San Diego Comic-Con 2012 was last week! There were awesome things that happened during it:
10. This Nyan Cat Cosplay
Goddamn, this is the cutest thing I've ever seen.
9. Running into Doug Jones
My wife, Comics Bulletin writer Laura Akers, was at a trolley stop on the phone to a friend talking about an injury I sustained back at the hotel. When she hung up, a familiar-looking stranger leaned over, asking if I was okay. That stranger turned out to be Doug Jones, the Silver Surfer of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Abe Sapien (and others) in the Hellboy movies, Fauno in Pan's Labyrinth, and most terrifyingly, the lead Gentleman in the beloved (and Emmy-nominated) Buffy episode "Hush." After assuring him that I was fine, she asked for an interview, and I went along as an observer. Nothing to do but sit back, listen, and enjoy.
And Doug Jones is just as entertaining in person as he is in character. But he’s also far more than that. His passion for his work was clear as he delivered funny, thoughtful, and honest answers, and his engaging way made it easy to see why he has such a positive reputation in the industry. It was pure SDCC magic: a chance meeting that turns into something wonderful. Of course, the true magic is stumbling across someone as gifted and kind as Doug — had he not been the sort of man to worry over a total stranger, we would have missed the opportunity to find out everything else he is. We didn’t just get the interview. We made a friend.
– Chris Hicks
8. Skipping Anything Happening in Hall H
Mad props to anyone who could do it (including Comics Bulletin's very own Dylan Garsee), but I simply am not devoted enough to anything to spend several hours waiting for it in line.
– Danny Djeljosevic
7. Creator Interactions
There will never be a shortage of articles bemoaning the way mainstream Hollywood culture has infiltrated and drowned out the "comic" aspect of Comic Con and while there is of course some validity to that point, that kind of declaration has the side effect of distracting from the one of a kind creator-fan interactions that Con still provides. And lately, that element of Con culture even seems to be expanding and growing.
Take the Image booth, which appears to take over more and more of the floor each year. But instead of filling that space with movie props and top dollar cosplayers like some of Image's competitors do, the publisher instead puts its most valuable commodity directly in the spotlight: the creators themselves. That emphasis allows fans to go beyond lining up for hours to pay for a mechanical autograph and to instead engage some of their favorite creators in passionate conversation, bonding over shared obsessions and maybe even taking home a sketch or two.
Not that Image holds a monopoly on this shared experience, though. Indie stalwarts like Fantagraphics, Top Shelf and Drawn & Quarterly all feature an incredible display of talent year after year. In Fantagraphics' case, this year found Los Bros. Hernandez sharing the 30th anniversary of their most famous creation, Love & Rockets, with fans of all ages, while Nate Powell was seemingly omnipresent nearby at Top Shelf's booth, ready with a smile and a friendly hello for fans new and old. The creator interaction at Con easily proves that comic culture has by no means disappeared in the shadow of Hollywood, it's just become even more intimate in response to the invading forces.
6. "The Writer's Room" Panel
When it comes to panels at San Diego Comic-Con, performance is everything. I quickly learned that many comics panels generally feature some announcements, light banter, a series of NPR voices trying to get fans excited about the plot details of an upcoming Spider-Man miniseries and then discomforting questions from generally unsocialized fans. That's no fun for me anymore — I need something weirder, a little more gonzo, a little more fun to sit through.
"The Writer's Room," moderated by British talk show host (they call them "presenters") and America's Got Powers writer Jonathan Ross, was one of the biggest surprises for something I checked out on a whim. Featuring comics writers Robert Kirkman (Walking Dead), John Layman (Chew) and Ed Brubaker (Criminal), Ross' writer-centric interrogations of his fellow creators made for a productive conversation, but his command of the room made it feel as breezy and entertaining as one of his on-camera interviews. Plus, he gently ribbed the people who asked questions during the Q&A section without it becoming cringe-worthy or too mean (after all, he is British).
I know a lot of convention panels exist to inform, but a dose of entertainment really does make a huge difference.
– Danny Djeljosevic
5. The Firefly Reunion Panel
Long after I had given up all hope of attending the Firefly panel on Friday at noon (which
people began lining up for before 8pm on Thursday night), something wonderful happened: I got a random email about a Science Channel/Firefly press panel later that same day. Finally! After years of stalking Joss Whedon and Nathan Fillion (my SDCC white whales), I was finally going to be able to ask both of them (and the rest of the Firefly cast) questions! Imagine my delight when Joss not only answered my questions very seriously, but in response to my question asking him to compare the utopian Star Trek universe to that of Firefly, Nathan busted out a rather good Bill-Shatner-as-James-Kirk impression. When he had finished his performance of Captain James T attempting to lure green alien women into kissing lessons, the room exploded in applause and laughter. My initial disappointment about not having a video of the event was rectified today when I found this YouTube clip. (My question starts at 1:15.)
