Wednesday, July 24, 2013

SDCC 2013 - Sequart TV: Gaiman, Claremont, Image Comics

While I was aware of the publications of Sequart Research & Literary Organization, I had no idea they had produced a series of documentaries about comics companies, artists and writers. Titles include Comics in Focus: Chris Claremont's X-Men; Diagram for Delinquents: Fredrick Wertham and the Evolution of Comic Books; The Image Revolution; Warren Ellis: Captured Ghosts; Grant Morrison: Talking with Gods, and a newly begun film featuring Neil Gaiman. They played several of these trailers during their panel at SDCC and I was surprised by the quality of them. I was told at a party later that they are still looking for distribution. See the Sequart site for more info.

SDCC 2013 - 3 Steampunk Series

Steampunk was once again a major presence at San Diego Comic-Con. On a Thursday morning panel devoted to writing science fiction and fantasy, demos of several fascinating steampunk flavored projects were presented. The three that really spoke to me were The World of Steam, The Crypto-Historians, and Bruce Boxleitner's Lantern City (which I wrote about last year when the project was launched).

The World of Steam creator Matt King describes the series as a "Twilight Zone-like webseries set in a Steampunk universe with everything from swashbuckling duelists and corseted heroines to mad scientists and demons with identity crises." The demo looked great.

Jimmy Diggs & Matt King
In the action-adventure series The Crypto-Historians, "a hit man from the future, an inventor from the present, and a hero from the past must join forces and travel to the 1890’s to stop the War of the Worlds from becoming a reality. They will use the time travel secrets of H.G. Wells and Nikola Tesla to change history and prove that, “The future is in our hands.” Along the way, they encounter some of history’s most dynamic figures: 28 year old Madame Marie Curie, 40 year old Teddy Roosevelt, 22 year old Harry Houdini, 16 year old Albert Einstein, and even an 8 year old Adolph Hitler!" Series creator Jimmy Diggs was an inspiration himself, full of "fake it til you make it" Hollywood stories and enthusiasm.

Bruce Boxleitner
Lantern City, a TV series in development,which had a soft launch at SDCC last year (interview), was there with a Rise, an illustrated prequel novel and a new teaser trailer.  The series seeks to involve fans and the Steampunk community in its making and design, and it sounds like a great project. It's a love/adventure story set in a walled city ruled by an authoritarian regime. I have posted a follow up interview with series writer Matthew Daly about Rise and how the project is progressing.

SDCC 2013 - George Perez on Wonder Woman

If they asked me to draw a cover with a snow drift, my footprints would be all over the place. You wouldn't know where to begin or end. ~ George Perez.

I was happy to catch the Spotlight session on George Perez, whose long run on Wonder Woman beginning in 1987 is still thought by many fans to be one of the best interpretations of the character.

George Perez
 Famous for his detailed drawings, he speaks much like he draws, quickly and expressively with lots of detail. He spoke about the need to know "detail from clutter," and talked about the importance of minimizing the writer's need to explain things by showing them visually, like a "storyboard for a silent movie."

About Wonder Woman, he said "My run was considered a game changer." Although DC didn't consider the title a best-seller, he was thrilled that his run has been re-issued. During Q&A, I asked him why he thought his run was so successful while other authors have struggled with the character. He said that he always thought of WW first as a woman than an icon/superhero. He gave much credit to his female editor for keeping him in line and protecting WW from the "boy's club" at DC that wanted turn her into a "distaff Superman." He tried to answer the question "Why are there no men?" emphasizing the Hercules/rape/capture story, with Diana as "an innocent, the only child born on that island." He said he owed a debt to Marv Wolfman's input on the character and was greatly influenced by Walt Simonson's run on Thor and the films of the late, great Ray Harryhausen (particularly Challenge of the Gods). There's a good synopsis of his run here on CBR.

SDCC 2013 - JMS Wins Icon Award

J. Michael Stracznski
Almost every year at SDCC, I manage to catch the spotlight panel on J. Michael Stracznski. At the beginning of the session, JMS was awarded SDCC's Icon Award and he gave a short "state of JMS" address. Since I had just seen him at the Image Expo earlier this month, the contrast in the audience was really interesting. JMS's Comic-Con session is usually a free-form affair, this year he grabbed a wireless microphone and wandered the room responding to audience questions much like he was interviewing contestants for a game show. Many of the questions at SDCC were about Babylon 5, in contrast to the comics only orientation of the fans at the more formal Image Expo session, who only had specific questions about Joe's Comics and other writing projects.

The answer to most of the Babylon 5 questions was that the series is in limbo. When the series was produced, HD/Blu-ray was not common, and none of the special effects were created in a way that they would transfer over to HD without redoing everything. A documentary about the fans and legacy of Babylon 5 is in production, and there is a video of the recent Babylon 5 20th anniversary cast reunion at Phoenix ComiCon (full session). He also talked about Sense8, the new series he is developing for NetFlix with the Wachowskis.

JMS gets Icon Award.
Patricia Tallman, CEO of Studio JMS.

JMS is an amazingly successful and prolific writer. I seek out his session every year just to hear him answer questions about the writing process. To paraphrase:

"Get out of your own way. Don't tie yourself in knots trying to fit a particular style. Writers talk on the page in their own natural voice, because your own voice is unique to your point of view and experience."

"I ask 4 questions: Who is the character? What do they really want? How far will they go to get it? Who will try to stop them & what will they go through to do it?"

Every year he ends on an encouraging note, not give in to the tyranny of reasonable voices and create good work. Borrowing from another beloved Sci-Fi film, it boils down to "Never give up, Never surrender!"

SDCC 2013 - Salicrup on Marvel Toilet Paper

Start the day right with Marvel TP!
Well, I've decided to start my series of posts about events at this year's San Diego Comic-Con on a high note with a story about ... Marvel toilet paper.

Honestly, in the 1970's Marvel Comics printed comics on toilet paper. Might as well take advantage of a captive audience, right?  This story came to light at Scott Shaw's Oddball Comics panel, which was absolutely hysterical. Messed up by a glitch setting up the computer with his presentation, Shaw and his son managed to find random images from the Oddball web site on-line on a computer borrowed from an attendee and improvised an entire presentation (Oddball on Facebook).

At one point Marvel veteran Jim Salicrup got up and wowed the audience with this story, which I will summarize. In the 1970's, he explained, printing quality at Marvel was terrible. They were using plastic printing plates that wore down quickly and cheap newsprint paper, so the books were frequently smeared and blurry. "Artists often complained that it seemed like their work looked like it was printed on toilet paper," Salicrup said, "I can say mine really was."  Salicrup and Michael Higgins wrote the comic, which was then illustrated by Marie Severin. Here's part of the story reproduced on the Comics Alliance site for your reading pleasure.