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Arts & Culture

How Bags and Boards was Born

When I first began attending the Con regularly, more than 10 years ago, it was still focused on comics, with only a few articles or TV reports showing up with a predictable "what geeks!" angle. I was a production editor on staff at Variety in 2001, when I told the managing editor of news that I was going to the Con and could write a short news story about it. There wasn't a ton of interest, but they said OK. I did the same thing the next year, filing a report full of such A-list talent as Ang Lee , James Cameron , Ben Affleck , Bryan Singer and Angelina Jolie . They liked that article more than the first, but no one seemed terribly interested in the event.

But with the success of such comic book movies as X-Men and Spider-Man , and a large slate of comics movies set for 2003, Hollywood - and Variety - began to see opportunities in Comic-Con. I edited and Variety published in 2003 its first Comics and Animation special, which sold well with advertisers and was well-recieved at the show - Frank Miller actually thanked me when I handed him a copy at a party.

Interest in comics was up, but there was little interest in making regular room for the topic in the print edition of Variety . So when fellow comics fan and Variety.com staffer Jevon Phillips suggested we start a blog called Bags and Boards , I signed on and we were off and running in a matter of days. The original idea was to create a place to aggregate news and put a Variety -style spin on things, and the response indicated we were hitting the mark. I took over the blog pretty much by myself after Jevon left Variety for a new job, and was thrilled to be offered such high-profile opportunities as judging the Will Eisner Comic Book Industry Awards in 2005.

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The blog gets the biggest workout during Comic-Con even as writing about the show has become increasingly challenging with so many media outlets and people now attending the event. Where it once was possible for me to cover a good portion of the show alone, the crowds and schedule have become too large to navigate. This year, at least a half-dozen folks from Variety will be covering the convention, of which I am now but one.

As someone who began going to Comic-Con as a die-hard fan of comic books, it's disheartening to see so much media coverage focus solely on movies and TV shows while the comics scene seems to be more and more lost in the shuffle. But there is a definite advantage to such things. While I'll be covering my share of movie panels this year, I hope the deluge of coverage will allow me to spend more time doing what I originally came to Comic-Con for: trolling through small publishers' tables looking for something to spark my imagination. Given the number of good comic book movies coming out this year, it may even offer me a glimpse into what everyone will be covering at a future Comic-Con.