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PCR EXTRA, Issue #25

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PCR EXTRA, Issue #25

SAN DIEGO: THE PROGRAMMING

[Comic-Con International]

Think of this as “Pipeline Previews” for the San Diego Comic-Con. The following are a list of panels I’m interested in, or that caught my attention in some way, or that I just wanted to point out. It’s a relatively good guide to what I’ll be talking about in the next couple of weeks as I cover the convention. It might also have some recommendations of panels for those of you attending the con that you might want to visit.

For the rest of you, I won’t hate you if you leave now. Your hit has already been counted. Thanks. =)

As always, jump on over to the Pipeline Message Board to talk about what panels you’re interested in.

Two years ago, the San Diego Comic-Con website crashed when they posted the programming schedule. Since then, they’ve gone to a more gradual rollout, revealing one day’s programming at a time over the course of four days. This prevents server overload right away. Here’s a hint, though: As we get closer to the con, everyone’s going to want to take One Last Look and they’ll probably crash the servers again. So go now and copy-and-paste the pages for yourself. I’ve made links to the pages to the headers at the top of each day.

THURSDAY

The first day of the con is probably your best chance to wander the floor. It’s the least crowded day of the weekend. It’s not a bad idea to schedule a panel in the afternoon to give yourself a chance to sit for a spell, but otherwise I’d prefer to skip them all together. However, something inevitably comes up to change that. This year, it’s the fact that I’m on one of the panels. More on that in a bit.

The first presentation that caught my eye is this little gem:

1:30-3:00 Late 80s Marvel Bullpen Films– As a sort of mini programming track this afternoon, Comic-Con is happy to present a series of films made by comics creators. First up: It seems the Marvel Bullpen of the late 80s was a hotbed of creativity-of filmmaking! Here are two films from that time period, recently re-edited and re-mastered just for showing at Comic-Con! Room 6B

I’ll spare you the full descriptions of the two movies this includes, but the list of people in them is amazing. The movies were made in 1988 and 1989 and include appearances by Mark Gruenwald, David Wohl, Mike Heisler, Tom DeFalco, Chris Eliopoulos, and such forgotten names as Sara Tuchinsky, Marc Siry, and Chris Ivy. These are names I can remember reading in MARVEL AGE when I first started reading comics. They were people I knew only from their profiles in the Bullpen Bulletins section of the monthly titles.

I’m very curious about this one. Even though it’s a full hour and a half, I might have to sit in on this one. Somehow, I doubt we’ll ever see these films on DVD, and this is one of those things that I go to conventions for. I try as much as possible to do things in San Diego that I couldn’t do anywhere else. I’ll see a lot of the same people in Chicago that I’ll see in San Diego. These movies, though, probably won’t show up in Chicago. Wizard’s target demographic was barely alive when these films were made.

There. I think I just talked myself into it. We’ll see what happens next week.

One of the new things I saw pop up in a few panel descriptions is a “live drawing demonstration.” I love getting sketches in my sketchbook just as much as the next guy, but I also love just watching the artist draw in other people’s books. Even if I’m not getting a sketch, having the chance to watch an artist at work — even on such a small scale as a simple head sketch — is one of the great things about comics. There’s a spotlight on Jim Lee scheduled for an hour in Room 1AB at 3:30. He’ll be talking about BATMAN and WildStorm, but also doing a live drawing demonstration.

