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She Has No Head! – SDCC 2013 Reflections & Feels

Don’t be confused by the title, like every year, I didn’t attend SDCC. For all the normal reasons, good and bad — mirecoverit’s on the other side of the country, I’m especially broke at this moment in time, I’m super busy with some writing deadlines, I hate crowds and heat, yadda yadda yadda.

However, thinking about SDCC this year, I realized that I’m (pretty sure) it’s now been 20 years since I went as a teenager, portfolio in hand (dreams of being a comic book artist – HA!)

Anyway, when you realize it’s been 20 years since just about anything it’s hard to ignore the seriously reflective thoughts that pop unbidden into your head (above and beyond the usual, which is of course…how is it possible I am that old???).

I think the thing I am most struck by, is that as I surfed all the comics and geek-leaning websites reading about all the SDCC news, there was precious little that excited me on the comics front this year. Last year I easily came up with a list of five cool things I was either super intrigued by or super excited about (things that were comics only specific – no movie, TV, games, merch or cosplay). This year, on the comics front? Not so much.

We’ve all been talking for years about how much SDCC has been moving away from even being a COMIC con at all. Thanks to its proximity to Los Angeles among other things it’s become a huge launch pad for film and television stuff. Much of it comics related, some not remotely related. And as a result, there’s less and less room for actual comics announcements. It’s progressively tougher for comics companies to roll out significant comics related announcements at SDCC every year, because you then have to compete in the news cycle with things like…The Hunger Games 2 Trailer (which looks AWESOME).

So why bother?

Well, I think the answer, given the lack of interesting (comics only) related news over the weekend, suggests they’re NOT bothering, and I don’t blame them. But it does kind of bum me out. When I went to SDCC 20 years ago it was a whole different animal, but it was definitely a COMICS animal first and foremost.

I guess the thing that bothers me is that I’m generally a proponent of bringing as many fans to the geek table as possible. I’m a huge advocate for diversity in comics, both because it’s more interesting and because I hope that diversity broadens our audience. Comics are such a fraction of other media that it’s made it tough to survive in this business (on either side of the equation, but especially the independent side) so more fans equals more money equals more people able to do comics for a living equals more great product for us to read. Seems simple enough.

But if the answer to bringing people into comics via other media is that they’re not going to actually become that interested in the comics medium but instead just shove comics out of the way to get to the latest movie premiere…well…then…that just sucks. I’m not saying that’s how it is, just how I sometimes feel. Then again, I did just come back from watching Only God Forgives, which though beautifully shot I found relentlessly depressing (despite the sublime presence of Ryan Gosling) so maybe I’m just in that kind of dark mood. But I’m definitely having nostalgic flashbacks to a simpler time when a SDCC could just be a big comic con. I wish there was a way to compromise, maybe keep one day for “comics only” type stuff, smaller crowds and a focus on what it was all about to begin with, and people uninterested in that stuff wouldn’t have to buy passes that included that day…but that’s a pipe dream…expanding the con would likely just make it an even bigger event.

On the other hand I have to admit that the stuff that DID excite me, was the movie stuff (and a few TV tidbits), so maybe it’s okay that things are evolving? I don’t really know. The aforementioned Hunger Games 2 Trailer blew me away – and this after not loving the first film. There were multiple moments of what I like to call “superhero chills” in that trailer – more moments in just the trailer than in all of Man of Steel combined, so that’s really exciting.

The Veronica Mars sneak preview was very cool. The actual trailer looked great, and the behind the scenes Kickstarter stuff and interview snippets were fantastic. It really kept the feeling of the Kickstarter itself – i.e. a great project brought forth through fan excitement and grassroots money raising. It really captured the awesome “viral-ness” that permeated the campaign – like getting to see the project his its goal from creator Rob Thomas’s computer.

A preview hasn’t showed up online yet, but just reading this write up from io9 on the X-Men Days of Future Past teaser has me pumped. I’m a big fan of Singer’s X-Men movies and I couldn’t hate Brett Ratner’s X-Men The Last Stand more if I tried (and trust me, I have tried). While there was a lot to like in X-Men First Class (Michael Fassbinder & James McEvoy, mostly) there was a ton I had a problem with (the portrayals of the female characters, the portrayals – and death – of the non-white characters, the worst costuming of a character of all time and not because Frost’s costume was revealing, but because it was ill-fitting and cheap looking as all get out) So, yeah, anything that makes an effort to wipe the slate clean of X3 and gets us back to a place where we’re getting new X-Men movies is excellent news, indeed!

