We sat down with Dave Gibbons to discuss his Watchmen: Artifacts Edition.
We sat down with Dave Gibbons to discuss his Watchmen: Artifacts Edition.
San Diego Comic Con 2014 is in the bag. All that is left now is to sort through the hours of video we shot, read through the mounds of comics we purchased, and decide where we are going to hang all the art we bought. In short, this trip to the Mecca of comic fandom was another success.
I’d love to wax poetic about the miles of aisles we wandered (Keri’s pedometer clocked us in somewhere between seven and ten miles of walking each day) or the fantastic creators we talked with (come back each day for the next couple of weeks as we release interviews with a different creator each day), but I think I will leave that to some of the other sites out there (Yes, there are other sites. Hard to believe, I know.). Instead I’d like to write a bit about what I have come to think of as the Comic-Con Correction (TM).
Over the past decade or so (long-time attendees will probably point back to an even earlier time) San Diego Comic Con has seen explosive growth. I peg it back to 2004 when Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow “took over” San Diego with giant mecha placed around the con to promote the movie. From then on, Hollywood studios have inundated the convention specifically and the surrounding area in general with larger, flashier, and more expensive promotions.
The resulting crush of Hollywood money has led to a spike in rents in the surrounding area. Now, any space in the blocks in the area immediately surrounding the con (“immediately” = five block radius) costs a minimum of $45,000 for the week (and prime locations go for that a night.) While many restaurants and shops have found a way to turn this into their own July-version of Black Friday, this year seems to have marked the start of a correction in the market.
For those unfamiliar with stock market terms, a “correction” is when the market in general (or specific stocks) are over-valued. Stock holders get out while the getting is good, triggering a sell-off. The price of the stock falls until it gets back to a level where people feel it is in line with its actual value, and they begin to purchase again.
Any casual viewer/attendee of the con this year will have noticed fewer ads plastered on buildings, fewer branded pedi-cabs, and significantly fewer storefronts given over to licensed experiences or branding. The risk/gain ratio was just too great for all but the largest entertainment corporations to afford the rent on even the smallest of spaces, especially given the historically shaky success rate of con-launched properties. So, this year, the overall con experience was, for the first time in a decade, smaller than the previous year.
And maybe that is not a bad thing.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the circus atmosphere of the convention. I think it is fantastic that someone can get an amazing experience without ever stepping foot on the con floor. For all but the hardest of hardcore fans, that is probably enough. Does the average person who likes the Marvel movies and watches the Walking Dead (or reads their respective comics) really need to spend $200 to share that experience with 175,000 of their closest friends? Probably not.
Because the rents were so high, advertisers had to be very careful about how they spent their money. Instead of focusing on getting their name as big as possible but keeping the actual “good stuff” inside (see last year’s Ender’s Game experience), advertisers created more interactive fan experiences outside the con and invited the general public to participate, either actively, or as casual observers. From the Assassin’s Creed Ninja Warrior-inspired parkour course to the Gotham zipline and the Simpson’s Dome, there were plenty of experiences fans could have outside the con.
It would be great if San Diego Con could continue to have experiences like this. But, for that to happen, the overall Comic-Con Contraction (TM) needs to continue. Rents need to come down to a point where more intellectual properties can afford to have a presence outside the con floor. Wouldn’t it be great if Tr!ckster could afford to return to San Diego and have a presence in a location where casual fans could discover creator-owned comics? Wouldn’t it be fantastic if there was a storefront dedicated to the Image Experience? Or the world of Bone? (Seriously, the Great Cow Race would be an awesome interactive experience!!!) For comics to re-take San Diego, the rent needs to come down to a level where someone other than Disney and Warner Bros. can afford it.
What is clear is that the surrounding businesses have found the upper ceiling of rents they can charge for the week of Comic-Con. In many cases, they surpassed that ceiling and were left without a high profile party or branded experience. Next year many places will have to reconsider their asking price.
I don’t think the con experience will continue to shrink forever. If the stock market has taught us anything, it is that corrections are temporary. The prices will drop, more people will enter the market, and prices will go back up. Personally, I am looking forward to next year, when the restaurants and storefronts, realizing that they did not get the exorbitant rates they asked for this year, drop their asking price to a level where it is more affordable. Who knows what properties will jump on the lower prices and open up their con experience. Here’s hoping that Jeff Smith reads this and we get a Great Cow Race! If not, I know I can still see him in his booth on the con floor.
