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
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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.’”

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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.”

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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.

WonderCon ’17: IDW and Shelly Bond Gleefully Talk About Black Crown Imprint and New Books

WonderCon ’17: IDW and Shelly Bond Gleefully Talk About Black Crown Imprint and New Books
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Shelly Bond, Tess Fowlerand, and Chris Ryall

It seems that at every major comic convention, IDW is afresh with announcements of new comic releases, media growth, and more. This year is no different, as the publisher and media company is eager to share all manner of information regarding a number of upcoming titles, as well as their mysterious collaborative imprint with Shelly Bond, known only so far as Black Crown.

Collected at this Year’s IDW panel are: Sarah Gaydos, group editor; David Hedgecock, Editor-in-Chief; Chris Ryall, Chief Creative Officer; And Scott Tipton, writer of comics such as Star Trek; Aubrey Sitterson, writer of comcis such as G.I. Joe. Chris Ryall began by discussing some of the companies exciting new releases. “Have anyone read Locke and Key by Gabriel Rodriguez?” he asked. The series in question is, in my opinion, fantastic and visually mesmerizing. “He has a story of his own that he is very excited for, and so are we. It’s called Sword of Ages.” The story of Sword of Ages follows that of Excalibur, “the sword of legend.” Before King Arthur, and before the sword is ever placed in stone, the sword belongs to a faraway planet, years and years before it makes it’s way to Earth. Ryall added “It’s unlike anything he’s done before.” IDW is hoping for an October release.

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Scott Tipton and Aubrey Sitterson

Following digital comic trends, it appears IDW will be soon getting an app on Microsoft’s XBOX One consoles. Sarah Gaydos said that this will be more of a “soft-release,” as more additions and changes will be rolling out for it after its eventual release. No other information about the app is currently available, but more will be made known in the days leading up to its sometime release this year.

Utilizing its vast access to the Hasbro franchise universe, David Hedgecock discussed how IDW will be launching this July Rom VS. Transformers: Shining Armor. The older franchise character will finally cross paths with other metallic beings unlike himself. Hedgecock also said that, “There will be an introduction of a new, important character in the Hasbro mythos.”

For the world of G.I. Joe, Aubrey Sitterson had much to say on his comic. “G.I. Joe is the oldest Hasbro franchise… wait, no. I was once CORRECTED by someone, who told me it is actually Mr. Potato Head who is the oldest franchise.” After some bantering and kidding about an impeding Mr. Potato Head comic, Sitterson went on. “Let’s just say G.I. Joe is ONE of the oldest franchises… When I got this project, I just saw how [it] didn’t quite fit anymore with the other Hasbro universes.” To rectify this, it was decided on that big changes would be made to the comic, both in story and visuals. “We are working on re-workings of many of the character’s looks, the comic’s colors, the artwork in general… we even have a Transformer on the G.I. Joe team now.” So far, three issues are out for the comic, with of course plans of more to soon follow.

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Preliminary art for “Kid Lobotomy”

The biggest and most anticipated news of the panel however was that regarding the mysterious Black Crown, a branding collaboration with IDW and the industry fixture Shelly Bond. Ms. Bond was mysteriously missing from the table, until she popped out from the front row of the crowd and plopped herself at the main table. Also called to the table was a woman by the name of Tess Fowlerand, who’s importance was soon to be made known.

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British Writer Peter Milligan

Of the imprint news, Sarah Gaydos said we have to wait until June. However, for Black Crown’s first comic, that’s where Bond and Fowlerand came into the picture. “I’m very, very happy to announce that Black Crown’s first monthly comic is called Kid Lobotomy!” The project itself was described by Shelly Bond as, “If King Lear meets Kafka by way of Frankenstein.” The preliminary art gives the impression of gothic-horror with a dash of Lovecraft. The story is being written by British writer Peter Milligan, while the artwork is done by Tess Fowlerand.

Kid Lobotomy is to represent the aim of Shelly Bond’s Black Crown, an imprint meant for dark and gothic stories. Taking it a step further, Bond also shared that all her stories will exist in the same universe, with a pub aptly named “The Black Crown” as a sort of joining point for all of them. Here, we will even see the various characters of the eventual later comics talking and interacting with each other. “I’m very proud of what IDW has allowed me to do, will allow me to do with this,” she said brimming with pride.

Indeed a great many things are instore for IDW, as is always the case. The “crown” for IDW this year I feel will be this new imprint. More news is supposedly slated for June, while Black Crown itself and Kid Lobotomy will have to wait until October to be fully realized.

WonderCon ’17: News of Comic-Con Expansion Looking Unsure and Sales Floor Preview

WonderCon ’17: News of Comic-Con Expansion Looking Unsure and Sales Floor Preview
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David Glanzer: Chief Communications and Strategy Officer

*As a foreword, this was meant to post for yesterday. But still great news inside!*

Returning to Anaheim this is year is the “fan-loved” WonderCon. For those who attended WonderCon last year, the highly-adored comic convention brought to us by none other than Comic-Con International was temporarily held in Los Angeles last year due to scheduling conflicts with the Anaheim Convention Center. To my joy, it has returned to Anaheim (for now at least).

