at comics and original art lovers, but if you fall into that category, this was THE book of the con.


With that out of the way, here's a look at my haul of comics from the San Diego Comic-Con 2011:


Clockwise from the top:

  • Walter Simonson's The Mighty Thor: Artist's Edition – IDW – I opted for the SDCC con exclusive cover, and all I can say is, "Wow"
  • Mr. Murder Is Dead – Archaia – This beautiful hardcover from Victor Quinaz and Brent Schoonover is another example of the high quality output of books that Archaia puts out.  Unique and beautiful, this book is definitely one of the best books of the show as well
  • Treasury of 20th Centry Murder: the Lives of Sacco & Vanzetti – NBM Publishing – I couldn't have been more excited to get my hands on the limited edition, signed copy of the latest tale from Rick Geary.  
  • Our Love Is Real – after reading this book digitally, I had to get a copy from writer Sam Humphries of the independent book of the summer
  • Rachel Rising #1 – Abstract Studios – the hotly anticipated new series from Terry Mooore debuted about the con and I got a signed copy!
  • Super Action Man #1 – 215Ink – written by my pal, Jonathan London, this brings to life his character from his show Geekscape in a fun, action-packed romp
  • Echo: The Complete Collection – Abstract Studios – After getting Rachel Rising, I had to grab this one volume version of Terry Moore's Echo in beautiful hardcover format.
  • Echoes – Top Cow – Because I need to get books with similar titles, I grabbed Josh Fialkov's horror story which came in a beautiful package in the form of a foil stamped hardcover with dust jacket.
  • The Infinite #1 – Image Comics – I love the fact that Kirkman and Liefeld brought out their new series in style, with an oversized hardcover edition of issue #1, now THAT's how you debut!
  • Trickster – While at Trickster, I couldn't deny the talent packed into the limited edition art book they had for sale


And so that sums up my San Diego Comic-Con 2011 experience.  It was an amazing year and as I boarded the plane home, I couldn't help but think, "I can't wait 'til next year!"





  1. Nice article Ron. I am seriously considering making the trip next year. I’ve always wanted to so why not?

  2. Bummer about Trickster!. Given the creator-owned revolt this year, I had hoped this event would have more meaning.

    Do you know if Moore is going to sell copies of the hardcover on his website?

  3. that Echo looks amazing

  4. Yes! Image is the greatest. This makes up for the lack of coverage on Image from this site during Comic-Con.

  5. @Kirkerson  

    It looks like the hardcover will be exclusive to his site and booths, while a paperback version (with a different cover) will be available the first week of August everywhere else.

  6. Thanks @Slockhart! I’ll keep an eye on the website.

  7. You know, I was really surprised that there was no announcement from Marvel about a digital plan.  You’d think they would counter DC’s digital stuff in September, but there was no word.  Maybe they’re waiting to see how it plays out?

  8. I really like this article as a person who has never attended a big comic convention (DragonCon don’t count).  You summed up a lot of what went down with a personal touch that makes it easy to identify with.  I’ve been trying to keep track of everything goin on and there were a few things in here that I’d missed.  For me at home it’s just an overload of articles that are pure info (BORING), and in general you guys have made it easy to follow along and stay engaged.  Did anyone try and follow SDCC on any of the other comic’s sites?  For the most part it was a big mess.  To even find the beginning of the day you had to go back page after page and god forbid you miss a day or want to re-read an article from days before.

  9. Nice article.

    I didn’t find much to care about SDCC this year. There were maybe 2-3 announces that piqued my interest but then again they weren’t HUGE revelations. The stuff from Image sounds nice but I always seem to have a hard time getting into stuff with no Hickman or Kirkman in sight.

    DC played it right by having the event be about the 52 books while Marvel just bored me to tears with their announcements. (Again ‘yawn-a-rooney’ is a nice term to use) Hopefully when I go to NYCC this year I hear some bigger announcements. 

  10. I’m really glad that the cover I like more for the Walt Simonson Artist Edition is the regular cover, not the SDCC one, or else I’d really feel the need to hunt down the SDCC version.

  11. …and my wallet doesn’t need the extra cost. 🙂

  12. Thanks for providing your take on SDCC11, Ron.  I completely agree with @diebenny about iFanboy’s coverage of SDCC being the best and having a personal, less-newsy touch. 

    I’m anxiously awaiting my copy of the Walt Simonson Artists Edition next week, as well as the complete Echo in August.

    I’ve been reading comics for 30 years, and selling them as a retailer for 8, but I’ve never been to SDCC.  Next year, that changes 🙂

  13. I went to the Abstract Studios booth to pick up Rachel Rising and Terry Moore was SOO wonderful to talk to that I ended up with the Echo collection and his 2011 sketchbook as well. 
    FYI… that Echo hardcover is simply amazing. The spine is a thing of beauty on my shelf. 

  14. @Neb  Marvel did announce that Spider-Island will be day & date. The tie-ins will be as well. Then in October/November Uncanny X-Men & Wolverine and the X-Men will go day & Date. Schism is currently day & Date and so are the Ultimate books coming out.

  15. @CagedLeo730  I missed that piece of news.  I guess I would have expected something a bit more comprehensive or line wide.  Or maybe just more fan fare about what they are doing.

  16. I am jealous that you get to look at the Walt Simonson art book already. I just ordered mine today and it’s being shipped media mail. I guess there’s no point waiting by the mailbox each day for it. 🙂

  17. Great article, Ron.  You mirrored my thoughts exactly in your opening paragraphs.

    Loved your insight on Trickster.

  18. Seems a little unfair to call an attempt to shed light on “Creator Owned” talents a “too cool for school” gathering.  Kirkman could do it inside the show and get headlines, because he’s Kirkman.  They tried something else.

  19. @BatStewie  Thanks for sharing that about Terry. I was at his booth a few SDCC’s ago and found him a little stand offish, but as a big fan I was hoping this was just a one off.

    Ifanboy Direcotrate: It’d be great to see an article that invites everyone to share their great creator meeting moments from this years con.

    And thanks for sharing Ron, I look forward to that photo every year from you.  It’s off to Amazon I go… 

  20. the Ghupta Morrison panel was cool….Batman to Buddha

  21. I so need to get that Simonson Thor collection!

  22. From what I’ve seen reported the DC protest did sort of happen but it was a dud since only a handful of people showed up.