San Diego Comic Con Cosplay

Back in the old days of comic conventions we used to have a fancy dress competition which would normally be won by one of the few women entering, or by some bloke wearing the inside of toilet rolls on his arms to pretend to be Mr. Fantastic. Invariably it’ll all be a bit naff and fun with the occasional time of it being something very good indeed.

Then in the 21st century fancy dress vanished to be replaced by the juggernaut of cosplay as fancy dress and play-acting was consumed by capitalism, but it’s hard to be too cynical as after all, this is (done right) essentially just another form of theatre which brings me to the Masquerade Ball at San Diego Comic Con. The ball is the Oscars of cosplay with a touch of Glastonbury Festival, so seeing as things are a bit shite in the world have a shufty of these videos to cheer yourself up a bit.

The comics of San DIego Comic Con

Every year at San Diego Comic Con there’s endless trailers for films and TV programmes not to mention some often awful tours of the convention or some good ones like this.

But for me if I got myself there I’d go round the dealers selling comics and quite literally I would expel every bodily fluid I coujld at some of these tables looking at some of the books on display. So this video is basically hardcore porn to me.

Sure there’s a lot of slabbed books there but bloody hell, if I were to win the lottery I’d be bankrupt if I was unleashed in there.I’ve seen, held and even sold some of the key books on display in the video but never in the condition of some on display here.

So enjoy and remember, if you want to get me a Christmas present I’ll accept the original Jack Kirby pages…

Another year where I’m not at San Diego Comic Con

Today is the start of San Diego Comic Con which if you’re at all into comics is the Glastonbury Festival of comic conventions, even if like that event, it’s somewhat diverted from its roots.

To what it is today.

Today it’s a bastion to late capitalism but at it’s heart lies a convention about comics and it is that as a fan I would love to actually do one year, but it won’t be this year or next year as Worldcon is heading to Dublin and that’s too good a chance to miss.

So 2020 seems like a goal.  It’s also Glastonbury’s 50th anniversary and that’s too good a chance to have two huge events in one year, but until then for those friends who are there now or turning up today have a fucking good time!

I’m asking a small favour

Not for me, but for a mate. Tim Pilcher is someone I’ve known for a long, long time from the days of Comics Showcase in London, and is the co-writer of How Comics Work with Dave Gibbons.

The book is nominated for an Eisner as is Deconstructing The Incal co-edited with Alex Donoghue. The Eisner’s are the comics industries big awards dished out each year at San Diego Comic Con, and Tim would understandably like to be there but finances say otherwise. So he’s crowdfunding in an attempt to get there this summer.

Tim’s one of the good guys in British comics and it’d be a shame if he never got his trip to San Diego to hopefully pick the Eisner up with Dave Gibbons, so chuck a few quid towards Tim and the world will be a wee bit better.

A few words about the lack of comics at comic conventions

The other day I was out for lunch and had a wee chat with former UKCAC organiser Frank Plowright about a number of things but the state of comic conventions came up, in particular how over the last decade or so a ‘comic convention’ can often have little or nothing to do with comics outwith of film or TV related material. In effect the source material, and an entire medium is being relegated to feed the film/TV industry not to mention giving cosplayers something to do.

We’d both agreed that back in the distant past conventions where as much about hanging out with mates you may only see at cons or marts than it was about running a business, and indeed, I find it hard for people to get dewy-eyed about someone of the San Diego styled cons that have sprung up in the last decade as having attended some of these cons, it’s clear the organisers are looking only to capitalise on the current bubble we’re living in.

Which brings me to this article on Bleeding Cool. Titled Putting the Comics Back Into Comic Conventions, makes a crucial point early on.

Well, I understand “comic-cons” are now popping up everywhere, and this is my problem. Everyone thinks they will get rich doing this — well, unless you have money, great and loyal help, and luck, it just don’t work that way!

It doesn’t. I’ve done thousands of marts/cons over the decades as punter/trader/organiser and the one’s where it’s being run as a cash-grab are the ones that tend to be terrible. Then there’s the lack of comics at marts/cons. Now I get that the current bubble means both traders, organisers and punters will come into the scene but again for the last decade, comics have been relegated down the ranking behind the cosplayers and bubble tea sellers.

Then again the type of person going to cons have changed. Back in the day we’d work our tables then drink the bar dry and in the cases when Titan used to run a free bar at UKCAC, people would ensure Mike Lake would have a small heart attack at the bill. These events would in effect be 48 to 72 hour marathons and indeed even up to the mid 2000’s at the Bristol Expo’s there’d be folk in the bar til whatever hours in the morning. Part of this change in culture is down to the fact that the entire scene has grown so the core of British fandom isn’t effectively there for the comics or they just do buy into the culture we had in the 80’s to 2000’s.  Then again that drinking culture was uniquely British as Frank told me the story of how one A List American comic book writer from the 90’s found it incredible that we’d drink ourselves to death while running/attending conventions.

