After having attended San Diego Comic-Con six years in a row (2003-2008), Iām currently suffering through my second straight year of missing the show. Apparently having a child leads to delayed (or denied) gratification. While Iām not at all a fan of this, I recognize that itās necessary. Or so Iām told.
In any case, Iām not there this year. As a result, Iām spending far too much time in front of the computer screen this week/end watching the happenings from a virtual distance. Itās not ideal, but itāll have to do. As Iāve been reading, Iāve been pulling together some of the news and stories that have caught my attention out of this yearās Con. Iāve posted most of them below for people who might be interested in whatās going on at SDCC but who donāt really want to wade through all of the separate posts, links, images, etc.
I should explain up front that I truly love the San Diego Comic-Con. I donāt just mean in theory. I mean the actual experience of being at the Con. All of it. Most of us at GutterGeek have experienced it firsthand, and I think weāre all in agreement about its impact. There is nothing like the sensory overload that happens on the first day every single year, no matter how many or how few times youāre been to the Con. Jared, Beth, Kristy, and I have gone in recent years, and Chris Reilly is there now (and is hopefully hopelessly indisposed as Iām typing this). Itās an enormous eventāthe absolute best week of the year for anyone who loves any aspect of pop culture. It pulls in and rewards anyone who has even a passing interest in comics, gaming, science fiction, elaborate costumes, collectibles, and pretty much any part of geek culture. Itās a haven for all of that.
Iām also aware of the criticism thatās been leveled at the event every year for the last decade. Everyone says itās too big. And it is. Anyone who has been on the floor of the Exhibit Hall on a Saturday afternoon or has arrived at 6:00 a.m. to wait in the line for Hall H can attest to this. But for all the line frustrations, I still love the enormity and excess of it all. Despite the crowds and linesĀ everywhere, Iāve witnessed very little contentiousness and aggression over the years. Events like the one Saturday are the exception and are pretty shocking because Comic-Con is not a place for that. Itās a place where a ridiculous number of people gather to better understand the fantasy world they allow themselves to slip into from time to time at home. For that week, you really donāt have to come out of it. Itās pure escapism, and the people who surround you arenāt going to slam you for staying in that world for a week because theyāre in it (or in their version of it) too.
Iāve also heard from many of my friends who read, write, and draw comics that the original focus and intent of SDCC have been lostāthat the event is not about comics anymore. But that doesnāt bother me, either. If I have to walk through a TRON: Legacy display, an Iron Man armor exhibit, a massive Mattel toy display, and a pack of cosplay Star Wars guys to get to Artists Alley at the end of the Exhibit Hall, at least Iām entertained while Iām on my way. There’s plenty of comics-related events and discussions happening all over the convention center every hour of every day, from creator focus panels to the Comic Arts Conference to people randomly talking about books in the halls. There’sĀ also plenty of glamour and banners, but these companies (the big ones as well as the indie houses) are there to sell books and ideas. So whatās really wrong with doing it up big? Besides (and I know Iām losing people here), I actually really like all the other stuff. I love the exclusive collectible merchandise, the free swag thrown at you from all directions, the insane LEGO sculptures, the horror film grotesqueries, the ābooth babes,ā and the perennial Lou Ferrigno propped up on his stool with veins popping out of his neck. I love forgetting which escalator system leads to which part of the upper halls, the after-parties Friday and Saturday night, the faux knights beating the crap out of each other on the bayside terrace, and the hangover exhaustion of Sundayās sleepy panels.
One of the things you also experience when you attend SDCC is that thereās so much going on around you that you miss a hell of a lot of the news. With that in mind, this round-up is as much for the people at the show as it is for the people who werenāt able to make it.
- This yearās SDCC was different from all its predecessors primarily because this is the first year that Fred Phelpsā hatemongering Westboro Baptist Church chose to target the Con. Iām not sure they knew what they were up against, but the lunatics were met with counterprotests outside the convention center. The clash generated some of the best signage Iāve seen since health care was being debated last year. My personal favorite is this one:
- Marvel Comics announced that it will publish another Strange Tales series this fall. Like the first Strange Tales mini, Strange Tales II will be a 3-issue miniseries featuring various indie artistsā takes on Marvelās characters. Some of the big names in this series include Jeff Lemire, Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez, Jhonen Vasquez, Alex Robinson, Dean Haspiel, Paul Hornschemeier, Ty Templeton, and (the best news for me) Harvey Pekar. This should be fun, irreverent, ridiculous, and a whole lot better than most of the other books coming out this fall. The first issue will ship in October.