I suppose I have to address the Superman/Batman stuff, but I don’t want to delve deep. The short version is I’m not too excited. Like any fan (Batman IS my favorite superhero of all time y’know) I would love to see the epic-ness of Bats and Supes on screen together. But as you all probably know by now, I REALLY don’t like the new Superman movie…so moving toward MoS with Z. Snyder at the helm and away from Nolan’s Batman movies leaves me pretty cold. Add to that the fact that they didn’t even have any great casting announcements or vision – I mean it’s basically just a movie idea that’s been half cast…that’s it?  Similarly, the announcements about a planned Justice League movie is just too early for me to get excited. The fact that The Flash is poised to get a feature film before Wonder Woman is disgusting (no offense Flash). At the same time, the more distance between Diana and Z. Snyder the better so…I guess I’m looking at the silver lining there.

The Walking Dead S4 premiere looked solid. I’m still hesitant given the showrunner nonsense that continually seem to be going on, but it looked good, and I mean, at least Andrea is finally dead, that’s gotta make the new season at least 80% better, right?

Agents of SHIELD stuff still looks good and I’m excited, but I’ve honestly seen a lot of bits here and there already, so nothing seemed that mind blowing.

Image made some cool announcements, though nothing as flashy as what I felt like we’ve gotten over the last year. But again, that’s probably smart on their part, why let your announcements get buried under Batman/Superman announcements?

The Eisner Awards were filled with my favorites – which is always cool – from Saga and Hawkeye to Building Stories and Jeffrey Brown’s Darth Vadar’s Son. However, I was most blown away by the incredible win by Becky Cloonan in the Best Single Issue category. Cloonan absolutely deserved it as her book The Mire is fantastic, but I just floored to see her win an Eisner for something self-published. Not “indie publishing” but full on SELF PUBLISHED. It’s a brave new world, kids. VERY exciting.

The panel I most wish I could have attended? That’s easy! Gender in Comics!

Thing I most wished I could GET from SDCC? That’s SUPER easy:

DC-Collectibles-Super-Best-Friends-Forever-SDCC-2013

And if any of you got these and are willing to part with them – get in touch – I will find a way!

But that was about all that had me excited as I engaged remotely this weekend.

Strangely, as I find myself looking back at my first SDCC experience, I also find myself looking forward. There’s a chance I will be attending SDCC next year as it’s possible my first graphic novel will be out by then (from Dark Horse) and there COULD be other cool things too. In fact, I was actually invited this year (not by SDCC) but by someone fantastic that wanted me on a panel and would have paid for my entry – wonderfully flattering. I had to decline due to my money concerns and writing deadlines, but I found myself wanting to go very much, despite the chaos (and heat). But it left me more curious than ever about what I will find there when I finally end up there again – in 2014 or beyond? Will it look anything like a Comic Con? Will it matter? Is there a way to get the best of both worlds here? Are other comic conventions headed the same direction?

 

23 Comments

I wonder if it will just fracture, with the comics people leaving and starting their own con at a different time of the year. I don’t know how that would work, but it seems like it’s heading toward a complete break as the comics get pushed aside. Who knows.

Meredith told me about the Dark Horse thing in May, and I’m looking forward to the book. Excellent news!

Greg, seeing the comparative number of comics-related announcements from the Big Two at NYCC and C2E2, I’d argue that that’s kind of already happened, albeit on the other side of the country and well outside the SDCC umbrella. The last few years, NYCC has basically become the new SDCC to me when it comes to big comics stuff.

Oh my gosh..I want Batgirl :)

I can promise you — there was no problem with it being too hot at the convention (as referenced in your opening). In fact, it felt like a freakin’ igloo in there.

Alex: For sure, although I know some people are worrying about NYCC already (I’ve never been to either). I’m just wondering if comics people will try to form something new in Southern California, or if they’ll migrate to one of the other cons there and just abandon San Diego. I know a lot of comics people go to Emerald City more than San Diego, and I wonder if that will continue until the San Diego con has NO comics people whatsoever.

Sam Robards, Comic Fan

July 22, 2013 at 1:35 pm

We’re definitely of a mind on this topic, Kelly. San Diego seems to be where all the Hollywood-related announcements in the industry happen, and other cons like NYCC serve to be where all the comic-related bits get announced.

Heck, sometimes it seems like Marvel reveals half their big announcements through their Next Big Thing conferences. So cons could be cut out even more in the future for direct access.

In terms of what they actually mentioned that I’m excited about, Guardians of the Galaxy is going to be awesome. The Thor and Captain America sequels look good, but I am flat-out stoked for Guardians.

The description of Days of Future Past does sound pretty good, but I’d need to see something to get more excited about it. While I still adore the first two X-Men movies (X2 is still one of my favorites and easily the best of the X-Films), First Class was just ok, and it seems it bothered me for a lot of the same reasons it bothered you, Kelly.

