Saturday, April 19, 2008

New York Comicon: Day 2

I’m back from my second day at the New York Comicon. I did a few things today, but spent a lot of the time waiting in line. It was much more crowded than yesterday, so much so that it became tricky just to move around.

I got there early to try and talk to Chris Claremont, but he was signing a booth with some artists who were doing sketches, so it was a long, glacial line and I didn’t get to talk to him. The whole Marvel booth was set up really poorly, they’d have people grouped together who had no particular connection, it would have been a lot easier to have individual lines for different people.

But, I pressed on and went down to the Battlestar Galactica panel. But, I’ll delve more into that when I review last night’s episode. Suffice to say, it was a lot of fun, and featured a trailer for the rest of the season that made it look unbelievably great.

After that, I wandered around for a bit, then went down to the Grant Morrison spotlight panel. This one featured a lengthy intro that was actually quite awesome. Some guy, I’m not sure who he was, read a lengthy quote/manifesto from Morrison while images from his comics flashed on screen, basically summing up the philosophical points of The Invisibles. From there, Grant opened it up to questions from the floor, and thankfully most of the questions were really on point and didn’t feature the lengthy “First, let me say I love your work” intros that are so commonplace at events like this.

Grant said that after Final Crisis, he’s off superhero comics, except for Batman, for the foreseeable future. He’s got two new Vertigo series in the works, War Cop and Atomika Bomb. I didn’t actually attend the Vertigo panel yesterday, but apparently War Cop is about a soldier who comes home and wants to stay at war and Atomika Bomb is about the daughter of Doctor No doing badass spy things. He’s also working on Seaguy 2 and 3, a.k.a the emo adolescence and eventual maturity of Seaguy. It sounds like they’ll match the surreal greatness of the previous one. He described a scene where Seaguy is a matador who has to put women’s clothing on a bull that sounds pretty crazy.

He also answered a bunch of questions about his personal life. He echoed something he’s said earlier, about how he feels like the surreal comics he makes are more like our perception of reality than so called ‘realistic’ work. He sees life like a David Lynch movie, and I’d agree, sometimes that surrealism or stylization can heighten the emotion. And, Grant is a master of grounding the crazy concepts in very real emotion, perhaps because for him, they don’t start out as mad ideas, they begin as feelings that he then transmutes into a sci-fi concept.

He also discussed the aborted project Hyper-Crisis. It would feature the Chronovore tearing a rift in time ten years long that would have to be filled by events. So, a character’s action would be a ‘rivet’ in the bridge in time, and everyone would have to do certain things to ensure the bridge gets built right. It sounded pretty cool, but I could see it bring problematic to transform those concepts into an exciting story.

He touched on the troubled launch of The Authority and Wildcats. He said that his role in 52 caused the delays on those books, and that the script for Wildcats #2 has been written, and will eventually get drawn. However, when I got a copy of issue 1 signed by Jim Lee later, Lee said that issue #2 was not in the works, and probably wouldn’t be for a long time. As for The Authority, after reading the reviews for issue 1, he said “Fuck it” and will not continue the title. I really liked both issues, but The Authority probably don’t have another story that needs to be told about them.

He said that All Star Superman is his current sigil book, and is designed to tie in with the mythic Sun God. One guy asked him if All Star Superman #10 meant that Superman was our God, and he said that he’s more active than our current God. All Star Superman is notable because it’s such a unanimously loved book. Morrison has really tapped into something with this take on Superman, he’s created essentially the ideal being, and let him loose in the fictional world. The cover of 10, where Superman holds the Earth in his hands, that’s what it’s all about, he can protect us and inspire us. It is easily the definitive take on the character, and really redefined what he can be for me. Writing Superman isn’t about trying to angst him up, it’s about letting him be so warm and amazing, and contrasting that with a world that can never quite match up.

Grant said that he doesn’t do as many drugs as he used to during the ‘90s. While writing The Invisibles, he used himself as a laboratory, and the drug experiments were a part of that. Much of it was about trying to get back to what he experienced in Kathmandu, when he was abducted and showed the whole of time. He talked about that experience as well, he said everything was so much more clear there than in our reality. But, later on, he rebuked Gnostic philosophy, with its focus on the Manichaean. He quoted The Invisibles, saying that the material world is the piece of heaven that we can touch.

