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July 31, 2009

Comic-Con Report


Sunday closed down the massive Comic-Con with a whirlwind of activity. Most notably the fighting off of exhaustion throughout the day. That's no reflection on anyone else; just the price you pay for trying to squeeze way too much into five days.

Sunday began with a panel on Kids' Graphic Novels moderated by Robin Brenner. If her name sounds familiar, it should: She's a writer on this site as well as the creator of the website. She was joined by a terrific lineup of authors ---- Derek Kirk Kim (The Eternal Smile), Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese, The Eternal Smile), Jarrett J. Krosoczka (Lunch Lady), Chris Schweizer (Crogan's Vengeance), Lewis Trondheim (Tiny Tyrant), Eric Wight (Frankie Pickle and the Closet of Doom), and Jennifer Holm (Babymouse). I realized with just a little bit of pride that we have featured all these authors on GNR, at least with a book review...until I realized we had missed Jennifer Holm. Harumph. I'll work on changing that soon, if only just for the symmetry of being able to say everyone on that panel was on the site. And for the record, Carol loved Jennifer's Babymouse shirt.  

Jennifer also had an amusing story about how kids write her on her website and ask things like, "What are the themes of your book?" "What was the motivation for such and such a character?" These usually arrive on a Sunday night with a note saying that the writer needs to be in bed in an hour, so please answer quickly! A few panelists chimed in that these kids should get credit for ingeniuty in tracking down the author in a time of need. Jarrett told a story about how he was inspired by a photo of a very delicious looking Monkey Boy cake that a boy sent him with a note about how much he liked his book. He keeps it on the front of his desk so when he is writing in "his cave" he is reminded that he is writing for kids and he remembers to make it good for them. He is writing for them, not himself.  

Gene reminded everyone that there is a responsibility in writing for kids. He did an interview with a San Francisco newspaper and one of his sentences started with "Me and Derek started this book." An adult reader tracked him down and left him a message asking WHY he had started a sentence with "Me" like that. She left her number so he could call to further discuss his grammar. (Gene said he has not returned the call as of yet.) 

And to further the argument that these books do matter as part of the learning process, Eric told a story about a reading he did at Borders on a morning during the week. He anticipated only moms and nannies with children would be there. They were, but there also was a little boy whose mom had allowed him to cut school to be there. She felt that meeting Eric was more important than school. Seems that he had never read a book, but when he read Frankie Pickle, he really liked reading and he read it more than once.  

Derek remarked that 10 adults telling you they like your book is not equal to hearing it from one kid. In a moment that reminded us how generous the comic market is, the table was turned to Lewis as the audience was informed of how in his native France he is the Michael Jordan of comics. The panelists wanted to be sure that this shy man whose command of English was not strong definitely had his due!

And then there was the subject of lasting memories. In a humorous moment, Chris said he still cannot get used to someone tatooing his body with his art. He said he cannot look at his art that long, let alone have it on his body.

One of the considerations brought up at Comic-Con this weekend has been the notion that while comics aren't just for kids anymore, there might need to be more that are specifically for kids. Perhaps it's a truth lost in the ultraviolent world of superheroes; maybe the characters that once were solely for kids aren't all that appropriate for them anymore.

That panel led into the excellent one called Secret Origin of Good Readers, moderated by Dr. Robyn A. Hill, a professor at National University in San Diego, with Mimi Cruz, owner of Night Flight Comics in Salt Lake City; Bill Galvan, creator of The Scrapyard Detectives; Dr. Bill McGrath, a professor at National University; and legendary comics creator Jim Valentino as panelists. This one was packed with information. So much so that I don't think I can begin to cover it here, but I'll give it a shot with a plan to try to interview many of the panel participants in the weeks to come so they can share their insights directly. 

Here's one interesting tidbit shared by Dr. Hill: In one brief period (November 2003 to April 2004), one library in Las Vegas saw its circulation for its graphic novels increase by a whopping 14,000 percent. You read that right. That's how much of an impact graphic novels have been having in libraries for years, and perhaps the major reason that librarians are so far ahead of the curve when it comes to understanding and promoting the format. They adapted to better serve their patrons. They saw how the world was changing and they changed with it. That's a wonderful thing to see in effect.

