Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Day at Phoenix Comic Con

Karen: Hey kids! Well it's summer in Phoenix and that means the thermometer is rising above 100 degrees every day now, but that didn't stop us from having a great big ole comic con this last weekend. The Phoenix Comic Con has really become quite a show -almost too much of a show! We went on Saturday and the crowds were unbelievable (I had heard that 55,000 attendees were expected for the four day show!), but we still had an enjoyable time.

I went to three panels that took up most of my day. Just navigating from the dealers room downstairs to the meeting rooms upstairs was a challenge. But each panel I went to was fun in its own way.

First up in the ballroom was a reunion of the cast of the 1966 Batman TV show. Adam West, Burt Ward, and Julie Newmar appeared together and were clearly having a lot of fun. Because the traffic around the convention center was so thick, they were delayed more than half an hour, so their time was limited. Both West and Newmar, while entertaining, seemed to be off in the upper atmosphere, while poor Burt Ward had to ground the panel. But one thing was obvious -they all really loved working on the Batman TV show. My picture is poor because I had to take it from the monitor -I couldn't get close to the stage. The auditorium was filled to the gills to see these childhood idols!

Later I attended the "Wolverine -the Most Dangerous Mutant" panel with Chris Claremont and Len Wein. Boy, was this an interesting panel! It's hard to distill it down into a few sentences. These writers had some great stories and insights to share, about Wolverine and the other X-Men. Claremont felt the Wolverine "Origin" story was unnecessary, saying the character should always remain a mystery. He doesn't need to be explained -it's enough that he is who he is. He spoke about the scene in X-Men #99, where Wolverine's claws are revealed to be part of his body and not part of his gloves. "You never told us," Jean says. "You didn't ask," Wolverine responds. That, Claremont said, was the essence of the character. He doesn't volunteer anything. The reader should get some tantalizing glimpses but no more. He also felt that Wolverine should always have to struggle to restrain his feral side. When asked what was the point when Wolverine became a star, both Wein and Claremont said it was when John Byrne came on board the title, since he favored the character above all others on the team. Wein said he'd intended Colossus to be the star of the team! That didn't quite work out. It was a lively discussion and well worth listening to.

Later I saw author Kevin Hearne, whose Iron Druid Chronicles is a delightfully entertaining urban fantasy series. He and authors Brian McClellan and Zachary Jernigan discussed the dos and don'ts of  fantasy world building. The con had a number of panels focusing on writers which I would have liked to have attended if I'd had more time.

Rounding out my day, I got to briefly meet legendary comics artist Mike Grell, and purchase a signed print from him. Although he was selling many different works, I had to go for a Legion of Super-Heroes one (he had three). The one I chose features star-crossed lovers Wildfire and Dawnstar. I thanked Mr.Grell and told him that when I first began buying Legion, it was during his time on the book, and he's still my favorite Legion artist. He said his Legion fans are always the most loyal. He said DC will be bringing the title back. We discussed how mishandled the book had been, and he said he felt it was really a gateway book for readers. I agreed, saying it was my first DC comic, and it was the combination of teen-age super-heroes and outer space that drew me in. He waved his hand and said, "There you go." He was really friendly and a pleasure to speak with.

All in all, a fun but very busy day. I think next year I'll have to plan to attend two days! This show is really taking off. A far cry from when it was held in a small hotel. I heard a number of people say this was their alternative to going to the San Diego Con. It's not at that level yet -still no big corporate presence -and maybe that's a good thing! Although the show was jam-packed with folks, it was still possible to get in and see most everything. That's a plus in my book. And each year, they seem to be drawing a better level of guests. So I'm looking forward to 2015 and what the show may bring.


dbutler16 said...

Interesting show! I agree with Claremont that Wolverine (and Boba Fett) should not have his origin fully revealed, as the mystery of the character is part of the appeal.

That Grell print looks awesome! The Legion of Super-Heroes was my second DC comic (after the JLA) but was the first one I really fell in love with, in large part because I came on board during Earthwar. Either Grell or Cockrum, or Greg LaRocque, is my favorite Legion artist, but, speaking of Grell, since you started reviewing The Death of a Prince yesterday, I have to say that I preferred Grell's art to Aparo's art in that TPB, and that is high praise indeed!

Edo Bosnar said...

Karen, nice convention report. I'm glad you had a good time, and the panels sound really cool. (And on a sidenote: I'd love to see Julie Newmar in person, regardless of her age...).
Also, I have to say I agree with Wein about Colossus. Back in the Claremont/Byrne/Austin heyday, he was my favorite X-man together with Cyclops.
Love the Grell print, too. And it's cool that you got to chat with him for a bit. One of the good things about the local comics show (too small to be called a convention) here in Zagreb is that you can often sit down and have an actual conversation with the various comics creators that show up. That's how I got to spend a little time with Howard Chaykin a few years back, at which time he drew me a sketch (for free!) and signed a few of my books. However, the guests at the Zagreb are mostly European, especially Italians. For example, one of this year's main attractions was Paolo Eleuteri Serpieri (best known, I think, for his Drunna stories. I was going to be a smart aleck and ask him to draw me a spaceship or something, but I didn't get a chance, because the local SF convention was going on the same weekend, and since I was covering both events for my radio job, and I was running back and forth and missed out on a lot of good stuff...

david_b said...

Karen, great con review.. One of my new pledges is to attend more.

I've commissioned a well-known costumer to make me a vintage BSG colonial warrior uniform as we speak. Pricey, but I'd like the best tailored work done. I'm a bit tall to fit into an actual Viper cockpit, but it's SUCH a cool uniform (buying the weapon and motorcycle boots separately..), and lots cheaper than going as a Cylon (plus less chance of scarin' the dog..).

