Comic-Con 2011: There’s A Wrap For That! July 26, 2011 – Posted in: A Picture's Worth, Blog, Featured Columns

Wow. Can’t believe it’s over already.

I survived another Comic-Con International:San Diego. For me, it was number 16 of 17 (I missed the year I got married…Who says I don’t have my priorities straight?)

If you were to put a gun to my head and ask me to sum up the show in four words, I’d say first, “I hope that thing ain’t loaded!” Then I’d answer, Informative, Entertaining, Frustrating and Exhausting. (If I had extra, the last one would be “Exhaustingly Exhaustive.”) To wit:

 

INFORMATIVE:

There were so many pop culture industry announcements from the show that I only heard a tiny fraction. One of the biggest in comics is that as of August 31, DC is going “direct-to-date” with its digital versions of comic-books. Before, the practice was withholding the digital downloads for 30 days after the printed versions went on sale, allowing brick-and-mortar retailers to sell product to those diehard fans who needed their immediate DC fix. No more. However, with the advent of ComiXology’s “Online Digital Affiliate Storefront” application, stores will be able to sell the digital versions from DC and other publishers as soon as available; hopefully transferring the “one-stop-shopping” advantage of the comic shop to the online world. (Details: comixology.com.)

What was most informative for me were, as always, the panels. Everything from “how-to” to “why bother” was included on a variety of subjects. Other highlights were “master classes” where luminaries of various fields held court to describe and/or show their creative processes.

I attended the brilliant Michael Lovitz’s Comic-Book Law School® again and, as always, learned a great deal. Mike condenses several semesters of IP law school into three less-than 90 minute classes, and makes them both accessible and entertaining to lawyers and non-lawyers alike. (Which is not easy, trust me.) I’ve been attending at least one of them nearly every year and never fail to come away with reams of notes, insights and knowledge. This year, Michael invited two other lawyers from the entertainment field as well as a noted law professor to talk about online rights, infringements, and the Siegel/DC Superman case. (That’s a column unto itself, to come later.)

 

Also learned quite a bit from Brian Haberlin’s Digital Inking seminar. He not only knows his way around a brush and pen, but a tablet and Photoshop, too. He offered numerous tips and tricks to using PS to create brush- or pen-quality finishes to pencils. Brain also demonstrated the (huge) difference between true digital inking (using a pen and tablet with software to ink a scanned drawing) and “auto-inking” (mistakenly called “digital inking” by too many who should know better)–which is scanning a drawing or photo and simply using various adjustments and/or filters to darken/alter the source for printing. (And for the latter, he demonstrated some very cool, yet a bit scary, techniques turning photos into comic art, courtesy of Adobe CS 5. To the point where even artists won’t be able to tell the difference. Which only told me that an illustrator is better off sticking to stylization and individuality than just trying to draw and ink “realistically”. Those who prefer to draw slavishly from photos, you may soon be obsolete.)

A lot of fun was had at the Teaching Cartooning panel, courtesy of the iconic Phil Yeh, Robert Glickman and others. Phil is a legend in the industry and sets up at every show. But I hadn’t seen him in over a decade. He is recovering nicely from a stroke just a month ago–while he spoke slowly, his wit and wisdom were as sharp (and hilarious) as ever. Bob, author of Cartooning For Fun, infused the panel with infectious enthusiasm. I mentored cartooning at my oldMichigan middle school for ten years and this offered some good insights for keeping kids (and adults) occupied, entertained and creative. I really need to look into what’s available in my current area, as being around kids that aren’t yours keeps you young at heart–and helps with staying current!

Another future column will be what I gleaned (kudos to Zombo) about digital comics from two panels: 1)  the excellent seminar on distribution given by pioneer Pepe Moreno, along with fellow visionary David Uslan, artist/writer Jimmy Palmiotti, illustrator Tim Bradstreet and his Raw Studios partner, actor/creator Thomas Jane, and 2) the discussion/advice panel on submitting press releases and obtaining publicity on comics-related web sites with various heavy-hitters from the “digital press.”

Bluntly put, the future is here, now, and it’s either keep up or keep out!

 

 

FRUSTRATING:

As ranted about in my preview column, the panel schedules seem like they were put together by sadists, as there are eight to a dozen panels going on during any given time slot from 10 am to 7pm. Worse, those panels are often overlapping in terms of content and genre, so making choices between concurrent DC and Marvel panels, or sci-fi film and TV panels becomes an exercise in hair-pulling stress. (Unless, like me, your alopecia prevents such hair pulling and instead causes you to secrete small metal projectiles from your pores.

What really makes it unbearable and aggravating is when ultra-popular panels are scheduled immediately following less-popular ones in smaller rooms. I was truly looking forward to attending the one on motion picture and television illustrators; given the experience and involvements of the panelists, I planned on learning a great deal. But when I arrived fifteen minutes early to get in line (in case there was one), I was confronted with a snaking queue that looked more like a wait for a Disney ride. I asked more than once if I was in the right line. Sure enough, the panel after this was the much-ballyhooed BATMAN TV show 45th reunion with Adam West, Burt Ward and Julie Newmar! (Gee, ya think that might attract a crowd?)

