SAN DIEGO 2013: THE SCENE
Watching it from afar and reading all of the same arguments about it for another year, I think I've finally settled on my conclusion for what the growth of the convention in San Diego means to con-goers and comic fans:
San Diego Comic-Con is a great show to attend. You just need to battle through Comic-Con International in San Diego to get there. For many, it's too much work.
There are still a lot of comics and a lot of comics creators who attend the big show every summer, and for that alone it's worth the price of admission. You just need to decide if weathering two separate lotteries for tickets and lodging is something you want to do. You have to decide if shuffling your feet amongst a crowd pushing through from toy booth to video game booth is worth it to get from a publisher's booth to Artist's Alley. If you can put up with the stuff that currently makes up CCI, you can have a delightful SDCC.
If you don't want to do all that and are local, there's now a second option: Go to San Diego and check out everything happening outside the convention center. The convention is quickly turning into the centerpiece for the festival. San Diego is turning into Angouleme, the French convention that takes over an entire town in January. Yes, much of it is the TV and movie studio pimping their wares with large balloons and posters the size of hotels, but there appear to be more and more activities and alternate conventions/shows happening in parallel. Tr!ckster started it and is still going, but more of those types of events are happening every year now. It's still geek-related and some of it even relates to comics, such as the Teen Titans balloons.
In a couple of years, the show will grow again as the convention center grows. It'll be another touchstone in the show's history. How will they fill the new space? Will it be Hall H doubling in size? Will they buy up one of those sideshows and bring it into the big tent? Will Hollywood just buy all that floor space and segregate itself from those silly comic book people? I don't know, but it'll be fun to watch. From afar. It's too much work for me now.
The party scene has grown, too. What used to be two or three organized private parties a night has expanded into a new cottage industry of well-financed companies buying everyone drinks to promote their wares. It used to be that the bar con happened at the top floor bar at the Hyatt, and then moved to the main level Hyatt dual bars. Now it takes place in an insane series of sponsored parties that run a dozen a night. One of the few jealous moments I had this weekend was reading about Weezer performing at the "Walking Dead" party. I would have killed to be there with my camera. Thankfully, Alan Hess was there, so there were good shots to be had.
The movie studios still dominate the news cycle. Publishers have given up and ceded the bully pulpet now. They make the vast majority of their big announcements in the two weeks leading up to the con. Otherwise, they'd be drowned out.
While San Diego might not be seen by random Hollywood companies as the proving grounds for their generally geek-related movies that it once was, the movie studios doing superhero films sure know how to cater to them, don't they? While Marvel Films might be notorious tight-wads, they still fly in the entire cast of their currently filming major movie every year to make an hour long appearance before flying them all back. (I imagine the insurance agency isn't thrilled that the entire cast is on one plane, either.) And what Warner Bros. pulled off with the "Superman/Batman" announcement will be long remembered in the history book of the modern show. I watched it a day later and got chills.
There is an art to the presentation in Hall H at Comic-Con. Bringing out a large cast of big name actors is a good start, but we're starting to move beyond even that. Now we need actors in costume doing monologues (fun!). Both Warner Bros. and Marvel Films borrowed pages from Steve Jobs and did "One More Thing" with their big teases this year. Honestly, neither were terribly informative announcements. They were the barest minimums, because it's too early in the process to talk much about them. They're both movie titles that suggest a character who will appear in their movies. And they both ended the panel without giving away much in the way of other information. Heck, Whedon had to clarify what the title meant the next day.
One thing's for sure: The line for Hall H next year won't be shrinking when the casts of "Superman/Batman" and "Avengers 2: Age of Ultron" appear to debut footage. That'll be a nuthouse. Those panels will be at the end of the day, and people will be lining up before 5:00 a.m.
I wonder if next year the movie studios will smarten up with their scheduling. Saturday used to be the day to make these big announcements because the show held the biggest crowd. Then, it was a good day because it was the single sold out day of the convention. Nowadays, every day is sold out. The crowds are equal. Don't the movie studios want to dominate the entertainment news spectrum during the week, instead of on Saturday night/Sunday morning? I wonder if one of the studios will do their big presentation on Thursday next year? I guess the only thing holding them back would be a shooting schedule. The weekends are likely only preferable because the unions make it prohibitively expensive to continue filming on them. Maybe?
I was curious to see if the publishing companies would have any news to announce, given the ridiculous barrage of press releases we had in the week or two leading up to the event. The funny thing this year is that all of the announcements in the days ahead of the show seemed to be about adaptations of television and movie properties. (Everything from "Knight Rider" to "Twilight Zone.")
The publishers seem to be better at teasing and stoking the fires than actually saying anything. Marvel, for example, is still teasing "Marvelman," but they really mean it this time. They'll really mean it next time, too.
