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July 23, 2016


Your 2016 Comic-Con Related News Round-Up

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Here are links and commentary related to news being generated the weekend of Comic-Con International. The following will be broken up by day of publication, but certainly there's no restriction as to when something might end up being discussed. The daily breakdown is to help those who are reading this column on subsequent days, as it's added to.

*****

Wednesday, July 20

I'm not seeing a whole bunch of news right away. Not publishing news, anyway. There some leaks of some announcements, and rumors of same. The two formal Wednesday news-generating events of recent memory -- the ICv2.com conference, Image Expo -- have been moved elsewhere.

People are arriving in town and setting up for whatever it is they do on the weekend. I've been able to score some interviews despite some REALLY LATE asks, which indicates to me that it's still not a big comics-press weekend in terms of in-depth work. I think that's fine, though. Not every weekend has to involve seven hours of intense podcasting from one's hotel suite. You aren't going to get several months of work done the next four days. You'll probably get less work done than usual. I also think that the industry has had a hard time adjusting to new show realities because there's not much of an industry anymore at least in terms a solid base of the kind of activity one might expect from a business supporting an art form. I don't know what you can do at a show like this one for mid-list and lower-selling books that doesn't involve a huge amount of guesswork.

Of what's promised to happens this weekend pubishing-wise, there's not a ton that interests me. I'm looking forward to seeing how Fantagraphics does in the old Top Shelf island space and if Top Shelf finds a solid home at the IDW space. IDW was a company that took a while to find a formula that works for them on the show floor whereas relative to its size I always felt Top Shelf comfortable there. The cartoonists appearing at Drawn and Quarterly are super-solid. Image seems loaded for bear, too, while DC becoming a wider-entertainment booth seems like a potential remember-this-year moment. Derf scoring a Saturday panel seems to me something worth noting on Abrams' behalf. The cocktail party seems pretty set; the outdoor media events do not.

I've noticed some drift in focused excitement for shows in general, but I think SDCC is sort of immune to those things. People are always ready to go out to dinner and stand around hotel balconies with drinks in their hands. I think rank and file indie/alt suffers right now, but they're not here.

I failed to mention -- well, mentioned and then withdrew, hoping for a better link -- that actor John Barrowman is hosting the Eisners.

The big story heading into the show is this: increased security, and more scrutiny of what that means.

We've had some terrifying terrorism incidents in different places around the world in the last 24 months, and it's not out of the question that we could see one with our large gathering of people. If you're going to Comic-Con in a group, I'd have the discussion about how to meet if things get weird or crazy (pick a walk-to spot in town), although there's not much you can do if the unspeakable happens except keep your wits about you. The con community came close to some scary incidents at the 2015 show without our folding in the possibility of an outright aggressive, planned event. Be well. Be safe.

We should also remember that Comic-Con's strategy is to emphasize paid security and a formal protocol designed to have that paid security catch incidents of harassment or abuse. Whether this is enough is a conversation for the other 360 days a year. Until then, for this weekend in particular, it's on the community to police its own as best as it is able. Comics suffers from a longtime sickness in terms of harassment as toxic and hard to flush as its embrace of economic exploitation. We should go as far as we can in the other direction to make sure everyone has a safe, hassle-free weekend. Keep an eye on each other. Check your own perceived right to act out or have a certain kind of fun. Remember that this is a professional event, and hold those around you to the expectations of that as a bare-minimum standard. It's not like we aren't getting to be children every other way possible.

*****

Thursday, July 21

I'm going down to the show today after spending a brief, brief, brief time in Los Angeles with a close friend and then a family member. I'm coming in on train, if anyone is taking the 6:00 AM.

Still haven't seen a lot of news. Some of the discussion about the show outside the show continues.

I just realized that one of the reasons I'm not seeing a lot of news is that I'm not looking very hard. I will do better tomorrow. I will tell you that you have to cross the street from the San Diego train station to get a cab and that wasn't the case several years ago I don't think. Also that Amtrak business class no longer reserves seats, they just keep free the number of seats in the business class car. That's kind of right up next to useless.

This is interesting: creators revisiting old-ground using the time-honored tradition of near-copies and not-reallys to explore ground they might have wished to explore with a character or two.

The first comics person I saw was that nice man Rob Salkowitz.

*****

Friday, September 22

The funniest thing I heard yesterday was Brigid Alverson complaining that everyone think she's a librarian. "I'm not glamorous enough to be a librarian."

The second funniest thing I heard yesterday was Andrew Aydin pitching a non-March project. "It's not terrible."

Everything else was tied for third.

