Bob’s Top 10: San Diego Comic Con International 2015

SDCC - Convention Center


I had a GREAT time at San Diego Comic Con International 2015.  It was my 26th year at the show and this time around I really focused on attending panels instead of buying stuff down on the show floor (though I did by a few things…)

I’ve said it before and will say it again: Every person going to this show can have a completely different experience.  It speaks to both the breadth and depth of content at this con that there are so many options for attendees.  That said, a lot of people like to complain about the con.  They’re free to do so.  If you want to do the exact same thing as 50,000 other people then there is going to be a problem that usually manifests itself in long lines.  That’s a challenge faced by people who go to the show for celebrity sightings and watching movie trailers.  Fortunately for me, I was there exclusively for comic book content.  That put me in the company of probably less than 10% of the attendees, as a result, I didn’t really wait lines.  The benefit of having fairly eclectic tastes, I guess.

I waited in line exactly 3 times:

  1.  On preview night I wanted my Life & Times of Scrooge McDuck Artists Edition signed by creator Don Rosa.  I got there about 10 minutes before the signing started, was the 1st person in line, and waited 10 minutes for Don to show up at which point I had a really nice conversation with him along with the other 2 people in line.  Most people were probably in line buying exclusive toys somewhere.
  2. I wanted my Elfquest: The Final Quest HC signed by Wendy & Richard Pini.  I showed up for their signing at the Dark Horse booth about 10 minutes before it started and was about #8 in line.   Wendy & Richard showed up about 5 minutes early and chatted with all of us in line while they were setting up.  This was pretty cool, Elfquest was my first indie comic and I started with issue #6 in January 1980.  Wendy & Richard were delightful and very forthcoming with their fans, holding what amounted to an impromptu Q&A and panel with everyone in line.
  3. When I showed up for the “Art of the Cover” panel on Sunday I wasn’t able to walk directly into the room because the previous panel in the room was for the Children’s Hospital TV show.  Had to line up for about 5 minutes until that panel ended and the room emptied out.  Then the 50 or so people who had queued to see 5 comic artists talk about their cover art filed in and had a good selection of seating in the panel room.

My goal for the show was to attend 25 panels over the 4 days Thursday through Sunday.  That was well more than I have ever attended before and in the end I attended 27 panels.  I also walked 22 miles over the course of the convention (4 miles short of a marathon!) and the experiences I had while walking that distance were priceless.  I talked to a lot of comics professionals – Sergio Aragones, Tom Yeates, Wendy & Richard Pini , Mark Waid, Richard Starkings, Tula Lotay, Jimmie Robinson, Buzz, Don Rosa, Victor Gorelick, Jon Goldwater, Scott Dunbier, Chip Zdarsky, Dan Schkade, Douglas Paszkiewicz, Nate Powell, Chris Staros, Kevin Freeman, Batton Lash, David Dwonch, Steve Bryant, and I’m sure more that I’m forgetting.  Having a chance to interact with pros is one of my favorite things about a convention.

I did so many great things it’s hard to boil it down to just a top 10, but people like Top 10 Lists, so I’m going to give it a shot:

10: Spotlight on Jeff Smith

10 - Tuki page layouts 10 - Tuki page pencils

10 - Tuki page inks

Tuki Images Copyright: Jeff Smith

Jeff is very engaging with the audience and provided a lot of great process talk. Smith talked a lot about many things, including how he came up with Fone Bone as a kid.  He also did some in depth discussion of his latest project Tuki (including handing out a free signed copy of a collected edition of Tuki #1-3).  Above are 3 pictures of the evolution of a page from Tuki.  It was cool to hear Smith describing how he concentrates on faces and body language at the pencil step because that is key to conveying the ‘acting’ of the characters.

9: Spotlight on Jonathan Hickman

09 - Jonathan Hickman

Photo CREDIT: Bob Bretall

Hickman started out on the right foot by walking up to the microphone solo and announcing there would be no moderator because it adds a buffer between him and the audience that doesn’t add much value.  He asked if people would prefer he do work for Marvel, do work for DC, or concentrate on his own stuff from Image then opened it up for audience questions, asking that each person preface their question by answering HIS question: Marvel, DC, or Image.  Image was the overwhelming preference of the audience.  For fans of #EastOfWest he confirmed it will run 50 issues and he knows how it ends including the last words.

8: Chuck Rozanski conversation

08 - Chuck Rozanski conversation

Photo CREDIT: Bob Bretall

I’ve long taken issue with Mile High Comics  home-brewed grading standards that allow for tears up into Near Mint condition.  That said, ComicSpectrum reviewer Shawn Hoklas pointed me at some of Mile High owner Chuck Rozanski’s YouTube videos and in watching them I got some new respect for the man because he really seemed to love comics.  When I had the chance to stop and chat with him at the Mile High booth at the convention, the guy who made those videos came to life.  This man was the genuine article and over the course of a fairly long conversation where he positively oozed a love for comics, I now have a much better appreciation for how he does business.  He pointed out to me that if he wanted to retire with millions of $$ he could just sell off his real estate and live the high life.  If he can cover his business and living expenses and end the year owning more comics than he started the year with, he’s just fine with that.  He’s happy to be a curator for a massive inventory of comics.  He has a buying concept much like my own (though I want 1 of each unique item and he’ll snag up lots and LOTS of any single item):  If he doesn’t have it, he wants it.  That’s why you can frequently find really odd and hard-to-find items at Mile High.  BUT, you won’t find him blowing out inventory at rock bottom prices.  He thinks comics deserve the respect of having a fair monetary value attached to them.  This can work against collectors looking for the cheapest possible price, but he definitely has the selection.

