Friday, July 28, 2006

San Diego--- Final Shots (Extended Version)

One last look at the San Diego Comic-Con 2006---these are my unvarnished thoughts about the craziness and coolness of the world's greatest pop culture convention.
One of our traditions during Comic-Con is a dinner at Rei Do Gado, the Brazilian barbecue. It started a few years ago with my late friend Bill Liebowitz of L.A.'s Golden Apple Comics, along with Bill's lovely wife Sharon and Joe & Dottie Ferrara from Atlantis Fantasyworld in Santa Cruz.

Rei Do Gado is a meat lover's paradise (it means "King of the Herd", after all) ---and after days of working the convention, doing numerous hours of programming and countless miles of walking the caverns of the Comic-Con convention center, I think a protein over-dose is just what the doctor ordered. (Not my doctor---but you get the idea). Anyway, this is a shot of one of the many skewers of meat served at Rei Do Gado---where there is no menu. Just a huge salad bar and close to 15 different kinds of flame-broiled meats served hot on skewers. Nice.

Behind the big slab of meat is Dottie Ferrara and my wife Libby. Also joining us for this fun dinner were Bob Wayne from DC Comics, Dave Hawksworth from Diamond Comic Distributors, Sharon Liebowitz from Golden Apple, John Munn and his friends Sara, Grace and Chris from Comic Book Ink in Tacoma WA and cartoonist Tom Beland and his friend Tom from the Napa Valley Register newspaper.

Also at the same restaurant, Tom Beland of "True Story Swear to God" fame (and writer of two of the best Spider-Man stories of the past 20 years) and Joe Ferrara introduced me to a concoction made with passion fruit juice and something else with a big and tasty kick to it. Here's Tom's reaction to his evening of fun, food and friends at Rei Do Gado.

At the Eisner Comic Industry Awards Friday night, one of the presenters was Dean Haglund, stand-up comedian who many of you may recognize as one of the X-FILES' Lone Gunmen. Lib and I were big fans of the show, so of course we had to introduce ourselves to Dean. Nice guy! Hey, Dean, let me know when you're in the Bay Area, OK?

Here's a real live character for you. Sorry the photo is a blur. This is Jim Steranko getting his Kirby Hall-of-Fame Award. Richly deserved as Jim created some of the visual language of modern comics, and is one of my favorite artists of all time. No matter what he does, Jim has great style and presence. Ask me to show you some of Steranko's ground-breaking work sometime.

So, what are my last thoughts about the '06 Comic-Con?
On a personal level, next year I'll do things a bit differently. I really didn't allow myself enough time to be a fan. And even though I've been in the business of comics for 20 years, I am still a fan! The only panels I took in were the retailer-oriented ones I organized or MC'd. By all looks, it was an amazing show for fans of comics, TV, movies and all pop culture.

I'm sure the convention committee will be making some changes. Saturday's crowd totally maxed out the convention center (and if I recall correctly, that's something more than 500,000 square feet of space!) While there have been some rumors that Comic-Con would move from San Diego, I really don't think that'll happen. What's more likely will be a change in the programming---evening out the appearances by big Hollywood stars and the premier movie and TV events so that all the big program events don't happen just on Saturday. Maybe some programs will be moved to other San Diego locations, though that's not a very attractive option. My hope is that Comic-Con will be in San Diego for generations to come--- and that it will always be *Comic*-Con first, with Hollywood along for the ride.

Some complain that San Diego is less about comics than it ever has been. It is true that a smaller percentage of floor space is dedicated to *comic books*, and a larger amount is taken up by more Hollywood stuff, but I think that's a natural evolution of the event. It's really not about comics having "gone Hollywood", but rather a case of Hollywood *coming* to comics. To my mind, there's a remarkable difference, and it's one that has lasting and potentially positive ramifications for those of us who love the entertainment medium of comics. It means more talent is coming to comics, more energy and new ideas---and that means this wonderful ride we're on won't stop any time soon.

With that in mind, if you're a fan of comics, or new to reading comics and graphic novels, then let me urge you to buy what you like to read. If you find you're not totally enjoying one series, please ask us for a recommendation for something else to read and totally love.

Take a page from the Hollywood executives' playbook--- all the best ideas for movies, TV shows, video games--- are found in comics. The medium of comic books is at the creative genesis of all visual entertainment. So when you're reading comics, you are at the source, the font of visual creation.

And it's a cool place to be!


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