This panel also demonstrated how essential comics are to developing good readers. The combination of words and pictures can help develop important reading comprehension skills, and they've also been instrumental in assisting both children and adults learn English.

From there, the day continued to another panel again with creators on it called Comics and Graphic Novels for All Ages. Moderated by Randy Duncan, who was the co-chair of the Comics Arts Conference was a conversation with Jimmy Gownley (Amelia Rules), Kazu Kibuishi (Amulet), David Petersen (Mouse Guard), Eric Jones and Landry Walker (Supergirl, Little Gloomy), Jeff Smith (Bone) and Alexis Fajardo (Kid Beowulf). Again there was a terrific exchange of ideas from a group of passionate creators. All of these panels were in the same room, number was nice not to have to move much; nicer still that the AC was working well in that room. The final panel Carol and I attended on Sunday was The Cultural Shift,  where librarian Snow Wildsmith moderated a panel on how comics have been finding a louder voice within American Culture. Fellow panelists Jimmy Gownley, Peter Gutierrez, and Anne Stockwell bantered on how kids are relating to comics and how librarians and booksellers are adapting to help them.

And was time for a long-overdue walking of the floor. Carol and I had managed to sneak several opportunities to browse the floor of the convention, but this was our first extended chance...and we were on a clock. With just an hour and a half left before the closing of the Con, we threw ourselves at the mercy of the masses and ventured into the fray.

And that's all she wrote, folks. Thanks to everyone who made this such an incredible week. A massive amount of work goes into making it all happen, and it's appreciated. Even more, thanks to all the great people we got to meet in person: It's nice, in this age of email, to finally put some faces with the names. I'm looking forward to continuing a lot of the conversations we started in San Diego...and I'm also looking forward to resting up for next year.


Saturday was a day of heroes, beginning with one of my childhood favorites, Laraine Newman. I know that’s not exactly what people would expect to hear when talking about heroes at Comic-Con, but it’s true. She was one of the first stars of Saturday Night Live, a brilliant comic and wonderful actress, and a friend to both John Belushi and Gilda Radner, two legends in my mind. Laraine is now doing a lot of cartoon voiceover work (such as As Told by Ginger), and she’s just completed some vocals for a new Star Trek videogame (“I play many characters, and they all die horrible deaths,” she noted). She was joined on the “Cartoon Voices I” panel by Bill Farmer, James Arnold Taylor, Chuck McCann, Mark Evanier, and others.

