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Comic-Con International 2010 Final Report And Floor Reports
posted July 31, 2010
 

What follows is the archived version of the Final Report and Daily Floor Reports from Comic-Con International 2010.

Comic-Con 2010: A Final Report
Originally Posted July 28, 2010

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* here are my final thoughts on Comic-Con International 2010. I could stew on these for days and potentially come up with something a bit better, but in the spirit of the late Harvey Pekar I'm going to get it down on paper and deal with the consequences then.

* I think my lingering memory from Comic-Con International 2010 will be the cast of Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World on stage to present the first three Eisner Awards. The tiny men and women of that talented movie ensemble -- let's be honest, Brandon Routh was the only one who appeared as if he could ride all the rides at Disney World -- could not have looked less like they wanted to be there. Routh and a few cast members most people in the audience never heard of did the actual card reading and envelope opening. The rest of the actors stood there with blank stares on their faces -- most memorably the well-placed-for-video Jason Schwartzman. The actors left quickly, no doubt to parties of the kind popular mainstream comics writers have in recent years complained to me the Eisners kept them from attending.

Now, I don't think I would have thought about it again, but afterward and for the next couple of days, about a dozen total comics people that were in attendance groused in my direction that the more popular cast members (basically Schwartzman and Michael Cera) ceding card-reading duties to others when the Eisner audience wanted to see them and not the lesser-known cast members was somehow disrespectful. That's an idea that even if true carries its own potentially ugly baggage about the way people should behave towards comics, people that don't have the same investment as the person shooting resentment their way. So it wasn't a flattering encounter on either side, although I think it was a telling one. No one needs to be automatically happy that a group of film actors are taking a moment to support a creator whose work they've interpreted (and have a PR moment besides); no one needs to be automatically upset if in doing so that group of performers doesn't act the way one imagines they should.

* CCI 2010 was a strange show. It was a pleasant one, with several surprises, but it was odd. I had a fantastic time, but I sense that others didn't, and that things are slipping in directions that may vastly reduce the value the show has for me and others like me.

* personal experience and intuition is a tough pair of strategies with which to analyze Comic-Con. Let's face it: nothing says the show shouldn't change under my feet. I'd have to be an egomaniac to think that a gigantic pop-culture event would be best served catering to the whims and exhortations of a 41-year-old comics obsessive. One thing that has been made more real to me in 2010, the year of the convention, is that conventions generally and Comic-Con specifically operate according to that old cliché: several thousand different experiences, all of which generate their own legitimacy. There are people that go to Comic-Con that do nothing but work on their costumes, or play games, or track down non-comics illustration, or fill their sketchbooks, or look for boutique toys. It's hard not to be churlish in making suggestions that might hamper someone else's experiences for the sake of making more universal my own.

* not that it's going to stop me.

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* so what was the source of the show's underlying, odd feel? I know that blanket pronouncements are a dime a dozen with these events, so I apologize for what's about to happen, but I have to say that it simply felt to me like the energy shifted to the movie end of things to the point it permeated the show experience even if one has no interest in movies. I say this as a guy whose last movie panel was 10 years ago when I stopped to tie my shoes in one, and as someone who reports almost solely on comics stuff when he's on site. For the first time at Comic-Con in 16 years, I felt surrounded by the film and television industries. I felt like I was attending the comics portion of their show. When I left for the day I felt like the film and television tracks had set the agenda. If I were to casually communicate to anyone who might ask via e-mail how I spent my day, I explained it to them in terms of pushing away from the other end of the exhibition hall rather than embracing the one I love.

There are a lot of reasons that film and TV has become so dominant there. It's not just proportion. So many comics companies are movie companies now, first and foremost; others act that way for a long weekend; articles speak solely in cinematic terms. The shift might be best seen in the comics coverage in mainstream sources, both in the pity-fuck nature of a lot of it and the fact that most of the comics stories end up being movie and television stories, too. Chew isn't a surprise publishing hit, it's a surprise publishing hit with a fast-track option. The Walking Dead isn't the series that's kept a lot of serial comics buying alive in comics shops and has made a superstar comics writer of Robert Kirkman, it's AMC's The Walking Dead. And so on. Film and television has become the medium through which we understand and communicate the cultural potency of things that aren't film and television, and that can't be healthy.

* the tendency to think in terms of other media speaks to a recurring theme in many of my conversations with comics folk. A lot of people are worried about the comics industry's ongoing fade. I hear this even from those for whom comics is an industry that hasn't served them particularly well. One cartoonist told me that he wants more than anything in the world to be able to sell comics. Not an option on a comic. Not licensing based on a comic. He wants to sell enough comics to be able to make it an ongoing, respectable, self-sustaining concern. Another cartoonist put it even more strongly, proclaiming that if you were using your comic to lead people to buy something else, you were selling that something else, not comics. He was sick of hearing from those who manage to sell t-shirts or prints based on a comic, or a movie option based on a comic's cinematic promise, extolling these admittedly very real achievements as if they were a direct reflection on the comic rather than the t-shirt itself or the value of the license.

Now, I'm not sure that argument would hold if you examine it with the bug-eyed scowl of the Internet pseudo-lawyer, and I think there's always going to be some value in selling things near something you create that does reflect on the creation. We sell ads on CR, but we think of ourselves as writers, not billboards. I also imagine most people who find a mechanism to keep publishing simply don't care if it has two mostly divorced avenues. But you know what? I find making comics for the sake of selling comics a thrilling way to think. Whatever happened to a focus on being able to sell these things? Why have we given that up? Why in the midst of the greatest explosion of excellent comics the art form has ever seen have we been so quick to settle for modest returns and so desperate to look elsewhere for profit?

* that being said, the biggest comics news story of the show in my opinion was not any one individual piece of book news or anything to do directly with movies but the mini-rash of new imprints and new lines. I like and respect many of the people involved with these new efforts, but this is a totally ludicrous trend. The existing comics business infrastructure simply can't handle as many more books as seem planned, and the digital market is so woefully under-developed there's almost no chance for something to flower there as of yet. More than ever this is publishing towards a movie deal, towards one hit justifying the industry-weakening and life-unsettling chaff of 100 failures by those whose investment maybe isn't full time and heartfelt, towards plotting an additional and successive goal of a career in mainstream comics where then you can maybe make some money that in reality is one of the world's toughest games of musical chairs. It's madness, and because the infrastructure is skewed due to obsolete Distributor War agreements, these moves don't just have dire consequences in and of themselves but punish everyone, industry-wide. It needs to stop.

image* the floor of the show looked mostly the same to me, definitely so from about First Second all the way down to artist's alley. The biggest difference was right past the art comics publishers. There was no anchor area to send people. There was no Comic Relief at all. Bud Plant there at a reduced size from years past. I swear to God this is a true story: Someone walked up to me after the International Graphic Novels panel (Milo Manara, Moto Hagio, Emile Bravo, Stuart and Kathryn Immonen) and said they only had an hour left at the show -- was there one place they could go to buy the books talked about by the panelists, including their own? I had to direct them to a few publisher booths and hope they had time to find everything they wanted. Ugh.

Until the digital world operates at a rate of sophistication where at the end of a panel moderators can direct people to a virtual place they can buy all of a panelist's books at a special price arranged for people at that panel, or when con-goers can sit at breakfast at Saturday morning and click a link whereby the books that interested them Friday afternoon will be bundled and waiting on the floor, and I think barring economic setbacks that day or something like it will come, the con needs an anchor retailer or three. I hope they will consider finding one and make convincing them to exhibit a priority through any and all of the soft-influence means available to them. If that's not viable, maybe they would grant a temporary license to someone to do a only-exists-at-the-con store with all of the guests' books in it and all the Eisner nominees'.

* the crowd never got as bad on the comics end of things as in past year, but people were buying stuff, at least according to my slightly-over-double-digits sample survey and what I've read since the show ended from people like Chuck Rozanski. The comics dealers to whom I spoke seemed a lot less worked up than in years past; there was much less of that feeling where you felt the dealers were hustling to maximize their profits in a way that makes you tense when you're shopping at those booths. I know a couple of people who bought comics early in the convention for what seemed like Sunday prices. One reported that the retailers seemed a lot more flexible in taking a counter-offer than in years past. I love having the convention experience of buying comics, so I hope that this represents a bounce-back year and the various exhibitors with old comics to sell have figured out a strategy to make that work on their behalf.

