SDCC ’17: This Year’s Exclusive Collectibles and Merchandise to Watch Out For

SDCC ’17: This Year’s Exclusive Collectibles and Merchandise to Watch Out For

Forget about all that there is to see at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, what about all that there is to buy? Prepare to shout at unsuspecting vendors “Shut up and take my money” (which The Beat doesn’t condone) after you see some of these standouts among the piles of convention exclusives.

Rick
Gold Variant Rick Figure

Just about everyone is still foaming at the mouth over Rick and Morty, who are returning to the airwaves with fresh content soon. Marking season 3’s July 30th premiere, Loot Crate will be a releasing a gold variant Rick and Morty figure, exclusively manufactured for them. You won’t have to worry about getting this golden “bad-grandpa” with purchase of a crate, selling for $20 by itself, but make sure you visit the Loot Crate booth at #3635 as supplies will be limited.

X-Men
POP! Marvel: Wolverine – X-23

Toys-R-Us, the company that had us as kids collectively telling ourselves “I’m a Toys-R-Us kid”, will feature a full-list of convention exclusives available at the Entertainment Earth booth, #2343. Of them, this Funko Pop! vinyl of the “X-23”, stands out as a must for collectors. The cloned daughter of X-Men’s Wolverine comes garbed in his classic yellow and blue jumpsuit, reminiscent of the classic 90’s cartoon.

Optimus Prime
Transformers Masterpiece Optimus Prime

Yet another must have collectible from Toys-R-Us and Entertainment Earth will be the Transformers “Masterpiece Optimus Prime.” It’s a MP10 variant, taking its color from the original Transformers: Generation 1 animated series, that any Transformers enthusiast would love to call their own. Produced by Hasbro, this highly detailed figure comes with poseable fingers, stands at 9.5 inches in robot mode, transformers to truck mode in 24 steps, and comes with accessories such as: Orange Energy Axe, Spike Witwicky figure, Ion Blaster Rifle, Roller Unit, trailer that converts into a battle station and repair bay, and a mostly die cast Matrix of Leadership with a gem-like center that can be carried in the Optimus’ chest.

It wouldn’t be a collectibles list if the Funko booth weren’t on it. Before I get into some of my favorite Funko exclusives for this year’s SCDD, I must warn all you eager buyers that they will be handling the sales of their product differently this year. All who wish to purchase at their booth must line up first thing in the morning at the “Badged Member entry line,” attendee and professional badges allowed only, to enter in a raffle for a CHANCE to get one (1) wrist band per person that gives permission to purchase for that day. The line might even start as early as 6 AM! If you’re still with me here, then continue reading.

Starwars
POP! Star Wars: Holographic Princess Leia & R2-D2

Star Wars is definitely dominating the collectibles sales for San Diego Comic-Con this year. A throw-back to the original movie, or fourth for some of you, this double-pack “POP! Star Wars: Holographic Princess Leia & R2-D2” will be an awesome purchase. It also is a wonderful nod to Carrie Fisher, who will have a tribute panel in her honor at this year’s convention as well.

Joke Batman
POP! Movies: Suicide Squad – Joker Batman

What do you get when you put Jared Leto’s Jocker into a blender with Batman? You get “POP! Movies: Suicide Squad – Joker Batman” of course! This POP! character uses the standard Batman design, covered in variant green and purple colors, complete with graffiti and the Joker’s iconic smile.

Blue Batman
POP! Heroes: Blue Chrome Batman (Toy Tokyo)

As we can’t get enough of variant colors and anything shiny, this “POP! Heroes: Blue Chrome Batman (Toy Tokyo)” will have you feeling like you’ve just pimped out your car. Instead, it was Funko that pimped out Batman. Why they didn’t have this look in the WONDERFUL Batman & Robin movie, we will never know.

Megazord
POP! Power Rangers – 6” Megazord

Undoubtedly one of the most wanted POP! figures at Comic-Con this year is this “POP! Power Rangers – 6” Megazord.” This “6-inch Supersized POP” figure is the original Power Rangers’ season 1 megazord, the one that was stuck prominently in our minds as kids and has followed us into adulthood. The oversized POP head isn’t to scale of course, but it oddly works. Whether you’re a Power Rangers fan, POP fan or just a collector, this is the one to look out for this year.

