Comic-Con 2012: So Long, San Diego, and Thanks for All the Swag


by Douglas Wolk

OH MAN. THE PAST FEW DAYS OF THIS YEAR'S COMIC-CON INTERNATIONAL HAVE BEEN HUGE AND EXHAUSTING. DID ANYTHING EQUALLY STUPENDOUS HAPPEN TODAY?
Not so much. Traditionally, Sunday at Comic-Con has been "kids' day." Kid-friendly events are less concentrated on Sunday than they used to be, since the whole convention now sells out in the blink of an eye and the days when families could pop by and decide to check it out are long gone, but movie studios, for instance, don't generally plan big announcements for Sunday. The panels going on in the 6,500-seat Hall H today were focused on TV shows: Fringe, Supernatural, Doctor Who, that sort of thing. And the events and installations and such outside the convention center were mostly shutting down and cleaning up from the madness of Friday and Saturday.

WHAT KIND OF CACHET DO COMICS SEEM TO HAVE AT THE SHOW THESE DAYS?
Enough that everybody still wants a piece of them. This week, we learned that Cirque du Soleil's has a tie-in comic book from Marvel; that food writer Anthony Bourdain has co-written a graphic novel; that the U.S. Army is launching a digital comics series to tie in with their America's Army video games; that Coldplay's album Mylo Xyloto has a tie-in comic book coming from Bongo; that guitarist Billy Martin of Good Charlotte will be drawing and co-writing a series called Vitriol the Hunter to be published by IDW... There has not yet been a 50 Shades of Grey comic book announced, but given that the novels' author E.L. James actually came out to sign at Comic-Con, it's probably inevitable.

DO ANY OF THESE CELEBRITY-DRIVEN PROJECTS LOOK LIKE THEY'RE GOING TO BE PARTICULARLY AWESOME?
[feigns coughing fit]

WHAT ARE THE ENDURINGLY POPULAR BRANDS IF YOU ASK COMIC-CON'S ATTENDEES?
Really, anything that got kids excited between about 1978 and 1984 is golden. A display promoting some new re-release of Indiana Jones stuff involved a huge vitrine with actual snakes in it. My Little Pony still appears to be a very popular thing among people who were into it the first time around. Ditto for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And, of course, Star Wars is permanent blue chip material — when the Lego adaptation of your franchise inspires fan-art of its own, you know it's in good shape.

IS THERE ANYTHING THAT SHOWS SIGNS OF JOINING THAT ALL-TIME HALL OF FAME?
I bet you Adventure Time ends up on that list, especially since Cartoon Network has been taking pains to associate it with completely charming things: this weekend, the New Children's Museum of San Diego was turned into a Land of Ooo-type environment for an Adventure Time art exhibition and a puzzle-hunt thing called Keyper Seeker Experience.

ON THE COMICS FRONT, WERE THERE ANY EXCITING NEW DISCOVERIES TO BE HAD?
Pantheon's booth was passing out one of the show's best freebies. It's a gorgeous comic by Chris Ware (of Jimmy Corrigan fame), which they explained was going to be one of the elements of his forthcoming Building Stories: a box containing books, pamphlets, posters and a board game — 14 pieces in all — that collectively make up a story about the residents of a single building. It looks completely amazing.

IS THERE ANYTHING THAT LOTS OF PEOPLE WERE ARGUING ABOUT?
Anything involving words like "digital rights management" and "price point" makes certain people's forehead veins pop out. There was actually a panel devoted to discussing the ideal price for digital comics this morning, which got kind of contentious. Mostly, though, the vibe on the final day is "and what else is cool?" — maybe because everybody's way too exhausted even to be grouchy.

SO DOES IT LOOK LIKE COMIC-CON IS GOING TO BE THE THING TO GO TO FOR MANY YEARS TO COME, OR WHAT?
Well, now you're in some interesting territory. The movie industry and TV networks and game companies and the book business now acknowledge Comic-Con International as the place where they get access to the most enthusiastic consumers of pop culture; they fall all over themselves to make sure attendees get treated as much like VIPs as possible. Still, the show has also gotten way too big for San Diego. Getting tickets is a crapshoot; getting a hotel room is a serious problem; getting from Point A to Point B is a nightmare, no matter what those points are. Comic-Con is contracted to stay in San Diego for at least another three years, and San Diego's hoping to make its convention center even bigger by 2017. Moving the show to another city — L.A.? Anaheim? Even Las Vegas? — would be a destabilizing move for a convention that prides itself on maintaining its traditions. But, as it stands, a show that prides itself on "celebrating the popular arts" (as the banners festooning the streets of the Gaslamp Quarter put it) is becoming an increasingly exclusive club.

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