7: Meeting & talking to Don Rosa

07 - Don Rosa

Photo CREDIT: Bob Bretall

Don is a great guy to talk to, we flipped through the Artist’s Edition and mine was the 2nd copy he ever signed (that was part of how he signed it, too!)  He said he wouldn’t change a thing about the AE, and really thinks it came out nice.  The AE includes not only the art, but also Don’s storyboards. It was interesting to hear him say that while he sells most of his original art to make the extra money, he knew the Life & Tomes story was going to be something special so he kept all that art, which made it easy to pull this spectacular edition together.

6: Chip Zdarsky panel

06 - Chip Zdarsky

Photo CREDIT: Bob Bretall

Zany is the best word to describe Chip Zdarsky.  It’s no wonder he can create such wonderfully humorous comics, he seems to always be “on” at conventions.  Mugging for the camera and generally seeming to be having a generally fun time with his fans.  Chip is going to be working on the relaunch of the Jughead series over at Archie and this guy IS Jughead, so it’s a match made in comic heaven.  Mark Waid (my favorite comic writer and currently doing the Archie relaunch among other things) was in the audience at this panel went up to ask Chip a question.  I jumped in line behind Mark who I know from his days as Editor-In-Chief over at BOOM! where I’d interview him fairly regularly.

06 - Waid & Bob at Zdarsky panel

Photo CREDIT: Bob Bretall

Mark: “Chip, who is your favorite member of the Justice Society?”
<< a bit of banter followed about characters like Mister Terrific & Dr Midnight, then >>
Chip: “Is Superman in the Justice Society?”
Mark: “No.”
Chip: “Then, Superman!”

5: Archie Forever panel

05 - Archie Forever

Photo CREDIT: Bob Bretall

Archie CEO Jon Goldwater is doing some great things with Archie.  He’s willing to really shake things up and bring in top industry talent on relaunching Archie’s iconic teen titles while also treading new ground over the past couple of years with what has now become the Archie Horror line.  Hearing the whole team talk about what’s in store for Archie was pretty exciting.  If you told me 3 years ago that I’d not only be far more excited about what was coming out from Archie than I was for DC, but I’d also be buying and reading more Archie titles than DC, I’d have told you that you were insane.  But here we are in 2015 and I’m buying and enjoying more from Archie than I am from DC.  Your Mileage May Vary, but Archie is definitely worth checking out!

4: Unpublished EC 3-D Comic Revealed

04 - Unpublished EC 3-D Comic

Photo CREDIT: Bob Bretall

EC did a few 3-D comics in the 1950s during the 3-D craze and one was created that was not published at the time because of the Comics Code and the resultant dissembling of EC’s avant-garde comics.  Though published many years later in as regular comics, we got to see the 3-D originals spring to life thanks to the 3-D glasses passed out at the panel, and a 4th dimension of sound was added in the form of a full cast audio performance by Captured Aural Phantasy Theater.  They helped bring the stories by Al Williamson, Reed Crandall, and Wally Wood to life!  This goes into my “only at Comic Con” category and was wonderful!

3: The Super Type of Ira Schnapp

03 - Arlen Schumer 03 - Schnapp flyer

Getting schooled on the man who hand designed almost all of DC’s silver age logos by Arlen Schumer. Schnapp also designed the DC house ads and letters on a lot of public buildings in NYC, as well as the Comics Code seal.  This was a real eye-opening lecture delivered with Schumer’s signature enthusiasm that revealed a lot of information about an unfortunately little known man who played a key role in the Silver Age of comics.  I’m really happy that I attended this panel and would heartily recommend that anyone hear Schumer speak whenever they get a chance.  He has a passion for what he talks about and mixes entertainment with learning wrapped in a really eye-pleasing package that keeps the audiences attention from start to finish.

03 - Schnapp house ads


Schumer had a whole section on DC’s house ads that was really an eye-opener.  I know I’m going to be paying closer attention to these gems the next time I crack open a DC back issue from the 1960s.

2: The Zone Show – Jack Kirby Interview

02 - Jack Kirby interview

In the early 1980s Ray Zone had a cable access show in Santa Monica, CA.  In October 1984 he interviewed Jack Kirby and it was broadcast once in November 1984.  I cannot imagine it had that large an audience and it has not been seen since.  Discovered in a garage among Ray’s effects, the show was transferred to digital media and was shown at the con, seen by an audience for the first time in over 30 years.  This was a cable access show and was done on a shoestring budget.  The production values were really pretty laughably cheap and the comics being superimposed on the screen didn’t match the topics being covered (though they were at least samples of Jack’s work).  The thing that couldn’t help but to shine through was Jack Kirby himself, the King of Comics.  Hearing Jack talk about his art, his history, and his work ethic was a real treat.  Hopefully this will be made available where more people will be able to see it.

