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.”

JackKirbyTribute_1
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.”

JackKirbyTribute_3

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: 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: 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.

San Diego Comic Fest ’17: Interview with SDCF’s Founder, Mike Towry, covers Jack Kirby and the Future of the Convention

San Diego Comic Fest ’17: Interview with SDCF’s Founder, Mike Towry, covers Jack Kirby and the Future of the Convention
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Found Mike Towry (right) and Chairman Matt Dunford (right) on opening night.

For this year’s San Diego Comic Fest, it had a great deal on its plate; A fifth year, a new venue, the announcement of a new Chairman for next year, unseasonal rain, leaking roofs, Jack Kirby’s 100th birthday, X-Men: The Animated Series 25th anniversary, and more. Amid all this, the convention is chugging along. Not only that, but Founder Mike Towry allowed me to pull him away from his busy schedule and sit down for a quick chat.

For your first time in a new venue, since all the previous years have been at the San Diego Town and Country, I feel really bad that it’s been raining so much this weekend. That aside, how do you think Comic Fest is going?

It’s going really well. People seem to be having a great time, we like the new venue, and it’s nice to have everything more together. It’s our first time here, so there are some learning things like where things work best [at the venue] and the hotel also is learning how to “deal” with us. The convention seems to be working out really well.

I know parking has also been an issue for convention goers.

It was actually a surprise that we filled the parking lot. Yesterday some people were able to park at the “National University” across the street, but today they’re having an event there, so the hotel actually helped us out with a parallel street where there’s a lot of parking, so they’re running a shuttle actually from the hotel and picking people up as sort of an “ad-hoc” solution. That’s something we’ll definitely look at for next year if we’re here, where we would get in contact with National University and see if we could use their parking, and also set up the shuttle with the street parking an all that. But you know what, it’s a good problem to have if it means that we are having all these people coming.

What kind of fan would you say you are? What are your interests?

I love comics and science fiction. I read a lot of science fiction, when I can. It’s funny; I spend so much time doing Comic Fest things that I don’t feel like reading the things that I like as much.

Are there any writers or artists that you would call your favoites?

Well Jack Kirby as a comic artist is without question my favorite, but also as a person. I met him when [I was a] kid. We had just moved to Southern California and he was so nice to us and always willing to spend so much time when we came to visit. He would just take the day off and talk, which was amazing because he had this terrific work ethic that he would just work days and days in; day after day doing his comics. He would stop just because some fans were there to talk to him. He was a wonderful person, as well as an amazing artist.

Look at the things that have been in Heavy Metal recently, The Lord of Light stuff that he did; it’s just amazing. Mike Royer, who was his favorite inker, is here [at Comic Fest] this year and was at a panel yesterday. [He] said that that was the best inking he had ever done, The Lord of Light, and he was just thinking about why that was. He said that he thought it was because it had meant a lot to Kirby and that Jack Kirby was approaching it really seriously; Putting so much into it that [Royer] just felt like “Oh, I better not mess this up.”

But you know there have been so many great comic artists. We’re having a Wally Wood program tomorrow. He was a great artist. Neal Adams a couple years ago was our Guest of Honor. He saved Batman, you know, when he started doing those great Batman covers. After the 60’s Batman show with Adam West, which was fun, it kind of made Batman a joke. Neal Adams just brought back the “Dark Knight.”

With science fiction, two of our guests this year are Greg Bear and David Brin. I’ve heard a great deal about their work. Jonathan Mabery is a local writer. He didn’t get to come this year, but he came last year. I read a lot of his stuff.

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Founder Mike Towry having a laugh while surrounded by Jack Kirby covers in the makeshift Jack Kirby cafe. 

For San Diego Comic Fest, where would you like to take it going forward? Are there any special plans in the works?

There’s a lot of work that I would like to see get [done]. Matt [Dunford] is going to be our new Chairman for the next Comic Fest, so I hope that with his help this will free me up to look at some other things. It’s our nonprofit organization that puts on the fest and there are some other things that I wanted to do through that, which I think would be helpful [in time] to Comic Fest. There are some things with international appeal that I want to see happen with international comic book fans, like more connections to Mexico since we’re here in San Diego. It just makes sense because we already bring up other comic book artists from Mexico and I would like to do more of that, because comics is a world wide phenomenon. Everybody likes comics, of one sort or another.

It’s wonderful to see all the hard work that yourself and all the volunteers have put into Comic Fest. I can really see how much everyone cares for the convention and are real fans themselves.

Like I said, we’re nonprofit and nobody here is getting a salary. Everybody is doing it, as you just said, because we just love this stuff. We even have our wonderful registration staff here; They like science fiction and such, but they sit at the registration table the whole convention. They don’t even get to see the programs. [They do it] just to serve their fellow fans so that they can get their badges and all that. It’s a special and different thing. I’m not going to knock anyone else’s convention, but we’re a nonprofit convention where people are doing it out of love of the comics and the science fiction, and just because they’re fans. It gives a completely different vibe, I think, to the event.

Is there anything else we should know?