I moderated three panels: Lisa Hanawalt's spotlight, one of those weird panels where they stick a bunch of people to get them another panel and provide the talk with a terribly broad name ("Indie Comics") and the Barnaby panel. Everyone on them was great. It's such a pleasure to talk about a 70-year-old comic strip in a giant convention hall in a room halfway to Mexico, RC Harvey barking out random observations like an old-timey AM Radio Show Host.

One publishing tidbit I pulled out of Lisa Hanawalt is that she works on multiple projects for herself as opposed to commercially-inspired projects and that she's done a bunch more pages for Coyote Doggirl she hasn't shown anyone that will one day be published.

As far as Barnaby goes, Eric Reynolds confirms it hasn't sold as much as he thought it might, but that Fantagraphics will conclude the series and right now volumes four and five are slotted for 2017 and 2018.

Fantagraphics still expects to publish Comics As Art: We Told You So this calendar year. A ton of people have told me they greatly anticipate that one, in a way that indicates something other than just being nice. Last chapter, organized by writer Mike Dean, is apparently over 55,000 words, which is almost more than twice the commissioned length of the entire book as conceived in 2005.

Nate Powell looks super-happy to have March Volume 3 in the rear-view window.

Book of the show in terms of a kind of mass sales event may be Bone: Coda or whatever specific volume holds this Bones-Going-Home work. Those are great-looking comics, and I'm slightly surprised more hasn't been made of Smith's return to that material in such a significant way.

Keith Knight is collaborating on a series of kids book that will come out starting next Spring.

I was sorry to hear that Hooded Utilitarian will be going into hiatus, and may not come back. They published a lot of talented writers whom I hope will have other outlets if they seek them out. I apologize for missing this news: my access to on-line material has been somewhat limited heading into this year's SDCC.

Scholastic announced a kind of wide-open publishing challenge. I tend to process news like that through my experience working on the Fantagraphics slush pile, which was nightmarish. Gina Gagliano assured me that the material they got submitted on a regular basis is actually quite high, and they may one day soon publish someone brought to their attention by an open submission -- I hope that's generic enough she won't get mad at me.

Joe Casey pointed out he thought we would be drowned in Pokemon GO players, but that's been the case at all.

It's sticky hot here, by the way -- for San Diego weather, anyway. I resemble one of those bad guys that opened the ark of the covenant at the end of Raiders.

The biggest item of discussion is the obviously increased security. The second biggest item of discussion the changing nature of the show: less cosplay overall, none of the super-intense fandom displays of the mid-2000s. The crowds seem under control, and it's like every tiny little fandom has found a place to be welcome.

Rich Johnston isn't here.

*****

Friday, July 22

Here on Saturday morning, Friday seems a million years ago and I'm not sure I can rally as much as I would need to present a full report.

This was my mostly free day. I had an interview with David at comiXology planned but he received some minor medial attention and we're still trying to reschedule. I stepped into a lot of panels, from Ron Wimberly to Kramers Ergot to Allan Bellman, for several minutes at a time and enjoyed them all.

Everyone is calling this a mellow show, where no panel is driving anyone to spasms of excitement and no signing line has to be capped. Everyone's having a pleasant time, though.

Got to see Image's David Brothers moderate two panels and it struck me how better at doing panels and presenting in public Brothers' generation is over my own. The baseline skill-set is way, way higher.

The Kramers' panel was fascinating, such a modest crowd for at Matt Groening appearance -- he's a fan, and he's in an issue. Sammy Harkham gives really short, thoughtful, articulate answers. He used a load-up philosophy on the book's first third, basically placing all of his personal favorites there to engage with the readers in a way that would make them trust the experience.

I fell asleep like five time at the panel. When you're seeing a panel with your friends, they all notice when you nod off. Sorry, guys!

I've talked to a ton of writers this weekend I hadn't before, from Albert Ching to the new generation of Beat writers to Abraham Riesman to Nick Sousanis. It was a great weekend that way.

Had my first not-good meal in a long time at San Diego. Rhymes with "Milton Hayfront." Strong contrast with my excellent dinner at the Grant Grill the night before. I know how self-indulgent a bullet point like this is, sorry.

Said hi to Jim Davis, enjoying his first Comic-Con. He called it a "sober Mardi Gras" and admitted he thought it would be mostly dudes. He's blown away by his interaction with the fans, which isn't something strip cartoonists do on a regular basis.

Talked to Mark Evanier and Karen Green about 100 years of Kirby next year. Talked to Denis Kitchen about 100 years of Will Eisner next year.

I'll write more about the Eisners in the final report. They were a very interesting snapshot of where the show is right now, where comics is right now.

Zander Cannon hurt his leg recently being a "cool dad" but still gets around better than I do.

I had fun tweeting the show last night.

Image booth was hopping during my one visit.

Eddie Campbell is a married man again, and lives in Chicago, Illinois. God bless America.

*****

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