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Comic-Con 50: Pop Culture Convention Is Ever Changing But Still A Blast

The view from the fringes

Photo by Beth Accomando

Godzilla cast a kaiju-sized glow over this year's convention and brought out the best in cosplayers with these two attendees (who did not coordinate their costumes) coming as Mothra and Ghidorah, two of Godzilla's fellow monsters, July 21, 2019

Comic-Con wrapped up its 50th show last night and here's a recap.

Comic-Con is what you make it. I had friends who devoted special ops-like skill and planning to guarantee being in Hall H for a particular panel proving yet again that anyone without a cell phone is at a distinct tactical disadvantage at the Con. One friend spent his entire time looking for art, others devoted their time to cosplay and some to buying Comic-Con exclusives.

As the 50th show came to a close, it felt once again like summer camp coming to an end and having to face school on Monday morning. The convention provides such joy even though I am often working, going without sleep and experiencing stress from hitting deadlines or dealing with issues of also running a booth.

The Monday after Comic-Con is when that post-Con blues hit and the feeling of elation gives way to just exhaustion and sadness. But I remind myself that it is only 364 days till the next one.

Godzilla's shadow

Photo credit: Toho

One of the 26 volumes of kaiju books created for the Toho SFX Movies Authentic Visual Books. This one focused on Mothra.

I did an NPR and KPBS story about Toho having its first Comic-Con booth ever to celebrate the 65th birthday of its kaiju (giant monster) creation Godzilla and the big guy colored the convention for me from the great props on display in the booth to getting my picture with him to almost all my con purchases. In a reckless moment of fan excitement, I bought a collection of Toho SFX Movies Authentic Visual Books, each devoted to a different kaiju. There are 32 current volumes and I bought 26. They are stunning and contain never before released photos from Toho. I can't wait to savor these glorious images.

I also bought a set of enamel pins featuring Godzilla and my favorite foe of his Hedorah, the smog monster. Plus the last cosplay I saw on my way out was Godzilla’s foe the three-headed, dragon-like Ghidorah and some fan had made a brilliant puppetry rig that had three animated heads, and then randomly another cosplayer came by dressed as Mothra. It’s that kind of fan love and creativity that I adore and it's what makes the convention so much fun.

Photo credit: Troma Entertainment

Patrica and Lloyd Kaufman (lower right) at the Troma Entertainment booth at Comic-Con in this undated photo.

Panels

Some fans on social media start buzzing when a major studio pulls out of Comic-Con (as Warner Brothers did this year) and wonder if this is the death knell for the convention. Of course, it's not and Hall H still provided lots of quality panels for attendees. I could not devote the time to getting into Hall H (and honestly nothing grabbed my particular geek attention there). But it did not take long for people to start tweeting about Tom Cruise showing up for his "Top Gun 2" panel or Marvel's mastermind Kevin Feige revealing the long term plan for the next wave of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

But I chose to spend my time going to smaller panels where I could just walk in during the panel before. So got to celebrate Troma's 45 years of truly independent film with a late-night panel on Saturday and see the first trailer for Lloyd Kaufman's adaptation of Shakespeare's "The Tempest." I can't tell you the title because it would have to be shown censored.

I also went to a panel about special FX genius Ray Harryhausen and saw a dancer who had developed a style of choreography that imitates the look of his iconic stop motion animation, and the man was just someone from the audience asking a question. So I always enjoy those smaller panels that give you those special con memories.

Photo by Beth Accomando

Comic-Con Museum had a booth on the floor to create awareness of the museum and get attendees to become charter members. The museum itself is not officially open but it did provide a satellite site for some Comic-Con programming.

Comic-Con Museum

This year for the first time people without a badge could get a genuine sense of the Comic-Con experience with quality panels plus a great Batman at 80 pop up exhibit at the Comic-Con Museum. The museum is not yet officially open but its executive director Adam Smith was thrilled with the attendance on Saturday.

