Comic-Con Celebrates Its 40th Anniversary
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Photo by Angela Carone
This year, Comic-Con celebrates its 40th anniversary with a number of milestones, including record attendance and the first-ever appearance of fan idol Peter Jackson. North America's largest pop culture convention begins Wednesday.
CAVANAUGH: You're listening to These Days on KPBS. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. We're continued (sic) to talk about the highlights of the 40th Annual San Diego Comic-Con that starts on Thursday at the downtown convention center. Comic-Con brings not only legions of fans but also famous actors, directors, animators, writers to San Diego each year and is one of the most anticipated events of the summer if you don't have to drive downtown. With me to talk about where the Comic-Con has been, where it's going and what's happening this year are my guests David Glanzer, Director of Marketing for Comic-Con International, and Beth Accomando. She is KPBS film critic and judge for the Comic-Con Festival. And I want to welcome David on the line. Hi, David, are you with us?
DAVID GLANZER (Director of Marketing, Comic-Con International): Yes, I am. Thank you for having me.
CAVANAUGH: Well, congratulations on this 40th anniversary of Comic-Con.
GLANZER: Well, thank you very much. It's hard to believe that it's actually been 40 years since we first began.
CAVANAUGH: Can you just remind us where it all started? And how big it was then?
GLANZER: Sure. We started in 1970 in the basement of the U.S. Grant Hotel and that first gathering, we had about 300 people. We've – we moved from the Grant to the El Cortez, from the El Cortez to the convention and performing arts center and eventually from the performing arts center over to the San Diego Convention Center. And I should say that when we made that last move, we were only in two of the four halls at the time and had serious doubts. We just thought we'd be engulfed by the center. And we never knew whether or not we'd actually really be able to utilize as much of the center as we'd wanted to. Flash forward to 2009, and we had 126,000 people last year; this year we're utilizing every inch of the convention center as well as several downtown hotels for meeting space, so it's grown by leaps and bounds.
CAVANAUGH: And, of course, you're sold out two months before the opening this time, right?
GLANZER: We are. Last week – Last year it was about one week prior and this year it was two months prior, so that's both good and bad. It's nice to know that people really want to attend the show. The negative, of course, is that there's a lot of people who want to come to the show who really won't have an opportunity to.
CAVANAUGH: That is the sad part of that. And, you know, with that comes the idea that maybe Comic-Con is getting too big for the San Diego Convention Center. That's a horrible thought. What's the latest on that front?
GLANZER: Well, as you know, the mayor has appointed a task force to look into the feasibility of the expansion and I think they'll come back with a report in September and the mayor says that he will abide by whatever their recommendation is. I should point out that a lot of people, I think, looked at Comic-Con as one of the main reasons for the expansion and while we would certainly be happy, I think it's really good for the city and in terms of the city being able to hold not only larger events but concurrent smaller events. Some of the more successful cities across the country have these massive facilities; they can have two or three simultaneous small events which, of course, keeps occupancy in hotels up, restaurants busy, and is a boon in terms of tax dollars for each city.
CAVANAUGH: So Las Vegas is not appealing to you guys.
GLANZER: Well, I have to tell you, you know, we've gotten contacted by a great many convention facilities across the country and as meeting planners, you know, we visit other cities for any number of reasons and we always look at other facilities. But that isn't always with an eye to moving, sometimes it's just to see how they deal with crowds. Are there things that, you know, we can learn from them? So while we've been approached by other cities, our real hope is to be able to stay in San Diego.
CAVANAUGH: And are you involved in advising on convention expansion plans at all?
GLANZER: We are not. You know, that's left up to those experts. All we say is, you know, we'd love to stay in San Diego. An expansion would certainly benefit San Diego Comic-Con but I think it would benefit the city as well. You know, we're working within the parameters that we have. This year the Hilton Bayfront, the new property that's just to the south of the convention center, opened up for us. Well, I mean, it opened up earlier but it's the first year we'll be able to utilize it and we're utilizing some of the meeting space there so we're hoping – We're having off-site programs this year and we're hoping that we can convince our attendees to leave the center and walk across the street for that programming. If we can do that, I think that'll go a long way to helping us to utilize even more hotels in the downtown area if the need arises.
