Comic-Con Farewell

Well, it’s been a week since I arrived for San Diego Comic-Con,which celebrated its 40th anniversary this year. I’ve seen some of my favourite writers, such as Mark Waid and Alan Burnett. I chatted to people I’ve interviewed for Broken Frontier and Extra Sequential and handed out about 200 business cards. I talked to cover artist Greg Horn about the dangers of kangaroos. I caught a bus with the wife of Doug Murray, who created The ‘Nam for Marvel and now writes Red Sonja for Dynamite. I mentioned to artist David Mack how he’s a gateway drug, and I got mistaken for an Englishman twice. I finally bought the gorgeous Elephantmen Trades and designer JG Roshell let me know that there’s a film in the works, with possible assistance from WETA Workshop. It will be a combination of live action and CGI. I saw a few Hollywood players and I bought  a ton of new comics. Really 4 days isn’t enough for it all, as it is a spectacle. 125 000 people transform the city each year and radio shows, TV news and newspapers all focused on the Con. It’s a mammoth endeavour.

I also managed to talk to a publisher about the exciting future of Extra Sequential, and generally had a blast. It’s tiring, but hopefully I can sleep for my 20 hour flight home.

Darth Busts

Tron/Condorman

Green Lanterns

Ghostbusters

Master Chief

Con Farewell

Empty Con

Comic-Con Video

Yes, I know it was over almost 2 weeks ago, but here’s my short film of the event. With the photos and footage I had, it was somewhat difficult to keep it under 5 minutes, but I tried. To truly get a sense of the Con’s epic nature, take a peek at this video walkthrough of the Hall. It’s big.

Best Rob Liefeld picture ever.

A Look Back

Home, sweet home. After two weeks in the US for San Diego Comic-Con, here are a few facts for the curious mind :

No. of airlines taken to and from San Diego – 3

No. of hours spent travelling there and back – 42

No. of hours spent waiting in airports – 24

No. of fond memories – almost infinite

Before I start sounding like a credit card advert, allow me to break down the good, bad and ugly of my first SDCC. Well, I really enjoyed making a few new friends and sticking my head (and ‘business’ card) into a lot of the smaller publishers’ faces. I even met Victor Ho, one of the Movies guys from my INFUZE days. As I flick through the cards I gathered from the various people I talked to at the endless parade of publishers, it’s pretty impressive, I have to say. I hope to set up interviews with a few new kids on the comics block soon. I just filled a bookshelf with all of the TPBs and promo stuff I picked up over the 4 and a half days, so I have plenty to read and review. The independent companies were happy to talk to me and of course, welcome any exposure they can get. I figure they deserve it, as they’ve risked a lot to follow their dream. It’s not an easy step for them to make and the industry is full of uncertainties, so that kind of courage to create diversity should be rewarded.

The bus drivers who ferried us to and from the Con and the hotels around it were usually good for a chat too. One remarked that a female fan dressed as Poison Ivy had to get her desperate boyfriend behind her to cover her, as her plants kept falling down, revealing more than she was willing to. The same driver also noticed that overweight middle-aged people should not be wearing spandex, as “gravity affects us all.” It’s a fair point, but often times, enthusiasm defeats modesty at the Con. One day I saw X-Men baddie Mr Sinister step off the shuttle, in a rather impressive costume, soon followed by She-Hulk. She (?) certainly had the bulk for it, but I’m still not sure if s/he was more Hulk than She. Still, all in the name of fandom and everyone wearing a costume was happy enough to pose for photos. Meeting nice-guy David Mack was a pleasure, as was briefly meeting DC top dog, Dan DiDio and BOOM! dude, Chip Mosher. Another treat happened as I was talking to a guy who said he, “worked for DC.” Yeah, right. By his age I assumed he was the coffee boy or some such. Then, he said he was a penciller. Curious, I flicked his name badge over and he was Patrick Gleason! One of my fave artists, currently working on Green Lantern Corps. He’s one of the few artists whose books I’ll buy by name alone. Scott McDaniel is another one, and it turns out their good buddies. Meeting the team from CCAS (Christian Comic Art Society) was also a treat, as was shopping. I got a heap of trades and look forward to reading them all. I have enough to last until next Comic-Con I reckon.