Twin Peaks
POP! Television: Twin Peaks – Black Lodge Cooper and Laura 2-pack

Lastly for my Funko highlights, I offer up this “POP! Television: Twin Peaks – Black Lodge Cooper and Laura 2-pack.” More as a reference to the end of the original series instead of the returned version of Twin Peaks, this couple deliver in nostalgia, chills, and of course confusing storyline.

Powdered Toast Man
Kidrobot Exclusive Powdered Toast Man, ‘Wheat’ Edition

 

The return of iconic 90’s cartoon shows such as Rocko’s Modern Life and Hey Arnold! in movie form is but a testament to how those who were kids in that era had it made. Those same shows that filled our Saturday mornings or school day evenings forever live in our minds to this day. For some of us, they also live on our collector’s shelves. Nickelodeon, the network that collectively controlled our watching habits at one point is banking on this. An example is this “Kidrobot Exclusive Powdered Toast Man, ‘Wheat’ Edition,” originating from the outrageous animation that was The Ren & Stimpy Show. Standing at 8” tall, this super hero that is both man and toast is priced at $50 and located at the Nickelodeon booth #4113.

Avatar Aang
Zwyer Exclusive Avatar Aang Chibified Character

As we will never get enough of the original Avatar series, Nickelodeon will be offering this “Zwyer Exclusive Avatar Aang Chibified Character” in ultra-retro “Sephia” tone, a means to pay homage to past SDCC exclusive Avatar prints. This little guy will cost you $25.

Hey Arnold
Just Play Hey Arnold! Bean Plush Friends

If you’re going to be one of those to see the Hey Arnold! movie, then you’ll for sure want to snag these plushies of Arnold, Gerald and Helga. The “Just Play Hey Arnold! Bean Plush Friends” can also be found at the Nickelodeon booth, priced at $10 per plush.

God Woke
Stan Lee’s God Woke Signature Edition Graphic Novel

Toys are not the only merchandise to look out for at Comic-Con. Factory Entertainment is currently taking pre-orders of it’s Comic-Con exclusive “Stan Lee’s God Woke Signature Edition Graphic Novel.” The 120-page full color book is hand signed by Fabian Nicieza, Mariano Nicieza, John Herbert, and of course Stan Lee. The book follows both humanity’s and God’s search for meaning, all of which told using insightful understanding of character that was synonymous with the “Silver Age” of comics. Of the 100 limited copies that don’t get sold during the convention, they will be available for purchase at FactoryEnt.com.

It’s impossible to list all the exclusives that San Diego Comic-Con has to offer. That said, be sure to check out the official Comic-Con.org website for a list of all the vendors and highlighted merchandise, and stay tuned to The Beat’s Twitter and Instagram feeds as we’ll be posting live from the convention and sales floor.

 

SDCC ’17: No Parking? Try These Alternate Modes of Transportations for the Convention and Downtown

SDCC ’17: No Parking? Try These Alternate Modes of Transportations for the Convention and Downtown

If you have a vehicle, my first suggestion would be to either: A) Make sure your hotel comes with complementary parking, or B) Don’t bring your vehicle at all. Not to say that there isn’t parking to be had near San Diego Comic-Con, as every couple of blocks through downtown you’ll run across the likes of ABM, LAZ or Ace parking lots, but for a low cost or no cost at all, *polite chuckling*, good luck there. Even if you are willing to pay the price much like the amount of shekels you’ve already dropped on convention tickets and a hotel room, the lots typically fill up fast. Ultimately, unless you’ve booked your parking ahead of time in the same sort of lottery fashion that SDCC tickets do, you’ll be sans car during your convention experience.

The likes of Uber, Lyft and various cab companies are always available, but again you’ll  have to be prepared to pay up as you’ll definitely see an increase in fare during SDCC. Pedicabs can be a fun way to get around, but they too can suffer from SDCC increases, not to mention becoming inducers for cardiac arrest as they weave through streets and sidewalks. So, what are you to do instead? I’m glad you asked. Here are five alternative modes of transportation that not too many consider or know about, even locals.