Here’s one that’s near and dear to my heart:

4:00-5:30 Death of the Letter Column– What the @#$% happened? Time was, the comic book letter column was a hotbed of controversy, intrigue, and fans about to become pros. Now it’s a vanishing breed, with the most interesting examples turning up in some of the independently published comics. Join Marv Wolfman (one of those fans turned pro) as he chats with Batton Lash (whose comics Supernatural Law and Mavis still run letter columns each and every issue), well-known letter hacks Malcolm Bourne and Dana Gabbard, and another fan-turned-pro, Bob Hall, as they discuss the life, death, and future of letter columns in comics. Room 16AB

The second-most exciting panel for me this year is one that I’m actually on. While the most exciting one happens on Friday afternoon, I’m proud to be up on the dais for one this year. Needless to say, if you want to find me to say hello, this would be the best place to go:

5:30-7:00 Comic Reviewer Websites– In a rare event, reviewers from some of the most influential and widely read comic sites on the web come together to discuss their craft. Moderated by Adam Messano of WellredPress.com, this panel includes Augie De Blieck Jr. of ComicBookResources.com, Heidi MacDonald of The Pulse (www.comicon.com/pulse), Greg McElhatton of iComics.com, and Adrienne Rappaport of SequentialTart.com. Joining these reviewers is former Marvel editor and writer Tony Isabella, creator of DC’s Black Lightning and long-time writer/reviewer in both print media, (Comic Buyer’s Guide) and on the web (www.wfcomics.com). The reviewers will discuss their review philosophy, as well as writing for an online audience. Review writing for the web is unique, as discussion and feedback can be given instantaneously through chat rooms and message boards, creating an unprecedented level of interaction between reviewers and readers. Room 8

I honestly have no idea what to expect, but I hope you’ll all come and come early. It’s not the biggest room at the convention, and the internet-themed tracks of programming generally get crowded really quickly.

FRIDAY

It’s day two of the convention, and the crowds start to show up. It’s still only 3/4 of the madness that is Saturday, when all of Hollywood shows up at the same time and you can’t walk the con floor without some difficulty.

As a computer programmer by trade, I’m naturally drawn to a panel that promises to discuss computer programming and comic book presentation. I’m learning XML for something at work right now, so using it to store digitized comics, for example, is fascinating to me:

10:30-12:00 CAC #4: The Comics of Comics: Language, Grammar, and Layout– John A. Walsh (Indiana University) discusses the development of Comic Book Markup Language, an XML vocabulary for digitizing comic books, and presents a working prototype of the CBML system. Neil Cohn (Early Writings on Visual Language) presents an alternative to Scott McCloud’s taxonomy of panel transitions, drawing on the historical precedent set by Noam Chomsky to examine the generative grammar of visual language syntax. John Barber (TalkAboutComics.com) applies filmmaker Sergei Eisentein’s system of dialectic narrative construction to explore the complex interactions between panels on the comic page. Room 7A

On the comics side of things, though, this panel runs at the same time. Many of the Batman family of titles have run out of steam for me in the past year, but there’s plenty of interesting creators on this panel:

11:30-12:30 Batman: A Knight in Gotham– From the best-selling, hard-hitting renderings of Jim Lee to the stark shadows of Eduardo Risso, the Dark Knight continues to be portrayed in distinctive styles. Find out what’s in store for Batman in this panel hosted by group editor Bob Schreck, with writers Brian Azzarello, Ed Brubaker, and Greg Rucka and artists Michael Lark, Jim Lee, Eduardo Risso, the Pander Brothers, and more. Room 1AB

Speaking of drawing demonstrations, the quirky animator, Bill Plympton, is doing one in the afternoon at 1:30 in Room 6A.

Attention everyone: The following presentation is The Single Most Entertaining Panel Of The Convention. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. I talked about it in my con reports last year, and it’s the panel I’m probably most looking forward to this year. While a lot of the panels don’t excite me the way they used to — I’m more used to them all by now — this one still has me looking forward to it:

2:30-4:00 Quick Draw! Cartoon Improv– It’s like Whose Line Is It Anyway? except the participants draw pictures. This program was a smash hit last year, and it’ll only be bigger and better this time around, as Mark Evanier puts contestants Sergio Aragones (MAD, Groo the Wanderer), Scott Shaw! (Oddball Comics), Kyle Baker (King David), and Jim Lee (Batman) through their paces. Room 6B

Finally for Friday, that night is the Eisner Awards, the Oscars of the comics world. CBR is once again a sponsor of the event, and we’ll be sitting front and center for all the action. It’s been streamlined this year, as the Inkpot Awards have been moved off the program. This will hopefully keep the event down under two hours. Individual winners will get their trophies at their panels, sprinkled throughout the weekend. It’s at 8:30 in the big Room 20. Everyone’s invited.