Two interesting non-Con experiences were the earthquake in Temecula, where I stayed after the Con, with some wonderful people from the Calvary Chapel there. My first earthquake and it measured a 5.5 apparently. It only lasted a few seconds, but not many of us Aussies can say we’ve experienced one. Narita Airport in Tokyo was cool too. Yes, it’s huge, but when I had to kill a few hours there and grabbed the shuttle (and train) between terminals, I kept being reminded of Austin Powers. In the first film, all of Dr Evil’s henchmen wear the same clothes and work silently in his factory. The Narita employees, with their silent to-ing and fro-ing, clean hard hats and gloves reminded me of this. I was amused.

The only downside to the Con was that I didn’t really experience anything outside of shopping. Not really any panels or exclusive screenings at all. I was too busy getting rid of my US dollars, but it was all worth it and I’d definitely go again. Now that it’s over (unlike my jetlag) I can focus on comics news and reviews once more.

CCAS Events at Comic-Con

Apart from crowds, costumes, coffee and comics, there was something else at Comic-Con – Christians! I saw a flyer for CCAS (that’s Christian Comic Arts Society) on the always popular freebies table, so I had to go. The guys and girls from CCAS have been going to the Con for the last 12 years, shining the light. They have seen many Christian companies come and go during that time, but have been blessed enough to always get a table, and have continued growing in numbers. It’s encouraging to see such talented, humble believers using the gifts God has given them. The first of the three panels was entitled, “Spirituality in Comics,” and had an eclectic mix of panelists, including Captain Marvel expert and Alter-Ego writer, P.C Hamerlinck, Cory Edwards (writer/director of Hoodwinked and the upcoming Fraggle Rock: The Movie), Scott Wong (Brethren Entertainment) and Holly Golightly (Broadsword Comics). It was hosted by author Leo Partible. You gotta love the Con – where else would you find a bunch of Christians and a self-declared witch discussing the same topic?
There were plenty of laughs and light-hearted discussions all focused on the portrayal of spirituality within the medium of sequential art. The highlights included the love of Japanese artists for anything remotely religious to cram into their work. (The CEO of Squaresoft has apparently never read the Bible, but most of his video game designers get their information from the Internet and take what they like, thereby giving the world the dazzling mix of “nuns with guns.”) and the similarities between Emperor Palpatine and Oprah.

The biggest laugh however came when the panel was asked, “What is the main aim of spiritually based comics?” to which Holly replied, “To pay the rent.”

Saturday night was a time of networking and fellowship hosted by the CCAS team. We had a great time getting to know other believers and encouraging one another in our work. After prayer and a brief history of CCAS we mingled and laughed loudly for the next 3 hours. According to CCAS, this has been their most successful year with many visitors to their table on the showroom floor, lots of free comics given away and a host of new members joining the Society.

The last of the events was the CCAS panel hosted again by Leo Partible on Sunday morning. Writer/artist Robert Luedke (Eye Witness) gave a short, but inspiring sermon to the packed room, starting with the unusual question, “Do you smell?” This lead to an explanation of our aroma and whether we smell of life or death to the world around us. The panel also included Clint Johnson (Faith Walker), Robert H. Flores (CCAS), Jerrell Conner (Revelations: The Prophets), and Sergio Cariello (The Lone Ranger). Luedke mentioned that comics are the easiest way to share a message in a creative fashion, quoting creator Doug TenNapel (Earthworm Jim) who stated that he does not have access to millions of dollars to make a film, but is able to produce quality comics on a much smaller budget. The main thrust of the morning was a challenge to fellow Christian creators to identify their gifts and a way to use them. Luedke emphasised the fact that creative talents are spiritual gifts, while Cariello encouraged us to no be afraid of who God has created us to be, noting that often times, Christians can be stricter on themselves than God is. Both also mentioned that they don’t hide their faith from the mainstream press and have been bold in declaring their Christianity in interviews, with God blessing them for it.