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This year’s Conan Advertisement for Comic-Con one of the MTS Trolleys
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Discount Comic-Con Trolley Passes (Courtesy of the MTS website)

Trolley: San Diego’s Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) services anywhere from downtown, to Lemon Grove, to Santee, and even to San Ysidro near the Mexican border. This is perfect if you’re staying somewhere in downtown or in a neighboring area, complete with a stop just across the street from the Convention Center. Pickup times are typically every fifteen-minutes and vehicles are ADA compliant. True, this one does get a lot of use, but it is only in recent years that the idea of using them caught on. Special Comic-Con themed discount passes are also available at the MTS Store or at select Trolley stations during the convention. Just be prepared for crowding with every stop up to the Convention Center.

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Shuttle Buses: A staple for many years of the convention, shuttle buses operate for all five-days of the convention (which includes preview night). Depending on time of day, their frequency of pickup alternates between fifteen to thirty-minutes. They drop off right in front of the Convention Center, which is both convenient and inconvenient, as it adds to the already congested scene outside. For a full schedule of times and pickup locations, visit www.comic-con.org/sites/default/files/forms/cci2017_shuttlesched.pdf.

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DecoBikes: Unlike the pedicabs that look like rickshaws pulled by thick-thighed men and women, DecoBikes are a service that allow individuals to rent their own bicycles all throughout downtown San Diego. In partnership with the City of San Diego, standalone DecoBike stations are located just about everywhere downtown, offering bike rentals by the hour or more through their automated self-service station. When done, they can be returned to any other station. Though most people won’t be looking for this type of transportation to and from the convention, it offers a fun escape from SDCC and an alternative when wanting to explore more of what downtown offers. Prices can range from $5 for half-an-hour, $7 for one-hour, and $12 dollars for two-hours. For a map of their many locations and more information on their pricing, visit www.decobike.com/sandiego.

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FRED: No, I’m not suggesting you play horsey with an unfortunate gentleman named Fred. The Free Ride (nick named “FRED”) is a small, electric-powered shuttle that you request in the same way you would an Uber or Lyft. It will pick you up and drop you off anywhere along its pre-determined route. What’s the cost? It’s FREE! The catch is you’ll have to bear with a few extra pickups along at the way and sit in a tram covered in advertisements, but the cost and convenience greatly makes up for it. Hours slightly vary per day, with them taking pickups on Fridays and Saturdays up until 12 PM and 9 PM on every other day. This is definitely a downtown secret that not even too many locals know about. Download their app for your smartphone through their website and check out their map of pickup locations at www.thefreeride.com/san-diego.php.

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Harbor Drive Shuttle: Operating for a sixth season, the Harbor Drive Shuttle is a promotional service held on behalf of the Port of San Diego and managed by Ace Parking that runs seven days a week, 10 AM to 10 PM on Fridays and Saturdays, and 10 AM to 8 PM on Sundays through Thursdays. Those using the service who have parked at the San Diego Convention Center or Hilton Bayfront Ace Parking garages can get a discounted ticket costing $1 if they show their parking receipt. Up to four people per receipt can get this discounted price. For those who haven’t parked in those lots, the regular rate is $3 per person for unlimited, all-day rides. Pickup times run about every twenty minutes and stops include: Sheraton Hotel and Marina, Maritime Museum, Marriott Springhill Suites/Residence Inn Bayfront, USS Midway Museum, Seaport Village, Manchester Grand Hyatt, Harbor Drive Pedestrian Bridge, and the San Diego Marriott Marquis and Marina located right next to the Convention Center. Tickets can be purchased from six out of the eight pickup locations listed or from the shuttle drivers themselves.

If you’re one of those who still insist on driving themselves to and from the convention, websites like http://www.parkingpanda.com or sandiego.bestparking.com can lend a helping hand with finding nearby, available parking, leaving more free time to worry about San Diego Comic-Con itself.