* on the other hand, three different people I know who buy original, older art complained in almost the exact same words that that particular market is a little overpriced right now. If you ever wanted to buy a Ditko or a Kirby or a Wood, you've hopefully already made this purchase. A couple of folks selling more modern comics art -- like classy Peter Birkemoe at The Beguiling -- reported decent although nowhere near record-breaking business from both new customers and yearly patrons (that may have changed given the floor hours since I asked them that question). I'm sure individual experience varied. I also heard that enough retailers were on hand to buy up remaining stock from a number of publishers who didn't wish to ship a lot of books home, which is always a worry considering how that element of convention business has changed since the days one or two gentlemen would seep through the publishers like someone on the grocery store game show where you keep dumping items into your cart.

* so in other words, between this and the daily reports a mostly positive image of sales floats to the surface: several book sell-outs, several almost book sell-outs, and so on. That's a good sign. As much as Comic-Con has changed in the last few years in a way that makes the marketing end of it difficult to gauge, companies still understand a bottom line, and as long as the trip is even slightly profitable, I can't imagine wholesale bailing out.

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* I do feel there is definitely some tentativeness in how the marketing end of it works. I think the broader marketing implications of Comic-Con are easy to figure out and are very real, no matter how hard to measure. I strongly suspect it's good to have a presence at a big show if you can afford it, that it's a further good for relationships with certain talent, and that's it's even an overall positive to have cartoonists representing themselves on panels and meeting press and meeting other cartoonists. I had several people tell me they were reconsidering a cartoonist or making it a bigger point to check out their work after seeing them on a panel or running into them during a signing. Vanessa Davis was someone people kept asking me about, for instance. I don't think a lot of traditional comics fans followed the Tablet comics as closely as they might have a print work. But if you think about it for a second, who wouldn't want to at least try a Gene Yang comic after meeting Gene Yang? That guy's nicer than your memories of your kindergarten teacher. Who wouldn't treat a reading of Carol Tyler's latest with a sense of discovery and respect after hearing her talk in passionate, forthright and funny fashion? Who wouldn't want to pick up Iron Man or Casanova at least once after seeing Matt Fraction play a filthier-mouthed, comics-centric Spalding Gray?

* Fraction's performance piece -- apparently he also did in the same club where Snoop Dogg performed a day later, which is sort of nuts -- reminds me that one thing that was a positive at this show is that we've finally reached a saturation point where more people do something with visuals at their panels than don't. That's not to say that old-school panels can't be great -- Peter Bagge being interviewed by Jason T. Miles was as fun a panel as I saw all weekend, and I always enjoy when Pete swoops down from the Pacific Northwest to remind everyone he's one of the funniest men in comics -- but I think if you're going to have programming take place in the context of the tremendous leeway afforded other industries' panels where you get to routinely lock eyes with beautiful people, it's worth trying things like Seth's oft-performed visual essays from 2009 or Carol Tyler inviting people out on the balcony to talk after her panel or Craig Yoe's post-panel "tea party" or Fraction's performance piece or even the well-honed insult-throwing of the panelists sitting on the Best Of/Worst Of manga hour. I know after WonderCon I personally never want to see dudes in turned-around baseball caps going straight to audience questions ever again. Some people enjoy that kind of thing, of course, but I think panels can be more than a few publishing announcements and the audience being tolerated for the other 47 minutes. Social media is going to drive changes to a lot of panels as that reaches its own saturation point the next few years, but creative solutions between now and then have to be welcome. Comics is the best art form and should have the best panels.

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* back to the floor. As far as the big display areas, Marvel's booth was one people talked about a bit. It featured the forthcoming Thor movie's throne of Odin. I guess this was the actual throne from the film set. If you measure booths solely on memorable visual impact, that one was a hit. I didn't know what the hell it was until almost 12 hours after I saw it, but I sure remembered the damn thing. At the same time, there was something slightly sad about it: the reduction of a culturally significant publishing movement into a novelty photo opportunity on the Atlantic City boardwalk. I think people liked it because it was big and gaudy and if you were so inclined you could indulge in the look-at-me self-regard of getting your photo taken on a hit convention set piece. But was it a Comic-Con booth for the ages? No. It doesn't even connect to anything significant from the comics. No one to my knowledge has ever looked back on their childhood and thought, "When I was a kid I dreamed of sitting on Odin's throne" and no kid without serious issues is going to think that leaving next year's movie. I'm leaning towards "it was stupid," even by the relative standards of an event that once offered "half-naked woman under glass." I look forward to DC's giant Sit-Behind Perry White Desk in 2011 and Archie's giant Stand-Behind Pop's Soda Shop counter in 2012.

* by the way, the only thing that keeps me alive when walking to the eastern end of the hall -- the non-comics end, or, as I heard it called, "the popular end" -- is the paralyzing tension between wanting to kill myself and not wanting to die until I kill everyone else in the room first. It can't be helped in the main. That's where the more popular booths are. Spreading out those booths would likely be a disaster on a lot of levels. In the end, there's just no way to screen guests in terms of what they're going to the convention to see. You know what would be nice, though? If the con forbade the use of video screens when the booth doesn't have a space within its borders to watch that screen. Any company that decides to extend its display space into where I have to walk, that's a company I want to see fail.

* speaking of companies I've wanted to see fail, CrossGen is apparently making a comeback. Some of the Disney-owned comics will see new publishing life at their funnybook division, aka the House That Jack Built. This was not the biggest announcement of the show, but it was sort of the funniest. Everything I've said about the cramming of more stuff into a comics market that's already over-saturated with product applies here. Still, I guess that's what's to be expected in this day of corporate synergy. Some days you see a flood of comics people being offered jobs in animation, which is great for those creators. Some days you get more Sigil. Also what struck me is that this counted as an announcement. Is it my imagination, or have the publishing announcements made by the Big Two since they made their big ownership and operation moves a while back been really lame? I don't know that I could pick a single maneuver by either company that seems like an exciting, brand-new direction that couldn't have happened under either old regime.

* a surprising amount of industry chatter within my limited range about the big companies. There's still worry expressed that the move to digital is going to discombobulate how people are paid to make comics, that a lower price point may gut page rates. There was a lot of talk about various big comics companies questioning their commitment to comics shows like CCI. This is something that came up at 2 AM one morning, but isn't the big worry if DC moves to Burbank that the company will start filling up with horrible Hollywood people, socially adept ladder-climbers with an eye on getting into or back into the film side of things and even less of a feel for publishing than the worst of the current crew?

* I don't know if I've mentioned this already, but the best theory I heard about the popularity of big bags is that they play into the desire by many con-goers to embrace the infantile. Being an adult and holding a giant bag is akin to being a child and holding a regular-sized bag: the Lily Tomlin school of embracing one's youth. Given the number of folks well over 40 that looked like they were dressed for recess -- I'm an unkempt slob, but I do manage to wear long pants when I'm more than 100 feet away from water -- there may be something to that.

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* let's talk a bit about San Diego the city. First, I want to repeat my statement made during the show that I both appreciate the people of San Diego and the businesses that benefit from Comic-Con putting a best foot forward in order to maybe help keep the show and I also feel terribly, terribly sorry that it's come to that. I have something just short of withering contempt that such a significant portion of the comics community has such a self-confidence problem -- or a just plain mean problem -- that they're somehow delighting in this display of concern over future lost income on the behalf of local businesses. Seriously, does anyone who goes to a Pharma conference get pissy on their blogs for weeks afterward if they feel the local service staff didn't show enough interest in off-site validation service trends? I still feel that San Diego hospitality workers are collectively a much better host than we as Comic-Con attendees are guests. One morning during breakfast I watched two groups of con-goers storm the buffet from which I was eating and inspect it closely, and, well, loudly, in terms of its suitability as a place for them to spend their money. They were acting in a way that should have been left behind in middle-school, just completely unsocialized and rude. Two different groups in the space of 20 minutes. If San Diego does lose the show, there's certainly going to be a lot of anecdotal Pepto-Bismol to soothe the economic sock in the gut.

* maybe I was just looking in the wrong places, but it seemed like there were a lot more homeless closer to the hotels than I've seen in ten years, and lot of storefronts abandoned that were filled just a year or two ago. There were also no cranes in the skyline as was the case five years ago when the city looked like the final wide shot of War Of The Worlds. All of this indicates to me that San Diego is on the 1:00 or 1:30 hand in relation to the high noon of urban renewal they've seen in the last 15 years. Just an observation, don't know if it's true.

