Bidding Goodbye To Comic-Con 2018
Wrapping up the pop culture convention
Comic-Con returns to San Diego for another year of pop culture geekiness. If you are going, here's what you need to know. And if you can't attend, we'll give you an insider's view of what some attendees call "nerd heaven."
UPDATE: July 23, 2018
Sunday at Comic-Con is like the last day of summer camp. It feels like it went by way too fast and didn't last long enough to fully satisfy your geek desires and passions. I am happy to report that I came home with a Death Star end table, Star Wars lamp, tin toy Godzilla wind up, Cthulhu earrings, and a BB-Hate (this is a dark side version of the adorable droid) sweater. Not a huge haul but definitely items I love.
I had marked 135 panels I wanted to go to and made about a dozen but was happy with all the ones I managed to get to. Now I have to contend with post-Con blues and depression.
Comic-Con International Independent Film Festival
One of my favorite things to do on the final day of Comic-Con is to check out the Comic-Con International Independent Film Festival Awards (CCI-IF). This year, the submissions and winners had a distinctly international flavor.
"Bullies" took Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Film as well as Judges' Choice. The film boasted a producer from Turkey, Dilek Ince, and a director from Brazil, Daniel Bydlowski.
"This festival is great," Bydlowski said. "It is very hard to find a festival that is fantasy related, and I feel my film 'Bullies' is important in the sense that it can give an anti-bullying message to kids and this is one of the few festivals that understood the message and decided to get the film in, so to win the award was great."
"It was amazing because so many people are so talented. We are so thankful and grateful and excited," Ince said.
One of the nice things about the awards ceremony is that the judges provide comments about each of the films.
"That was amazing," Ince added. "Because every comment they gave, for example, she said the people who were bullied become bullies in the end, that was one of the messages we wanted to give. Every one of the judges got the message that we wanted to give very clearly. It was amazing, we were listening to them, and it was like listening to ourselves almost."
That message spoke very clearly to Chase Masterson who is the founder of the nonprofit organization Pop Culture Hero Coalition, which works in schools and comic cons to end bullying.
"I thought 'Bullies' was a really beautiful film," Masterson said. "It gave great messages about the nature of bullying and oppression in schools and how we deal with that in different ways and a healthy way to deal with it, not to recede from it but to bravely face the truth, which is that bullying is never about the person who is being bullied and we can all find strength in that it is always about the meanness of the bullies. We can all be empowered by watching a film like this."
"A lot of anti-bullying literature is directed to the parents and educators, and I wanted to help kids. I wanted my film to talk directly to the children and obviously, adults can enjoy as well so it's kind of like a Pixar film. I wanted to tell kids, especially the kids that are suffering bullying, that they are not alone. They can always have some kind of help in the future," Bydlowski said.
Masterson went from the film awards to her own panel on bullying and explained that her organization "uses pop culture, TV, comics, and film to make a stand against bullying, racism, misogyny, LGBTQIA bullying, cyberbullying, and other forms of hate, and we take these stories and say let's make them happen in real life. Be the heroes. So our motto is, 'We all love superheroes why not be one.'"
CCI-IFF 2018 Awards
Best Action/Adventure Film: “Day of Reckoning”
Best Animated Film: “First Bloom”
Best Comics-Oriented Film: “The Old-Men”
Best Documentary: "Chesley Bonestell: A Brush with the Future"
Best Horror/Suspense Film: “The Dollmaker”
Best Humor Film: “Agent 555: Operation S.A.D.O.”
Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Film: “Bullies”
Judges’ Choice Award: “Bullies”
Comic-Con International Independent Film Festival 2018 Judges: Chase Masterson, Robin Richesson, and Jessica Chong-Tseang
The closing of Harbor Drive didn’t seem to do that much to improve things for attendees or for creating the kind of benefits Comic-Con has seen in defining the convention campus by doing something similar at its sister convention WonderCon in Anaheim. It likely helped the convention center and police with some of their security and safety issues but as someone attending the Con the only noticeable benefit was occasionally being able to cross the street faster. Because of the way Harbor Drive and the Convention Center are set up the road closure didn't really create a nice open space for free movement.
The other change involved the lottery system for managing lines for Comic-Con exclusives (these are the item offered in limited quantities and only at Comic-Con). People are very obsessive about getting these things and will line up overnight to get them. It's the collectors' version of Hall H.
