Written by Shawn Bourdo
For years now, I’ve come back from Comic-Con International in San Diego and reported on what I saw and heard. As each year has passed, I felt the pressure to find all the “hot” panels and report on the things that seemed to excite the greatest number of people in attendance. I’ve realized that going to the latest and greatest Hollywood panel is just one way to experience this gathering.
Everyone has their own “experience” of Comic-Con. Some people wait in line overnight or for hours upon hours each morning to get into just one panel for the day that features their favorite show of all time. Others spend their week dressed in costume, wandering the hall to meet others in costume and get their pictures taken. There are true comic book fans who search for one comic to finish a collection, gamers who want to see the next release of their favorite property, autograph hounds who will spend a day in line to get a single signature from a hero, and there are even people now who show up to San Diego and have a full weekend with all the outside activities and never set foot actually in the Convention Center.
And then there are people like me. I like all kinds of things that happen here – I’m a comic book fan, I like unique art and toys, I love classic TV from the ’70s and ’80s and new TV shows, and I’m a fan of movies of all genres. After reading last year’s summary, I decided to skip the really huge panels – you can’t scoop anybody on anything said in them because people are blogging them as they happen. I wanted to maximize my time there and also explore some of the fringe elements of the Con (which meant skipping things like Fringe).
Arrived in San Diego once again about noon. It’s such a comfortable city and leaving behind 100-degree temps and stepping into 70-degree temps feels like coming home. You take care of business early in the day – get the pass, get the snacks and booze for the week, check in the hotel, and grab a taco downtown (thank you, yummy Baja Tacos). Then it’s Preview Night.
In previous years I’ve complimented Preview Night as a great night to walk the Convention floor. I used to say that. This year’s Preview floor was more crowded than any other of three days I would hit the floor. I made a beeline for the places I knew would sell out of product I needed to bring home as presents (glad I got there early, Charles Schulz booth). I’m mostly out of the loop on comics from July to the next July and this is where I catch up with the latest trends and releases that I’ll need to read in the next year. The trend I love is the care and love being put into collected editions. The archival editions – from IDW’s Daredevil to the collections from Fantagraphics and publishers I love like Top Shelf and Dark Horse are getting better each year and worthy of shelve space in the personal library.
After leaving the floor only 33% covered, I wandered down to the second incarnation of Trickster. Last year they had a prime location across from the Convention Center and attracted lots of traffic to what can best be described as a mini-Indie-Con. Most of the artists who sell their stuff here are well represented inside the Con but this location outside the Con in a bar (this year located next to PetCo Park) is very creator friendly. I love the collection of art and books that expanded each day. Plus the addition this year of a separate room with live model drawing gave it a cool, artist-friendly vibe. I wish continued success to this off-shoot and hope that it encourages even more DIY projects around town. In fact, it already has a bit as every extra storefront seemed to include a promotion of some TV show or movie. But I like that comics are moving into these spaces too.
This year, the annual Forcey’s came early in the Convention. The annual awards that I host is voted on by a diverse group of friends. Nominations and voting are typically well thought out and since the group represents five states from East to West, I think it’s a fair judgment of what has gone on the past year. Among this year’s winners was The Avengers for Best Movie, Buffy Season 9 for Best Comic, Jack White – Blunderbuss for Best CD, Louie for Best TV Show and WTF Podcast for Best Of The Web. The awards took place as a game show this year and after many shots and arguments over the winners and losers, it was time to sleep a little before the main force of the Con broke the next day.
CREATING SPACE FOR DIVERSE CHARACTERS AND REPRESENTATION – This first panel set the tone for almost every panel I would sit through over the next three days. The first clue to finding an interesting panel is picking one with the longest title. If it just says “The Twilight Saga,” you are probably going to be disappointed. Truthfully, I found myself here because I wanted to see the next panel. This ended up being an interesting discussion about getting diverse characters into the mainstream. It was sponsored by racebending.com and I can’t speak for their website but there was a healthy discussion about characters on the fringe of mainstream comics and movies.
The common question asked is do you “fight” for diverse characters or since things are changing, do you wait for “eventually.” That’s not as easy a question as it sounds. Often fighting for representation becomes an excuse to brand someone as the “crazy minority” and turn companies against you. The best suggestion here was if you don’t see what you want in a product – stop buying it and tell them why. If the new, black Spider-Man isn’t enough of a move for you because you don’t want him in a fringe title like Ultimate Spider-Man, then stop buying Spider-Man titles and tell Marvel why you stopped. There were lots of successful women on the panel who have gone outside the mainstream and created their own product. This idea of taking your creativity in your own hands and controlling your own product is one that resonates more and more across the entertainment industry.
FILMATION AND LOU SCHEIMER – Lou has always been an entertaining man to see at Comic-Con because of his huge backlog of stories to tell about TV in the ’70s and ’80s. This panel celebrated his career first with presentation of the Inkpot Award from the SDCC for his importance to the medium. And there was the announcement of a book coming out about Lou and Filmation that will hopefully collect many of the great stories I’ve heard from him over the years. Lou’s battling Parkinson’s disease and was not able to contribute too much to the panel. It makes me happy that I’ve seen him before and sad that another of the greats is losing his abilities to tell stories of things that were so important to my childhood.
It was nice to see Sid Haig on the panel. He was the villain from Jason of Star Command – a role that connected him with Rob Zombie for his movies because of Rob’s huge fandom of the series. Speaking of diverse characters, the panel discussed Lou bringing African American characters to Saturday mornings in live action and animation (Fat Albert being just one example). He included Native American characters in his shows and showed that live-action shows could work on Saturday mornings. We finished the panel with a viewing of a never before seen pilot for a Marx Bros. cartoon – the pilot entitled “A Day at the Horse Opera.” The humor was more typical Filmation style and less Marx Bros style but it was great to see something that hasn’t been out before and that makes these panels worth seeking out.
CENSORSHIP AND THE FEMALE ARTIST – This panel was even more of a classroom like setting. The panelists included Anina Bennett (an indie comic artist), Camilla d’Errico (a Canadian artist who does fairy characters in a manga style both for books and as Fine Art for gallery showings) and the famous Olivia (she’s done pin-up erotic art for Playboy and gallery showings since the ’60s). The rise of the number of female fans over the last decade has even increased the apppeal of the female artist. These women draw strong and confident female characters who are confident sexually and that has had a huge appeal to the female audience.
The problem comes down to a confusion between erotica and pornography. Olivia draws provacative pin-ups that often include nudity but they are not necessarily sexual in their presentation. She’s had a number of Fine Art gallery shows and yet her work is often censored in book stores and shelved with the pornography or sexually explicit titles, while male artists who also include nudity in their art are filed in the Art sections. Camilla portrays younger characters in manga-influenced art. She related a story of a woman accusing her of child porn for a drawing of a women in a bathtub. The character was over 18, her breasts had no nipples and there was nothing sexual about the work. The general feeling from these artists is that they have spent much of their time self-censoring to avoid conflicts. But often in cases where they should be just as free as male artists to express themselves. The rights of the creators are often challenged by people who are reacting with some kind of moral outrage to silence the artist because they don’t happen to like the art itself.
I was just getting charged up about art and the rights of these creative individuals to create their best works. And it was just 2pm on the first day.
In future reports, Ray Bradbury is remembered, Blade Runner‘s 30th Anniversary is celebrated and Will Eisner’s career and the birth of the graphic novel is discussed.