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Comic-Con International 2011 Report, Part 2

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Written by Musgo Del Jefe

Friday, July 22nd

You have to get up early at Comic Con. It’s not a Convention for late risers. If you wanted to get you tickets for the 2012 Con, you had better have been in line before 7:00 a.m. Plus, Friday and Saturday are notoriously the largest crowds and the most popular programming. It’s the days that if you really want to see a popular program, you may have to invest some serious time in line and wait through a few panels that you aren’t as interested in.

That was certainly the case to begin Friday. My first thought was to hit Torchwood: Miracle Day and see The Walking Dead that followed it. Showing up about an hour before the doors opened and the first panel was to start was not early enough for those two shows in Ballroom 20. Not only had the room already filled – mostly with people who were going to sit through Torchwood because they wanted to see The Walking Dead, but the line was as long as I had ever seen it with people telling me they were there to see True Blood. At 5:30 p.m.!!! They were going to sit in the room through six other panels in order to see True Blood. That’s a bigger fan than me. (Than I am of any show).

SID AND MARTY KROFFT. I saw these two last year at the Con and knew that if I wasn’t in Torchwood that I had to see them again. The two brothers are a pleasure to listen tell stories. Like any set of brothers, they’re still there to just knock each other in the nuts when they can. They bicker, interrupt each other, and you can tell they totally respect each other.

They were once again apologetic about the Land Of The Lost film and they’re ready to make up for it. There’s a Lidsville film coming from Dreamworks. We heard a great origin story for the Lidsville show. While jogging, Sid came up with the idea that each hat (he likes to wear hats) has a different personality. Their origins of their shows have little touches like that. Sigmund and the Sea Monster was a clump of seaweed he discovered at The Cove beach in La Jolla (he named the clump after Sigmund Freud). Sigmund and the Sea Monster will be debuting on Blu-ray this Fall. The Kroffts are actively working on an Elektra Woman movie along with a Horror Hotel film. I find the latter idea to be unlikely – it would work much better as a TV series.

H.R. Pufnstuf is still their best-known product. The show cost $54,000 an episode when it was made and unlike many creators of the day, they still own the rights to all their shows. They’re working on a H.R. Pufnstuf movie with Sony. Everyone gasped when they mentioned a dream casting of Johnny Depp as Witchiepoo. It’s panels like this that are so much more rewarding than seeing the cast of a current TV show that can’t tell you anything substantial about an upcoming season. This is a place to hear background stories about people and shows I saw 30 years ago – a treasure!

Missed panels – Torchwood: Miracle Day, The Walking Dead, The Adventures Of Tin-Tin, Raven and Star Trek: The Captains

SPOTLIGHT ON JEFF SMITH. The creator of Bone and RASL was here to celebrate 20 years of coming to Comic Con. The first issue of his opus, Bone was published in July of 1991. This is another reason to miss panels that just advertise for films about to come out to theaters. Jeff had about 45 minutes to talk. And he used it to go through the history of Bone. He could have promoted the release of the prose book – Bone: Quest For The Spark (Book One) or preview the potential upcoming Bone animated film. Instead he showed a series of slides and talked about the evolution of the book, his maturity and learning the business and how it related to the changing world of Comic Con.

He was more forthcoming about the ups and downs of the market and how it affected him than most creators would be. He went through periods when he didn’t think he would finish the book. His story itself and the trials to self-publish right to the end and the friends he made along the way would make a good movie in itself. I hope someone takes some time to chronicle his journey someday. Not much news comes out of a panel like this but you leave feeling really warm about his triumph to finish.

Missed panels – Underworld 4, Attack The Block, Fright Night, The Big Bang Theory, Bones, Green Lantern: The Animated Series, Falling Skies, Chilldrens Hospital

ART OF THE COMIC STRIP. I challenged my cohorts to see one panel this weekend that is “out of their comfort zone”. By accident, this was mine. I didn’t plan on sitting through it but it was open and I had time to kill. The panel consisted of Mell Lazarus (Miss Peach, Momma), Patrick McDonnell (Mutts) and Mark Tatulli (Lio, Heart of the City). Once again, an entertaining panel because they had nothing in particular to promote. Mutts will be coming out as a movie or TV show in the future but nothing concrete. The panel was just comic-strip veterans telling about breaking into the industry, how it has changed over the decades, and what it’s like in the average day of a comic-strip artist.

