Sunday, August 01, 2010

Comic-Con 2010

When Comic-Con first started in 1979 about 300 hundred people attended.  This year, forty-one years later, one hundred and twenty thousand people registered to attend the convention.  It has become the largest comic book convention in the United States.  
I’ve been going to Comic-Con for eleven years in a row now.  I have come to think of this behemoth of an event as something on par with the annual pilgrimage to Mecca that devout Muslims are supposed to make.  If you consider yourself a true fan-boy, a nerdy geek through and through, then at least once in your life you should experience a Comic-Con.  
And so, due to events I won’t detail here which caused me to register late, I went to San Diego in a tiny eighteen foot camper trailer that I shared with my ex-roommate after college and a sickly cat.  But I did this gladly.  Why…?  
Because it is time for Comic-Con. 
Thursday, July 22nd - Day One
The convention is about meeting people.  All day long I was meeting people.  The client whom I didn’t know was a fan like me.  My buddy who hangs out at my local comic book store.  The two brothers whose novel they wrote together just won a big award.  The artist whom I met while standing in line years ago for my first professional badge.  Meeting people who share your dream help you to feel closer to it.  
I went to three panels this day: 
Science Fiction that will Change Your Life - A boldly named panel if there ever was one.  The people from the online magazine give their choices from what came out within the last year of science fiction that will change your perspective.  The commonality of the choices were: A lot of people liked the stuff of Warren Ellison.  A lot of the stories being chosen were from small or independent publishers, a lot of which had started out online.  One of the panelists noted that in a lot of ways things had already changed.  Some of the notable choices include: 
“Freak Angels” and “Super God,” both by Warren Ellison.
LXD (League of Extraordinary Dancers) - A Web only TV show. 
“Timer” - An independent film.  
“Splice” - Another movie.  
“Wind-up Girl” - Nebula winning novel.  
The Pitching Hour - A panel of producers and writers who have worked in Hollywood talk about what it takes to come up with and execute a good pitch for your TV or movie idea.  They said that everything comes down to five basic steps: 
Own Your Work.
Contract Representation.
Electronic Presence.   
A notable quote from one of the panelists: “Luck is opportunity & preparation.”  
Abusing Science in Science Fiction - A fun panel from the people that make the TV shows “Eureka” and “Fringe” where they presented examples of scenes from TVs and movies where ‘good science’ was use (science presented well and accurately) and ‘bad science’ was used.  Some things I got out of the panel as a writer were: 
“Science Magic” is where anything can happen at any time.   Science creates limitations and drama comes out of the limitations of what a person can do.  
The presentation of exposition and how it’s handled.  Give the audience one line of exposition then give them the reason why it is important, the emotional impact.  
The use of an ‘Audience Stand-in,’ a character in the scene who would ask the questions an uniformed audience member might find.  
Friday, July 23rd - Day Two
Batman: The Brave and the Bold - A panel about the animated TV series on Cartoon Network about the caped crusader.  I had never seen the series before (not having cable).  I liked what I saw.  Too bad this next season will be their last 13 episodes.  It’s something of a return to the campy live action Batman TV show that was done in the 60’s with Adam West.  Very funny.  They also presented a preview of a new animated series they’ll be doing called “Young Justice.”  Young Justice uses the sidekick characters of the Justice League (such as Robin, Aqualad, etc.) as a ‘covert ops’ unit for the Justice League.  It’s set on Earth-16 in DC’s multiverse.  The animation clip they showed was impressive.  It’s something I would want to watch.  
Indy Comics Writers Unite! - Moderated by Mark Waid (writer of Amazing Spiderman and Irredeemable) and featuring Van Jensen (Pinocchio: Vampire Slayer), Larry Marder (Beanworld), Carla Seed McNeil (Finder) and Terry Moore (Strangers in Paradise, Echo), the panel talked about what a creator of an independent comic needs to do to create and market their work.  One message that was repeated a number of times throughout the panel was the about the need to get to know the business side of comics as well as one knows the creative side.  To quote Larry Marder during the discussion, “If you are creative enough to write something people want to read you’re probably not grounded enough to sell it.”  Carla Speed McNeil described being an independent comics writer as facing the same problems facing any small business owner. 
