I am back from San Diego!
And here are my thoughts.
* I had a wonderful time at the San Diego Comic-Con this year and I'm happy to say so up front.
* It had been four years since I last attended, which, Jesus, that was as long as I spent in high school or college, huh? In that time I feel as though the show got bigger (duh), but also better organized, since they've now had several years of total pandemonium under their belts. The aisles are wider, the attendance was capped, the air conditioning was cooler yet not glacially so, there's a FedEx in the building now, I was able to purchase at least one good veggie sandwich through an in-house vendor, and I didn't have any significant trouble getting where I needed to go or attending the things I needed to attend. (Granted the only truly massive panel I tried to get in was Watchmen, but I got by with a little help from my friends on that one, and I knew I was gambling by not camping out anyway.) It seems to me that the Comic-Con people are, as they say, the best they are at what they do.
* I was a little overwhelmed at first in terms of my responsibilities--this was the first time I was properly working the show, for Jonah Weiland and the good folks at Comic Book Resources, and finding the balance between TCB and R&R took Wednesday evening through around Thursday lunchtime. Once I found that balance, though, it was a real blast.
* That being said, between going to panels, hunting down creators, conducting interviews, transcribing and writing pieces for CBR, saying hi to friends, shopping, getting Bowie sketches, wandering around, and occasionally bathing, something had to give, and that something turned out to be eating. I ate one and a half to two meals each day, and didn't sit down in a chair in front of a table to do so until Saturday afternoon.
* I do want to give major props to Jonah and the rest of the CBR crew for being terrific workmates and bunkmates. Jonah in particular, besides simply paying for me to be there, gave me pretty free reign to roam around the floor and cover whatever I found worth covering, leading to a pretty eclectic mix of Collinsy articles. Any website that allows me to interview both Bryan Hitch and Matt Furie is okay by me.You can find a running list of my con reports here, and there'll be more coming all week I'd wager, but for now, here's what's up there:
* Matt Furie/Boy's Club 2
* Geoff Johns
* Watchmen and the other buzz books of the show
* Becky Cloonan, Fabio Moon, and Gabriel Bá
* Brian Azzarello
* Ethan Van Sciver
* Bryan Hitch
* Comic-Con's David Glanzer, Thursday evening
* Comic-Con's David Glanzer, Saturday evening
* I also spoke with The Stand's Roberto Aguire-Sacasa for Marvel.com.
* I know I wrote a report on this, but it bears repeating: Watchmen dominated this show. The Owlship and swag bags at the Warner Bros. booth, the big panel and its excellent footage, the complete lack of any remaining copies of the book in the whole building by Friday afternoon, the giveaway t-shirts and limited-edition t-shirts, multiple Dave Gibbons panels, residual Dark Knight trailer vibes...that book was everywhere. Which was nice, actually, because of all the comics for people to get excited about, that would be in my top ten, and is without question the superhero book I'd hand to someone who'd never read one and wanted to try it.
* A while ago I noted that while goodthinkful critics everywhere hate Zack Snyder because 300 is supposed to be a parable of neocon adventurism and the Dawn of the Dead remake lacked the Romero original's ever so subtle satire of consumerism, they'd probably have to work at it to find a reason to dislike Watchmen on political grounds given its roots in Thatcher-era British Leftism and Snyder's stated intent, backed up by his work on 300, to stay as true to the comic as possible--not that they wouldn't try, of course. During the Watchmen panel I realized what the line of attack will be--that the gory footage of Dr. Manhattan and the Comedian running amok in Vietnam is glorifying American war atrocities. I bet you I'm right.
* I really, really didn't like when Jane Wiedlin and a platoon of stormtroopers presented at the Eisners. First of all, they caused a delay to the show and turned out not to be worth waiting for. Second, when they finally showed up, they entered aaaaaaaallllll the way in the back of the hall and we spent pretty much the entire Imperial March waiting for them to make it to the stage. Third--and I say this as someone who has the Rebel Alliance insignia tattooed on my arm and entered my wedding reception with my wife to that selfsame Imperial March--we were supposed to be celebrating the absolute best that comics has to offer. For that matter, Brad Meltzer and that horrible "Speedy and Halle Berry vs. rubble" issue of Justice League of America notwithstanding, a lot of the winners in their categories--Chris Ware, Dan Clowes, Taiyo Matsumoto, Dave Stewart, Ed Brubaker, Fletcher Hanks, etc.--really were the best that comics has to offer. And this is how we honor them? It was like the Rob Lowe/Snow White number from the Oscars. Tom Kenny was funny and Barry Windsor-Smith wrecking shop via a written statement read by Gary Groth was too, though.
