by Teresa Jusino
Saturday at New York Comic Con means two things. First, it means an increase in the number of young children and teenagers in attendance. As soon as I got out of the subway to walk the five blocks to the convention center, I found myself swallowed up by a gaggle of teenagers. While waiting for the exhibition hall to open, I had a lovely chat with a grandfather taking his 7 year old granddaughter to her first comic con. The grandfather was a huge comic fan who was loyal to Golden Age comics and a bit disappointed by the comic industry’s current offerings. The granddaughter’s favorite superhero was Spider-Man. I made some recommendations for her of which the grandfather was a bit suspicious, but as she seemed interested in the stories I was telling her (Ultimate Spider-Man, Runaways, Young Avengers) he said he was willing to look into them. The granddaughter and I had an amusing conversation about how Peter Parker can’t manage to keep his identity a secret! What’s wrong with him?!
Second, Saturdays mean an increase in cosplayers, and I was very happy to see that! Yesterday, I was disappointed because I only saw one or two costumes, but today I saw a slew of storm troopers, anime characters, Endless, and Batmen. I suppose that it’s easier for people to get their look together on a weekend day. One unfortunate girl, dressed as Slave Leia, accidentally lost her bottom, and her boyfriend rushed to cover her up with his jacket. I chuckled and shook my head, thinking about a comment Heidi McDonald made yesterday at the Women in Comics panel. You gotta stay out of a bikini if you want to be remembered as a rebel commander…
** Today was artist day for me! I went back to Billy Tan’s table and bought a gorgeous signed X-23 print, a black and white version of this. I also met Ramona Fradon, whom I was really excited to meet, as she was one of the main artists who drew the comic strip Brenda Starr: Reporter, which I LOVED as a little girl. I totally wanted to be a feisty, redheaded reporter when I grew up! She was lovely to talk to, and the things she was sketching on the spot were amazing! I spoke with Olivier Coipel, which was great as I’ve just started reading Marvel’s House of M, and I think it’s a beautifully drawn story. Lastly, over at the Dark Horse booth, I met Nathan Fox, artist on Pigeons From Hell, among other things. Really cool, generous guy.
Expect interviews with all these fine folks in the days and weeks to come!
** New, interesting comics on the floor:
- Tribes: The Dog Years – a beautifully-drawn, post-apocalyptic story set in a world where a disease has shortened the average life span to 21 years, and humanity has reverted to tribalism “amidst the junkyard ruins of the techno-industrial age.” (COMING SOON FROM SOULCRAFT COMICS)
- New-Gen – Part 1 of this 6-part story was just released yesterday on Marvel Digital Comics.
** I tried the new video game Lost: Via Domus at the Ubisoft booth. It looks great (they got the characters down to the smallest actor mannerisms), it’s true to the feel of the show, and the story is interesting. My only issues with it have to do with certain game functions not working. Then again, I’m not a gamer by any stretch, so my trouble doing certain things might have had more to do with the fact that I don’t know how to use an XBox 360. I might have better luck playing the PC version!
11:00am – Excelsior!
The Stan on Stan panel was one of the high points of the day! For one hour, and moderated by the editor of Virgin Comics, the inimitable Stan Lee discussed his return to comics as an editor, writer, and art director of Virgin Comics’ all-new superhero universe, as well as the many things that make him so fabulous and that he’d never hesitate to mention. Stan Lee is hilarious! He’s like your old, self-confident uncle who comes over at Christmas and livens up the proceedings with his scatological stories and drunkenness. Then again, I would be, too, if I’d created an entire superhero universe. As Lee said, writing comics is like being “God! You kill people….you bring them back to life….” Heh.
He is excited to be starting from scratch with a newish comic company again, creating a whole new universe of heroes for us to enjoy, working with fresh, new talent that is as enthusiastic about comics as he and his cohorts were when they started Marvel. He told about how back then he was only able to pay writers and artist a pittance and had to call in favors from friends. Now, he’s working at “Virgin! They have nothing but money! They’ll do all the work, and I’ll take all the credit! It’s wonderful!” He also mentioned that he was trying to get a private Virgin plane out of his contract.
When discussing his approach to writing for Marvel as opposed to the writers for DC, he said the thing that separated him from them was his use of science. Example, Superman just flies because he’s an alien. The writer wanted him to fly so he flew. Lee wanted to create characters that had a “scientific reason” for flying. “Like Thor. He had…you know….a hammer! And he would fling the hammer into outer space but, you know, it was still attached to him. So, he’d hurl it and fly into outer space! There you go!” He promised that when he’s working for Virgin “all the characters’ back stories will be based in science!”