1: March w/Congressman John Lewis

01 - March panel

Photo CREDIT: Bob Bretall

March is something special.  It’s my favorite work of long form graphic fiction from the past couple of years.  It’s both a moving personal history and a socially significant work. Everyone should read it, and it gets my unreserved endorsement.  The opportunity to hear Congressman John Lewis speak?  I was all in!   This panel was on my “must not miss” list.  Congressman Lewis is an exceptionally moving speaker.

01 - John Lewis

Photo CREDIT: Bob Bretall

He received a standing ovation from the crowd as he stepped up to the podium. I was touched by his words, I was touched by his work, and I am grateful that he put this story down on paper (for which, I discovered here, we have his co-author Andrew Aydin to thank).  Congressman Lewis was cosplaying: he was wearing a replica of the trench coat and backpack he wore 50 years ago in Selma.  Aydin himself (who works in Congressman Lewis’ office) has a bright future in politics, if his public speaking here was any indication.  He had to follow Congressman Lewis, which was no easy feat, and he handled it admirably.  Finally, artist Nate Powell took the podium and talked about working on the project.  He finished off with an anecdote about watching Congressman Lewis on the Daily show that brought a tear to my eye.  In fact, all 3 speakers had me tearing up.  That’s not something that is a normal occurrence at Comic Con, but it was a good thing.  This was a unique panel.  Congressman Lewis finished it off inviting the audience to march with him down to the show floor.  With a group of third graders up front with him he led a mass of people down to his signing at the Oni Press booth.  Congressman Lewis and the entire team from March “won comic con” in my eyes.  This panel was truly the highlight of the show for me.


There we have it, my “Top 10″.  There was a lot more I really loved at con this year.  I attended several great creator spotlight panels that didn’t quite make it in the top 10 featuring Eric Stephenson, David Petersen, David Aja, Terry Moore, Richard Starkings. And there were a number of other really unique and enjoyable experiences all related to comics.  Not the exact same experience someone else would have, but it was mine and I loved every minute of it.

Bob Bretall: Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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San Diego Comic Con 2015: A Wealth of Panels


I’ve talked before about how Comic Con International: San Diego is the hands-down best convention for panel content.  There are 100s of panels again this year and for the people who love Hollywood and pop culture that is tangentially related to the actual comic books, it’s a treasure trove.  That’s what many people focus on, and more power to them!  If that’s what you enjoy, there is so much to choose from most people will have a hard time picking what to see.  And if you want to see the BIG stuff in Hall H or Ballroom 20?  Well, I see people online talking about camping out strategies to get into their favorite panels.

On the other hand, San Diego CCI has more comic book content than any other convention also.  This means a very strong showing from the super-hero houses of Marvel & DC, and the Marvel/DC panels will no doubt be packed.  But what I really appreciate is that since SDCC is a fan oriented not-for-profit convention they still put on panels devoted to indie comics and other fringe topics that won’t draw big crowds, but that I love nonetheless.  I have often attended panels that have 100 people or less in the room (sometimes as few as 10 or 20).  Those are the kinds of panels that are cut and never run again at most cons.  Not so for SDCC.  If there are people interested, they try to squeeze them in amongst the 100s of offerings.


So, what does my panel schedule look like this year (this link points to my schedule on the CCI MySched App, it’s actually really cool because it’s also in an App on my phone and imported into my calendar)?  I had some tough choices to make!  There were a lot of timing conflicts where I had to choose one thing over another because there were multiple things I really want to see in the same time slots.  I still have some overlaps on my schedule, I’ll need to make some choices as the con gets closer, and sometimes I make a choice based on what room has a big line and which one I can just walk right into.  Since I have some fairly eclectic tastes, I am fortunate in that I rarely have a big line to wait in.

Here’s what’s on my agenda for this year (and I have very few open slots to be wandering around the dealer floor!)  My goal is to attend 25 panels.  My stretch goal is 30 panels!!

If you’re at the con and attending any of these panels, keep an eye out for me and say “Hi!”


10:00 – 11:00 Rm 29AB
Up, Up and Away: 75th Anniversary of the 1940 Premiere of the Superman Radio Series
Former DC Comics president Paul Levitz (World’s Finest), Len Wein (creator of Swamp Thing and Wolverine), Mark Waid (The Flash, Captain America), and moderator Anthony Tollin (Smithsonian Superman on Radio) discuss the legendary radio program that introduced Jimmy Olsen, Perry White, Kryptonite, and the Superman-Batman team into the Superman mythos, and its importance in expanding the Man of Steel’s popularity.

11:00 – 12:00 –> FREE!

12:00 – 1:00 Rm 30CDE
CBLDF: Spinner Rack Revolution: The Secret History of Free Speech in Magazine Comics
In the 1960s and ’70s, publishers fled from spinner racks to magazine stands to escape the bounds of the Comics Code Authority. While comic books continued to labor under the stigma of low-value, juvenile speech, the larger-format magazine comics broke out, giving artists a safe haven to openly deal with adult content, provide more horror and suspense, and be frank about sexuality. Magazines like Mad, Creepy, and Eerie paved the way for a generation of titles that included Heavy Metal, Vampirella, Epic Illustrated, 1984, and Savage Sword of Conan to break new ground for a general audience and loosen the reins on some of comics’ top creators. CBLDF deputy director Alex Cox reveals the untold history of magazine comics, reviewing the impact of publications from Warren, Marvel, Heavy Metal, National Lampoon, and more!