- DC announced that Grant Morrison will be involved in a few major projects next year. The first is Batman: The Return, a one-shot special drawn by David Finch that isnāt much of a surprise given what Morrison is doing with The Return of Bruce Wayne. The second project, though, is a surprise. Batman, Inc., a new series written by Morrison and drawn by Yanick Paquette, will feature various team-ups within the extended Batman family. According to Morrison, āAll Iām going to tell you up front, because weāve got still a number of things to play out in Return and in Batman and Robinā¦basically, this is kind of a team book. I was looking at the Brave and the Bold cartoon, which I love, and the Johnny DC book, which is one of my favorite books at DCāthe Brave and the Bold stuffāand I kind of wanted to do that kind of thing. You knowāBatman with other people. So weāve come up with a structure that will allow us to do something thatās like a team book. Itās kind of a new conceptāitās kind of a little bit differentābut thatās where youāre going to see what Bruce is up to and everything about his operation is about to change. The title of Batman, Inc. might help withā¦this is why the book was called The Return of Bruce Wayne. In Batman, you got to see what happens when you take Bruce out of the equation, and you get the super-violent Batman of Zur-En-Arrh. This is what happens when Bruce is more in the equation and what he does with the Batman idea and how he comes into a franchise, basically.ā In a fuller explanation of the series, Morrison suggests that the book is equally influenced by the Brave and the Bold cartoon, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, and Just Cause 2.
- The third Morrison project announced is a single-issue book called Thunderworld. During Morrisonās focus panel, he described the book this way: Ā āOne of the Multiversity booksāin fact, one of the ones thatās finished and is going to be drawn by Cameron Stewartāis the Shazam book. Itās called Thunderworld because Iām sick of it not being able to be called Captain Marvel in the title and Iām fed up with the word Shazam. So we called it Thunderworld instead. Iām really pleased with this one. For me, itās my definitive Marvel Family story. Itās 38 pages long and it says everything Iāve ever wanted to say about those characters.ā Morrison also teased a Wonder Woman project, saying itās coming āsoon,ā but he didnāt elaborate.
- Paul Cornell will be writing a six-issue Knight and Squire series spinning off from Batman and Robin. When Cornell took the microphone in the Batman panel on Friday, he said, āIām in the midst of creating exactly 100 new British Bat DC villains and heroes across the six issues of the Knight and Squire. We managed 50 in the first issue alone, and this is part of a plot to kill the editors of the DC Encyclopedia through sheer hard work. Iāve just been writing issue #3 of Knight and Squire, in which Richard III is brought back to life as a clone and, with an army of the worst monarchs in British history, attempts to re-conquer the country through the medium of Facebook.ā This book cannot possibly be bad.
[If anyone wants to hear full podcasts of the DC panels, DC is gradually uploading them to their main site. Videos, podcasts, and various pictures from their floor displays can be found here.]
- Mark Waid will be writing a series called Captain America: Man Out of Time, which imagines what the character would experience if he re-emerged (unthawed) in contemporary times. While the premise isnāt terribly new or original, I look forward to seeing what Waid can do with the concept. He has a good feel for contrasting different time periods well, and he understands how superheroes function in these different times. It could be a good story.
- Rocket Raccoon and Groot is actually going to be a series. While no one could say much about it, the series will be written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning and drawn by Tim Green. The fact that Rocket Raccoon is getting his own book (or limited series or whatever) is geeked-up goodness in and of itself, but the Mike Mignola cover thatās gracing the bookās promo is also pretty spectacular.
- IDW announced that it will publish a four-issue anthology book next year based on Dave Stevensā 80s/90s pulp throwback The Rocketeer. The series will feature new stories by Mike Allred, Darwyn Cooke, Gene Ha, Bill Willingham, Bruce Timm, Kurt Busiek, Michael Golden, Michael Kaluta, John Cassaday, Michael Kaluta, and other. IDW is also publishing Rocketeer: The Artistās Edition, which features all the art Dave Stevens did featuring the character.
- At Saturdayās āComics Reprint Revolutionā panel, Gary Groth announced that Fantagraphics Books will reprint the entire collection of Floyd Gottfredsonās Mickey Mouse strips. Gottfredson produced these strips from 1930 to 1976, and this is the first comprehensive collection of his prodigious body of work. The first book of the series will debut in May 2011.
- The Eisner Awards were held Friday night, and the winners list can be found here. Iām not surprised by most of it, but Iām pretty disappointed with a lot of it. I have a hard time believing this many people voted for Captain America #601 as the best single issue of the year, and I canāt believe Iām the only reader who thinks Walking Dead peaked a couple years ago. I’m also surprised that Vertigo got shut out with as many quality new books as theyāve debuted in the past year. Itās ridiculous that The Unwritten received no industry recognition. But at least awards went to David Mazzuccheilliās Asterios Polyp (for Best Graphic AlbumāNew, Best Writer/Artist, and Best Lettering) and Dave Stewart (for Best Coloring). Mazzuccheilliās win in a category (Best Lettering) perennially dominated by Todd Klein is pretty shocking, but certainly deserved this year.
