Con Special - Friday at San Diego


The highlight of the day was the Quick Sketch panel. Mark Evanier hosted. John Romita, Jr., Erik Larsen, CBR's own Scott Shaw!, and sketching madman Sergio Aragones participated on the artistic side of things. Aragones stole the show. You have to see this man at work to understand it fully. If you've read enough of his stuff, you know he can draw anything. I learned today that he can draw anything, and do it from memory in about 15 seconds. And it's done before you even realize it. You blink and those three strange squiggles suddenly turn into a cheerleader with a duck skirt on being chased by a cop, but saved by a superhero who's being strafed by a jet while a Coca-Cola spill is attracting ducks (including Donald and Uncle Scrooge) and irate striking sewer workers, while the gay pride parade marches through the background.

And he did that all on one 8.5 x 11 inch piece of paper. In marker. No erasures. Jaw dropping.

The quick sketch is done with a sharpie marker and a pad of paper. There are cameras perched above the drawing stations that project the drawings up onto large projection screens. Aragones was the star of the show. For example: When Mark Evanier asked him to draw anything with the caption of "Fire," Aragones thought for about half a second and drew a caveman pointing down and sceaming, "Fire!" With perfect comic timing, he then drew what the caveman was looking at - a wheel.

The Quick Sketch is a series of short games played out by the four artists. Evanier started the games with simple suggestions, like asking the audience for their pet peeves. Then, the panel would draw them. Other games included taking audience suggestions for different animals and combining them on the fly, and making simple day-to-day activities ("What did you eat for dinner last night?") look funny. (For that example, Erik Larsen drew himself into Fred Flintsone's car, complete with the large ribs hanging outside the door, like in the credits of THE FLINTSTONES.)

Aragones was made for these games, and Evanier used him as much as possible to fill some time for the "slower," i.e. human, artists. It wasn't just the audience gaping in awe of his talent. Romita Jr. took every chance he could to dash across the stage and watch Aragones sketching.

For nearly an hour and a half, the four artists and Evanier kept the audience in stitches with ever more imaginative doodles. The original sketches were all saved up, but I have no idea if there are any plans for them at all. I have pictures of a few of the final sketches. With any luck, you might see one or two of them in an upcoming column after I get home.

The Eisners were awarded tonight. The ceremony lasted two and a half hours this year. While there's plenty of room for tightening up the ceremony, it didn't seem as long as previous years. That's probably because the nominations were diverse and mainstream enough that I had a rooting interest in all the categories. It wasn't completely the yawn fest that it had been in previous years, where Chris Ware would just dominate without a thought. On the other hand, there were some mysterious and inexplicable absences that made some categories a farce. But it's an awards thing. It's never going to be perfect. Accept the good points, be happy for those who won, and hope it gets better next year.

The awards ceremony, itself, is a bloated affair. This year, they went so far as to add the award for Retailer of the Year during the ceremonies. That wouldn't be so bad if it didn't involve introducing a new presenter, listing in bullet points all the qualifications for nomination, then the ten (or so) nominees, then the four who were whittled down from there, and then finally the winners. Introduce the award, say a brief mission statement about what it is, name the four finalists, and then introduce the winners. In and out in a quarter of the time.

The whole awards process ceremony is tedious, though. I'll give you an example: The first thing given out every year is the Russ Manning Award for talented newcomer. Jackie Estrada, the host of the ceremony, introduces Scott Shaw!, the host of the Inkpots Awards section. Then Shaw! introduces the man who introduces the winner (DOOM PATROL's Tan Eng Huat), who was represented by Mike Carlin. Can we please cut out some of the overhead and get to the awards?

Meanwhile, half the audience is asleep. The Eisner Awards don't start for more than an hour after the ceremony starts.

Thankfully, none of the presenters got involved in long boring introductions and painfully unfunny monologues.

I attended the CrossGen Hollywood panel, where they introduced four producers who are working on various things -- ROUTE 666, SCION, WAY OF THE RAT, and MERIDIAN movies, as well as a SIGIL television series. It's exciting stuff, but I don't think anyone Out There is going to be excited about it until they hear directors, actors, and actresses named. Frank Darabont (THE GREEN MILE, SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, INDY 4) is connected as screenwriter to WAY OF THE RAT. That will perk up some eyebrows. Otherwise, I don't see anyone outside of the CrossGen fanbase getting too jittery waiting for these things. We shall see.

All the people on the dais took great pains to stress the level of interaction between the Hollywood people and the CrossGen writers and artists and colorists. (The letterers were not consulted on the proper use of typography for the opening credits, sadly. And,yes, that's a joke aimed at those who think I notice lettering too much.) The exciting thing is that CrossGen is working hard to make sure Hollywood includes them in its creative process.

The ultimate question was the one left unasked: Can they promise the fans that none of he movies will involve Nicolas Cage in any way?

RAIJIN is the new weekly magazine being pushed into the American markets with Japanese comic material. They were passing copies of a special #0 issue out for free to all who walked by today.

I wish them luck and hope they do well, but I have a big problem with one of their layout choices. They're printing the manga in its original right-to-left style.

It's great to try to break down the fundamental barriers to greater comics acceptance, such as achieving massive distribution through the newsstands. I just don't think it's a good idea to put up the barrier of asking new comics readers to read comics backwards to the traditional American way of reading.

If you want the "average American" to read comics, you have to make it as easy for them as possible. Any little thing will send them screaming off to Blockbusters or their TiVo. Asking them to read comics backwards from every other North American reading convention is not going to help.

Tomorrow: More San Diego. More convention. More panels. Many more panels. And me, up at 2:30 in the morning proofreading the column. There's a recipe for disaster for you.

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