* that said, I'm still astonished that con-goers treat 7th avenue like some sort of invisible force field. San Diego has developed a section of downtown that seems to repel convention-goers. I ate in two restaurants a bit east of the main Gaslamp action, both of which had walk-in and sit tables available at 8 PM, neither of which had entrees over $12, and neither of which had another table with what seemed like con-goers sitting at it. The mind boggles, especially when the third longest line I saw the entire weekend was at the west-of-main-corridors Richard Walker's Pancake House. It wasn't just restaurants. Every morning when I walked down seventh and then over to sixth and then finally to fifth I saw multiple parking lots with plenty of places open at 9:30 to 10:00 AM. One parking lot on Sunday at 9:30 AM, located half the distance from the show my old and not very healthy self was walking, had one car in it. It seems to me that downtown San Diego can more than handle the outlying hotels and day-visit parking, and deal with the Comic-Con nighttime crowd, if people will just spread themselves out a bit.

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* it may be that I'm just getting old and I'm taking extra delight in being able to sit down, but it seems like the last couple of years the programming has been consistently strong, and stuffed to the brim with watchable events. You can read about the panels I attended in the daily reports. I concluded this was an abundance of riches when I realized that on Saturday, you could spend three hours in the same chair and see talks with Jillian Tamaki, Peter Bagge, and Gabrielle Bell in rapid-fire fashion. That's a entire day of quality programming for alt-comics fans at many shows. I must have attended parts of 20 panels, no kidding, and I could create a full, awesome day out of ones I missed: Matt Fraction's Sunday spotlight with Bill Hader and his aforementioned performance piece, Keith Knight's spotlight panel, the comic strip reprint panel, the comics publishing panel, the comics criticism panel, the Milo Manara spotlight, the Jack Kirby panel, the ComicsPRO meet-and-greet, this year's Quick Draw with Bil Stout and the Scott McCloud moderated talk with James Sturm about the Center for Cartoon Studies. And that's working from memory. I never even saw any of the CBLDF draw-while-interviewed series, my favorite panels of 2009.

* one thing that struck me in the panels is how serious so many of the panelists were about making art. Not glum-serious, but lack-of-bullshit, this-is-important-to-me serious. It was a good year for panelists across the comics spectrum that chewed on the questions asked and came up with honest answers. I've seen so many glib and smarmy panels over the years that the earnestness in the air at CCI 2010 was a more than welcome change. There was only one panel I saw that felt contrived and desultory to me, where the participants came across as if they saw the programming schedule and were like, "Ugh. A panel. Well, if I have to." It stuck out like a sore thumb.

* another thought about the convention: one thing I wish attendees and professionals would abandon is automatically blaming the con for things that are clearly the result of their mandate running wild as opposed to willfully strategizing against you. That's not to say the buck doesn't stop wherever their offices are, but I think there could be some sympathy for their simply expanding what they do because people are interested. We're all victims in some way or another of this rapid growth in attendance and attention, including the organizers.

I think it's best to keep in mind that the surge is a relatively recent and sudden phenomenon. There's going to be some scrambling. Every year brings with it a new group of solutions and a new set of problems. The shelf date on new ways of conducting business can be extremely limited. For instance, a press thing: a couple of years ago when companies started having events and PR opportunities off-site at hotels, this seemed like the greatest idea in the world to me and my small circle of Fourth Estate pals. You get to take a break from the main show and go to a place where the people you want to learn about have your full attention at the same time they have yours! And yet this year I know a number of my press buddies when asked to trudge off site treated it like an invitation to throw the entire day right in the toilet. There are so many small events to attend and small deadlines to hit that taking the time to go to the W or wherever for a single interview struck many as flat crazy. The point is, everyone is still adjusting. I know I am.

* by the way, James Sturm pointed this out to me and he's right. Is there any more amusing guest of Comic-Con than King Features' Brendan Burford? He's one of the ten most powerful guys in comics, one of maybe five guys in North America whose interest in you can all by itself make your career. There are people who would climb over their mothers to have five minutes of his time. Plus he's super-nice and smart and funny. But instead of being mobbed or constantly hassled, Burford wanders around the show chatting to people that he knows, picking up a couple of books here and there, seeming to all assembled like another young-looking comics fan with a bemused, tired half-smile on his face. He's like the Don Rosa of comics executives. It's hilarious.

* other than Berke Breathed being convinced that a lot of people adored Bloom County -- he told me that his spotlight panel's crowd was the easiest and most receptive audience he ever had; plus it was standing-room only -- I couldn't really track any strip news beyond Burford saying that Dustin continues to pick up paper and five or six people asking me if I've seen the new Jay Stephens-drawn, Bob Weber Jr.-written strip Oh, Brother. The traffic at the NCS table seemed pretty light, although maybe I stopped by during lean times.

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* to take this back to comics, I thought there were a number of intriguing publishing announcements. As much as I'm depressed by the piling on of publishing initiatives to the relative detriment of distribution and sales issues, and as much as the movie-centric focus of so many comics announcements further sends me to bed early to have a good cry, there was good news for those of us that just want awesome comics to read. Fantagraphics winning the Floyd Gottfredson stakes is great news for a lot of reasons, but mostly because when Gottfredson was in his adventure-comics prime that strip killed it for weeks and weeks at a time. Both D+Q announcements they released here I think are promising: I've wanted to see more of that Mimi Pond work for a while now, and Shikeru Mizuki making it to North American shores is, as Chris Butcher points out, huge news. Top Shelf has this near-army of of quality books coming out. Marvel continues employing its deep writers' bench in a variety of ways. Fantagraphics isn't denying they may tackle Franquin after having some success with Jacques Tardi. Abrams is going to do that Someday Funnies book Bob Levin wrote about in the Journal, and is hanging in there with the Carter Family book. It looks like a lot of compelling work to come.

* one thing that may not be public knowledge and that I think is really telling about Comic-Con is that Fantagraphics was thinking about not announcing the Gottfredson books for fear of being lost in an assumed wave of publishing news at the show. Instead of being lost, the Mickey Mouse series was one of the showpiece news items, the kind about which you read supplementary interviews and post-acquisition analysis. It just goes to show you that everyone is still feeling out the way the show works best.

image* I'm sure there are other, small memories I'll want to put in this paragraph. Sam Gross of all people came up three times in three different conversations over the weekend. It's not like I minded. I love Sam Gross. I Am Blind And My Dog Is Dead may be one of the greatest collection titles ever. I had two different conversations about there still not being a definitive Trots And Bonnie collection. During one of them a pair of young, talented cartoonists admitted they'd never heard of Shary Flenniken. Someone fix that, please. This was the year I started to be grateful just seeing guys near my own age still working in comics in some capacity. I checked off everyone on my See-Them-At-CCI bingo sheet except Marc Mason, Moritat and Paul Sloboda. That said, there was a frightening number I didn't see at all, and others I lost track of halfway through the show like they weren't ever there in the first place. Emile Bravo was gracious, funny, and a fascinating guy to watch hold court. I suspect that of the major international guests Bravo came closest to surviving the convention rather than enjoying it, but he's a total pro and the people I took this panel had a blast. CCI 2010 was the kind of show where a new Kevin Huizenga book is out and it doesn't get mentioned until 5000 words in. Having to take books on the airplane and being forced to pay for a second piece of luggage or an overweight/overstuffed first piece changed more buying habits than I think anyone would care to admit.

* so enough with the con. Bring on the post-con announcements: DC in Burbank, CCI's location starting in 2013, CR's studio move. It should be an intriguing August.

* my personal thanks to all those (including one person in particular) who were so nice and supportive -- a special shout-out to Team CA for being so gracious on Friday night -- and a thank you to my brother Whit for taking most of these photos and a ton of others, besides. The best encounters of the weekend were hearing from smart-seeming people that read and appreciate the site and wanted to tell me so. Thank you. You don't know what an encouragement that kind of thing can be.

* oh, yeah: a guy got stabbed in the face with a pen, too. And in the end, it wasn't all that big of a story. I told you it was an odd year.

