Another year, another Comic-Con touches down in San Diego’s historic Gaslamp district and billows the hell around and makes a metric ton of people really excited. I love being one of those people and for as long as Comic-Con remains in the beautiful marina of San Diego’s downtown area, I will continue attending; no matter how daunting the ticketing is or how gargantuan the lines are, it’s the most amazing collection of unique experiences available annually. Bar none. For the sake of making this easy to actually understand, my memories – fraught with exuberance and exhaustion (the two real forces of SDCC) – will be condensed into the most memorable and exciting things I personally saw/experience/learned day by day. As I avoided Hall H like the very plague it can be – there isn’t anything in here about the big movie announcements. Plus – it was reported on so rapidly, I found out about it after most people with a solid internet connection did.
The first full day of SDCC, and in many ways, the most frustrating. Grandiose plans of juggling 4 panels back to back in different rooms scattered throughout different ends of the con center begin to evaporate as the monumental lines and crowds eat up all visual space available. Despite this though, Thursday has always been amazing for me. It helps me make snap decisions and decide exactly what I’m willing to wait in line for and figure out what’s important. Trial by lines, really. Also there were at least 10 major news networks with reports in costumes ranging from “purchased online days before” to “clearly considers SDCC the highlight of their career annually and has been working on their wardrobe since the year previous” – either way, it’s always a real treat.
While attending the Bravest Warriors (online show by Adventure Time’s Pendleton Ward), I learned that even widely adored online content has voice acting that is recorded in a dude’s coat-filled closet, slowly stifling each actor into a air-deprived stupor. Also the voice-actor of Catbug (definitely exempt from this treatment) is easily the most adorable child I’ve seen and/or heard. Later, I was able to make it in for a sneak peak of John DiMaggio’s (Futurama, Adventure Time) documentary about the voice-acting industry called I Know That Voice featuring “the most famous people you’ll never recognize” followed by a outrageously funny Q&A session, easily just a love-fest between truly talented folks who almost never get to sit and read with each other. Quickly afterwards, I made may way to the panel about the upcoming events and titles for DC Comics’ imprint, Vertigo. Rolling out their rebranding of “Defy”, Vertigo has been, in this reader’s mind, kind of lacking. Propped up on long-running titles such as Fables, American Vampire, and The Unwritten, I definitely was a little worried. Then they sucker-punched me in the fact with some new properties that are more than primed to blow holes through my face. Trillium by Jeff Lemire (Sweet Tooth, Animal Man) is shaping up to be one of the most imaginative stories told in the medium, as it aims to utilize the medium with such fantastic ingenuity with a narrative that almost makes it necessary. Collider by Simon Oliver & Robbi Rodriguez looks to be a whacked-out trip of physics-gone-wrong and how the world has to cope: by having an FBI-like first-response team who’s charged with locking down and solving complex illogical problems. While the other new IPs and events were quite exciting, nothing could quite lose fill the void that was the promise of Morpheus’ return to comics. My Endless were in another castle, as the announcement for Sandman: Overture by Neil Gaiman (American Gods, Ocean At The End Of The Lane) and J.H. Williams III (Batwoman) would have to wait until another day of Con.
J.H. Williams III – blow me the heck away more please. Thanks.
Then, as my friends and I shared pictures of booths, cosplayers, crossplayers (and all the ranges between), tales of exemplary geekitude, and swag for days – we turned in not-at-all-early-enough to be up at 4 in the morning for…
Friday is when SDCC gets serious – off come the padded green foam Hulk gloves and on come the devil-may-care studded motorcycle gloves, facepaint and flaming chain optional. Big names part of even bigger panels hit up Hall H (the largest and most widely sought after panel room holding 6,500 seats), causing literally miles of anxious fans. However, when the Con gets serious, so do we.
I really don’t like Big Bang Theory, but while sitting through the panel, I found I don’t like it less than I thought I did – so there’s that. 5-hour outdoor waits can actually be quite a lot of fun, given the right neighbors, and man, Legend of Korra cosplayers are the nicest folks with the most fantastic humility I’ve seen. Season 2 of Korra, entitled “Spirits” will drastically shift the tone and setting of the show – and will look downright sublime in the process. It’s safe to say the easiest way to make all of your friends amazingly jealous of you is to see the first episode of a much-loved series months before most everybody else, it was also quite excellent, setting up complex characters, beautiful settings, and lovely little scenarios and go so far to develop the world and the inhabitants. Amidst the cacophony of cheering and whistling, the creative team of Korra described what it was like to work on the series and what new things to look for in the upcoming seasons. Directly following – I waited in easily a 2-hour line to get a beautiful print signed by the creators. It seems excessive, but it’s really due to the fact they love talking to their fans and spend way too much time doing so. It’s inconvenient, but when you step-on-up, it’s wonderful. There’s nothing quite like being told by the lead artist in broken English that he likes your hair and wishes to touch it. I’m definitely keeping an eye out for a background character with my ‘do popping up in season 3. Anything even close to resembling a mohawk mixed with a pompadour qualifies, obviously.
I try not to look at my copy of this too often – for the very real fear that I faint.
