I think we’re in trouble.
For the last several years, my laptop has been without a functioning battery, which completely subtracts the novelty that comes with having one. Considering that more than half of my columns were written on this thing while confined to a wall outlet, I’d become almost comfortable being the proud owner of the world’s smallest desktop. Then I decided to borrow a cue from the Godfather of the internet comics column, Augie De Blieck Jr., and broadcast Ambidextrous direct from the floor of the San Diego Comic-Con International, and personally, the best way to do this is to remove all restrictions and become dangerous again. And danger comes from being able to write wherever I want, so I finally bought another battery, and realized again just how cool all this laptop stuff is supposed to be.
Couple this with the fact that I’ve read the first issue of Youngblood: Bloodsport, but I’m getting ahead of myself…
Of immediate concern is the con, which I’ll be offering daily reports from, barring some imminent disaster, which is a strong possibility at this point. Everything seems to be happening so fast, that’ll be a wonder if I can make it there with enough socks to last the weekend. If it isn’t the frantic flight arrangements, then it’s the business card order that was placed so late that I won’t have time to even proof them (let’s hope the design looks hot on the first pass), or the aforementioned battery that arrived just yesterday, then it’s the debit card for my new bank account that’s “in transit.” But it’s all good though, there’s gonna be a book at the convention with my name on it.
These are strange days indeed.
In the first section of my own personal convention survival guide, here’s a selection of panel programming that looks particularly interesting, and will probably ensure many a tough decision as to what I’ll actually be attending…
Thursday, July 17
2:00-3:00 Professional Networking Seminar— Being talented isn’t enough. Getting work and continuing to work in the comic book and comic strip publishing world often means knowing the right people, too. Inker Andrew Pepoy (Robin, G.I. Joe) brings back his popular seminar to help teach you how to get out there and use Comic-Con to its fullest networking potential. Take advantage of this early time slot to put some of Andrew’s good advice to work over the rest of the weekend! Room 18
This looks like a good place to start, and meeting Chad Thomas (who gave life to The Reserve) in a panel very similar to this one only increases my interest. This being my first convention with actual published work to slide past an editor, it’ll help having some tips to increase the chances we’ll make contact after the show. Definite stop, but here’s the only problem…
2:30-4:00 CAC #2: Black Images in the Comics: From the Beginning of the 19th Century to the Present— Swedish scholar Fredrik Stromberg (Bild & Bubbla) presents a slideshow talk on his new book, which traces the portrayal of black characters in comics from all over the world over the last century. In a wide-ranging talk, Stromberg will walk through the 20th century, starting with the habitually appalling images of blacks as ignorant “coons” in the earliest syndicated strips (Happy Hooligan, Moon Mullins) and continuing through “noble savage” figures such as Lothar in Mandrake and the colonialist images of Tintin in the Congo. Early attempts at integration in Peanuts and Marvel Comics are juxtaposed with the shocking satire of underground comics such as R. Crumb’s incendiary Angelfood McSpade. Wrapping up with the increasing visibility of blacks in contemporary works such as the South African strip Madam & Eve, Aaron McGruder’s pointed daily The Boondocks, and Ho Che Anderson’s Martin Luther King biography King, the talk concludes with a focus on current black cartoonists. William Foster (Naugatuck Valley Community College) responds
I feel obligated to attend this one, for what I’m sure are obvious reasons, but the running time is wide enough that I may be able to slide into the room slightly tardy. But that seems so stereotypical…
5:30-7:00 Comic Reviewer Websites— In a rare event, reviewers from some of the most influential and widely read comic sites on the web come together to discuss their craft. Moderated by Adam Messano of WellredPress.com, this panel includes Augie De Blieck Jr. of ComicBookResources.com, Heidi MacDonald of The Pulse (www.comicon.com/pulse), Greg McElhatton of iComics.com, and Adrienne Rappaport of SequentialTart.com. Joining these reviewers is former Marvel editor and writer Tony Isabella, creator of DC’s Black Lightning and long-time writer/reviewer in both print media, (Comic Buyer’s Guide) and on the web (www.wfcomics.com). The reviewers will discuss their review philosophy, as well as writing for an online audience. Review writing for the web is unique, as discussion and feedback can be given instantaneously through chat rooms and message boards, creating an unprecedented level of interaction between reviewers and readers. Room 8
Since I started at SBC as a staff reviewer, and ran the New Hotness for about a year in the column, I’m always respectful and even envious of those that possess the ability to write skillful reviews on a regular basis. Most people are under the impression that offering an opinion or critique of something is fairly pedestrian, but once you’re required to do it for more than three weeks in a row, the talent it takes to pull it off becomes evident. It’ll be cool to hear the participants thoughts on the subject, and maybe during the course of the discussion, a lightning bolt will strike and point me in the direction of my new feature for Year Three.