CAVANAUGH: Okay, now I'm wondering, let's talk about some of the big names in this Comic-Con, San Diego Comic-Con 2009. I want to get Beth into the conversation. I know that Peter Jackson is making his inaugural appearance, and that's huge, isn't it, Beth?
BETH ACCOMANDO (KPBS Film Critic): Yeah, he's made some videotaped appearances in the past but this is the first time he's actually coming to the convention and for people who've been fans of his for a long time, they remember him, as with Sam Raimi, as someone who made some great B horror movies. He did "Braindead," which was also known as "Dead Alive," and "Meet the Feebles." And he moved into more mainstream Hollywood filmmaking with "Lord of the Rings." So it's going to be really great to see someone like him actually at the convention this year.
CAVANAUGH: I'm going to stay with Beth for the moment. Who else are you excited about seeing?
ACCOMANDO: Well, some of the people I'm excited about aren't necessarily the huge name stars but Terry Gilliam, one of the Pythonites, is going to be there with his film, which the – oh, it's got this long name, "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus," I believe. And that's Heath Ledger's last filmed performance. It wasn't a complete performance but he worked around it, and he'll be there. And Terry Gilliam is just an incredible filmmaker that I would love to see interact with fans and have a discussion. And there's a really strong Asian presence this year with Hia Miyazaki, the Japanese animator, and Park Chan-wook, who a South Korean director, who's going to be there with a vampire film called "Thirst." So for me, as a big fan of Asian anime and Asian cinema, I'm just thrilled to see the convention expanding some of those panels to include those kind of people who've – You know, they've had foreign filmmakers before but this seems like this year there seems to be a really strong presence.
CAVANAUGH: And, David, who are the big ticket items at Comic-Con this year?
GLANZER: Well, you know, one of the things, if you were to visit our website, one of the things that a lot of, I think, people who are unfamiliar with Comic-Con are surprised to see is for us, you know, the big names may be like Michael Allred or Hope Larson, Jim Lee, Stan Sakai, the people that may not necessarily be household names but are rock stars within the comic book industry.
GLANZER: You know, and this year one of the things that we've done is—it's our 40th year so we've invited some of our past presidents, committee members and organizers back and we're going to have a series of panel discussions on, you know, where Comic-Con was and how it got to be where it is now, and I think those are going to be some of the most fun panels, to be honest with you, because while it seems like just yesterday for so many of us, it really has been over 40 years or almost 40 years.
CAVANAUGH: A big homecoming, that's a great idea. Now this, of course, is a huge event. How much of a staff does it take to actually run Comic-Con?
GLANZER: Well, during the course of the four days, we use approximately 2,000 to 3,000 volunteers. During the course of the year, we have about a 15 member full time staff and that's augmented by a 13 member board of directors, a committee that's comprised of about 80 people and then, of course, that goes out into the wider volunteer base. One of the great things about Comic-Con is a lot of the people that have been with the organization since its beginning or very close to the beginning are still involved. I like to say that we – I think our success really is predicated on the belief and the execution that we try to put on the type of event we, ourselves, want to attend. So, you know, there are always – The convention is here every year, the convention's dynamic from year to year, though. You may see some things that will repeat but there's always a lot of new things.
ACCOMANDO: Well, and also I think what people should remember, too, is that most of the people on their staff are fans just like the people who are attending. And, I mean, I think that's one of the reasons why the convention has always been so enjoyable is because the people putting it on are exactly the type of people who are in the audience so they know what we want to see.
CAVANAUGH: So, David, do you go on vacation next week?
GLANZER: You know, I wish. It's funny. The month leading up to the convention, as you can imagine, is pretty crazy.
GLANZER: The month after the convention for debriefing and all that and breakdown is pretty intense, too, but hopefully we'll take a couple of days, you know, shortly after that.
CAVANAUGH: David Glanzer, I want to thank you for talking with us.
GLANZER: My pleasure.
CAVANAUGH: David Glanzer is Director of Marketing for Comic-Con International. And I want to welcome a new guest to These Days. Miguel Cima is the director and writer of the short documentary, "Dig Comics." He is an avid comic book collector. Miguel, welcome to These Days.
MIGUEL CIMA (Writer/Director): Oh, hey, how you doing?
CAVANAUGH: I'm doing great. You know, before we start talking about Miguel's documentary, I want to acknowledge, Beth, that you're involved with the Comic-Con International Independent Film Festival. What kind of films are shown in this festival?