SATURDAY

Every year I tell myself two things as I pick through this schedule. First, I will spend all of Saturday in panels. Second, I will go to panels I’ve not gone to in the past and would never otherwise expect myself to go to. Inevitably, neither thing happens.

Saturday is the big Hollywood day. Halle Berry and Angelina Jolie both make appearances in the large ballroom, Room 20. It’s going to be a madhouse that I don’t want to fight my way into. Also, one of the qualifications I make on panel selection is that I’m going to a COMIC BOOK convention. Not a pop culture convention. I’m there for the comics. And while there might be an exceptional panel somewhere that makes me change my mind — such as the annual JMS Q&A — I’ve stuck pretty firm to it over the years. (“Over the years”? Sheesh, this is only my fifth con.)

But I feel it incumbent upon me to mention now that Halle Berry and Jamie Pressley will be at a Warner Bros. presentation scheduled for 10:30, and that Angelina Jolie is right after it at 11:30. As a bonus, Jolie is also scheduled to do autographs for an hour that morning. Otherwise, I’d picture them running in and out under heavy security, but you never know. I know Ian McKellan took a tour of the con a couple of years ago.

In the meantime, I’ll just set the TiVo up to record E! News Daily and catch coverage of it when I get back home. It’ll be just like the rest of the convention; I’ll be so busy running around that I won’t catch any of the news until I get home and read the web sites.

I won’t be able to make the aforementioned JMS solo panel this year due to another commitment I’ll get to in a bit, so instead I’ll catch him at this interesting-sounding panel:

10:30-11:30 Marvel Blockbuster– Marvel EIC Joe Quesada holds an intimate Q&A with two of comic books biggest stars. Join Brian Michael Bendis (Ultimate X-Men, Ultimate Spider-Man, Ultimate Six, Daredevil) and J. Michael Stracyznski (Supreme Power, Amazing Spider-Man) as they discuss their current and upcoming high-profile Marvel projects with one another and take questions from the audience. Room 6B

I’ve always wanted to catch a Kevin Smith Q&A session. They’re impossible to get into at the WizardWorld conventions, and that DVD set with excerpts from his college gigs is really entertaining. Yes, it breaks the rules I set forth up above, but there is a small chance I’ll skip lunch and head to his panel at 12:30 in the big Room 20. But do I really want to listen to him defend Bennifer from the cranky and whiney fanboys? I’m not sure.

At 12:30, also, you can choose from the America’s Best Comics presentation including Art Adams, Jim Lee, Kevin O’Neill, J.H. Williams III, et. al. or the Image Comics All-Stars with Valentino, Larsen, Brain Haberlin, Colleen Doran, and Frank Cho. I’ve done the Image panel in the past. I’m not sure I need to deal with it again this year.

1:30-2:30 Countdown to Wednesday: Comic Book Business DVD– If you’ve ever wondered about how to break into the comic book business, this panel is a must. Hear firsthand from industry leaders about making it in the comic book business, including advice about submissions, whether or not to self-publish, successfully marketing a comic book, and more. In addition, attendees will get a sneak peek preview at Countdown to Wednesday, a new DVD that provides an unprecedented insider’s look at the comic book industry through interviews with top comic book veterans, as well as editors, writers, artists, and distributors. Panelists include Mark Waid (Superman: Birthright, Fantastic Four), Paul Dini (six-time Emmy winner for animation and writer, Superman: Peace on Earth), and Scott Benefiel (penciller for DC, Marvel, Dark Horse). Moderated by Jim McLauchlin, editor-in-chief of Top Cow Comics. Room 1AB

