Comic Fodder

Non-Attending ComicCon

ComicCon International 2008 has just wrapped in San Diego, and the last of the comic geeks should have checked out of their hotel rooms and have long-since headed out of town, leaving the citizens of San Diego to once again ponder what they won't do for tourist dollars. And the rest of us to wonder exactly how many people out there actually own a full-body Storm Trooper costume.

Once again, I wasn't there.

Never Been to CCI

I've only been to three cons in my life. Two cons which were hosted in an Austin, TX Holiday Inn back in the late 1980's, and one visit to the Phoenix ComicCon in 2005 or so.

The first two Cons would have made for an excellent student film. Bad lighting. No discernible goal, and full of questionable characters with bizarre tics. Austin was a smaller town in the 1980's, and so it didn't seem at all unreasonable that they'd folded in a Star Trek convention with the comics. While I loved classic Trek, it was also my first exposure to people dressing up in the costume of their favorite characters (and I'm sure the poor guy dressed as Spock could have done without my 12-year-old, slack-jawed staring).

There was also a bit of local color at the Cons named "Comic Book John", who sold $1 grab bags of comics. For a neophyte such as myself, who didn't really care what comics he was getting, as long as he was getting comics, I was pleased as punch to be able to get my hands on whatever was in the bag. Comic Book John would assure me that I had gotten quite lucky with my grab bag, and those were special comics. Which, of course, made me wonder how he could afford to sell these wonderful comics for so little money.

When I moved back to Austin for college, I was surprised to see an article declaring that friendly, ol' Comic Book John had been convicted for selling heroine. Which, you know, sort of cleared up the mystery of Comic Book John's finances.

Mostly, though, the Con had the feel of a garage sale. You sort of picked over the goods laid out on folding tables under the critical gaze of the reseller and wondered if any of this guy's stuff was going to move.

When I was living in Phoenix in 2005, I headed out to the Phoenix Cactus ComicCon, located at the time in the depressing bedroom community of Glendale, Arizona. My wife and I were unable to locate the building the Con was hosted in until we saw a number Jedi practicing their craft out front of the municipal center. Thank you, Star Wars nuts for being the ubiquitous CosPlayMeisters at all of these events.

Despite the relatively small scale of the Con, the Star Wars folk were not the only attendees to dress up, challenging the Arizona heat with costumes which were both impressive and ill-advised (Has there ever been a good Storm costume?) . This con featured Marv Wolfman, Steve "The Dude" Rude, and a lot of local comic dealers, and less known comic talent. But by the time we got there, Steve Rude's sketch schedule was filled (no "Moth" for me), and Marv Wolfman had a line a mile long. A line which I knew my wife would not tolerate.

And, the whole thing sort of had the vibe of a flea market or garage sale. I did pick up a few back issues and a Tomar Re action figure, but, honestly, I didn't get what I was supposed to be doing after the first hour. This was at least a two day Con, but it sort of felt like you could do the whole thing, sans staning in line to gush at Marv Wolfman, in about an hour and a half.

What am I missing?

All of this has, of course, kept me from really wanting to shell out the clams required for king it to the Big Show.

I'm not entirely certain how much I feel like I'm missing out on by not attending the big cons such as CCI. The reporting from the Cons is usually fairly good, and checking a site or two will get you up to speed on what happened at the panels, which is usually a lot of marketing hype. But that's the point of the Con, no? To move product for retailers, publishers, etc...?

The G4 network was airing hours of coverage each day, landing interviews with the talent there to pimp their wares, from movie directors to comic artists. It's impressive coverage, and it makes one wonder: what is the actual experience for the attendee who doesn't have G4, but is strolling through the floor of teh convention looking at booth after booth of comics and toys? Do they depend on viral word-of-mouth spreading of news from panels they miss?

I suppose there's the community aspect of the whole thing, where you can feel like part of a larger whole of the comics reading public. And, you get to see the panels live and in person, so you don't need to wait a whole half-hour for the panel report. And, you get the bonus of meeting favorite comic artists and writers, and maybe buying a sketch.

And maybe its because I've never been there, and maybe I'm blessed with a very good comic shop with Austin Books here in Austin, but I already have what I feel to be excellent access to a lot of what's out there. Granted, those writers and artists aren't sitting at a table, ready to chat with me...

Is Reading a Team Sport?

But I've always felt comics weren't necessarily a community event. One buys their weekly stack of books from the retailer, returns home, reads titles, and is done. I don't think its a mistake that the proliferation of the online comic fan community has meant that CCI has blown up to 125,000 strong. Reading comics has become just a portion of the experience. Readers now wish to interact with their fellows in cyberspace (ex: Comic Fodder), and discuss not just the minutia of each character and title, but of movements within the industry and other industries which milk the comics medium for their concepts, talent, etc...

What better expression of that spirit than the CCI, which spent the week buzzing about the upcoming "Watchmen" film, and saw retailers selling out of the collection of Watchmen more than 20 years after the comic first saw publication? (I am still amazed that Watchmen had not already saturated its potential market).

