Posts Tagged ‘comic-con’

Review: Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope

April 8, 2012

In my last blog about San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC), I said, “Comic books are still at SDCC.  You just have to know where to look.”

Since I have been so hyper-critical about what San Diego Comic-Con has become, I was very skeptical when I sat down to watch the Morgan Spurlock documentary, “Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope.” (available for rental on Video On Demand and iTunes)

I am relieved to say that this film is squarely focused on comic books and the fan culture and what little emphasis is given to the movie and television stuff is done mostly in cutaway shots (speaking of which: I’m sure Olivia Wilde was relieved to see her credit as “Actress, Tron: Legacy” and not “Cowboys & Aliens”).

Spurlock understands what does (and does not) make a great and captivating story.

Nobody.  And I do mean nobody, not even the parents of the people involved.  Nobody cares about Warner Brothers trying to pump millions of dollars into their marketing machine to try to convince the world that Green Lantern was anything but a steaming pile of dog sh**.

But we do want to see a guy trying to propose to his girlfriend at a Kevin Smith panel.  We also want to see Holly the costume designer and her friends compete at the masquerade.

Specific to comics, We want to watch two unknown artists try to find work and break into the industry.

Most importantly, from a retail perspective, we want to see legendary retailer Chuck Rozanski  from Mile High Comics selling actual comic books.

All of these stories have weight to them.  They matter to the people that they are happening to and we as an audience are invested in their success.

Did I tear up during this movie?  Quite a bit.

It’s a happy movie.  It’s very positive.  It’s about comic books.  Which is why I liked it quite a bit.

That said, I can tell you that if you’re not into comic books you’ll still like it because at the end of the day these are stories about people who you “meet” and want to see succeed.

I have never played the game Mass Effect, but after watching the passion that Holly and her friends put into their costumes I was rooting (out loud) for them to win at the masquerade.

I’d have liked a comprehensive documentary about the history of the con, but I also know that I’m an audience of about 10 people who want such a thing so I’ll stick to finding that in interviews and online.

This is a fun movie and it brings you either closer to the experience of being at SDCC in the present day, or for people like me it reminds me of what I liked about attending back in the day.

Very much worth a rental.

Fight The Real Evil: Glee, SDCC And Who’s Using The Remote…

July 22, 2011

Cue Sinéad O’Connor ripping up the title card from Glee…

It’s July, which means it’s that time again and of course I feel the need to gripe about San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC, see previous blogs on this subject)

As mentioned in the past, I sympathize with the organizers of SDCC.  They clearly are trying to maintain a comic book focus for the event, but the Hollywood stuff continues to overpower them.

It’s almost like inviting a friend over to watch a football game and he/she doesn’t actually even like football and decides to handle the  remote in your living room.  You’d like to be a polite host but at the same time, they keep switching channels during the commercials and don’t quite seem to be quick enough to get back to the game when it starts back up.  The host can only do so much before they loose control of the situation.

…oh, and they won’t take a hint on when to leave.

It’s a long way to get to a point, but it leads me to the following question: who the <blank> invited Glee?

Glee.  Seriously.

As a reminder, the mission statement for Comic-Con reads:

Comic-Con International is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to creating awareness of, and appreciation for, comics and related popular art forms, primarily through the presentation of conventions and events that celebrate the historic and ongoing contribution of comics to art and culture.

While television qualifies as a “related popular art form,” the content of said television (Glee) is a stretch.

Not to mention that Glee does not, “celebrate the historic and ongoing contribution of comics to art and culture.”

One could argue that so many other things do not qualify either.

Well, that might be true, but I’m focusing on the “low hanging fruit here.”

And Glee is ripe and in season.

I have come to accept that SDCC has been co-opted as a “nerd culture” event and that Hollywood stretches the “letter of the law” when it comes to what they bring down to San Diego.

Everything in moderation.

But Glee?

So.  Here’s what I’d ask of anyone going to SDCC.

Don’t go to the Glee panel.

Make sure that on Sunday at 10 AM, Hall H is completely empty.

Make that room look like the planet Arrakis.*

Show Hollywood that you’re sick of their non-football liking friend hogging the remote in our living room.

