THE MSG CON - WITH SOME REVIEWS 'CLEVERLY' MIXED IN
This past weekend was the second annual "New York Comic and Fantasy Creators Convention." It's a long-winded way of saying, "Yes, those same actors that do every other convention in NYC trading in on the nostalgia of the paying attendees' youth are here, too. Oh, and we've got some comics for sale." (OK, so maybe it was the short way, after all! =) I mean, how many more times do we have to see Gerard Christopher and have him sign a picture of him in the Superboy costume? Wasn't that show off the air ten or fifteen years ago now?!?
It wasn't all that repetitive, though. They had Adam West, Yvonne Craig, and Frank Gorshin from the 60s BATMAN show present. Their lines were pretty long whenever I looked. Lou Ferrigno and some others from LOST IN SPACE and HELLRAISER were also present. Not my thing, thanks. I was a huge fan of the 60s Batman series when I was a kid, but most of the fun got sucked out of it with the endless reruns of it after the first BATMAN movie came out in the late 1980s.
The convention was located in the attic of Madison Square Garden in the heart of New York City. I've been told that you could hear some of the opening set of the Bruce Springsteen concert late on Friday night, for those who stayed until the end. The point is - this is a real venue for a comics convention. It isn't a stuffy overcrowded fire hazard church basement.
The con floor was split in three, sort of like San Diego. When you first walk in, you have artists' alley. Then you get to the dealers, and finally at the far end are the lines for autographs from big name 60s and 70s television stars. In all honesty, I didn't spend much time in any area other than the artists' alley. I spent most of Saturday afternoon at Todd DeZago's booth, interviewing him for an article I'm writing for THE COMIC READER that should come out early in the fall. But I can tell you that Todd's a real nice guy, and should be showing up at a major con near you soon. He does a good job hawking TELLOS, and was really nice with all the fans who came to his table, often drawing them out of their shells to talk comics.
DC had its own large corner booth, filled with lots of black and white previews of forthcoming books. I took a sneak peak at the next TRANSMETROPOLITAN issue, the forthcoming WILDSTORM THUNDERBOOK (featuring some drop dead gorgeous Adam Hughes Gen13 art), and the upcoming JET (mini-?) series, which will be inked by Derek Fridolfs! You may remember him from the two-part interview I did with him at the beginning of the year on this very web site.
Marvel was nowhere to be found, and how shameful is that? If I remember correctly, last year they at least had a small two-table booth with signings.
Heck, even Image Comics had a table, and they're based out of California. The creative team from VIOLENT MESSIAHS was there when I looked on Saturday afternoon.
There were a ton of other creators there, but sadly even more who weren't. The show advertised more than sixty different comics artists and writers. Not all were there for the whole show, though. Ethan Van Sciver was a no show Saturday. Michael Avon Oeming went to the beach on Saturday, instead. Jon Bogdanove, Howard Porter, Scott Hanna, Darick Robertson, Bob Wiacek, Fabian Nicieza were amongst the missing when I was there, as well. That's just the beginning of the list of people I never caught at their booths. I don't begrudge them for not being there all three days, but I wish there was some sort of warning in the programming booklet or on the web site about which creators would be there on which days. It makes planning a trip into the city a whole lot easier.
(TANGENT: Here's a trick next time you're at one of these shows. If you ever get hot in the dealers' section, feel free to go over by the booths with all the "comic book models" in them. While they're busy pulling up their slight or tight clothing, the air conditioning is invariably working its hardest at that spot.)
Mark Waid was seen floating through the place, gleefully signing Gorilla Comics posters and issues of GATECRASHER. I felt safe in introducing myself - I'm one of the few on the internet who haven't bashed him in the past few years. (At least, I think I am. Can't think of any disagreements I've ever had with him.)
Paul Ryan was also at the convention, although I never got the chance to stop to speak with him. I really should have. I've seen some of the sketches he does. They're just as amazing as his comic artwork. I'm a sucker for pencil drawings, though. His latest accomplishment is the lead story for BATMAN GOTHAM KNIGHTS #6. It's a story focusing on Barbara Gordon, her relationship with James Gordon and Batman, as well as a little about her Oracle side. Apparently, this might be a ret-con. I never realized she was James Gordon's niece, and not his daughter, so the whole thing was a revelation to me. Devin Grayson does a wonderful job putting together a touching story. She humanizes Batman here more than any other writer whose work I've read in a number of years. Barbara Gordon is fast becoming my favorite character in the Batman family of titles. She lends herself to the "slower" relationship-oriented stories so well that nobody has blundered on one yet.