He also mentioned that he honestly believes that people are becoming better human beings for reading comic books, and he’s proud to have created characters that have made the worldwide impact they have.
During the Q&A, fans asked him about the controversial One More Day Spider-Man storyline (he thinks the Joe Quesada is a smart guy who knows what he’s doing it and why), his new Incredible Hulk movie cameo (it’s already been shot), and how he felt about Marvel’s Civil War event (he loved it). His favorite adaptations of his characters have been the Spider-Man and X-Men films.
When asked about how comics compare in legitimacy to other forms of literature, he said “Suppose Shakespeare and Michelangelo were alive today. And suppose Michelangelo said to Shakespeare ‘Hey! Let’s team up on a comic book!’ Would you think it was garbage? Or would you think it was art?” Comics are “as viable a form of literature as anything else. It just depends on who’s writing it, and who’s drawing it.” However, when commenting on manga, he mentioned that while he was currently in talks on a manga project, “Manga is a very strange form. Either you love it, or you hate it. I haven’t made up my mind yet!”
He was also asked to comment on the recent legal battle between DC and the Siegel estate over the right to own Superman. He said that, while he hadn’t been following it too closely because he’s “not a lawyer”, he firmly believes that “anything where the creators can get more money and recognition is a wonderful thing.”
It was a great opportunity to sit in the same room with someone like Stan Lee, who was responsible for creating characters and stories that are known worldwide and by people of different generations. Not only was he really insightful in terms of the comics industry, but he was also a great, fun speaker! Stan Lee needs to rent himself out for birthday parties. Seriously.
12:30pm – To boldly go where no one has gone before…
The Star Trek Books panel, presented by the creative team at Pocket Books, was really fun for me, mostly because I’d never read a Star Trek book before. As someone who’s loved Star Trek since she was a wee tyke, it’s interesting to me that the stories can continue off the air, and now that there’s no more new Star Trek on television, the books are looking increasingly tempting.
The big series of Star Trek books that seems to be the one to watch is the Star Trek: Destiny series, by David Mack. Apparently, what happens in these books will have implications that reverberate through the entire Star Trek universe. However, as the Pocket editor made clear, nothing will conflict with anything coming in the new JJ Abrams Star Trek movie. The first installment in Star Trek: Destiny, Gods of Night, will be released in October of this year. However, for those interested in new Star Trek literature before then, there is Star Trek: The Next Generation – Greater than the Sum by Christopher Bennett, coming in August, and Star Trek: Enterprise – Kobiyashi Maru by Michael A. Martin & Andy Mangels, coming in September.
1:00pm – Comic Writers on snoooooooozzzzzzzzzzzzz……..
And then came the most BORING panel to which I’ve ever been subjected. Now, I need to preface this by reminding you all that I am a writer (despite what my shoddy contributions to Pink Raygun would have you believe). I attended the panel with a friend of mine who is also a writer. If anyone was going to get something out of a Comic Writers on Writing panel, it’s us! That said, I would like to send a message to anyone out there who may be working on organizing a writing panel. When organizing said panel, please, please, PLEASE find writers who are interesting and good with a crowd! They exist! I’ve seen them. Having been to a Neil Gaiman reading and heard Grant Morrison speak, I know they exist!
First of all, I didn’t know to whom I was listening, because no one said their names when introducing themselves, and the moderator rattled off their names at the top of the event as though he were getting a prize for “most names uttered in ten seconds.” The writers proceeded to make inside jokes, ramble about nothing (surprising, considering they’re supposed to be so good with words), and give the same pat answers to questions about writing that one could glean from any print interview with a writer. Talent is the only thing that matters. Just keep writing. I broke into writing in a really weird way that no one else could ever do, so don’t bother. Really? Gee, thanks for the insight. If you’re doing a writing panel, you have to assume that the people in attendance want to know the nuts and bolts of what you do, and if one is an engaged, and engaging, person, one can make that interesting! *sigh* My friend and I ducked out early, regretting that we hadn’t chosen to go to the preview of the new Indiana Jones movie instead. (Yes, we tried getting in late. No, there wasn’t any more room.)
2:00pm – “Comics were always more real life to me…”
The Grant Morrison Spotlight was a lot of fun! I’ve read Morrison’s All-Star Superman and some of his Batman work, but I’m still not as familiar with it, certainly not his creator-owned work, as I should be. But I knew, after seeing him at the Vertigo panel yesterday, that this is a guy I need to know more about. In addition to being a writer whose work I’m interested in, he also seems like someone with whom I want to become intoxicated on various substances and talk about life.