The lottery system allowed for people to register online to get a chance at the exclusives rather than stampeding into the convention center first thing in the morning and then waiting hours in line not even knowing if the item you wanted would be available. There isn’t a scientific way to measure the impact, but there seemed to be fewer crowd issues at those big booths and more people walking the floor and getting in line for other things at smaller booths. Of course, the people who didn’t get picked for the lottery thought the system was a failure and those who got picked thought it worked well.
UPDATE: July 22, 2018
The final day of Comic-Con is always bittersweet. The convention never lasts long enough and there's never enough time to even begin to do all the things you want to accomplish. It's day four and all I had time to buy on the floor was a Death Star end table to match my coffee table and scope out some Godzilla toys from Japan, like a tin toy wind up Big G on a tricycle.
Trying to juggle covering Comic-Con for work, running a booth to raise money for a student filmmaker scholarship, seeing panels, and shopping is a full on geek challenge.
Last night I enjoyed a fun panel about the "Twin Peaks" revival. The best part was that fans kept asking about David Lynch's directing technique that is known for being quite abstract and odd. The panel guest were happy to supply examples, complete with their own impersonations of Lynch's voice. One actor was told to make it more "mysteriouso" for one scene but not for another while one actress demonstrated hand gestures of fingers making a dancing upward motion and that was it. The stories delighted the attendees.
For impressive panels, I have to give props to Warner Brothers. I may not be excited for the films they were touting -- new "Fantastic Beasts" and Legos movies as well as new American "Godzilla: King of the Monsters" -- but they get an A-plus for presentation style. They once again build a screen that almost encircles the entire 6400 seat Hall H area and then design projected materials that fill that expansive space with fitting animation, images or video. The Godzilla section of the panel started with what a video that made it feel like we were seeing Godzilla walk around the hall. I have to confess that I only have modest hope for an American Godzilla to be any good but I got goose bumps watching my favorite kaiju walk around me in Hall H so that I could feel firsthand just how truly monster-sized he is. Warner Brothers at least understands the idea of showmanship.
I have seen some impressive and clever cosplay this year but the end of day yesterday provided this great gender swap of a classic horror icon, Pinhead.
Final day of programming brings the annual Starship Smackdown that is always a blast. It's nerds pairing up captains and starships to see which combo would win. The program states: "Can the Starship Enterprise defeat an Imperial Star Destroyer? Will the Milano be assimilated by a Borg Cube? Will the Nostromo be taken over by Rathars? And will the Jefferson Starship disappear forever after Thanos snaps his fingers? Only if you're lucky. This panel of sage spaceshipologists includes Ashley E. Miller ('Red Sonja,' 'Thor'), Steven Melching ('Star Wars Rebels,' 'Star Wars Resistance'), Kay Reindl ('Freakish, Millennium'), Christian Gossett ('The Red Star'), Robert Meyer Burnett ('Free Enterprise'), Daren Dochterman ('Westworld'), and your jocular host, the Mr. Rourke of the stars, Mark A. Altman (Tor Books' upcoming 'So Say We All, The Fifty-Year Mission')."
Comic-Con related panels include one on the upcoming museum and the annual Talk Back panel where you can voice your complaints, suggestions and yes even praise to organizers of the event. Plus you can find out who won in the Comic-Con International Independent Film Festival Awards and get a chance to see all of the films.
And check out the new Cinema Junkie Podcast with the full interview with Keithan Jones, independent comic book creator, talking about his art and working in the industry.
UPDATE: July 21, 2018
Last night at 6:00 pm, writer and filmmaker David F. Walker organized this year's Black Heroes Matter flash mob designed to "make a statement without saying a word." Walker called on Blerds, writers, artist, performers and fans to gather at Comic-Con for a photo opp that turned into a mini-march.
And here are highlights and the final verdict in the mock court martial of Poe Dameron panel presented by The Legal Geeks.
Check out the winners from last night's Eisner awards -- the Oscars of the comics industry -- and start making your reading list.
Saturday panel highlights
At 11:00 am on Saturday you are invited to breakfast with cerealologists Mikal and Duane for 75 Years of Superhero Cereal Boxes. The program description says, "Take the cereal box tour, starting with the first 1942 Superman box to current Marvel/DC Superheroes on the shelves today. Witness amazing graphic images and videos of the first Spider-Man, Batman, Hulk, TMNT, Justice League, Iron Man, and Wonder Woman super boxes. Explore superhero boxes from around the world. Learn how to collect cereal boxes and where to find these priceless pieces of cardboard and how to trade them. Hear bits of information from web pages, books, cereal box collectors, and secret insights not found on the web."
