One good thing about Comic-Con’s expansion might be that it allows the dedicated comics fan more room to explore. Put another way, if you’re stuck in line all day for a big Hall H movie presentation, you won’t have time for much else. Regardless, followers of DC Comics’ superhero line still have a pretty wide range of options. To help maximize both your time and your Comic-Con experience, I offer the following suggestions.
1. Stop by the DC Booth.
Actually, wherever the DC booth is, usually you won’t be able to avoid it. I suspect that even those attendees who spend all their time in the farthest quadrant of the show floor may still be able to see the Bat-Signal shining on one of those load-bearing beams. In this respect the DC booth makes an excellent landmark, and it is a good rest stop even if you’re not waiting to meet the rest of your Gaslamp-bound party. You can watch clips of various DC moving-picture adaptations like “Smallville” and the recent Wonder Woman animated feature. When that gets old, check out the display cases full of various DC Direct tchotchkes (hey, another new set of Bat-Cuffs!) coming soon to a Diamond warehouse near you. (And don’t forget your camera. I remember seeing a batch of Watchmen action figure prototypes, unrelated to any movie, in one of those display cases some years back. Since those toys were 86’ed by Alan Moore, I wish I’d thought to take some pictures.) If you’re lucky maybe there will be some black-and-white advance copies of upcoming comics on one of the tables.
You will, of course, want to be kind and courteous to the folks manning the booth. Remember, they’re on the job; and you don’t know whether you’re catching any of them at a good time. At one Chicago convention many years ago I asked Bob Greenberger “what DC was going to do about” the continuity-entangled Hawkman, and that turned out to be … well, not the best conversation starter. Don’t make jokes about how much of the booth the Siegels now own, is what I’m saying. For that matter, probably best to stay away from the Hawkman cracks too.
2. Plan adequately for screenings.
This year’s Comic-Con boasts a handful of different programs related to DC adaptations. The pilot for the new FOX series “Human Target” (based on the master of disguise created by Len Wein) is part of a Wednesday evening program (6:00-9:00) which also features the first episodes of the “V” remake and “The Vampire Diaries.” If you can’t catch it then, it has its own panel on Saturday afternoon (4:45-5:55).
Thursday evening (8:00-9:30) brings the first screening which may require some advance preparation, namely the premiere of the animated Green Lantern: First Flight. Based on my experience with Superman: Doomsday at the 2007 Comic-Con, I would say that if you’re at all interested, start scoping out the line a few hours ahead of time. And for goodness’ sake, be sure to eat something ahead of time. I was running on fumes (and still on Eastern time) when Doomsday let out. Now, I say all that, and I am reminded that in 2007 there wasn’t much of a line the next night for the Doctor Strange animated movie. Still, better to be prepared.
The same applies for Saturday night’s screening of Watchmen: The Director’s Cut (8:30-12:15). Between it and GL:FF, I’m not sure which would draw the most interest, considering the mixed reaction the Watchmen film garnered. It might come down to whether waiting in line is more attractive to you than seeking out the DVD(s). However, if you’re having trouble deciding, there is a Friday evening panel (5:45-7:15) covering both First Flight (sans screening) and the Superman/Batman: Public Enemies animated adaptation.
Finally, if you’re in the mood for some big-screen action but are pressed for time, I recommend Friday morning’s “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” panel (10:00-11:00), which features Diedrich “Batman” Bader, John “Aquaman” DiMaggio, and a new episode with special guest villain Neil Patrick Harris (who apparently won’t be at the panel). Maybe you’ll get to hear Bender’s thoughts on Batman….
3. Buy comics!
You’ll want something to read while in those lines, am I right? Patronizing the various retailers will not only stimulate the economy, it’ll give you a chance to sample many canceled-too-soon DC series which won’t soon see the friendly confines of trade paperbacks. There’s Chase, Thriller, Hourman, ‘Mazing Man, Amethyst, Atari Force, Secret Origins, Captain Carrot, Secret Society Of Super-Villains, Action Comics Weekly (which has, among other things, those Priest/M.D. Bright Green Lantern strips) … the list goes on and on. If you’re committed to the collections, fear not — I expect many retailers will have discounted them as well. Again, the retail floor may be more navigable if a lot of the con-goers are in Hall H.