1:00 – 2:00 Rm 2
DeConnick & Fraction: Milkfed Criminal Masterminds @ Work
Lauren Sankovitch (Milkfed managing editor, former Marvel editor) pulls back the curtain on life at Milkfed, what a comic book editor does exactly, and which are truly the best donuts in Portland. Expect utter nonsense, a Q&A, and a parade of special guests who may drop in. Or not. Guess you’ll have to be there to find out!

[overlap] 1:30 – 2:30 Rm 4
First Second: What’s in a Page?
Led by First Second editorial director Mark Siegel, four cartoonists take a close look at their own work and each other’s, looking in depth at the text and art in a single page of comics, and what’s hidden under the surface: panel structure, emotional complexity, and creative influences. With Scott McCloud (The Sculptor), Rafael Rosado (Dragons Beware!), Aron Steinke (The Zoo Box), and Gene Luen Yang ( Secret Coders).

2:00 – 3:00 Rm 23ABC
Image Comics: Where Creators Own the Mainstream
The mainstream is whatever you want it to be. Killer robots, ghosts, absurdist comedy, and space adventures aren’t niche, but in comics, they sometimes are treated like they are. In reality, they’re as mainstream as anything else, thanks to their wide-ranging appeal and the astonishing execution from Kody Chamberlain (Punks), Keenan Marshall Keller (The Humans), Chip Zdarsky (Kaptara), Marjorie Liu (Monstress), Alex Grecian (Rasputin), and Michael Moreci (Roche Limit). Come find your new favorite comic.

[overlap] 3:00 – 4:00 Rm 9
ComicBase/Atomic Avenue User’s Group Meeting
It’s the annual meet-up for users of the world’s #1 program for managing comic collection. ComicBase creator Peter Bickford will be on hand to give a sneak preview of upcoming program features, answer questions, and spill the beans on what’s next for both ComicBase and Atomic Avenue. Get an exclusive look at the new version of ComicBase (whether it’s shipping or not!), find out what’s behind the recent explosion of activity at Atomic Avenue. There’ll also be a prize drawing for some very cool stuff.

[overlap] 3:30 – 4:30 Rm 8
Sergio & Mark Show
The men who bring you Groo the Wanderer show their faces and explain just how and why it is they bring you Groo the Wanderer, as well as other silly comics. It’s the award-winning duo of Sergio Aragonés and Mark Evanier, accompanied by the equally heralded Stan Sakai (creator of Usagi Yojimbo), and coloring whiz Tom Luth (if he can get away); holding court, answering your questions, and doing what they do best, which obviously is not writing little blurbs like this for the Comic-Con Events Guide.

[overlap] 3:30 – 4:30 Rm 4
The One and Only IDW Artist Edition
Join Artist’s Editions editor Scott Dunbier as he leads you on a tour of these big and beautiful books! There will be several announcements, a surprise guest or two, and some good old-fashioned art talk.

4:30 – 5:30 Rm 26AB
The Zone Show: The Jack Kirby Interview
In October of 1984, Ray “3-D” Zone, the “King of 3-D Comic Books,” interviewed comic book legend Jack Kirby on Los Angeles public access TV. Eric Kurland (3-D Space), Randolph Hoppe (The Jack Kirby Museum), and Lawrence Kaufman (National Stereoscopic Association) will be joined by other special guests to discuss the careers of Zone and Kirby and their collaborations, including a rare screening of the entire half-hour 1984 interview; shown publicly for the first time in over 30 years.

5:30 – 6:00 –> FREE

6:00 – 7:00 Rm 5AB
Vertigo: What’s the Story
Vertigo is back in San Diego and ready to blow your mind with trend-setting comics and top-notch talent. From horror, to mythic fiction, to sci-fi, and beyond, see what amazing new ideas are coming your way from the imprint that’s on a mission to defy all your expectations.


10:00 – 11:00 –> FREE

[overlap] 11:00 – 12:00 Rm 32AB
  Something Old, Something New! (or, The Revenge of Classic Comic Collections Panel)
President of IDW Publishing Greg Goldstein reunites the stalwarts (or culprits) of the unprecedented boom in archival publishing for a spirited discussion about the future of classic comic book collections. Joining Greg are LOAC founder and editor Dean Mullaney, renowned comic book historian and editor Craig Yoe, VP of book trade sales at Dark Horse Comics Michael Martens, founder of Sunday Press Peter Maresca, associate publisher of Fantagraphics Eric Reynolds, and IDW senior editor of special projects Scott Dunbier. It’s the golden age of archival collections, and if you crave more, or want to beg these guys to stop, this is the panel for you. Free book for every attendee plus other giveaways; and each and every guest has promised to announce a new project so top secret even the other panelists don’t know about it yet.

[overlap] 11:00 – 12:00 Rm 28DE
Will Eisner: Champion of the Graphic Novel
A breakthrough in the development of the graphic novel, Will Eisner’s A Contract with God was not the first, was not the bestselling, and came before the days of awards, but it is still in print and affecting the explosive growth of comics’ most vibrant format. Join us and learn why he’s Will Eisner, champion of the graphic novel, at a panel moderated by Eisner Award-winner and New York Times bestselling author, Paul Levitz (Will Eisner: Champion of the Graphic Novel), and with panelists Denis Kitchen (The Best of Comix Book, The Art of Harvey Kurtzman), Jeff Smith (RASL, Bone), Sergio Aragonés (Groo, MAD), and Danny Fingeroth (The Stan Lee Universe, Superman on the Couch).