WonderCon ’17: Mark Evanier and Steve Sherman Share Touching Memories of Jack Kirby

WonderCon ’17: Mark Evanier and Steve Sherman Share Touching Memories of Jack Kirby
JackKirbyTribute
Mark Evanier and Steve Sherman

This year marks the 100th year anniversary of legendary comic book writer and artist Jack Kirby’s birth. The artist’s influence has undeniably touched the comic book industry, helping to change and shape it forever. Of many that have personally met the icon, they would say he was always friendly, took the time to talk to them, and was very encouraging to those who said they were trying to become artists themselves.

Of those that knew him best, long-time assistants and friends Mark Evanier and Steve Sherman have made it their life’s duty to keep Mr. Kirby’s memory and legacy remembered and alive. At this year’s Anaheim WonderCon, both these men, accompanied by Rand Hoppe (executive director of the Jack Kirby Museum and Research Center), Paul S. Levine (attorney to the Jack Kirby estate), and Scott Dunbier (Special Project Editor at IDW Publishing), were eager to share stories of the comic book icon.

“While I was downstairs on the sales floor,” began Mark Evanier, “I was asked ‘Why do you celebrate Jack Kirby.’ I just stared at them and said ‘Jack Kirby is our industry.’ And then looking around, at just about every booth I could see his influence… So much of [it] is what Jack did.”

On the large projection screen in the room, a black-and-white image flicked into life. In the center was a sitting Jack Kirby, flanked on each side by a young Mark Evanier and Steve Sherman. “This was shortly after Jack moved to California,” instructed Evanier, himself seventeen at the time and Sherman twenty. “Steve and I formerly went to work for him in 1970. At the same time, we were entrusted with the information that he was leaving Marvel for D.C… He need people that he could rely on. It probably took us half-a-second to tell him ‘yes.’”

JackKirbyTribute_2
Rand Hoppe and Paul S. Levine

Throughout the years, Evanier, Sherman, and later attorney Levine had to watch and weather the denial of Mr. Kirby’s co-creator status and credits. “He wanted only two things,” explained Evanier. “He wanted acknowledgement for what he had done and that his family would be financially secure.” Sadly, it took years after Jack Kirby’s death until this would be realized.

Many efforts have gone into the archiving of Jack Kirby’s work and legacy. Scott Dunbier with IDW has had a large hand in seeing special works of Mr. Kirby getting produced in large and lovely artists editions. “In conjunction with the ‘Jack Kirby Museum,’ IDW came out with last December the Jack Kirby: Pencils and Inks Artist Edition,” said Dunbier. “When we started doing the artists editions, I was so happy. I use to be an art dealer, and so when I would see these small prints, I would feel they didn’t do the art justice… Kirby drew in 12.5” by 18”, and these artists editions are printing in 15” by 20”, showing every detail, including the edges of the paper he worked on.”

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Paul S. Levine and Scott Dunbier

The next Jack Kirby artist edition, Forever People, will be coming out sometime next month, and then later the second Fantastic Four book. All those who are part of the Jack Kirby estate have been pleased with IDW’s work. “Scott made sure to stay in contact with the estate,” said Levine. “Him and IDW have been very respectful.”

For Rand Hoppe, he’s had a hand in the preservation of Jack Kirby’s work for a number of years now. “At some point, I had the weird idea to learn how to create a website. I decided it should be on Jack Kirby.” With some help by John Morrow, who co-founded the Jack Kirby Collector magazine, Hoppe used the now-very defunct service “CompuServe” to create a Jack Kirby online art archive. “Currently, we have 5,000 original art scans and 7,500 photo copy scans.” Hoppe also currently educates students on Jack Kirby and his work.

Steve Sherman chimed in with his own memories of Jack Kirby. “Jack was a wonderful guy. He could connect to anybody. He was just interested in people… Always gave people the time.” Here he recalled the time that Evanier and himself were at the second house that Mr. Kirby moved into when he lived in the Thousand Oaks area. “The house had a big section of gravel in front of it. In comes Joe Kubert (a comic book artist who worked at DC) and his family in the largest R.V. that I had ever seen… The next day, Jack had drawn what looked like a huge R.V. with thrusters on the side of it and put it into the comic he was doing at the time… He just could take anything that he found fascinating and incorporate them into his stories.”

