WIZARD WORLD EAST 2003
I've been to San Diego far too many times. I realized that when I went to the Northeast's largest convention, Wizard World East in Philadelphia, and didn't feel the need to go a second day. My schedule didn't allow for it this year, but I don't feel that I missed anything. I talked to the usual cast of suspects. I got a couple of sketches, picked up a few more pages of original art, bought one comic, had a good time, and left 45 minutes before the convention closed for the night. That was enough.
Yet, there were other people there that I talked to who were staying at hotels for the weekend and going to the con for all three days, and were excited as all get out for it. And they should be. For the most part, they're not going to Chicago or San Diego. This is it. This is their con. This is the Northeast's convention. For this general area, Wizard World East is a magnificent show. It's well-organized, well-attended, and well-staffed. CrossGen, DC, and Marvel are all there. The CBLDF and ACTOR both had booths. Top Shelf was there, along with Graffiti Designs, start-up Aspen, and the company that swears it's not a monopoly, Diamond.
While Marvel is sticking with its "tables and lines" approach to a booth, CrossGen and DC have their usual magnificent booths, complete with large images of their characters, previews of their books, and signing lines always a mile long. The DC booth, in particular, is impenetrable. The lines for the creators appearing there choke everything off. At CrossGen, at least, they have it organized better. There are four tables in the middle with lines radiating out, and stations at each corner of the booth for previews, ComicsOnTheWeb.com, t-shirts, and Code 6.
The surprise booth for me was the Devil's Due Booth. Those G.I. JOE boys and girls had a booth to rival any of the major companies. It's about the size of the Graffiti Designs Booth, if you've ever seen that one: a big square with loads of books for sale and plenty of sketches and autographs to go around. Mighty impressive, and always drawing people.
Behind the major companies' booths, you have all the dealers. I'm not in the market for more comics right now, but I did browse through a couple of dealers' booths that were offering half-off graphic novels and trades. I picked up a copy of the Gaiman/Russell hardcover, MURDER MYSTERIES, and that was it.
You also had your original art dealers, anime sellers, action figure areas, and bootleg videotape and DVD booths. Behind all that you had one of the oddest arrangements for Artist's Alley that I've ever seen. It wasn't very deep, but it was very wide, and sometimes even staggered. At best, there may have been 3 or 4 artists per side per alley. It did allow for more room for traffic to flow, but there were areas that looked deserted at times.
After that comes the unique-to-Wizard (thank goodness) back of the con hall layout. Half of it was taken up with lines upon lines of tables that were roped off for gaming. I can deal with that. They're fairly quiet. But the other half of the floor? Wizard brought the friggin' wrestling ring with them from their Chicago show for this thing. As if that weren't obnoxious enough, there was a fenced off area next to that with skateboarders on quarter pipes and rails. Sometimes, they even had an announcer to narrate for them. In front of that was a dealer selling bongo drums. I was only there on Friday. I'm sure, though, that by Sunday there might have been thoughts of homicide from some quarters of Artist's Alley. I'll happily be a witness for the defense on how annoying all of those sideshows were. They could drive anyone to acts of violence.
If you're looking for gossip or news, you're not going to find it here. I'm erring on the side of keeping my lip zipped. It dawned on me as I sat down to write this that I had a lot of discussions with people about upcoming work that I'm not sure has been officially announced yet.
I will say, though, that it was slightly surreal to talk to Michael Doran behind the Marvel table and Bill Rosemann inside the CrossGen booth.
I met Ken Knudtsen, the genius maniac who's responsible for MY MONKEY'S NAME IS JENNIFER. He was nice enough to do a sketch of Jennifer for me in full color. We talked a little about Huey Lewis and the News, who get namechecked in just about every issue. He convinced me to give their last album, PLAN B, a second chance. I didn't like it much when it came out, but maybe I'll reconsider it now.
Sitting across from him in Artist's Alley was Tyler Page of STYLISH VITTLES fame. He drew Nanette for me in the sketchbook, and we talked about the future of SV. The third volume probably won't be out until next summer, he said. I looked through some of the original artwork he had at his table. It looks funny seeing the art at full size after living with it in the smaller graphic novel for so long. (Page said he has the exact opposite feeling. He's so used to seeing it at full-size that it's weird seeing it in print so small.) He uses a lot of blue pencil on his pages. All the crosshatching is easier to see at full-size, also. After it shrinks, it has a tendency to blend together into more solid blacks.
Your artistic dream team table: Rick Leonardi was sitting at a table with Josh Middleton. Both were knocking out sketches and kept a pretty steady stream of people happy.
Mike Wieringo sat at the ACTOR booth all afternoon for another stream of people, raising a ton of money for that group.
Mark McKenna made a big show of his children's book, BANANA-TAIL, available in both soft- and hardcover. It's a very cute book, and he's used it in classroom's already where it's been a big hit. You can check out the official website to get a taste of the whole thing.
I talked to TwoMorrows' Eric Nolen-Weathington about MODERN MASTERS: ALAN DAVIS and a little about his upcoming George Perez book in the same series. (A review of the Davis book is forthcoming. Short story: I liked it.) The TwoMorrows people are doing great work for fans of comics. A look at the magazines and books on display at their booth make for a terrific reading list of material.
