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July 22, 2013

Convention Report: San Diego Comic-Con 2013 in Review


Ah, Comic-Con. What magic you wield.

The annual pilgrimage to San Diego began with Wednesday’s Preview Night, and right away, you could tell that this Comic-Con was a little different from the past couple years. The crowd felt even more amped than usual, something that hardly seems possible. And certainly judging how “amped” a crowd is is fraught with speculation. But still…something seemed to be in the air. To me, that enthusiasm seemed to be sweeping across the floor and engulfing not just the big-Hollywood displays, but also what, in my mind, should be the main attraction: the comics publishers and the retailers. If you moseyed down to the far end of the convention center, where the aisle numbers are lower and old-school comics shops display their classic and new collections, you would see throngs of people looking through back issues and, even better, buying them.
For me, there is always one big question that gets repeated at every Comic-Con: What did you get? It’s what I’m constantly asking my friends. My buddy Louie, a seasoned SDCC vet, plots out each day of the convention with the precision of a general invading a small country. He’s a whirlwind of activity on every single day, mapping out where he needs to be when so he can get the exclusive giveaway, or get something signed, or buy the right goodie. It’s amazing (read: exhausting) to watch, and I’m always impressed. As for what I got, I began with a trip to Terry Moore’s booth, where I was able to purchase not only the second and third volumes of Rachel Rising, but also a Strangers in Paradise Omnibus that looks beautiful. Even better, I got all of them signed. Throughout the rest of the weekend I was able to make some other purchases that I was happy about…including several comics that I already own. (Why do I do this? I’m not sure…but when you see an Alan Moore issue of Swamp Thing on sale for $1, you sometimes have the irresistible urge to buy it and read it right away. Just because it’s so worth it.) Finding an old issue the Uncanny X-Men (#98, one I’d never read before) and Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes (#242, also one missing from my collection) was also a treat, as was getting new comics.
Superman/Batman Movie Logo

Superman/Batman Movie Logo
Movies from comics seemed to be the big news of the show. For DC, it was the announcement of a joint Superman/Batman movie. Really? Man of Steel director Zach Snyder brought out actor Harry Lennix to read a decisive part of comics history: “I want you to remember, Clark. In all the years to come. In all your most private moments. I want you to remember my hand at your throat. I want you to remember the one man who beat you.” That quote comes from Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, and while it’s doubtful that that book will be retold in the upcoming movie, Snyder did hint quite a bit that Superman and Batman would be at odds for much of the film.
 Age of Ultron






Avengers: Age of Ultron
Marvel’s big reveal was the name of the second Avengers movie, The Avengers: Age of Ultron. But for some comics purists, the really big reveal was the fact that, in the movie, the robot Ultron would not have to be built by Hank Pym (Pym is Ant-Man, whose movie comes out a few months after the Avengers’ does in 2015). The teaser for the Avengers flick featured a slowly rotating helmet that seemed to be Iron Man’s…but when it was revealed to be Ultron’s, the crowd went crazy.
As for booths, DC paid tribute to its flagship hero, Superman, with a 75th anniversary celebration that included displays of all the movie and TV costumes through the decades. (No matter how many they display, it is still Christopher Reeve’s costume that remains the icon, however.) Marvel also celebrated some film work with rotating displays that put the focus on upcoming blockbusters, like The Avengers: Age of Ultron and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Dark Horse was a whirlwind of signings and announcements and constantly packed with fans. Image was a huge fanboy dream of hot books and creators. Seeing old friends at First Second, Top Shelf, Drawn & Quarterly, Papercutz, Oni, Viz, Scholastic, and more was a thrill…catching up with the people behind the comics logos is half of the fun of each year’s show.
My scheduling forced me to fly back on a redeye on Saturday, so my main show days were Wednesday through Friday, with Saturday reserved for walking the floor and taking in as many of the sights as possible. I never did manage to get my picture taken in the Walking Dead booth (a big replica of the Woodbury prison, complete with an attacking zombie, as well as an inside room modeled after the Governor’s creepy room). But I did get to attend several panels of great interest, including several sections of the Comics Arts Conference. This is an annual collection of great teaching tools taking place over a multitude of panels, such as “Geek Therapy: How Superheroes Empower All of Us,” “Comics and the Violent Past,” “Teaching Comics,” and many more.
I kicked off my Thursday panels with “CBLDF: Banned Comics!,” hosted by Comic Book Legal Defense Fund executive director Charles Brownstein. More than 450 books were challenged in libraries across the country last year, according to the American Library Association, and many of those were comics. Quite a few, in fact. I listed all of Brownstein’s challenged comics in a blog post here, in case you’re curious.
From there it was a quick stop to “Bringing Digital Comics into Schools and Libraries,” hosted by iVerse Media and Reading With Pictures’ Josh Elder. Soon, libraries will be able to partake in iVerse’s new Comics Plus: Library Edition, a library service for digital comics. Since digital comics last more or less forever, it’s been a big debate for publishers on how to sell and license digital books and comics for libraries. This may help solve the problem.
One of the biggest disappointments of the con for me was not being able to get into Christina Blanch’s panel “Gender in Comics.” Christina is a longtime friend of GNR, so I was excited to see the panel, which included Mark Waid, Grace Randolph, Meredith Gran, and George Perez. Congratulations, Christina, on filling up Room 28DE with what I’m sure was an excellent panel!
Dr. Katie Monnin presented an amazing panel on “Integrating Comics into the Common Core,” a blowout of educational excellence. As comics are brought into Common Core teaching more and more, panels such as this are ever more important. An interview with Katie about the panel will be up on GNR soon.
More to come... 

-- John Hogan