But still, with Singer back in charge, I’m more confident than I would’ve been with Vaughn.

As for Superman/Batman, I haven’t seen Man of Steel yet (I’m sure I will at some point), so I can’t get too excited about it. And I’m uber pissed that Flash would be getting a movie before Wonder Woman as well. Unless Diana’s the audience viewpoint character for Justice League, she’ll have totally gotten the shaft. And that just sucks.

William O'Brien

July 22, 2013 at 1:58 pm

World’s Finest movie sounds like it will be terrible. The same creative team as Man of Steel with Snyder also co-writing? Odds of that working out well are not too good.

Kelly, have you watched Orphan Black or written about it anywhere?

@William

So funny you ask about Orphan Black. I have no seen it, but have read so many good things that I think my boyfriend and I are going to carve out some time to try it out – really intrigued by the premise! You’re a fan, yes?

So, your judgement of a con (that you haven’t attended in 20 years) is based on the interesting news you hear coming out of it?

If you check out the scheduling tracks and the guest lists and the floor space, you’d see that comics are as big as ever. There are probably more panels about comics than anything else. It’s not that Comic-Con is pushing out comics, it’s just that more fans want to see 30 seconds of Hunger Games 2 than see a living legend like Russ Heath. Ironically, the size and popularity of Comic-Con is what enables them to bring out special guests like Russ Heath, who don’t normally attend smaller cons. It’s what allows them to host the Comic Arts Conference, which tackles comics in a way I’ve never seen at any other cons. It’s what allows some comic creators the chance to see more fans and sell more product on the floor.

Comic-Con is what you want it to be. You can spend the whole time in comics panels and wandering Artist’s Alley discovering new talent. Or you can shake your fist from miles away simply because the news you heard did not “interest” you.

are lining up
only If you look at the actual schedule for Comic-Con, instead of the news cycle, you’ll see there are plenty of comics related panels and they have a pretty decent presence on the sales floor. Artist’s Alley had plenty of traffic going through it the times I was on the sales floor. Hollywood may dominate the news of the con, but I discovered plenty of awesome comics and comic artists while I was there, as did many other fans.

The problem is not that Comic-Con is pushing comics out, it’s that the fans who go to Comic-Con would rather go see Hunger Games panels than comic panels.Why would Comic-Con schedule their Spotlight on Jerry Ordway panel in Hall H, which seats 6,500 people) when that panel can’t even fill one of the smaller rooms which seat 200?

And the success of the con also enables it to reel in folks who might not go to

I would comment on how I felt about SDCC this year but I’d basically be copying Kelly’s article almost word for word. Bring the exciting comics news back to SDCC and less about what’s going to be on AMC this year.

@David:

I think you make some really good points, too bad you couldn’t write the comment without being bitchy about it.

William O'Brien

July 22, 2013 at 6:08 pm

re: Orphan Black

I just watched the first season over the past week. It’s pretty impressive. Not GoT level, but for a show just getting on its feet it is a good start. The cast is definitely carried by the lead actress, but since she plays most of the main characters and is often acting against herself, it really works.

@Kelly, not trying to be bitchy, just surprised that someone who hasn’t been to the con in 20 years would try to analyze it based on one data point (i.e. news that is of interest.) It’s a little like boycotting “Passion of the Christ” because you read reviews of it without actually seeing it.

(PS, if my post seemed a little odd, it tacked on some stuff I edited out, it should have stopped at “interest” you. If this site allowed you to edit posts, it might have seemed a little less “bitchy.”)

Anonymous2 aka Saul Goode

July 22, 2013 at 6:52 pm

What, no love for the Amazing X-Men announcement? To me, that’s the most exciting news out of SDCC this year, and actually gives me a LOT more faith in Marvel and the X-books for the future. The movie stuff is cool, but this book sounds, well, AMAZING! lol You’re a pretty big X-Men fan iirc, I figured you’d be at least a little excited about this.

I mean, what’s not to love about this out of the gate?