The original solicitation for the disc in PREVIEWS said that copies would be available for purchase at this convention. I’m hoping that’s still true. I’ll probably skip this panel and just buy the disc. There’s another panel I’m interested in at the same time, which brings us to —

I do some radio, so the practitioners of the vocal arts always interest me. I’ve never made it to any of the Voice Artist panels in the past, but I want to try to hit one this year. There are two that look interesting to me. The first is this one:

1:30-2:30 Creating Character Voices– If you’ve ever wanted to learn the secrets for creating great voices for animation, film, or commercials, you’ll want to attend this workshop presented by James Alburger (author of The Art of Voice Acting) and Penny Abshire of The Commercial Clinic and VoiceActing.com. In this workshop, you’ll learn the essentials of creating believable characters, voice placement, the use of pitch, vocal pacing, and many other voice-acting techniques. A number of guest VA pros are likely to drop by, including Bob Bergen (voice of Porky Pig on Cartoon Network’s Duck Dodgers), Marc Biagi (too many videogames to mention), and a few surprises. Room 7B

On the other hand, I’ve also always wanted to see the Sergio and Mark Show. It’s the Groo Gathering, but the room inevitably is too small for the event and fills up quickly. This year, it’s in Room 8, which I think is where it was last year. Get there early for the 1:30 start, or you’ll miss it.

The Spotlight on JMS is right afterwards in Room 6B at 2:30, but I have a previous commitment. Believe it or not, I’m on the dais for a second panel this year:

2:30 – 3:30 CrossGen’s Mark Alessi Interactive Press Conference– He’s one of the most controversial personalities in comics. And now it’s your chance to ask CrossGen founder Mark Alessi any question you want! Watch as Wizard’s Richard Ho, The Pulse’s Heidi MacDonald, ComicBookResources.com’s Augie de Blieck Jr., and Comics Buyer’s Guide’s Nathan Melby quiz Mark on any topic they want…and then step up to the microphone and fire off a question of your own! Room 1AB

Having had the opportunity to speak with and interview the man in the past, I can tell you right now that he’s quotable and he’s entertaining, whether or not you agree with him. You see it every now and then in press coverage where he’ll open his mouth and start a minor feud or raise a ruckus, but for the most part he fades into the background and lets his soldiers fight the good fight for him. Trust me, though: He has opinions and he’s not afraid to tell vocalize them. Whether it’s CrossGen, in particular, or the comics industry, in general, you’ll hear what he has to say here.

Right afterwards and a few doors down is the second big voice actors panel for the weekend:

4:00-5:30 Cartoon Voice Actors– A demonstration of the fine art of performing for animation, with readings by the masters. The cast may include Mark Hamill, Billy West, Gregg Berger, Roger Rose, Jess Harnell, Bob Bergen, Gary Owens, Greg Berg, Kathy Garver, Joe Alaskey, Maurice LaMarche, and many more! Hosted by Mark Evanier. Room 6B

The big competition for this panel, though, is one on comic book art:

4:30-5:30 Original Comic Book Art Collectors– Have you always wanted something special from the first comic you ever read? How about something by your favorite artist? Comic books have been around for over 60 years, and people have been collecting the original art from those books for almost as long. During the last 20 years, this unique art form has made its way into the hands of collectors all around the world, either via conventions like Comic-Con or through the artists who drew the comic books. Come join artists Tim Townsend and Scott Williams, as well as collectors Jonathan Mankuta, Robert Reilly, Michael Lovitz, and Brian Peck, as they discuss various subjects about the art that is near and dear to their hearts. They’ll give you the benefit of their experience to help you learn what to look for when buying, as well as the best resources for finding original comic art. Additional topics range from the history of this intriguing medium to the ways the Internet has changed and expanded this hobby. Room 9

To say that Mankuta has a nice art collection is like saying the Library of Alexandria had a few nice books. The man is legendary. Here’s an example from his collection. Now do you see how serious he is?