Friday, July 18
11:30-12:30 Batman: A Knight in Gotham— From the best-selling, hard-hitting renderings of Jim Lee to the stark shadows of Eduardo Risso, the Dark Knight continues to be portrayed in distinctive styles. Find out what’s in store for Batman in this panel hosted by group editor Bob Schreck, with writers Brian Azzarello, Ed Brubaker, and Greg Rucka and artists Michael Lark, Jim Lee, Eduardo Risso, the Pander Brothers, and more. Room 1AB
Regardless of my thoughts about the Hush storyline, and the inevitable comparisons that it breeds to what I think is much stronger Batman work from Jeph Loeb, I think most everyone can agree that seeing Jim Lee on a monthly title again has been lovely. The fact that this man can still kick the collective ass of the majority of guys doing it today speaks volumes about his appeal and his natural skill. With any luck, DC will screen a little more art from Azzarello and Risso’s upcoming run, and the Gotham Central team will drop some hints about what’s coming up in their title, which everyone should be reading anyway.
12:30-2:00 Vertigo’s 10th Anniversary— From its launch, Vertigo has been comics’ leader in cutting-edge comics and graphic novels for mature readers. Now celebrating its 10th anniversary, Vertigo looks to the future. Learn what’s coming for Vertigo in this slide presentation with VP, executive editor Karen Berger, group editor Shelly Bond, and editor Will Dennis; writers Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, Brian Azzarello, Bill Willingham, Brian K. Vaughan, Mike Carey, Andy Diggle, and David Tischman; writer/artist Jill Thompson; and artists Eduardo Risso and Marcelo Frusin. Room 1AB
Must attend this panel no matter what. Vertigo’s released more classic runs of graphic storytelling than any other imprint in recent history. Look at the track record folks. We’ve got Swamp Thing, and we’ve got Preacher, and Transmet, and Invisibles, and 100 Bullets, and Sandman. And then we’ve got classics in the making with Fables, Y, and The Losers. Need I go on? Vertigo is the sexiest place in comics, simply because it’s encouraged to be.
4:00-5:00 Cup o’ Joe (Quesada)— Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada sits down to talk about whatever you the fans want to ask. Joe shoots from the hip and never pulls punches. Find out what’s happening at Marvel right now and what’s in store for the future straight from the man himself! Room 1AB
Always attend this one, and am usually sufficiently inspired upon leaving.
Saturday, July 19
10:30-11:30 Warner Brothers— Special guest Halle Berry appears in person to introduce the first look at her upcoming film from Dark Castle, Gothika. Warner Bros. will present footage of Matrix Revolutions, Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban, Troy, Starsky & Hutch, Torque (featuring Monet Mazur, Jamie Pressley and Christina Milan LIVE), Scooby Doo 2, and Looney Tunes: Back In Action. Additional special guests will also be on hand along with gift bags and terrific prizes including an official Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines leather jacket, cast autographed poster and sunglasses, and collector posters of The Last Samurai. Room 20
Only two things you need to consider here…Halle Berry, and the goddamned Matrix. Warner Brothers easily wins this hour, and though I’d love to peep the Q & A between Quesada, Bendis, and Straczynski running at the same time, there’s not much I can do at this point. It’s Halle and it’s Neo. I love me some Bendis…but not that much…
The rest of Saturday is really a veritable toss-up, as there are several Hollywood themed panels that look almost irresistible, but seeing how I won’t be attending Sunday, this may be the day where I just wander the floor, touching base with people and winding down, because I assume I’ll be running out of gas at this point. Plus, I need to sign all the Youngblood comics I can manage before getting back on the plane. Hopefully, I’ll have the cash to do a tiny bit of shopping, which leads to the next segment in the Ambi. survival guide.
New Hotness- The Old Edition
Thought it’d be slightly interesting to write a small section about the back issues everyone should be going out of their way to find, things that would’ve easily achieved New Hotness status if it only existed slightly earlier.