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photos by Whit and Tom Spurgeon

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any additional thoughts on the show will be published in this site's "Four-Color Festival" column

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Notes From The Floor, Preview Night
Originally Posted July 22, 2010

The following are notes and observations gathered on the floor of Comic-Con International 2010 in San Diego, California. For immediate reactions to what's going on from hundreds of people, I recommend an appropriate search or multiple such searches on Twitter. For mainstream comics and panel coverage in general -- this being a key event for publishing news announcements of the mainstream comics variety -- I recommend Comic Book Resources and then Newsarama. -- Tom Spurgeon

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* let's start our CCI coverage off with a formal publishing news announcement. Drawn and Quarterly through associate publisher Peggy Burns have informed CR they've acquired rights to a book from cartoonist Mimi Pond called Over Easy, which they describe as "a coming-of-age story of a young artist, set against the backdrop of the burgeoning punk-rock scene and moral disenchantment of the late 1970's in Oakland, California, an environment in which she must sort out the good and the bad in the people she comes to love." Tom Devlin found the book for the company.

imagePond is probably better known for her television work -- The Simpsons, Designing Women, Pee Wee's Playhouse -- and her humor writing generally than she is for her cartooning, but the LA-based Pond is a full-blown, fully-realized cartooning talent. In fact, hardcore comics fans may recall the work that appeared in Best American Comics 2009 before any of her work in other fields. That's where I'd seen the name. Fine print: Paul Bresnick of the Bresnick Agency represented Pond. D+Q acquired worldwide rights which means FSG in the US, Raincoast in Canada and various international rights to be negotiated by their person at TLA.

There's nothing more exciting than news of forthcoming comics of interest, even at a big cross-media show. I'll dig around and see if I can post one or two more such announcements as the show grinds on; if anyone out there at the show or not at the show has such an announcement,

* I stopped by the Abrams booth for a check-up on the Young/Lasky Carter Family book. The folks working the booth say the book has been rescheduled for Fall 2011, and indicate that the song rights situation that delayed its printing from the original ballpark figure of I believe first half of 2010 haven't been all the way resolved -- or at least that's how I took their statement that they won't be publishing the book if the rights situation isn't rectified by then. If I hear anything else about this book, I'll let you know. I'm a huge Dave Lasky fan, and I'd really like to have a bunch of pages of his work under a nice big-publisher cover.

* saw Brian Ralph for the first time since Heroes Con 2008. His toy debuts on the floor of the show today. He was over at the First Second booth and amazingly, he and Gina Gagliano both swear that Ralph is still working on his First Second book and that First Second intends to publish it when it is done. I think without knowing for sure that Ralph's book is the only one from the official publishing line launch announcement that has yet to be released.

image* a couple of cartoonists near the First Second booth enthused over a work called Anya's Ghost, from Vera Brosgol at First Second in Spring 2011.

* I think I disappointed Scott McCloud when I informed him that when I said Harvey Pekar looked drawn and inked when everyone else is sketched I was really referring to how he looked to me. It is a useful metaphor for talking about Harvey in a bunch of ways, now that I think of it, but at the time I was just thinking he was a striking guy visually.

* saw Chris Butcher and got to talk a bit. He says that not only do they believe that 2000 people showed up for the Scott Pilgrim midnight book launch festivities in Toronto, but that well over 800 bought a book and went through the line to get it signed.

* I saw Roger Langridge in the Pro Help line, who despite suffering problems with his flight out seemed as cheerful and unflappable as ever.

* talked to the CBLDF's Charles Brownstein on my way away from the lines, and he seemed fired up for the show. The Fund's announcement of an expansion in their educational efforts seems to me a key part of their growth from a wholly reactionary organization to one with a wider mandate and multiple ways to see that take effect in comics. That doesn't mean that every individual initiative will be successful, but it does indicate they'll be moving in that general, expansive direction for some time to come. Their board will be meeting I think this morning, so maybe some extra news will come of that.

* not comics: Kurt Busiek has signed a movie deal for Astro City: not its first apparently, but what sounds like a solidly-structured deal. I met and spoke briefly and casually with the guy who worked on that deal from Kurt's end, Nick Harris. I asked him if Comic-Con was more a place he made deal or a place he maintained relationships and he maybe not surprisingly said both. He cited the simple fact that he has so many clients in the same room as a wonderful advantage to doing what he does.

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* the ubiquitous giveaway item of the night was a Burger King-style paper Galactus hat. I can't imagine wanting to see them all weekend, but I suppose we will. They're kind of cute.

* it too me all the way until the next morning to figure out that Marvel's floor display was Odin's throne from the Thor movie. So I guess you can have your picture taken as Odin. If I weren't so tired, I'd manage some sort of joke about poking one's eye out first.

* BOOM! announced a trio of Stan Lee-related projects, building on IDW's use of the pre-CCI time period to get a jump on the PR in the same way that first big box-office movie opening the first weekend in May seems to do pretty well. I like all of the talent involved, and maybe I'm just missing something, but this doesn't seem like a big deal to me. The characters seem as generic as any of the characters that Lee's been involved with in the last decade or so, and while just about any book can be well-executed to the point that's it's worth picking up, I don't see how this is an announcement worth covering until the books in question hit a certain level of quality and are worth talking about that way. At best, it's a clever way for BOOM! to expand its superhero offerings and work with some of those kinds of creators.

* Beguiling owner Peter Birkemoe made an interesting point about his store's successful TCAF show: one of the reasons you have it every year as they plan on doing for the immediate future is because it costs less in time, energy and money to keep the momentum going year to year than restarting it every other year. Makes sense to me.

* Preview Night's buzz book in the art comics set was the astonishing looking Norman Pettingill: Backwoods Humorist, from Fantagraphics. My God, that thing is odd-looking and wonderful.

* Alex Chun -- editor, writer, art collector; he's the one who did that series of slightly risque gag cartoon books with Fantagraphics a few years back -- made an interesting suggestion when we were talking about original art. Chun, who knows a thing or two about art himself, suggests that the current comics art market relies too much on a familiarity via nostalgia that's just not going to communicate once a specific generation dies off. I think I sort of agree with him. Where I'd break with him is that while I think something like a John Romita Spider-Man page might be priced the way it's priced right now because of the nostalgic impulse, but you don't know if his art might come back into favor or if he has a style that might see a renaissance, plus there's always going to be at least some interest in good-looking pages. It's hard to deny that there will be a decline in interest in a lot of art by artist when the original fans cycle out, though -- that's been the case in a lot of collectible art.

* lot of interesting talk about the con itself. I still get the sense that a lot of the comics publishers suffer through Preview Night rather than celebrate it, despite a best face forward. A lot of folks were very easy to talk to at their booths because they had relatively little going on, and for the kind of publisher that isn't doing item exclusives or maybe isn't even set up to try some comics news or product equivalent to an exclusive thing, it's basically another night of a draining show without a huge boost in terms of a unique audience. It was argued a couple of years ago that there are people on the floor Preview Night that are in panels or lines the rest of the weekend, but it doesn't seem to translate into big crowds on the comics end. It's here to stay, of course.

* I've heard three different rumors about different stories being held until after Comic-Con so as not to get crowded out, which is sort of a fascinating notion. Plus the stories could be pretty good if they come off.

* this is what I get for reading that Iron Man Mandarin annual instead of the LA Times on the bus yesterday: their profile of DC Comics includes the notion that they may move to Los Angeles -- which is one of the stories the person I e-mailed last night (upon hearing a rumor in a bar) believes will be announced after Comic-Con and is all but a done deal. That's one of those articles where comics folks are going to rush to get the announcement out -- and as you can see, I'm as guilty as anyone in projecting the possibility of said announcement -- but what's going to be fascinating is how that move would take place. I can't imagine too many people from New York not coming out to LA a) in this economy, b) for the chance to integrate themselves into wider entertainment opportunities just as their company will be doing, but I can also imagine a scenario where certain folks simply aren't invited.

* another tried-and-true con complaint that raised its head again from three different people is that the massive sell-outs favor an audience of obsessives that is not necessarily the audience for comic books, and certainly not art- indy- or alt-comics. The idea being that the kind of person who is able to plan for a show six months out is usually a TV show fan, or a superhero comics fan, and the kind of comics and art whose patrons are a couple of guys sitting in Silverlake who two weekends ago had a conversation along the lines of "Hey, Comic-Con's in a couple of weekends. We should go" are going to be less well-served as the show matures in that direction. I'm sympathetic, although I'm not sure what can be done other than to identify CCI as a certain kind of show with a certain kind of fan and adjust your exhibiting habits accordingly. Some day I'd like to see someone try an off-site comics show that shared rather than simply absconded with the patrons of the operating show, a kind of "if you can't get into comic-con you can see some of the best comics talents here" situation that also honored CCI badges. But I also like it when people drive off cliffs in old movies.

