Pipeline

Tue, July 27th, 2010 at 2:28pm PDT

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

SAN DIEGO 2010 LINKS A LOT

  • The New York Times reported something interesting: Comic-Con goers do not like 3-D. I know it's not comics-related, but it does have a convention-specific event worth mentioning. There's a story about one Hall H crowd being promised "something special," only to be shown a 30 second commercial. Yes, I do fear that panel-goers will be watching ads in between panels in the future. It'll be just like the movie experience. Thanks, Hollywood!

  • Alan Moore doesn't want "Watchmen" back. I didn't think much of this story, aside from what a wonderful crank Moore can be sometimes. He has a great history of cutting off his nose despite his face, but he's also been treated poorly at times. It's his right to be angry and he's been wonderfully consistent about this all along. He is, to the bitter end, entertaining.

    But, really, did he expect DC to stop publishing "Watchmen" just because he wanted them to, when the book has sold in pretty good numbers every year? If the book wasn't selling and DC kept printing books and losing money just to screw Moore, I could understand his venom. But hasn't the book been a top-selling graphic novel for DC since its first printing? Most authors would be proud.

    The big shock came when I finally got around to clicking to the original story, and not just the blog summations of it. DC called him last week. Yes, the week before Comic-Con. And Dave Gibbons was already at Comic-Con promoting something else. We can all put two and two together, right? Clearly, DC was working up to something here with Moore, and Moore's slamming of his mystical door on DC's talisman's face must have put the kibosh on it. Even so, I was half-expecting a "Watchmen 2" announcement at DC without Moore this past weekend. Glad it didn't happen, though I suspect it only delayed the inevitable.

    Still, I'd love to see the slide that was taken out of a DCU panel slideshow.

  • Ryan Reynolds does a mean Green Lantern Oath. It was not a studio plant.


  • I read a tweet this weekend from someone joking that you shouldn't stand still at Comic-Con for more than ten seconds because a line will form behind you. Then I read that security was seriously telling people just that. The whole world has gone mad, hasn't it? (Sorry for that link's generally nauseating tone, but it's where I can specifically cite such a security incident.)

  • San Diego has a booth to check your toy weapons at. I did not know that.

  • Isn't the phrase "with the goal of adapting the comic in other media" redundant at this point? (Guggenheim swears that's not what his new line is about, but that's just condemning it to failure inside of three years, max.) Isn't the entire comics world just a giant research-and-development wing for Hollywood? Sadly, comics can't be self-sustaining anymore. We leech off of Hollywood. It's the only hope for big paydays.

  • Likewise, comic publishing wouldn't exist without Hollywood's money anymore. Should we expect a comic convention to exist without Hollywood's money? Maybe Gareb Shamus has it right, after all.

  • Yes, the Stan Lee-sitting-on-Odin's throne pic was awesome. But did you see the Slave Leia gathering at the same place? Now you can.

  • A14-CD boxed set of Danny Elfman scores from Tim Burton's movies? Cool! I can't believe Elfman has never been to the convention before this year.

  • "Pitt" is making a comeback at Top Cow, with a collected edition (at last!) and new issues that Dale Keown will be "art directing." (UGH.) I did a Pipeline Retro on the series last September.

  • John Byrne, however, is bringing back "John Byrne's Next Men" and doing it on his own, as it should be done. Even better! The third hardcover collecting the series is due out in September, and the new issues will begin by year's end. I'm very excited about this.

  • From all reports, security did its best job ever at the convention. (You can't blame them for the stabbing incident in Hall H.) Still, there are always holes in the system. This year, Joshua Jackson couldn't talk his way past two security guards to get in for his own "Fringe" panel. A third security guard recognized him, though, and order was restored. There's a picture at that link of Jackson talking to a guard. It seems there are lots of videos and pictures out there of this event.

  • Jackson had the last laugh, though. He threw his own convention: "Pacey-Con." (Well, rumor has it the stunt was done for "Funny or Die." So we may see video of it yet someday…)

  • CNN was handing out Flip cameras to people at the convention to bring them back stories. Community news gathering? Or cheap help? You make the call. But, hey putting the power into the hands of the people gave us such ground-breaking coverage as "Costumed Cuties of Comicon [sic]." Even better, the slideshow looks like a Rob Liefeld or Jim Lee "X" cover of the early 90s -- not a single foot to be seen. Just less rubble and smoke.