ACCOMANDO: Well, it's a – it's probably a wider variety than people might expect. There are a lot of documentaries and really high quality, fascinating documentaries, a lot of great animation. There's also, as you might expect, science fiction and fantasy films that have a lot of special effects. There's also a good deal of humor – humorous entries, too. So there's a good variety. Short films, as well as features. But I would say that the thing that surprised me the most was the quality of the documentaries and the diversity of subject matter in them.
CAVANAUGH: That's interesting and, of course, we have the creator of one of those documentaries here.
CAVANAUGH: Miguel, your film, "Dig Comics" is being screened at the festival. It's a short documentary about the demise of the comic book industry in the United States. And I – Maybe you can tell us how has the popularity of comic books changed over the years?
CIMA: Well, you know, comics – the comics industry basically began, you know, as a really powerful media business back in the thirties and, you know, it hits peak during the war years because the servicemen could take comics with them in their back pockets. It was, you know, there was no iPods, there was no, you know, watching, you know, DVDs or anything. That's – that was their entertainment. And since then, however, the readership, by some counts, has dropped about 90%--ninety—you know, which is pretty crazy. There's a lot of historical reasons behind this, and there's a lot of industry reasons behind this but, basically, you know, since like 1950 the population of the United States doubled, readership dropped 90%.
CAVANAUGH: You know, Miguel, I've seen the documentary and it's, you know, if I may say, it's really very well done. One of the most compelling things is you go out on the street and you ask people whether or not they read comic books and whether or not, you know, they've ever read comic books or what kind of comic books they could read. What were the kind of answers you got from people?
CIMA: Well, nobody read – nobody reads comics, you know. There was one guy that I got on there who I didn't really feature too much but there was one guy who read comics. Everybody else, it was pretty much the same. The older people, yeah, they read them when they were kids because when they were kids, comics were everywhere. The kids these days, none of them read comics. None of them read comics. I interviewed a kid wearing, you know, a "Wolverine" tee shirt, he never read a comic. You know, I – If you remember, I handed a little kid – You know, he just came out of "Fantastic Four 2" and I asked him, you know, he's a five year old kid, did you ever read Fantastic Four comics? He didn't even know they existed.
CAVANAUGH: I know, yeah. And part of that reason, as you point out in the documentary, is because you have to go to a comic book store, basically, to buy comic books now. They used to be all over the place. You used to buy them in supermarkets and candy stores, all over the place. Now they're basically relegated to specific stores.
CIMA: Well, yeah. I mean, it gets complicated. I don't want to bore anybody but basically there used to be a whole bunch of distributors and there were problems even when there was multiple distributors. But basically, right now we only have one distributor throughout North America doing about 95% of the business throughout North America. And they only service these kinds of stores, or at least I should say almost entirely. The distribution networks that used to exist got shot down. That was part of the issue and the other part of the issue, of course, is the long held notion, the perception that was created in the 1950s that comic books are either junk, for dummies and kids or for, like, weirdoes and perverts. So it's like we're kind of stuck with this label that was misappropriated upon us and the reality is, is that I think that if you look at all the major art forms in America today, none is as vibrant, as compelling and as chock full of just great work as comic books.
CAVANAUGH: You know, Beth, Miguel's documentary points up a real irony and as so many movies are dedicated to comic book characters and they're making huge amounts of money, but the result is not people running to get – buy comics. I mean, this is just sort of awful for the comic book industry.
ACCOMANDO: Well, and it's interesting, I've spoken to a few comic bookstore owners and one of the things they pointed out is they said, how hard would it be for Marvel Comics, at the end of "Ironman," to suggest to people to go out and check out the comic books or the graphic novels that these are based on.
CIMA: How about selling them in the lobby?
CIMA: Why doesn't Marvel Comics get some kid, pay some kid eight bucks an hour, put up the graphic novel…
CIMA: …sell them a little bit cheaper, maybe even at a loss for a little while. They're big boys, they can handle it. Get kids interested again. Get adults interested again. And I'll tell you something, if you get the kids interested, maybe the adults will find something for them because I don't know every adult wants to read Ironman but I could certainly recommend hundreds and thousands of comics that are made for adults and, you know, not, you know, dirty comics or anything, if those exist, but there's, you know, adult subject matter, professionally written, artistically visionary. I mean, it's amazing. People don't know what they're missing. They just don't know.