Change tough is good. I’m enjoying in my older age how several organisers are professional so you don’t have the sense they’re winging it, or even though these are operations which are run as full-time business’s there’s no sense that they’ve no love for the medium at all. There are organisers who could not give a fuck and are clearly just interested in charging silly money for punters and dealers in order to cash in while the bubble is still unburst.

But bubbles do burst. In my 35 years plus in the industry I’ve seen at least three come and go with the one constant being that if you’re selling comics and your con/mart is built round comics, and you’ve got a love of what you’re doing then you’ve got a better chance of riding the bad times out than someone just throwing an event into a poor venue and ramming it full of cosplayers. So I appreciate where things are and how things have changed but it’d be nice to introduce a new generation to how it used to be…

100 Years of Jack Kirby

It’s the San Diego Comic Con (well, it’s barely a comic convention than a media whorefest) this weekend, and the convention is celebrating Jack Kirby’s 100th birthday with a fantastic programme cover recreating one of his Jimmy Olsen covers from back in the 1970’s.

I’m glad they’re doing this as quite simply had there not been a Kirby all those people drawn to ”geek” culture would have drifted elsewhere. No Kirby, no Captain America, no Fantastic Four, no X-Men, no Iron Man, no Avengers, no Thor, no Mister Miracle, no Groot, no Nick Fury, no SHIELD, no Darkseid, no Black Panther, no romance comics, and in fact, the entire American comic book industry not to mention modern culture would look entirely different.

So well done to San Diego for driving the point home. No Kirby, and comic conventions would probably just be full of middle aged men buying back comics they sold when they were in their 20’s, and verbally wanking over Barry Smith’s Conan. Actually…

Anyhow, we should celebrate Jack Kirby and I hope the attendees this weekend make Jack proud.

DC Comics films cheer up, Kong: Skull Island made me wet my pants and The Walking Dead cast laugh at us because of Brexit

San Diego Comic Con hit its Big Day yesterday with the infamous Hall H throwing out big presentations one after another. This is a day where people queue for up to a day beforehand to get in sleeping in each others sweat and filth in order to be within 200 metres of their heroes. If they’re lucky of course.

First up was Warner Brothers who came out like an alcoholic who’s just went clean and who wants to tell you about it. One of the rightful criticisms of Warner’s DC Comics films is they’re too dark and miserable to the point where Batman Versus Superman ended up being a masochistic exercise in misery rather than anything fun. So first up, Wonder Woman.

It looks alright, the WW1 setting is odd because that was a much more complex war to portray on screen than WW2 because you can’t just depict a complex war based upon imperialism as easily as Goodies killing Nazis. Still is does give it a different look though at some point even the most rabid fan has to deal with the fact Gal Gadot can’t act.

Next up; Justice League.

There’s more fun in the nearly three minute trailer than the entire of the aforementioned Batman Versus Superman, plus Man of Steel combined. That doesn’t make a great film though but this has got such a low starting point in terms of expectations a light, fun superhero film would be a masterpiece.

As for Suicide Squad..

I dunno, it looks fun but it also looks as if a committee of accountants have poured over every Marvel film of the last decade and come up with a film.

The main event for a Giant Monster fan like myself is Kong: Skull Island.

Godzilla was alright but far too dull in places. The Peter Jackson King Kong remake was overlong and tedious, but this promises less of a boring time at the cinema which a giant monster film shouldn’t be.

There were other film Warner Brothers presented but J.K Rowling can fuck off.

Marvel also produced loads of stuff but unlike Warners they didn’t release them directly online and that might keep the thousands of smelly, sweaty fans in Hall H happy, but it doesn’t stop piracy. Ah well, here’s the Doctor Strange trailer with Benedict Cumberbatch’s iffy American accent.

One of the things that’s clear is that the big media companies have honed how they use San Diego to their benefit which benefits those us sat on our arses thousands of miles away, but perhaps make the experience of those actually there a bit less special. However sticking most of the big panels online more or less within 24 hours of them happening means we can get to see things like the cast of The Walking Dead (well, a couple of them) taking the piss out of the UK because of Brexit.

Even people whose job is playing someone in a post apocalyptic world where mindless zombies eat people thinks Brexit is a bad idea…

So with that in mind I’m off to watch the Aliens 30th anniversary panel without smelling like a tramps old socks.

How Oliver Stone and Pokemon Go shows up the state of comics journalism

There’s a point in the San Diego Comic Con panel where Joseph Gordon Levitt during a panel on Oliver Stone’s new film Snowden talks about how ideas these days are disseminated in the length of the average Tweet. It is a truth. It diminishes informed debate.

This brings me to this article on this panel.

Oliver Stone revealed his thoughts on Pokémon Go today while doing a panel at Comic-Con for his upcoming movie Snowden, which is based the story of the now infamous whistleblower. Let’s just say, they were not good.

“It’s not funny,” Stone said.

Oliver Stone is probably best known for such films as JFK and Wall Street, which give what could be described as a semi-biographical take on history. The director himself also is known for not shying away from controversy. Controversy with a little bit of paranoia added for flavor. Stone had to interject on Pokémon Go after Snowden actor Zachary Quinto was asked to further his thoughts on the mobile game. Quinto had previously made fun of the app on his Instagram account, and was met with laughter from the audience.