"There were more than seven thousand people who came through Comic-Con Museum," Smith said. "This was a total experiment for us and I'm so inspired by it. We just brought everything together. We had a wonderful art exhibit, a wonderful fashion exhibit, we had panels, we had paint like Bob Ross. We had this huge Batman activation with different dimensions to it including a Bat Cave in the basement of the museum where you could explore the history of video games as shown through Batman and play them on the original consoles. We basically cleared out the Warner Brothers archives of Batman props and costumes. I think it all just came together in a nice mix and that's great because we'd said that this is like a dress rehearsal of what we want the Comic-Con Museum to be. And I feel like we validated or we discovered the chemistry and the mix of different activities so there's something that works for everybody."

Smith did not yet have numbers on exactly how many came through and what percentage were badge holders but he estimates that more than half may have not had Comic-Con badges, and that is what he had hoped.

"There were a lot of families with small children and we wanted to make this an outreach to the community of San Diego because the whole museum project is intended to be a great expansion of access to Comic-Con and everything that we stand for educationally and from a mission point of view," Smith explained.

Photo credit: CCI

The Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards took place Friday night of Comic-Con.

The Eisners

Attendees focus most of their attention on panels and the exhibit hall but Comic-Con also hosts an annual masquerade with prizes and a wonderful film festival that is probably the convention's best kept secret.but it’s the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards that’s the important event for the comic book industry. It is known as the Oscars for the comics world. DC writer Tom King was the night’s big winner in multiple categories and women took home a good percentage of the night’s honors.

San Diego-based IDW Publishing took home quartet of awards.

The company's press release stated: "IDW Publishing, Top Shelf, and The Library of American Comics celebrated four award wins. Modern master Bill Sienkiewicz won big at last night’s event. Not only did he receive the award in the category of Best Archival Collection/Project — Comic Books for 'Bill Sienkiewicz’s Mutants and Moon Knights… And Assassins… Artifact Edition' (edited by Scott Dunbier), but his lifetime of achievements in the comics medium were recognized as a 2019 voter-chosen inductee into the Will Eisner Comic Awards Hall of Fame... Acclaimed cartoonist James Kochalka took home the award for 'Johnny Boo and the Ice Cream Computer' in the category of Best Publication for Early Readers (Up to Age 8)... In the category of Best Archival Collection/Project — Strips, The Library of American Comics took home the award for 'Star Wars: Classic Newspaper Strips, Vol. 3,' by Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson, edited by Dean Mullaney."

Best Lettering went to Todd Klein for his work on such titles as "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Tempest" from Top Shelf/IDW.

IDW editor in chief John Barber said having Todd Klein win an award in a category focused just on the art of lettering emphasizes the collaborative nature of the business.

"it makes you really stop to think about it," Barber said on Sunday. "Somebody does every part of this stuff. None of it happens by itself. I mean Todd's one of the best letters not only in the business but in the history of the business. And you know it's great to see him get the award this year and I think it lets people know that every little piece of the craft adds up and it becomes part of a whole."

Photo credit: IDW/Top Shelf

George Takei and his new graphic memoir "They Called Us Enemy" from IDW/Top Shelf.

IDW through its Top Shelf brand also debuted the new book "They Called Us Enemy," a graphic memoir, in which actor George Takei revisits his childhood in American concentration camps as one of more than 100,000 Japanese Americans imprisoned by the U.S. government during World War II. In 2013, Top Shelf produced another graphic memoir about politics and race with the National Book Award-winning "March" by Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell. This one focusing on the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.

Comic-Con 50: Artist Lenny Romero

Artists

Mark Evanier, who hosted a multitude of panels including the always great Quick Draw, pointed out that everywhere you turn you find artists and creators, people who have drawn something, made a prop, created clothing or jewelry, produced a comic. Everywhere you turn, whether it is the creativity of big Hollywood productions or a young artist trying to show off his/her/their art or a comic he/she/they created, there is original art on display.

Photo by Sarah Lee

Artist and Chief Creative Officer of DC Comics Jim Lee and Inker/Colorist Scott Williams sign books at Comic-Con, July 20, 2019.

I just want to salute all the artists who have booths at Artists Alley or Small Press or the Exhibitor Tables that are creating work for us to enjoy. I was thrilled to find Lenny Romero who does these photorealistic pencil drawings of movie monsters like Godzilla having his first Artist Alley table at Comic-Con. I was introduced to his art at Wondercon a few years ago and have been following him ever since, buying every kaiju print he creates. Now he got to do some networking in Artist Alley that may actually lead to some work so that’s just a great part of the convention as well.

