San Diego

Comic-Con Wrap-Up: Banjo Playing and Speedo Wearing

My Comic-Con 2011 Haul

My Comic-Con 2011 Haul (click to see what I got)

Those two things didn’t happen at the same time but they were two of the most memorable moments of Comic-Con for me this year.

As the comic fates would have it, I was only able to attend one day of Comic-Con this year. Dreading the annual 3-hour drive down to San Diego, I decided instead to ride Amtrak’s Surfliner train down to San Diego from LA’s Union Station to spend the day, and then head back that same night. It ended up being a great way to get around the inevitably terrible traffic and parking headaches. I got to relax, enjoy the spectacular view of the California coast, check out Comic-Con’s app (much improved over last year) to mark panels I might want to see, waste time on Facebook without feeling guilty, take a nap or two, and on the way back I got to read some of the awesome graphic novels I bought. It was dreamy. I will almost surely be doing this from now on (until Comic-Con finally moves up to LA to make it more convenient for me).

Because I only had one day, I wasn’t able to do everything (impossible even if you’re every minute of the day). There were a few people I couldn’t connect with (sorry, Kristian and Brandon!), some publisher tables I never got to (sorry, Boom!, Archaia and IDW!), and some panels I missed (ThunderCats nooo…). Another day probably would’ve done it for what I wanted to do. But I bought a (very heavy!) ton of graphic novels, got to hang out with Scott Shaw! and share a laugh with Sergio Aragonés, and got to experience two things that really stood out as unique and made me absolutely happy that the world of comics exists.

© Eric Drooker, http://drooker.com

© Eric Drooker

The first was artist Eric Drooker‘s panel. Here’s how Comic-Con’s program described it:

Visual artist and Comic-Con special guest Eric Drooker will project hundreds of his magical images and explore how his early years as a street artist in New York City inspired his award-winning graphic novels Flood! and Blood Song. He’ll discuss the process of designing the animation for the recent hit film Howl, starring James Franco, and how he adapted it for the new book, Howl: A Graphic Novel. Best known for his numerous cover paintings for The New Yorker, Drooker will tell hilarious-but-true stories of how he wound up getting published.

A pretty straightforward description. Drooker is a fantastic artist and storyteller, so hearing him talk about his process and history sounded great. It turned out to be so much more than that. He did talk quite a bit about his work and his background, but Eric Drooker also happens to be a talented musician. Over the projected slideshow of his artwork, which has a haunted quality evocative of woodcuts from the 1910s and ’20s, Drooker played his banjo or harmonica and occasionally sang. Like his art, the music he created seemed to harken back a century. There was something incredibly powerful, moving and intimate about seeing and hearing two different forms of art that he had created and was creating live right before us. It seemed like such a personal expression. Here he was expressing himself to us on multiple levels, visually and sonically, and with such immediacy. I guess the easy description is that he created a soundtrack for his own art, but it felt deeper yet more transcendent than simple accompaniment. It was beautiful.