Speaking of The Invisibles, he said that he wasn’t going to do the new Invisibles book he was talking about a couple of years ago. He said when there’s a movie called 2012 coming out, it’s time to move on. That’s obviously a bit disappointing for me, but I don’t think there’s anything that could be added to The Invisibles. I’d love to see the characters again, but I don’t need to.

I do hope that some of his new creator owned work is personal in the way The Invisibles was. Seven Soldiers and All Star Superman feel very autobiographical, all about grappling with the issues he’s facing as he gets older. But, his other recent stuff, like 52, Batman, or The Authority was pretty much just good superhero stuff. Not every work can be a profound experience, but I’d still love to see one.

He discussed growing up, and how his three biggest influences were The Beatles, The Buzzcocks and the Sex Pistols. He said his favorite musical genre was psychedelic pop, three minute songs that take you away to another world. I think that’s as good a description of his comics as any, it gets to the core of what makes his stuff so special. So much work that’s meant to be philosophical is just kind of preachy and boring. Plato came up with that awesome allegory of the cave, if he was writing that today, he could have made it into a superhero story and it would be a lot of fun to read. Just because something’s pop and fun doesn’t mean it isn’t emotionally or intellectually significant.

Thinking of The Invisibles, I love the intricate philosophical conundrums presented by John a Dreams, but I also love the simple joy of Jack and Fanny dancing in San Francisco or King Mob marveling at the music playing in Dulce when he’s escaping. That’s what makes the book so special, I called it the pop avant garde, he calls it psychedelic pop, whatever it is, it’s great.

He said that he was working on Pop Magic, and should finish it soon or he might die under mysterious circumstances. He also said he’d never write an autobiography since “you wouldn’t believe it,” and it’s already written in the comics. As for Final Crisis, he reiterated that it will feature “everyone,” and for him at least, it will be the final crisis, and his final work at DC for the time being.

And, was Alan Moore the villain of Seven Soldiers? I believe Grant said not necessarily, but you could see it that way. One funny bit, while waiting on the line to get his autograph, I saw his bag, and the book contained within? Exit Interviews with Alan Moore. The bearded man’s face looked out from under the table, hidden away, but still present. Where's the beard hunter when you need him?

After the panel ended, I got some stuff signed by him and asked about the fate of Indestructible Man, the rumored third part of the hypersigil trilogy, which he was going to do with Frank Quitely. He said that it was too much of a downer of a story so he left it behind, and he and Frank are going to do a different project, a superhero comic, then another creator owned project, but that can’t be announced yet. I’m guessing when he said superhero comic, he meant a corporate owned one, but that would seem to conflict with him leaving DC. Perhaps it’s a Batman arc?

Either way, in the next couple of years, it sounds like we’re going to get a lot of great series. War Cop and Atomika Bomb sound cool, Final Crisis seems to be the culmination of fifteen years of DCU work, and eventually we’ll get new creator owned series with Frank Quitely and J.H. Williams. That will be a great day.

I hope Grant passes through New York again at some point not too far away. It’s always fun to see him speak, and I’m getting a bit spoiled. I’ve seen him three times in the past two years, and at this point am accumulating quite a collection of signed stuff.

New York Comicon: Day 1

The first day of my trip to the New York Comicon was a lot of fun, I didn’t get too much insider info, or attend any of the panels, but I got to talk to a bunch of creators I wanted to talk to, and had a good time wandering around. The show was pretty huge, and while crowded, it wasn’t too overcrowded. I’m guessing tomorrow will be busier, but today had a pretty manageable crowd.

When I first got in, I wandered around for a while, taking in the scene. I’d never been to a con this big, so I took full advantage of the freebies offered by DC, snagging a couple of nice looking Final Crisis posters, as well as a bunch of free comics, comics I actually wanted to read like Young Liars and Northlanders. I picked up a couple of cheap trades as well, then wandered around Artist’s Alley.

