What’s SHOOT THE MESSENGER?
Well, AICN COMICS: SHOOT THE MESSENGER is your weekly one stop shop for comic book -EWS. What’s comic book –EWS? Well, it’s our hodge podge of everything not reviews here at AICN Comics. Sure you can find out the @$$Holes’ critical opinions of your favorite books every Wednesday at AICN Comics. But here, you’ll find special reports such as previews, interviews, special features, and occasionally news gathered here from our online brethren at Newsarama, CBR, Wizard, etc. Sure those guys are the best at reporting news as it breaks. Click on the links for the original stories. This column cuts the crap to run down all the vital information for those of you who don’t follow it as it comes in, and serves it all up with that special ingredient of @$$y goodness.
Hey all, Ambush Bug here with another informative romp we like to call Shoot the Messenger. I just got back from the Donald E. Stephens Center in Rosemont, IL for this year’s Wizard World Chicago Comic Convention. Faults aside (Fellow @$$Hole Sleazy G will get into that in a sec), I had a great time walking the floor and chatting with friends new and old. These cons are a great chance not only to meet some of your biggest heroes, but it also serves as a great gathering spot for folks who all love the same thing…comics. Sleazy G was there with me this year and he wrote up a little report about the whole thing so I’ll pass the mic to him and I’ll be back a little later for an interview with the owner and publisher of Radical Comics, Barry Levine.
Take it away, Sleazy!
Sleazy G. here to talk about this year’s Chicago Comic Con. I’ve noticed some mixed comments elsewhere, including some people actually praising the con as being one of the better in recent years. I’ll go into a couple of things that were a positive this year, but I’m hear to tell you that all things considered it was easily the worst in Chicago I’ve ever seen—a disaster top to bottom with little reason for anyone, fans or creators, to return next year.
Sleazy g. talks pros and cons at
The 2009 WizardWorld Chicago Comic Con
First, let’s talk about the good. Since Marvel, DC, Dark Horse and Image all pulled out of the convention, the smaller publishers (those who showed, that is) had a much better con than usual, drawing more visitors and making more sales than they might otherwise. It also meant that fans had much easier access to those in artists’ alley, and the vendors who showed up seemed to be doing pretty steady business. From the perspective of the smaller publishers and the retailers, the convention may have appeared to be relatively successful. Also, in light of his publisher having bailed on the convention, it was an amazing gesture on Mark Millar’s part to not only come to this train wreck of a con but also to show off a dozen minutes or so of footage from the upcoming film adaptation of his film KICK-ASS.
Now let’s hit the “big” announcements: Over at Marvel, Ultimate Red Skull will turn out to be Cap’s illegitimate son from the day before he left for war and will be joined in the pages of the new ULTIMATE AVENGERS book by ultimatized versions of Blade and Ghost Rider, along with a new Wasp and War Machine as well as a new African-American Hulk and Nick Fury’s wife. There’s going to be a four-issue Spidey book filling in all those areas from SECRET WARS you’ve been wondering about. Jeff Parker is taking over THUNDERBOLTS. Jason Aaron’s bringing back Fantomex and Marvel Boy in the pages of the DARK REIGN: THE LIST one shot. And finally, there’s going to be an Anti-Venom miniseries written by Zeb Wells featuring Frank Castle.
On the DC front, Doc Savage is returning, initially in the pages of a BATMAN/DOC SAVAGE one shot being written by Brian Azzarello, set outside the DCU in a world without magic or superpowers. More pulp characters will pop up, including The Spirit, The Blackhawks, and The Avenger (no The Shadow yet, though). Also featured will be Batman, Black Canary and Wildcat, which is a bit of a surprise. REBELS is going to start tying in more closely with the rest of the DCU starting in November, when it’ll get sucked into BLACKEST NIGHT; expect to see STRANGE ADVENTURES tying in to REBELS as well. Also, SUPERMAN/BATMAN’s BLACKEST NIGHT two-issue tie in will feature Bizarro and Solomon Grundy.
From the smaller publishers, it was announced that Avatar Press will have more work coming from Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows in NEONOMICON and two new Warren Ellis series, SUPERGOD and CAPTAIN SWING AND THE ELECTRICAL PIRATES OF CINDERY ISLAND. Dynamite Entertainment also announced two more books in the PROJECT: SUPERPOWERS series: a Ghost one shot by Jai Nitz and another one shot I’ve forgotten (and can’t find any details about on either Wizard or Dynamite’s websites…).