11:30 – 12:30 Rm 8
75th Anniversary of The Shadow and Doc Savage
Michael Uslan (Justice Inc., Batman movie producer) and moderator Anthony Tollin (The Shadow Scrapbook, Sanctum Books publisher) commemorate the 1940 comic book debuts of the legendary pulp heroes that inspired the creation of Batman, Superman, and many more superheroes, as well as the Golden Age talents who brought these pulp greats to four-color life, including Walter B. Gibson, Otto Binder, and Bob Powell.

12:30 – 1:30 Rm 8
Twisted Roots of the Comics Industry
Gerard Jones (Men of Tomorrow), Danny Fingeroth (Disguised as Clark Kent, editor for Marvel Comics), Brad Ricca (Super Boys), and Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson (co-author of a forthcoming bio of Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson) reveal the stories of the gangsters, bootleggers, and eccentric geniuses who founded the comic book business. Moderated by Michael Uslan, producer of the Batman movies.

1:00 – 2:00 Rm 4
Archie Forever
Hot off the blockbuster launch of the first Archie #1 in over 75 years, this is one panel Archie fans can’t miss. Get exclusive news on the Archie Horror titles, the new Jughead ongoing series, and more. The panel features Jon Goldwater (co-CEO/publisher), Victor Gorelick (co-president/editor-in-chief), Mike Pellerito (president), Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (chief creative officer/writer of Afterlife with Archie, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina), Mark Waid (writer of Archie), Dan Parent (writer/artist, Kevin Keller), your favorite Archie writers and artists, with moderator Alex Segura (SVP, publicity and marketing/editor of Dark Circle Comics). Plus, an exclusive gift bag ticket!

2:00 – 3:00 Rm 4
Dynamite’s Spirit Panel Featuring Eisner Award-Winning New Series Writer Matt Wagner!
Dynamite CEO and publisher Nick Barrucci, new series writer Matt Wagner (Grendel, The Shadow), former DC Comics publisher Paul Levitz, and Michael Uslan (film producer and writer of The Boy Who Loved Batman) discuss the creative legacy of industry legend Will Eisner and his most iconic character, The Spirit.

3:00 – 4:00 Rm 28DE
The Terry Moore Panel
Terry Moore talks with Charles Brownstein (CBLDF executive director) about Terry’s upcoming storylines in his current hit series, Rachel Rising, new projects in the coming year, and what he has in store for fans in the future. In his 22nd year at Comic-Con, Terry is a fan favorite and answers any and all questions from the audience. It’s never a dull moment!

4:00 – 5:00 Rm 4
IDW: The Best Panel in Recorded History
This is the big one! Join IDW chief creative officer/editor-in-chief Chris Ryall and VP of marketing Dirk Wood lay waste to a room of shocked comic fans. Panlists include Gabriel Rodriguez, John Layman, James Tynion IV, Ulises Farinas, and special guests. Shocking announcements, amazing prizes, and a Q&A.

5:00 – 7:00 –> FREE

7:00 – 8:00 Rm 25ABC
What the Big Two Don’t Want You to Know
Bleeding Cool’s editor-in-chief Hannah Means-Shannon hosts Rich Johnston and special guests to pull the Band-Aid off the biggest controversies in comics publishing right now, especially relating to Marvel and DC Comics, and including essential SDCC revelations.


10:00 – 11:00 Rm 23ABC
MARCH with Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
His first visit to Comic-Con made national news; now the legendary civil rights icon, U.S. congressman, and #1 bestselling graphic novel author John Lewis returns. Congressman Lewis, co-author Andrew Aydin, and artist Nate Powell re-team to share their award-winning March series. You’ll hear about the incredible tour that’s brought the message of March to schools, universities, libraries, and corporate headquarters from coast to coast. You’ll see glimpses of the much-anticipated March: Book Three, covering Mississippi Freedom Summer and the unforgettable Selma-Montgomery March. And of course, you’ll hear Congressman Lewis’s firsthand memories of sit-ins, Freedom Rides, the march on Washington, Selma, and beyond, and the vital power of his message of transformative nonviolence in the world today.

11:00 – 12:00 Rm 2
Interview with Richard Starkings
Richard Starkings discusses his career in comics, from small press, to Marvel UK, to pioneering digital comic book lettering with his studio Comicraft, to creating Elephantmen. Writer Mike Wellman (Gone South, Guns A’Blazin) hosts.

[overlap] 11:45 – 1:00 Rm 6BCF
Quick Draw!
Once again, three supercharged cartoonists duel to their dooms with Sharpies, each attempting to outdraw all opponents. It’s one of the most popular Comic-Con events, and this year it’s personal. Our returning champion Sergio Aragonés (MAD, Groo the Wanderer) goes mano a mano against Scott Shaw! (The Simpsons, The Flintstones) and Disney legend Floyd Norman. Plus, you can expect a few other cartoonists to get their licks in. Presiding over it all is your Quick Draw! Quizmaster, Mark Evanier. No wagering, please.