Ajax Wood as Cannibal F***face from Johnny Ryan's Prison Pit 3

Ajax Wood as Cannibal F***face of Johnny Ryan's Prison Pit 3

The second event was a tad sillier but a great example of how comics can take back some of the main spotlight from Hollywood at Comic-Con. I was standing near the Fantagraphics booth when this growling voice bellowed out over the conversations and white noise of the convention floor. In stalked a large hairy man covered in fake blood and wearing nothing but a speedo. He immediately started yelling at people around him, threatening them, cursing at them, mocking them. Now this is Comic-Con, so while there was some confusion, it didn’t take long to figure it out. The bloody man started pacing like a caged tiger behind Johnny Ryan, who was quietly signing copies of his new graphic novel Prison Pit 3. Johnny Ryan is a hilarious cartoonist but he is most definitely not for children. Crass and abrasive, his punchlines are more like blunt objects of comedy that shock and delight at their willful disregard for… everything. He released the third in his Prison Pit series of graphic novels at this year’s Comic-Con. It’s basically a trilogy of absolute violence and gore done on such a deliriously excessive level far beyond the parodying done on The Itchy & Scratchy Show from Matt Groening’s The Simpsons. As a promotional stunt, Johnny Ryan and his publisher Fantagraphics had performance artist Ajax Wood (aka Ardent Vein) done up to look like the main character in Prison Pit, Cannibal F***face. Everything Wood yelled was dialogue from Prison Pit 3. Some of the other exhibitors were mildly annoyed at the disruption, but I think it was a great promotional bit. Now maybe this example scared off more people than it drew in, but it certainly fit into the spirit of Johnny Ryan’s work, which itself isn’t exactly mainstream (although he regularly contributes to Vice Magazine). So it’s actually a pretty accurate marketing stunt. If that kind of spectacle is something that amuses you or draws you in, you’ll probably like Johnny Ryan’s Prison Pit 3. Personally, I would’ve given him a few assistants (maybe with fliers) and had him skulk around the convention floor a little bit before sticking him behind the Fantagraphics booth. But it was great. It got people’s attention. Usually at Comic-Con, all of the really flashy stuff is from Hollywood. Publishers and artists would do well to remember that comics are worth some creative pomp and circumstance too. Comics should be the main spectacle of Comic-Con.

The common thread between these two events is that the artists found a way to add performance art to their work. The two had different goals and purposes (one was a panel, one was a book signing) but people in comics are creative enough to come up with more ways to add a level of performance to their art for public appearances like conventions. When they meld so perfectly with the artist and their work, like these two did, it adds a new level of experience and awareness for fans. And it brings back some of that unorthodox spirit that comics have had in the past that make them so memorable.

Comic-Con Wrap-Up: Comics Debuts

I know it’s hard to believe with all the big flashy Hollywood things, but Comic-Con actually had stuff about comic books! There were a number of exciting debuts this year. Scroll through and see if something catches your eye. If so, read the blurb I’ve put together from the publisher’s write-ups, and if you’re intrigued, click the links to find out more.

Any Empire by Nate Powell

Any Empire by Nate Powell

Any Empire by Nate Powell (Swallow Me Whole) recalls aimless summers of Nancy Drew and G.I. Joe, treehouses and army surplus stores… but when fantasy starts to bleed into reality, whose mission will be accomplished? [Interview]

Big Questions by Anders Nilsen

Big Questions by Anders Nilsen

Big Questions by Anders Nilsen: A haunting postmodern fable, this beautiful and minimalist story is the culmination of ten years and over 600 pages of work that details the metaphysical quandaries of the occupants of an endless plain, existing somewhere between a dream and a Russian steppe.

Daybreak by Brian Ralph

Daybreak by Brian Ralph

Daybreak by Brian Ralph is an unconventional zombie story. Drawing inspiration from zombies, horror movies, television, and first-person shooter video games, Daybreak departs from zombie genre in both content and format, achieving a living-dead masterwork of literary proportions. [Interview]

The Death-Ray by Daniel Clowes

The Death-Ray by Daniel Clowes

The Death-Ray by Daniel Clowes: Classic staples of the superhero genre – origin, costume, ray-gun. sidekick, fight scene – are reconfigured into a story that is anything but morally simplistic. With subtle comedy, deft mastery and an obvious affection for the bold Pop Art exuberance of comic book design, Daniel Clowes delivers a contemporary meditation on the darkness of the human psyche.

Freakshow by David Server, Jackson Lanzing and Joe Suitor

Freakshow by David Server, Jackson Lanzing and Joe Suitor

Freakshow by writers David Server and Jackson Lanzing, and artist Joe Suitor: When five refugee survivors develop monstrous mutations from a devastating chemical explosion that leaves their city in ruins, they band together to seek revenge against the clandestine government quarantine that has seized control in the aftermath. But are they monsters…or heroes?

