Another Comic-Con has come and gone, and while my wallet took a major hit, I came back with a lot of great comics that I’ll be talking about over the coming months. I’ve already got plans for one podcast based on what I’ve picked up, so expect my thoughts on “The Killer” by Matz and Luc Jacamon now that vol. 4 is out. Of course, it wasn’t all just wandering the dealer’s hall and rifling through the bargain bins. I went to a lot of panels with friends too and found entertainment, surprises, and even embarrassment on one occasion. Though, I guess that all depends on how you look at it. Now on with the list!
Spotlight on Chris Samnee: Though Samnee is a great artist, what really sold me on attending this panel was that it would be moderated by his “Daredevil” writer/co-collaborator Mark Waid. I’ve never seen the man in person, but after reading his comics and online missives for years I figured that he’d keep things entertaining. The short version is: I was right and the two engaged in a lengthy back-and-forth about their collaborative process while Samnee gave us an overview of his career along the way. In addition to “Daredevil,” they also collaborated on a “Rocketeer” mini-series, “Cargo of Doom” (which I regret not picking up at the con now), and when the Q&A started, I asked them about the possibility of future collaborations. Though they were open to the idea, Samnee’s second kid came into the world not even a month ago so all of his energy at this point is focused on getting “Daredevil” out on time.
The Sergio & Mark Show and Quick Draw!: Show up to any panel with Sergio Aragones and Mark Evarnier and you’re guaranteed some of the most reliable entertainment at the convention. Both creators have been working together for years and have an incredible rapport together that mixes well with their quick wits. The “Show” is their place to talk about what’s going on in their lives and to hype new projects -- “Groo vs. Conan” is almost done, and it’ll be followed by a “Groo” maxiseries called “Friends & Foes” -- “Quick Draw!” is certainly the more visually exciting of the two. That’s because, as the name implies, it involves Sergio, artist Scott Shaw, and another new artist each year -- this time Neal Adams was the guest -- drawing whatever Mark tells them to or trying to get a guest to guess the right word from their drawings. This year, Peter David, film critic Leonard Maltin, and talk show host/comic book writer Jonathan Ross were the lucky victims and much entertainment was had in seeing them try to puzzle out the various clues.
w00tstock 5.0: Not part of Comic-Con, but held at the same time because there’s a lot of crossover in the acts involved. This is a geek-oriented showcase of music, stand-up, live readings, and speeches that a couple of my friends went to last year and absolutely loved. I decided to give it a shot this year and while it conflicted with two of my convention standbys -- the “Lost in Translation” manga panel and “Ric Meyers’ Superhero Kung-Fu Extravaganza” -- I was not disappointed. This was an event that started off with musicians Paul & Storm singing about how they hoped George R.R. Martin would hurry the hell up and finish “Game of Thrones” before they die, only to have Martin himself come onstage and smash their guitar. Then he’s followed by Neil Gaiman who chastises the singers for their antics. It was a fantastic beginning and what followed really lived up to that opening with a set from Paul & Storm, a talk from a former lawyer who now makes a living as a Lego artist, author Patrick Rothfuss reading his kids book, stand-up bits from Wil Wheaton and Adam Savage, a mini-set from Garfunkle and Oates, and more. It was an incredible experience and I’ll certainly be back again next year.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag: Though the panel showed off some nice footage from the game and the panelists had some interesting things to say about the game and franchise, that’s not the reason I’m mentioning this. What made this panel worthwhile, and the only reason I attended in the first place was that my buddy Rob, who I did the “Irredeemable/Incorruptible” podcast with last year, knew the game’s lead writer Darby McDevitt from his high school days back in Spokane, Washington. So he went up to ask a question, and after a little bit of jogging, Darby remembered him too and nearly swore in front of a packed panel. It was a great moment and we got to meet with him after the panel so they could catch up. Rob introduced everyone to him, and when my turn came I couldn’t resist being a smartass by saying, “Hi. I’m the only one here who plays your games.”
