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July 11, 2012

A Brief Set Of Predictions About This Year's SDCC Stories

Comic-Con International gets underway tomorrow, with the Preview Night kick-off -- really just a fifth day for the show at this point -- getting things underway at approximately 6 PM ET. It's an obviously huge event weekend in what is shaping up to be a huge year for comics festivals and conventions as a way to present the art form, propagate the culture and sell its commercial products.

We'll be on hand starting later today. It struck me while thinking about the show last night that there seem to be some clear issues going in. Here are my guesses as to what stories will develop at the show.

1. Somebody Died
I wish for multiple reasons it's a story that never happened, and I'm sure it will settle into the background a bit over the weekend. I still think that the death of a Twilight fan Tuesday, a fan waiting in line during the ramp-up to the show and its movie panels, could distinguish 2012 from any four or five versions of the event before or after this year's iteration. It will be what my 71-year-old mother sends me an e-mail about before the show ends. There will likely be some bad, accusatory writing about how the death could have been prevented because expressing opinions that make some narrow band of rigid sense out of things that don't is what comics and junk-culture fans do almost automatically now. In the same way that recent creator's rights discussion have mixed with things like certain comics professionals dying near-penniless to make for industry-wide reflection on Just What The Hell All Of Us Are Doing, I think we'll see something similar with this poor fan's death, the huge contrast between the extravagant indulgence of our cultural wallows and what that can cost us. I hope that at least for the next few days, though, we remain targeted on the specific tragedy for this lady, her family and her friends.

2. Seriously, What Are We All Doing Here?
The discussion of professional ethics, obligations and opportunities engendered by the twin issues of Before Watchmen being done of Alan Moore's howl of protest and the fact that each company's arguably biggest property is part of a lawsuit from the families of their creators has transformed itself into a wider opportunity for self-reflection. There's going to be some really sloppy declaration-making and line-drawing at some late-night conversations over the weekend, but I think it's healthy to have a self-awareness of the cost of committing to making art for a living in a society with significant commercial demands on everyone. It's going to be one big dormitory hallway at 3 AM during Finals out there.

3. It's More Of A Festival Now
In about two years' time we've seen an explosion of events outside of official convention activities, both the after-hours type and the licensed programming site. It makes sense: when the convention itself starts to fill-up, there's bound to be spill-over. I think this makes for a better show even if I also understand a bit of the standard "you're just drafting behind us" sentiment that some traditional con folk have as to this kind of thing. Anyway, I think it's instructive how quickly the convention has adjusted to the existence of all of these things to do out of the convention center even as the convention center has seemingly extended its schedule into the evening hours a bit. That this coincides with an increasing desire by comics culture to make a better show of the weekend is a big bonus, too.

4. Los Bros Hernandez At 30
I can dream, can't I? I know that there's going to be more total ink spilled about each and every TV show holding forth on its next season in one of the big halls, or whoever cleverly crafts a tweet-able moment there the way Andrew Garfield did by popping up in a Spider-Man costume a year ago; that's just the way the culture is oriented now. Still, I hope that there's a small minority of writers, professionals and fans that rallies around the astounding career feat of Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez in this forum for appreciation. These are creators whose run as top practitioners of their art form is something that doesn't happen anywhere all that frequently. They made comics that people stood up and noticed in 1982; they made some more comics like that last year and should again this time out. I'm honored to be going to a convention where they're appearing.

5. Digital
I think the weight of publishing announcements at the show is going to mark a clear industry tipping point in favor of the reality of digital publication. It's intriguing in that no specific commercial model has really seized that market, at least not yet, so you're like to get a wide variety of ideas and concepts. I'd be surprised if this show didn't contribute to what should end up a summer with a dozen significant digital publishing announcements.
posted 1:30 pm PST | Permalink

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