The thing that I picked up most in reading both this issue as well as the previous one, is that Brian Bolland's covers just put the interiors to shame. I know it's an unfair comparison. Bolland takes about a month to draw each one of these. ;-) But his rendition of the Key in the fifth issue made Dale Eaglesham's interior rendition look like a cartoon. And his cover to the sixth issue, dramatically recreating the shooting of Barbara Gordon - something he drew in the first place back in THE KILLING JOKE - is just absolutely chilling. Paul Ryan reinterprets the panel from another angle inside the story, but it just doesn't resonate as well in comparison. It's not his fault. It's tough going up against one of the single best-remembered panels from the past fifteen years.
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #20 is a 100-page "Monster" edition. Just for those extra stories for the minor price point increase, the book is worth it. However, the front story, by Howard Mackie with art from Erik Larsen and John Beatty, is worth taking a look at. It's nothing revolutionary. Some of the subplots contained within are part of the whole sorry state of the Spider books. (Mary Jane is dead, and a whole new cast of younger characters surrounds the once again single Peter Parker.) But the story itself, which is the first part of two, is fun solid superhero stuff. If you're new to comics, it's probably exciting. With five million Spider-Man stories already told, it can be tough to find anything new under the sun. I'm probably just slightly too jaded to expect much from the Spider titles these days, either. The whole draw of this book for me is Erik Larsen's art. He's back to the same kind of wonky panel design he used back in his day on the title: lots of tall thin panels, some great splashes of Spidey breaking over panel borders. The only thing that really bothered me is that Peter Parker looks like a teenager again. While Larsen might want that to be true, we're all stuck in the current nightmare of John Byrne re-written continuity, which would put Peter in his 20s somewhere.
Yes, Larsen's Spider-Man anatomy, at times, just looks wrong. I don't mind. It's a stylistic approach on the part of the artist to give Peter Parker a slightly more spidery feel when he's in costume. I don't mind it so much that his hips can't possibly be connected when Spidey's legs are split that far apart. The only thing that does annoy me is some perspective problems. Quite often, Spidey's front foot is just as big, if not smaller, than the back foot. That should be reversed. The further the object is away form the reader, the smaller it should be.
GEN13 is a break in style from the entirety of Scott Lobdell's run so far. Gone is the over-the-top hijinks and anything-for-a-laugh writing style. Instead, we're treated to a look back at the early days of GEN13 and how Caitlin Fairchild came to join the group. It involves a slight retcon, of sorts. Rainmaker is added back into the early days. (Remember that in the original mini-series, she was something of an afterthought. The original GEN13 ads didn't even include her.) Her lesbianism is also very strongly hinted at. In fact, it might serve to slightly cheapen the original revelation made in the second issue of the on-going GEN13 series, but that's a matter of personal opinion.
Ed Benes and Sal Regla do an excellent job on the art duties, drawing something quite cinematic at times, loaded with excellent staging of characters and allowing for enough panels to get the story told while still including some of the 'money shots' a book that relies on very soft T&A like this one needs. Special credit must also go to Chris Chuckry, who keeps the colors very muted and earthy. It adds to the feeling of memory and nostalgia that the book trades on. Everything is colored consistently, much more like a movie than a coloring book.
This is the first of a three-part storyline. If you haven't been reading GEN13 for a long time, thinking it's too silly, then this might be the perfect issue to come back on.
CORRECTIONS AND UPDATES
The COMICOLOGY contest announced on Friday is still going on. You have until Friday to get your entries in. Go check out that column for all the details.
Last week I referred incorrectly to the artist of WILDCATS. It is, indeed, Sean Phillips who draws the book so well, not Joe. Thanks to Pipeline readers Marla and Joe for independently pointing this out to me pretty early on.
It's already been corrected, so don't go looking in the archives for it. For those of you who read the column before the correction was made, now you know the truth. And knowing is half the battle!
Speaking of which, the G.I. JOE animated movie from the mid-1980s came out on DVD last week. Not only do you get the movie, but you also get a selection of 26 PSAs from the series. Those are the tags that inspired the oft-quoted "And knowing is half the battle." Go Joe!
And speaking of DVDs, I'm no longer writing the DVD review column over on Reactor. My thanks to both of you who read the thing.
The comics fun has just begun, however! Come back here on Thursday for the inaugural PCR EXTRA, complete with all the comic reviews I couldn't fit into last week's columns. Then come back on Friday for a sampling of the hate mail I've gotten recently. It's all fun stuff.