Eventually, I got a sketch from Yanick Paquette. He was really great, and spent about a half hour drawing the sketch and talking about working with Grant and Alan Moore. He said that an Alan Moore script is notable because it contains so much, ninety to a hundred pages for a twenty page comic book. In writing, he offers you various options about how to do the scene, and then at the end says “Or whatever you think is best, along with background on the philosophy and history behind the work. So, that when you’re finished reading it, you’ve thoroughly thought the scene through and understand what he wants.

He went on to say how the Grant scripts for Bulleteer were short, about five pages, and would feature occasional random words written in huge red letters. Hearing him speak, it sounded like the whole Seven Soldiers project was a bit out of control and Grant was making it up as he went along because Bulleteer changed so thoroughly from what he had originally been pitched. I think that’s part of what the work was, as it became less seven discrete miniseries and more one large story told in the background of seven smaller ones. But, he said that the short Grant script also made him think because he had to assess the situation more deeply then someone who told him exactly what to draw.

Next I headed over to the DC booth to get some stuff signed by Grant. I had him sign the Bulleteer sketch Yanick had just done, and the aforementioned Final Crisis posters. I told him what Yanick had said about the Bulleteer script and he said that it was insane, he would never write a five page script for a twenty page comic. So, I don’t know what to believe. I got a picture taken with Grant as well, he was very cool. Hopefully I’ll be able to hear him speak again tomorrow, at his spotlight panel.

After that, I wandered around a bit more, eventually stopping at Artist’s Alley once again to get a sketch from Phil Jiminez. Phil draw Ragged Robin for me, a really pretty piece. I talked to him about The Invisibles a bit. He was also very cool, it’s amazing to me that these artists do so many sketches for free. It’s great for fans, I do love that the medium is small enough that you can talk to the people who made these amazing stories. The Invisibles is my favorite work of fiction of all time, and I got the chance to talk to the writer and one of the major artists in the same day. Chris Weston is also supposed to be there, but he’s apparently at the Splash Page comics booth, not his own booth, so I didn’t see him today, hopefully tomorrow.

After that I wandered around a bit more, then the con was shutting down, so I left. I’ll be back in action tomorrow, hopefully I’ll check out a couple of panels and talk to some more people. On the one hand, it obviously is a bit of a geeky thing to go wander around this con, but it’s fun for me, and I enjoyed seeing the people who dressed up and had fun with it. Our real world is too boring, wouldn’t it be cooler to live in one where Stormtroopers and Jedi and Superman walk around with the rest of us?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

New York Comicon This Weekend!

This weekend, I’m taking my first day off from work since August to attend the New York Comicon on Friday and Saturday. I was at school when this happened last year, the last con I went to was at Madison Square Garden back in 2003, and it sounds like that pales in comparison to what’s going on here. The guest list is ridiculous, virtually every major comic book writer is making an appearance, and a huge amount of artists will be around as well, a lot of people I’d love to meet. So, I’m pretty excited, the major issue for me now is figuring out which of the panels I’ll actually be able to get to.

Obviously, I’m hoping to check out a bunch of the panels with Grant Morrison. I’ve seen him speak a couple of times, and it’s always fun. Final Crisis is sounding more and more intriguing, and it looks like we’ll get the announcement of some new creator owned projects as well, so it’ll be a great time. All Star Superman has been fantastic, but Grant’s been in a bit of a lull since Seven Soldiers ended. Hopefully the new creator owned stuff will be just as good as the wave of We3 and Seaguy.

I’m also hoping to check out the X-Files 2 panel, and see what Chris Carter has to say. And, I feel like I should see at least one panel with Stan Lee, and some of the other old timers at the con, since it’s not likely they’ll be doing many more cons. It’s crazy to think that the people who created comics as we know it are still alive and will be at this con.

I’ve got to go through all the panels and set out some kind of plan, but I’ll probably spend most of my time just wandering around, talking with the artists and meeting some people I know from the online world. If nothing else, I’ve got to get an Invisibles sketch from Chris Weston. I’d also love to hunt down a decent copy of Rebuild of Evangelion.

