San Diego thoughts…

Bryan at Sequential put something up this morning that sums up the outsiders perspective on news coming out of SDCC, which pretty much sums things up for me as well – I was at the event every day from Wednesday to Sunday and aside from some guy getting stabbed in Hall H there was very little news or “buzz” on the convention floor. Even some of the big news stories had been broken or leaked long before the con (such as Whedon directing the Avengers, and who was cast as the Hulk and Hawkeye for that film).

I did see a lot of Canadians. Mostly at the airport, but I did run into the TX crew a few times over the weekend. Those guys are everywhere.

THE EISNERS

I’ve always found the con to be a bit at odds with it’s comic roots and it’s pop culture spectacle-nature, and certainly that was no more evident for me than at the Eisner Awards ceremony. Having attended about 6 ceremonies over the last 8 years, I’m really more than a little bit surprised at how clique-y and poorly run the event is. With big money sponsors they’ve got great resources — a big ballroom, giant video screens, celebrity presenters… but there’s not much thought going on when it comes to ceremony.

My Pet Peeves….

(a) unprepared/poorly screened presenters.

Example 1: Chris Claremont and Milo Manara present the American Editions of International work awards. On paper a good choice, one is an industry vet and the other a respected Italian cartoonist. Two problems – one can’t speak a word of English, and the other was not given any kind of phonetic pronunciation guide for French and Japanese names so it became a garbled mess and made Claremont look like a poor choice. Award shows should go out of their way to make sure their presenters don’t look bad on that stage.

Example 2: The Scott Pilgrim cast seemingly decided who would present each of the three awards while they were on stage, which led to a few moments of confusion. Surprisingly neither of the film’s leads presented awards, although former Superman Rauth did a good job before being molested by an excited award winner Jill Thompson.

Example 3: James Robinson and Jann Jones are called to the stage and only James is there, Jann being indisposed, he reports (she would show up about an hour later). Surely someone could have checked to make sure the presenters were there?

Sometimes the spontaneity works, we all really enjoyed Thomas Jane’s on-stage antics.

(b) The Hall of Fame

Every year Sergio Aragones comes out and presents the HoF awards, which take up a huge block of time. There’s a big reason why we break them up throughout our ceremonies. One thing that is rarely done during the procedures is tell us why these people are being inducted into the Hall of Fame. We are expected to know who they are and what they have done — they ignore an excellent opportunity to inform the industry and fans about these giants… they get a cursory explanation, if that. The Bill Finger Award recipients get a slightly more informative intro speech and were handed out by Mark Evanier and the legendary Jerry Robinson, who founded the award.

Suggestion – why not get hollywood contacts to produce a 5 minute short film on each hall of fame inductee, narrated by a celebrity? You could then you-tube the heck out of them after, put them on the website or show them off on Saturday or Sunday after the Awards are presented.

For example, when presenting the Hall of Fame Award to Mort Weisinger, a DC editor mostly known for being in charge of the Superman titles during the 1950’s and 1960’s, former DC publisher Paul Levitz had to come onstage and quasi-apologize for his selection before allowing Weisinger’s daughter to speak. Levitz did sum up why Mort had been selected – qualifying that he was elected for his contributions to comics, not his personality.

It always amazes me to see who the voters sidestep each year. Why do we need to know who “loses” each year? Surely the names of those selected will suffice? (Which was another pet peeve related to the retailer award – 21 stores were nominated, then we learned who the five short list stores were, then the winner – surely the first step could be screened out before the ceremony?)

(c) Comics versus Hollywood.

In their need to include Hollywood, Eisner Award organizers have forgotten that they are there to honour comics. Nearly every presenter was an actor who is also a comics fan. Why not have respected comics industry folk  – young and old – present more awards?

(d) the Industry indifference

It was a packed room, but most award winners were absent. Many people don’t attend because they want to go to the industry parties. DC, for example, scheduled their party against the Eisners in the same hotel.

I’ve heard complaints about the process, and I spent some time looking at how they select. The Eisners have an elite group of five select the nominees from the work that has been sent in by the publishers over the course of a weekend, and then send a ballot of those nominees out to industry professionals to openly vote. The question then becomes, what didn’t get sent in by the publishers for nomination? Could the best work of the year get a black mark before the process began? Open voting is problematic. Most people have not read everything so not everything is given adequate consideration. It becomes the pro version of a fan vote, and in that case the more familiar NAME gets the vote over the best work.

(e) It’s too long… we left before the end. Having arrived at 8:30 we decided to call it quits just after 11pm and there were still about 10 awards left to present. This is one show that needs to be tightened up dramatically. Less comedy routines with the presenters, cut back on the extended pregnant pauses and let’s see more emphasis on getting through this ceremony in a reasonable amount of time.

THE CON

San Diego Comic-Con is all about promotional spectacle. It’s massive. It’s fractured. As a comics person I divided myself between the retailers (at the north end), the publishers (close to the middle, but still in the northern part of the con) and the creators in the illustrators area and the artist alley (The South east corner). Shuttling between the north and south ends are like running back and forth between the equivalent of at least five+ city blocks and if you don’t have great shoes you are screwed (I bought new walking shoes). The good part of those sections (or is it the sad part) is that you could move around in those areas. The “DEAD ZONE” was the area South of DC/Marvel/Image where the movie and toy companies took over and the crowds did not move. One had to actually exit the hall to move back and forth between the comics areas at either end of the massive convention centre.

Despite that, the Hall is not big enough. Some movie companies took their spectacle to the streets and neighbouring hotels and restaurants. The Scott Pilgrim promo stuff was outside of Comic-Con. Machete premiered in a parking lot one night. David Hasselhoff was throwing t-shirts at people from the roof of a car driving through the Gaslamp district.

News and information was non-existent. People camped for hours in Hall H to see glimpses of upcoming movies – sitting through the ones they don’t care about just to maintain a seat and thereby annoying people to the point of violence.

Publishers mostly talked about some changes in creative teams and the direction of their characters without getting too informative.

Everyone seems to love Canada, though. And a lot of people are interested in events like Fan Expo Canada and TCAF.

I guess in the end, I was just happy to get some interesting items I couldn’t get elsewhere: the Mattel Justice League Starro toy my girlfriend wanted, the limited Rocketeer Artist’s Edition hardcover, a blu-ray copy of the Will Eisner documentary (which is GORGEOUS in high definition), some sketchbooks by various artists I liked, copies of the Hal Foster and Alex Raymond hardcover retrospectives, and some original artwork. In the end it was also about seeing old friends and making new contacts.

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