Saturday, July 24th - Day Three
The Write Stuff: Writing Genre TV - A panel of writers from various genre TV shows.  A lot of it was meant to be entertaining and was of limited use to someone wanting to fashion a career in the field.  For instance, each panelist was asked to recall the “Dumbest Note” they ever got from a network executive.  In my opinion it was a tie between the executive who, when being pitched an ‘evil twin’ episode replied, “Great!  Who’s playing the evil twin?” and the note that came back about a character being killed with a stiletto that read, “Does the character have to be killed with a shoe?”  The panel did turn it around every so often with bits of advice that was more grounded.  How to regard the network as your collaborator when dealing with bad notes and ways of writing scenes when forced by budget constraints to not write what you want, for instance.  The best advice was the most obvious; it is character that makes a show worth watching, not special effects and that continuing to write and put what you’ve written out there is the way to break-in and succeed.  
Spotlight on J. Michael Straczynski - This is the one panel I make a point of going to each Comic-Con.  Not only is J. Michael Straczynski, the creator of the show Babylon 5 and the writer of such comics as Amazing Spiderman, The Mighty Thor and now The New Wonder-Woman, is a prolific and talented writer (each comic he’s written has reached the top twenty by the time he’s finished his run), but is an entertaining and inspiring person to listen to.  The news about his work included turning in the final drafts of his scripts for his adaptation of “Lensman,” based on E.E. “Doc” Smith’s seminal work and the new version of “Forbidden Planet.”  He also mentioned turning in a final script for a project called, “World War Z.”  He is now writing Superman for DC Comics, and his version of Wonder-Woman will be coming out next week.  Listening to him talk about his take on the iconic comic book characters he’s written emphasizes what is important in writing in general, making things personal and real.  He finished this presentation as usual with his admonishment to never surrender one’s dreams.  Good Advice for all of us.  
Comic-Con International Film Festival - I’ve started making it a point of watching at least some of the entrants in this short film festival, focusing on those in the science fiction category.  I want to prefice my comments about the films with my feeling that anyone successfully completes such a project should be applauded.  Making a movie is a huge collaborative effort that takes a lot of time, patience, determination and, yes, money to complete.  The makers of these movies are to be commended.  This year I watched two films: 
Engima - The transport ship Genesis has been found floating dead in space with all hands on board found murdered.  This film was something of an ‘Alien’ copycat in terms of look and feel, but it was a good copycat.  The production values and special effects were good and the acting held up its part of the deal as well.  There was something of a twist ending that was somewhat unexpected, but which didn’t come out of left field.  One noteworthy thing about the movie was that it was shot five years ago on an interior spaceship set originally built for the TV show ‘Firefly.’
Hunter Prey - A ship carrying a group of elite intergalactic commandos and their prisoner crash lands on a harsh planet.  Their prisoner escapes and must be tracked down.  I decided this was basically two films.  The first was a thirty minute short that focused on the quotation by Charles Darwin that opens the film, about how adaptability, and not strength or intelligence, is the highest survival trait.  This segment worked for the most part and seemed to be saying something on that theme.  Unfortunately, after what I thought was an ending to the movie the film carries on into something of a long-winded version of the Star Trek episode where Kirk fights the Gorn, with a Star Wars styled bounty hunter mixed in.  As the movie goes on more and more elements are added, such a secret base where another starship is apparently hidden, burdening the film instead of allowing it to drive toward a conclusion.  Plus the twists planted by the writer were things I saw coming before the reveal.  
The filmmakers did announce that their feature length project has been picked up for distribution by Mia Entertainment for release on December 9th, and that deals to release in Australia are in the works.  You can also buy a copy of the movie on DVD if you want from Amazon.   

Unfortunately I was unable to attend the final day of Comic-Con.  I am already looking forward to next year.