  • Coincidentally last week, noted Photoshop/Lightroom instructor, Scott Kelby, wrote up an extensive blog post for the reasons why he doesn't do open Q&As during his classes. Not surprising, many of his reasons echo why Comic-Con shouldn't do Q&As, either.

    But, then, "Chuck" fans (and the cast, it seems) were irate when the Q&A portion of their panel got cut for time. So there might just be no way to win on this one.

  • If you must ask a question at a panel, though, please heed Mark Evanier's advice.

  • Finally, ignore the snarky introduction and enjoy some pictures of cute babies at Comic-Con.
THAT STABBING THING

Looks like it was about a seat squatter. The problem is, the system in place benefits the seat squatters in every room. This is nothing new. The "Fables" incident from last year was one such occasion for it. Hall H is now filled with nothing but people who get in line very early in the morning to get a seat at the first panel so they can stay there for the rest of the day. (I won't ask how bathroom breaks work.)

Seat Squatting is just how it is. If you want to get into that Hollywood panel at 4:00 p.m., the only way to do it is to sit through the Hollywood panels at 10:00, 11:00, noon, 1:00, 2:00 and 3:00. It's unfortunate, but it's what you get. It's a physical impossibility to move 6500 people out of a room every hour in the span of 15 minutes and then re-fill the room back up. I bet that would cause more angst than what we've seen so far.

Make no mistake: The convention is a nightmare waiting to happen, and it's only the great planning that's put into it and the organization of the security teams that keep a full-on brawl from happening. There's just too many people in relatively too small a space there. Human nature is what it is. Thankfully, as many derogatory names as the mainstream media may label convention attendees with, those people have been far more peaceable over the years than many other similar types of gatherings where barely controlled chaos has been uncorked. There are well documented deaths at various music events, for example. Ask the Rolling Stones about Altamont. Or Google up "rap concert death" for a litany of incidents.

Violent Comic Convention Deaths? Still at zero, as far as I know.

This incident from Saturday is an unfortunate thing that comes with hosting an event of this size now, sorry to say. It didn't happen like this in the days before Hollywood took over. And make no mistake about it -- Hollywood has taken over. Yes, there's a very pleasant convention happening over in the first few halls on the other side of the convention center. You could spend all four days just there. But the atmosphere has changed wildly. It's not a comic book convention. You've now welcomed in those people who aren't -- and often don't want to be -- part of the comics community, which (for all our squabbles) has behaved itself quite nicely over the last 40 years.

Now you get video game fanatics and star chasers showing up to line up for 10 hours to sit in one room to listen to a megastar chat up their latest show or movie. That's not a comic book fan. Absent that community, they have no tribe (if I may borrow Heidi's terminology) to belong to and protect. There's no buy-in. Hall H and Ballroom 20 is a completely different demographic from Halls A - D and whatever is intermingled elsewhere.

These things are generally self-correcting, though. Should the convention stay in San Diego, it'll be interesting to see what changed with the new convention space once it's built. Will the convention expand to accommodate just Hollywood, or also comics? Artist's Alley isn't getting any bigger. There's a waiting list for booths of all types. San Diego could become an even bigger comics convention tucked in neatly into the folds of Hollywood's robes. Or, all that new space could be used to make the Hall H's and Ballroom 20s even bigger.

Will the con expand past the point of sustainability? Will Hollywood recede in its influence as it realizes it's not getting the return on its investment that it wants? Or will Hollywood just take over completely, leaving only the strongest and most free-spending comic companies left to display their wares as freaks of nature inside a movie convention?

I don't know. It's sad that this event happened. I hope it remains an aberration on an otherwise spotless record for the convention. I just wonder how long it will be before something serious really does happen, and then cross my fingers that it never will.

CROSSGEN 2010

If you're a long time reader of this column with a very long memory, you know how big a CrossGen fan I was. In all my years of covering this industry, CrossGen is still the greatest failure I've witnessed. It could have done so much and been so very good for comics, but it didn't work out. Reasons for the failure are likely numerous: bookstore returns, over expansion, high overhead costs, Hollywood money that failed to come in as expected, creator mistreatment, and likely more.

Remember "COW?" "Comics on the Web" were some of the earliest attempts at moving comics to the digital format. That was in, what, 2002? Imagine if CrossGen had lived long enough for the iPad?