The future of Christian comics looks to be in good hands. There are some genuinely exciting books out there and a number of mainstream artists working in The Big Two who are writers and artists of faith, all glorifying the Original Creator.

New Sight Article

I’ve written all about my travels from Perth to sunny San Diego  for the Comic-Con and what it was like for a first-timer. You can check it out here. There’s even two new pics. Enjoy!

Friday at the Con

Another 7 hours that sped by. I managed to do a lot more shopping today though. By dinner time, my backpack was about to collapse under the sheer weight of..wait for it..16 TPBs, a bunch of free mags and comics, some shirts for the family, and two DVDs. I had to go home to minimise my chiropractor bill.

I’ve decided that tomorrow will be my filming day. I’ve taken a bunch of photos already, but the hotel’s slow PC charges by the minute and takes about that long to upload each pic. When I return home on August 3, watch this space for an influx of happy pics and videos.

I would’ve liked to have seen film-maker Kevin Smith and the new Batman: Brave and the Bold cartoon panels, but I’m not one for lining up with the masses. The convention floor was slightly less packed this afternoon, as all the various screenings and Q&A sessions were under way. I could move around a lot easier and spend more time talking to retailers, without worrying about people waiting behind me. I saw Mark Waid, one of my favourite writers at BOOM! Studios booth, and Dan DiDio, head of DC Comics, and managed to sneak in a photo with him before he left in a hurry. Nothing personal, I’m sure.

I also chatted to creators Rod Espinosa (The Prince of Heroes) and David Hutchinson (Biowulf) at the Antarctic Press booth about their careers. Then I saw David Mack. What a nice guy. I told him that his work on Daredevil and Kabuki was a hit with some of my mates from work and showed them the beauty that comics could reveal. Mack’s art really is amazing and his work as writer/artist on Kabuki is an experimental joy. He was genuinely happy to hear that his work had opened the eyes of a few comic novices and was very warm and friendly. I picked up his Kabuki Vol. 1 TPB and a DVD focusing on his craft, which I can’t wait to see. The process of an artist is always interesting one. He also threw me a handful of free, signed Kabuki books. I told you he was a nice guy. Oh and I took a photo with him too, just to make my mates jealous.

 

Handing out a bunch of my cards to a few companies in the small press section was a joy. They all seem happy enough to add mine to their growing collection. One of the main things that has surprised me is how many people are aware of Perth. I thought my sleepy little town would go unnoticed in this with-it metropolis. Good to see us little people aren’t forgotten.

The last stop of the day was a visit to the freebies table. Well, I thought it was the last stop, until I saw a flyer for the CCAS. That’s the Christian Comic Arts Society. I was struggling to contain all my goodies with the only two hands God has given me, but I knew I had to visit this booth. I spoke with the two friendly guys there for a while as we discussed the thriving Christian comic creators community, my work for INFUZE and a bunch of other stuff. With their, “Free Prayer” sign they stand out from the crowd, that’s for sure. Over the last two days of the Con, they have three panels, which I will do my best to attend. I should be in my element there and make some interesting contacts. All in all; an eventful day. My budget has pretty much evaporated, but then again, I’m surprised it’s lasted this long.

He-Man Pics

My Comic-Con Article

$75 for a 5 day pass for the Con is pretty good, especially considering all the freebies you get. Plus making new friends, seeing premieres and meeting favourite creators could be considered priceless. I may not get to see all the screenings and panels I’ve paid for, but I won’t be too disheartened if I don’t. I can’t be bothered queuing for ages. I came all this way for more than that. I’d much rather spend the time talking to people and discovering new books, especially of the indie variety. From what I’ve seen already, there’s a treasure trove of talented creators and genuinely exciting companies out there, hidden just below the surface and those kind of people have the time and willingness to speak freely about what they do and why they do it.