Instead of Glee, might I suggest the following alternative comic book-based programming for Sunday at 10 AM:

  • Archaia Entertainment and The Jim Henson Company: The Early Works of Jim Henson Screening with Special Tale of Sand Discussion (Room 4)
  • The Annual Jack Kirby Tribute Panel (Room 5AB) with Mark Evanier, Walt Simonson and Erik Larsen among others
  • Axe Cop (Room 6DE)
  • Comic-Con How-To: Audio Books with Scott Brick (Room 28DE)**
  • Teen Comics Workshop (Room 30CDE) with Xeric Award winner Gene Luen Yang among others
  • Comic Book Fairs: Using Comics as a Literacy Tool (Room 32AB)
  • 10:30 – 11:30 Wild Cards (Room 6BCF) with George R.R. Martin and Paul Cornell among others
  • 10:30 – 12:00 omics Arts Conference Session #13: Monsters, Somnambulism, and Anarchy: Romantic Vertigo in the Modern Age (room 26AB)

The funny thing is, when I started this blog I didn’t know what else was happening on Sunday at 10 AM.

The reality is, this is a wealth of comic book goodness.

Seriously.  Comic books are still at SDCC.  You just have to know where to look.  And when you can find them, you can be sure that you’ve hit some awesome stuff like that Mark Evanier panel about Jack Kirby.  Evanier knew The King.  Worked for The King.  Wrote a book about The King.  This panel is an SDCC mainstay.  And to have Walt Simonson there too!  C’mon.

Axe Cop!  Nuff said.

Or the Teen Comics Workshop.  If you are a young adult and looking to get into comics, this is a far better use of your time than watching clips from Glee that you can see on YouTube next week.

And what about that Wild Cards panel?  Aside from George R.R. Martin being on there, it’s about the process of adapting comic books to prose.  I’d pay money just to sit in on something that interesting (especially since I have the old Epic Wild Cards series).

So.  You can choose from one of these insanely amazing panels.  Or sit in a room to watch the producers of Glee show clips.

Exactly.

Having Hall H completely empty and packing these comic book panel rooms to the rafters will hopefully send a message to Hollywood: Stop hogging the remote!

…and maybe learn something about football before you come over the next time.

* yes, Dune is a novel.  But it was also a movie and the movie was adapted into a comic book.  

** Note: I know that the How-To on Audio Books is not comic book-based.  But Scott is a friend and does Brad‘s audio books so I felt the need to plug his panel.

The Eisners Are On The Right Track

July 22, 2010

In my last post, The San Diego Comic-Con Media Bubble: No Comics Allowed, I harshly accused the media and Hollywood of taking the “comics” out of San Diego Comic-Con.

And I stand by that statement.

I also made mention that this was through no fault of the convention organizers.

And I stand by that statement as well.

Which is why I was happy to see that the cast of the Scott Pilgrim film will be presenting Eisner Awards Friday night at the ceremony.  (press release)

Striking the balance between comic books and Hollywood is both crucial and difficult but by bringing in what is possibly the highest profile comic book adaptation into the Eisner awards ceremony the convention organizers have scored a huge win.

  • The Scott Pilgrim film cast and crew have put together, as far as I’ve seen and read, a very respectful adaptation of one of the best comic books of the past twenty years (and dare I say, ever) and the Universal Pictures marketing people made the right move to put some money into sponsoring this important event.
  • At the same time, the comic book creators are not being “edged out” of presenting awards (the press release lists a number of creators from Dave Gibbons, James Robinson & Jann Jones to Peter Bagge as presenters).
  • Admission is still free with a badge.  So it’s the same awards ceremony like back when I first went in 1997.
  • Comic books are still the focus of the award categories (sorry Hollywood, stick with the Golden Globes).

But most importantly, it brings the focus back onto the comic books.

It’s with great joy that I think about teenagers who may only want to catch a glimpse of Michael Cerea or Aubrey Plaza but then hear them talk about comic books and start to pick up some new books.  And they then become readers.  That’s awesome.

Good on ya’, SDCC organizers.  You did not let me down.

Now, if only Hollywood and the press can step up and match your efforts…

The San Diego Comic-Con Media Bubble: No Comics Allowed

July 14, 2010

Last year, I wrote a blog post rant about the “new reality” of San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) and how the news media and Hollywood studios have taken over.

As evidence, the lack of respect for comic books by the news media (which is influenced by Hollywood studios) reached a high point last year when the article  “Films, actors, thousands of fans ready to roll at Comic-Con” (USA Today) made NO mention of comic books.

[as a side note, I also pointed out in the previous post that this is through no fault of the organizers of SDCC]

So.

What do you do when the bigger, stronger (and richer) kids on the block take over your neighborhood?