And here’s where the day of heroes continued. The panelists paid tribute to one of the greatest vocal actors ever, the late, great Lorenzo Music. That name might not stand out to you, but if you’re over, say, 35, he made an impact on your life somehow. (Here’s one that oughtta ring a bell: “Hello, this is Carlton your doorman.”) And if that didn’t work, try these: He was the voice of Peter Venkman on the cartoon The Real Ghostbusters and Larry the Crash Test Dummy in those seatbelt public service announcements from the ’80s. And perhaps most famously, he was the voice of Garfield. And it’s here where his heroism comes in. Lorenzo volunteered for a suicide hotline once a week and whenever he could—or whenever someone noticed he sounded an awful lot like that cat on TV—he would talk them down and make them laugh using his Garfield voice.
Several panelists noted that his kind of humanity was abundant in the voiceover acting world. They mentioned several actors giving up jobs to others in the business just so they could retain a SAG card and maintain their insurance. And Bill Farmer, the voice of Goofy, related a story of a young girl sick with leukemia who didn’t want to continue her treatment anymore. She hated how the medicine made her feel until Bill talked to her on the phone—in his Goofy voice, telling her how he always takes his medicine whenever he’s sick. The girl changed her mind and the disease went into remission. The audience applauded. Then they gave the panelists a standing ovation at the end.
The next hero was Green Lantern. This one was focused on Blackest Night, DC’s major event of the summer affecting most of their books and superheroes. Writer Geoff Johns explained it as a very personal story that he had spent quite a long time developing, a story that he is using to explain and codify death in the comic-book world (as opposed to death in the real world, which has the unfortunate habit of being a much more permanent condition than in comics). Blackest Night will tie in with Titans, Batman, Wonder Woman, JSA, and more, and in each the heroes will face the resurrected version of an old friend or loved one. Most interesting sounding was Booster Gold’s upcoming battle with Ted Kord (Blue Beetle) and an epic confrontation between (the still living) Carol Ferris and Sinestro. Geoff was rather tight-lipped about most of the series (“You’ll have to keep reading” was his response to a lot of audience questions), but he did hint at an upcoming Book of the Dead and revealed that he would be writing Flash again.
That panel, like Friday’s, ended with the audience’s recitation of GL’s oath. At that point, I had no idea that Carol was in the room, and I’m so glad she didn’t see me, fist in the air, yelling the lines with the best of them. Later, when she told me she was there, she asked if I did the “Green Lantern cheer” at the end and I had to say, “It’s an oath, Carol! It’s an oath!” Luckily she had been at a session where Denis Kitchen was interviewed or I do fear she would have spotted me in front and immoralized this moment.
From there, I tried to get into a preview for Iron Man 2, which I would have loved to see. But unfortunately, Hall H is a brand new circle of hell, apparently. It’s one of the most poorly run and organized places I’ve ever seen—no doubt (for me, anyway) because of Hollywood. You never see line mismanagement and audience abuse like this at the comic and videogame events.
In what made Carol smile, a standing-room-only crowd turned out to hear a panel on "Comics in the Classroom" moderated by Josh Elder (creator of Mail Order Ninja and a member of Kids Love Comics) with panelists Jimmy Gownley (author of Amelia Rules!), Peter Guitierrez (an education specialist), Gina Gagliano (marketing manager of First Second Books), and David Serchay, a librarian from Florida. A show of hands confirmed there were teachers from all sectors of education at the panel from elementary through college. Between this and the "Strategies and Resources for Teaching a Course in Comics" panel we had been to on Friday, there is definite evidence that interest in graphic novels in the classroom is growing and that educators are looking for both ideas on what to teach and thoughts on what needs to be done to convince administrators to allow them to be taught. Thus this furthered our commitment to share stories from teachers using these works on Carol had to run to another event and did not have time to hold the room hostage for cards, so if you are a teacher and would like to share what you are doing with graphic novels in the classroom, drop me a note.
She also went to see Joe Hill talk about his Locke & Key series, the second installment of which called Headgames will be out in September. In a moment of true Comic-Con madness when Joe walked towards the room the room moderator asked him to queue up. Once. Then twice. The third time as Joe resisted a few people on the line blurted out that HE was Joe Hill. It was an amusing moment. Joe went on to talk about the series, which he has planned for at least 30 episodes, give or take six. He knows what the last four panels are going to be and that they will have no dialogue. The road to those pages is not quite clear yet. Oh, and who is Joe's writing hero (at least the one he is not related to as for those not in the know, Joe's dad is Stephen King)? It's Alan Moore. Somewhere along the way Moore told him you would have to be a total dip**** not to know the ending. Joe clearly took him seriously.
He loves writing dialogue thus it's very interesting that the last four panels will be without it. He also confessed to being a slow writer. He would love to do Heart-Shaped Box as a graphic novel, but he is just too slow to do it. His new prose book, Horns, will be out in February 2010.
Back again with some of the news from Comic-Con. Where to start? Friday was a big day, with a lot of random information gathered. So here, in no particular order, are some of the tidbits picked up along the way.