Saying all that, I have managed to hand out a few cards today, declaring my blog, and my work on Sight. When people see my title, “Pop Culture Ambassador,” it certainly kick starts a conversation. Well, I had to call myself something. Helping my cause is an article in the 2008 Comic-Con Souvenir Book. Oh yeah! Entitled, “Insider Slogans,” it’s a light-hearted piece I submitted a few months ago. I had to write a short bio too. This is what I came up with: Kris “Speedo” Bather lives and works in Perth, Western Australia, the most isolated city in the world. He is not socially awkward, except when talking to girls.

It’s on page 60, in between other articles celebrating 75 years of comics including one on DC Comics’ founder, Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson (someone should make a movie of that guy’s life) and one on the 75th anniversary of pulp adventurer, Doc Savage. That’s pretty good company to be in. Due to space limits, my entire article wasn’t published, but all that’s omitted are a few more amusing slogans. You can read the original article below. Feel free to giggle.

 

Comic books are now at the age where adult diapers become necessary. If they were people they could complain about “this generation” and their skimpy clothes, obscene music and new fangled gadgets while picking hair out of their ears and lifting their pants up past their navels. But comics are still cool. Old, yes, but still cool. Our beloved artform is ageing gracefully, like a French film star. What was once considered a trash medium and disposable entertainment is now mature, respected and sought after. From factory pop to live jazz, and it only took the better part of a century. Of course in the eyes of fans sequential art has always been close to our heart, but our cries for respect have only recently been heard. Not that we needed them of course. Comics may not be as popular as film or TV but they are certainly more surprising, experimental and creative. Free from constraining decisions-by-committee and intimidating budgets, comics are able to risk more than any other medium. In what other form can you create and destroy entire worlds so easily?

But for me, the best part of comics is the growing fan base. Like a supermodel at a party who has the satisfaction of knowing she’s the best looking person there, I find quiet pride knowing that I am the geekiest person in any room. A smile at fellow customers at the LCS, or a nod at that guy you just saw with the Aquaman shirt. I like those moments of simple connectivity. We’re just one step away from a secret handshake. We could go one step further and wear hoods and sacrifice virgins, but then there would be none of us left.

But the very thing that feeds us can also be our death. We can’t afford to roll our eyes when one of our unwise friends makes yet another “underwear on the outside” joke but not show them what comics are all about. Take every opportunity you can. No-one wakes up in the morning and decides, “From now on I will litter my room with imported action figures and dedicate 40% of my wage to TPBs!” It takes someone to show us the ropes. Be that someone. Walking into a comics shop can be a daunting experience. “Where do I start?”  “Is this suitable for my children?” “Why is that guy wearing a bathrobe?” There are so many questions.

However, after saying all that, I must say I love a good insider joke. If you’ve just joined the fanboy/girl fraternity, most of the following will make no sense, but if you’re a funny book veteran, please feel free to laugh out loud (and explain why to the confused person next to you) So, here are just some of my suggestions for insider slogans that will get you knowing smiles from your fellow fans. Feel free to make these into bumper stickers, t-shirts or regrettable tattoos.

If you’re a geek, then these are from my heart to yours.

 I collect comic books, action figures and women’s phone numbers. All three are fictional.

All my pets are Super.

I gave myself a hernia trying to lift Mjolnir.

Lost. 1 Invisible Jet.

Thwip, snikt and bamf are my three favourite sounds.

I stole this shirt from the future.

My comics and my bed sheets are both wrapped in plastic.

The internet – where every voice can be heard and mocked in equal measure.

No, it’s not a speech impediment. I speak backwards for magical reasons.

I jumped into toxic waste for super powers. Now I’m sterile and balding.

I hang out on rooftops with girls in leather. Don’t judge me.