And now, on to the bad. This convention has been sliding downwards for three years or so now, and this was by far the worst I’ve ever seen from a fan perspective. Only a handful of creators and editors from the top half-dozen or so publishers showed up, and there were no major panels or announcements to speak of. Gone are the days where big, exciting panels were front-loaded with star creators featuring huge announcements, leaving me wondering why I was even attending panels. And without panels, one has to wonder why they’re paying 25 bucks a day to buy back issues or trades at a discount—why not stay home and use the extra 50 bucks to just buy what you want at your LCS?
As for the panels and Q&A’s that did exist, here’s a question: why would you have two different schedules in the official guide for the weekend that have contradictory days and times listed for the panels? And why would you then, on the day of the panel, take a Sharpie to the cardboard outside the room and reschedule panels, add/drop guests, or cancel them entirely? Look, the whole point of a schedule is that it allows me to schedule where I want to be and when for very specific reasons. If you’re not gonna stick to the schedule, DON’T SCHEDULE ANYTHING. AT ALL. Just cancel your con and stay the hell home, cuz you’re wasting everybody’s time and ruining their weekends.
Case in point: if any of you luckless bastards bought tickets because you wanted to see the panels with the two biggest celebrity draws, Rhona Mitra and Michelle Rodriguez? Well, tough shit. Rhona’s Q&A was apparently cancelled and Michelle’s was moved from 3 PM Sunday to 12 PM Sunday—a time when the published schedules had NO PANELS WHATSOEVER, meaning if you followed the schedule you’d miss ‘em entirely. I mean, when you see Rhona’s name blacked out on a schedule and “Westwood College” scribbled in Sharpie, that’s so sad it’s hilarious. And that’s not even addressing the fact that there were only three or four hours of programming a day—1 PM to 5 PM at best, which is laughable compared to previous years which were jam-packed and full of difficult choices.
And speaking of the celebrities: what the hell? Aisle after aisle of actors, wrestlers, and Playboy models…but no comics creators? At COMIC CON? Yeah. Depressing for the fans, depressing for the celebrities…just stop already. Compounding the problem? Hellishly overpriced evening programming. No, I’m not going to spend a hundred bucks to stand in an empty room with a cash bar and Gil Gerard and Erin Gray or 150 bucks for an hour with Ray Park, no matter how nice they may be in person, and that’s just one of at least half a dozen insanely priced (up to $250!) examples. Y’know, if you wanna have a kickass con, JUST THROW A COUPLA COOL PARTIES AT NIGHT. And pay the celebrities yourself. And watch the money pour in from admissions and the cash bar without charging separately for the party.
The scheduling snafus, the lack of a presence from actual comics companies and creators, the huge number of low-level non-comics celebs (I shit you not, Christopher Knight actually wrote “Peter Brady” next to his name in marker), the misspellings in the official guide of words like “Gallactica” and “Werringo” among others...and that’s not to mention the exhibitors on the floor who were disgusted to find they had been shifted to different floor locations than they had paid for, or that they were paying more than other exhibitors for the same amount of floor space.
In the end, everything officially con-related was a mess and made for a lousy fan experience. The only redeeming aspect of the con was the Hyatt bar after about 10:30 PM. The drinks may have been overpriced, but hanging out there with fellow fans and the creators we all enjoy made the entire weekend. Mark Millar invests an incredible amount of time to talking to his fans, and I’m always impressed with how casually he handles it and how much fun he appears to be having with it. The Avatar Press guys are always fun to hang with, Jai Nitz is a swell guy, Jeff Katz was a hilarious ball of energy who doesn’t seem like he’s ever stood still for two minutes in his life…that tiny little bar was full of like-minded people getting to connect and have a few laughs (and shots) together, and it was far and away the best part of the weekend from a fan perspective.
People hanging out and talking about what they love is the whole point of the weekend; it just would have been nice to have more people, professional and fan alike, to do it with. I’d really like to see Wizard focus hard on this convention next year and pull it out of its tailspin. Scheduling it farther away from the date of SDCC and not the same weekend as Lollapalooza would both be a huge help, but the loss of the four biggest publishers is hard to work around. A lot of the people there this weekend were talking about the con as if it were already dead; based on how the smaller publishers and retailers performed, though, that may be premature. It seems like it may be time, though, to decide to either go all out and beef the con back up or scale back to a small press expo that focuses on indie creators and smaller publishers, giving them some much-needed exposure. I’d much rather see it survive than die out, but there’s little doubt that it cannot continue on in the fashion it did this year.
Sleazy G is one of the Original @$$Holes and has reviewed and co-edited for AICN Comics for close to seven years. Sleazy is the unsung hero of AICN Comics, doing much of the editing for the column.