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The entire panel went this way, with Evanier, Sherman, and Levine sharing stories of Jack Kirby and his work. There were more stories than I could possibly fit into this article. The entire experience was both educational and very fascinating. Before the panel ended, Mark Evanier told the audience to be sure to attend San Diego Comic-Con. “I really can’t say a lot, but if you look at the cover of the San Diego Comic-Con souvenir book, you’ll see Jack Kirby in a big way there.” He had also mentioned that there would be something “very special” planned for Mr. Kirby’s 100th birthday. “Everyone will be very surprised and happy.”

WonderCon ’17: Industry Artists Give Insight on How to Draw for Action Scenes

WonderCon ’17: Industry Artists Give Insight on How to Draw for Action Scenes
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Left to right: Jessica Tseang, Hope Larson, Andy Park, Marguerite Sauvage

Many an artist of the comic, graphic novel, and manga format will cringe when the respective writer they work with asks for the dreaded “action scene.” Perhaps more confusing than the rendering of hands, the action scene can easily confound any veteran artist; Do I go for a side-profile view, or over the shoulder? Is this running scene supposed to be blurry, sharp, or just vague lines of direction? How the heck do I make this choking scene look believable? To discuss this, moderator Jessica Tseang (comic book historian and founder of Little Geek Girl) gathered industry artists Hope Larson, Andy Park, and Marguerite Sauvage.

 

Tseang started the ball rolling by asking, “Has your style changed over the years?”

Hope Larson who has produced the webcomic series I Was There and Just Returned, worked on a graphic novel adaption of A Wrinkle in Time, and has her own publishing imprint called Tulip Tree Press, was first to answer. “Oh yes. I’ve been [drawing] action for about five to six years now… And now, I am working on Batgirl,” she said.

Andy Park, Korean comic book and concept artist who’s worked on the Tomb Raider comic and on the Visual Development team for Marvel Studios, also agreed that his art has greatly changed. “I don’t think there isn’t anyone who’s style doesn’t change over time.”

Marguerite Sauvage also chimed in, having the unique position of being an illustrator who later found herself getting into comics. “I’ve been in the comic book industry for three years now,” she said. “As I use to be an illustrator, it was a big change to do full page narrations… [For comics], you have to think of the story you want to tell with the action.”

The depiction of action through writing or art almost come from two different mindsets. On this subject, Larson said it was “about the emotion” that the art can illicit. Park said it was like the “concept art versus creature design” in which he has to deal with during visual development. “For Sony Pictures and Marvel I have to do ‘key frames,’ which mark the beginning and end of an action sequence. My comic book past really helped me a lot with this… like [when I worked] on Tomb Raider.”

Especially for aspiring artists, the thought of “color or black-and-white” will eventually arise. “Sometimes it’s good to do everything in grayscale to get some texture,” said Sauvage. “To me, color just seems like a luxury.”

“I think it works both way,” chimed in Park. “These are tools after all… they can add or detract.”

Perhaps one of the most prevalent questions a veteran artist will be asked is, “What advice can you give to find one’s style?” To this, Sauvage said, “By digesting influences. When I was young, I copied everything that I liked… It’s a long process to find that balance. As if to clarify this, Andy Park added, “Jim Lee was my number-one artist. I wanted to be like him. I’d copy in the beginning [of my art] and study. I really emulated more than copied… I never wanted to be [Jim Lee’s] clone, and didn’t really concern myself with finding my style. I just drew. It should come naturally. Just trust that it will come.”

“You’ll have your own quirks that you’ll lean into,” said Larson still on the subject. “That’s part of your style, so make sure you incorporate them.” And like the others, she added, “It’ll come naturally.”

Getting back to the idea of depicting action, the three artists shared some tips to keep in mind. The most common and basic words of advice they had were to study action, know anatomy, watch videos on fighting like MMA, expand the panel to two or more if what you’re trying to convey is too involved, and to of course read comics or watch animation. “There’s a thing called the ‘One-hundred and eighty degree’ rule,” instructed Andy Park. “What it says is to not switch back between one point of view to the other. If you have to do it, maybe have a transition panel to break it up.”

The idea of conveying quickness is another action detail that varies from artist to artist. Should it be uniform across the board? “It depends on the scene,” said Hope Larson. “Having a preference is why writers work with specific artists,” responded Park. To this, Larson added, “That’s why I like working with a writer who’ve I worked with many times before. It’s not that I don’t like working for other writers, but with those I’ve worked a lot with, I know what they want.”