And that's the joy of Comic-Con, finding pockets of nerddom like this.
At 11:45 am is one of the annual highlight of every Comic-Con, Quick Draw. Once again Mark Evanier hosts as a trio of lightning-fast cartoonists duel to the death right before your eyes armed, with nothing but Sharpies, drawing pads, , and their wit. Evanier throws the challenges at Sergio Aragonés ("MAD," "Groo the Wanderer"), Scott Shaw! ("The Simpsons," "The Flintstones") and first-timer Lalo Alcaraz ("La Cucaracha"). Come early and prepare to be entertained.
UPDATE: July 20, 2018
Tonight marks a big night for Comic-Con and the comics industry because it is when the Eisner Awards take place. These are looked upon as the Oscars of the comics industry. The awards are named after groundbreaking comics creator Will Eisner and are given out in a variety of categories highlighting everything from best new comic to the people who do the lettering. Dustin Nelson is public relations coordinator at Dark Horse Comics which received an armload of nominations this year.
"We take a lot of pride in the creators that we work with and the unique and challenging work that they create," Nelson said. "It means a lot as a company that's focused on creator-owned properties that those get the recognition that they deserve. So much is about superheroes and licensed properties that it's really fantastic for Dark Horse as a publisher and for our creators to have the prestige and the recognition that goes into the hard work that they do."
Nelson also added that as with winning an Academy Award, it’s something that can make someone’s career, and it’s something that’s immediately added to all press materials.
Tonight you don't need a badge to check out the opening of the Afrofuturism Lounge. Independent black comics creator Kethan Jones not only has a booth on the floor of Comic-Con but he is helping to organize the Afrofuturism Lounge at the Broker's Building just a couple blocks from the San Diego Convention Center. If you are attending the Con, it's a short walk to check out vendors, artists, creators and panels. But the bonus is that if you do not have a badge you can still check it out tonight and tomorrow night.
Jones, founder of KID Comics and creator of "The Power Knights," said, "You can go to San Diego Comic-Con and get your smorgasbord of everyone of all the different artist that are out there and then if you want a focused event where you if you are interested in African American art or Afrofuturism this is where this is your show. To me Afrofuturism is, it’s science fiction with the protagonists being of African descent."
Jones said they will hold a panel called Beyond Wakanda tonight and tomorrow night.
"We call it Beyond Wakanda because it’s going to be a discussion about moving beyond 'Black Panther,'" Jones said. "'Black Panther' is owned by Marvel Comics and created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee so although we love that film, we love that character, it’s a huge landmark for Marvel and for the way African Americans are portrayed in popular media we would like to move into the realm of owning our our IP’s our own properties and representing that stuff ourselves so that’s what this discussion is going to be about, how to go about doing that versus just talking about it, let’s talk about how to actually achieve that."
One of the best kept secrets of Comic-Con is its film festival. Films run throughout the convention and awards are handed out on Sunday morning. If you have a break in your day and want to escape lines or the congestion on the floor, go check out the screenings at the Marriott Grand Ballroom. You can find films from around the globe and in a variety of genres. Every year, I find great gems at this festival.
A few programming notes
If you are an artist and want to break into the comics industry, remember that companies like LucasFilm and Nickelodeon Animation Studios hold portfolio reviews in the Sails Pavilion area.
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund holds multiple panels during the convention with information to help artists, writers, and creators with issues of censorship, intellectual property, and other rights questions as well as panels highlighting things such as the history of activism in comics.
UPDATE: July 19, 2018
Comic-Con kicked off last night with preview night.
For pedestrians, the new policy of closing Harbor Drive to through traffic did seem to make it much faster to get across the street to outside activations. But since the street is not entirely closed — shuttle buses and cars with parking permits to the convention center parking still have access — it’s not like you can cross anywhere at any time. But for the cars downtown, it did seem like there was a lot of initial confusion.