CAVANAUGH: And it's such a difference between the U.S. and Japan where manga, the comic books over there…
ACCOMANDO: Well, I was wondering if you think the mangas are going to be changing that landscape at all because I run an anime club at a middle school and the kids are ravenous for the mangas.
CIMA: Yes, I think, you know, I have to, you know, I got to admit, manga's not one of my strong points. I'd certainly read international comics. I'm trying to brush up more on my manga and I'm actually starting to really enjoy that journey. I've read a lot of French comics and a lot of European comics. The manga thing is something that I did hear out there once in a while the kids were engaging in. The culture out there, I've never seen it for myself. I really, really, if I can expand the movie like I'm trying to, I'm trying to get this done – made into a feature length. I really want to go over there and see what they're doing but everybody in Japan reads comics, everybody. Seven times the audience in Japan. They got half the population we do, seven times the audience.
CAVANAUGH: That's amazing. You know, I think one of the most compelling parts in your documentary "Dig Comics," is that silent part where you just show – you just show the drawings in these comic books and the different styles of drawings. And I have to admit, I mean, I'm not big on comic books and I kind of fall into the category where I thought they were for kids, I was surprised by the variety and the beauty of this artwork.
CIMA: Well, it warms my heart to hear you say that because that was a labor of love for me. Each and every one of those comics you saw are comics that I love, and the problem was whittling it down to just the dozen-odd page, you know, images that I showed you. I've got thousands of things, if you liked some of those that I could show you on the side. Each of those comics, by the way, I have featured on my website, the ones that I featured in the movie, because I want people to have a place where they can go, read a little bit about it. I provide links to where they can buy it. They're real easy to find. You don't have to like, you know, go hiding in a, you know, embarrassed to be walking into a comic store, you know. All this stuff's online and, I don't know, I'm so glad to hear you say that. That's exactly the reaction I want. I know the comics fans can appreciate this movie but you're the person I want to reach more.
CAVANAUGH: Well, aren't there a few comic books you can recommend to listeners to get them started?
CIMA: Well, okay, there's a comic that I really love that I got about two or three months ago. It's called T-Minus, as in T-Minus five, four, three, two, and it's all about the space race. And what's really cool about it is that, you know, you have movies like "The Right Stuff" or "Apollo 13" and it's all about the astronauts and the – this is the history of the guys who sat down at the drawing board for a hundred years, literally a hundred years in Russia and the United States, trying to figure out how you're going to get a guy in a little tin can up into space. And it's – besides being a very interesting and well researched comic book, it's beautifully drawn and, you know, it's educational and it employs a lot of the great devices which are unique to the medium of comics. There's marginal drawings, which add to the story. There are transitions which are unique to this artform. You know, that's the thing that people forget, you know, it's easy to understand the difference between reading a book and watching a movie. Comics, likewise, offer a unique way to absorb art. It's another reason that it's so important to engage in it because it's just mind expanding on its own, regardless of the content.
CAVANAUGH: Well, Comic-Con is, as we said, sold out but if you are going to Comic-Con, you can see Miguel's film "Dig Comics." It's playing Saturday at 6:30 in Room 26-AB, and Miguel Cima, thank you so much for joining us.
CIMA: Hey, thanks for having me on, guys. This is great.
CAVANAUGH: Okay. And we have to take a short break. When we return, we will continue with Beth Accomando, welcome a new guest, and continue our discussion about Comic-Con. You're listening to These Days on KPBS.
CAVANAUGH: Welcome back. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. And we are continuing our conversation about Comic-Con 2009. My guest is Beth Accomando. She's KPBS film critic. And we're going to spend just a few minutes more talking about the film festival that's part of Comic-Con. You've seen all the films in the festival. Let's talk about one or two of them. There's another short that you like called "The Hidden Life of The Burrowing Owl." Tell us about that one.
ACCOMANDO: That is probably the funniest animated film I saw out of the whole collection. And if anybody has ever seen one of those Disney nature documentaries, it essentially takes that sort of a format, and it's live action backgrounds with animated animal characters. And it's this little owl and basically the narrator's telling you, oh, and here's the habits of the burrowing owl. It lives in the desert and it – And if you just listen to the narration, you'd think you were listening to a Disney film.
ACCOMANDO: But the story itself that plays out is basically a revenge tale. And I don't want to say anything else about it but it was absolutely hilarious.