 

Early on this Friday morning, Chief Communications and Strategy Officer David Glanzer met with various press outlets for a quick welcome and rundown of WonderCon history. “Thirty-one years ago, WonderCon began in Oakland,” he said. “…When resources weren’t there, organizers asked [us] to take over… WonderCon was a fun show and a great vibe, and it was felt that if it ended, it would send a negative message about the validity of comic conventions.” After some deliberation, Comic-Con International took over WonderCon, consequently seeing moves to San Francisco, Anaheim, Los Angeles, and of course this year back to Anaheim.

What may overshadow this convention for me, however, is what David Glanzer said at the end of his quick press meet and greet regarding the fate of San Diego Comic-con. “Comic-Con International does it’s best to listen to it’s fans,” he said. “We want to stay in San Diego as long as we can.” He informed our small group that the greatest remarks that he hears every year by fans is the cramped confines of the San Diego’s Convention Center and the high-price of hotel stays. “We listen to our attendees very closely,” he reiterated. The frankness in his words was if he was beginning the setup of some really-bad news. “Home base is San Diego, but that doesn’t lock us in.” There were some words of hope though as Mr. Glanzer told us that the city of San Diego will hopefully discuss this fall making the convention center expansion “contiguous” instead of “non-contiguous.” As Glanzer explained it, the current hopes of a convention expansion appears doubtful as other users of the convention don’t feel the expansion will in anyway benefit themselves. “An expansion for just Comic-Con doesn’t seem plausible.” More hope is that if San Diego gets the soccer stadium that is currently being pushed, that venue will also utilize some space at the San Diego Convention Center, aiding the idea of the expansion.

Moving away for now with this troubling news, we have to remember the focus of this weekend is WonderCon. WonderCon always features great booths (vendors, artists, small publishers and large publishers) and fun panels (fan driven or studio held). Many colorful and fantastic booths were still being set up a mere two-hours before the convention’s start.

WonderCon_0030_1Disney Music Emporium stands out as a quaint throwback to a record store. Rob Souriall, Vice-President of Global Marketing for Disney Music Group showed off their wares that were being featured at this year’s WonderCon. “Disney Music Emporium focuses on physical, collectible music merchandise, as we are seeing them disappear from store shelves,” says Souriall. In our expanding digital world, Disney Music Emporium sells prominently vinyl records that are also art pieces, with each side fully-colored graphics. Featured are seven-inch vinyl records for Inside Out, a collection of five that feature different covers and a unique “Side-B” soundtrack. Using the Star Wars property, Disney Music Emporium has this year the “First Market Star Wars: Rogue One Vinyl Soundtrack,” by Michael Giacchino, original Star Wars music by John Williams. If you need something to play these records on, for $100 you can also purchase the Mickey Mouse inspired “Suitcase Turntable” by Crosley.

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WonderCon_0037_1In “geek-fashion,” Her Universe’s founder Ashley Eckstein is present to announce the release of her new line of workout clothing geared towards comic fans of the female variety. A collaboration of Her Universe and DC, this Kohl’s exclusive product not only was announced today, but also launched. Coinciding with the launch, Ashley Eckstein also made available a series of three workout videos all featuring herself. They are available for free online with each one themed with either Superman, Wonder Woman, or Batman inspired exercises. The Her Universe booth will also be selling a limited amount of signed “Ahsoka Funko POP! Vinyl figures.” This is quite fitting as Ashley was also the voice of “Ahsoka” on the Star Wars Animated show. Originally a Hot Top exclusive that quickly sold out, these figures are back for limited run with Her Universe only.

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WonderCon_0041_1San Diego based IDW has “a lot of great announcements this WonderCon,” says Steven Scott, IDW Publishing’s Public Relations Manager. At the IDW Publishing booth, the company will be selling a myriad of items, such as: A thirteen issue, limited run of Transformers VS. G.I. Joe, a story that was imagined as movie, then adapted as a comic. Fun part is that they just cut out the actual movie part; A Batman – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventure comic, a take on Bruce Tim’s Batman: The Animated Series if it met the mutated reptiles. Limited to 500 copies, it’s a black-and-white variant cover of the #5 issue; Unique to the convention, IDW has “Deluxe Packs”, which are guaranteed to have $40 worth of comics inside and a Wyonna Earp #8 comic with a signed insert by “Katrina Barrell,” actress of the show’s “Officer Nicole Haught” character. IDW will also have two signings of their hit Love is Love comic, a collaboration with DC that raised $160,000 for the victims of the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting, and more announcements at their panel which takes place later today.

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WonderCon_0045_1Valiant, the small comics publisher that has always strived for “quality-storytelling” is proud of their latest release, XO Manowar #1. Released on March 22nd, Matt Kindt of Valiant says that the comic is reaching “records.” He believes that it will even make it into the Top 10 on the comic sales charts, making it a first for Valiant. “It’s unheard of to have a small publisher like us make it on there.” Great things are instore this year for Valiant, including a multi-movie deal with Sony, release of Secret Weapon (a comic featuring the character “Livewire” in her solo role), and a possible television series for one of their properties. Despite the branching into other media, Kindt reminds us that, “Despite the movie deals, we are still a comic company. Quality over quantity is what we believe in.”

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Overall, WonderCon seems as fun-filled and bright as it always does and I am looking forward to having another exciting year her. But with the introduction of some disheartening news about San Diego Comic-Con, it really puts a damper on this reporter’s weekend. More to come about WonderCon over the next few days.