When Comic Con Ruined Twilight – A Look Back At San Diego 2011

The queues for the Hall H opening panel at San  Diego Comic Con on Thursday… started on Monday. The convention organisers put out tents, the queue grew and grew, as Twilight fans jockeyed for position and street cred to make sure they got into the panel for the upcoming film.

Then when the show opened, Hall H was one half full and by the end of the hour, no more than two thirds full. You could have actually walked in on Thursday morning and got a seat, no problem.

With IDW doing noticeable business trading of Twilight books for their 30 Days Of Night comics, with gags about sparkly vampires the butt of jokes at many panels, it wasn’t a welcoming time to be a Twi-hard this year. I’ll while I’m not a fan myself, I felt a little ashamed, it all seemed a bit like bullying to me.

Instead, Doctor Who seemed to inherit its wind. While David Tennant seems to have had a higher degree of squee factor amongst the fans, the extra exposure BBC America has given Doctor Who of late made up for much more than that. The screams were up there with the Beatles. Add the Karen Gillan factor, and Doctor Who had both the queues, the agony of not being able to get into the panels and the crowds sitting through shows they weren’t as keen on just to get close to Matt Smith.

And Smith loved it, not just on stage but on the floor of the convention itself, handing out giveaways with the rest of the BBC America staff and causing a near riot. Although half an hour earlier when he just arrived, he was accosted by one person who believed he was an excellent Doctor Who cosplayer.

So what else did I learn at San Diego (that I haven’t all ready written over the last few days?) Well firstly, while the Nokia X7 is a lovely phone, when you are trying to photograph, tweet, report and check up on news and you have fat fingers, the touchscreen is a bugger to use and keeps throwing up option you don’t actually want. And then crashes. Does play a man game of Angry Birds though, and the improved photographs this yar are a direct result of its 8meg camera. I have to give it back next week though…

There were two main topics of gossip in the comic industry drinking holes (barfights and smashed bowls aside) that came my way.

One a belief that Disney has been imposing financial concerns on Marvel which have seen a number of slowly-developing titles, from creators more used to taking their time, either canned or sped up on the schedule. Marvel had previously stated that Disney didn’t have that kind of input, but a number of professionals disagreed. What seems to have occurred is that certain editorial types may have used Disney as an easy excuse to explain new Marvel policies to freelancers. However I’ve been assured by people who should know these matters are totally internally driven. Marvel is trying to consolidate a number of its projects that never quite make it to a schedule, and has been quite harsh as a result. There are new business imperatives and there’s a belief that editorial resources have being dedicated to projects on the never-never for too long – especially with changing continuities. But blaming it on Disney has just been an easy excuse for some, it’s all down to Marvel. As a result, you  may expect to see a slight flurry in titles from creators that have decided to prioritise that work rather than lose the project.

And for DC, the gossip was that Geoff Johns had blown off the convention due to a poor showing of the Green Lantern movie, and that his position may be at risk with the company, not helped by an article by Nikki Finke. However, as I heard, and Dan DiDio confirmed on the stage, Geoff was actually moving house that weekend. It’s sometimes hard to realise that people are… people. And sometimes real life has a way of bumping comic book lives. That he made it to three panels was a testament to his commitment (and possibly that he told his good lady he was running out for a few extra packing boxes). I’ve also learned that not only is Geoff very secure where he is, he is both appreciated and valued for his contributions – and that includes the Green Lantern movie.

I know sometimes how easy it is to believe the more salacious conspiracies. I’ve fallen for it myself a number of times. But sometimes a kitten is just a kitten.

So be content with the news that Marvel Comics offices do not have sofas on the order of Isaac Perlmutter, so as to discourage after hours hanky panky.

And that security is so tight at DC right now that even Dan DiDio got into trouble with his bosses when he posted on Facebook about the new DCU before the show.

Which also meant a number of DC sources suddenly went quiet over the weekend and I know of one planned leak by one DC creator that just didn’t happen. Because if Dan can get in trouble over such a thing, what about a minion?