1. Aaron FINALLY gets another X-Men book after doing a solid job on WatXM for a while now (meanwhile, you know my gripes with Marvel giving Bendis 2 books right as he started, but now I’m not as mad because he guy who has proven himself is finally getting what he deserves). Not only is he a guy that I think can write two issues of both his x-books a month (and well), but now he can finally focus even more on the kids in one while handling the staff in another (a huge complaint was that he hasn’t focused enough on the staff for a while – well, now that gripe is solved).
2. The art team sounds awesome. I’ve always loved Ed McGuiness, and I’ve always wondered why he’s never had a run on an X-Men book. His cartoony style should perfectly fit the swashbuckling, fun tone of the book and Jason has said the guy wants to stick around for a while. Between Ed and Nate Bradshaw, Aaron’s X-Men books will be, in my eyes admittedly, the best drawn of all the X-books. He’s also perhaps one of their three biggest artists on contract, so putting him on an X-Men book, plus Bendis, Coipel, and bringing the Dodson’s back, makes me think even more that Marvel is going to be giving the X-Men a big long-term push to get them back up to their old level of popularity aka Avengers popularity.
3. NIGHTCRAWLER IS BACK!!!! Not only do I love this character and felt he’s been sorely missing from an upbeat, Wolverine-centric book like WatXm (and you know he’ll be popping up there once his return is finalized in the opening AXM arc), but the fact that Marvel is, in a high profile way, resurrecting a character who a) shouldn’t have been killed anyways and b) was perhaps the lightest and most fun of the X-Men (when written well, and that’s the only way Aaron knows how to write lol) bodes extremely well for the tone of the X-Books post-BOTA.

This seemed to me like another major step in the right direction by Marvel to fix the problems created by post-Morrison X-Men storylines and editorial decisions.

@David

I can absolutely “analyze” the con from an outsider perspective as that’s what I’ve been doing for the last 20 years. In fact, I’m in a perfect position to do just that since I have the experience of NOT going to the con for years and thus can easily see how it’s changing in how it is reported on and what comes out of it from this side of things.

That said, I didn’t write some ranty judgmental post, I just wrote a reflective one that talked both about my experience 20 years ago, my anticipation of possibly returning next year, as well as my experience this year looking for news that excited me in comics versus last year (and linked to last years for comparison). I don’t think there’s anything “shake my fist”-y about that at all.

Also, the coverage coming out of the con is REALLY comprehensive, and I read a lot of it, so I feel pretty well covered.

Again, you came into this with attitude, even though the post totally didn’t warrant it.

@aka Saul Goode:

Yeah, unfortunately I’m not that jazzed about Amazing X-Men.I’m not a fan of McGuinness’s work – not that I will go out of my way to avoid it, but it’s just not a favorite of mine, especially what I’ve seen over the last few years.

Add to that, while I understand the fan desire to have Nightcrawler back (I also like the character and I *do* think his death was silly and ill-advised) I’m not a fan of bringing characters back to life. While I’m not up in arms about this decision because I think it was a stupid death to begin with, I generally try not to support the idea of randomly killing and resurrecting characters willy nilly. So this was a push for me. Sorry :(

but the BEST announcement at the con was me drawing Ninja Turtles!! i don’t think anyone reported on that, though, heh.

@Kelly,

I think you can absolutely judge the reporting aspect and what gets covered and how that has changed. But, to judge the attitude of the convention towards comics and how much of a Comic Con it is, when you haven’t been there in 20 years, seems a little off to me. No matter how comprehensive the coverage, it is not the same as being there. That’s not attitude, that’s just my opinion.

“Interesting” news is a fairly subjective term, which is why the first thing I did was to ask you if your criterion for judging the con was on how interesting the news was coming from it. Perhaps the question was poorly worded, but I think it’s fair to ask someone to define their qualifiers. Maybe there were no big announcements made this year for reasons to do nothing with Hunger Games? Maybe the news that did come out was interesting to others but not to you? Or, maybe as you theorize, Comic Con is no longer a Comic Con. Can you please elaborate a little further on your criteria?

The only thing that perhaps was bitchy was that last line about shaking your fist, and that may have come from misreading the tone of your article, which I apologize for. Every year I hear dozens of people gripe that SDCC is no longer about comics and how much better it was in the old days. As someone who loves SDCC and all that is good and bad about it, it can be a little frustrating. Simply because comics don’t get the big press anymore, does not mean comics aren’t important. There is a great comics convention in the middle of SDCC, I just wish more people would peer around the giant Warner Brothers bags and see it.

I dunno. With all respect to David, we just couldn’t take the crowds any more– and this was in 2005. At the time we felt a bit like we were wimping out, but 45 minutes to cross a convention floor, swimming upstream no matter WHAT direction we took, was just too much for us. And that was when attendance was maybe two-thirds what it is now.

But we always watch not just the news but also the private tweets and Facebook and blog posts from the folks who are there. And this year even our most diehard fan friends, for whom this is a never-miss event, were cursing the crowds and the traffic and the claustrophobia. As far as we could tell, the only people who were having an absolute 100% good time were celebrities or other special guests tweeting from the greenroom.