Sam & Twitch #1-20 by Brian Michael Bendis (Image Comics)
This is where I first discovered Bendis, and as strange as it sounds, the fault lies with Todd McFarlane. Spawn was one of the first comics I ever read, so I’ve been following the title pretty regularly since then, so my familiarity with the detectives that occasionally inserted themselves into Spawn’s supernatural world was already high, and the Ashley Wood cover handled the rest. I remember thinking after giving the first issue a read that this Bendis dude was pretty good. It wasn’t long before I tracked down the crime novels he did for Image, and became an instant convert. Sam and Twitch is the logical successor to such titles as Powers and Alias, because while the writer was already hip deep in the crime genre, this book marked the first instance when he paired police and investigative procedure with elements of the supernatural, and the just plain fuckin’ bizarre. The famous “letter columns” also got their start here, and the last storyline marked the first Bendis/Alex Maleev pairing, and we all know where that led. Classic shit right here.
Swamp Thing #1-20 by Brian K. Vaughan (DC Comics/Vertigo)
The entire industry is on Vaughan’s jock following the success of his critically-acclaimed Y: The Last Man, but there are those of us that realized the man was a pimp long before now. The writer’s run focused on Tefe Holland, the daughter of the Swamp Thing, and her continual confusion with her burgeoning powers, and the important choice she was forced to make. Being half human and half elemental provided her a unique perspective on the escalating war between humanity and the world known as the Green., but couldn’t provide the answer to the simplest of questions…which side deserves to survive? Incredibly strong characterization from Vaughan for Tefe and the small band that chose to influence her decision, made this a run that hinted at the frightening potential of a writer who only needed the right platform to showcase himself. And Swamp Thing was that platform. You think Brian K. Vaughan is the absolute shit? He was trying to show you with this book.
Black Panther by Priest (Marvel Comics)
You knew this was coming right? A common complaint regarding this title was that the issues were impossible to find, and without a competent guide, the title was nearly impenetrable. Well this is a convention, there are hundreds of people selling comics, and this is the opportunity to grab some issues from one of the smartest superhero books in recent history. Lasting 62 issues, Panther was at times progressive superheroics on display, a densely packed political thriller, and a critical examination of one of Marvel’s strongest characters. For five years, Priest gave you one of the hottest books available on the market, ignoring diminishing returns, and the ever present possibility of cancellation. It’s only natural to behave when everyone is looking in your direction, but Priest did it without any cameras. What would be the last appearance of the New Hotness without giving Black Panther its rightful props? I trust you all to do the right thing.
Automatic Kafka #1-9 by Joe Casey (DC Comics/Wildstorm)
Yes, I’m aware that this title only ended about a month ago, but that doesn’t change what Joe Casey brought to the table. People talk of smart comics, and bold takes, but sometimes being smart isn’t enough. Not everything receives the attention it deserves. Kafka was one of those rare creatures that could only be fully understood after repeat viewings, but Casey made the additional effort worthwhile. The industry’s train of thought seems to involve merging the concept of celebrity status with the perks of being a superhero, and Casey took that thought, mangled it sufficiently, and partnered with Ashley Wood to give Eye of the Storm a book that earned its mature readers tag honestly and confidently. Something tells me that this title’s “failure” has more to do with fans and retailers not knowing exactly what to make of a “mature superhero line,” than with the “impenetrable” storytelling that it was accused of on several occasions. If this were Vertigo, Joe Casey would be heralded as a genius, and a triumph to sequential storytelling. There are nine issues available if you’d like to disagree with me.
Will likely make the Eisners, as I see no reason to pack my suit and not wear the thing, and besides that, I’ve never been before, so it should be fun.
Also read Youngblood: Bloodsport and was mighty impressed at what I saw. Millar pulls no punches in this confident satire about superheroes, fame, and what to do when the New Hotness turns into the Old Hotness. From an art standpoint, this is a benchmark for Rob Liefeld, and if you squint really hard, you’ll notice that a few of the characters are eerily similar to a few of the Image founders. People are going to be picking this book apart all summer, trying to find all the inside jokes that Millar has laced the thing with, and as the man told me the other day, “the Image guys are going to be after me with chainsaws after this one.” Satisfy your curiosity at the Arcade booth in just three days, and come by to say what’s up.
Ambidextrous Daily will likely make its first online appearance on Thursday, which will cover Wednesday’s Preview Night, and a few last minute preparations.