  • The presentation of the animated Green Lantern: First Flight drew record crowds on Thursday: Some 4,000 people crowded the hall (further boosting my theory that GL is the real star of this show). At the screening, producer Bruce Timm led the entire crowd to recite GL’s oath (“In brightest day…”) and apparently it’s a big enough deal that Guinness has been contacted for official certification. Since about 1,500 people got turned away from the screening, Warner has added a new screening for Sunday at 2:15 in room 6BCF.
  • In other animation news, DC’s animation team is producing a series of animated shorts based on their comics. The only confirmed short so far is Jonah Hex.
  • Robert Kirkman announced at his after panel, Kirkamania, that he would end his series Wolf-Man around issue #25, after a story arc that he feels completes the series. He said he wanted to continue Invincible and Walking Dead forever and also wanted to free up some time for new ideas he has.
  • Our friends at Tate’s Comics won the Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award at Friday’s Eisner Awards. Congratulations to them! Their store deserves this recognition.
  • The best moment of the Eisner Awards came when comedians Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon came out to hand out a trio of awards and informed the audience that if they played their cards right, this award show could be televised on Bravo (because the network was “looking for a seven-hour awards show with no celebrities and mostly dudes”). They then instructed winners on how best to “lose their s--t” when accepting their awards. So our favorite winner of the night award goes to Jill Thompson, who did just that, jumping and screaming with the best of them. Thanks, Jill, for being such a good sport and providing the highlight of the evening.

The complete list of winners of the Eisner Awards is at the end of this day’s report. But before that, let’s go through some of the events of the day.
The Comics Arts Conference has been producing a series of panels and discussions that have been so incredibly informative and diverse. Strategies and Resources for Teaching a Course in Comics was one such event, featuring university professors Alec Hosterman, Matthew J. Smith, and Randy Duncan (along with a discussion from Greg Urquhart, who has been working for Alexander Street Press on an archival database of comics classics for academic use). Randy and Matthew’s book The Power of Comics tied in to their presentation, which included a look at how their university-level coursework could be translated into classes in high schools and junior high. Randy made a great point during his speech: “We’re teaching about a medium where the greats are very accessible.” If you’re a teacher looking for advice on how to incorporate comics into the classroom—or even on how to justify bringing them in—these three are a great resource (and I’ll be contacting them soon to see if I can get them featured in a larger story here on the site).
That panel was followed by one devoted to The Institute of Comics Studies, a new endeavor from Peter Coogan pledged to “promoting the study, understanding, recognition, and cultural legitimacy of the comics medium.” With attendance at Comic-Con at an all-time high, we need this kind of work more than ever. The attention and passion for comics are definitely out there, but the overall general respect for the art form itself still needs to be bolstered.
From there, it was on to the simply titled panel “Graphic Novels,” hosted by’s Tom Spurgeon. The talk was about what’s new and old in the graphic novel format but it led to a spur of the moment lively debate between Jason Lutes (Berlin) and Seth (George Sprott 1894–1975) over the importance (or lack thereof) of editors. Jason argued that a good editor is like a teacher, helping to construct a better story and artwork, while Jason felt that an editor potentially compromised the entire integrity of the art. I’d love to see that debate drawn out to its own panel with more participants arguing the pros and cons of editing.
In fact, several memorable moments came from this entire panel. A discussion of the long form the graphic novel provides led to Jason’s thought-provoking quote, “Constraints are the basis for most great comics” (meaning the constraint of a page count). Seth agreed with the idea but also saw the value for longer and more open-ended tableaux: “You have an unlimited vista of pages in front of you. We don’t structure pages in the same way anymore. The story is just as long as it needs to be.”
Bryan Lee O’Malley admitted to wishing he hadn’t made his Scott Pilgrim series as long as it is, saying, “I feel I was a different person when I made [the first book].” Fellow panelists Derek Kirk Kim and Gene Luen Yang understood the feeling too, noting that spending years on a book or series of books can lead to mixed emotions when growth and maturity change between beginning and end.
And finally this great quote from moderator Tom Spurgeon: “Will Eisner created the graphic novel in kind of the same way that Columbus discovered America.” That’s no slight to Eisner; just a recognition that the format has existed for quite some time in one way or another, and it will continue to do so.
Speaking of Eisner, here’s the complete list of winners from the Eisner Awards ceremony.
Best Publication for Kids
Tiny Titans, by Art Baltazar and Franco (DC)
Best Publication for Teens/Tweens
Coraline, by Neil Gaiman, adapted by P. Craig Russell (HarperCollins Children’s Books)