Your Team of Panelists

While fun information routinely comes out of panels, reading reports often suggests a high noise to signal ratio. Especially in recent years as DC and Marvel have seemingly stopped prepping as much information regarding upcoming content, slideshows, etc... and turned virtually every panel into a Q&A session. In addition, it seems that as creators have learned that revealing too many details of projects causes more problems than creates hype, there isn't too much that can actually be said that hasn't already appeared in Newsarama hype stories or which can be implied from solicitation materials.

What is fun is hearing about broad strokes, such as the upcoming "New Krypton" concept for Superman titles. Readers following Superman titles fully understand the implications of those words, and paired with images shown at ComicCon, and readers know that there's both a world-bending story on the horizon, as well as a plan for their favorite titles.

What is less fun to read about is the Q& A panels, which all too often seem to devolve into the same set of questions at every panel, at every Con:
1) How could you treat (my favorite obscure character) this way?
2) When is (character killed just last month) coming back?
3) Any chance we'll see any more (C-list character who doesn't sell)?
4) Can you spill the end of the storyline for everyone?
5) I am dissatisfied that (title X) is not exactly the same way it was when I began reading in 1985. What? That wasn't a question?

What surprises me is that I don't see more applied questioing, such as "What steps are being taken at DC to ensure that readers will not suffer through more confusion like the "Death of the New Gods", "Countdown", "Final Crisis" trifecta?"

Or: "What is your marketing plan beyond 'Put out the best darn books we know how!'?"

Or: "What is the real reason that Marvel and DC have not put together a serious digital effort, instead of the half-hearted and ill-advised stabs they've taken with Marvel DCU and DC's new e-Comics effort, which approximately nobody thinks is a good idea?"

Or: "Mr. Didio, isn't it a little bit foolish to allow the entirety of your company to rest upon the shoulders of Mr. Johns, instead of seeking out similarly prolific and skilled talent to assist him in increasing quality across the line?"

Or: "Exactly how much of your ass does the Palmiotti-Gray team kiss that you keep giving them work when their books are uniformly fomulaic and insanely poorly scripted?"

I'm not suggesting that questions at panels should be confrontational, per se. But at least ask a question or two which will give other attendees insight into the workings of DC and/ or Marvel. Getting up there and asking for dead characters to return is simply enabling bad behavior. Asking for the same old stories to be rehashed is ensurin that is exactly what you will get.

The panelists get off too easily almost every time, and they've made a game of acting coy. Asking panelists for information on future storylines is simply ridiculous. Why would they give away what they're asking you to pay to read?

What I Like About You

There was some interesting information that came out, despite DC and Marvel's decision to play it a bit closer to the vest this year.

These are things I found interesting:

-The New Krypton storyline and closer association of the 3 Superman titles
-Neil Gaiman on Batman titles for two issues
-Legion of Super-Heroes on Smallville just makes me laugh
-Milestone resurrected and folded into the DCU (Milestone came out when I was in a phase where I didn't really read many superhero titles, so this is mostly new to me)
-DC's Massive Multiplayer Online game
-Johns and Van Sciver on Flash
-Batman: Brave and the Bold cartoon looks like good, kid-level fun
-Darwyn Cooke is working on something. Anything.

Things that Disappointed Me:

-The "buzz" of Comic Con was centered around a comic that's 22 years old
-The Wildstorm Universe is not being allowed to merely rest for a while
-Someone is making a "Warriors" comic. Because that's relevant.
-Radical Comics has proven that all you need to get a studio contract is a single issue of a mid-level comic with lots of violence, a la "300"

Viva Las Vegas

You know what might actually get me to go to CCI?

Move the thing to Las Vegas.

At this point, there's absolutey no reason that the convention should be held in San Diego, other than the fact that it's always been in San Diego. Everything I hear about ComicCon leads me to believe that the space is insufficient, parking is a drag, and its just generally outgrown its space needs.

Vegas is set up for conventions much larger than 125,000 people, and has enough hotel rooms to accomodate every potential conventioneer without a mad dash for rooms and reservations. There are ample, reasonably priced restaurants and bars, and flying into Vegas is considerably cheaper than San Diego. Honestly, EVERYTHING is cheaper in Vegas thanks to healthy competition.

And, you never really have to drive anywhere in Vegas.

That said, you'd probably have to move the event to the fall or winter so the guys walking from the hotels in their foam rubber Galactus costumes wouldn't pass out in the desert summer heat.

So what sounded good/ bad to you?

What was interesting about this year's ComicCon International? Did you go? Was it pretty much a big garage sale?

Fill me in.

Questions? Comments? Hate mail?

Come on, I can take it.


Ryan is an Op/Ed columnist for Comic Fodder. He keeps his comics and himself in Austin, Texas where he manages the long running blog League of Melbotis.

He likes Superman.

You can reach Ryan (aka: The League) at

I hate to be that guy, but Of course that guy was selling "heroine", he probably sold you a number of the old Ms. Marvels.

-- Posted by: peegee at July 30, 2008 3:27 AM

Egads! What an unfortunate/ fortunate type-o. Well, now I refuse to change it.

The guy did sell me a copy of Dazzler #1, after all.

-- Posted by: ryan at July 30, 2008 11:50 AM