– Laura Akers
4. Gays in Comics 25th Anniversary Panel
I have a confession to make: I have only read three comic books/graphic novels in my life: the first 13 issues of 52, A History of Violence, and Forgetless. So when deciding what panels to attend on the third day of Comic-Con, I naturally gravitated toward anything with the word "gay" in the title. The ballroom held about 800 people from all walks of life, gays, lesbians, transgendered, and even some straight folks. This was the 25th anniversary of this panel hosted by author Andy Mangels, and featured panelists from every year of the event, including author Alison Bechdel, Prism Comics founder Zan Christensen and Chip Kidd. Every speaker spoke with such love for not only the art form, but for life. Everyone was in tears by the end of the two-plus hour panel, from stories about family abandonment to childhood attractions to Hercules. I initially felt out of place because of my lack of knowledge of the medium, but I quickly felt at home. And at somewhere as chaotic as Comic-Con, all I needed was a home.
– Dylan Garsee
The impact of SDCC has stretched beyond the confines of the San Diego Convention Center for some time now, both in terms of cultural influence and in a literal geological sense. San Diego's Gaslamp district becomes a mecca for gimmicky promotion, pedicabs and buses are suddenly interactive marketing tools, everywhere you turn a sea of fans and those curious about fandom are immersed in a world of branding blitzkriegs and assaults of advertising. Which is why Tr!ckster is a welcome little slice of mental escape, home to ideas and conversations that can't be conducted through panels and snake tail swallowing lines.
This year, Trickster moved to a location far more crammed and hidden away than last year's perfect placement directly across the street from geek culture ground zero. Newly housed in Proper, a gastropub that skirted the fringes of Petco Park, Tr!ckster sacrificed physical convenience in favor of a food menu and an upstairs patio, but the tone and spirit remained the same. Walking into Tr!ckster after a day at con meant walking into community sketching sessions with drag queens and burlesque performers functioning as the models, while an immense array of talent from all across the industry hashed out the future of the medium and curious onlookers purchased art in direct observation of many of the artists responsible. If the rest of the con was about salesmanship, of having the best, brightest, biggest presentation than Tr!ckster was its necessary antithesis — small, intimate, alive with the chatter of newly birthed ideas and freshly rejuvenated debates.
Tr!ckster was the real heart of the con, a testament to the exciting connections the event provides almost in spite of itself, its excess and spectacle coming from sheer brain power and verve, not corporate mandates or synergistic bombast. Tr!ckster was where we got away, where we dwelt on the events of the hours before, where we dissected over good drinks and better friends. And it remains the experience from con that can't be sealed back up in crates and repackaged for the next convention, instead livable only in the moment by those willing to step inside.
– Nick Hanover
2. Trevor Von Eeden Receives an Inkpot Award
Comic-Con is an endless sea of hype, silliness and superficiality, by and large. So when you're confronted by real emotion, by a person who's experiencing real feelings of pure joy, it cuts right through the hype and makes you realize just how powerful real emotions can be. This year the most wonderful moment of real emotion happened for me at "That '70s Panel." This annual panel was populated by many of the usual suspects who join in each year — Mark Evanier, Steve Englehart, Marv Wolfman, Elliot S! Maggin and Steve Skeates — and first time Con attendee Trevor Von Eeden.
At the beginning of the panel, Evanier said he had a special announcement to make, and called up convention organizer Gary Sassaman, who had something special in his hands. It turns out that what Sassaman had in his hands was an Inkpot Award, and that Award had a special creator's name engraved on it: that of Trevor Von Eeden.
The look of total happiness on Trevor's face was infectious. He seemed genuinely overwhelmed by the absolute joy that he felt. Here, at last, was a creator who had felt lost in the wilderness for quite a few years, who had done some brilliant work at DC over the years, getting recognized for the quality and breadth of his artwork.
It was impossible not to be swept up in Trevor's joy, and while each of the talented writers on the panel told funny stories that delighted all comics fans, this panel – and for me this Con – belonged to the supremely talented and supremely grateful Trevor Von Eeden. Even when I spoke to Trevor the next day, he seemed completely overwhelmed by happiness. Pure happiness, that is; not hype.
– Jason Sacks
1. Creator-Owned Comics: The New Hotness
It's hard not to feel like we're in the midst of some kind of sea change in comics, where people known (or who have become know
n) for working on comics for the Big Two have either completely moved on from their employers or have started (or resumed) to pursue creating original stories that they own the rights to in addition to (or sometimes instead of) their for-hire comics. Exciting times if your interests go beyond superheroes.
Of the handful of panels I attended this year at San Diego Comic-Con, each of them had a basis in creator-owned comics — not just that "Writer's Room" talk, but also publisher-centric panels featuring Dark Horse, Image and MonkeyBrain. I already went over this in our SDCC comics announcement rundown, but the caliber of creators on stage at these panels was staggering — a mix of big-name draws (Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka, Matt Fraction), goddamn legends (Howard Chaykin, Stan Sakai), creators you're probably taking for granted (Colleen Coover, Joe Casey, Kelly Sue DeConnick) and people you're going to know real well as they continue to put out awesome comics (Brandon Seifert, Ken Garing, Joe Keatinge).
Sitting at these kinds of panels, it's important to take a step back and just appreciate the talent on display — not as a "fuck you" to the big companies, but as an important realization of how many amazing creators there are in comics and how many of them are taking the risk to tell the kinds of stories they want to tell. Being there, mere feet away is not only inspiring, but — if you're someone whose morale is often ground into paste experiencing all the negativity happening in the periphery of funnybooks — reenergizing.
COMICS ARE AWESOME
– Danny Djeljosevic