Best Coloring
Dave Stewart, Abe Sapien: The Drowning, BPRD, The Goon, Hellboy, Solomon Kane, The Umbrella Academy (Dark Horse); Body Bags (Image); Captain America: White (Marvel)

Best Lettering
Chris Ware, Acme Novelty Library #19 (Acme)

Best Digital Comic
Finder, by Carla Speed McNeil

Best Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team
Guy Davis, BPRD (Dark Horse)

Best Painter/Multimedia Artist
Jill Thompson, Magic Trixie, Magic Trixie Sleeps Over (HarperCollins Children’s Books)
Spirit of Retailing Award
Tate’s Comics Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
Best Cover Artist
James Jean, Fables (Vertigo/DC); The Umbrella Academy (Dark Horse)

Best Comics-Related Periodical/Journalism
Comic Book Resources, produced by Jonah Weiland

Best Comics-Related Book
Kirby: King of Comics, by Mark Evanier (Abrams)

Best Publication Design
Hellboy Library Editions, designed by Cary Grazzini and Mike Mignola (Dark Horse)

Best Archival Collection/Project—Strips
Little Nemo in Slumberland, Many More Splendid Sundays, by Winsor McCay (Sunday Press Books)

Best Archival Collection/Project—Comic Books
Creepy Archives, by various (Dark Horse)

Best Humor Publication
Herbie Archives, by “Shane O’Shea” (Richard E. Hughes) and Ogden Whitney (Dark Horse)

Best U.S. Edition of International Material
The Last Musketeer, by Jason (Fantagraphics)

Best U.S. Edition of International Material—Japan
Dororo, by Osamu Tezuka (Vertical)

Russ Manning Award Winner:
Eleanor Davis
New Hall of Fame Inductees:
Harold Gray
Graham Ingels
Matt Baker
Reed Crandall
Russ Heath
Best Writer
Bill Willingham, Fables, House of Mystery (Vertigo/DC)
Best Writer/Artist
Chris Ware, Acme Novelty Library (Acme)

Best New Series
Invincible Iron Man, by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca (Marvel)

Best Limited Series
Hellboy: The Crooked Man, by Mike Mignola and Richard Corben (Dark Horse)

Best Continuing Series
All Star Superman. by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely (DC)

Best Short Story
“Murder He Wrote,” by Ian Boothby, Nina Matsumoto, and Andrew Pepoy, in The Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror #14 (Bongo)
Best Anthology
Comic Book Tattoo: Narrative Art Inspired by the Lyrics and Music of Tori Amos, edited by Rantz Hoseley (Image)

Best Reality-Based Work
What It Is, by Lynda Barry (Drawn & Quarterly)
Best Graphic Album—Reprint
Hellboy Library Edition, vols. 1 and 2, by Mike Mignola (Dark Horse)

Best Graphic Album—New
Swallow Me Whole, by Nate Powell (Top Shelf)