WAIT, there’s more! Click through…!

(more…)

Friday is Brought to You by Comic Book Reading Kitteh

Things to do in Southern California:

Comic-Con!

(that’s it)

If wireless signals hold up (and in the San Diego Convention Center, they frequently don’t), I’ll be posting random Comic-Con stuff to Twitter and/or Tumblr and/or Flickr.

Dig Comics update: Ain’t It Cool News, Comic-Con & 2 more festivals!

I have fallen behind on posting about the progress of Dig Comics, the documentary that I’ve been working on as a producer for the last several years. There has been a lot of activity, some I can talk about it, some I can’t yet (but hopefully soon). Some highlights:

  • A great interview with director Miguel Cima was recently posted at the very popular movie news/gossip site Ain’t It Cool News.
  • The first new shooting since the completion of the 20-minute short is happening at this week’s Comic-Con International: San Diego. The event is completely sold out but if you are there and see us running around like mad men and women, yell out “I dig comics!” If you’re on Twitter, follow me Wednesday to Sunday this week to see how shooting is going at Comic-Con. Hopefully technology and time will work in my favor and I’ll be able to tweet. We’ve got some amazing people lined up to interview. Can’t wait to hear their thoughts.
  • Dig Comics will be screening at this weekend’s Action On Film International Film Festival at the Regency Academy Theater in Pasadena, California, on Sunday July 25 at 4 PM.
  • Dig Comics will also be screening at the 1 Reel Film Festival, part of Seattle’s Bumbershoot music and arts festival, on September 6 at 12 noon.

I think that’s everything. Seems like I’m missing something. Lots going on! Hopefully I’ll get to share more news soon.

Dig Comics world premiere at San Diego Comic-Con

Dig Comics World Premiere Screening at San Diego Comic-Con International Film Festival

Olmos Productions To Produce Long-Form Follow-Up

LOS ANGELES – The documentary short film Dig Comics has been selected for screening at the Comic-Con International: Independent Film Festival on July 25, 2009. An exclusive question and answer session with director/host Miguel Cima will precede the screening.

Including interviews with Eisner®-winning writer Jeph Loeb (Lost, Heroes) and indie comics visionary Dame Darcy (Meatcake), as well as animation by Scott Shaw! (The Flintstones, Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew) and Emmy®-winning Russell Calabrese (Pinky and the Brain), the documentary challenges America to Dig Comics.

The documentary is hosted by writer/director Miguel Cima, who talks with comic book creators and retailers. He also conducts unique man-on-the-street experiments to find out what happened with America’s affection for comics.

Both a love letter to the American art form of comics and a call to arms to increase the dwindling audience, Dig Comics has already won the attention of Edward James Olmos’ company Olmos Productions, which has agreed to produce a long-form full-length Dig Comics. Olmos believes that as a medium, comic books not only increase literacy but also serves as an inspirational learning tool for both students and teachers.

Visit http://www.DigComics.com for more info and to view the trailer for Dig Comics.

What: Dig Comics world premiere screening with Q&A
Where: Comic-Con International, San Diego Convention Center, Room 26AB, 111 W. Harbor Dr., San Diego, CA 92101
When: Saturday, July 25, 2009, 6:30-7:15 PM

[PDF file version of press release]

Barbie at Comic-Con

Yesterday I spent the day at Comic-Con International in San Diego serving as Barbie’s professional photograher. I’ll let her walk us through these and provide captions. Take it away, Barbie!

Thanks, Corey! I’m sure a lot of you are wondering what a super-cute and cool chick like me was doing at “Nerd Vegas”. Normally I wouldn’t be caught dead there but that all changed this past weekend!

This is My Comic-Con Adventure!

It all started Friday night… I got back from shopping early and found Ken reading something weird. Like, gross weird.

That’s right, he was reading PORN! (And I think he was doing something with those big green fists, too.) (more…)