Listening to Lazarus is a link to the past. He worked for Al Capp (creator of Lil’ Abner) when he first broke into the industry. That’s just two generations removed from the beginning of comic strips. Capp was one of the first big stars and here was Lazarus who learned from him. I’m glad I stuck it out to hear stories that show how much they love their work. Comic-strip artists work by themselves so much of the time that they really thrive in an environment like this to meet their fans.

Missed panels – True Blood, Total Recall, Warren Ellis, Lost Girl

WORST CARTOONS EVER. It’s amazing that Jerry Beck can keep coming up with these terrible cartoons. Or is it worse that it is consistently one of my favorite hours of programming during the Con? Not much new character-wise but we continued the adventures of “Super President”, “Mighty Mr. Titan” and the worst of them all “Paddy The Pelican”. I only missed another appearance of the entertaining “Spunky and Tadpole”.

Saturday, July 23rd

MARVEL TELEVISION. The line again for Ballroom 20 was ridiculous from the early morning on. It was going to take all day in the room to get to Fringe. And that meant people who wanted to see the Fox Animated shows earlier in the day were going to be shut out. I ended up here because I’ve really enjoyed the last season of The Avengers on Disney XD. Marvel has some big plans for TV in the next year. They’re certainly going to try to take advantage of the momentum the summer movies have given them. They’ll be working with ABC Family to launch some live-action Marvel TV shows including Cloak & Dagger and Mockingbird. There’s plans for a Hulk show that will be more Bruce Banner-oriented (not unlike the show from the ’70s).

On the animation side, they will be continuing to expand their offerings on Disney XD with a new Ultimate Spider-Man. They’ve been working with Paul Dini on animation and Bendis on stories. The “sizzle” reel we saw functions as a trailer and to show some of the characters and animation style. It’s certainly faithful to the Ultimate line of books but I’m not sure it will click with people excited to see more of a “classic” take on the character. The full 25-issue run of Marvel Knights will be adapted as a TV series. And while they are keeping Dini busy on Spider-Man, he still has found time to help create a new show called Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. featuring all of the Hulks. This superhero team look to a Hulk show might translate much better than the “modern” Spidey.

We were treated to the first episode of the next season of The Avengers. It picks up in continuity right where the previous season left off and features the Fantastic Four and a little villain called Dr. Doom. I’m really excited for this development and hope to see more of FF and their villains in the future.

Missed panels – Chuck, Francis Ford Coppola, Sanctuary

CBLDF MASTER SESSION: CAMILLA d’ERRICO. If anything great happened to my fandom this weekend it was the discovery that I already liked the work of Camilla d’Errico. I happened upon her accidentally at another booth doing a drawing while I was waiting to get a book signed on Friday. I loved her drawing style and remembered she had done some books I had recently read – including a fun story in Fractured Fairy Tales from Image. Her art is fun and refreshing – it’s a mix of manga style crossed with that Tank Girl meets steampunk look. But it’s very feminine – not in a weak way but just softens the look.

I also was just eating a snack outside a room when she walked by and I noticed that she was leading a session. She conversed easily with the crowd about her art style and the way she draws while drawing characters suggested by the audience. She drew a Harley Quinn, a Captain America, and a Mystique that all would be auctioned off for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund later that night. I’m totally in awe of her art and can’t believe it took me this long to discover I like it. See more about this later . . .

Missed panels – Futurama, The Simpsons, Remembering Harvey Pekar, Christopher Moore

THE KNIGHTS OF BADASSDOM. Oddly easy to slip into Hall H this late on a Saturday afternoon. It wasn’t a full house for this new film – a horror comedy about the LARP (Live Action Role Playing) community. The cast is impressive – Ryan Kwanten (Jason Stackhouse from True Blood) and Peter Dinklage (Tyrion from Game Of Thrones), Steve Zahn (not in attendance) and Summer Glau. We were shown a few scenes – most of which I felt fell flat. It seemed like a “tryout” clip or two – not something from a finished film. The Q&A portion was quite a bust as Margarita Levieva accidentally gave away a major spoiler about the death of one of the major characters. It was a “gasp” moment for all the fanboys in the audience who know and detest the “spoiler”. Once again, not really a Hall H worthy event.

Missed panels – Family Guy, American Dad, Grimm, Fringe, Nikita, Joss Whedon

FABLES. In the past year since last year’s Con, I’ve become obsessed with the Vertigo comic, Fables and its spin-offs Jack Of Fables and Cinderella. Not completely caught up to current issues, I was a little hesitant to enter this panel. But I’m glad I did. It’s nice to see a group of creators that have so much fun with their books and intereact so well with their fans. The readers of the book aren’t normal superhero book readers – they tend to be more literature readers and the creators know they have to live up to more literary standards.