I hung out a bit at the CrossGen booth, where the news of the weekend is their upcoming DVD release collecting a whole series of issues and being available at places like Walmart and Toys R Us. It will also include a five minute CGI animation for CHIMERA, which looks and sounds great. It was done by students at a local art college, who should all have promising careers in front of them. The animation is as good as any video game cut scene. When it finished up, I wanted to go home and catch up on reading CHIMERA next…
I finally met Ron Marz, who writes two of my favorite CrossGen books in SCION and SOJOURN. He's done with his work on the latter now, and promised no more Jim Fern fill-ins on the former. It's all Jimmy Cheung now, he swore with a smile. I imagine this means they'll find someone else to do the twice-annual fill-ins for the title. Perhaps Paul Ryan?
John Gallagher is busy promoting BUZZBOY and hyping up the forthcoming MORE FUND COMICS, a more mainstream attempt to raise funds for the CBLDF than its sister publication, the annual SPX anthology. There's a list of writers and artists contributing to the book at the website. It's very impressive.
Rick Spears and Rob G spent time touting their TEENAGERS FROM MARS book, and teasing that the final issue of the series would be double-sized. I made a mental note to reread the series before that happens so it all stays fresh. They're also excited about their Batman back-up story being solicited in the latest issue of PREVIEWS.
Ran into Jamal Igle and Rich Maurizio sitting next to each other, as they were in Pittsburgh last year. I started my art buying by picking up a page from each of them. From Jamal, I grabbed a Linda Danvers page from a SUPERGIRL fill-in issue. And from Rich, I bought a nice TINY TOONS page featuring Elmyra and Li'l Sneezer.
From the gang at the Fanfare-SE.com booth, I picked up three more pages of Greg Land artwork from BIRDS OF PREY and NIGHTWING. I spent far too much time on the ground pouring through a bin of his artwork, trying to decide between pages. When I popped up to pay for the ones I selected, I was told I had just missed Land. He stopped by to drop off some new pages while my nose was deep in a stack of his older work. No matter how large or small the comic con, things like that always happen.
That's part of the thrill of going to conventions. We live in our own world as comics fans. You can go to one of these conventions and bump into some huge name in the world of comics flipping through the back issue bins right next to you and not blink an eye. Or, given some of the anonymous nature of comics creation, you can bump into one of those big names in an aisle on the way to get a pretzel from the overpriced vendor and not realize it until you see his picture in WIZARD next month. Comics are a lot of fun, and for me that includes the realm of comic conventions. Big and small, they've all got something to offer somebody.
I'm looking forward now more than ever to heading out to San Diego in July and Chicago in August. Hope to see some of you then.
If you were at the con this weekend, drop by the Pipeline message board with your con report. I'd love to know what I missed on Saturday and Sunday.
THE WEEK IN MARVEL
THE ULTIMATES #10 is a jaw-dropping issue. I can't help but think that a giant reset button will be pushed in some way next month, but this is still a very pretty and very entertaining series.
Paul Neary's inks bring Bryan Hitch's artwork to life in a way that nobody else ever has. Andrew Currie did very good work with his inks, but Neary is great. He gets the chance to shine in this issue on a number of things, from trains to Helicarriers to down-and-dirty combat situations. He maintains the feel of the artwork while helping to add dimensionality to it with variable line weights. Mark Millar's story leaves plenty of places for the art to shine, and Hitch and Company do just that.
Now we just have to wait for next month to see how the characters get out of this scrape.
It's very tough to convince a jaded comics reader that characters placed in unbeatable positions are in real trouble. Ever. Mark Waid, on the other hand, does just that with FANTASTIC FOUR #69. He's made Reed Richards look truly scared and unusually powerless by the new threat of Doctor Doom. Usually, I wouldn't be too concerned about any of this: The family is in horrible danger, but Reed will put something together and use the powers that his family possesses to pull them out of it. Whoop-dee-doo.
Not this time. Here, Waid has placed Richards in a truly awful position that rendered him silent. It's a new and scary situation that Waid pushes all the right buttons on. It's subtle at times. Richards isn't hyperventilating throughout the issue. Everything is happening around him and things are getting more and more desperate. And Waid knows just when and how to show how this affects Richards.
This "Unthinkable" storyline is the most exciting FANTASTIC FOUR story I've ever read. I can't wait to see what's coming up next month.
There's a reason I chose these two titles to review this week. They're both colored by Paul Mounts. You couldn't ask for more disparate artists on Marvel comics than Bryan Hitch and Mike Wieringo. While both have an undeniable energy under their style, they do fall on opposite ends of the art spectrum. Hitch's art verges towards the photo realistic, while Wieringo's is much looser and more "cartoony," if you will. Mounts has to conform his colors to these styles. FANTASTIC FOUR uses a wider palette to point up the colorful existence of the family, along with all their nearly-surreal adventures. THE ULTIMATES requires a more realistic color scheme, color-keying scenes to more natural earth tones. Both books look fantastic in large part to their coloring schemes. Mounts' style is unmistakable, but if you looked at these two books separately, you'd never guess that the same guy colored them both.
Friday is the return of Pipeline Previews. I'll be taking a look at the books scheduled for August 2003 in that column.
Next Tuesday: Reviews, including a look at the upcoming RAIJIN COMICS trade paperbacks.
Various and Sundry didn't have a new episode of AMERICAN IDOL to review, but that didn't stop me. This week's topics for discussion include: thoughts on a college reunion, THE AMAZING RACE 4, FAME, DVD pricing oddness, more Avril news to terrify people with, the 24 finale (at last), SARS spitting, and a lot more.
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.