* I don't want the show to move to Las Vegas. As you know I am an all-purpose nerd and have no problem with the Hollywood panels and presentations. I do kind of have a problem with the horrible, moneyed people who come with those panels and presentations. Watching people who view all of this as a paycheck descend into my beloved realm of nerds makes me feel like William S. Burroughs in that documentary about him where he comes across as a gruff old grandpa until there's this one scene where he starts getting really angry and saying that gays should literally arm themselves, take over an island, force the straights out, and establish their own kingdom which they should defend with lethal force, like gay terrorists. I can only imagine that the sort of people who make me want to turn into a nerd terrorist will thrive in Las Vegas.
* I don't know if I've ever sweated so much in my life. I'm including running the mile in high school gym class, the pit at Ozzfest '98, and marathon, borderline-uncomfortably-long bouts of sexual intercourse during college. It's lugging around about 90 pounds of electronic equipment and con guides and Bowie photo ref that does it. I apologize to anyone who had to look at or stand near me.
* Friend-wise, I wonder if that by virtue of being around comics for seven years I just know too many people to be able to see everyone I want to see. (It's just that I've been around for a while, not that I'm so damn irresistable.) I had decent-length conversations with a lot of people and actually hung out with a handful--including both Tom Spurgeon and Chris Butcher, for really the first time ever in both cases, which was great--but there were at least as many people I saw for a split second or not at all, including some I fully intended to seek out and completely whiffed on doing so (Tom Neely, Rick Marshall, Batton Lash, the people at First Second--my bad!!!). Eating aside, I think maybe it was here that I made the most sacrifices in order to get my work done. (I would have chased more Bowie sketches too, actually.)
* Still, I was surprised how easy it was to bump into people I knew in a gathering at least twice as populous at any given moment as my hometown. I even met up with four different old classmates of mine I hadn't seen in at least five or six or seven years.
* The con is in an awkward position with press passes. On the one hand they're admirably egalitarian: Anyone with a printout of a website or a bylined article can get in, and SDCC's spokesman told me that they consider websites and comics publications their mainstream press because we cover them 12 months a year instead of four days a year. But he also told me they issued 3,000 press passes this year, out of a total attendance of 125,000. This results in the passes being a devalued currency--they're not even color-coded and they don't get you in anyplace, except I think you can stand in the convention center lobby before the opening rather than standing around on the sidewalk. As a result, press are more likely than almost anyone to complain (to me and to anyone who'll listen) about how hard it is to get into the events they're there to cover. Part of this is the narcissism of the fourth estate but part of it is also a legitimate gripe. I have no idea how they solve this, though, short of doing a press day like E3 which would add a lot of expense for exhibitors and retailers without much direct benefit.
* Favorite celebrity sighting: I sat next to Garbage's Shirley Manson in the Marriott lobby, which made 19-year-old Sean T. Collins the happiest boy on earth. She was gorgeous, pale, big-eyed, red-headed, stylish, and Scottish.
* Second favorite:
Guy on escalator: Nice bag!
Me, walking past with my giant Watchmen swag bag: Pardon?
Guy on escalator: Nice bag!
Me: Oh, thanks. [brief pause as I realize that guy on escalator is Patrick "Nite Owl" Wilson] Ohhh my gosh! [I then cover my mouth with my hand, because apparently I am a startled girl from the 1950s]
* Third favorite: Lou Ferrigno being denied access to the exhibit hall prior to opening because he didn't have an exhibitor badge.
Here are some projects I heard about at the show that I'm looking forward to.
* Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver's The Flash: Rebirth. Beyond the basic appreciation for that beautiful costume and wonderful power set that most superhero buffs have, I have no attachment to this character(s) or franchise whatsoever. But the same thing was true of Green Lantern before Johns and Van Sciver did Green Lantern: Rebirth and The Sinestro Corps War. I'm looking forward to liking this character, and my hope is that they can do something as expansive and fun for his mythos as this whole rainbow of Lantern Corps has been for GL.
