Comic Con and grousing go hand and hand but some of the complaints have become clichés over the years. Mention that it’s not about the comics anymore and you’ll probably get a shrug. It’s a bit like complaining about MTV not playing music videos anymore or the Dodgers leaving Brooklyn. That ship sailed along time ago.
That said, it’s not not about comics either. There’s certainly more focus on comic books and comics, sigh, properties here than any other gathering on Earth. Comics companies large and small make their presence felt even when while surrounded by marketing interests with deeper budgets. And as Todd’s post earlier today notes, these folks are pretty tough competition. Did you know there’s a Halloween sequel out this year? Because the Halloween II-outfitted Segway-riders patrolling the grounds a block away from the Convention Center sure keep reminding me.
An interview with Park Chan-wook, director of Oldboy and the forthcoming Thirst, that took me off the beat for much of the first half of the day. When I got back, I decided to plunge into a pair of panels from the Big Two mainstream publishers: Marvel’s Cup O’ Joe panel, presided over by editor-in-chief Joe Quesada and DC’s DC Nation, led by DC Senior Vice President/Executive Editor Dan DiDio.
I’ve been to a number of these panels over the years and I think they’re starting to converge. Remove the names of the players and characters, and it’d be hard to tell them apart. Whatever their differences outside the spotlight, both DiDio and Quesada project a friendly, alpha-male-as-overgrown-kid-with-the-best-toys image. Both have also taken to handing most of their panels over to questions from fans seeking direct access to the men and women (today just men) who make the comics they love. They seem friendly, good-humored, accessible, and always on message.
When a fan expressed displeasure with Final Crisis and Batman R.I.P., some of the writers on the panel seemed confrontational. Without admitting any particular mistakes, DiDio stressed that they liked to listen to fans and to avoid making the same mistakes twice. Later in the same panel, DiDio solicited fans’ creative for input as to which DC characters should be revived from the dead in the popular new Blackest Night crossover event. It was a session short on big announcements—those are rumored for tomorrow—but long on bonhomie, and as a troop-rallying exercise it worked quite well. Some of DiDio’s decisions have made him a controversial figure in fandom, but here he’s got the sort of personality that puts the doubters to rest, at least until the hour’s up.
Marvel’s panel preceded DC’s and arrived amidst rumors, passed in part by Marvel itself, that the session would contain a major announcement. But first, the questions. Most fans lobbed softballs today, including a Australian who asked for an Australian Marvel hero so he could come dressed as that character to future conventions. And then came the news that Marvel had obtained the rights to Marvelman, news that will mean a lot to some and not so much to others.
Short version: Marvelman is a British hero derived from Captain Marvel in the 1950s and tied up in legal wrangling pretty much from his first adventure. Beginning in the early-‘80s, Alan Moore began writing a series of innovative stories, published in American under the name Miracleman. The early stories anticipated some of the ideas found in Watchmen. That later ones expanded on them. Then came more legal wrangling. (For a fuller account of the legal ins and outs, which also involve Todd McFarlane and Neil Gaiman, read comics gossip Rich Johnston’s piece on the subject.) Marvel announced the acquisition without getting into when, or if, they’d be reprinting the long-out-of-print Moore stories. In the end, the announcement felt less like the end of a long saga than its latest chapter.
I hate to end on an anti-climactic note. So here’s a picture of a wax Hugh Jackman.