[overlap] 12:30 – 1:30 Rm 8
The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide at 45
Writer Mark Waid (Empire, Daredevil), former CBG editor Maggie Thompson, CBCS president Steve Borock, CCS president Matt Nelson, Gemstone Publishing’s Mark Huesman and J. C. Vaughn, and surprise guests present a lively look at comic book history through 45 years of The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide.

1:00 – 2:00 Rm 9
The Super Type of Ira Schnapp
Would you believe the artist who designed in Roman letters the motto engraved atop New York City’s Penn Station post office, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” is the same man who designed the iconic Superman logo? Both are the works of Ira Schnapp (1892-1969), a descendant of stonecutters and hand letterer who defined the “house style” of DC Comics for over 30 years, starting with the Action Comics logo in 1938 and continuing with scores of famous logos for the company, as well as hundreds of house ads that are among some of the greatest examples of hand lettering in the 20th century. Yet, despite all these ubiquitous works, Schnapp’s name and legacy are unknown and forgotten. But comic book historian Arlen Schumer (The Silver Age of Comic Book Art) aims to change that with this presentation, based on the currently running Schnapp exhibit he curated and designed for the Type Directors Club of New York.

2:00 – 3:00 Rm 28DE
The Seven Comic Shop Archetypes: Who Will Triumph, Thrive, and Survive
In the ever-changing landscape of retail and pop culture, how do the best comic retailers connect with the community and interact with fans? This panel explores the wild world of comic shops, provides analytical (and nostalgic) insights, explores the ever-changing consumer demographic, and asks panelists to forecast the future. They include Joe Field (founder, Free Comic Book Day), Atom! Freeman (Valiant Entertainment), Christina Blanch (Aw Yeah Comics, Ball State), and Glynnes Pruett (Comic Book Hideout). Moderated by Ed Catto (Bonfire Agency).

3:00 – 4:00 Rm 28DE
Spotlight on Jim Steranko
SHIELD’s co-creator penetrates the firewall of stealth around the man with the eyepatch to celebrate Nick Fury’s 50th anniversary–with a salvo of personal, provocative, sometimes bloody, behind-the-scenes stories you won’t want to miss. Q&A session moderated by J. David Spurlock (Vanguard author, publisher).

4:00 – 5:30 Rm 7AB
Oddball Comics Live!
Cartoonist Scott Shaw! (Captain Carrot And His Amazing Zoo Crew!, Sonic The Hedgehog, Simpsons Comics, Annoying Orange) once again presents his uniquely hilarious slideshow of “the craziest comic books ever published!” Once you’ve seen this mind-roasting presentation-which has played to standing room only crowds in San Diego for the better part of four decades-you’ll never forget such covers as those of the “crotch-centric” issues of Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane, those with someone getting slapped with a “fish-in-the-face”, and those Silver Age issues of Batman and Detective Comics with “Robin-in-the-corner”! Scott promises, “Even if you’ve seen my acclaimed slideshow presentation many times before, when you see their covers blown up to the size of the side of a barn, you’ll be amazed and delighted at the unbelievable imagery that’ are revealed!” See for yourself why Stan Lee calls Scott’s show “the wildest, wackiest exposé of some of the craziest comic books I’ve ever seen!”

4:30 – 6:00 Rm 5AB
That 70s Panel
Once again, this panel talks about what was so special about comic books in the 1970s, starting with all the new talent that entered the field and bonded with the old talent. Discussing those days will be Chris Claremont (X-Men, Wolverine), Bob Layton (Iron Man) Steve Lieber (Superior Foes of Spider-Man), Don McGregor (Black Panther, Sabre), Dean Mullaney (Eclipse Comics), and others. Mark Evanier, who was writing Yogi Bear and Scooby Doo, will officiate.

6:30 – 7:30 Rm 26AB
The Unpublished EC 3D Comic Revealed!
World premiere! The lost 1954 EC sci-fi classic will be shown in 3D for the first time ever. Captured Aural Phantasy Theater, the only group authorized by the Gaines family to perform EC stories, dramatically reads excerpts from the unpublished comic, highlighting a discussion by Ben Dickow (guest lecturer, Otis College of Art) and Eric Kurland (president, LA 3D Club). Special 3D glasses will be provided so you can enjoy the projected artwork!


10:00 – 11:00 Rm 7AB
Spotlight on Jonathan Hickman
Jonathan Hickman discusses the summer’s biggest comic event, Secret Wars, his other Marvel work (Avengers, Fantastic Four), and any of many acclaimed Image comics (East of West, Pax Romana, Manhattan Projects, The Dying and The Dead).

11:00 – 12:00 Rm 32AB
Oni Press: Monster Art Battle
The classic Oni Press Monster Panel is back! Three artists go head to head on the drawing boards for the glory of the “Oni Press Prize Cup” moderated by Robin Herrera (Oni Press editor). Artists include Corin Howell (Bat-Mite, Transformers: Windblade) Gabo (The Life After), and a surprise mystery guest. Kids of all ages are welcome, and every attendee receives free comics.

