Con fatigue. It's inevitable. My fellow Tor.com bloggers are seasoned SF conners, able to trudge through miles of booths and shoulder aside hordes of sweaty fans while subsisting on nothing more than lukewarm con pretzels. But the sensory overload gets to me after only a day or so, and at this point I'm ready for a weekend of detox at Kripalu. Can anyone spare an ear candle?
To make things worse, despite the fact that it's a lovely city, San Diego pales in comparison to New York on two very important metrics: tap water and pizza. The water tastes like it was strained through a beet, and the pizza is more of a floppy cheese-flavored fruit roll-up than a proper pie. What's worse, my childhood heroes the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were standing outside the pizza joint loudly trumpeting its quality. Et tu, Donatello?
When you're feeling overwhelmed, it's usually a good idea to pick something specific and cling to it like a raft in a storm. So I made today a Marvel day, following editor-in-chief Joe Quesada (see photo) and his merry crew through a series of panels.
The first two sessions made me feel very small. I'm a geek, obviously, and even though I've read hundreds of comic books—and dozens of books about comic books—I can't even come close to the depth and breadth of geek knowledge on display here. Not on the panel, although Quesada's a really smart and interesting speaker, but in the audience.
Nothing makes a geek feel worse than missing an inside joke while in a big crowd of geeks, and the inside jokes were flying fast and furious. Pop quiz: who the heck is the Dazzler (beyond being a superheroine in the Marvel universe), and why is the mere mention of her name enough to elicit laughter out of a crowd of hundreds of comic book fans?
After a certain point, I felt like everyone was speaking a foreign language, as the audience peppered the panels with question after obscure question that left me completely in the dark even after they were answered.
I did manage to come back to you guys with some news:
- A Black Panther animated series is coming to BET.
- Quesada is seriously considering bringing Dr. Strange and other magic-based Marvel characters back into regular circulation. (I do love that trippy Dr. Strange.)
- Marvel Illustrated will release what looks like a gorgeous and visually fresh comic book version of The Wizard of Oz, written by Eric Shanower and drawn by Skottie Young. (No, I don't know their work, but from the sample we saw, I'm set on buying it when it comes out.)
- We saw some previews of the upcoming Ender's Game comic book. We may never see a completed live-action feature film, but at least with the comic they seem to have gotten it right. Orson Scott Card was on hand to give the project his full and enthusiastic approval.
- 2009 will mark the 70th anniversary of Marvel Comics, and we were told to expect even more big news in the Marvel universe than we've seen in 2008.
The third and final panel was Marvel to the Nth Degree. The description in the con schedule was remarkably vague, and it speaks to the power of the Marvel brand right now that the large hall was at least half full of people willing to wait in line for something they knew nothing about.
We learned that book publisher Scribner is releasing on Monday Stephen King's N, a never-before-seen short story that's been adapted by Marvel into a mobile-based animation for viewing on your fancier cell phones, as well as online via an embeddable player. (Animation is a bit misleading—each comic panel pans from side-to-side or features a small moving element like a TV screen, that's it.)
As is usual with all announcements about "entertainment on your cell phone," the panel was really sketchy on the technical details: what phone carriers would offer the animation, what kinds of phones were compatible, etc., how many episodes and of what length, and so on.
Scribner publisher Susan Moldaw informed the crowd that only "sophisticated cell phones, so, iPhones and better" would be able to play the animations. Which phones would be more sophisticated than the iPhone again?
At the end of the panel, we got to see episode 1 of N, which was incredibly short, a mere wisp of narrative. The story is apparently about a psychiatrist with OCD who finds his compulsions blurring where reality ends and fantasy begins.
I'll give King and Marvel the benefit of the doubt and assume that N gets cooking at some point, but I remain unimpressed by what I've seen of cellphone-based animation. Doesn't seem worth the hassle yet. They tend to feel more like corporate "initiatives" than the genuine result of a creative desire to use a new medium.
If you'd like to take a look, a sneak peek is already live at NisHere.com. If you register, you can see the entire first episode before its Monday premiere. Hint: Don't blink.