Comic-Con officially opened on Thursday, with all the people who had crowded the floor on Preview Night, plus thousands more coming in for the first day, now dispersed between panels, previews, meetings, and of course the floor itself. The floor was filled with lively costumes, as it is every year—the biggest treat of the show being the visual effect of what people will wear and how close to the source material they’ll be able to make it. The costumed attendees really are the unsung heroes of the show, putting in great time and effort for our amusement. And if they do well at it, their reward is to be stopped every few minutes by people wanting to get a picture. That’s commitment.
My day at the con got off to a great start with a breakfast meeting with Carol, where we devised plans to divide and conquer. Last year, we faced being shut out of many of the panels we wanted to attend, mostly because of the squatters who filled up rooms waiting for events that wouldn’t be happening until well after the panels we were trying to get into. That problem hasn’t been so bad this year. In fact, everything about the con has been smoother and more efficient this year. Wait times for badges were significantly decreased, lines for panels are easy to find and follow (although, yes, they are sometimes too long).
Of course, the attention of the day seemed to focus most on the Twilight previews and the thousands of people (mostly girls) who had lined up days prior to get in. But more notable news may have come from the coverage Variety gave the con’s opening. The Hollywood industry magazine featured a lead story that gave the spotlight to Terry Moore’s movie deal for Echo. As Jeff Smith—the much-loved and respected creator of Bone who shared a panel stage with Moore on Thursday—noted: Imagine that! The big story about Comic-Con is about a comic book!
Jeff had some news of his own at the panel, which consisted of delightful banter between the two old friends. Jeff’s news that he would be continuing Bone had already made the rounds yesterday, but it still thrilled the packed auditorium. For those who missed it, the details are that Jeff, along with Tom Snegowski, will produce a new book called Bone: Tall Tales in the summer of 2010. The book will introduce three new characters, Ringo, Bingo, and Todd, who will sit around the campfire with Smiley and Bartleby telling stories, including a story about Big Johnson Bone.
Following that will be Tom’s first book in a prose Bone trilogy called Bone: Quest for the Spark. The novel will be a sequel to Bone but with a mostly new cast. Look for it in 2011—and look for it to be “very funny,” in Jeff’s words.
More Jeff news: His groundbreaking Rasl, which had previously been running to a publishing schedule of three, 32-page issues per year, will now be coming out more frequently—albeit in smaller chunks. Beginning this fall, it will move to “five or six times a year,” per Jeff, with 22 pages in each issue. Jeff said he wasn’t quite sure exactly how long Rasl would run, but he was looking forward to the complete story being “one volume at the end that’s gonna be chunky.”
One more bit of Rasl news: No details are ready to be announced, but a major star has shown some interest in the series, so perhaps we’ll be hearing more about that soon.
Back to Terry Moore, whose excellent Echo series will be coming to theaters soon. Terry has sold the film rights to Lloyd Levinson, a producer on Watchmen, and Terry noted, “It’s not an option—it’s a film deal. [Levinson] paid way too much for it, so he has to make it.”
Terry said his goal now is to put Strangers in Paradise on the small screen “because that’s a TV show.”
Later, Terry revealed that the villain in Echo is named Cain and that plenty of interesting things will be in issue #14, on sale next week.
Moving on to other con news, I’ll share a few highlights of my day. First, congratulations to my friend Louie, who won a Heroes comic book by trouncing the competition in a cheerleading contest. Louie proudly reenacted his winning cheer at the Boom! Studios party last night at the Hyatt (where we spotted just about everybody in the comics biz, including guest of honor Mark Waid and Darwyn Cooke, two very great and very nice guys). Ray Park (Darth Maul, as well as Toad from X-Men) was also there.
One of the funniest panels I’ve ever attended at Comic-Con was yesterday’s Spotlight on Gene Luen Yang, hosted by Derek Kirk Kim. The two friends couldn’t stop giggling throughout most of the panel, and neither could the audience. Most charming was their off-the-cuff tribute to Scott McCloud, an inspiration they both admitted got them to work in the format in the first place. Scott wasn’t there to hear their talk about him, but he did show up just a few minutes later. After the panel, the three creators caught up outside the hall.
Other quick news of the day: Jimmy Gownley (Amelia Rules!) cohosted a panel with his wife, Karen. This was a nice panel for anyone considering going the self-publishing route, as Jimmy did about a decade ago. Jimmy detailed the long process, beginning with copying his work at Kinko’s and making his own comics to using Karen’s marketing skills to drum up PR for his work. One of the major publishers, Image, hosted a discussion on how to pitch work to them, so both sides of the spectrum, self-publishing to the major publishing guys, were covered. If you’re interested in breaking into the business, whether as a writer an artist or both, the con is the place to get the basic information you need. If you need a crash course, this is the place to be.
