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July 27, 2010

Feature Story: Carol’s Report from Comic-Con 2010

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While this was just my third Comic-Con, it was interesting to see that I already have created my own way of navigating the show to ensure I get to as much as I can. Unlike our intrepid editor, John Hogan, I did not grow up reading comic books, but rather just the newspaper strips, thus I am not as familiar with all of the creators --- but I am catching on fast. While I have been lucky enough to meet many authors in my day and have attended quite a few conventions, there is nothing that really compares with the interaction at Comic-Con. The lines of fans who cannot wait to meet their favorite creators generates a true feeling of excitement and brings such energy to the show. Seeing the enthusiasm of true fans and their groundswell of attention to what they love really cannot be beat. Yes, I have seen autographing lines at many conferences, but truly nothing compares to Comic-Con.

As always, my worlds collide here much the same way they do in other places. Last year, Gregg Hurwitz introduced me to legendary comics professional Jenette Kahn at one of his readings in New York. Gregg shared a bit of her history with me over dinner afterward and I saw that this woman who was incredibly nice and such fun to talk to also was a real comics legend. Thus I was happy to attend the session where she was interviewed by Paul Levitz as one of the honored guests of this Con. It’s clear that the days when Jenette ran DC (I loved that she became the publisher at age 28) working with Paul Levitz and Dick Giordano created some incredible memories.
 
But she brought a lot more to the table. When she spoke about how her friend Judy Collins (who also sang at her wedding, Paul noted) brought her a project of ideas about educating children about the dangers of landmines via comics, it was clear that Kahn, who has been honored by President Reagan for her work on drug awareness and the Clinton White House, Secretary of State Madeline Albright, the United Nations and the Department of Defense for her work on landmines, has seen how bringing stories to people through comics gives a way to translate a message that transcends a lot of cultural lines.
 
She also talked about the creation of the direct market. While comics were being sold on newsstands, many of them were being returned unopened as dealers never shelved them. Thus, the need for devoted comic shops was made more and more clear. These days, I see the need again for better distribution points as I know that readers are unable to find the graphic novels that they love in many stores. For these books to build traction, we really need to look at this. I have a few ideas on what can be done that I want to explore. And hearing Jenette speak really motivated me to explore them. Paul’s interview with her was a highlight of the show for me.
 
I also attended a number of library and school programs including the terrific one that John moderated and talked about in the newsletter opener. What’s interesting is that many of these panels could have been two hours, not just 45 minutes. There was so much news to be shared that often the discussions moved into the hallways. In just two years, the attendance at this portion of the conference has grown so much. We walked away with a list of folks we want to interview. One favorite was the professor who was teaching The Walking Dead to her anthropology class! Yes, we will have much to share with you from those who delivered these presentations in the weeks to come.
 
As always, there was conversation about how graphic novels work for reluctant and ESL readers, especially as comic book writers attempt to capture spoken language as it really occurs. Comics put these expressions into context. At a dinner with educators and librarians that we pulled together, I chatted with Bill McGrath from National University about my thought that there is actually a fourth learning style. While we talk about auditory, visual, and kinetic learning styles, I am wondering if there is a fourth where readers actually are not reluctant, but rather learn better pairing pictures and words. He was intrigued and we are going to talk about researching this.
 
Carol Tyler was another artist honored at the show. I had the pleasure of meeting Carol at the Miami Book Fair and thus thoroughly enjoyed this conversation with her. She just completed Collateral Damage, the second book in her series about her dad and the lasting effects that his combat in World War II had on him. As she says, dramas are a part of life and through these books she is telling the story of a family --- hers --- and what happened to them due to residual effects of the war. Readers had to understand the joy and angst of being a Tyler to see the entire story. During her talk, Carol was awarded an Inkpot Award for her contribution to comics, which came as a total surprise.
 
I really enjoy the TV show Dexter and thus found myself on an hour-plus long line Friday afternoon to attend their panel. Fun to see the actors and producers outlining the next season and see a preview. Made me wish I had more time to attend more of these, but there’s just toooo much to be done.
 
With that in mind, there are some other attendees whom I have come to rely upon to give me their views of the show. The first is Louie, a friend of John’s who I adore hanging out with during the Con. He is a collector who strategizes this event with military-like precision. He, like many others, has an agenda of what he wants to acquire and see and I love hearing his stories of what he does to make his acquisitions happen. Hearing from him during the show gives me another set of eyes on what the drumbeat is on the floor.
 
Also I catch up with Sean and Dan; Sean was my first employee at TheBookReportNetwork.com and Dan works with the television site TelevisionWithoutPity. The two of them also meet up with us and they too have a plan for the show to ensure they cover what they want, which is a lot of the movies and television shows in Hall H as well as what is going on on the show floor. When you trust those reporting to you the way I trust Sean and Dan, it makes the event a lot more exciting. They also had been intrigued by John’s role as an Eisner judge and were wowed by the depth of reading he had done as part of this process. It was fun for me to attend the Eisner Awards with John after learning about so many of these books through GNR during the last year. We were sitting at the judges table near the front and the photos of the winners were being taken right next to us, which made this very, very long show --- a three-hour ceremony!! --- a lot more fun.
 
While many disdain that TV and Hollywood get in the way of comics at this show, I rather appreciate the way pop culture collides here. I am obsessed these days with how pop culture lines are being blurred. Competition for books comes not from other publishers, but from movies, cable, TV, DVDs, DVR offerings…I could go on and on. Attending Comic-Con, I spend a lot of time trying to see how lines can be drawn between things instead of watching them exist as islands.
 
I still love the creativity, humor, and attention to detail that goes into the costumes at Comic-Con, thus once again I am bringing you my photos of some of the more interesting costumes and moments that I saw. I love the color turquoise and could not resist photos of two people who were painted my favorite color. And since I have been known to trip in sandals, I was intrigued by the high heeled and high platformed boots at the show. Much of my portfolio is entitled “Boots I Cannot Walk In.” I am trying to get captions done today, but as I am on the road in Orlando at another conference --- Romance Writers of America this time (where there are no costumes) I am not sure my connection will hold to make that happen! If not, check back next week for commentary. John was teasing me that I should have gotten my photo taken with the extremely buff and tanned guys walking the floor promoting Spartacus; I admit I was just too shy to do that.
 
One closing thought about conversations about moving the show from San Diego. While people are looking at other cities to be able to offer larger venues, one thing not to be overlooked at Comic-Con is the strength of the volunteer team. So many folks, many of whom are local to San Diego, are experienced at making this convention tick. John and I sat having lunch one afternoon at the Hilton and remarked how the massive crowd control would not be as efficient as it is without the teamwork of these folks, who, as I say, have heard it all and seen it all. Also, people can navigate this show since they know what to expect. You know where there will be lines, where you will be waiting, etc. Move it and that first year will have some growing pains that may make the present ones look mild by comparison.
 
The show is all about hype and noise. One of the most exciting things for me is seeing what will happen with what was presented here. Which books will get attention. Which movies and shows will survive. But it was nice to be there to see so much of what is coming! And while I have learned a ton, I still have a lot to learn and John can roast me any time with my confusion of Thor and Tron where he kindly said, “It’s easy…they both have four letters and start with T.” Humbling moment!