SDCC Recap: Friday Afternoon and Evening

Friday was a dilly of a day. If you’ve read the Friday morning update, you already know I was riding a wave of triumph, having bested Hall H and its mammoth line.

After heading out of The World’s End panel, I spent some time walking through Artist’s Alley.

Artist’s Alley reminds me a bit of Wonderland – you never know what odd and interesting things you’ll find. Unbelievably talented artists have portfolios on display, and many of them are also selling their creator owned comic books. I picked up my “Run Lola Run” prints that I had commissioned from Tess Fowler, and Tess pointed me to Sara Richard’s table when I asked her who might have some interesting artwork of the Tenth Doctor. Artist’s Alley on Friday is also where I met Mike, who drew the logo for the Casual Comics Guy site.

Original “Run Lola Run” art by Tess Fowler

Panel-wise, Friday was yet another day where the things I most anticipated were actually the least interesting things I did.

A few years back, my buddy Marc and I hit the “Marvel: Cup o’ Joe” panel. Marvel chief creative office Joe Quesada delivers the scoop on the upcoming Marvel comics events and series, joined by a host of Marvel artists and writers. This year, Quesada was joined by Brian Michael Bendis, Axel Alonso, C.B. Cebulski, and others.

For me, the panel was memorable for two reasons. I showed up about 15 minutes early to secure a good seat, which turned out to be largely unnecessary. When people complain about comic books getting lost in the shuffle at Comic Con, this is something they point to. Arguably the biggest panel for fans of Marvel comics doesn’t even fill the room to capacity. But one thing I did notice was a girl who swooped in right before the panel with a press badge who appeared to be live blogging the event. “Hmmm…” I thought to myself, internal dialogue kicking in right on cue, “Maybe if the Casual Comics Guy blog takes off, that will be me next year.”

Anticipating posting updates from “Cup o’ Joe” to this blog, I did have a pen and notebook on hand. After the panel started, though, I couldn’t keep up. I don’t think I’m any further behind on comics than I was last time I attended “Cup o’ Joe”, so one of two things has happened:

  • Instead of being an intro course, “Cup o’ Joe” is now an AP class, or
  • The Marvel comics universe has gone completely insane

Either option is equally likely, in my mind.

To be fair, insanity wasn’t too far a journey.

Following is a word-for-word transcription of my notes from this event:

Marvel Cup o’ Joe

Promos – SHIELD, Avengers Assembled (Animated), Infinity (Still no idea what that’s about)

Why is Hulk wearing armor?

  • Axel Alonso
  • CB Cebulski
  • Brian Michael Bendis
  • Rick Remender
  • Scottie Young
  • Sam Humphries
  • Nick Lowe?
  • Steve Wacker

Guardians of the Galaxy – July 2013

Angela? Weird lady with tiny bikini and Thor headgear

October 2013 – Infinity Tie-Ins

Infinity Variant covers by Skottie Young

Hawkeye – Nominated for awards, lots of self-congratulatory nonsense

November 2013? In addition to Pizza Dog, there’s going to be burrito cat (Ha, Ha)

Inhuman – Matt Fraction, Joe Madureira

Next HUGE title for Marvel, old and new characters

Inferno will be a big new character – a game changer in post-Infinity Marvel U

Marvel Revolutionary War – Something about British Marvel heroes by Andy Lanning

Young Avengers “After Party” – too many names to list

Why doesn’t Marvel revive Crystar: The Crystal Warrior?

Wolverine Origin II – Why is there another Wolverine Origin?

Why does Red Skull have the powers of Professor X now?

Seriously, Marvel should do another Crystar series total Game of Thrones style…

Come on Marvel. Just DO IT already.

Then there was a Q&A session where they was only one thing I understood.

In fact, I think I understood it better than Joe Quesada.

Someone asked the question, “Do you worry about marginalizing casual readers by having too many titles?”

The answer from Quesada demonstrated a lack of understanding of the casual comic fan. He said that the readers “vote with their feet”; that Marvel introduces new titles and kills titles that are unsuccessful all the time.