Marvel had the big comic book announcements, some of which had not even appeared on this website before, with Cup Of Joe filling the cavernous 6BCF room with queues stretching round the block. This was definitely this year’s Hall H. And with the Captain America opening to wide acclaim (incluing that of Joe Simon, the character’s creator) Marvel had an excellent crowd-pleasing movie presence, with DC seemed to forget that the Green Lantern movie existed, with bullet point sheets given to staff to handle any difficult questions and Geoff Johns giving guarded statements on stage to the effect that he enjoyed Mark Strong’s Sinestro very much and that he was looking forward to the sequel.

But for the comics, there was no contest, DC winning the publicity war with… no announcements whatsoever. Just a indepth look at the relaunch, the comics, the content, the villains and the creators, gradually building a narrative over the show that seemed to successfully win over the public. That narrative spilled over onto the floor, the bars and the parties – it’s not often I’ve had someone try to chat me up by asking what I think of the new Harley Quinn costume.

The gender issue was a repeated topic of conversation, with one very persistent Batgirl cosplayer not letting the issue lie at every major DC panel. DC people have left clear in the knowledge that this will not go away. An effort to recruit high quality female writers, an reminder that there is an audience for female centric books not served by other comics. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see Horsewoman from Demon Knights become a major break out character.  The much hyped protest was a relative damp squib, but the fans who did show up to protest were remarkably eloquent about their decision to make a stand.

In industry terms, the news about the Comics United advertising network was as much talked about as DC’s digital relaunch. As one Diamond rep joked “Whay did a retailer eat for breakfast? I don’t like digital!” With Dark Horse announcing only 2% of their business was digital, it’s still a minor factor. Next year, who knows…

As for the show as a whole, in general business seemed to be down year on year, especially talking to the Golden Age and Silver Age dealers, but also to some publishers. Individual creators however reported a slight increase. There’s a theory that having to buy next year’s tickets this year to entry, took a couple of hundred dollars out of the pocket of many attendees – though that should auto-correct next year. And buying tickets for next year also took commitment, with people queuing through the night, as only limited numbers including Preview Night were made available, so as to allow people who didn’t attend this year to attend next year. While it was a clear attempt to ensure that San Diego attendance doesn’t just eat its own tail and become insular, it did lead to m1uch frustration.

However, fan response to the show, from the vast majority of people I spoke to was well up. Even those who were frustrated with comics publishers were grateful for the ability to put their questions and issues directly to the people involved and both Dan DiDio and Jo Quesada have really grown into that role, with Arune Singh and John Cunningham providing amply professional back up. And there was so much comics to enjoy, people who have previously complained about the movie, TV and games presence seemed to be able to sidestep that so much more easily this year, with clearly defined comics programming, product and professionals.

It was a show of announcements for many comics publishers, clearly saving their big guns for this week, though some found their news too easily drowned out in the crowd of similar shouts. There are definitely lessons to be learned there, and DC seemed to go in having already learned them.

San Diego has really taken a shine to Comic Con. It extended further up the hill than ever before. Starting with the Tr!ckster bar, an amazing collection of comics and comic creators outside of the show – although the relationship between the two was needlessly antagonistic. But with galleries, themed events, parties, hotel events and people coming to San Diego not for the show, but just to hang out in costume, there was a real Mardi Gras feel to the Gaslamp area. San Diego, slowly but surely, is moving in the direction of Angoulême, the French town that becomes a comics convention in its entirety once a year, albeit with a crasser, more commercial, pop culture bent. You can’t judge the success on the attendance figures of Con any more, they’ve been capped for years now, and they was more than doubled by those who couldn’t get in but came anyway.

There were so many good books I bought/picked up/drooled over previews for. The stand out for me was Our Soul from Oni, but they had a number of books, and with BVLD, League, Fairy Quest, Monsters Among Us, Heavy Metal, and sketchbooks from the likes of Jamal Igle, Frank Cho, Art Adams and Brandon Peterson, I was completely spoilt. I even picked up an instruction manual for a time machine, as if it were a domestic appliance and used for household tasks. Oh and the Skeletontown comic and accompanying T-shirt for my big girl. My suitcase was basically full of large chunks of wood, and was 500g shy of being booted off the plane.

I have just landed at Heathrow Airport, and am heading home. Tomorrow? Well, it’s new comics day isn’t it? And the cycle begins again. See you after the jetlag.

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