Would love to meet the Batman cast, I got a cool autograph from Mr. West back in '86 when he came to UW-Milwaukee. He had such an awesome handshake.

Anonymous said...

Now that's a headline: DOG BITES CYLON.

That would get me reading papers again.

The Prowler (now delivers bagels and mochas).

Dr. Oyola said...

Thanks for the report, Karen!

I have never been to a comic convention. I was considering going to the new "Special Edition: NYC" this weekend (a smaller con run by the NYC Comic Con people, but JUST about comics), but I could find no one to go with me, and then it turned out we have to go to a wedding on the 14th anyway. . . maybe next year.

I mostly want to go to go through vendor long boxes - I am less interested in panels - BUT that Wein/Claremont panels sounds like it was really interesting. I think you would be hard pressed to find anyone on this blog who would disagree that Wolverine's origin should have remained a mystery.

Thanks again!

Garett said...

Sounds like a great time Karen! I agree about keeping Wolverine's history a mystery. Fans will want to know everything, but hints and mystery engage the imagination.

Nice Grell drawing! I met him at the Edmonton convention last year. He was busy drawing a Green Arrow commission and I didn't want to bother him, but he said no problem, and started telling me stories about the comic business, working on Warlord and Jon Sable, his Sable novel and the Sable and Arrow tv series--all while I watched him draw! Friendly guy and natural storyteller.

I also got to meet Chad Coleman, Tyreese on Walking Dead. My girlfriend is a big fan of the show, but I hadn't seen it yet, so the first thing she said to Coleman was, "My boyfriend doesn't know who you are." He looked at me, shook my hand and said, "She just threw you under the bus, buddy!"

Dr. Oyola said...

Garret! You need to watch The Wire!

That is where I know him from. . I think he first shows up Season 3, but in my opinion it is the best TV show of all time (second only to Twilight Zone, perhaps)

Edo Bosnar said...

Yeah, I'm with Osvaldo on that one - I had to look Chad Coleman up, and then said to myself, "oh yeah, the boxing gym guy from The Wire!"

Karen said...

I wish I could have had more time to look around. I know Herb Trimpe was supposed to be there, but I barely got to look around the dealer's room, because I was running off to panels. I was lucky to find Mike Grell, and even he wasn't at his booth when I got there! Luckily he had just stepped out and was back within ten minutes. I would have loved to talk with him longer but I had to run off.

The Claremont/Wein panel was highly entertaining, and I think most everyone in the BAB community would agree with what these two comics legends had to say about the 'runt.' I'm going to try to whip up another post riffing off of that panel. I think it's easy for us to dismiss Wolverine now, since he has become over-played, but there really was a time when he was an exciting character.

Garett said...

I've never seen The Wire, but it looks like I'll have to now! Thanks Osvaldo and Edo.

Humanbelly said...

Karen, am I correct that the 2nd big cosplay fellow there is Swamp Thing? Man, there's an ambitious costume!

The Iron Man outfit is really first-rate, too.

HBSon & I had such a fantastically great time at the DiscWorldCon (NADWC) last summer, that I do think I/we'll be trying to get to a few more as they pop up locally. Crowding, though, does seem to be a consistent issue. DC had a thing called AwesomeCon earlier this spring at our big convention center, and they had to close it down due to over-crowding at one point. The turnout far exceeded expectations.

In Julie Newmar's sort-of defense, I seem to recall that she's always had a bit of a reputation for being sort of delightfully on her own planet. An incredibly (almost frighteningly) intelligent woman, and known for being kind and genuine and professional and funny and certainly talented. . . but always kinda running along on her own track. Gosh, she still looks lovely in your photo.

HB (still remembering her from here one appearance on Star Trek:TOS)

Anonymous said...

Wow Karen you sure had a great time there at the Phoenix Con. I've only attended one comics convention down here in T & T years ago. It was a small affair (no 55,000 atendees here!) and the thing I remember vividly was two cosplayers dressed as some sort of Manga characters. Don't ask me which ones 'cause I was never into that stuff myself.

It was a very small event but for me it was an eye opener as I realized for the first time there were actually people who shared my strange love of comics. When I was there I kept thinking 'these are my people!'.

- Mike 'say hello to Mr. Grell for me' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Edo Bosnar said...

HB, on Julie Newmar, I've actually heard the opposite, i.e., that she's sharp as a razor. I know I've read before (and don't ask me to look it up, I spend enough time shirking work as it is) that she's a pretty shrewd businesswoman who made a fortune in real estate and also patented a design for some kind of pantyhose.

Humanbelly said...

Oh, yeah, edo-- that does ring a bell, too, and fits with what I was thinking of. Definitely not a "ditzy" personality, 'cause she's so smart and self-assured.

I think. . . my whole initial take on her may have been a profile in one of my Grandma's old TV/Radio Mirror magazines in, like, 1971 (an early celebzine)-- so let's assume my sources are a touch out of date-- (heh)


Karen said...

HB - I don't think that fella was doing Swamp Thing but some sort of freaky scarecrow of his own creation. Whatever it was, it was a hit. Everyone was stopping him for pictures. Oh, and could you tell he was on stilts? Now that's a brave guy, to make his way through the throngs of people up that way!

Julie Newmar did seem smart -she commented on how the TV Batman was all about fun, and the modern Batman is so dark and depressing -and that both Batmen reflected their times. She came across more as a free, free spirit than anything else. Adam West was very goofy and silly, but he had a lot of fun with the fans. They all just seemed really pleased to be there.

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