Godzilla has left his distinct footprint on this year's Con, hopes he had a good time and comes back next year. I can't wait.

Check out all the KPBS videos from this year and even past years online.

And the Eisner Winners (also known as your suggested reading list) are:

Best Short Story “The Talk of the Saints,” by Tom King and Jason Fabok, in Swamp Thing Winter Special (DC)

Best Single Issue/One-Shot "Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #310," by Chip Zdarsky (Marvel)

Best Continuing Series "Giant Days," by John Allison, Max Sarin, and Julia Madrigal (BOOM! Box)

Best Limited Series "Mister Miracle," by Tom King and Mitch Gerads (DC)

Best New Series "Gideon Falls," by Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino (Image)

Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 8) "Johnny Boo and the Ice Cream Computer," by James Kochalka (Top Shelf/IDW)

Best Publication for Kids (ages 9–12) "The Divided Earth," by Faith Erin Hicks (First Second)

Best Publication for Teens (ages 13–17) "The Prince and the Dressmaker," by Jen Wang (First Second)

Best Humor Publication "Giant Days," by John Allison, Max Sarin, and Julia Madrigal (BOOM! Box)

Best Anthology "Puerto Rico Strong," edited by Marco Lopez, Desiree Rodriguez, Hazel Newlevant, Derek Ruiz, and Neil Schwartz (Lion Forge)

Best Reality-Based Work "Is This Guy For Real? The Unbelievable Andy Kaufman," by Box Brown (First Second)

Best Graphic Album—New "My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies," by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (Image)

Best Graphic Album—Reprint "The Vision," by Tom King, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, and Michael Walsh (Marvel)

Best Adaptation from Another Medium “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley, in Frankenstein: Junji Ito Story Collection, adapted by Junji Ito, translated by Jocelyne Allen (VIZ Media)

Best U.S. Edition of International Material "Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World," by Pénélope Bagieu, translated by Montana Kane (First Second)

Best U.S. Edition of International Material—Asia "Tokyo Tarareba Girls," by Akiko Higashimura (Kodansha)

Best Archival Collection/Project—Strips "Star Wars: Classic Newspaper Strips, vol. 3," by Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson, edited by Dean Mullaney (Library of American Comics/IDW)

Best Archival Collection/Project—Comic Books "Bill Sienkiewicz’s Mutants and Moon Knights… And Assassins... Artifact Edition," edited by Scott Dunbier (IDW)

Best Writer Tom King, "Batman," "Mister Miracle," "Heroes in Crisis," "Swamp Thing Winter Special (DC)

Best Writer/Artist Jen Wang, "The Prince and the Dressmaker" (First Second)

Best Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team Mitch Gerads, "Mister Miracle" (DC)

Best Painter/Multimedia Artist (interior art) Dustin Nguyen, "Descender" (Image)

Best Cover Artist (for multiple covers) Jen Bartel, "Blackbird" (Image); "Submerged" (Vault)

Best Coloring Matt Wilson, "Black Cloud," "Paper Girls," "The Wicked + The Divine" (Image); "The Mighty Thor, Runaways" (Marvel)

Best Lettering Todd Klein, "Black Hammer: Age of Doom," "Neil Gaiman’s A Study in Emerald" (Dark Horse); Batman: White Night (DC); Books of Magic, Eternity Girl (Vertigo/DC); The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Tempest (Top Shelf/IDW)

Best Comics-Related Periodical/Journalism (tie)

"Back Issue," edited by Michael Eury (TwoMorrows)

PanelxPanel magazine, edited by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou,

Best Comics-Related Book "Drawn to Purpose: American Women Illustrators and Cartoonists," by Martha H. Kennedy (University Press of Mississippi)

Best Academic/Scholarly Work "Sweet Little C*nt: The Graphic Work of Julie Doucet," by Anne Elizabeth Moore (Uncivilized Books)

Best Publication Design "Will Eisner’s A Contract with God: Curator’s Collection," designed by John Lind (Kitchen Sink/Dark Horse)

Best Digital Comic "Umami," by Ken Niimura (Panel Syndicate)

Best Webcomic "The Contradictions," by Sophie Yanow, www.thecontradictions.com

Listen to this story by Beth Accomando

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