Stone said at that point it was not something to laugh about, which probably did not help alleviate the audience’s laughter. “I’m hearing about it too, it’s a new level of invasion. Once the government had been hounded by Snowden, of course the corporations went into encryption, because they had to for survival, right? But the search for profits is enormous.”

At this point we’d like to say Stone rambled off about getting those “damn punk kids off my lawn.” However, he continued by describing Pokémon Go‘s phenomena as “what some people call surveillance capitalism,” being part of “a robot society,” and finishing his thoughts with “It’s what they call totalitarianism.”

You can read the bulk of Oliver’s comments here. Why is there not YouTube video of this panel on the internet right now so we can share the director’s old man rant with you that way? Oh yeah, that’s right. Because it’s 2016 and not many people consider him or his movies relevant anymore. Which might be why he is commenting on one of the hottest trends currently and linking it to the theme of his upcoming movie.

Well, there’s YouTube video of the panel up now and it’s actually worth around 50 minutes of your time as it puts everything in context.

Taking aside Stone’s obvious discomfort through the entire panel, his comments (at around the 40 minute mark) are thoughtful, and the idea of surveillance capitalism is a new idea we’re only just starting to define let alone be able to identify.These are big, new concepts and GeekFeed think they’re the ramblings of an ‘old man’ and that Stone’s trying to use Pokemon Go to publicise his film when as you can see in the video, he’s answering a question.

Now I’m not 100% in agreement with Stone. I do think there’s things about Pokemon Go that is concerning regarding mainly data mining, and I’m aware you can turn these settings off but how many people are even aware of the fact that games like this mine your data or how to turn them off? How is surveillance capitalism going to affect us? How will it change culture and society? There’s loads of questions coming out of this, but no GeekFeed boils it down to lazy, crap cliches and in doing so proves Levitt’s point about boiling things down to Tweet levels of debates.

This is what annoys me for what passes as ”journalism” in the comics/”Geek” world. The GeekFeed article is at best, a Tweet or a half arsed blog post. There’s no journalism here, no attempts to delve into Stone’s words, no attempt to even research the ideas. Just a lazy shite line about ‘crazy old men” ageist nonsense. It isn’t even an opinion piece because it isn’t an opinion worth listening to because at best this is clickbait.

But if sites like GeekFeed don’t inspire to do better and even fail to report basic facts they do the subjects they speak about an injustice. By speaking down to their readership they do them an injustice, unless of course they’re pitching to their readers confirmation bias in that anyone who says anything critical of something they like must be attacked because a few critical comments on Pokemon Go is a direct attack on them personally. That’s showing the emotional and intellectual maturity of a small child or a Labour MP.

If comic/”Geek” journalism is to improve into something better it needs to have people not just willing to question their own ideas, but it needs to work out what’s the purpose of what they want to do? If it’s editorialising then fine, but it isn’t journalism and if you are editorialising make it at the very least informed because if your level is ‘old man on lawn’ lines then you’re a waste of space and giving an industry with a poor reputation an even worse one.

San Diego Comic Con is a far away promised land

I’ve been critical of things like ‘Geek Culture‘ (the very name sets my teeth on edge), the way consumerism has infected comics so love of the medium has been replaced with love of buying things, the changing face of conventions, while I’ve offered what advice I can for retailers in what is whatever one thinks, a massive boom time for comics as a culture regardless of his or her position.

It does rightly deserve criticism for forgetting its core purpose which is comics and indeed, this moderately annoying video, Comic Con: The Musical from The Nerdist (as you can imagine the bile rises whenever I see that name) manages to sum up the rampant consumerism and package it in a coating of smug saccharine nonsense while ignoring comics.

There is much about San Diego Comic Con to inspire venom, and yet, I still want to go there. It’s like when I was younger when I discovered something amazing sounding called Glastonbury Festival and eventually spent every year going til illness stopped that for the time being.

I recent years it’s been quite easy to follow what’s going on via social media but that isn’t the same as being there and experiencing the sights, sounds and (sadly) smells of tens of thousands of fanboys and girls in one place. It isn’t the same as seeing a Carmine Infantino piece of original Flash artwork, or seeing Jim Steranko (I think if I were to meet Steranko I’d explode with excitement), or meeting the Hernandez Brothers. Sure, I can follow the programme easily enough, websites like this make it easy to follow what’s going on and I can look for hashtags or mentions on Twitter but it isn’t the same. I spent years reading about Glastonbury but didn’t really get it til I turned up there in a drugged up haze in the early 1990’s.

As this blog gets published it’ll be around 10.30pm UK time, so things will be starting to kick off over in San Diego. I’ll experience it second hand and live the odd vicarious thrill from afar, but I’ll not touch it, and I certainly won’t be able to do so next year. I think just once I should. That could be my mission when I’m declared cancer free, but I’d be going for the comics and I wouldn’t ever be a hypocrite and buy crap because it looks cool. Honest.

So those amassed in San Diego have fun you bunch of filthy consumerists and go look at the comics because without that there wouldn’t be anything else there.