Next year is the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, so that will be our theme for the next Comic Fest. Also, since Frankenstein was the first major “undead” character, the zombie aspect too will be present. We’re going to be developing both of those for the comics, the writings, the novels, films, and animations featured here; That should be a lot of fun.

On behalf of The Beat and fans, thank you Mike Towry for talking to us, and for putting on another year of San Diego Comic Fest.

If you wish to learn more about SDCF and their nonprofit organization, visit www.sdcomicfest.org

San Diego Comic Fest ’17: Up and Early for Social Fandom for Geek Properties

San Diego Comic Fest ’17: Up and Early for Social Fandom for Geek Properties
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(Left to right) Jonathan Tavss, Jenny Stiven, Matt Dunford, and Anina Bennett.

Bright and early on a Sunday morning, collected in San Diego Comic Fest’s make shift “Kirby Café” panelists Jenny Stiven, Jonathan Tavss (working in digital and social fandoms for over 20 years), Anina Bennett (once editor at First Comics and co-author and co-creator of Boilerplate: History’s Mechanical Marvel and the science fiction series Heartbreakers), and Matt Dunford (Comic Fest Chairman and President of Little Fish Comics) gathered to discuss the ever present and growing area of social media in regards to creators and fans.

Stiven began by recapping what was discussed during last year’s Comic Fest as to where the concept of “social fandom” came from; “…From the late 80’s where people gather on bulletin boards and talk about what their favorite creation was,” she said. “It was a great way for geeks to get together and talk online from around the world.”

Nowadays, the options are plentiful for this “social-fandom culture” to connect, share interests, and for better or for worse give their own comments. This growth in connectivity has given rise to what wasn’t possible before; Creators and intellectual property (I.P.) owners are now taking extreme notice to what fans are saying. Shocking, right? In the same realm, these creators are also reaching out to fans to let them know they are being heard.

“The power shift has really gone to the fans online,” continued Stiven. “The fans really started to drive some of the conversation for the publishers, for the studios with their ‘geek’ properties in a way that hadn’t happened before.” Of such examples, the Dealpool movies is one of the most recent and strongest. “That is a fan driven movie that came to be after a multitude of times that FOX said ‘no.’”

“I think what social [fandom] really does well is fill a number of huge gaps,” said Tavss. “One is that there can be feedback now for creators as an opportunity for those ‘2nd and 3rd tier’ creators to connect it a way that they couldn’t before because they couldn’t get the support of the major publishers.”

The power of these fan-driven conversations fueled by social media has also allowed the “smaller presses” to find fans, connect, and gain traction. For a time, only the “first-tier” presses and recognizable names were getting notoriety and winning awards. Now, we are seeing a greater diversity in what and who are getting nominated for awards, as Bennett discussed. “It used to be that way more superhero tales were getting nominated, and today it’s much more likely to be creator owned and creator driven comics that are nominated for the Eisner’s.”

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No one can deny the power of social media and thus the social fandom that has risen from it. The internet has provided a great platform for fans and creators to stand on. However, the panel also warned against creators delving too precariously into it. There are a great many social platforms now; Facebook, Tumblr, WordPress, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat to name a few. “When you’re getting too concerned with finding the time to consistently post, no one is going to care,” warns Stiven. This means that creators should first focus on creating. From there, they should then find that fine-balance when they should post to social media as to keep their communities involved and interested.

Related to this idea of “too much” is deciding what platforms to use. Stiven said on the matter that, “It really comes down to the creator and what they’re comfortable with.” She also added, “Fans are the best people to have test these platforms as they have nothing to lose… Also, look to other creators and see what is successful to them.” Also, never underestimate the power of a traditional website. Fans will still want to see what you are up to and what you are currently creating.

The dangers of social fandom also extends to the very fans that keep it running. Matt Dunford discussed a story from a creator he knew that could have turned ugly. “He was about to confront someone that said his work was crap.” As Dunford explained it well, the best thing that a creator can do is to simply thank the commenter for reading and to ask what they didn’t like. “Be the bigger man… The trick really is being nice… You do not want to be that one person that someone says you’re a jerk… You cannot believe how fast a story can spread that can sabotage your career.” And you never know, valuable commentary might lead out of being the nice guy.

There’s no denying the power of social media and the power that it has given to fans, allowing social fandoms that can take the helms of conversations regarding major I.P.s. As a creator, you need to keep your fingers on the pulse of what fans are saying about you and also to you. Try to engage with them, listen to them (with a grain of salt) and be ever courteous. If you disrespect your fans, you may not like the wraith the internet can enact.

San Diego Comic Fest ’17: Arlen Schumer Pays Tribute to Jack Kirby and Denounces Stan Lee

San Diego Comic Fest ’17: Arlen Schumer Pays Tribute to Jack Kirby and Denounces Stan Lee
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Lecturer Alren Schumer with his book The Silver Age of Comic Book Art

Artist, illustrator, writer, and in a way Jack Kirby historian are a few of the titles that Arlen Schumer would claim for himself. The man of many talents is hard at work at this year’s San Diego Comic Fest, giving four “visualectures” throughout the convention weekend. Since SDCF is paying special tribute to the 100th birthday of the famous comic artist and writer Jack Kirby this year, it’s only fitting that one of Schumer’s lectures entirely revolves around Mr. Kirby.