Lastly, the three artists discussed the validity of changing one’s style purposefully to fit a particular writer or market. “I feel they hire me because of my style,” said Marguerite Sauvage. “If I change, I feel like they would say, ‘What have you done!?’”

Andy Park said, “In my job as a concept designer for film, we are encouraged not to have a style… I feel like I have to take [it] out if I find it creeping in.”

To share the negative side of changing one’s style, Hope Larson had this to say; “I’ve been working for so long that I feel like I get approached for my style. I’m actually working on a book right now where I want to change my style, but when my publisher saw it, they told me I can’t. That if I didn’t do it in my usual style, no one would know it was me.”

More or less digressing into a panel surrounding one’s style than depicting action, the three artists still had valuable advice that any beginning or struggling artist should take to heart.

WonderCon ’17: Annual End of Con Talk Back with John Rogers Hits Record

WonderCon ’17: Annual End of Con Talk Back with John Rogers Hits Record
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John Rogers: President of Comic-Con International

Marking the end of every WonderCon and San Diego Comic-Con, John Rogers, Comic-Con International President, sits alone at the raised table and readies himself for what is typically a slew of questions and comments. As is also customary, he greets the room and asks for patience while he takes notes during each question. “Often, people think I’m ignoring them. I just take too long with writing my somewhat-legible notes.”

It’s worth mentioning that WonderCon made a brief visit to Los Angeles last year, as the Anaheim Convention Center was unable to accommodate due to construction to the structure. The fact that WonderCon was for now back at Anaheim was praised by a few people who took to the microphone. “It makes me really happy to see that it’s back here this year.”

Among the annual comic conventions, WonderCon is the darling of con-goers, evident by how many positive things they had to say today. This is undoubtedly due to the organizers’ steady planning and continuous communication with the facility managers. “This is a well-run convention… The exhibit floor was amazing; Easy to navigate, stand, sit, etc.” John Rogers and everyone else involved with the convention’s organizing has had the benefit of “cutting their teeth” with San Diego Comic-Con, seeing what works and doesn’t work, and applying it to WonderCon. You might be asking, “If that’s so, then why are there so many complaints every Comic-Con?” Simply, Comic-Con is a much larger event compared to that of WonderCon. Also, as John Rogers said a couple years back during one of these Talk Backs, “San Diego Comic-Con grew too fast, making it difficult to control now… with WonderCon, we made sure to slowly grow, letting us have a better handle on it.”

Again bringing up their flagship Comic-Con, one of the major issues with the convention usually revolves around the handling of ADA services being too disorganized. However, WonderCon appears to not have this issue as one convention attendee claimed. “Handicap services are fantastic… There was great crowd and line management, and a great job done with the aiding of ADA attendees… I have someone with me that is in a wheelchair. She told me that she feels safe here, and yet she never feels safe at a place like Target!”

TalkBack_1This year’s extent of complaints were very minimal, one of which dealt with the parking issue that occurred on Saturday. “Friday and Sunday went very well for parking, but Saturday was bad,” meaning that both finding available parking was difficult, and that there was a lack of direction of where to park instead. Another attendee seconded this, saying that there had been no mention by anyone that only people staying in the hotels could utilize their paid-parking structures. The same person also added that he wished there was someone giving direction at the Arena. “When I got out of there, I had no idea where I was going or how to get back. I just sort of had to wander around for a while.”

Another issue was that of inadequate seating for a few panels that had higher attendees than was expected, and a lack of direction with a couple of the panel’s guests and moderators.

Overall, the Talk Back was nearly all positive feedback and praise, finishing just under ten-minutes! A record as far as WonderCon goes, and an unheard of thing for that of Comic-Con, which is lucky if it can finish within the designated hour allotment.

Another great WonderCon is in the books, and president John Rogers says news of next year’s WonderCon will be coming soon. Stay tuned!