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* one thing that irritated the crap out of me personally was the notion that seemed to be floated by a number of folks I talked to and read about enjoying the solicitousness of San Diego's citizens and business people a little bit more than usual -- that we as con goers should somehow extract some measure of satisfaction from the desire San Diego has to keep the show and that we're finally getting our due as a contributor to their culture and economy. This seems slightly ugly to me. San Diego people have always been hugely nice, in my opinion, much nicer as a whole behavior-wise as hosts than the con-goers I've seen over the years have acted as guests. I don't expect anyone who lives and works here to be excited about the exact nature of my visit, although the genuine well-wishes, the ones you imagine don't come from a manager's directive, are always nice. I have no idea what yawning chasm of self-worth exists in the comics community that we're now supposed to take special delight in worried people nervously kissing our ass.

* speaking of things that make people nervous, I'm hearing a lot of rumbling about troubled Direct Market retailers in a bunch of cities. This isn't exactly a stable group of businesses to begin with, and you always hear stories, especially at Comic-Con, but I don't remember this many about this many "name" establishments.

* ran into Michael Dooley, freshly into his new gig doing comics- and illustration-related blogging at Print. He recently attended an illustration show in Pasadena he promised broke down into controversy, so I'm looking forward to catching up with that.

* I think Jordan Crane told me it was okay if I mentioned Fantagraphics is bringing the comic book showcase for his work, Uptight, after the next issue. I love Crane's comics, and one can see them on-line now, but I thought that was a particularly potent package in comic book form. It's just not something that comics structurally encourages right now.

* every day should end with me on a shuttle bus listening to two guys with thick New Jersey accents talking loudly about their extravagant original art and sketchbook purchases. Not every Comic-Con day. Every day.

* finally, something OTBP to go see: I really like Shawn Cheng's artwork and prints; they're very beautiful. He's sharing a table with Tom Neely right around the corner from Drawn and Quarterly: 1630. You should at least go stare at the prints; even if they're largely out of your price range, they're something to see. He has some of the Partyka minis available as well, which should be very affordable and are of definite visual interest as well.

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*****

the show runs from July 22nd through July 25th; photo of Mimi Pond by Wayne White

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Notes From The Floor, Thursday (Day 1)
Originally Posted July 22, 2010

The following are notes and observations gathered on the floor of Comic-Con International 2010 in San Diego, California. For immediate reactions to what's going on from hundreds of people, I recommend an appropriate search or multiple such searches on Twitter. For mainstream comics and panel coverage in general -- this being a key event for publishing news announcements -- I recommend Comic Book Resources and then Newsarama. -- Tom Spurgeon

*****

* first, some personnel news that hasn’t made the sites: Jason T. Miles has a new position at Fantagraphics, moving over from a store liaison and inventory management role into editorial and production managing. Miles did assistant's work on the Humbug project Fantagraphics did in 2009, and shepherded the Jim Woodring FCBD effort through production as well.

* the comics area seemed really light traffic-wise to me, or, more to the point, it never seemed dangerously stuffed with people the way it had in past years at one time or another. That’s super-anecdotal, though, just my personal observation. I spoke with a small sampling of five publishers and four creators selling and six of them said they were doing pretty well sales wise. That’s going to vary wildly person to person, though.

* my new Comic-Con when you're over 40 mantra: "I'm not getting older, I'm getting weaker and less able to recover."

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* Blake Bell sold his allotment of Bill Everett books today by the end of his signing period (Fantagraphics will have a few more on hand for the weekend) and had his photo taken at the Fantagraphics books with Lake Bell, who is disturbingly good-looking.

* only a couple of comics-related TV/Film deals pop to me, solely because of the implications for the publishing houses involved. Oni has signed a first look deal with CBS television studios, which seems to me the kind of thing that would benefit the comics partner if there's money involved and if talent looking to place work with the publisher wants to know their stuff will be looked at in that fashion. That latter consideration works in a much more open fashion at Image, where many of the creators can be nudged into admitting their projects make little to no money, so the success Chew has enjoyed as a surprise publishing hit and now soon-to-be television series has to be heartening for creators seeking to place work there.

* a couple of people asked me if I thought the security was any better. I think it's not so much a leap forward from last year as a gradual improvement over the last few. It's to be expected, too -- when the country experiences economic hardship, the quality improves in terms the people willing to work certain jobs. The comics industry has benefited from the disappearing editorial and art director jobs in the same way that I’m imagining security firms have a deeper talent panel from which to deploy event personnel.

* took in the last half-hour of the Jeff Smith panel, I'd say about 175-200 in attendance. Smith's always been great with his panels, and he was as laid-back and easy-going as ever. He predicted that next year Warner Brothers would have news concerning the Bone movie in development, and he had only seen a few seconds of animation amidst a number of character design sheets, all of which he liked. One person told me that watching Jeff Smith speak makes you wonder why anyone has ever been scared to speak before an audience, he's that confident.

* one thing that came out of the Smith panel that may make me reconsider Bone: I'd always stayed away from seeing Bone as having too many autobiographical elements; that just seemed too facile of an interpretation. But Smith actually described Kingdok as someone who gave himself over to "the system" in the form of the locusts. That makes me wonder if there's a vocational aspect of some sort throughout Bone.

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* saw Brendan Burford on the floor of the show. I congratulated him on the strong launch for Dustin. I don't think he'd mind me passing along that the strip is in 150 papers now: a victory in any market and a miracle in this one (everything after the colon is me, not Burford). He called the artist Jeff Parker one of the hidden heroes of comic strips.

* Burford also talked up the Oh, Brother strip King Features is doing with Bob Weber, Jr. and Jay Stephens, an old alt-comics favorite for people near my age. What they're doing is apparently a devoted site launch for that strip, following the model of Wimpy Kid, which will feature the strip and a bunch of related games and activities. Anything with Stephens' visual imprimatur is bound to loo pretty great, and it's totally worth nothing that KFS is doing a kind of launch no other syndicate's ever done.

* had an interesting meeting with Jordan Verzar, the music promoter who helped put together this forthcoming event, and hopes to make it a continuing, yearly effort. We talked about comics a bit, and one thing he said I thought was fascinating was that as a group the Australian comics outlets have almost no back-issues stock; it's just not a part of the funnybook-buying experience down there as he's experienced it. So for him the west end of the con floor was a kind of pulpy nirvana even if it seems to some of us like an area in decline, and he admitted to buying a big stack of comics only a half day into the show.

* stopped by the Dumbrella panel, which was very well attended with what seemed like a number of hardcore fans. What came across to me from the five cartoonists on the panel is that there was very little overlap in terms of style, approach, or the business mechanisms by which they were trying to facilitate their comics. I think there's an assumption of a kind of monolithic standard for those cartoonists, like "they all sell t-shirts," and that just isn't true.

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* caught a significant portion of the Tom Palmer panel. Mark Waid is an excellent panel moderator, but with his encyclopedic knowledge of comics and cartoonists like Tom Palmer, that makes sense. Palmer was an elegant-looking guy, like John Hurt with a fuller head of hair. None of his answers were rote answers. When he was questioned if he had any moral qualms about inking the violence in Kick-Ass he replied in a way that almost indicated that he couldn't have understood why anyone could have such an objection if the material were clearly marked and labeled and headed for an intended audience, which is not always what you get from guys who have worked in the American mainstream for as long as Palmer has. He also noted the camaraderie of people in the comic business, how there are easy relationships from people based on respect for the work being done and the shared experience of deadlines and creative pressures. Good, solid comics panel.

* the James Sturm panel was in the part of the convention that I hadn't been to since my backpack and all my stuff was stolen a few years back.

* James Sturm was surprised to win an Inkpot, the convention's award. That's a handsome little statue. I assured James of some of the big names who were given the award in years past and he lit up with surprise.

* Sturm is without surprise a really interesting speaker. He talked about getting back on-line recently after his off-line experiment for Slate Magazine, and how catching up with the vanity google searches for reaction to Market Day turned a kind of miserable everyday routine into 30 minutes of study and read, concentrated fun. Really great crowd, about twice the size I would have expected given the location of the room and the murderer's row of similar spotlights that same horror. Brendan Burford asked if Market Day and the Internet experiment indicated a distrust towards new technologies and how they discombobulate practicing artists, but Sturm stated that wasn't true at all.

