Thursday, September 02, 2010

Baltimore Comic-Con 2010: The Panels

I didn’t attend all of the panels that I wanted to, but I did get to a few of them.

First up on Saturday morning was a panel focusing on comiXology and the future of digital comics.

ComiXology is a company that sells an iPhone/iPad app for reading digital comics, and has the rights to sell digital versions of comics from Marvel, DC, and Image, as well as many of the smaller companies.

Personally, while I haven’t made use of the app, I do believe that there is a role for digital comics that doesn’t necessarily threaten the position of real, physical comics, but right now the path to the future is somewhat unclear.

Among the panelists were one of the founders of the company, and the writer and artist of a comic called High Moon – a mash-up of westerns and werewolves – which won the Zuda Comics competition.  Zuda was a webcomics project – now defunct – run by DC.  Creators would submit pages to Zuda and users would vote to select a winner, with the winners receiving a 52-week contract to produce a weekly webcomic.

I actually asked a question, oddly enough, about the social aspects of comic reading/collecting that digital comics do not currently address.  Namely, the notion of lending out, selling, or trading comics, which is I think, an important aspect of the comic-collecting experience.  Sadly, it was something that they seemed not to have put much thought into, though they didn’t rule the notion out (my suggestion was setting up some mechanism by which the license/rights to a digital copy of a comic could be transferred).

Later in the afternoon I went to the DC Nation panel, featuring the DC Senior Story Editor Ian Sattler, writers Jimmy Palmiotti, Sterling Gates, and someone else whose name escapes me, and artist Shane Davis.  Notable in his absence was Co-Publisher Dan DiDio, who was in Toronto for Fan Expo, which was happening over that same weekend.  When someone asked, “Why don’t we rate?” after being told where DiDio was, Sattler responded, in a “What am I, chopped liver?” tone with, “I’m here!”

The most notable thing that came out of the panel for me was a clearer understanding of why DC is doing so many things with its characters, and in particular, Superman, that I just don’t care for at all.  By which I mean that I came to understand one of the key philosophical differences between DC and me, not that I understand why they take the position they do.

The “diagnosis” wasn’t exactly a surprise – I’ve been seeing the symptoms for years – it’s just that I hadn’t realized how far the infection had progressed.

What I’m talking about can be summed up by mentioning the reverent tones in which the following statement, made about an upcoming Superman book, was uttered:  “Richard Donner liked it!”

Yeah.  Richard Donner.  The guy who had Superman save the day by making the Earth spin backwards which somehow caused time to flow in the opposite direction.  (It’s been explained that the Earth spinning the other way was meant to serve as a visual clue that Superman was moving so fast that he was traveling backwards through time, and further the scene was originally supposed to be used in Superman II – which causes some other problems that I won’t get into – but even so, that scene is infamously bad.)

I don’t like Donner.  The current regime at DC worships him.  As they say, “There’s your problem.”

There was something else, too, but the only person reading this likely to care is Scott, and he’s already heard about it. (The Cassandra Cain thing.)

There was one funny, unintentionally slashy moment when Sterling Gates, talking about what lies ahead in Supergirl, the series he’s writing, said, “Oh, and there’s a Supergirl and Cat Grant story coming up.  With toys!”

That got a lot of laughs, and some flustered denials from Gates once he realized what he’d said.  “Not like that!  In a safe, comic book way!”  More laughter.  He sighed and said, “Toyman is in it, okay?”

Towards the end, some jackass sitting up front got a phone call, answered it, and sat there talking loudly, until Sattler glared at him and motioned for him to get out, which he did.  A couple of minutes later, however, having finished his call, he came back in and walked directly up to the panelists.  Baffled, Sattler turned to him and said, “Dude, what are you doing?”  “Oh, my bad,” the jackass said, “I just wanted to see if you guys were doing autographs.”  Shaking his head, Sattler said, “Later!”

That was it for Saturday, as I skipped out on the Mondo Marvel panel in order to eat that terrible pizza bagel.

Sunday morning I went to a panel on creating comic art digitally, which was actually kind of interesting, and featured the artist from High Moon, in addition to two others.  I didn’t really learn anything new, apart from the names of some programs that are very popular amongst artists – aside from the big dog, Photoshop – but it was interesting to hear about the digital workflows of professionals. 

Fittingly enough, I suppose, the panel was marred by some technical difficulties, such as the driver for the Wacom tablet they were using having issues on their Macbook – It just works! – and their battery dying.

Later that afternoon I went to the spotlight on Sergio Aragones.  You may not know the name, but you probably know his work, as he’s a truly prolific cartoonist who’s been working for decades.  For the comic-literate, he’s most known for his “MAD Marginals,” little wordless cartoons that appear in the margins of MAD Magazine – and have for decades – and his funny barbarian character Groo The Wanderer.

The general public, however, would likely have seen his animations which appeared on Dick Clark and Ed McMahon’s TV’s Bloopers and Practical Jokes.

The guy was a blast.  He had great stories about his life and his career that I could have happily listened to for hours.

It’s hard to pick a favorite moment, but if pressed, I would probably go with when he was talking about an exchange with the late Joe Orlando, in which, after having written two stories for a romance comic published by DC – written in the amount of time it took Orlando to go to lunch – Orlando said, “I didn’t know you wrote comics,” and Sergio responded, “Neither did I.”

And that – as briefly as possible – was my panel experience.

It’s worth noting that after the DC Nation panel finished, I hightailed it out of the room as fast as possible not only because my sugar levels felt dangerously low, but because, after seeing the throngs of people starting to descend on the room, I looked at the schedule and saw that up next was the spotlight on Todd McFarlane.

I couldn’t get away from that fast enough.

1 comment:

Merlin T Wizard said...

LOL @ the McFarlane bit.