WonderCon ’17: How to Write Great Dialogue for Cartoons and Comics

WonderCon ’17: How to Write Great Dialogue for Cartoons and Comics
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Marv Wolfman and Craig Miller

Ever wondered what the differences were for writing with a book in mind versus that of animation or comics? Are you an aspiring writer who feels they could use this sort of delineation in their writing? At the 2017 Anaheim WonderCon, writers Marv Wolfman, Craig Miller, Ernie Altbacker, and Holly Huckins all discussed the important distinctions that all animation and comic writers should keep forefront in their minds, as well warned of the pitfalls of inauthentic dialogue.

Craig Miller, long time writer and producer, having worked on such shows as The Smurfs, Beast Wars, and The Real Ghostbusters, was the moderator for this panel. He began by saying he originally envisioned only discussing the topic of animation writing, but chose to open it to comics as well to accommodate his friend and fellow writer, Marv Wolfman. Some of Wolfman’s credits are the 1968 Blackhawk, Crisis on Infinite Earths, and the 1984 four-part story line Teen Titans: The Judas Contract. “Today, we will focus on an aspect of writing,” began moderator Miller. “Primarily this was intended for animation, but we will talk some comics as well.”

Recalling a time from when he worked on Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, he shared a moment where actor Harrison Ford yelled at George Lucas regarding a piece of dialogue that he was supposed to say. “You can type this [stuff], but you can’t say it!” What this alludes to is dialogue that reads pretty, but is unnatural to say in regular conversation. “You may think you can write pretty and may want to show off those skills,” said Miler, “but you need to write dialogue that seems natural and real… what you would [normally] say.”

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Holly Huckins and Ernie Altbacker

A recommendation on how to make sure what you write is “natural” sounding is trying to say it out loud. Each of the writers agreed that this a great method. Holly Huckins, mostly a writer for comedy animation who’s worked on Rugrats, Recess, and Totally Spies!, says she either gives it to someone to read or tries to be present when the voiceovers do their readthroughs. “It’s hard for people who didn’t write [the dialogue] to read it.” If you need to explain how to read it, it might need some revision. As a last comment on this topic, Wolfman added, “Your job as a writer is to communicate. Don’t try to show off what you think you can do. Try and make it something that you could see yourself speaking.”

Craig Miller shared another story about poor dialogue, this time going even further back in television history. “After the I Love Lucy Show, in one of her many off-shoot shows, there was a part where she’s trying to open a door, but having a difficult time doing it. Then, someone comes in saying ‘Just jiggle it a little, it’ll open,’ but faster than he should of for the line. Of course, Lucy can’t understand this, and another person comes through, saying the exact same thing with the same speed… This must have been a jab at one of the writers, Lucy showing just how ineffectual the writing is in everyday language.” He laughs at this, then tells the moral of his story. “We think we can write just because we are taught it in school. But what we learn there is proper grammar, which in everyday talk we certainly don’t use.”

Another topic for discussion was the manner in which an individual character would speak, from their word choices, intonations, and even their accents. “Every character should sound different; even if you can’t see a face or hear their voice, you should know that [their dialogue] would be something they normally say,” said Miller. Wolfman responded to this, saying, “You need to know about your character inside and out… even if that means making a character sheet for them. A trick that I tell all beginning writers is to think of someone who exists and use them as a template as you figure [your character] out.”

For comics, the art of balancing the amount of dialogue in one frame can be very difficult. “Every panel is like a snapshot,” said Wolfman. “Write out that snapshot, and if it somehow doesn’t fit, cut it into halves, and then cut it into quarters if you need to… You have to get it too fit so it works in the box with the art.” Ernie Altbacker, writer for cartoons and kid shows such as Justice League Dark and the recent animated adaption for Teen Titans: Judas Contract, said that a writer needs to ask themselves, “’What do I need to do to carry the story along with the least amount of information,’ because again, we don’t talk that way.”

At the end of the day, what these veteran writers are trying to impart is that dialogue for animation and comics must sound “natural,” or rather, “authentic.” If it’s how you would see yourself, your friends, your family, and your work mates talking, then it will be both understood better by the people reading/listening to it, and to the voiceovers who have to speak it if you are writing for animation. Don’t get overly involved, but stay true to your characters, true to the story progression, and true to everyday language.