CAVANAUGH: And you also liked a documentary called "Died Young, Stayed Pretty." What was that one about?
ACCOMANDO: That was fascinating. It was about the people who created punk rock posters in the seventies in Seattle, and it fans out from there a bit but it's very focused on the artwork that these people created, how they created it. I mean, there was one point at which somebody was making these, I think they were lithos or – no, silkscreens of posters, and they literally were putting one color on, hanging it up on a clothesline, making a hundred of red, then taking the first one they had done and then adding the bl – and it was very this kind of do-it-yourself poster making. But the film, the thing that I really enjoyed about the film is the director placed these people in environments where when he's interviewing them, it's not just a talking head. You really feel like they're – you're getting part of their personality from where they're being interviewed and how they're speaking and what they're physically doing sometimes while he's talking to them.
CAVANAUGH: Now you are a judge for this festival.
CAVANAUGH: Have you done your judging already or…?
ACCOMANDO: Oh, yeah.
ACCOMANDO: I'm all done, and I can't reveal any winners but there are some great films.
CAVANAUGH: Well, you can check the listings for all of the films screening in the festival. You can go to Comic-Con website at comic-con.org. I want to welcome our – another guest now, Rocco Versaci. He is professor of English at Palomar College. Author of the book, "This Book Contains Graphic Language: Comics as Literature." You are going to be talking about the presence of graphic novels at Comic-Con. Welcome, Rocco.
ROCCO VERSACI (Professor of English, Palomar College): Thank you so much for having me.
CAVANAUGH: Now how long have you been attending Comic-Con?
VERSACI: This will be my 13th year.
CAVANAUGH: Wow. Okay, and what do you spend your time doing – most of the time doing at Comic-Con?
VERSACI: Probably walking the floor, although that gets a little tiresome after awhile, and then I like to check out different sessions focused on comic books. But I have to admit I get a little star struck and, you know, every once in awhile I'll try to attend one of the Hollywood sessions, too.
CAVANAUGH: Now you teach a course at Palomar. It sounds like it would be a very popular course and when the parents get it, what're you taking?
CAVANAUGH: You're taking graphic novels and comic books? Well, why do you teach graphic novels and comic books as part of your literature course?
VERSACI: Well, actually I designed a course that's focused specifically on comics. It's called "Comic Books as Literature."
VERSACI: And I think I get about, you know, 90% of the students that sign up for it just based on the title alone.
VERSACI: And – But it's a literature class. It gets transfer credit and everything. And what we do is, we treat comics and graphic novels as works of literature, things that are deserving of study that if we look a little more deeply into them that we'll be rewarded by meanings. It's kind of an art appreciation course, too. It's a cultural and historical course because we do look at the history of comics and how the medium has developed over the years.
CAVANAUGH: That’s interesting. It sounds like you have a lot in common with Miguel Cima whose documentary we were just talking about praising comic books. I wonder, what is the lure of having this sequential artform telling a story, combining, you know, words. What is the attraction of that? What do we learn from that?
VERSACI: Well, I thought that, you know, Miguel was very interesting and I'd like to see that movie. But one of the things he pointed out is absolutely true and that is, it's a medium that works much differently from reading or watching film. And in many cases, it's difficult to really put a finger on but our interaction with comics is a unique blend of those two media and, you know, I think there's some kind of, I don't know if it's an emotional or primal draw to the artwork. I find when I look at comics and graphic novels that I'm initially drawn in by the art and the writing has developed so much that, you know, it's become this amazing way to tell stories in different formats.
CAVANAUGH: And what can people learn about comic books, graphic novels at Comic-Con?
VERSACI: Well, sadly, I think you have to kind of look for it now because the movies and television and gaming industries have really kind of pushed comics off to the side. Although with the crowds, you know, I've notice over the last couple of years that the comic sessions that, you know, used to have many chairs open, those are filling up, too.
CAVANAUGH: Right, right.
VERSACI: So I think that's real encouraging. But I think what they could learn is they could be used to a lot of titles, a lot of artists. I think the main lesson to be learned is that they're – comics are about more than just super heroes.
CAVANAUGH: Well, one way to get acquainted with different styles of comics is you have a top ten list of comics and graphic novels. It's on our Culture Lust blog at KPBS.org. Let's talk about why you picked some of these. One of them is called "Black Hole" by Charles Burns. Tell us about this one.