You gotta get smarter.

In anticipation of it only getting worse this year, it is not surprising that the Big Two (DC and Marvel) are getting in front of the SDCC media bubble before the signal to noise ratio melts down entirely.

We’re at Wednesday and already there have been some pretty key announcements from both companies as we lead up to SDCC.

DC Comics

Marvel

Any one of these announcements would be a great surprise to readers for a Friday or Saturday SDCC panel, and they would easily make headline news in the industry news sites and blogs.

Which is why I applaud the PR teams at both DC (Alex Segura) and Marvel (their blog doesn’t say, but I’m assuming it’s Ryan “Agent M” Penagos) for getting in front of the bubble and making sure that comic book readers are able to hear about these exciting things before we end up in a deluge of nonsense about Salt, Glee, The Expendibles and all the other non-comic book things that we will be inundated with…

If these past three days are any indication, there’s a lot more good news to be had as we run up to SDCC and I thank these folks for getting the word out.

My First Comic Book Convention Experience

July 31, 2009

As a follow-up to the post “This Is What Comic Conventions Are About,” I can’t help but share my first comic book convention experience.

In the 1980’s, there were a string of comic book conventions held in a single room at the North Miami Beach Howard Johnson.

The conventions consisted of local dealers and a handful of artists.  It was a small show, but it was all we had.

My First Convention

At my first comic book convention, I think I was so young that I could barely see over the tables and I’m also pretty sure that this was one of the conventions where my mother was walking around with me (in later years, she’d drop me off for the day).

These are the types of comic convention experiences that kids (and adults) should have.
That has always been the best part of the comic book experience.
It got me nostalgic for a “when I was a kid story” of how
Of course, you realize this leads me to a “when I was a kid story” (please hold back your groans, I’m going somewhere with this).
In the 1980’s, there were a string of comic book conventions held in a room at the NMB Howard Johnson and featured local dealers and a handful of artists.
At one of my first conventions (or maybe even my first), I was so short that my head just barely made it above the tables and I think my mother was with me (at later conventions she’d drop me off for the day).
So, there I am.  And Captain America artist Mike Zeck is at his table sketching.  To say I watched in awe is to say that deer pause when met with headlights.  I forget how it came up, but I learned that convention sketches were $10 (or something like that).  I was noticeably upset by this information and Zeck saw this.
He completed the sketch, pulled out a new board and furiously drew something in pencil.  His hand moved at Sergio Aragones-speed and then he leaned over and said, “What’s your name?”  I told him, he put what looked like the finishing touches on what he was doing and then handed me the board.
In my hands I now had a Mike Zeck penciled head sketch of Captain America.  Personalized with my name.
In 30+ years of reading comics, it’s one of the single-greatest experiences I’ve ever had reading comic books.
It was a nice gesture and a personal touch that pulled me into loving comic books for life.
Which is why I was so happy when I saw the story about Matt Fraction and the Littlest Vision.
This kid is gonna be a Marvel Zombie for life.  And it’s awesome that Joe Quesada and the rest of the Marvel Bullpen gave this kid (and everyone watching) this experience.
Which is why I was happy as all get-out that I saw this article.

Anyhow, at some point I ended up in front of Captain America (and later Secret Wars, Punisher and Kraven’s Last Hunt) artist Mike Zeck‘s table.

Mike Zeck  was drawing a sketch for a fan and up until that point in time I had never actually seen the act of someone drawing a comic book character.

Sure, I scribbled in the margins of my notebooks at school, but this was quite different.  This was like coming across one of the “seven wonders of the world.”  I was awestruck.  It was easily one of the most amazing things I had seen up until that point.

I forget how it came up, but as he was drawing I learned that convention sketches were $10 (or something like that).  I was noticeably upset by this information.  My mother had already paid for the admission fee to the convention and I was reluctant to ask her for more money for such a “luxury item.”

As he was finishing, Mike Zeck saw the expression of disappointment on my face and after completing the sketch he was working on he pulled out a new board and furiously drew something with his pencil.  He then leaned over and said, “What’s your name?”  I told him and he put the finishing touches on the board and then he handed it to me.

In my small hands was a Mike Zeck Captain America head sketch.  Personalized with my name, and it even had a word balloon that said, “Make Mine Marvel!”

I was a comic book fan already.  This made me a lifer.  No question.

