This was my first year attending Comic-Con International in sunny San Diego. My expectations were pretty high, as attending the con is a pilgrimage of sorts for comic fans everywhere. This was also my first time flying in a plane since I was about seven years old, so this was quite the adventure for me. Happily, I was able to navigate the airports in Milwaukee, Atlanta and San Diego without a hitch, and was able to use the MTS trolleys in San Diego without much trouble. I elected not to go to Preview Night, as our flight was a little late into town and we hadn't quite figured out the lay of the land yet.
The first full day of Comic-Con saw Patrick and I waiting in line to get our badges for a few hours. And if anything is not exaggerated when it comes to the convention, it's the lines. They are damn long. Once we'd secured our badges, there was more waiting ahead as the con had yet to open its gates to the masses. So...more lines. But that was alright. It gave Patrick and I a chance to look over the maps they provided and run down the panels we opted to attend. The convention center is laid out pretty nicely and it wasn't too much of a hassle to find any of the areas we wished to go. There were also conveniently located Starbucks, Mrs. Fields and other booths for food, and a Fed Ex center to mail out the heaploads of comics one might buy.
During the whole of the convention, I was struck by the campaign for True Blood, which was really clever and neat. Based on the Charlaine Harris books, True Blood is a new cable series (Showtime, I believe) debuting this Fall from the creators of Six Feet Under. There were ads everywhere for Tru Blood synthetic blood beverage boasting funny little slogans like "Friends don't let friends eat friends" and "Real blood is for suckers" and "All the taste. No bite." And then there were fliers being handed out proclaiming that "vampires were people once too," and people asking convention goers to sign petitions to pass the "Vampire Rights Act" or something of the sort. Very cool stuff. If I had Showtime, I'd be watching it, but as is, I'm definitely going to check the show out on DVD.
The convention floor was a little disappointing to me, I must admit. I'd heard people say that it takes days to cover the whole floor, but it took me perhaps four hours. A lot of floor space was also taken up by movie studios, promoting upcoming films and TV series, as well as video games and toys. These tended to be the areas with heavy traffic, where it was rather hard to wade through. I was surprised by the lack of retailers selling comics and graphic novels. Wizard World Chicago is a convention I go to every year since it's so close, and the floor has tons of retailers selling actual comics and related items, so it was a blow to see so few at Comic-con, as I was hoping to buy a lot of discounted collections and instead walked away from the weekend with few. It was nice, on the other hand, to see so many publishers and artists, an aspect of the floor that is lacking at the Chicago show. I've heard a few people complain that Comic-Con is less comics, more multi-media now, and from what I saw this weekend, I would probably agree with that (even if I don't have a reference of previous years, that seems to be the general consensus) which is one of the reasons I won't be returning next year, though I could certainly see myself returning at a distant time.
The variety of panels at the convention was really impressive, though once again, I would have liked to see more comic panels. The first one we attended was "Spotlight in Todd Klein," which was interesting. We didn't go to many on Thursday just because we did want to check out the exhibit floor, so the only other one we attended was "Bat-Manga! Chip Kidd and the Secret History of Batman in Japan." This got me pretty excited for the forthcoming book. And Chip Kidd did say that he had enough material for another volume, so let's cross our fingers that sales will justify more of this crazy shit.
On Friday, I wanted to attend a panel where I'd hear some actual announcements, so we headed over to "Marvel Cup o' Joe," although beyond an underwhelming (and barely animated) clip of the new Black Panther cartoon for BET and some gorgeous art from the new Marvel Classics' Oz (from writer Eric Shanower and artist Skottie Young), it was all Q & A. And I hate Q & A. Have a fricking agenda and keep things interesting like all of the better panels of the show! I don't care if the blonde in the Dazzler outfit wants to see more Dazzler appearances! And after the third person asked about Marvel movies, which Joe Quesada patiently explained yet again that he was not in charge of the movies, so he's not the person to ask, I was ready to get the hell out of there. Otherwise, the answer is usually "wait and see" or "buy the books," so why even ask?