The lecture was very comprehensive and chalked-full of Kirby history and facts. Before he began, Schumer apologized and said that to do Jack Kirby justice it would take more than the one-hour allotted time. In fact, the lecture ran to an hour and thirty minutes, where Schumer afterward admitted he still rushed through some parts. This indulgence was only permitted because Chairman of Comic Fest, Matt Dunford, was in the audience. “I’ll allow this,” said Dunford. “I’m the Chairman!”

“Fifty-years ago in the Fall of 1966, in Esquire Magazine, it was the first time a major magazine featured Jack Kirby’s Marvel characters,” says Schumer in his opening lines. “And [in the center] is Captain America, the character that Kirby most enjoyed drawing over his career.” What’s important about these lines, aside from that a majorly publicized magazine acknowledged a comic artist and his characters, is the fact that Captain America is front row and center in the image. In a large way, the character created by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon embodies much of Jack Kirby’s early life and his hopes for this country.

mattdunfordheadshots201651Jack Kirby, born Jacob Kurtzberg, grew up in the lower-eastside of New York city, an educated son of Jewish immigrants. Early in his career, Kirby was a cartoonist for the black and white Popeye. Not satisfied with being an “in-between cell drawer,” Kirby sought to join the growing market of comics and began to contribute to the growing pool of “superheroes” after fledgling DC Comics debuted Superman. Jacob Kurtzberg and his partner Hymie Simon, who changed their names to Jack Kirby and Joe Simon respectively, began to produce their own “Superman knockoffs” as lecturer Schumer put it.

Their focus however was not entirely centered on the Superman clones. “They were more concerned with what was happening in Europe in the late 30’s and early 40’s,” points out Schumer. “They were two-young Jews who wanted to raise the consciousness of America, on what was happening. America didn’t want to fight Europe’s war; We were very isolationists… So what were two Jews to do? They created the most recognized American icon with Captain America.”

The “iconic-captain” became a sensation among readers in a time of war. Many kids and adults bought comics just so they could see the “evil-forces of Europe” getting their teeth knocked in. “Before you know it, punching Nazis’ and Hitler was a thing,” point out Schumer remarking on both the trend in copycat comics at the time surrounding the legendary image of Captain America punching Hitler, as well as the recent political and social climate within our own country at this moment.

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After the war, comic books began to lull in their sales and content. “There were no more Nazis to punch,” pointed out Schumer. Jack Kirby had to work on projects that he wasn’t entirely enthusiastic about, ranging from romances, to mysteries, to westerns. Not only did the content become questionable, but Kirby was fighting some battles in his own career. He had left Marvel comics and jumped over to rival DC Comics, a startling change that upset many comic fans even to the point of giving up comics altogether. This was not permanent though, as Kirby jumped between the two companies a number of times over the span of a few decades.

What becomes a heated point in Schumer’s lecture is that of the “Stan Lee vs. Jack Kirby” debate. Schumer himself didn’t hide that he is entirely in Jack Kirby’s corner, which ultimately makes sense. As an artist, Schumer symptomizes and relates more with the legendary Kirby. Where I stand in the issue, which still continues to this day, I won’t remark because this article isn’t about me. What I will say is that I agree with Schumer in that Kirby deserved more credit (in a legal standpoint) with creations of very iconic Marvel characters. It may be the writer who gives the character a soul, but it’s the artist who gives them a body.

mattdunfordheadshots201652The remainder of the lecture surrounded that of Kirby’s influences in both comics and other popular media. Whether intentional or not, Kirby’s clean and highly intricate art style can be seen mirrored in comics that are to follow, one of which being the “Kirby Krackle” that has become a staple in the industry. In Disney fashion, Kirby designed and proposed a theme park that was to rival that of Disneyland, featuring in the proposed renderings large structures based on the many gods that lived in in the artist’s mind. When it was apparent that that idea wasn’t going to be, Kirby decided to take what he had already made and adapt it for a movie, a movie with a script that was to rival the then popular Starwars; it was called Argo. In an odd twist of fate, the movie was purchased by the U.S. government in a plot to rescue U.S. citizens during the 1979-1981 Iran hostage crisis. As made known in the 2012 movie also named Argo, the U.S. faked a mission to scout for proposed sites to film a movie using the real script and Jack Kirby’s renderings to help the fictitious story. Though they did help to save American lives, which I’m sure the Captain America creator would be proud of, sadly Kirby’s movie ideas would never see the silver screen.

I feel bad that I can’t fit everything that Schumer discussed into one article unless I want it to be the size of a novella. The one thing to ultimately take away from the lecture is that this legend among comic book artists stretched his hands into many fields, and though he passed more than two-decades ago his presence and memory still lingers in the world of comics and if you look close enough, the world at large. To read more in-depth comic history check out Arlen Schumer’s 2003 book, The Silver Age of Comic Book Art. Also, check out his website at www.arlenschumer.com