WonderCon ’17: Comics Change the World: A History of Activism in Comics

WonderCon ’17: Comics Change the World: A History of Activism in Comics
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Alex Cox of CBLDF

If you are familiar, or in the least semi-familiar, with the early history of the comic medium, images of fit men flying and punching everything in sight while wearing tights might blip through your imagination. Perhaps to your surprise, comics in the early 1900’s were diverse and meant for a broad audience. In fact, it was not unheard of for those comics to be used as political, social, and economic soapboxes for their creators. As discussed in room 208 of this year’s WonderCon by CBLDF’s Alex Cox, the history of comics and activism have come a long ways together.

“All the examples I have for you today were controversial in their own way,” said Alex while he prepped the PowerPoint he was going to present. He then looked over the crowd and gave an apology. “I’m working with a hundred years-worth of material here, and I didn’t know just how over my head I was until I started putting this lecture together.” He added that if anything, this was to be the lecture’s first “test run,” where certain omissions were to be expected. Eventually, when the odd bits and crooked corners were straightened out, he said it would be posted on their website. “I also left out [our] work from this. It seemed like the humble thing to do.”

The presentation began with a look at 1912, with comic legend Winsor McKay, best known for his eternal Little Nemo. “Windor McKay was deeply political and a pacifist,” said Alex as he showed strips entitled The Victor and Three More Days of the Suffrage Hike to Washington. 1913 had the likes of Nell Brinkley. “She was a very modern woman of the time,” said Alex. “She began to cartoon at the age of sixteen, and eventually caught the eye of William Hurst, who supported the arts.”

The 1920’s brought about socialist ideas surrounding President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal,” a response to The Depression. Harold Grays used his comic Little Orphan Annie to express his dislike for President Roosevelt’s program. “[Grays] worked at the Chicago Tribune and got a lot of support from his boss, who also disliked Roosevelt’s New Deal.” On the other side of that, comic icons Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster loved the program. “Superman was partially due to the New Deal; An alien to planet Earth who works his way up in life… Early on he fought dishonest stock brokers, slum lords, corrupt politicians… He was a post-depression hero.”

War marked a great deal of the 1940’s. With it, comic publishers used their properties as pro-war propaganda. Jack Kirby, another comic legend, co-created Captain America during this time. Iconic is the image of Captain America punching Adolf Hitler in the face. “G.I.s were buying these types of comics by the truckload,” said Alex. The Little Orphan Annie comic had also became pro-war, asking for the sale of war bonds and urging aluminum drives.

After WWII, the 1950’s saw a rising again in the approach to social issues. “EC Comics, started by William Gaines’ father, use to be educational, geared toward religious studies… After his father died, Gaines turned it towards entertainment.” EC Comics is important because it introduced “New Direction Magazine,” which didn’t shy away from hard-hitting social issues. One comic that Gaines tried to push was one called Judgement Day, which featured an African-American astronaut. “The Comics Code kept rejecting the comic for various reasons… finally saying they would not publish it do to the black-main character.” In response to this, Gaines just about shut down every one of his company’s projects out of spite, except for a little magazine you might know called Mad Magazine.

The 1960’s became a time for the rise of women’s issues in comics, especially with the likes of Wimmen’s Comix.” “It was the first comic to feature an out lesbian,” said Alex. Afterward, the 70’s became marked with more cutting-edge satirical comics, with the likes of National Lampoon, a far different entity to how we know it today. It wasn’t long after this that Mad Magazine followed suite and increased their level of satire. Another important work of the 70’s was 1973’s Abortion Eve. “On the heels of Roe VS. Wade, this educational comic was released as a way to discuss women’s issues. Of course, it was also very controversial.”

Throughout the next couple decades, we got the likes of Blume County, Bill the Cat, Dykes to Watch Out For, The Boondocks, Love is Love, and many more comics regarding activist stances. However, with time running out on the panel, Alex Cox had hardly any time to thoroughly discuss them.

If we are to take at least one thing from this lecture, is that the comic medium is a great place for artists and writers to express the ideas and concerns that they feel are important for today’s world. Though it has a booming entertainment side, comics are also a refuge for activists and hopeful people who want only to bring about positive change in our society.