More Comic-Con updates to come! Stay tuned.
San Diego Comic-Con officially begins today, July 23, but it got off to a rollicking start yesterday with an impressive ICv2 panel (more on that below) and a packed Preview Night. Preview Night was so well attended that the sparsely air-conditioned convention center became a hard-to-maneuver obstacle course. Down economy? Maybe. But you would have been hard-pressed to see evidence of it. The convention is completely sold out, with 125,000 people ready to pounce on the convention center for their favorite reading material.
A few quick observations: If attire is any indication, Green Lantern is going to be huge. Shirts representing the various lantern colors were spotted all over the convention floor; a giveaway of a GL comic and black ring inspired a huge line in the DC booth (where attendees also lined up to buy limited-edition GL action figures); and later this weekend, the new Green Lantern animated movie will debut. That should be building up a ton of buzz for the film (starring Ryan Reynolds and slated for next year).
Another observation: Excitement levels are way up. Consider that Preview Night is open only to those who purchased tickets for all four days of the convention. That means there are a lot more people to come in the next few days, making an already packed hall even more crowded. And they’re excited about many different things. Of course, Twilight is big. When the doors opened Wednesday night, throngs of people began lining up for a sneak preview of the new Twilight movie (since the series is being translated into graphic-novel format soon, the cross-platform synergy that Comic-Con is often known for (combining passions for comics, games, movies, books, and other media all in one show) is in full effect. The Twilight preview, which will be attended by stars Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart, might be the biggest attraction of the show.
A full-size wax statue of Wolverine (the Hugh Jackman version) is on display in the Twentieth Century Fox booth. It’s a great likeness, further signifying the broad acceptance of the comic book in mass pop culture. After Comic-Con, the figure will move to Madame Tussauds in Hollywood.
A rumor that Comic-Con may be moving to Las Vegas, whose convention center is larger and perhaps better accommodated for the huge crowds the con draws, circulated among some attendees yesterday as well. That formed some counter-buzz to the con’s 40th-anniversary celebrations. My take is that it’s all rumor. As I type this in my rather overpriced hotel room (rates conveniently jacked up for Comic-Con week) and ponder how San Diego is considering expanding its convention center—even though Comic-Con is the only convention held here that would need extra space—it seems evident that San Diego isn’t about to let this cash cow go. With so much attention focused on San Diego, and such a significant portion of its business tourism coming from this one event, not to mention the long tradition of holding it here, I can’t see it going anywhere anytime soon.
Before Preview Night opened, dozens of professionals, librarians, journalists, and other interested parties met for the ICv2 conference. Taking place in the afternoon, the briskly paced and incredibly interesting series of panels shed some light on the business of graphic novels and its long-term goals. That included how we as an industry are doing reaching new readers, especially kids, and how we’re holding on to the ones already there.
The theme was Comics and Media. Largely, that meant movies based on comics, but it also included games, television, and more. Write Jeph Loeb opened the day with a charming keynote speech that traced his own connections to comics and media from his first Archie comic in 1965 to his love of the Batman TV show, all the way through the game-changing Superman and Batman films and his own work in comics and movies.
That was followed by an insightful panel with Top Shelf publisher Chris Staros and author Robert Venditti (The Surrogates), who documented the rather interesting way the graphic novel came about and how, through the unique partnership between publisher and author, they were able to navigate the Hollywood morass (the film, starring Bruce Willis, is coming this fall).
Not so lucky in Hollywood was Jeff Smith, who hilariously covered 20 years’ worth of business meetings, deals that fell through, and other travails in getting a Bone movie made. Twenty years! As Jeff put it, “No one was trying to screw me. No one wanted to make a bad movie. They just had no talent.” He then copped to that being “not true” and just a joke, but let’s face it: Many a truth is said in jest. The best line of his talk came when he revealed an epiphany he had some years ago: That he had stopped writing Bone to pursue the Hollywood deal. Jeff’s realization: “Movies are not important. Comic books are important. I’m a comic book guy, not a movie guy.” Whether a Bone movie will ever surface—not to mention a film version of his excellent new Rasl series—remains to be seen.
Jeff has just announced that he will be doing new Bone books for Scholastic, which is excellent news indeed, so here’s to Jeff’s decision to remain a comic book guy. We desperately need him for that.
More Comic-Con news to come!