Comic-Con 2011: Days Two and Three

Wanna know what I did this week? I spent Friday watching Adult Swim shows with 1700 other hipster nerds and a covey of awesomely hilarious panelists, then I spent Saturday chilling with comic book artist gods and heroes. Yup, you can go ahead and be jealous now.

Adult Swim is one of the greatest television inventions ever created, and their 15 minute shows are icing on the side-splittingly awesome cake. I spent a good five hours indulging in the surreal and absurd, and I haven’t laughed so hard since that time I saw Louis C.K. do standup. For Venture Bros., Jackson Publick, Doc Hammer, and James Urbaniak came out dressed as characters from A Different World and premiered the music video for “Jacket” by Shallow Gravy. The cast and crew of NTSF:SD:SUV:: (National Terrorism Strike Force: San Diego: Sport Utility Vehicle) shot a scene for the show and let the audience participate. The Black Dynamite panel showed an episode where the eponymous lead goes to battle with a money-crazed muppet. Robot Chicken had Seth Green and Breckin Meyer, and that in and of itself is made of win.

However, it was the Childrens Hospital panel that blew everything else out of the water. At one point, three audience members were dragged on stage, including Stephen Root, each of them greeted by Megan Mullally bearing water, Hershey’s Kisses, and a massage. Erinn Hayes did the world’s most embarrassing dance. And Ken Marino wowed the crowd by announcing the freshly greenlit Party Down movie – after he  molested Martin Starr and ran through the Indigo Ballroom cheering like a madman.

Saturday was comics day. The morning started off with a spotlight on Jim Steranko, the groundbreaking comics artist who inspired Michael Chabon’s Joe Kavalier in Kavalier and Clay. He spoke of his unhappiness with the original coloring of Chandler: Red Tide (which was first called Spillane and then Hammett, and is soon to be recolored and republished by Dark Horse). Steranko has developed a coloring technique he calls Cinematic Coloring which he believes will “revolutionize” the industry. He likens it to coloring comics as if he were lighting a film rather than drawing a static image, or “painting with light and darkness.”

Next to the plate was Frank Miller and Legendary Comics. Legendary Comics debuted The Tower Chronicles, a new series by Matt Wagner (Mage) about a bounty hunter with a murky past. Paul Pope (Dark Horse Presents) announced his upcoming retrospective, Pulphope, with more than 200 pages of new and rare artwork. Miller is also debuting a new comic, Holy Terror. Originally slated to be a Batman title, Miller soon discovered that the stories he wanted to tell had strayed too far from the norm. “I’d pushed Batman as far as I really felt like he deserved pushing and this wasn’t Batman. So I reconfigured the character.” That’s not to say the Dark Knight is weaker or less interesting than Miller’s creations. “In my hands, Batman is a force of nature, and there is a fair amount of collateral damage.” This new character is perfectly satisfied with inflicting great violence on evil people and looks to be the start of something fantastic.

After Frank Miller and co., Joss Whedon made his grand appearance to much applause and fanfare. Mostly he talked about Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9 (dropping in September), Angel and Faith (launching in August), a new five-issue Dollhouse (dropping this month), and a Spike oneshot by Jane Espenson that can be accessed online starting in August by requesting a code from your local handy dandy comic book shop. Whedon quipped, “I am also going to do a Spider-Man reboot in a year. It’s going to have Justin Bieber and Elle Fanning. It’s going to be terrible.” While he’d like to tell more stories about Illyria, Spike, and Willow, his current focus—outside The Avengers—is Buffy. S9 will be smaller in scale and less concerned with saving the world than with the slayer’s personal life. It will be edgy, new, “dangerous, sticky, and weird.” More importantly, will there be a Dr. Horrible sequel? “The thing that you have to understand is yes.”

The UK Invasion panel hosted British trailblazers Alan Davis (JLA: The Nail), Garth Ennis (Preacher), Dave Gibbons (Watchmen), John Higgins (Watchmen), David Lloyd (V for Vendetta), and Grant Morrison (Judge Dredd). In his mouthwateringly sexy Glasgow accent, Morrison told a story of how as a teenager he used to draw “terrible” sketches of überskinny superheroes and send them to DC Comics in hopes of getting hired. Lloyd lamented the contempt that is often leveled at comics, both by publishers and readers: “Comics is perceived to be a juvenile medium.” That shackles mainstream artists with content limitations that don’t exist in other forms of literature. 

Lloyd also brought up a really interesting point about the evolution of the more literary British comics and the more graphics-influenced American ones. Our comics tradition is based on three-panel newspaper comic strips. Across the pond, their tradition grew from illustrated books. Speaking of his disenchantment with the current comics establishment, Ennis complained about the restrictive nature of the two flagship companies. “Marvel make no bones about wanting to do the same thing forever,” and because of that he’d much rather work with independents like Dynamite (which publishes his comic The Boys).

To see pictures from Comic-Con, click here. Only one more day to go…


Alex Brown is an archivist by passion, reference librarian by profession, writer by moonlight, and all around geek who watches entirely too much TV. She is prone to collecting out-of-print copies of books by Evelyn Waugh, Jane Austen, and Douglas Adams, probably knows far too much about pop culture than is healthy, and thinks her rats Hywel and Odd are the cutest things ever to exist in the whole of eternity. You can follow her on Twitter if you dare…

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