If anyone reading this is going to be attending, let me know and I’ll keep an eye out for you. As I said, I won’t be based at a booth or anything, but I’ll be around and am always up for some con-versation. I know a bunch of sci-fi fans in real life, my dad’s seen all of Buffy, Doctor Who, Battlestar, etc., but there’s not too many places where I can get into an in depth discussion of Morrison’s work, or Claremont’s X-Men. And if anywhere’s the place, this will be it.

And, if you’re not going, expect full coverage on the blog. It won’t be the exhaustive kind of stuff you’d get at Newsarama, but you’ll hear what things are like on the ground, and what makes an impact on me.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Battlestar Galactica - "Six of One" (4x02)

So far, this season of Battlestar Galactica has been a bit frustrating. Each episode has had some great scenes, but I’m not feeling a lot of momentum. The tagline for the season is “All will be revealed,” but I usually find stories based on ‘revelations’ to be a bit tiresome. The reason I dropped Lost was because it was all about teasing out the big answers, and not about watching the characters grow. The axis of causality wasn’t what characters did, but an extratextual authrotiy that decides when it’s time for the characters to know something.

This worked last season with the cylon revelation because of the presentation. From a storytelling perspective, it’s pretty poor, some music starts playing and all of a sudden we find out four random characters are actually cylons. But, because it’s played with the insane camera angles and churning score, it works. The production overwhelms the flaws in the writing. But, now we don’t have that much narrative momentum. We basically have characters hitting the same beats over and over again, beats that may be necessary for the characters, but aren’t that much fun to watch as a viewer.

Look at Starbuck. She’s forced to play this same “We’re going the wrong way” line over and over again. I love Starbuck, but I think putting her in this position strips her of a lot of the energy that makes her work. I want to see the unhinged authority thwarting pilot who appeared briefly at the end of last episode, when she decided to go bust Roslin. Or, you could go in a different direction, and have her be a more grudgingly spiritual person, who must believe now. To some extent, that’s what happened, but it’s played in such a way that she gets a bit annoying.

And, I think there’s a lot of potential problems with sending her on a scouting mission to find Earth, primarily the fact that she can’t actually find it for a while. The show isn’t one to permanently mess with its status quo, so I don’t see them reaching Earth until near the end of the series. What will she do for the rest of the time? And, won’t it hurt the show to have her away from everyone else. The Helo subplot in season one was great because it let us learn about the cylons, but what will this subplot show us? Though, I suppose I should wait until the plot actually gets going before judging it.

The acting in this episode felt a bit off for me as well. Sackhoff is usually great, but I just wasn’t feeling it this episode. The same for Roslin and Adama, I felt an awareness of the performance in a way I usually don’t on the show. It might be the writing, since everyone was a bit off. The characters are forced to talk in circles around the same issues, and there’s no sense of forward momentum. There’s virtually no narrative at this point, it’s just examining what’s happened already. I don’t really have a sense of what the season will be about, beyond the vague idea of looking for Earth.

The stuff over on the cylons was better, but also struggled with the fact that it was pretty much just people talking. I loved the scenes where Cavil watches Sharon twirl around, and the use of that same cylon music cue is hypnotic. But, again, I felt like the production was covering up for the fact that there’s not that much of substance there. We’ve got some dissent in the cylon ranks, and a Six taking the lead. There’s lots of story potential there, but it only begins here.

What did work superbly was the stuff with Baltar, particularly the scene with Tori. I love how Baltar is starting to believe his own lie, and maybe at this point it’s not really a lie anymore. I find it strange when people call Baltar a villain, he may be a sleaze, but he’s human and vulnerable in a way that Adama and Roslin aren’t. They’re out to oppress this guy who’s been the victim of many awful circumstances, maybe I should hate him, but I just don’t.

But, good Baltar is countered by a seemingly endless string of scenes saying good bye to Lee. Lee is to this show what Riley was to Buffy, a one dimensional character in a multi-dimensional world. I thought he left the military already, why are they doing this whole party for him? I was talking with someone yesterday and she was saying how you can tell a lot about someone’s personality by who they came out of “Unfinished Business” liking, Lee or Kara. I had no love for Lee.

So, it’s not a great episode, pieces are still moving into place, and I’m not feeling much forward progress. But, I’m sure things will pick up eventually. And, at least Baltar’s still great.