SO, WHILE THERE'S OBVIOUSLY A VERY BIG MOVIE ELEMENT TO COMIC-CON, THERE'S A LOT OF STRAIGHT-UP COMIC BOOK STUFF TOO. DO THOSE TWO CULTURES COME TOGETHER AT ALL THERE?
But of course! Marvel pretty much owned the comics-and-movies crossover today. They've had a display of Iron Man suits in their booth on the show floor all week to promote Iron Man 3 — including the new armor taken from Warren Ellis and Adi Granov's "Extremis" storyline — and today they previewed the movie, along with a slew of announcements. Edgar Wright turned up to confirm that he's directing (and co-writing) the long-rumored Ant-Man movie, based on a particular favorite issue of his youth, and showed some test footage. The subtitles of two more forthcoming Marvel movies were announced: Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier (the latter based on a fantastic Ed Brubaker-written storyline from a few years ago). And Marvel announced an August 1, 2014 release for yet another movie based on one of their lesser-known titles: Guardians of the Galaxy.
DC Entertainment did get in on a bit of the action, though. They showed some teaser footage for Man of Steel, Zack Snyder's forthcoming reboot of the Superman movies. And, reversing the comics-to-movies path, Quentin Tarantino popped into the Before Watchmen panel to announce that his forthcoming movie Django Unchained will be accompanied by a five-issue comics miniseries that will be adapted from his original screenplay for it — not the version pared down to a releasable film length.
The big DC movie news for the near future is The Dark Knight Rises; by way of promotion for it, replicas of various movie Batmobiles are on display outside the convention center, and the employees of lots of local hotels are wearing Batman T-shirts this week.
THAT IS SOME BRANDING, ALL RIGHT. WHAT SEEMS TO BE NATIVE SAN DIEGANS' ATTITUDE TOWARD VISITORS WHO DEMAND THAT THE LOCALS SERVICE THEIR FAVORITE FANTASY FRANCHISES ALL THE TIME?
I gather that the effect of Comic-Con visitors making their annual visit to San Diego is a lot like the effect of the Visigoths making a visit to Rome in the early fifth century, except that they come with a whole lot of money to spread around. It's slightly weird to see how enthusiastically almost every local business welcomes the convention crowd: when a cupcake store renames all of its specials after superheroes, you know that this is a pretty important week to the local economy.
YOW. WHAT OTHER KINDS OF BRANDING ARE GOING ON?
At one point, standing at the intersection of Harbor Drive and 5th St. — the main drainage point for con attendees, meaning it can sometimes take ten minutes to cross the street — I decided to count how many brands were being actively advertised, specifically to the Comic-Con crowd, visible from that spot. Without moving at all, I could see posters or fliers or uniforms advertising eight TV shows, three movies, two cable channels, three magazines, four video games, and five web sites, as well as a few things whose identities were unknown to me and a guy handing out DVDs that just had PLAY ME Sharpied onto them.
The Bible pluggers were also still hanging around, but this day they were surrounded by con-goers with homemade signs advertising alternate faiths: one adherent of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, somebody suggesting that fixed-gear bikes made for a great religion, and a cheerful young woman with a cardboard placard reading "Say Yes to Necrophilia."
WHAT'S UP WITH COMICS? IS ANYONE ANNOUNCING ANYTHING INTERESTING?
There are two huge shifts happening in American comics at the moment. One is the movement toward digital comics. (A panel celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of the Hernandez Brothers' magnificent Love & Rockets series was also the occasion for the preeminent American art-comics publisher Fantagraphics to declare that parts of their catalogue would soon be available digitally.) The other is top mainstream comics creators' steady stream toward making work they own, rather than franchised titles — Robert Kirkman's mega-success with The Walking Dead is a big part of that. Image Comics announced forthcoming creator-owned titles by mainstream stars like Matt Fraction and Howard Chaykin (Satellite Sam), Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios (Pretty Deadly) and Greg Rucka and Michael Lark (Lazarus), among others.
AND THE FANS? HOW WERE THEY EXPRESSING THEMSELVES TODAY?
Saturday is the big day for cosplay at Comic-Con, because Saturday night is the Masquerade — the annual competition for very high-grade DIY costumers, hosted by Phil and Kaja Foglio. To the extent that con attendees were dressed as comics characters, they were generally dressed as movie versions of those characters: Sally Jupiter from Watchmen, the Scarlett Johansson version of the Black Widow, the ever-popular Heath Ledger incarnation of the Joker. Variations on Star Wars characters are always big (there was a Sexy Chewbacca, which was a little unnerving). But the competitors at the Masquerade were, overwhelmingly, video game characters: figures from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Assassin's Creed 3, Mass Effect 3, Mortal Kombat, and maybe best of all a group of heavily armored types from the Halo series doing a "Party Rock Anthem" dance routine. That may be where the real life of the American fan imagination is right now.