In any case, Joe Quesada teased a return to CrossGen in 2011 from Marvel, now owned by Disney, who bought up CrossGen's properties. It makes a lot of sense from a business perspective. Marvel is a multimedia company now. CrossGen represents a lot of genres that should spin off beautifully into movies, TV shows, video games, etc. Why let them sit there, untouched? Exploit them.

Much of CrossGen's staff found themselves at Marvel after the company's 2004 death. Many of them have gone on to do some of Marvel's biggest works, like Greg Land, Jimmy Cheung, Laura Martin, Frank D'Armata, Steve Epting, Paul Pelletier, etc.

Let the wild speculation begin.

There's a few big problems here. First, the books haven't been published since 2004. Checker has gone ahead and published a few trade paperbacks of the CrossGen properties, focusing on the next trades in sequence from where CrossGen left off. (CrossGen was very focused on reprinting its works as often and in as many formats as possible -- anthologies, digitally (CD-ROM included), trade paperbacks and probably more I'm forgetting.) But Marvel needs new readers for these properties, not just those who are left from CrossGen's glory days. As good as those sales might have been, that's a generation of comics readership ago now. Marvel would need to find some way to restart the books, recap their individual histories, and still move forward.

So forget about seeing "Scion" #44 from Marvel in January.

Quesada has already said they're looking at ways to spruce up the properties. To me, that means they're looking at a reboot, perhaps absent the sigil. The sigil is a bad idea, because it's such an integral part of so many titles. It bogs down licensing issues, particularly in movie form. Maybe it's not such a big problem as Marvel makes those movies itself, but the Marvel film business is a little focused on ten thousand other things at the moment.

So I have a theory on what this new CrossGen line will be. First, it won't be the creator-participation stuff that CrossGen attempted in its final days. Forget "The Crossovers," as lovely as Mauricet's art was, or as funny as Robert Rodi's stories could be. (And "Lady Death" has moved on already.)

Or maybe I'm completely wrong on all of this, and Joe Quesada just really wants to finally publish "American Power" #1 by Chuck Dixon and Greg Land.

I think Marvel will use the CrossGen line as a way of breaking in new talent, perhaps from C.B. Cebulski's travels around the world, where he's finding artists who are better versed in drawing fantasy or science fiction tales, not superheroes. Wouldn't a CrossGen book be a great fit for those kinds of artists? Remember, CrossGen debuted with an Italian man on art duties, Claudio Castellini.

Since those original creators are still around (minus Castellini), I'd bet we'll see covers from original CrossGen artists along the way. There's your attention grabber. Maybe they'll do an eight page introduction for each title. Maybe.

There's a chance we could see Mark Waid return to do more 'Ruse' since he does work for Marvel today and seems interested in non-superhero projects. Sill, he's got plenty to keep him busy now. I haven't seen Barb Kesel's name in the credits box anywhere in a while. Ditto Ian Feller.

I'd bet that Bill Rosemann is involved, though. Current Marvel editor for the cosmic books, he has experience working at CrossGen and has some writing chops of his own, too.

Don't look for the original issues to be reprinted. At best, that continuity will be respected in that it won't be contradicted and maybe an easter egg or two will pop up. But I'm not betting on a direction continuation. Saddling a new line with five years' worth of baggage that's six or more years old is a recipe for disaster.

That all said, if Marvel would like to let Ron Marz and Jimmy Cheung pick up "Scion" from where they left it and publish all previous issues in hefty hardcover format, I'm there in a heartbeat.

Whatever happens, I'm looking forward to hearing about it. And maybe, just maybe, I'll start pulling those comics out of those long boxes for a fresh look in the months ahead.

Some Pipelines of CrossGen past:

For more Comic-Con goodness, check out the Pipeline Podcast. I did three podcasts in the last week devoted to items up for discussion from the convention. Lots of that stuff didn't show up in this column because, well, there's only so much time for typing.

Next week: With any luck, I'll have those reviews I've been promising for the last couple of weeks. But I also have one last bit of San Diego business leftover to discuss.

How to get in touch: Twitter @augiedb || E-mail || Pipeline Message Board

Where else I hang out: AugieShoots.com || iPhone Photo Blog || VariousandSundry.com

TAGS:  cci2010, pipeline

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