Is it possible that the thing is just too damn big, period? That the cost-benefit ratio of navigating Soylent Green-level crowds isn’t worth it any longer, no matter WHAT cool swag or panel experience lies at the end of it? It was a lot easier to brush off the ‘too Hollywood’ criticisms when the attendance wasn’t equal to a small suburb. Even if it was all comics all the time, that’s just still too many people in one place for it to be fun for us.

On the one hand, Nightcrawler’s coming back. Yay!

On the other, so’s Azazel. Boooooo.

Sam Robards, Comic Fan

July 23, 2013 at 7:07 am

Since we’re taking turns discussing the Amazing X-Men announcement, I’m lukewarm on it. I adore Ed McGuinness, but I’m getting to the point where I can’t stand Jason Aaron’s X-Men work.

Wolverine and the X-Men started out well enough, but it seems like the majority of his villains are obsessed with murder for the sake of murder, which gets really old after a while. I also really don’t like his view on Wolverine*, which doesn’t help when he’s the main character in your book.

Some of his plots are just kinda stupid, too. A Murder Circus? Really? And having Azazel be a pirate of the damned makes me think Aaron’s ripping off the character of Davy Jones from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Granted, Azazel was pretty bad to begin with, but a pirate? Oy.

*I always liked the Wolverine who knew he was a failed samurai but always strived to be a better person. Aaron writes him with the attitude of “I’m a failed samurai and I always will be, so I might as well just kill everything I can since I’ll never be a better person,” which seems to wholly miss the point of the character.

And Ross, you’re drawing Ninja Turtles? That’s awesome! I ADORED your work on Glory, and definitely don’t wanna miss you on TMNT. When’s your first issue?

So what is the comic book part of the convention like now? Is it a good convention for back issues? I know a few dealers from ‘my’ convention, Heroes Con, who also go to Comic Con, so I know there are a couple of good dealers.

I also remember a column in Comic Buyers Guide by Mile High’s Chuck Rozanski from a few years ago that made Comic Con sound pretty bad for dealers, with issues getting in and set up and with the type of buyers (or ‘buyers’).

‘SDCC’ rhymes with ’100,000 people screaming Look At Me!’ … coincidence? ;)

To me, the biggest comic news recently came from Marvel’s solicits, pre-con. Marvel Knights returning as a creator-focused line of mini-series where they went to up-and-coming creators and said, ‘What character would you like to play with? Go nuts!’

Why are people not going crazy about this and coming up with their own wish lists of emerging creators they’d love to see unleashed on their favourite heroes? (Or are they, and I just haven’t seen it? Hm.)

I’ve been to San Diego twice myself. The first time was awesome and exhausting (I was pretty much fresh off the plane from Australia), the second, not so much. I think I managed to go in the two years where it went from manageable to unmanageable. Still, that second time I never went anywhere except for Artist Alley or Small Press, and there’s enough there to keep you busy.

Watching from home, it’s hard to find reports of that stuff though. Apart from some photo galleries and very short reports from Bleeding Cool, I haven’t seen much at all.

Anonymous2 aka Saul Goode

July 23, 2013 at 10:29 am

@ Sam Robards, Comic Fan

It takes different strokes, I guess. I’ve loved everything Aaron’s done on WatXM so far, I don’t think any of it was dumb I thought it was fun stuff, a throwback to when superheroes did more than just brood and fight uber-serious villains. Also, his Wolverine IS striving to be better. That’s been the whole theme of WatXM – Wolverine giving up his old ways to fully embrace Xavier’s ideology. Aaron’s actually had Logan go through more character growth in these 33 issues than the combined growth he’s had in the past ten years of prior stories combined. And the motivations for his villains are more than just killing. Dog was trying to be a better teacher than Wolverine, the new Hellfire Club, at its core, are trying to make mutants look bad to sell Sentinels, etc. His writing has been more complex than just kill, kill, kill. At the very least, I’ll take his X-book(s) over Bendis’ any day.

That’s why I’m excited about this book; Aaron’s basically getting more space to do what he’s already doing so well. We can still agree though that Ross Cambell kicked ass on Glory though, and it’s awesome that he’s taking over TMNT.

And Kelly, I can see where you’re coming from about deaths and resurrections, but I still at least try to support resurrections of characters that I believe not only should not have been killed in the first place but also died in incredibly bad stories. Plus, IDK,. this story seems to have a lot of promise. It seems very whimsically inspired and not only do I personally believe that Aaron (let alone McGuiness) do whimsical and lighthearted very well, but it’s a tone that is perfect for a character like Nightcrawler. I’m hoping we’re all pleasantly surprised by this book. I’m sure you’re going to keep an open mind going into the first issue though lol

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