- For gamers, both DC and Marvel debuted trailers and news of a number of video games in the works: Batman: The Brave and the Bold (September 7, 2010); Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions (September 7, 2010); DC Universe Online (November 1, 2010); Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters (Summer 2011); Thor (Summer 2011); Suicide Squad (In development; Geoff Johns describes it as a āhardcore violentā game.); Marvel Super Hero Squad: The Infinity Gauntlet (no release date yet).
- Perhaps the biggest theatrical trailer that debuted at SDCC this year is the one for TRON: Legacy, which is probably the biggest geek release remaining this year (except for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows). TRON opens December 17th, and you can catch the trailer here. Iām always skeptical of these things, but Iām pretty sure Iāll be in the theater that weekend.
- The cast for the Avengers film (2012) took the stage together in Hall H Saturday. The Avengers team in the film will consist of Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, Nick Fury, Hawkeye, and Black Widow. Below is a picture of Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Clark Gregg (Agent Phil Coulson), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Chris Evans (Captain America), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye), Mark Ruffalo (the Hulk), Joss Whedon (confirmed as director), and Kevin Feige (producer). Iāve also posted the Avengers logo that Marvel Studios unveiled this weekend.
- And for people who are into the official logo thing, DC also debuted the official final logo for next yearās Green Lantern movie:
- Denis Kitchen announced at Fridayās Eisner Awards that Will Eisnerās A Contract With God is currently in film development. The film will be produced and adapted from Eisnerās book by Darren Dean, and the four narrative chapters will be directed by four different directors: Alex Rivera, Barry Jenkins, Sean Baker, and Tze Chun. Iām just thanking the gods that Frank Miller didnāt get his hands on this one.
- DC debuted a preview of their upcoming Young Justice cartoon, which actually looks pretty promising as an all-ages cartoon. Every time I write one of these shows off (most recently Batman: The Brave and the Bold), they prove to be enjoyable on some level. So this might actually surprise me again.
- This year was, as always, a good one for SDCC merchandise exclusives. Most of the major companies offered interesting collectible figures, comics, glasses, etc., but Mattel probably had the most impressive set of offerings. Orko and Plastic Man are both good additions to what have become well-produced and popular action figure lines (Masters of the Universe Classics and DC Universe Classics), but the Starro Set (including its jaw-dropping packaging) is a thing of beauty. Hasbroās SDCC-exclusive mega Galactus figure was also pretty incredible. The biggest disappointment this year was Shocker Toys, who promised exclusive figures of the Golden Age Blue Beetle and the Dick Tracy character The Blank. The company failed to deliver, which, given its track record, isnāt surprising. But its continued promises and failures to deliver productsāespecially at the biggest show of the yearāfurther cements Shocker as theĀ most unreliableĀ toy company in the business.
- All of the big toy companies revealed their major new releases for the upcoming year in their display booths or at panels, and images of most of these figures are available at Toy News International, which has been covering SDCC pretty well this year. Hasbroās concentration is mainly on their 4ā Marvel Universe line, but they did reveal prototypes for the few new 6ā Marvel Legends figures they plan to release this year. Just to be clear: I donāt have anything against the Marvel Universe figures. But I pretty much gave up after Hasbro effectively killed the Marvel Legends line that Toy Biz had created and produced so well for years. I look forward to more Marvel Legends, but itās looking like these will be few and far between.
- The most impressive display of new product came from Mattel, whose DC offerings alone will cost action figure junkies way too much money next year. In addition to revealing wave 16 of DC Universe Classics (Riddler, Mercury, Robin, Jonah Hex, Creeper, and Batman as Azrael, with a Bane build-a-figure), Mattel also announced that they will produce two waves of Green Lantern figures next year and a Legion of Super-Heroes 12-pack that will be exclusive to Mattcollector.com. Pictures of their entire slideshow presentation can be found here, and their Masters of the Universe and Ghostbusters presentation (which was also fun to scroll through) can be found here.
- Mezco will be producing figures for Bryan Lee OāMalleyās Scott Pilgrim. They didnāt provide a release date, but they had them on display at their booth.
- Iām a long-time Star Wars fan, but my interest in their toy products gradually waned after the prequels were released. Still, their new giant AT-AT looks pretty incredibleāespecially in its retro packaging. This, however, is probably the most garish Star Wars toy Iāve ever seen:
[Written and compiled by Alex Boney]