* one thing Sturm said that intrigued me was that he was going to compress an old, failed graphic novel attempt about a year in the life of art students in to an effort for the NY Times Funny Pages when that was a going concern. He chose a Fall slot over a Spring one, and the feature was canceled in the Summer. Why I make note of that is that some folks assumed that they just ran their course in terms of cartoonists they wanted to work with, where it seems like it was much more of an overt cancellation, with work in the pipeline and everything.

* I don't have a link, but Marvel made its official Strange Tales Vol. 2 announcement. I'm glad all those cartoonists are getting a payday, and I hope they have a good time.

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* the Best And Worst Of Manga 2010 panel was a blast, maybe more so because my moderating basically consisted of playing Vanna White with the powerpoint "next image" button. I've made a full post of their recommendations and please-avoids which will roll out on this site Monday. Very funny people and a very passionate audience -- I wish there were many more panels with as much excitement about the experience of reading comics as that one.

* I heard some complaints from fellow comics reporters that there wasn't more media coverage of comics from people at the show. I don't know, maybe this obnoxious to say out loud, but it seems to me if you're media and you don't think there's enough coverage of comics, maybe just do more coverage of comics? There are a few movie stories with a definite comics component, but a lot that aren't, and a story about a lack of coverage isn't the same thing as just doing some coverage. People like Chris Staros, Ross Richie, AnnaMaria White -- they're all dying to talk to you.

* finally, the OTBP recommendation of the day again comes from the Sparkplug row -- Livon Jihanian's mini-comic Danger Country Vol. 1, which fits nicely into the new school of fantasy comics that everyone's enthused about these days. Clean art, compellingly-paced cartooning, nice little character designs -- what more could you want in a convention mini?

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*****

the show runs from July 22nd through July 25th

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Notes From The Floor, Friday (Day 2)
Originally Posted July 24, 2010

The following are notes and observations gathered on the floor of Comic-Con International 2010 in San Diego, California. For immediate reactions to what's going on from hundreds of people, I recommend an appropriate search or multiple such searches on Twitter. For mainstream comics and panel coverage in general -- this being a key event for publishing news announcements -- I recommend Comic Book Resources and then Newsarama. -- Tom Spurgeon

*****

* CR was told this morning by Drawn and Quarterly Associate Publisher Peggy Burns that the publisher has acquired North American English rights to Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths and NonNonBa by the legendary Shigeru Mizuki. In the press release, Chris Oliveros called Mizuki "one of the greatest living cartoonists" and praised his range as a storyteller. A towering figure in the gekiga movement, Mizuki is nearly 90 years old. Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths is the author and veteran's autobiographically tinged account of a Japanese infantry unit during the closing days of World War 2. NonNonBa is sete in the period of the author's early 1930s childhood, when games of war dominated the Mizuki's neighborhood and dreams of creating his own worlds drove his personal creativity. Mizuki is a widely, internationally published figure -- the cartoonist's life is the subject of a television show -- and the two books fit right in line with D+Q's approach to translating manga.

* that news being said: what a strange, long day.

* I'm still sensing that odd mix of generally casual crowds, nothing ever super-packed on the comics end of the floor but definitely always people around, with sales ahead of what those crowds look like. There are huge exceptions, of course, and my sampling could not be less impressive. One thing that I heard from folks that I managed to corral into such a discussion is that some stuff sold out they didn't expect to sell out -- perennials in some cases, a random piece of merchandise among many such pieces in others.

* just for information's sake, one of the few places I received details on what was selling was the Fantagraphics table: the new Love & Rockets, piles of the new Moto Hagio book, and sell-outs on the second Prison Pit volume and two different shipments of the Blake Bell book about Bill Everett. That Prison Pit book is an awesome-looking thing, with a shiny cover the shiny part of which was I believe suggested to Johnny Ryan by Tim Hensley.

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* speaking of Hensley, I spoke briefly to my old employer Gary Groth, whose news of son Conrad attending college next year -- a year early, which is awesome -- was the news of the show that made everyone in the 1990s Seattle scene at CCI feel older than Methuselah. I don't think Gary would mind if I mentioned that we talked at one point about the day to day grind of making comics when he suddenly waxed rhapsodic about a recent period in the office where a bunch of their recently well-received books came through the door, everything from Wally Gropius to the new Cathy Malkasian stand-alone work Temperance (they reprinted her fine Percy Gloom recently). It's always nice to see some recognition of the fact that no matter where you sit in relation to the work, there's an astonishing array of material coming out in a lot of comics' various forms of expression.

* one of the nice people in comics, Peter Birkemoe not only owns iconic North American retail establishment the Beguiling but runs a well-respected original art sales business from the store. At conventions, there's a road version of that business, this amazing pile of folders you can flip through featuring some of the best alternative comics artist going. Birkemoe said that sales were brisk and one solid performer at the show so far was Jeff Lemire, whose fan base he described as significant and enthusiastic.

* I asked representatives from about eight to ten comics organizations or rough equivalents (people on the floor representing themselves in two cases) about the level of interest in media in what they were doing, if they were able to set up interviews and if people were coming to them for stories. Most of them indicated opportunities to arrange supplementary media coverage like interviews, especially if they reached out to people that were going to be on hand, but that most of the media coverage of what they were doing took the form of media walking up to them during show hours. Gina Gagliano of First Second made the great point that it might not always be the goal of a publisher or related comics entity to be covered at such a show -- you might not have anything brand-new you want to talk about, and you might be focusing on the consumer/sales end of the show.

* Chris Staros is writing again. Every third installment will be related to his comics company. You may remember that the Top Shelf co-owner got his start with an annual about comics called The Staros Report.

image* had a great discussion with Keith Knight about his recent trip to a school whose black students objected to one of his cartoons. While most of the media -- myself likely concluded -- were castigating the students for being satirically challenged, Knight took the generous view that something sounded suspicious and that there might be a wider context for the complaint that made the misinterpretation more understandable. And through his meetings with various groups and individuals on campus, that's exactly what he found out. The bloggy version of the store is here.

* I have to mention this: Shannon Wheeler has a magnificent beard. It's like someone put it on his face with magnets and a plastic wand. I think light bent around that beard. Wheeler was back in the small press area after taking some time away from CCI, which cost him access to devoted floor space. He said he was having a blast, though.

* watched a really strong run of panels. Moto Hagio was a delight; intelligent and funny, with fans that clearly adored her (there were about 125 total in attendance). She told a great story about wanting to kill off characters when writing for a magazine aimed at elementary school students and having that worked rejected. She finally found a publishing home for that material, about which she declared something along the lines of "And I've been killing people ever since." Carol Tyler was as amazing as you could imagine: hilarious, solicitous of audience members who asked some absolutely heavy questions, somewhat delightfully prickly at times. The thing I liked about her the most is that she seemed to think about every word Gary Groth asked her and tried to answer each one honestly. That's also the first panelist I can remember suggesting to the audience they all go outside and continue their discussion when the panel ended. Saw an inter-generational panel about putting yourself into your comics that was split reasonably evenly by gender and generation. Howard Cruse gave the fullest answers, Gabrielle Bell the most conflicted and Jillian Tamaki the big surprise only because I'd never seen her before -- she seemed smart, she was definitely funny and she gave forceful answers. Stuart and Kathryn Immonen focused on their new Top Shelf at their panels but were happy to answer superhero questions, too. Kathryn suggested more Hellcat in her future, which I don't think was news to anyone other than people like me that may read that material but not follow superhero publishing news super-closely.

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* it wasn't until that group of panels were over that I realized I watched like four hours in a row of overlapping panels featuring great female cartoonists and comics makers.

* the Berke Breathed program was packed, one of the big rooms on the traditional end of the center, and it's wonderful to see Mr. Breathed wake up to the fact of just how many comics readers, specifically of a certain generation, really adore Bloom County. It seems like he was pretty defeated at one point regarding his own comics work, and the IDW books and resulting attention have helped counteract those feelings.