They were kind enough not to spoil too much from where I’m at in my reading – except for the conclusion of the Jack Of Fables series, but I kind of knew that info. There will be a new ongoing series featuring the women of Fables called Fairest. Adam Hughes will be doing covers and they look worthy of hanging on a wall instead on a comic cover. Phil Jiminez will do interior art for the first six-issue story arc. The popular and Eisner-nominated Cinderalla miniseries will be folded into this ongoing series. It will also include Rose Red, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White.

In one of the better “promos” of the Con – we were handed a cardstock thick one-page tale not available elsewhere. It’s a fun little story that hints at more Oz stories to come in the book. The rumors of TV shows or movies are still just rumors. But it was pointed out that each of the studios that has expressed interest has later announced a Fable-lite version – aka Red Riding Hood or Snow White. Someday, a studio will realize this could make a blockbuster miniseries (hello, Game Of Thrones).

Missed panels – Dorothy of Oz, Kevin Smith, Mythbusters (I tried but there was no way – these guys are rock stars at Comic Con), Person of Interest

CBLDF 25th ANNIVERSARY GALA BENEFIT AUCTION. I was a comic book store owner in the Nineties, I’m a writer, and I’ve been working for bookstores in general since 1987. So, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is a cause near and dear to my heart. They have their work cut out for them with a case currently being fought in Canada over the supposed depiction of a minor in a comic book. If you don’t know the case, please look it up and familiarize yourself with the things happening in our world still. This auction featured some tremendous artwork by very popular artists. Many of the pieces went for over $500 and there were some beautiful pencilled covers that went for over $1000. I felt proud of our fandom for supporting such a good cause and I was even able to pick up one of the pieces I had seen drawn by Camilla earlier in the day (the Captain America with the Errol Flynn moustache!). It was a great way to end the Con experience of 2011 – feeling like we were a family and doing something good for one of our brothers.

Regretably, I had to fly out on Sunday morning and was unable to attend the Doctor Who, Glee, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia and Young Justice panels. I hear that the Doctor Who turnout was the best in Hall H for the whole weekend. And that leads me to some final thoughts.

This year’s Con drew two main points of conversation. And unfortunately, none of them were about the content of the Con. First, the inability to get into the TV panels – namely Fringe, Dexter, The Walking Dead, True Blood and Game of Thrones. The TV content of the Con has been taking over the movie content since the days of Lost. Fans are getting less and less from the movie panels – typically the director and a few stars. The info given out at the movie panels is sketchy at best and what’s shown is little more than an extended trailer in most cases. With the exception of the real “tent pole” films – Twilight, Spider-Man, Batman and The Hunger Games – these panels belong in Ballroom 20. The fans have spoken for their love of genre television. Doctor Who is at a height of popularity that I never would have predicted in my lifetime. These shows have a detailed history and a tease for upcoming episodes that make a nice balance for a panel discussion. I think the move of television shows to Hall H would satisfy the masses much more than the current allocation of room space.

The other discussion centered over the steep rise in ticket prices for next year and the poor way that presales were handled. I understand setting up a system that doesn’t just let the same group of people attend every year by selling out the Con for next year at this year’s Con. There needs to be a way to satisfy both crowds – the people like me who have faithfully attended the Con for years and years in a row and the friends I have here in Texas who would love to attend in the near future with me. Making the ticketing process unbearable isn’t the answer. My suggestions are to either quit presales all together and make tickets available to everyone on the same day – like October 1st for example.

Or the better option in my opinion is to make the Con a two-weekend event. Go from a Friday to the following Sunday with a Thursday Preview night. Then you can sell Weekend Tickets for Weekend #1 or Weekend #2 or a cheaper Monday – Thursday ticket. It works for county and state fairs, why couldn’t it work here? Offer most of the same panels on both weekends and offer more specialized panels for professionals, librarians, and store owners during the week. San Diego benefits from two weekends of full hotels and the amount of fans that can attend doubles. For a company like Warner or Sony or Marvel – it isn’t much more of a cost other than hotel space. It’s my two cents and I don’t see why the powers would listen just yet. But there’s a minor revolution on the horizon for this Con – one way or another it won’t look the same next year as it did this.

But as tired as I am at the end of the ordeal, by next month I’ll be ready to go again. It’s a pleasure to find a place where you fit in – where when you think you’re a huge fan of something – you find that there are 100 more that are twice the fan you are. I have a great time and hope if you’ve bothered to read this far about a convention that you yourself get a chance to go soon. Meet you in Hall H. I’m the one snacking on Gummy Bears.

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