If you’ve spent any time at all on the ComicArt-L mailing list, many of those names will look familiar.

A secondary bit of competition, but not real seriously, is this one:

4:30-6:00 Telling Stories Through Color– In this workshop, artist/educator Durwin Talon will discuss creating focus and moving the narrative in sequential art with the creative use of color. Utilizing examples ranging from comics to videogames to movies, Talon will demonstrate how to capture a mood while establishing setting. Color theory and production techniques will be discussed. Talon has created covers for Batman: Officer Down for DC, as well as Skinwalker and Queen and Country for Oni Press. He has also written Panel Discussions: Design in Sequential Art Storytelling for TwoMorrows Publishing. He currently teaches sequential art classes for Indiana University, Indianapolis, School of Informatics, New Media. Room 19

Talon is amazingly talented, and his PANEL DISCUSSIONS book is an educational and entertaining read, covering a broad spectrum of artists, styles, and theories. If it didn’t have so much competition, I’d probably drop by.

The only other thing left for Saturday night is the big auction, and that one I’ll probably miss in the hunt for a decent dinner meal:

7:00-9:00 CBLDF Auction– Bid on one-of-a-kind and rare art, comics, and books to help raise money to support the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s casework. Hosted by Defender of Liberty Chuck Rozanski, the CBLDF charity auction is a collector’s treasure chest that supports an important cause. Room 8

SUNDAY

Sunday is “The End.” It’s a relatively slow day. It’s a great day to bargain hunt, as the dealers start packing up and don’t want to take all that crap back with them. Here’s a quick hint: If you need to ship stuff home to yourself because it won’t all fit in your luggage, go to the MailBoxes Etc. place in the con hall early on Sunday afternoon. If you go at the end of the con day, you’ll be in an hour long line with all the exhibitors shipping their stuff back. It’s ugly.

If you miss Beat The Geeks, the closest you’re going to get this year is a version of comic book Hollywood Squares:

11:00-12:30 Comiculture Squares– It’s just fun and games when Comiculture magazine assembles an all-star line-up of comics creators to play with and against fans in a series of game-show-like events! Meet and play with Adam Kubert (Origin), Klaus Janson (Batman: Death and the Maidens), Jim Salicrup (MOCCA), Ben Raab (Green Lantern), Don Hudson (Forever Amber), Stuart Moore (Lone), David Wohl (Witchblade), Karl Altstaetter (Deity), Simon Furman (Transformers), Kieron Dwyer (Last of the Independents) and Comiculture’s own Marie Javins, Steve Buccellato and a few other surprise guests! And there will be cool prizes! Room 8

There’s one big Hollywood panel for the day and that’s Eliza Dushku at 12:30. Just to show you what a “rebel” I am, I’d be more excited at the prospect of seeing Zach Galifianakis there. He’s an excellent stand up comic in the mold of my favorite, Steven Wright. If you ever get the chance to catch his Comedy Central special, do it.

If you want to see two tough-writing and hard-hitting writers chat amicably for an hour, I’d recommend this panel:

1:30-3:00 DC One-on-One: Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka– They write some of the most hard-boiled characters in comics. Now Ed Brubaker (Detective, Catwoman, Sleeper) and Greg Rucka (Batman: Death and the Maidens, Wonder Woman)-the duo who launched the Eisner-nominated Gotham Central-get together for an hour of tough talk. Get the straight story in this chat and Q&A session. Room 1AB

If you’ve never seen a colorist work, make sure to see this one:

1:30-2:30 Coloring Comics the Hi-Fi Way- What happens to artwork when it leaves the artist’s hands and is transported to the colorist? Join Hi-Fi colorist Brian Miller and Christy Miller for a demonstration of the process used to take a piece of comic art from black and white to a fully rendered color page. This panel also covers the software and techniques used to create modern digital masterpieces with an emphasis on providing up-and-coming colorists with the tools they need to break into the industry. Hi-Fi’s credits include Dark Horse, DC, Image, Marvel, and Wizard as well as many toy and game companies. Room 2

Comic book coloring is an amazingly intricate and tedious process in the computer age. As important as the artistic side of it is, the technological side has become a necessity and not just a choice of tools in today’s modern comics.