After we left the convention center, my friends and I participated in a scavenger hunt around the Gaslamp District – a unique experience afforded by SDCC, as events, displays, and the general fervor of the Con spreads out a solid 6 blocks into the Downtown San Diego areas. The official Korra blog would post clues every half hour of what intersection was a drop-point for oodles of exclusive books, prints, box-sets, and the alike. I now know just how fast people in costume can run – they bolt like crazed jungle-cats – and so did we and it’s just really enjoyable to get caught up in the excitement. Though we failed in being first to any intersections, I was able to meet the creator of the wonderful Disney show Gravity Falls as he traversed the wild streets with a puppet of the prime character he voices. It was one of the situations only able to happen during SDCC. We then met up for a drowsy but delicious dinner and passed out, not sure if we’d be ready at all for…
We managed to get to the Convention center at a kind-of-late 7 in the morning to get in line for the Gravity Falls panel. There’s this unusual thing that happens (especially with new properties that rapidly garner very strong fandoms) at larger conventions where the organizers underestimate, or are simply unaware of, just how many people want to attend a certain panel, and the line jockeys find themselves in the unique situation of having 3,000 people desperate to get into a room that fits 400 – 2 hours before the panel of interest even begins. What follows is a lot of teens dressed up for something the panelists of the preceding panel aren’t aware of and a surprising amount of interesting questions posed from said teens to the panelists, who are quite caught off guard. As the panel of extreme interest got underway, I remembered what it’s like to be in a budding fandom, where there’s enough original content to keep it alive, but it’s little enough that every, single reference is instantaneous crowd-pleasing and oozing with delight. Free hats, sneak peeks, and a cold table read of the Pines (characters from the show) making their very own trip to Comic-Con – it was an absolute treat.
After the panel I queued for the Paul Pope (Batman: Year 100, Battling Boy) signing – and let me tell you, he’s perfect. Then a hasty lunch and a swim through a parade of fantastic cosplay, I found myself watching Jim Lee (Justice League, Batman: Hush), the co-publisher of DC Comics draw and chat casually his way into my heart. No matter what I think about his art, it being just about everywhere, and the direction much of the majority of DC’s comics are going – Jim Lee is a wickedly talented artist who has nailed his style so perfectly that he outputs amazing bust sketches in minutes, easy-peasy. On top of that: he’s hilarious, openly commenting on his childhood, path to making comics, and the state of the industry as he worked is way to the mostly top. That was just happy coincidence, however – I was waiting for the panel that followed it: Neil Gaiman’s return to Morpheus with Sandman: Overture, on shelves October. Mostly the panel, consisting of main creative team for the original Sandman (including letter Todd Klein – I swear I busted vocal chords cheering when his name was read), discussed what it was like working on Sandman originally and what their approach to coming back to such a rich and touted book was like. What we’re in for is a prequel that delves into the nature of Morpheus’ travels that take him “somewhere far, far away” – the return from which exhaust him so that it allows for his capture in issue #1.
C’mon J.H. – as soon as I catch my breath, you just take back again.
After the room pretty much emptied and mostly re-filled with folks determined to wait through the next panel for the last one of the night in that room: The 21st Anniversary of Batman: The Animated Series. I, though my love of animated Batman is strong, was eager to see more of what’s next from Image Comics and they didn’t disappoint. Though I had heard much of the information before, it was fascinating to hear about the stoner superhero in Bounce and ex-vigilante fraught with sexual repression in Sex, both by Joe Casey and the wonderful Amy Reeder (Batwoman) talk about her newly kickstarted Rocket Girl. Additionally, I was able to pose a question to Eric Stephenson about Image’s decision to allow readers to option to purchase comic issues DRM-free direct from their site – and thank them for believing in us, their readers. Lastly was a nostalgia-filled look at the last 21 years with the Batman Animated Series with a very talkative Bruce Timm (DCAU) and almost silent Paul Dini (DCAU). With that – Saturday was over, an exhausted party of folks sleepily scoffed down burgers and prepared for…
I love my friends, but sometimes, especially during a Con, you can’t let the bond of friendship supersede the need for sleep. So while my friends showered, packed and crammed back into a car to stay overnight in line for Hall H to see the Doctor Who panel, I slept in to a grand time of 8 in the morning, it was glorious. Since I didn’t have any specific plan until a panel at the end of the day, I managed to snag a ticket for the Brian K. Vaughan (Saga, Y: The Last Man) signing. While waiting for the main man himself, I found the only person cosplaying as a character from his online series The Private Eye, which I wrote about previously and love.
Honestly: the coolest thing about Con is this lady is making one of these “FUTURE” shirts.
After lunch – there was little to keep me on my feet. Every 15 minutes it was the constant game of “find the piece of wall I can sit against for at least 5 minutes before the staff make me move due to fire code.” I’m not extraordinarily good at it. Luckily, there was one final panel I was egging to see and it had SEATS. Frankly, all the rooms had seats, but this one was contextually very thrilling. The panel was Paul Pope and Gene Yang (Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Promise, American Born Chinese), both have books about to be published by the fantastic small-press house First Second (:01). While exhausted, I was enthralled by the completely polar ways in which they became comic creators and the equally opposite method each takes while creating. Despite their differences, they shared a fantastic rapport so lovely, many people in the audience suggested interest in a collaboration in the future. At the end of that last panel: my day, and effectively, Con was over. I met up with my friends, we piled into a car and meandered our way back to my house, took showers and naps. The next morning, I flew back to Boston, thrilled and more exhausted than I had been since the Comic-Con a year previous. That, however, doesn’t mean adventures couldn’t be had on…
Until I moved away from San Diego: I always disliked the Monday directly after Con – real life seem to overtake the city much to fast. Once I had plane flights to catch right after the event, I found the following day to be wonderful, as most everyone leaving San Diego had beautiful experiences to share. At my gate alone, I chatted with a woman who flies out every year to work with the marvelously mustached Sergio Aragonés (Groo, Mad), caught up with fellow Bostonians (AND NOW EISNER AWARD-WINNERS) Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb (Adventure Time), and grand-maestro of meta-media Andrew Hussie (And It Don’t Stop, Homestuck), whom I’ve met before. It was a wonderful mini-reunion that I’m so pleased that had happened so far from New England in my old stomping grounds. San Diego – I’ll see you when I see you.
BOSTON COMIC-CON: HERE THE HECK I COME.