Manga Legends You Don’t Know But Should Know: Or, “Beyond the Valley of Tezuka” as it said on their presentation. This panel was all about getting the word out regarding other legendary Japanese creators beyond the God of Manga himself. Smartly, the focused on those creators whose work is readily available in English either in print or digitally. Creators such as Moto Hagio (“A Drunken Dream and Other Stories”), Shigeru Mizuki (“Kitaro,” “Onwards to Our Noble Deaths”), Shotaro Ishinomori (“Cyborg 009,” “Kamen Rider”), Fujio F. Fujiko (“Doraemon”), Takehiko Inoue (“Slam Dunk,” “Real,” “Vagabond”) were all mentioned along with a few more. I can recommend any of the creators they talked about... save for one. That’s because that particular creator was selected for focusing on one particular thing, and doing it extremely well. However, his appeal was described almost solely in terms of that as opposed to whether or not his storytelling was any good.
Image Comics and the Genre Renaissance & What’s Next at Image Comics: There was a lot of Image cheerleading at these panels, but if you’ve been reading what I’ve been writing here for the past two years, you can probably guess that I was okay with that. Both panels also had Ed Brubaker hamming it up and that was a lot of fun. In the “What’s Next” panel he was joined by Joe Casey and things only got better. The “Genre” panel featured Brubaker and several other writers discussing the success of their comics and what was behind the public’s embracing of these new genres being offered to them. It was moderated well, the panelists had some great points, and were very funny about making them -- there really wasn’t anything to dislike about it. “What’s Next” had Image head honcho Eric Stephenson moderating the panel as the panelists talked about the new comics they were launching/had already launched and about the experience of working with Image. It was predictably great, as you might have expected.
When the time came for Q&A, one audience member asked panelist J. Michael Straczynski about whether or not he’d consider a return to “Rising Stars” or “Midnight Nation.” Straczynski said that he felt he was lucky enough to have gotten those right the first time and that any further tampering with those stories would likely ruin them. It’s a fine attitude to have. Of course, it was also coming from someone involved in the “Before Watchmen” mess so there’s a bit of the pot calling the kettle black there...
Best & Worst Manga of 2013: Easily one of the highlights of the convention for me, so much so that I turned down the chance to attend the Video Games Live concert after my friends wound up with invitations to it. Fortunately I was not disappointed as not only are panelists Deb Aoki, Brigid Alverson, David Brothers, Christopher Butcher, and Shaenon Garrity excellent public speakers and thoroughly knowledgeable about manga, this turned out to be one of the most entertaining of these panels in years. That’s mainly because for the first time I can remember, some of the panelists picks for Best Manga also wound up others’ picks for Worst Manga. Specifically, “Attack on Titan” (which deserved its spot on the “Worst” list) and “Heart of Thomas” (which I have yet to read... I’ll get around to it eventually). My main regret for this panel was that I attended it by myself, so I didn’t have an audience for my commentary on their picks for each category. Chris may think that “Cross Game” is “the perfect manga... ‘full stop,’” but I still maintain that the “romance” between the main characters is as terrible as the baseball action is exciting.
Then, after the panel was over, I decided to go embarrass myself.
You see, the panelists also had an “Underrated But Great” section which struck me as something that PERFECTLY describes a lot of Dark Horse manga being published right now. Naturally there were no Dark Horse titles in their selection. So I, full of certainty about how the absence of titles like “Drifters,” “Blood Blockade Battlefront,” and “The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service” certainly qualified for this title went straight up to the panelists as soon as things were over and asked them about it.
If you guessed that they all looked at the crazy fanboy and quietly backed away... you’re 3/5th’s right. Deb, Brigid and David made a quiet exit while Chris offered a few words about how he didn’t really agree with my picks. Shaenon, however, did mention how she likes “Kurosagi” as well and praised Carl Horn’s localization. Seeing as how she’s also part of the same line of work, I figured it’d be probably be best to agree with her rather than say that “HE’S THE BEST THERE IS IN THIS BUSINESS!” I also complimented her on the panel, but didn’t have time to tell her that I had also backed her latest “Skin Horse” Kickstarter.
So that was the Comic-Con that was. It wasn’t as crazy as years past and a good time was had by myself and everyone else in the group. Now that it’s over, all that’s left is the angst. Angst that Fanime 2014 is still ten months away! Forget registering to get tickets for next Comic-Con, that ten-month wait for my favorite convention is what’s going to make things really drag from here on out.