Another change at the convention involves how attendees can get their Comic-Con exclusives. Many vendors bring what are called Comic-Con exclusives, items that are either debuted at the convention and available for the first time or items that are made in limited quantities and only available at the Con. In the past, there have been mass stampedes to line up at Hasbro or Funko to buy these exclusive items. But this year a number of the big vendors are trying a lottery system where attendees enter and can win a time slot to come by and get their item.
Lego representative Andrew Violante said they have three preview items including one of the cockpits of the Millennium Falcon.
"Our exclusives there is always a ton of excitement around them and everyone wants to get their hands on them … and it seems the fans are happy to have a set time to wait in line and not have those endless lines that they don’t know whether or not they will get one so the people who know that they are going to get their hands on one already know when they can come back and we are excited to see how it works out."
The Lego booth had an impressive life-size Thanos Lego.
"That was created at our Lego shop by Lego master builders and these are people that yes actually get paid to build with Lego bricks and they are assembled by a team," Violante said. "They take hours and hours both planning the design and building them they are glued in order to make the trek here to Comic-Con."
As a Star Wars fan, I always enjoy visiting the Lucasfilm booth because they usually have great things for fans whether it’s a Death Star coffee table (bought that last year) or Imperial patio furniture from a shop right here in Kearny Mesa. Daniel Kennedy, event coordinator for Lucasfilm described one thing that was generating buzz.
"We are standing in front of the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon from 'Solo A Star Wars Story,' Kennedy said. "It’s a replica made by basically a culmination of a couple different groups we have the X-1 Project from Germany, we have the BCD Team from Belgium and then we have the people from Pinewood, the same people that actually build a lot of the parts and pieces that you see in the movie… It’s a photo opp, we can accommodate up to five people inside and we can take a photo and email it out to text or twitter it’s a keepsake thing."
The groups X-1 and BCD are actually fan groups whose work has graced Star Wars Celebration fan conventions in the past. It is always fun to see the meticulous work fans do to create things that give such joy to other fans.
For big Hall H panels, there’s one on the new "Predator" remake (Thursday, 10:30 am, Hall H) as well as a "Dr. Who" panel (Thursday, 11:45 am, Hall H) to introduce Jodi Whittaker as the first female Doctor. Plus it’s the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s novel "Frankenstein" so there is a panel (Thursday, 12:30 p.m., Room 24ABC) celebrating her as well as screenings of everything from "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein" to the classics "Frankenstein" and "Bride of Frankenstein."
Film lovers can also find a panel on the 50th Anniversary of Stanley Kubrick's "2001" (Thursday, 12:30 pm).
This year you can find an even greater focus on diversity in comics with panels such as Diversity and Comics: Why Inclusion and Visibility Matter" and "Beyond Wakanda: Intersectional Afrofuturism."
Another comics panel focuses on How to Read Nancy (Thursday, 7:00 pm, Room 28 DE). Comics scholars Paul Karasik ("City of Glass") and Mark Newgarden ("We All Die Alone") present their Eisner Award-nominated work "How to Read Nancy," which isolates the separate building blocks of the language of comics through the deconstruction of a single Nancy strip.
And a reminder that "Art During the Holocaust" is Thursday in Room 4 at 1:30 p.m.
It’s also amazing to see what studios and companies have built outside the convention center from the town of Stephen King's Castle Rock to Jack Ryan’s training field. I got to go through the Ready Player One Experience (there are also challenge rooms) and was impressed by the recreation of the infamous bathroom scene from The Shining, such attention to detail in recreating the set. Some activations require a Comic-Con badge, but others do not, so come check it out.
Comic-Con International continues through Sunday at the San Diego Convention Center and Beth will be back tomorrow with more from the pop culture mecca.
UPDATE: July 18, 2018
Wednesday Panel Recommendations
Wednesday is preview night and a light day for panels and events. The main highlight I see is Teaching with Comics: An Interactive Workshop for Educators at Comic-Con 2018, Wednesday, 4 p.m. at the San Diego Central Library.
In addition, Comic-Con and Warner Bros. Television continue the annual Preview Night tradition with an exclusive pilot screening of the new series "Manifest," plus an advance screening of the following week’s episode of "The 100" (“The Dark Year”). The screening takes place at 6 p.m. in Ballroom 20.
Also a reminder that Comic-Con has a screening room where you can watch movies late into the night, something that I always enjoy. Wednesday night you can catch "Annihilation" (6 p.m.), "Deadpool" (8:05 p.m.), and the Oscar-winning "The Shape of Water" (10 p.m.). All are at the Marriott Grand Ballroom 8 and it's a fun way to round out the night and meet other fans of films you love.