So what happens? Those hardcore fans of the latter panel will sit through the prior one just to get a good seat (or a seat at all). Understandable, as it’s better to wait in a comfortable padded chair and be entertained than sitting on the carpet or standing for an hour outside in the hallway, and possibly not even getting in. I stood near the back of the ridiculous line until ten minutes after the panel had started, and we hadn’t even begun to move yet! I simply cursed under my breath (or maybe a bit over) and moved on.

That’s at least the fourth time this has happened, and really needs to change. Bad enough that the con is already too full to get into any of the popular TV/Film panels even in the multi-thousand seat Hall H or Ballroom 20 without having to spend half the show in line! But when the smaller panel rooms are filled to the gills an hour before? Inexcusable.

 

 

ENTERTAINING:

It’s always great to catch up with acquaintances and friends and make new ones. Also just to hear tales of yore and talk shop with pros. Brent Anderson (of ASTRO CITY fame) was telling me he’d attended more than 30 of the 40-plus shows in CC history. His first was around 1973 as a young adult, when he and his pals shadowed first-time guest Neal Adams around the venue. (Not to mention Jack Kirby and other legends in attendance.) Neal was doing sketches for $20-30. That would have been a blast!

This year, a good deal of entertainment extended outside of the convention hall into the nearby streets. Among other events, there was a street fair, organic farmer’s market, robotic dance challenge, several industry parties, a Lord of the Rings “War of the North” event and a full-size, interactiveSouthParkcity. To those who don’t get a ticket for the con, you no longer need one to enjoy yourself and immerse yourself in pop culture.

 

In addition to the many premieres, sneak peeks and discussions of films, television shows, animations, games and comics by their respective creators and/or stars, the fans themselves provide endless entertainment value just from a people-watching perspective. The famed Comic-Con Masquerade has now entered international fame status, and the creativity and ingenuity of its participants never ceases to amaze. Even just the enthusiastic fans who cobble together a last-minute costume can be picture-worthy. What really makes it fun is the friendly spirit of those involved; most costumed folks (unless they’re in a hurry) are more than happy to stop and pose for a pic. (In fact, they often do so right in front of me when I’m in a hurry. Sigh.)

What I still haven’t figured out is how some of these made-up mavens survive the intense heat build-up inside their outfits and helmets…or go to the bathroom. (That’s rhetorical. Please don’t send me descriptions or photos. Seeing one Stormtrooper using a urinal was enough.)

 

EXHAUSTING:

As in the past several years, I didn’t get to see several people I’d wanted or needed to: Batton Lash, Steve Crompton, Carla Speed-McNeil, Buzz, Perry Chen, Roy Thomas, Steranko, Sergio, Robert Beck, Franco, Art Baltazar, Mike Burkey, and too many others. (My apologies to all–though I’m sure you either didn’t miss me or know the feeling.)

 

 

Walking from one end of the show floor to the other (basically row 100 to row 5000–do the math) amongst thousands of sweaty participants, many of whom are arbitrarily stopping to chat, pose, browse, buy, preen, or pick up something they dropped, is beyond an exercise in patience–it should be a full college course! I have tried it maybe twice in the last five years, and that’s plenty. If you do have to make that trek, do so in the lobby or outdoors–preferably on Preview Night or Sunday. Or just drive a tank.

 

On the good side, if you’re looking for original art, back issues of comics, graphic novels or books, you still have a decent opportunity outside of Saturday (most crowded day of the event). That part of the hall still has much less traffic and most dealers make digging for such pop culture gold easier and more organized than before. The carpet on the floor certainly helps when you have to kneel down and dig thru those floor boxes! (You can also wear knee pads if you dress like a football player, imperial soldier, roller derby athlete, or aspiring actress.)

For the first time ever, the comic-book section of the hall was noticeably c-c-cold. Either due to a cranked-up A/C or lack of wall-to-wall bodies (or both), that area was a great one to either cool off or freeze, depending on your condition and tolerance. One of the entrances to the mezzanine was also subject to blasts of freezing air upon entering. But I’d still take that over the sauna it’s sometimes been in the past.

Now I only need a week-long nap to recover, unpack and go thru the 200-or-so emails I missed.

 

That’s it for this year, gang. Hope you enjoyed the words and pictures. More on individual topics in future posts. Meanwhile, for those that attended, enjoy your swag and acquisitions while you power-down from all the excitement and overload.

For those who missed it, either intentionally or un-, count all the money your saved and use it to buy something nice. Or stick it in the piggy bank for next year.

Either way, enjoy your week. The countdown (and hype) has already begun for Comic-Con 2012!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best,

Mike

 

P.S.: Speaking of piggy banks and enjoyment, I’m just about recovered enough to create a nice commission for you for an even nicer price. Just contact Craig here!

 

 

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