IMAGE EXPO: Eric Stephenson's Keynote Address Set to Reveal New Projects
One of the best things about comics conventions is getting creators and marketers to talk about the things that aren’t quite ready for prime time yet, projects that are coming up but haven’t been the subject of a torrent of press releases. I heard about a number of interesting comics at C2E2 this past weekend; here are a few that piqued my interest.
The one that really grabbed me is Dark Horse’s nonfiction graphic novel about the Green River killer, which was first announced in 2009. The Dark Horse folks like to take their time with their books, and marketing director Jeremy Atkins tells me that it is now slated for a September release. The book is written by Jeff Jensen, whose father was a member of the investigative team on the murders. “It’s stories that have never been told before,” said Atkins. “It’s not sensationalized at all. It’s more for a true crime audience than a crime fiction audience.”
If that’s too dark for you, here’s a bit of sweetness and light: Amy Mebberson, whose super-cute art graced the global manga Divalicious (you can read the whole first volume online at the link) and many of Boom! Studios The Muppet Show comics, is not letting any grass grow under her feet: She is one of the artists on Ape Entertainment’s Strawberry Shortcake comics, doing the coloring and some of the pencilling. This increased my interest in Strawberry Shortcake 100%.
I don’t remember having this problem last year, but security was especially tight at the show. Saturday evening I got booted out at closing time while talking to one of the artists I was rooming with and Sunday morning press wasn’t allowed onto the floor until the show opened at 10:00. I’m not complaining exactly, it was just different from the open access I remembered from last year. Even Friday morning this year we were allowed onto the floor during the set-up hours before 10:00.
But if I hadn’t had to wait in line to get in Sunday morning, I wouldn’t have met Doug Zawisza, who was covering several panels for CBR, including the Mark Waid/Matt Fraction one that I’d enjoyed so much on Saturday. We talked about that, about what comics we’re reading, and about what our kids are into. I’d forgotten that one of the joys of conventions is just meeting and chatting with people who love comics as much as you do.
Speaking of kids, one of the best panels I attended all weekend wasn’t on the program. It was dinner after the show on Friday with Robot 6’s Brigid Alverson (who also writes for Good Comics for Kids), Eric Wight (Frankie Pickle), school librarian extraordinaire John Schumacher, and Chris Samnee (Thor: The Mighty Avenger). Seriously, if you take me out of the mix, you couldn’t organize a better panel on all-ages comics if you had a year to do it. We talked about our favorite kid-appropriate books, how comics for young people are in better shape than ever, and how nice it would be if DC and Marvel got on board.
The question that I raised yesterday about whether TV and movies were going to steal C2E2’s focus from comics turned out to be a non-issue. Concern – and maybe this was just me – was born from a couple of things: the catch-all “Entertainment” is right there in the name and there were several movie/TV appearance announcements in a row that I guess put fears in my head. But it was clear even yesterday from the exhibitor layout that the core of the show is all about the comics. I still haven’t explored the entire floor, but I’ve yet to stumble across the media autograph area.
I did start and end my day with media panels, but they both had deep comics connections. First was Cartoon Network’s presentation of the Firebreather DVD with Phil Hester. As Hester put it: “It’s Saturday morning; we should be watching cartoons!” I saw the movie when it aired in November, but it was especially impressive in Blu-Ray on the big screen. And it was cool to hear Hester answer questions about his experience having his comic translated into film by Aeon Flux‘s Peter Chung. We also learned that Firebreather screenwriter James Krieg is currently developing a Green Lantern series for Cartoon Network.
Though it was a thoroughly enjoyable start to the day, I could tell early on that I wasn’t going to be able to keep up the panel schedule I’d planned for myself. Sitting in panel rooms all day long without even seeing the convention floor didn’t have a lot of appeal, so I started trimming things. My schedule was a mess anyway with a lot of overlapping panels and difficult choices. This was true last night too. I went to Dirk Manning’s writing panel because I know and like Dirk, but I had to make a choice between it and another writing panel. That’s a weird head-to-head line-up and there were more like it today. Several small press publishers had to compete for attendees and my next panel after Firebreather was a choice between ComiXology’s digital-focused State of the Comicsphere and a discussion between Mark Waid and Matt Fraction on Script Writing and Comics in the Digital Age. Of course, I didn’t realize it yet, but the digital conversation at C2E2 was something that involved far more than just those two panels.
My big question heading into the show this year was, “How much is it going to feel like a comics convention?” With Chris “Thor” Hemsworth and much of the cast of Chuck being around this weekend, would C2E2 start to feel like San Diego or – God forbid – Wizard World Chicago from a couple of years ago with movies and TV taking over the center of attention?
It’s only Friday, but so far so really damn good.
After last year’s C2E2, I had high expectations for the convention this year and everything got off to a great start. Press registration went smoothly again and some of the Artist Alley creators who hadn’t attended last year told me how impressed they were with the professionalism and just general niceness of the staff they’d worked with.
One major difference though is that the convention’s in a different part of McCormick Place this year. Instead of the impressive Lakeside Center with it’s unbelievable view of Lake Michigan and downtown Chicago, it’s in the West Building. Still a very nice space with lush carpeting and plenty of room, just not as jaw-droppingly grand as last year. I’m not sure why that is, but one artist brought it to my attention that the setting sun through the giant picture-windows last year could sometimes make it difficult to see and interact with fans. So whatever the rationale for moving, there are positive and negative things about both spaces.