VERSACI: Charles Burns is – he's a very interesting comic book creator. He's been working on "Black Hole" for – it was about ten years in the making. And it was serialized in individual comic strips. He's very interested in viruses and teen sexuality and the book is about this strange virus that is passed among teens and – who become sexually active and they become disfigured in different ways.
CAVANAUGH: Oh, my gosh.
VERSACI: It's hard to describe the book in a way that, you know, doesn't turn people away. But it's visually stunning. It's actually a very interesting exploration into a lot of the teen angst and alienation of adolescents.
CAVANAUGH: And what about another one that you like called "The Girl from Hoppers"?
VERSACI: Yeah, that's actually a selection from a very long-running series called "Love & Rockets" by Jaime Hernandez and Gilbert Hernandez. And that series has been running for over 25 years. These are two brothers that they tell independent stories. The artwork is amazing. It's this, you know, this stark black and white. And "The Girl from Hoppers" focuses on these characters that are in the L.A. punk scene in the eighties. What's amazing about "Love & Rockets" is that these characters age over time, so longtime readers of the series who were first introduced to the characters in their teens, now they're engaging with them as they, you know, negotiate the rough waters of middle age.
CAVANAUGH: Yeah, that's one of the things that comic books and graphic novels can do, is they can just, you know, take these characters and put their lives in sequence.
VERSACI: Oh, absolutely.
CAVANAUGH: That's interesting. Now a lot of people know about Alan Moore. He wrote "Watchmen," which got a lot of attention last year at Comic-Con because the movie was coming out. But you, Rocco, have some other works of his to recommend.
VERSACI: Yeah, I put two smaller pieces on here that fans of Alan Moore are probably familiar with but others who know just the "Watchmen" would find them interesting. One is called "Batman, The Killing Joke" and the other is "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow," which is about Superman. In "The Killing Joke," he – it's a short piece. It really investigates the Batman/Joker dynamic and how the two of them represent very different responses to the chaos of the world. And in "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow," back in 1986 they were getting ready to kill Superman off and reinvent him again so they had Alan Moore write a two-piece – or, a two-comic story about that and that's collected in a thin graphic novel format.
CAVANAUGH: Now I've been kind of waltzing around the terms graphic novel and comic book. Is there a difference?
VERSACI: I'm not sure. It's largely a political term. I think it was originally used – or some people use it to give a kind of legitimacy to the form because they're uncomfortable with saying comic books. In fact, when I first pitched the course at Palomar, I had called it "Comic Books as Literature," and someone from the curriculum committee asked me if maybe it should be called "Graphic Novels as Literature." But – and it's a problematic term, too, because people hear graphic novels and they think they're, you know, dirty books or something like that.
CAVANAUGH: Yeah. Exactly.
VERSACI: But what – Some books are created as novels where they're meant to be long, stand alone stories like "Black Hole," for instance or another book called "Blankets" by Craig Thompson. But it's a term used very loosely and in many cases it's used to denote like a story arc from individual comic issues that just gets collected and sold on bookshelves.
CAVANAUGH: And, Beth, are you a fan of comics, graphic novels?
ACCOMANDO: Yeah, I mean there are a number of them that I really enjoy. I don't get to read a whole lot because I'm watching so many movies but I really love all the Frank Miller works and I recently picked up – I forgot the author, "The Arrival."
VERSACI: I'm not sure.
ACCOMANDO: It's a really beautiful book that has actually no text but it's about this kind of an alien creature that arrives and it's kind of an immigrant tale but it's beautifully illustrated and I think that represents kind of another aspect of the graphic novel which is sometimes it doesn't needs words at all.
CAVANAUGH: Well, I want to remind people that to see a full list of Rocco's recommendations for graphic novels/comics, you can go to the Culture Lust blog, the Culture Lust blog, on KPBS.org. Beth, give us your one can't miss event at Comic-Con this year.
ACCOMANDO: Oh, one can't miss? Geez, there's…
CAVANAUGH: Oh, just a couple.
ACCOMANDO: …just way too much going on this year. Like I said, I'm a huge fan of Terry Gilliam so…
ACCOMANDO: …to be able to see him is great. Bruce Campbell is coming back. He is always entertaining. He had a panel once that was just him doing like lightning round. He just took any question about anything, including questions about Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, but he was hilarious. He was just amazing to listen to, so he was a lot of fun. I would recommend just going to see him on a panel.