I haven’t listed any panels dedicated strictly to writing yet, but here comes JMS and friends to take care of that for me:

2:00-3:30 Straczynski, Avery, Barnes: On Writing– Join writers J. Michael Straczynski (Amazing Spider-Man, Bablyon 5), Fiona Avery (No Honor), and Samm Barnes (Jeremiah) as they answer your questions about writing and breaking into the business. What are the early mistakes every writer makes? How do you break through from wanting to write to writing, and from wanting to sell to selling? What are the problems every TV writer encounters? Room 3

Finally, what better way to end the convention than with a huge scheduling nightmare? I don’t have too many of them this year, but this is enough to set my hair on end:

2:00-3:00 Scott Shaw! Oddball Comics Slide Show– Scott Shaw! returns with a Comic-Con tradition! Oddball Comics are some of the craziest comic books ever to see print. Scott has been collecting this type of four-color madness for over 40 years and he loves to share his finds with his fellow funnybook aficionados. For more information, check out Scott’s Oddball Comics column that appears every weekday at Comic Book Resources (www.comicbookresources.com/columns/oddball/). Room 8

2:30-4:00 Comic Book Websites– If you’re thinking of starting a web site or trying to grow the one you have, here’s a chance to pick the brains of those who have created and contributed to successful online comic book destinations. Join moderator Justin, creator of the award-winning World Famous Comics website (wfcomics.com), and contributors from such popular web hot spots as ComicBookResources.com (Jonah Weiland), Comicon.com (Steve Conley and Heidi MacDonald), and SequentialTart.com (Lee Atchison) in this open forum on starting, running, and growing your website. Bring your best questions, because here’s a chance to ask the masters . . . webmasters, that is! Room 7A

The fine middle ground to take here is to go to Oddball and leave halfway through to check out the website panel, or just go to the website panel late. Or, I could just blow them all off and spend the last few hours of the con wandering the con floor like a madman trying to remember who I missed and what I wanted to get and why does it have to end in an hour?

THE WRAPUP

So, no Beat The Geeks this year, either at the con or on Comedy Central. (There is a Pro/Am trivia contest, though.) We have a few more panels that promise “live drawing demonstrations,” which I think is a good thing. There are some more fun panels this year, such as the Marvel movies panel, the Comiculture Squares, and the Quick Draw. And Hollywood is now done with its invasion of the event and is now staging an outright occupation.

Here are my Must-Go-To panels. If you’re looking for me, this is where to tell the hit man to find me. Everything else I consider “wiggly.”

Thursday:

  • 5:30-7:00 Comic Reviewer Websites

    Friday:

  • 2:30-4:00 Quick Draw! Cartoon Improv

    Saturday:

  • 10:30-11:30 Marvel Blockbuster
  • 2:30 – 3:30 CrossGen’s Mark Alessi Interactive Press Conference

    Sunday:

  • 2:00-3:00 Scott Shaw! Oddball Comics Slide Show
  • 2:30-4:00 Comic Book Websites

    I hope to see you there!

    Pipeline Commentary and Review returns on Tuesday with some last-minute pre-flight reviews. Pipeline will be updated daily from the convention, which means new columns from the con on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

    Various and Sundry is still up and running, but I’m not going to tell you what it covered this week because I’m rushing to finish this column and am too darn lazy to load it up to look. There’s something about BIG BROTHER 4 in there, I know, and the usual weekly look at new DVDs.

    You can e-mail me your comments on this column, or post them for all the world to see and respond to over on the Pipeline Message Board.

    Somewhere around 500 columns are archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They’re sorted chronologically. The first 100 columns or so are still available at the Original Pipeline page.

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