That answer completely illuminates why, as a casual reader, I’m having trouble connecting with the Marvel comics universe. The problem isn’t that too many titles crowds the market. It’s that, for a casual reader, the flood of titles makes it near impossible to navigate the Marvel U. Just like the internet didn’t become useful until there were decent search engines to help causal users find the information they wanted, the Marvel Universe is a tidal wave of stories without a way to orient yourself unless you are a complete fanatic.

How crazy is the Marvel Universe when I can’t go to a comic book store right now and pick up a Spider Man title where Peter Parker is actually Spider Man?

Seriously. Dr. Octopus is Spider-Man right now. That’s not even a joke. Doc Ock.

If Marvel really wants to court casual fans, they need to ditch continuity and think of their titles more like a TV sitcom. At the end of each story, there needs to be a return to status quo. Fans may love the big world-shaking events, but there also needs to be a “reset” to normal.

Think of it like “Seinfeld”. Each of those characters have some unalterable core, meaning that a casual viewer can drop in and know, generally, that George is neurotic, Kramer is a goof with wacky ideas, Jerry and Newman are sworn enemies, and so on. Stuff happens that is entertaining, but the characters don’t change.

Marvel needs a line like that. Peter Parker is down-on-his luck, broke, and has a sickly aunt. Bruce Banner goes gamma-roid-rage and punches tanks. The X-Men are battling prejudice against mutants while trying to save the world. That’s the core of the characters. Any universe straying too far from the formula is going to alienate casual readers.

No offense to Joe Quesada, but if his solution to attracting casual fans is to keep introducing and quick-killing titles, it’s going to be a long time before the Marvel U makes any sense to me.

There was a time when all the back story you needed could be explained on the cover of the issue.

Anyway, after that depressing revelation hit me, I decided to leave the “Cup o’ Joe” panel. At that point, I had too much to ponder regarding the possible future of a “Crystar: The Crystal Warrior” revivial. That would rock harder than a collision of the Metallica and Megadeth tour buses.

Then it was time for a quick bite to eat. The quality of food at Comic Con has greatly improved from past years. In the past, I had to subsist on the omnipresent pretzel dogs – a quick injection of salt and cholesterol. Sandwiches and pizza have been available for a few years now, but for the first time that I can recall, fresh fruit and healthy snack mixes were also available. A banana and a 200-calorie Chex Mix kept my energy levels stable.

I thought I'd see more Baronesses this year. Quality over quantity I guess.
Checking out the cosplay is always a quality way to spend time at SDCC.

I spent a good chunk of the afternoon taking photos of the cosplayers and shopping around the floor before wandering into another panel – “Adam and Jamie Look Toward the Future”. The panel was hosted by Wil Wheaton and featured the two guys from “Mythbusters”, a show I used to like back when I had cable television. It was simply average at a time when I needed something spectacular, so I finished my snack and walked out.

And I’m glad I did because the panel I wandered into was terrific. “Science Fiction That Will Change Your Life” delivered on the promise of its title. This was the second panel that I (unintentionally) attended that featured Charlie Jane Anders, who now has at least one more big fan. The panel also featured Annalee Newitz, Meredith Woerner, Lauren Davis from (a site you very much need to bookmark) – there’s a link over there in the sidebar.

This was one of those panels that makes me so happy San Diego Comic Con exists. I discovered a ton of new sci-fi material, almost too much in fact. These people knew exactly what they were talking about. I’ll just give you a couple of random oddities that I scribbled in my notepad. First off, they reminded me that I should get a copy of “The Little Prince” and read it with my kids. In addition, they recommended a wonderful podcast – “Welcome to Night Vale”. I’m going to crib from Christopher Wynn of The Dallas Morning News, who described the show as “NPR meets The Mothman Prophecies.” You really should seek it out.

Do yourself a favor and download the first few episodes.

And with that, Friday Comic Con official events wrapped for me.

Coming up next on SDCC recaps: Friday night late night with Justin, Michelle, Gerry, Marty, and many others.

Plus (and I’m serious), I’m going to write a treatment/pitch for a hard as nails Crystar reboot.

Crystar is one bad mother…

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