CAVANAUGH: Well, of the actors who are going to be there, there's Nicholas Cage, Sigourney Weaver, Scarlett Johansson, and Tim Burton is going to be there with a new film. Also, James Cameron is bringing a new film, "Avatar." What do you know about that?
ACCOMANDO: Well, that's, you know, I think well-geared toward the Comic-Con crowd. It's a film that I – is a little less interesting to me just because, you know, it's getting – the films that interest me are films that are not getting necessarily the most amount of publicity. Of course, you know, you've got the new "Twilight" film coming. And I believe the Twilight moms may already be lining up out in front of the convention center for that one. And, again, like Hia Miyazaki, who has a new aminated film called "Ponyo on a Cliff by the Sea" (sic). Those are the kind of films that I'm really interested in seeing because these are people who don't make a lot of public appearances and to have an opportunity to hear them speak and to be able to ask them questions, I think, is a really great opportunity.
CAVANAUGH: And, Rocco, I'm assuming that you're going to Comic-Con this year.
VERSACI: Oh, yes.
CAVANAUGH: And what are you looking forward to?
VERSACI: Actually, there's an artist named Bill Sinkovich that he's having a Spotlight On session and I've admired his work for years so I'm interested in seeing that.
CAVANAUGH: That's fabulous. You know, I wonder, if people are going to this event for all four days like I think you are, Beth…
ACCOMANDO: I'm starting to camp out tomorrow, yeah.
CAVANAUGH: Yeah, so you have to watch that cough. I'm wondering, how to survive. Do you have a survival guide for people who are going to make that trek?
ACCOMANDO: Well, I think you can take kind of two approaches. You either take the highly methodical approach of going through the schedule and mapping out a course of action and leaving yourself enough time for food, water and waiting in line and you just attack it like that. And the other one is kind of the roll with the punches. You go down there and, you know, you start walking on the floor. If you make it through, that's great. If you don't, if you stop somewhere or if you happen to be walking by a panel and you, you know, just want to sample what’s there and gamble on what's going on, so I think you can take either one of those approaches and come out having a great time. I mean, one other panel that I would suggest going to, too, that's a blast is Quick Draw, which is improvisation by comic book artists.
CAVANAUGH: That's – yeah.
ACCOMANDO: So they throw out ideas and they draw the improv to it and that's fun. And check out a lot of the films at the festival. I mean, it's a nice way to just kind of take a breather from the chaos and the packed convention floor and enjoy some really great films.
CAVANAUGH: And I wonder, as this convention has gotten larger and larger and packed with more and more people, are people behaving themselves pretty well?
ACCOMANDO: I've never really seen problems at the convention. I mean, one of the things I've enjoyed when I have time is waiting in line has always been kind of a fun experience for me because if I'm waiting for a panel that I'm really eager to see and I'm willing to wait two hours in line for it, chances are the people in line with me are as passionate about whatever that is as I am. I remember waiting a couple of hours in line for the Spaced, the Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright program, and we were sitting around talking about the different shows and our favorite episodes and why we liked them and the time passed pretty quickly. And it's fun to be in line with people like that.
CAVANAUGH: Two hours in line, now that's a fan. I want to thank everyone who's been a guest here. First of all, thank you so much, Beth…
CAVANAUGH: …KPBS film critic. You can keep up with what's happening at Comic-Con by reading Beth's blog Cinema Junkie, and our Culture Lust blog at KPBS.org. And, of course, Beth, thank you so much for all your insights on Comic-Con.
ACCOMANDO: Oh, thank you.
CAVANAUGH: And Rocco Versaci, Professor of English at Palomar College and author of the book "This Book Contains Graphic Language: Comics as Literature." Rocco, thanks so much.
VERSACI: Thanks so much for having me.
CAVANAUGH: Earlier in the program, we spoke with David Glanzer, Director of Marketing for Comic-Con International, and Miguel Cima is the writer and director of the short documentary "Dig Comics." He also an avid comic book collector. And I want to remind you, you can continue this conversation online. We want to encourage you to post your comments on—here's even another website—KPBS.org/TheseDays. Thank you so much for listening. Join us again tomorrow. You've been listening to These Days on KPBS.
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