12:00 – 1:00 Rm 4
Spotlight on Eric Stephenson
Writer, marketer, publisher-after entering the comics industry in 1992, Eric Stephenson has shown that he knows his way around comic books. As the publisher of Image Comics, Stephenson has overseen an incredible surge in quality and potential for the comics industry. In this special Spotlight panel, Stephenson is going to share his knowledge, anecdotes, and jokes.

1:00 – 1:45 Rm 5AB [starts at 12:15]
CBLDF: You Can’t Draw That! Live Art Jam
Join Michael Cho, Denis Kitchen, and special guests celebrate creative freedom by making live art before your eyes. Join the CBLDF and these great creators as they share their perspectives on censorship and make once-in-a-lifetime art to benefit the Fund’s important work. Get a chance to watch live art being created, learn about censorship, and bid to win the pieces made here to benefit the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

2:00 – 3:00 Rm 25ABC
Cover Story: The Art of the Cover
Forget about the insides! What makes for a great cover on a comic book? This topic will be discussed and debated by some artists who’ve been responsible for some of the best. With Kevin Wada (She-Hulk, Adventure Time), David Aja (Hawkeye, Immortal Iron Fist), Lora Innes (The Dreamer), Steve Lieber (Quantam & Woody, Road to Perdition), and Chip Kidd (Peanuts: The Art of Charles M. Schulz, Batman: Death by Design). Your host is Mark Evanier, and that about covers it.

3:00 – 4:00 Rm 7AB
Chip Zdarsky: A Life
Who is Chip Zdarsky (Sex Criminals, Kaptara, Howard The Duck), and why does he keep calling you and hanging up? Find out that and more on this special Spotlight panel moderated by Juliette Capra (Fantastic Comics , The Valkyries, Brimpception).

4:00 – 5:00 Rm 4
Pro/Fan Trivia Match
Join this panel for the 20th anniversary trivia showdown between the Purple Pros: Len Wein (creator of Wolverine and Swamp Thing), Mark Waid (Daredevil, Thrillbent), and Anthony Tollin (Sanctum Books publisher), and the Black Ink Irregulars: Tom Galloway, David Oakes, Peter S. Svensson (comics journalist), and Derek McCaw (Fanboy Planet podcast, co-writer of The Greatest American Hero comics). Questions will focus on characters having a n5th or n0th anniversary, such as Robin, Shazam!, Catwoman, Joker, JSA, JLA, All-New X-Men, Medusa, Hydra, and many more. Trash talk will focus on being funny!

Bob Bretall: Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Improving Free Comic Book Day

FCBD line

Photo Credit: Bob Bretall

I love Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) and make sure the 1st Saturday in May is always set aside to visit a number of shops and participate in some really great events all over Southern California.  I’ve been going since the yearly event started in 2002 and have visited anywhere from 3 to 8 shops on any given FCBD.  Even though I love the day, I have noticed that there are some things that could be done to improve the event for the Publishers, the Comic Shops, and the fans.

What is the purpose of FCBD? 

More comics in the hands of more people.

Let’s look at how we can serve the purpose of FCBD, putting more comics in the hands of more people for all the constituents of the day.

Publishers want to expose their comics to fans and get them coming back for more of those comics in the months after FCBD.  To do that they need to put out an accessible, high-quality comic that is going to speak to their target demographic.  It needs to provide enough story and entertainment to and grab them, while giving them a hook that makes them want to come back for more.

Publishers have gotten a lot better of the past years at providing compelling material for FCBD.  In the early years I saw a lot of scattered reprint material and FCBD ‘comics’ that were loaded with sketches and press-release sorts of material.  This year I reviewed 50 FCBD comics as either ‘this will make me want to buy the comics showcased here’ or ‘No thanks, nothing compelling here, I’ll pass’.  On the positive side, 40 of the comics I reviewed earned what I thought was a solid ‘buy’.

PUBLISHER ACTION: DO NOT waste your FCBD offering on text-heavy press-release/sketchbook type of offerings.  It is Free Comic Book Day.  Give the fans a comic book story.  Make sure the selection (new or reprint) stands on it’s own, is understandable, and provides a solid chunk of story value while hooking the reader to come back.

Comic Shops
Shops have at 2 distinct groups to market to on FCBD: Existing customers/comic readers -and- new fans who have not been regularly reading comics (or who have never read comics).  Your goal should be increasing sales into your shop, this means you need to handle these 2 types of fans separately.  I can understand when shops need to limit the number of comics each person can take for free, but there is a better way to do this than I have seen in most shops I’ve visited.

Existing customers/Comic Readers:  I have talked to a LOT of people on this topic.  Most of them, when confronted with a limit of 3 or 4 comics on FCBD will just pick the comics from the comic company they are ALREADY buying comics from.  They don’t don’t want to miss out on a story from their favorite publisher(s).  People Reading Marvel will pick the 1 or 2 Marvel comics.  DC fans grabbed the Divergence book.  Valiant fans got the Valiant book.   This is NOT translating into new sales.  If a shop wants new sales they need to expose fans to new comics.
Note: Some comic shops are already doing this the right way.  No advice can possibly be universally applicable, but don’t take the fact that some retailers are getting it right get in the way of the fact that a LOT of retailers could improve the way they handle FCBD.