The event opened with a slide show, over which the moderator read several long quotes that Morrison has made over the years about his life and work. After that, it was just a free-form, Q&A session where Morrison was talking with the audience. He seems like someone who genuinely wants to make as many human connections as possible, and his writing is just one of many vehicles through which he tries to do that. When discussing his work, he said despite a lot of his work being very “damn The Man!” in tone, that he’s not trying to teach one particular dogma, or write a tract. He wants to share specific experiences that he’s either seen or felt so that other people can possibly see themselves in them, and perhaps not feel so alone. He’s very big on the idea that everything is related, and he seems to want to use his work as a way to tie the whole world together. Despite the harshness of a lot of his work, he strikes me as really idealistic, and I like him for that. He’s also really funny, even though he’s really bad at telling jokes!
Some other tidbits gleaned from the Grant Morrison spotlight:
* he will be focusing on more creator-owned stuff after Final Crisis.
* he was completely straight-edge until he was about 30, when he decided to see the many ways in which he could be different by taking lots of psychedelic drugs and even being “a tranny for a while! I dressed like a girl a lot. And I was beautiful!”
* his series We3 is being turned into a movie by New Line. He’s writing the script, and thinks it will be cool. CGI animals in a real world. Hmm…
* the “most shocking Batman revelation in 17 years” is coming up soon!
* his favorite super hero is The Flash
And I’ll close with an interesting Morrison quote: The material world is the part of heaven we can touch, so we shouldn’t hate it.
5:30 – Cup ‘o Joe
My comic con day ended on another high note. I attended the Marvel, Cup ‘O Joe panel, where Joe Quesada, editor-in-chief at Marvel, would be revealing some tidbits about what’s coming up for Marvel, and then answer any and all questions from the audience. He was joined on the panel by several of Marvel’s writers and their publisher, and I thought THIS is what the Comic Writers on Writing panel SHOULD have been. All the guys on this panel seemed to generally care about their readers, and their love of their medium was infectious. They answered questions thoughtfully, and seemed to really care about us having the information we wanted. They actually gave better, more concrete advice at this panel for writers on how to break into the industry than they did at the writing panel:
Marvel takes unsolicited submissions from writers, and they do read everything, but the best way to get noticed is to work your way up the ladder by self-publishing. 1) It shows the big boys at Marvel (or DC, or any other large company) that you’re willing to do the work and not skip steps, and 2) it’s just easier to read a finished comic book than it is to read a comic script.
Oh. Then Stan Lee showed up just to mess with Quesada for a minute, then leave. It was brilliant!
* Mark Millar is doing a new Wolverine story that’s coming soon
* there’s lots of new Punisher, including a story arc called “Six Hours to Kill”, by Duane Swierzynski that sounds really interesting.
* Robbie Baldwin’s “Speedball” is coming back!
* Ultimate “annuals” will be coming back
* Stephen Colbert is already a candidate for President in the Marvel universe, and they’re continuing to work with him! Quesada loves the Colbert Report, and Stephen is a huge fan of Marvel comics, particularly Civil War.
The highlight of this event for me, though, was watching Joe Quesada shut down obnoxious, know-it-all, fanboys! He was asked about the One More Day storyline a couple of times. At one point, someone asked him if he was a Skrull (a shape-shifting alien in the Marvel universe for those not in the know), and he said “Yes. The real me wouldn’t have done One More Day.” Heh. But then, someone was being really snotty about the fact that Quesada had once said that Peter Parker revealing his identity in Civil War was going to have “lasting implications” which seem to have been reversed in Brand New Day. Quesada went off for a good 5 minutes pretty much to say too f#@!$g bad, and it was awesome to watch.
I love it when those responsible for our entertainment call us on our hypocritical bullsh!t. Like, we want things to be interesting, but not too interesting? We want to be surprised, but if we’re surprised in a way we don’t like or weren’t expecting, we bitch and complain? F$%@! that! You’re a fan of this particular person or organization for a reason. Because they’re doing exactly what they want to do. You can’t dictate to someone how they should entertain you. You either like what they’re doing, or you don’t. If you don’t, move on, but don’t complain to them about how they need to change what they’re doing. Otherwise, you’re taking away what makes them special in the first place!
TERESA JUSINO was born on the same day that Skylab fell. Coincidence? She doesn’t think so. As a writer, her work has appeared in Elmont Life newspaper, and on the sadly defunct website, CentralBooking.com. She is currently at work on a collection of short stories. As a geek, Teresa loves Star Trek, Lost, comics, and anything Joss Whedon ever touched. Also, she has a fangirl *squee-ing* crush on Brian K. Vaughan. Yes, she knows he’s married. Teresa recommends: 5 Minute Lost