* I ended the my panel day with stop-in on the Sean Phillips panel -- who mentioned that if WildStorm had kept its Star Trek franchise when they had it a long time ago, he probably wouldn't have done Sleeper.

image* the Eisners were a weird night for me in that CR won its category, which stunned me and for which I'm very grateful. I think I sat there with a shocked look on my face holding the award at just the point the awards program began to sag a tiny bit, so I was the only one at my table and the table next door that thought the program went quickly.

* the big news for me that I'm not sure a bunch of folks caught: that was the first Eisners Eric Reynolds could recall where Fantagraphics was shut out, and he's been going to these things for almost 20 years.

* as for what I remember of the show: Thomas Lennon, Chip Kidd and Peter Bagge were funny; Thomas Jane was odd and funny; big nights for Jill Thompson, David Mazzucchelli, JH Williams III and everything Scott Dunbier edits; the Scott Pilgrim cast looked like "Superman and His Various Tiny Children, All By Mothers Whose Names Begin With L's"; Peggy Burns gave a classy couple of speeches and displayed a touching amount of affection for winner Yoshihiro Tatsumi; there is still something of a reservoir of sadness regarding Dave Stevens' passing a couple of years ago; Tony Millionaire looks imposing as hell in a tuxedo. A significant portion of the audience and the VIPs left early, but that's been the case the last couple of years.

* the highlight of the evening may have been the Chris Claremont/Milo Manara presenting team, about which one can borrow the old joke: "One of them couldn't speak English and the other one was Milo Manara."

* finally, a whiff of publishing news: if I understood a couple of side comments at their table correctly, it seems to me as if Fantagraphics may take another shot at publishing Franquin.

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*****

the show runs from July 22nd through July 25th

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Notes From The Floor, Saturday (Day 3)
Originally Posted July 25, 2010

The following are notes and observations gathered on the floor of Comic-Con International 2010 in San Diego, California. For immediate reactions to what's going on from hundreds of people, I recommend an appropriate search or multiple such searches on Twitter. For mainstream comics and panel coverage in general -- this being a key event for publishing news announcements -- I recommend Comic Book Resources and then Newsarama. -- Tom Spurgeon

*****

* best update on the Hall H eye-stabbing here. Kudos to the fates for having what was an inevitable violent outbreak regarding the high-pressure seat occupation strategies at Comic-Con be reminiscent of the famous junkie's needle to the eye that got Wertham all fired up. I'm not totally interested in the story as a story, but it bears tracking how it goes down over the next few days. It also goes without saying that or the rest of the con there should be a considerable amount of tension in the air regarding any potential second violent incident. A fistfight at 2 PM today, say, or a girl being pushed down the last seven stairs somewhere at 4 PM, they would make this more a trend story instead of an isolated incident one.

image* maybe the greatest news of the con, made during a panel I was going to moderate, then didn't: Fantagraphics will be doing a Complete Floyd Gottfredson Mickey Mouse. The fascinating thing about this is that I can't think of a strip outside of Thimble TheatrePopeye that changed more in its history, and certainly not another one that changed so much under the same cartoonist. When that strip was on, it was a great, great adventure strip. The first volume will be out next year, and Gary Groth is spearheading the project.

* another one of interest because it's an odd project in certain ways as well is a planned Rocketeer comic series (and, one guesses, resulting trade) from IDW. The press release is unclear whether it's an anthology or a team-created book; the first approach would be more likely and reflect more common practice. They certainly name a slew of heavy-hitting mainstream talent. A portion of monies earned go to charity. It's weird only in that this kind of thing is usually described as a tribute book where this specific one announcement seems to hedge on that a bit, maybe to get some juice as simply more Rocketeer stories. I don't know, it seems like in everything but in rigorous tribute form that property has passed on.

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* more Alex Raymond from IDW, too. That's nice.

* spoke to AnnaMaria White at IDW briefly; she's fired up about her summertime promotion, which I guess allows her to focus on press over a combination of press and retail. It's actually kind of nice to see the promotional/marketing teams at comics company expand and settle into place. You forget about this kind of thing sometimes, but the con for someone like Jacq Cohen at Fantagraphics is likely a big deal as she settles into a certain part of her PR duties and has to put on display the interpersonal part of it while hopefully benefiting from the planning aspects. We focus so much on the importance of Comic-Con to people making a one-hour presentation or a single appearance that we sometimes forget it can be a crucial show for a lot of people working in company infrastructures.

* spoke to a Hollywoodish person focused on the potential development of comics properties for a quarter hour or so. As long as I leave it a blind item, I don't think she'd mind me saying that the landscape from their viewpoint has become more difficult as companies sign various first-look proposals. Another person e-mailing in said that they wouldn't be surprise if you see a few companies employing more of a Dark Horse approach and doing initial stages of development themselves, maybe through a single employee.

* I stopped by the Boom! booth to congratulate newly-installed Editor In Chief Matt Gagnon, who was in informal portfolio review mode. I was curious to hear the other day that the company planned to work with sometimes-beleaguered cartoonist William Messner-Loebs, but it turns out they already had worked with the writer and I had just missed it. Discussed Messner-Loebs' Journey with a younger cartoonist the other day, who really loved the atmospheric art and strange narrative rhythms of the frontier project. I can't imagine IDW sold a lot of their collections, and would recommend those of you that love the romantically ambitious comics projects of the past put that one on their shelves.

* ran into Rantz Hoseley of Longbox on the convention floor. He could say much more than broad generalities, but he assures me that by the end of the con season his on-line comics reading enterprise will have at least one major league partnership in terms of embedding its technology. He also suggested there's a long way to go before the competition between various strategies gets settled.

* here's a bit of big-deal publishing news -- well, to me and people who like roughly the same kinds of comics I like -- that escaped my attention until Charlie Kochman mentioned it in passing, but I guess was covered by Calvin Reid earlier in the show: Abrams plans to publish a finished version of Michel Choquette's legendarily incomplete and slightly doomed anthology The Someday Funnies in the second half of 2011.

* you know what subject has come up unbidden about a half dozen times over the weekend? Robert Kirkman's new project where he plans on giving an opportunity and some direction to new creators in return for an (I think) unnamed level participation in their projects. As described, it seems like the opposite of how Image is set up and not really related with how Kirkman established and developed his career, either. I want to wait for some articles and interview from people who know mainstream American comic books better than I do before I comment in a loaded way, but it certainly caught my attention and that of some other folks.

* something that no one has talked to me about but has certainly caught my interest is the sheer number of different imprints and lines planned, with every reason to believe that they'll make good -- at least at first -- on their publishing goals. I'm not against new work, but it doesn't seem to me if you sat down with a team of problem-solver and set to work with the comics industry that anyone's solution would be to release a ton of new product through the current infrastructure.

* by the way, the Calvin Reid link from earlier also has a rough sketch of planned layoffs/cutbacks related to Del Rey Manga.

image* my panels went really well. Gabrielle Bell seems incapable right now of giving an evasive, easy, canned answer to any question, no matter how dopey or ill-timed that question may be. I admired how honestly conflicted she seemed on issues, how none of the answers were trite. She says she's about two-three years away from seeing a graphic novel published, which she described as a series of short vignettes about a single person's life, but definitely interconnected in a more novelistic way than simply a collection of short stories might be. On the international graphic novels panel, Kathryn Immonen, Stuart Immonen, Milo Manara, Moto Hagio and a late-arriving Emile Bravo all spoke in broad strokes about the economic and personal ramifications of the long-form comics option, and what it's like to develop a readership outside of your borders. That Saturday afternoon all-star, generically-named panel is always a tough one because of the projected unfamiliarity most of those in the audience likely have with a portion if not all of the participants, but they were all funny and consistently humble. Plus Kathryn Immonen resisted throwing an ice water glass at my head when I asked not one but two impossible to answer, 15-ellipse questions that made no sense, for which I'm greatly appreciated. One fired-up person after the panel proclaimed that awesome talent like the assembled should be in Hall H. "People have no idea how great these cartoonists are!" he bellowed. I'd agree for sure. Thanks to everyone that participated or came out.

* Deb Aoki was nice enough to deliver back to me my convention watch. Thanks, Deb.

* in general, all the people at the panels were super-nice, and I think everyone with whom I sat on a panel was really appreciative of the attention. Milo Manara's translator told me that Manara never flies, so that coming to the convention was a big deal. The cartoonist was also apparently worried that no one would show up at his spotlight panel or have any interest in him at all, so when his panel was packed and people came up to him all weekend, those things constituted a very pleasing development. He also seemed touched to receive an Inkpot from the convention.