After this, we waited in a humongous line that wound outside the building to get in to see Joss Whedon and the cast of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. Great banter between the cast and writers, with a few announcements: a soundtrack available in a few weeks from I-Tunes, and plenty of bonus features on the upcoming DVD, including a "musical commentary." Later on, we actually crossed the street of Downtown San Diego with Joss Whedon, Nathan Fillion, Neil Patrick Harris and Felicia Day. I only recognized Felicia at first with her pretty red hair, and then I was trying really hard not to stare at them.
Last but not least, we attended the "Spotlight on Lynda Barry" panel on Friday. I read a lot of what she talked about in her recent fantastic book What It Is, but this was still the best panel of the show for me. She's an animated, engaging speaker and I had a ton of fun. Very inspiring.
Unfortunately, we did not attend the Eisner Awards. I was really happy about most of the winners though, especially Mouse Guard winning two awards (Graphic novel - reprint and best kids comic) and Buffy the Vampire Slayer winning best new series. IDW also won their first award for best archival project for the deserving The Complete Terry and the Pirates.
We bought a lot from the Fantagraphics booth, just because there were some exciting debuts, including Love & Rockets: New Stories #1 and Delphine #3 (the next two The Comics Journals were also available, but damn! Patrick has a subscription ...and still hasn't seen the one that debuted in comic stores...) The convention is a great place to pick up little goodies that I can't find around Milwaukee, like Cold Heat Special #5 (which I loved) from Picturebox. But what I really appreciated was Drawn & Quarterly's booth, as they not only had artists like Lynda Barry signing, but they offered really great discounts when you bought a combination of books. Patrick, for instance, bought Red Colored Elegy and Tatsumi's Goodbye for just over $40, and got a free totebag. It was nice - I wish more retailers did that. I remember First Second Books doing a buy two, get one free deal at The Toronto Comic Art Festival last year, and we loaded up on them. Anyways, I picked up a few things at Archaia Studio Press's booth, and got the Athena Voltaire: Flight of the Falcon collection at Ape's, having it signed by Steve Bryant, with the bonus of him doing a sketch for me. I had a nice time talking with him, something I usually don't do much of with creators.
The Spirit movie had a cool booth with gently falling snow and Castle Grayskull from He-Man was on the floor somewhere, but I think the Star Wars booth was the most elaborate, with statues of major characters from Star Wars: The Clone Saga everywhere, including my favorite jedi Shaak Ti. There was a Dharma Initiative booth set up for Lost that allowed only fifty people inside each day - one woman who was able to get inside refused to relate what she'd seen. Of course, Watchmen stole the show though, with free t-shirts and a gazillion people reading the graphic novel in panels and on various spots on the floor. Even panelists were wearing the shirts and spreading the hype for the film.
We went to the "Grant Morrison and Gerard Way: Born Under a Black Sun" panel, which was, unfortunately, Q & A, but at least the creators had some interesting things to say. Then we went on to "The World of Steve Ditko Panel Discussion" which was really fun. There was an agenda to it and some really neat observations and stories were related.
By Sunday, we'd pretty much had enough of the convention, but we wanted to attend the "Jack Kirby Tribute" panel, which was great, focusing on Kirby's time in animation. We would have liked to go to the "Friday the Thirteenth" panel about the new remake, but we were anxious to check out the world-famous San Diego Zoo, and did that one activity outside of the convention.
And that's about it. We had a lot of fun, despite initial disappointments. Like I said before, we're not going to dish out the ridiculous amount of money we did this year to participate in the event next year, but we may make another appearance in the future. I'm glad we at least went once to see what all of the hubub's about.
Best costume: Joker in straight jacket - He shuffled around hunched over and wore makeup that made him look like he belonged in The Exorcist.
Most exciting news: Viz will be publishing both Naoki Urasawa's 20th Century Boys and Pluto beginning next February on a bi-monthly schedule!!! Link via Mangablog.