I am a huge fan of Warren Ellis. If his name is on a book, there is a good chance I will at least give it the once-over and check it out. So it was with great interest that I read about Warren Ellis signing with Dynamite to work on their Project Superpowers books.
“Dynamite is honored to announce that Warren Ellis, one of the greatest and most respected comic book writers in comics, will be working with Dynamite for the very first time! Warren Ellis plans to take control of the Project Superpowers universe in late 2014, as Dynamite Entertainment continues to celebrate its 10th Anniversary.”
Project Superpowers was an ambitious launch from Dynamite several years ago. They attempted to revitalize many of the Golden Age characters which had fallen into the public domain (characters such as the Green Lama, Black Terror, and the original Daredevil). The project was published in three parts, a mini-series re-introducing the character, a series of mini-series featuring the most popular characters in solo adventures. The final piece was a second mini-series bringing the heroes back together again. For the most part it was a solid set of books, but it has languished over the past few years.
And that is why I am so excited about the arrival of Warren Ellis. Ellis as the ability to take stale ideas and make them fresh and interesting. Planetary explored pulp heroes and classic science fiction without getting bogged down and bored. Nextwave took D-list Marvel characters and made them fun. Stormwatch. Marvel’s New Universe. Time and time again Ellis has proven that he can take established characters and concepts and turn them on their heads.
So I am looking forward to seeing what Ellis does with these characters. With a connected universe and the origin stories out of the way, could this be his own Astro City? Looks like we will find out later this year!
As you know, there is a new Sheriff in town, and its name is Kilted Comics! Over on Kilted Comics you can check out the ongoing adventures of Ana DuPre, find a preview of the upcoming Shelby Stone book, and view our daily comic, If Coffee Was Like Comic Con.
A few months ago I reviewed the preview of Reid Psaltis’ Kingdom/Order. It left me with a haunted feeling which I could not shake. It was moody. It was disturbing. It left me with more questions than answers. In short, I wanted more.
Thankfully, Psaltis is back with a complete first part of the book! While there are more pages, and things are a bit clearer, everything that I loved about the preview is still in place!
Kindgom/Order wordlessly follows a man as he searches for some sort of meaning in his life. Through symbols and sounds it is clear that he is a part of the greater Natural world, and a bit divorced from the Modern world which surrounds him. The nameless protagonist finds himself noticing and following the sounds of the animals around him. But, how much of it is real, and how much of it is in his head?
As much Psaltis’ art is on display in Kingdom/Order, the real gem of the book is in the design work which went into the sounds each creature makes. Each creature is given their own “voice” via a distinct visual representation. Even the vehicle which is driven by the protagonist makes its own sound which is unique, but somehow connected to the others.
An attempt at communication is demonstrated through the final shape in the above image. Part Enso, part “O” the creatures and the man try to communicate and find understanding through it. Psaltis masterfully shows that the animals are working to communicate, and the man is attempting a foreign language.
I am reminded of this quote from The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen: “The sun is round. I ring with life, and the mountains ring, and when I can hear it, there is a ringing that we share. I understand all this, not in my mind, but in my heart, knowing how meaningless it is to try to capture what cannot be expressed…” It is as if both the main character, and Psaltis himself, are struggling to capture that shared existence between Man and Nature.
While it may seem like the stuff of kids’ books and Disney movies to have a plot that revolves around a man talking to animals, Psaltis keeps the mood dark throughout the book. No one will mistake this for another Dr. Doolitle story. After reading the book I was questioning my own sanity almost as much as I was questioning that of the main character. There is no sense of what is real, what is in the protagonist’s head, and what is being filled in by the reader. In that sense, the book demands that you pay attention, look for clues, and come back for part two!
You can read the entire first volume on line right here. Do yourself a favor and check it out!
One of the best parts of any comic convention is the creative energy which permeates everything. Everywhere one wanders there is a sense of excitement as new ideas are explored and new concepts are brought to fruition. One cannot help but get swept up in it all! That is exactly what happened with Keri and I as we wandered the aisles of last week’s Emerald City Comicon.
So, in addition to all the other projects we have on our plates, let me introduce you to our newest comic: If Coffee Were Like Comic Con!
The comics are updated daily over on our sister site, Kilted Comics. Go check them out!
If you are in New York City I can think of no better thing to do than go hang out with Molly Crabapple and Warren Ellis. Does anyone have an airline voucher the can spare? I would love to see this!!!!