My utility belt is on its last notch.

It wasn’t me. It was my clone.

I’m a shape shifter, but my pants don’t agree with my shape.

I’m a D-List character in an A-List world.

Please give generously-victim of unpopular retcon.

I would be Mint except for the stain. Guess where!

My mask is not to conceal my identity. It is because I am repugnant and frighten children.

I have my own theme song. Can’t you hear it?

I was bitten by a radioactive spider. Now I eat through a tube.

I have issues. But I’m running out of boxes.

I’m a walking stereotype.Yes, I’m a girl who reads comics. No, I won’t be your wife.

Full-time fanboy. Part-time model.

I’m the Ultimate version.

I have super hearing. What are you saying about me?

Will explain multiverse for food.

In an alternate universe I am witty, rugged and urbane. Unfortunately the fans voted for me.

I wait for the Trade. Don’t hate me.

There are 51 other versions of this shirt.

I just discovered my origin. I’m adopted.

I’m the Skrull version of Brad Pitt.

I chose my dying aunt over my supermodel wife. Please slap me.

T.G.I.W. Thank God It’s Wednesday.

Thursday at the Con

I’m not ashamed to say I left the Perth winter behind to visit the sun drenched shores of San Diego. From what I’ve seen thus far, it’s a nice place. Compared to the often surly staff at LAX, I’m glad to say everyone here is in a nice mood, which is also good news for all the Con vendors. You can’t move very far within the sprawling Centre without knocking into someone and I wasn’t the only one juggling multiple bags today. I’m glad I don’t have any kids. I’d easily sell them all for more goodies. Everything any fanboy or girl could ever want is here. I firstly visited one (of three) clothing outlets. I could’ve easily blown my entire fortune just on shirts. Stuff I’d never find in Oz is all around me. I picked up two shirts (Kingdom Come Superman, and a Green Lantern) a Batman belt buckle (to make my look mean-I might need two) and a Superman hoodie. Throughout my walking investigations, I also picked up 7 TPBs and almost managed to bump into TV Hulk/man mountain Lou Ferrigno and saw everyone’s favourite 80s guy, Corey Feldman doing obligatory autographs for Lost Boys: The Tribe. I saw new Astonishing X-men artist Simone Bianchi next and picked up a print. Well, I assume it was him. It’s hard to tell what these artists actually look like sometimes. It’s not like their plastered on billboards and constantly on TV. I tried to engage him in conversation but he doesn’t speak English. This isn’t the first time this has happened. When I tried to buy my “medium” hoodie, the shop guy thought I said, “Canadian.” Eventually, I saw a familiar face, of sorts. 30 Days of Night artist Ben Templesmith recognised my accent when I was in-line for a signing. I tried to meet him at Perth’s Supanova, but never got the chance. We talked briefly about Perth, where he grew up and how quickly it’s changing. He now lives in America, which is good sense since his career is on fire. I got him to sign my 30 Days: Dust to Dust freebie, which was handed to me by a scary looking she-vamp, and Image Comics’ Dead Space, which looks great. It could very well be this year’s Gears of War – a game franchise that builds into something more. I saw game play footage and it reminded me of Gears, crossed with the scares of Doom 3. It’s released on PS3, XBOX 360 and PC DVD on October 21, followed a week later by Downfall, a tie-in animated prequel DVD. While we’re talking games, I also saw Ghostbusters, the new game that is effectively no. 3 on the film series, with all the original movie cast reprising their roles. The next-gen visuals look great. So does Lego Batman and DC Universe On-Line. With Jim Lee as art director, they had an excuse to put up massive posters of his glorious work all around the booth. I wonder what they’ll do with them all after the Con ends? Some thankful DC employee will give them a nice home, I’m sure.