On-going series and forthcoming crossover events depend on specifically timed announcements, and San Diego isn't always convenient for those. I can't claim to be excited for too many of the news bits about current monthly books from Marvel and DC, but the reprint department gave us some exciting news.
IDW led that charge again with its Artist's Edition panel. This included the first modern comic with computer lettering to show up, with "Hellboy In Hell and Other Stories." They'll be printing the art without lettering for the volume. A second John Romita "Spider-Man" book should also be fun, as will the Marvel Covers book, particularly for the original art junkies.
The two that most excited me, though, came from the unlikely duo of Walter Simonson and Sam Kieth. I missed the "Thor" book in its first printing, so a second shot at it is something I hope I jump on more quickly. And a "The Maxx" Artist's Edition? That will look very interesting in black and white, particularly considering the inking effects Kieth used in those books. It's also the first Image Comics reprint in the format. I have others in mind I'd love to see, starting with "The Savage Dragon," which Erik Larsen still owns the majority of the art for.
I can't be the only person holding off on buying Simonson's new "Ragnarök" mini-series and betting on an Artist's Edition, can I?
In the end, though, I stick with what I said a couple of weeks ago: Image Comics won Comic-Con International: San Diego. From a strictly publishing perspective, I think their announcements were the most exciting and interesting. Truth be told, I'm a little disappointed that nobody made any announcements to match Image's DRM-free comics push. Maybe it's too soon to jump, but it would have generated some buzz for Marvel or DC to do that.
QUICK CON THOUGHTS
- What was the "Herobear and the Kid" comic for 2013? It might just have been "Herobear and the Kid" again.
- My first thought on "Avengers 2: Age of Ultron" was, "Great, I hope they're adapting Kurt Busiek and George Perez's story."
- No, really, what movie was Tom Cruise in San Diego promoting? If anyone saw that, did they even remember it after the "Superman/Batman" reveal? Did you ever think we'd live in a world where "Guardians of the Galaxy" would outshine Tom Friggin' Cruise?
- Who had the best costume at Comic-Con? Was it Matt Smith with his Bart Simpson mask? Or Bryan Cranston with his own face as a mask?
- Paul Cornell was on a Marvel X-Men panel on Sunday? I only saw one woman listed on the dais.
- What I learned from looking at cosplay photos this year:
1) I'm old and out of touch because I don't recognize half the cosplayed characters, and many of those I recognize I know are from television shows I don't watch.
2) Men don't wear shorter tighter dresses because of unsightly bumps in inappropriate places. Thanks, ComicsBeat. (See fourth photo down. I have no idea what they're dressed up as, either, proving my previous point.)
- What was that ridiculously large iPad people were drawing on?
- I received a press release during the convention that was labeled both "Embargoed" and "For Immediate Release." So I trashed it immediately and waited until today to write about it.
- Dynamite rolled out a string of big writers coming to work for them. They remain mostly quiet on the artists front.
- No stabbings in Hall H again this year (good job, people!) and no reports of those LEGO statues being accidentally knocked down. That cute TMNT display looked ripe for an elbow pushing it over.
- ComicsBeat gets the headline of the weekend with San Diego Comic-Con 2013: 2000 People Who Haven't Showered Hit Hall H."
- The Tr!ckster space like a really fun place to blow a few hundred dollars very quickly on beautiful art books, doesn't it? I could probably spend more at the Stuart Ng Books booth, though. Either place would get twice as expensive with the extra weight surcharges on my luggage for the flight home.
- One of the great things about Twitter is seeing artists take pics of their sketches and commissions and sharing them out throughout the convention. Makes me wish someone had a website that would pull those links in to show, or just to link out to. Sounds like the kind of website you could get lost in for hours. In the meantime, we still have ComicArtFans.com.
- Has anyone seen a write-up of the Disney Afternoon panel from Sunday? If only for nostalgic reasons, that's one I'd like to read about.
- My 2002 San Diego Comic-Con t-shirt still fits and has held up well after all these years. I wore it over the weekend in solidarity with my fellow geeks enjoying the nicer weather in Southern California.
- Not at all con related, but I'll try anyway: Was looking up eBay prices for some comics I might be selling in the near future. "The Walking Dead" issues are still through the roof, but "Thief of Thieves" and "Saga" are also getting some money for their first years. It's not quite on the same scale, but it's enough to start saving up for one of those upcoming recently-announced Artist's Editions. Putting those books in CGC slabs with a 9.8 grade makes the price skyrocket. There's not too much money to be made in back issues anymore, but there are some corners worth exploring.
Next week: I'm looking back at a Marvel miniseries from a decade ago, and the follow-up book the same creator did at Image right afterwards.