Mike Zeck remains a permanent fixture in my “top 5 favorite artists” list and in my 30+ years of reading comic books, it is one of the single-most amazing experiences I have ever had (second, of course, to Identity Crisis many years later).

But here’s the thing.  The comic book community is full of stories like this.  So much of the culture and community is about being polite and paying it forward.

Myself and countless other fans have had numerous experiences like this.

Simple and kind gestures that make a positive impact on the fans.

Writers Who Pay It Forward

Which is why I feel compelled to add an additional story to this post.  Many years later, at the same convention, I met Louise Simonson and she took the time to show me my first comic book script.

At that point in time, the Internet was still a concept in a William Gibson novel and magazines like Amazing Heroes and The Comics Journal certainly covered the mechanics of comic books but neither really got down to the nuts and bolts of things like what a script looked like (come to think of it, outside of the Marvel Try Out, I don’t think there was even a way to see a script if you weren’t an industry professional).

So when she showed me how it was done and talked about the process of writing a comic book; that again changed how I read comic books.

(and yes, she’s a permanent fixture on my “top 5 favorite writers” list)

The Internet And Paying It Forward

Which is why I love how Brian Michael Bendis* (permanent fixture in my “top 3 favorite writers”) has used social media to give back to the fans in his own way.  If you listen to the Word Balloon “Bendis Tapes,” he provides writing advice and process tips to fans.  If DVD extras are a way to save money on film school, the Bendis tapes are the quickest way to understanding what it takes to work in comic books.  And, I should point out that he also gives back by publishing the Powers Script Book so fans could see behind the curtain.

It’s not just limited to Mike Zeck, Louise Simonson and Brian Michael Bendis.

Look at the work on the Superman house.  That’s creators and fans.  Which is to say that it’s not even just limited to comic book creators.

It’s the readers who give back as well.  Like giving a comic book they’re done with to a kid on a plane or train.  Or when you see someone in a comic book store, clearly confused (or overwhelmed), and you try to lead them towards the books that they might like reading.

The creators and the fans in the comic book community and culture share simple acts of kindness that are often absent from other media and it’s comic book conventions that are some times the most visible place this occurs.

This is kind of why I was a bit down on San Diego Comic-Con (but picked up again when I saw “the littlest Vision” and further when James Robinson reminded me about Baltimore and Emerald City in his Twitter).

This is not to say that there aren’t extremely kind people in television, movies, sports, etc.  But I seem to think that it’s inside the comic book culture that you have more “immediate” access to this type of thing (and especially at conventions).

Conclusion

There’s a great scene in the movie Trading Places where Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy) is getting ready for his first day of work.  His butler, Coleman, offers him the following advice:

Coleman: Just be yourself, sir. Whatever happens, they can’t take that away from you.

And that’s the thing.  Whatever happens.  However big San Diego Comic-Con gets.  However many movies or television shows Hollywood produces.  They can not alter who we are as comic fans/readers and who the creators are and these acts of kindness that build our community.  We will always have that, and they can never take that away from us.

(this last bit would work brilliantly if I was able to ride a horse like in Braveheart…)

*I got to meet Bendis at Comic-Con in the mid-90’s, he’d just finished AKA Goldfish and was starting up on Jinx.  One of the nicest people I’ve met in comics and he even offered to replace my Caliber copy of the AKA Goldfish trade because of the crappy glue. I declined cause I felt bad that he wouldn’t have a copy of the book to sell to someone else.

This Is What Comic Conventions Are About

July 27, 2009

My rant about SDCC the other day (“Comic Con, No More!“) was fueled, in large part over the fact that I feel that there’s a generation that is missing out on great comic book convention experiences.

Which is why I smiled when I saw the article, “When Matt Fraction teamed up with the littlest Vision” (Robot 6)

Matt Fraction and Christian (aka The Vision)

Matt Fraction and Christian (aka The Vision)

According to Shaun Manning’s article for CBR, Christian — in full Vision attire — asked a question of the panel, and Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada invited him to the dais. He even got a hand-scrawled placard.

This kid is awesome.

Marvel Comics is awesome.

Joe Quesada continues to be the coolest Editor-In-Chief since Stan Lee.

Everyone at this panel now has a shared experience that brings them closer to the comic book community.

How many of the “Hollywood” panels had the littlest Vision on their stage?

[PS I want to point you to Whitney’s “Comic-Con pics ‘n’ reflections: Why I loved ’09 (but it still wasn’t perfect)” on PopCandy where she does an excellent job, as always, of summing up so many of my thoughts about the subject]

Comic-Con No More!