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* one bit of publishing news that might have slipped through the cracks: Peter Bagge said during his panel that he's working for Reason again, and although he hasn't signed a contract for doing so he wants to do and plans on doing a series of biographies about popular female figures in the literary world in the first half of the 20th Century and how their lifestyle and professional choices either overtly or in backwards-fashion suggest a libertarian philosophy.

* one nice thing about Bagge's panel is that a lot of it was aimed backwards at the whole Newave/Weirdo component of the alt-comics revolution, and how much that whole group of cartoonists seems to be vastly underrated.

* more than a few people approached me to suggest the mood of the convention is subdued this year, with nothing yet jumping out at people in a unique and memorable way. I'm not yet sure how I'd characterize it, especially not on a Sunday morning where my every impulse is to stay and bed and skip going.

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the show runs from July 22nd through July 25th

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Notes From The Floor, Sunday (Day 4)
Originally Posted July 26, 2010

The following are notes and observations gathered on the floor of Comic-Con International 2010 in San Diego, California. For immediate reactions to what's going on from hundreds of people, I recommend an appropriate search or multiple such searches on Twitter. For mainstream comics and panel coverage in general -- this being a key event for publishing news announcements -- I recommend Comic Book Resources and then Newsarama. -- Tom Spurgeon

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* it's weird to think that there's actually news-cycle pressure to make this the final report on CCI instead of the last daily report; I'm not certain that's a good thing and I suspect that's a bigger shift in perception than anything Comic-Con seeks to do with its branding.

* if you disagree with anything I'm about to write, I may have to stab you in the eye.

* too soon?

* Sunday is kids day, which means a lot of programming focused on children's entertainment properties and a lot of parents holding hands with smaller versions of themselves. I saw a prominent retailer at the train station greeting his family and small child to sweep them over to the show, I'm guessing for the day. It was really adorable. It's not like I'm going to experience a bunch the bulk of the kids' programming, but there were a lot more kids visible at the show for sure, even in the funnybook sections.

* one thing I noticed for the first time is that the tags for kids had a last name or even more frequently a generic "kids pass" designation instead of a name, which I guess makes sense because you don't want kids clearly labeled in a way that might allow someone outside of their family to exert influence on what he or she is doing by employing their name. I guess there may be another reason for this, but that's the one that popped into my head.

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* I saw the writer Joe Casey for a brief moment; he took several moments while we were talking to add his signature to various Ben 10-related comics that kids brought up. He had a new Godland hardcover out, which despite having a couple of interviews with the creators taken from this site is worth a look. He's still in his "disguise" from WonderCon, which I can only describe as "second series of Life On Mars, the BBC version." We talked a bit about comics and proportion, how there are all sorts of paths a creator can take in comics and that the danger may be more in assuming the value you place in a specific vocational goal is the value someone else should place in that something. One man's lifetime gig is another man's first step up the ladder. One editor's prize gig offering may be a lifeline to one creator and an insult to another.

* there wasn't really any Man of Action news that fits naturally into this site, although I guess they're assisting on production of a new animated iteration of Marvel's Spider-Man, which is sort of interesting if it becomes a trend. Given that Peter David is doing a bunch of Young Justice cartoon scripts, it looks like it might.

* one thing I completely forgot to mention is that Alvin Buenaventura was at the show, selling a bunch of Buenaventura Press prints and a ton of his personal art collection. I avoided Buenaventura Press' booth most of the weekend and didn't really say anything worth a damn when I visited because I just sort of felt sad that the business venture had folded and also felt guilty that I didn't do more to be supportive. So I mumbled a lot. It was just as stupid in person as it looks typed out here, believe me. I wish Alvin all the luck in the world, I'm thankful for his time as a full-bore comics and print publisher, and hopefully he'll keep a hand in with a project or two.

* another subject that kind of ended up sprinkled throughout the day was the desire that some of the younger creators had to be mentored in some fashion, and how despite the social media era in which we now live many creators felt like there were barriers between established creators and those starting out that simply didn't exist twenty years ago. Back then, you could mail a creator your work through an address in a publication and there was a chance you might develop a relationship with that creator based on their considering the work and perhaps finding it appealing; now it's one of 14 links they received that day, many of which just wish for a commercial endorsement.

image* I don't know if I mentioned that Fantagraphics expected to sell out of their Moto Hagio books by the end of the day, and had very few on hand Sunday morning. That's good news. I'm told through secondary sources that the great cartoonist had a fine time at the show -- something that some people close to the effort of bringing her over worried after -- and I can give first-hand testimony to the fact that she was certainly funny and charming. What a delight to share a weekend with that creator, even in the smallest ways. Also, I can't emphasize this enough, she was kind of hilarious, pointing out on one panel that not only did she learn structure from watching The Patty Duke Show but she had given this a ton of thought and was willing to go into it in great detail if anyone wanted her to, pointing out on another that she got in trouble for some of her earlier stories for killing children characters but that once she found the right publisher she's been killing children ever since, and employing variations of a joke throughout that if she had known that a certain plot point had upset a reader years and years later she never would have made that creative choice.

* the new Vanessa Davis book with her strips from Tablet, which I believe not looking at 4 AM is called Make Me A Woman, looks pretty great on a first glance. I had two different creators walk up to me after taking a peek at the book and ask me "who the heck is that?" questions, which is always a good sign.

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* Dylan Williams of Sparkplug told me that they had a really solid show, and that things improved once they adjusted their location on the floor.

* I ran into David Glanzer and when I asked him if he was surviving the onslaught of news about the eye-stabbing fight in the big hall I had to specifically bring up the subject matter of what I was referring to as "the big story." I don't think he was acting. Anyway, he was still in the mode of taking his clues from the police rather than placing a Comic-Con spin on things. He looked like a man on the fourth day of a four-day supershow. I have to imagine there's a certain amount of relief for all the Comic-Con staffers heading into the home stretch, although as I recall they have a lot of post-show work and analysis of the show just past to do even in those years that don't involve deciding on the show's future host city.

* one thing I want to write a bit about tomorrow is that I wish people were more careful in assigning maliciousness to things about the show that don't quite work. There are some bizarre structural issues in play right now with Comic-Con that I don't think get enough analysis.

* speaking of big issues, I caught a New York Times article about the pressure to move the show, which I can't find right this second but brought up the interesting point that the studios might like it in LA simply based on the cost of exhibiting in San Diego. I thought the article was kind of bullshit, frankly, in that it used an anonymous source that might easily be influenced by one of the cities bidding on the show, and more importantly made the huge assumption that ideally the show should grow until it can't grow no more, which I'm not sure should be the goal of Comic-Con.

* let me put this another way: when all is said and done with the decision on where to place the show, how many of those factors will grow out of the concern of the comics publishers? Because frankly, I'm not really upset if the film studios have to pay more money than they want to for the convention they only fully discovered a few years ago.

* I saw Jonathan Ross talking into his watch, but I can't tell if that was for effect or if he really has some sort of Dick Tracy-style device.

* I went to the Digital Piracy panel, but I didn't learn much I didn't already know. There was some interesting rhetoric about how those against scanlation are at a disadvantage because they're being forced to fight against an expression of love on behalf of the fans. There was another idea floated by one panelist a couple of time that it's arrogant for fans to assume they know better than editors and creators, which I don't think is as good an argument as ultimately creators and those to whom creators assign the job have the right to make bad decisions, or, really, any decision they want. Also, that whole group hilariously crushed some of the question-askers in a way you usually don't see at a show like that one.

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* I took Amtrak to Los Angeles at 1 PM. I'm going to have to qualify my recommendation of Amtrak for future CCI trips. While it's still great on the off-days and off-hours, and it's generally sane from Los Angeles, it's become tough to get on the San Diego train during any of the busy days. Doing so involves a significant standing-up wait and potential delays that it seems are common to that short run. You sure don't want to count on making it back to LA by a certain time, that's for sure. My brother and I passed the time in line by playing a game of "Yep, That's The Line." It's where people leave the train station proper, look at the line with dawning horror, and then try to find ways to talk the Amtrak people to let them up front. Usually to no avail. A positive step might be to take Business Class back from San Diego. It's about $10-15 extra, they board first, and your seat is reserved.

* a stab at a convention report tomorrow. I've run out of time for today.

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Comic-Con International is done for 2010

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