4. Brush up on your history.
I’m not going to tell you not to attend the panels for DC Nation, Blackest Night, etc., because I would if I were there. If necessary, though, you can catch up later on the news from those panels. Besides, Comic-Con presents the opportunity to be in the actual presence of people who helped lay DC’s foundations. The Golden and Silver Age panel (Thursday 3:30-5:00) features DC vets Murphy Anderson, Ramona Fradon, and Russ Heath, among others. Batman icon Jerry Robinson has two Thursday panels, his own spotlight (1:30-2:30) and the Golden/Silver Age panel. Sheldon Moldoff, who worked on many DC characters as writer, artist, and/or editor, has his own panel on Saturday (11:30-12:30). Golden Age Batman artist Lew Sayre Schwartz also has his own spotlight (Thursday 5:00-6:00) and appears in the “Legends of the Batman” panel (Friday 1:30-3:00) with Robinson and Moldoff. Gene Colan likewise appears in the Golden/Silver Age panel and his own spotlight (Friday, 11:00-12:00). The Jack Kirby Tribute Panel (Sunday 10:00-11:00) is always a highlight; and for something a little more recent, there’s That ’70s Panel (Friday 12:00-1:30).
5. Visit Artists’ Alley.
I spent an inordinate amount of time at the 2007 Comic-Con trying to find Cliff Chiang, so I could a) tell him how much I loved “Architecture & Mortality” and b) maybe get a fun sketch of Genius Jones. Someday, though….
This year, Artists’ Alley includes a number of professionals known for their work for DC and its imprints: Brent Anderson (Astro City), Chris Batista, Dennis Calero, Zander Cannon (Top Ten), Gene Colan (Detective Comics, Wonder Woman), Tony deZuniga (Jonah Hex), Ramona Fradon (Aquaman, the original Super Friends), Patrick Gleason (Green Lantern Corps), Peter Gross (the ’90s Doctor Fate, today’s The Unwritten), Renato Guedes (Superman), Scott Kolins (Flash), Francis Manapul (the new Adventure Comics), Jeffrey and Philip Moy (the ’90s Legion of Super-Heroes), Todd Nauck (Young Justice), Dustin Nguyen (Detective Comics, Batman: Streets Of Gotham), colorist Allen Passalaqua (Trinity), Joe Prado (Warlord), Ron Randall (Justice League Europe, the occasional Wonder Woman), Norm Rapmund (Booster Gold), the legendary Jerry Robinson, Roger Robinson (Batman: Gotham Knights), colorist Adrienne Roy (New Teen Titans), colorist Alex Sinclair, colorist and Shadow scholar Anthony Tollin, Chuck Wojtkiewicz (Justice League America), and Leinil Francis Yu (Superman: Birthright). If you’ve enjoyed their stuff in the past, now’s your chance to tell them so in person.
6. Oh, all right — let’s look at the regular panels.
If I were going to Comic-Con this year, I’d definitely try to catch the Dwayne McDuffie spotlight (Friday, 2:00-3:00), just to get some more insight into his Justice League of America tenure. It sounds to me like he came aboard the book at exactly the wrong time, and I’d love to hear his JLA plans in more detail. (The panel does conflict with most of the “Legends of Batman” panel mentioned above, so it’d be tough for me to have to miss that one.) Gail Simone (Thursday, 4:00-5:00) is always fun, and especially so this year, being interviewed by Mark Waid. I got a huge kick out of the all-ages Supergirl miniseries, and its creators Landry Walker and Eric Jones have their own spotlight, Friday from 4:30-5:30. People seem to like the “Sunday Conversation With Dan DiDio” panel (2:00-3:00), but I can’t speak to it one way or another, since I am usually headed home by then.
There are a couple of scholarly takes on Batman this time around. Thursday evening (6:30-7:30) is the “Forensic Psychiatry and Batman’s Rogues’ Gallery” panel, where actual medicine meets fictional lunatics. If that’s not doable (for instance, if you’re standing in line for Green Lantern: First Flight), consider Saturday’s “Becoming Batman and Batman Becoming,” a two-fer exploring both the plausibility of Batman’s training regimen, as well as how “Batman R.I.P. … reject[ed] conventional modes of resolution.”
If you must go to the “DC news” panels, there’s a handy schedule on the editorial page of this week’s DC superhero books. Were I there, I’d try to attend the panels for Superman (Thursday, 11:45-12:45 — and no doubt I’d be racing there from the airport), Batman (Friday, 12:30-1:30), DC Nation (Friday, 3:00-4:00), Wednesday Comics (4:30-5:30), DC Universe — which I think is the “slideshow” presentation (Saturday, 12:45-2:00) — and Blackest Night (Saturday, 2:15-3:15). Speaking of which, if anything, this Comic-Con should mark the beginning of the end of DC using “Black Lantern” as its catch-all reply.
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To sum up, if it’s something you can do (or get) just as easily at home, why spend the time (or the money) on it at Comic-Con? The convention isn’t about absorbing the same chunks of information you’d have gotten off the Internet, it’s about connecting with fellow fans and your favorite comics people. After all, they’re more than just names on a screen or in a credit box. The best part of my Comic-Con experience is always the friends I wouldn’t otherwise have seen. Be courteous, be respectful, and have fun!
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