Saturday, August 9, 2014

SDCC 2014 - CAC panels, Greenberg & Batman

As usual, the Comic Arts Conference, an academic conference within and in conjunction with San Diego Comic-Con International, offered a heaping platter of scholarly goodness. Several panels and presentations really stood out to me this year.

Marc Greenberg, author of Comic Art, Creativity and the Law (my husband) and Rob Salkowitz, author of Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture, talked about what the potential future of comics might look like, and the legal complexities of the models they identified. They discussed corporate comics, indie comics, crowd funding, retail and digital sales, and many other topics, based on the four projections laid out in Rob's book and continued in Marc's.

It seemed to me that all four concepts have been happening simultaneously: the "Endless Summer" scenario, in which major corporations maximize the possibilities of their intellectual property and their audience; "Ghost World," in which the audience tires of the mainstream, and artists and indie publishers succeed in offering grassroots alternatives; "Infinite Crisis," in which a passionate but dwindling pool of fans and collectors support specialty retail, and the "Expanding Multiverse," in which a more diverse and global creator population harness the web, mobile, games and other platforms to tell their stories.

Rob Salkowitz and Marc Greenberg after their panel. Photo by Kim Munson.
 Following Marc and Rob's panel was a brilliant panel on British Comics, many unique to the UK titles like Misty, Doctor Who, and Judge Dread, and how their Golden Age comics borrowed (or outright copied) elements and characters from popular US comics.

British Comics: Julia Round presents as Pete Coogan, Chris Murray and
Phillip Vaughan look on. Photo by Kim Munson.
Down on the exhibit floor, CAC regular Trina Robbins was at the Fantagraphics booth signing Pretty in Ink, her ultimate take on the "herstory" of women cartoonists. One of Trina's finest moments was her rediscovery of Lily Renee, an influential cartoonist of the WW2 era with an amazing story (read The Golden Age of Lily Renee here). Lily, who is 91, flew in from New York for a day of signing at the booth.

Lily Renee and Trina Robbins at the Fantagraphics booth. Photo by Marc Greenberg.
 I enjoyed a presentation on Bill Hume's Babysan comics by historian R.C. Harvey and the final wrap-up panel of presentations by students of Matthew J. Smith on fan studies and marketing. Most of these students had never been to SDCC before, and it is always interesting to see the convention anew through their observations.

There were many panels and displays celebrating the 75th anniversary of the publication of Batman. Dean Trippe, author of Something Terrible spoke with Tommy Cash about how reading Batman rescued him from the mental anguish of childhood abuse (one page version here, you can buy the entire comic for 99 cents).

Cover graphic from Dean Trippe's Something Terrible.

Here's a blurry photo of the whole
tribe at the Who Created Batman? panel.
Photo by Kim Munson.
On the all-star panel Who Created Batman?, scholars and family representatives had a lively debate over who actually did create Batman, presenting panel art from Golden Age comics, research and anecdotal evidence to try to piece together how much of the creation of Batman could be attributed to Bob Kane, and how much to his collaborators Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson. To the surprise of no one, the conclusion was that Kane's claim of total ownership was probably exaggerated, and that Finger was the real brains behind the operation, joined later by Robinson. Panelists included Moderator Travis Langley (Henderson State University); Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson (granddaughter of the original founder of DC Comics); Tom Andrae (Batman and Me); Athena Finger (Bill Finger estate); Marc Tyler Nobleman (Bill the Boy Wonder); Denny O'Neil (Batman); Brad Ricca (Super Boys); Jens Robinson (CartoonArts International); Arlen Schumer ( and Michael Uslan (Dark Knight film trilogy).

Down on the exhibit floor, DC had a huge Batman display that included cases of props from the films and a fascinating art project with Bat themed art painted on capes. 

DC Batman 75th Anniversary display at SDCC 2014. Photos by Kim Munson.

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