* Darwyn Cooke's graphic-novel adaptations of Richard Stark/Donald Westlake's Parker novels. I feel like Cooke has spent his whole career waiting to get to do a project exactly the way he wants to do it, and it sounds like this is his chance. Throw in an amoral protagonist that will mitigate against Cooke's more nostalgic side and this series of OGNs should be pretty tight.
* Darren Aronofsky's RoboCop remake. Just think how much worse this project could have gone!
* Zack Snyder's adaptation of Watchmen. I think Snyder has made two fantastic genre films so far, Watchmen is one of my favorite comics of all time, the cast all seem to be compensating for their earlier ignorance of the book by working overtime to pick it apart in terms of how it sees their characters, and the footage that was screened looked beautiful.
* Neil Gaiman on Batman. Every high-profile writer who works on this character earns a trial read of an issue or two from me since he's the one character I feel an affinity for independent of who's working on him. I seem to remember a Comics Journal interview in which Gaiman echoed Alan Moore's retrospective dismissal of The Killing Joke as utterly irrelevant to the human experience, and since I don't agree with either of them on that score I'm curious to see where this goes.
* Damon Lindelof's Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk. Those two issues or three issues or whatever it was were fun, right? Are they gonna get Leinil Francis Yu off of whatever he's doing to finish it? Will it be awkward to have this book come out while serial franchise-ruiner Jeph Loeb is doing whatever he's doing to Ultimate Universe continuity in Ultimatum? Stay tuned!
* Mario Hernandez's original graphic novel. The more full-time cartooning Hernandezes the better, I say.
* Mike Mignola, Fábio Moon, and Gabriel Bá's B.P.R.D.: 1947. This is the first time since Guy Davis (and Richard Corben, now that I think of it) that artists were selected to work in the Hellboy-verse because they don't look like Mignola, and I think that on the surface they're the most aesthetically alien to the established sensibility of the franchise of all the artists who've been tapped to take on the various miniseries thus far, so it should be an interesting series to see.
* Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe. Perfect title for a sequel to the movie, which is named Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, by the way.
* A prequel to I Am Legend involving both Francis Lawrence and Will Smith. A better ending and better creature effects are surely in the works given how universal the cries were for same, right? Because such a movie would be really good.
*Seaguy 2 and Seaguy 3. Volume One was the best of Morrison's creator-owned works of that period, I think. (Well, We3 was also pretty tremendous and not incidental to my decision to become a vegetarian to boot.)
Here is what I got at the show.
* Baobab #3, by Igort (Fantagraphics)
* Boy's Club 2, by Matt Furie (Fantagraphics)
* Love and Rockets: New Stories #1, by Gilbert, Jaime, and Mario Hernandez (Fantagraphics)
* Mesmo Delivery, by Rafael Grampa (AdHouse)
* Pixu I, by Gabriel Bá, Becky Cloonan, Vasilis Lolos, and Fábio Moon (self-published)
* Scott Pilgrim Full-Colour Odds & Ends 2008, by Bryan Lee O'Malley (Oni)
* Tales Designed to Thrizzle #4, by Michael Kupperman (Fantagraphics)
* Parker (freebie!)
* Scott Pilgrim
* Sinestro Corps
* Watchmen (freebie)
And that giant Watchmen bag. I had hoped to pick up Against Pain by Ron Rege Jr. from Drawn & Quarterly and Tom Neely's strip-collection mini, but again, whiff! Anyway, look for reviews of all those comics in the coming weeks.
* Thank you very much to Alvin Buenaventura at Buenaventura Press, Mike Baehr at Fantagraphics, Alex Segura, Pamela Mullin, and David Hyde at DC, and everyone I interviewed for your invaluable assistance. Thank you very very much to Dave Paggi at Wizard, Tom "The Comics Reporter" Spurgeon, Patrick Carone at Maxim, Chris Butcher at the Beguiling, Jason "Shaggy" Ervin, and especially Jonah Weiland, Seth Jones, and Lincoln Morrison at CBR for your hospitality and companionship. You guys made the con for me.