Comic-Con 2012: Parties, Nutty Gadgets, and Chris Daughtry


by Douglas Wolk

COMIC-CON 2012 IS OFFICIALLY GOING ON NOW. WHAT WAS THE VIBE TODAY ALL ABOUT?
Thursday at Comic-Con has become Party Day. There are parties going on everywhere, all week, of course, but lots of companies want to generate buzz about themselves as early as possible. This involves giving as many people as possible experiences that make them feel as V.I.P.-like as possible, which in turn involves renting out seemingly every space in town with a functional bar and enlisting every caterer in an 80-mile radius who can carry a tray of hors d'oeuvres without actually killing someone. I have never seen so many tiny little burgers in my life.

DUDE. HOW MANY PARTIES DID YOU GO TO TODAY, ANYWAY?
I lost count somewhere around eight. It's been a long day.

ARE THERE CELEBRITIES AT THESE THINGS?
Yes. Chris Daughtry of American Idol fame, for instance, was a guest of honor at a reception for "Darkness & Light: Art Inspired by Heroes & Villains, Hope & Heroism," a gallery show of fine-art-type paintings of DC comics super-characters and photographs of the Horn of Africa that's raising money for famine relief. Daughtry has recorded an acoustic remake of "Rescue Me" that's raising funds for the same cause. "I thought it encompassed what the campaign was about, but instead of just using the song on the album, I wanted something that was more fresh, more intimate and more heartfelt," he told me. The show also includes a gigantic drawing by Daughtry of Batman's head, in collaboration with comics artists Jim Lee and Alex Sinclair. Lee, he says, was his idol as a kid: "He was the reason I wanted to become a comic artist, and the reason I could never be a comic artist, because I could never be that good. And then I found music and completely put all my ambitions of being an artist on the back burner."

WAS THERE A BEST PARTY?
That would have to be the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund party, a rooftop cocktail affair at which a lot of cartoonists were hanging out, the CBLDF itself was selling a series of four gorgeous T-shirts by artists like John Cassaday and Brandon Graham (all illustrating sections of a Neil Gaiman poem), and Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab was selling a selection of their deeply unusual perfumes, including at least one Cthulhu-themed scent.

CTHULHU, YOU SAY.
Yeah, for some reason Cthulhu is really big this year. Rob Salkowitz, the author of the new book Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture, mentioned that he had bought a Cthulhu tiki.

WAS THERE A PARTICULARLY RIDICULOUS PARTY?
That would have to be the one devoted to Necomimi, a gadget that's basically a set of motorized cat ears attached to a headset that allegedly reads your brainwaves and moves the ears accordingly. I was fitted for a set by a gentleman who had clearly practiced his schtick extensively: "Now I'm going to ask you some questions that might seem personal or a little bit uncomfortable, but here's the thing: don't answer them! The ears will speak for you."

PERHAPS YOU COULD QUOTE SOME DIALOGUE FROM AN INTERACTION YOU HAD WITH A VERY NICE PERSON IN AN OFFICIAL COMPANY T-SHIRT AS YOU WERE SCURRYING FROM ONE PARTY TO ANOTHER?
"Are you here for the IMAX event?"
"No..."
"Would you like to be here for the IMAX event?"
"Uh..."
"There's a bus leaving in a few minutes--there's going to be free food there! And DJs!"
"I'm actually waiting for a friend..."
"Tell your friend to come too!"
[That said, I'm told that it was fun, and that they debuted an IMAX trailer for Skyfall, the forthcoming James Bond movie.]

MOVIES. COME ON. WHAT MOVIES WERE PEOPLE BIG ON TODAY?
That was one hell of a long line for the Frankenweenie panel. And The Expendables 2 seemed to be getting a major push.

WHAT'S THE CULTURE LIKE AT THIS POINT?
It's not like there's a particular "culture," actually: Comic-Con, at this point, is a whole lot of cultures being shoved next to each other. I moderated a panel of comics bloggers today, in front of a very large and full room. Really? thought a couple of the panelists. There are this many people who care this much about comics blogging? Then we realized what was going on: the panel after ours, in the same room, was for the videogame-recreation-video site Mega64, and a lot of the attendees had turned up early to make sure they didn't miss it.

ARE THERE, LIKE, IDEOLOGICAL CLASHES AT COMIC-CON?
In their way. On Wednesday, Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski announced that he's relaunching his "Joe's Comics" imprint as part of his new multi-media company, Studio JMS: "It's all about creating IP... I’ve always dreamed of creating a mini-studio where I can put all of that work under one roof, telling stories that I want to tell and which can be spun up between various platforms: comics that can become TV shows, TV shows that can become movies, and movies that can become comics." Shortly thereafter, Casanova and Iron Man writer Matt Fraction tweeted "tell me some IP about when you were in the war."

DOES EVERYONE GO TO PARTIES?
No, but everybody gets... aggressively marketed at. It is not hyperbole to say that you can't cross the street from the exits to Comic-Con without at least a dozen people shoving flyers into your hands, asking if you'd like a sticker or magazine or gewgaw, or trying to inveigle you into some kind of constructed attraction promoting a new video game or TV show. The History Channel set up a barbecue stand that offered free food. It had an extraordinarily long line. Everyone loves free food!

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