July 22, 2009

Pop quiz, hot shot.

For those attending San Diego Comic-Con 2009 (SDCC), name one special guest at this year’s Comic-Con?

Here’s an easier question.  What comics are you bringing with you to get signed at the show?

OK.  Those are difficult questions.  I’ll go easier than that.  What day are the Eisner Awards on?

The majority of the 125,000+ attendees to this year’s SDCC have probably given up on answering the questions above.

(For those playing at home, the answers are Geoff Johns, Blackest Night #1 (among others) and Friday night.)

Here’s the thing.  I don’t blame the attendees.  I don’t know who I “blame” necessarily.  But one thing is for certain.

SDCC has stopped being about comics and has now become “Demographic-Con.”

Brian Michael Bendis Twittered about an excellent Hollywood Reporter article (more on that later) where reporters Borys Kit and Matthew Belloni point out that Fox is promoting the show “Glee” at SDCC.  Without any attempt to find a fit with the genre.

I don’t have a problem with “Demographic-Con” but just don’t call it Comic-Con.  That’s all.

I mean.  Here’s where it gets frustrating for me.  The USA Today article on Comic-Con, “Films, actors, thousands of fans ready to roll at Comic-Con” makes no mention of comic books.  Not one.  Instead, they talk about the influence of SDCC on television and film projects, and then talk about Iron Man 2.

I loved Iron Man.  I like Fringe.  I’m all about so many of the things that are being promoted at Comic-Con.  But there needs to be balance; and by “balance,” I mean that there needs to be a heck of a lot more focus on comics and a lot less focus on the other stuff.

I mean.  The show has the word “comics” in the damn title.

I know that SDCC has a long history of being about more than just comics.  In 1976, the 3,000 attendees of the 6th annual SDCC got the privilege of a first look at Star Wars, followed by Roy Thomas and Howard Chaykin going on stage to talk about the upcoming Marvel comic book.

That’s the balance I was talking about.

Contrast that with the story that David Goyer tells in The Hollywood Reporter article, “Industry insiders talk Comic-Con“:

Goyer: People will remain nameless, but a couple of years ago, I was down there promoting a project, and the studio threw a big party, and it was involved with a comic book. And one of the creators of the comic wasn’t on the list and couldn’t get in. I had to vociferously argue with the publicists to get this person in.

SDCC is the event where comic book creators should be celebrated as “rock stars.”  And yet, the Eisner Awards, the top honors of the industry, are being sponsored by “Darksiders, the upcoming video game from THQ.

Nothing against THQ or their product.  I’m sure it’s a fun game and whatnot.  But for the millions (billions?) of dollars Hollywood studios have made off of comic book properties, the least they could do is write a small check to sponsor and televise the awards.

Then again, these are the same people who didn’t lift a finger to fix the Superman house either.  They take take take.  But they don’t give back a thing.

I don’t blame the SDCC organizers.  The growth rate of the show is beyond their control and they do their best to strike the right balance (as noted by the fact that their special guests are not studio shills).

SDCC organizers try to highlight the comic book aspects of the show as much as they can and I don’t know that there’s anyone to “blame” (OK, maybe the mainstream media…but they’re too easy of a target).

There will always be smaller shows.  Heroes-Con.  Baltimore.  Etc.  And creators will attend those shows and real comic book fans can meet them at those shows.  I suppose.

But there is/was something magical about SDCC when it was in balance.  Where someone could walk into a panel without having to camp out.  Where you could buy bootleg copies of Roger Corman’s Fantastic Four, talk to a Klingon (Kerplach!), meet great artists in Artists’ Alley (don’t even get me started on that subject) and then go and buy old issues of Marvel Two-In-One.  All under one roof.

I’m frustrated.  I have no solution.  I’m venting and I realize I’m coming across as “grumpy old man.”  And I suppose that’s what this is about.

Like I said.  I like the Hollywood stuff.  Sure.  But it’s about balance.

I suppose my message is that this is all a sad state of affairs, but it’s our new reality.

There’s all this talk about “geeks inheriting the Earth” and how we’ve finally “won.”

So this is winning?  At what cost, victory?

And if this is winning.  I’d prefer to be a Comic Book Loser (Captain Storm, to be specific).

PS I was somewhat encouraged by Natali Del Conte’s Twitter post where she said, “Lots of people reading comic books on this flight to San Diego.”