Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

July 25, 2011

More Criswell Than Nostradamus: A Brief Comic-Con International 2011 Wrap-Up From Very Far Away


On Wednesday, this site posted a few potential storylines for this year's Comic-Con International, which concluded yesterday afternoon in San Diego.

Some of the potential storylines failed to materialize to any dramatic extent. The only violence perpetrated at the show came from actor Rhys Ifans, which I'm not sure counts in any way and certainly doesn't connect to last year's face-stabbing to build a narrative of "violence at Comic-Con." No one out there I can find engaged the issue of the potential graying of convention exhibitors and any potential nature of a split between older audiences and younger ones comics-wise. This year's Eisner voters failed to elect the late archivist and cultural historian Bill Blackbeard into that awards program's Hall Of Fame, as I had hoped. This makes me sad as it's hard for me to imagine a Hall Of Fame without the membership of a man who directly contributed to a significant double-digit figure percentage of the entirety of North American comics publishing. It's also hard for me to figure out how comics retail performed at the show, at least at this early date. In fact, the measure that matters most, how many comics retailers sign up for 2012, usually becomes clearest closer to the next show. Although it sounds like there remains a slow bleed of energy from that end of the show, some of the reports -- like Chuck Rozanski's daily letters -- seem agitated for the sake of being agitated.

imageA couple of the suggested stories enjoyed some minor action. I thought there might be some wins from older nominees at the Eisners, first-timers or folks that hadn't won a lot in the past. The Eisners honored a number of traditional favorites. I think Shannon Wheeler and Paul Levitz fit the profile for which I was going, and it's probably not a surprise that they're the only two winners I noticed beaming about their individual wins on Facebook the next day. It feels like the general enthusiasm for Comic-Con from the movies and pop culture end of thing was healthy although not fevered, probably exactly where it should be this many years into this Hollywood/Comics blend of a show and given the changing economics of Hollywood. I wondered if there might be some "Comic-Con is over" articles coming out of this year's show, and I think CCI forestalled the bulk of those. Steven Spielberg's trip to the show to promote the forthcoming Tintin movie was treated as a state visit, while Andrew Garfield's from-the-audience stunt on behalf of the forthcoming Spider-Man movie went over with a bit less skepticism than last year's Ryan Reynolds Green Lantern oath moment.

It seems to me there was a bit of pushback on DC's forthcoming relaunch at the show, but nothing major or unsettling. Depending on your point of view, you could probably argue it was a good show or a not-good PR show for that company and in doing so win some minds as to your position. Certainly this major event was not the runaway attention-getter even over rival Marvel's more traditional announcements, and one could argue that DC should have owned this year's show. One thing that struck me anew was that reports of the DC panels made them seem slightly hostile and unpleasant, which matches my own limited experience with them. For example, an early question at their first panel from a fan wishing DC had employed more female creators in the relaunch effort was met with what seemed like a combative "Who should we have hired?" from the panel. This seems nuts to me. While on a message board a fan might call out another fan about bringing forward some examples, in a public setting with a fan asking a company a question it seems that it's the company's responsibility to have hired people or take heat for not hiring them, to at least acknowledge the wide variety of creators out there and show that they're aware of them, not force some poor person to defend their legitimate query. It also seems crazy to me that prime DC movers would sit down on a panel and nobody would have an answer for a question as to why the downloads will cost what they'll cost. A revelation that the relaunch has been in the works since October 2010 mostly obviates the criticism that the move was made super-hastily earlier this year as some feared, but adds force to potential criticism over the creative teams selected and the overall, eventual execution of the endeavor.

I think I mis-analyzed a larger issue for the show by limiting my pre-show observations about the event's functionality to "Crowd Control." In her best article of the weekend, Heidi MacDonald identified continuing institutional tweaks by Comic-Con on various security issues and general show-running. It's only eight years since it took me 11 minutes to find three extra passes for local friends of mine to come in for a panel and a walk-around. Most of the two dozen loopholes that a lot of us used to make use of to make our weekends easier and that kept our preparations very loose have now been closed. It's a different con now.

If I had to guess from what I saw on-line and from talking to people in attendance, this year's CCI may have been defined by a combination of two of this site's potential storylines and one that I stupidly didn't even think of mentioning. The off-site events continued to proliferate and this year enjoyed a significant comics element that caught favor with fans and pros. I think the reason for that is a retrenchment and new devotion to the publishing aspects of the show above and beyond a celebration of licensing aspects or being befuddled and slightly stunned by the non-comics surge. There were a lot of great books available at the show; there were a number of major publishing announcements to match those of any of the other industries combined. If comics can continue to carve a place of pride for itself at Comic-Con and make these kind of Fall Season and next-year announcement the way they did in 2011, San Diego will continue to be an extremely valuable place for this industry and its players for as long as it's feasible. The issue I overlooked was digital, and this year's digital announcements from Marvel, Top Shelf and various manga-makers were the most newsworthy of the entire week.
posted 2:10 pm PST | Permalink

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