Preview night is a good time to scope out exhibitor booths to see how you might want to spend your money. Be aware that policies about exclusives have changed and many exhibitor exclusives are now determined by lottery in order to alleviate crazy lines on the exhibit floor and to possibly reduce the number of people who simply buy items to resell immediately on eBay for much higher prices than they paid. Comic-Con has a special page devoted to show exclusives on its website.
For a nice sense of what attending Comic-Con is like, check out the First Person story I did with Nathan Donovan who moved from Brooklyn to San Diego to be closer to Comic-Con.
UPDATE: July 16, 2018
Whether you call it geek chic, Mardi Gras for nerds, or mecca for anyone who loves pop culture, Comic-Con has become an event that draws people from all over the country and even around the globe who share a love for comics, movies, TV, toys, collectibles and more.
Comic-Con will celebrate its 50th convention next year and it has grown from a small event in the basement of the U.S. Grant hotel that drew a few hundred fans in 1970 to something that sells out in hours and attracts upwards of 130,000 attendees.
For me it is my home away from home and a place where I can let my geek flag fly without fear of ridicule. I will be posting to this live blog daily through Sunday to provide suggestions for panels and events to check out as well as videos and photos of what's happening each day.
What's new this year
The biggest change this year is the announcement that Harbor Drive will be closed to traffic for the first time.
The announcement stated:
The San Diego Convention Center, the City of San Diego and the Port of San Diego have announced a new traffic route that creates a pedestrian-only experience during Comic-Con International 2018. HARBOR DRIVE WILL BE CLOSED TO VEHICLE TRAFFIC (including bikes, scooters and skateboards) between First Avenue and Park Boulevard during Comic-Con, with the exception of shuttle buses and emergency vehicles. Cars will be screened.
ONLY BADGED MEMBERS (attendees of Comic-Con 2018) may access the front drive, stairs and surrounding sidewalks of the San Diego Convention Center.
By closing Harbor Drive, shuttles will be allowed to load and unload passengers directly from the street.
Any exhibitor or attendee with a parking pass for the Ace Parking garage directly underneath the San Diego Convention Center will be allowed to drive through. All other drivers will be diverted away from the Convention Center.
This is the first time this kind of street closure has been tried. David Glanzer, Comic-Con's chief communications and strategy officer, said that similar procedures have produced positive results at Comic-Con's sister convention WonderCon in Anaheim.
"When we first started in Anaheim, Anaheim had a road that went into the very front of the convention center. At one point they ended up blocking that off and creating a plaza and it has been amazing. Right now it ends up becoming a place for people to gather. So it has worked out in Anaheim really well. And with Wondercon we have the ability to try new things and if they work well then we can go ahead and try them in San Diego. And WonderCon now is the size that Comic-Con was in 2002 so it gives us a great opportunity to try these things."
WonderCon is also where they first tested the RFID badges and the "tap in/tap out" system of checking people in and out of the convention floor. Glanzer added that the hope is that this will help with safety and security for attendees.
Once again Comic-Con is expanding its footprint and going for a campus feel with outside activations. These help pull people off the exhibit floor and away from panels. Some are Comic-Con sanctioned activations such as The Ready Player One Experience, FX cable network's FXhibition, and Hulu Originals' "Castle Rock."
The Hollywood Reporter has a list of parties that you can attend or try to crash.
There are also other things going on near and around Comic-Con that do not require a badge but will be serving up pop culture fun. You can visit the AfroFuturism Lounge in the Broker's Building just a couple blocks away from the convention center and running after the exhibit floor closes to be with black comic book creators and artists and enjoy panels devoted to issues of AfroFuturism.
Turning Tydes Theater Company is once again serving up one of its pop culture musical mash ups just a few blocks away. This year they have moved to a bigger venue, the Lyceum Theater, and will be performing "Wicked Wizards: A Potter Parody." The company debuted a shorter version of the play last month at San Diego International Fringe Festival and took home Best Musical Ensemble. I highly recommend their show, they are a high energy, remarkably talented, and entirely geeky theater company.
Check back for panel recommendations.
Some useful links:
Comic-Con MySchedule, very helpful for planning out your personal schedule of programming