I haven’t even attended any panels yet, but my 15 minute power nap took longer than that. Next year, I’ll have to arrive at least a day earlier to allow my jetlagged body time to catch up. There’s so much to see and so little time. My main priority is just buying rare comicy stuff, since I won’t be able to do that back in Perth. What a well programmed consumer I am! Below are some photos taken today. Today’s themes are Star Wars and gaming, including a gaggle of Ghostbusters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Have Arrived!

Phew. After 22 hours in the air and 14 hours waiting to get in the air, I have finally landed in San Diego. LAX was not what I expected. A bit dingy and not much to do, but they did have Starbucks – and The Killing Joke for sale at the book store. Anyway, here’s a few things I have learnt since flying here from Tokyo:

Charlie Sheen’s character in Two and a Half Men reads comics.

P is for Pooh (a Duty Free t-shirt)

My body hates me. I’m having coffee and scrambled eggs at 1am.

Narita Airport in Tokyo is huge. It took me almost 10 mins in the shuttle bus to flit between terminals. They also accept $US. All hail the mighty greenback!

The novelty of international travel is temporary at best.

Jetlag makes live jazz and Alvin and the Chipmunks’ music seem equally cool.

So, I’m at the YMCA now. The room is -interesting. I’m starting to teach the rats and cockraoches tricks. Then on my last day I’ll put them in a cage and take bets from my fellow nerds. Nah, it’s not that bad. A bed and a window with a view of sunlight are luxuries after 3 days of seeing neither. Wendy’s, NBC and 7-11 are all near me. I can’t believe I’m actually in America. Wow.

So, last night was the Preview Night for the Con. Massive, truly massive. The line was the biggest group of people I’ve ever seen. If it wasn’t for the quips (“Use your super-speed, you’ll get there faster,” and, “Don’t look back dude. You’ll get nauseous.”) I mighta thought I was witnessing a re-enactment from Exodus. It moved very quickly though and it took me longer to get to the end that I did staying in it.  All TPBs are half-price here, and that’s without any sale prices. I just bought an adorable Petey Parker exclusive figure, a Titans Companion 2 book and a Bizarro World HC, all for under $45. I also got a big bag of promo freebies. I’ve made friends. The accent helps and two new friends have already visited Perth.

I’ve also showed my Supes tat to 3 hotel staff as I waited for the regular free bus to the Con just outisde my door. So far, so good. My mobile and Mac’s internet don’t work though, so I’m using the hotel’s PC. How humiliating. At least it works. I’m going to have lunch now. Well, I can’t really call it that. Such terms became meaningless, as I’d usually be asleep now.

Comic-Con: It Is On!

How I have dreamed of this day. Sunday. No, I mean the day I would fly to the majestic US, the home of one of my favourite things – yep, comics. This year will be my first year in the States to attend the huge Comic-Con, the be-all and end-all of geeky conventions. Despite the name, it offers more than just comics, but also the latest announcements and previews of TV, animation, gaming and films. Last year, there were 125 000 attendees and this year they had to turn people away. The talk is that it will be going to Las Vegas in the next few years, as San Diego’s facilities are barely accommodating the yearly influx of fanboys and girls. I will attempt to do my usual comics news and reviews while I’m away from home, as well as report on my escapades in a new place while there. Most of it will involve shopping, as a menagerie of vendors let loose on funky Con exclusives that can be found nowhere else, because they’re exclusives. Uh, yeah.

It goes from Wed to Sun and I will be there for the whole time, (and a week afterwards) taking in all the panels and drooling on various goodies, and possibly, some celebrities. I’ll also be posting reports for Sight too. The flight on Tuesday night is over twenty hours long, with stop-overs in Tokyo and L.A, so please be patient if I don’t post for the first day (or two) but check back regularly for all the latest, greatest and nerdiest. In the mean-time you can download the free Con magazine. I hope to make many new friends, which I’m sure won’t be a problem with my crazy “Ossie” accent, and hopefully avoid getting lost. If I do, I’ll just follow the throng of costumed fans, though I will try to avoid Jokers dressed in straight jackets and any He-Men wearing animal skin underwear.

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