COMIC SHOP ACTION (Existing Customers): You know what your customers are buying.  If they buy Marvel from you every month, just give them the Marvel books.  Give them the DC books if they buy DC from you.  Do the same for Image, Valiant, Dark Horse, etc.  ON TOP OF the comics from the publishers they already buy, let them take 2-3 additional comics from publishers they DO NOT regularly buy comics from.  Exposing them to some new comics may or may not translate into new sales, but you’re guaranteed to not get new sales if they just get the stuff they are already buying.
Make an effort to let customers with a pull list select their comics before FCBD and don’t make them stand in line.  Put them in their pull box.  It will make the free comics line shorter, and hopefully the regulars will come by the shop for the FCBD events anyway.
This, of course, assumes a retailer knows their regular customers and actually has pull lists for regular customers.  For shops that do neither of these, that’s a good ‘next step’ completely independent of FCBD.

COMIC SHOP ACTION (New Customers): These folks are comic to your shop for the first time ever, or maybe for the first time in months.  Walk up and down the line as the people wait and talk to the people.  I rarely see any shop owners/employees ‘working the line’.  Ask them what kinds of movie/TV shows they like, what genres of entertainment are their favorites.  Make recommendations about comics they might enjoy, both free ones and ones that are available (on sale for FCBD) as single issues and in collected editions.

New readers are not going to be reading this blog so I’ll target this at the existing comic readers.  Try something new.  Check out the Free Comic Book Day web-site and be educated about the books coming out.  Communicate with your shop owner before FCBD, give them a heads up about what books look interesting to you.  Support the event and the sales your shop (hopefully) runs on FCBD.   Engage the new customers in conversation, make suggestions about what comics they might enjoy (PLEASE, try to be diverse here and not just suggest super-heroes unless that is what the new cusotmer says they are interested in).

If Publishers, comic shops, and existing fans all work together FCBD can kick it up a notch and really deliver on that mission:

More comics in the hands of more people.

Bob Bretall: Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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The Death of the Marvel Universe?


People have been talking about the “Death of the Marvel Universe” for months.  Mostly because Marvel has been hyping the death of their universe for months.  Said ‘death’ occurred in Marvel’s latest big event book, Secret Wars #1.

I’m jaded.  I feel like Marvel (and DC too) is the ‘Boy who cried wolf’ when it comes to death.

Captain America died.  He was shot right in front of us and they verified that he was dead!  He came back.  I’m still not sure exactly how and I read the books it happened in.  Yes, it was just that convoluted.

The Human Torch was ‘killed’.  He ‘died’ off camera and I was even one of the people interviewed by USAToday to comment on his death.  When he came back (it turned out he really wasn’t ever dead) in the exact issue with the exact sequence of events I thought they would use I realized I had been reading too many super-hero comics.  It’s not that it was  a bad story, but it was predictable if you had read enough other super-hero comics.

Spider-Man died.  Well, not really.  Doc Ock over-wrote his own brain into Peter Parker’s body and took over.  That didn’t hold either.  Peter Parker came back pretty much the way I expected.

Wolverine died and he hasn’t come back yet, but he will, I have no doubt.

These are only the most recent deaths.  There have been more in the past and there will be, I am sure, many more in the future.  Marvel editorial is on record as saying the deaths are a mechanism to tell interesting stories and it doesn’t matter if they don’t stick.  I agree with this, to a certain degree.  I like a good story.  At the same time, I find it impossible to get myself emotionally or intellectually invested in these stories any more.  The revolving door of death and disaster has been used as a device so frequently that it has lost almost all meaning for me in the context of the super-hero universes.  I can enjoy some of the stories, but when any story tries to milk an emotional response out of me over an alleged death I can only roll my eyes and think “Oh please…..fool me once…”

It used to be that you could say “if you don’t see a body then they’re not dead”.  Once fans tumbled to this the companies just disregarded that altogether.  Now they show the body and bring the characters back anyway.


I don’t think so.

The Marvel Universe will be back and it will be just fine.  They have done a number of soft reboots on the Marvel Universe over the years, this one has a lot more hoopla around it, but I suspect that after the dust settles around the Secret Wars event we’ll have the majority of the characters we know and love right back where they were with a new coat of paint on a few of them and over time we’ll be back to the status quo for the majority of Marvel’s line.

If anything, I suspect this reboot of the universe will serve to make it more similar to the movie/TV universe that has already been creeping into the print books over the past couple of years.  This isn’t a bad thing, it’s evolution.  ‘Evolve or Die’ as they say.

This is all part and parcel with the super-hero experience.  Don’t get overwrought about any change you don’t like because another change will be following along soon enough.  Am I jaded?  Absolutely.  I freely admit it.

The main thing is how much any reader enjoys the stories.  I got much more accepting of this when I got the Pokemon-like “gotta get ’em all” monkey off my back several years ago.  I have pretty much every Marvel Comic from 1961 through 2011’s Fear Itself event (50 years of Marvel Comics is a pretty solid run…).  That was when I pulled back and started to get only what I REALLY liked.  I gave up on trying to get, read, and keep everything straight.  Some people are rightly amazed that I was able to keep it up for as long as I did, but I know several people who continue to buy and read the majority of the Marvel and/or DC books every month because they don’t want to miss any aspect of the universe.

My current mantra for super-hero comics, that now only make up about 25% of my comics reading diet, has made me much happier as a comics consumer:

Get the comics you enjoy, skip what you don’t.
No death is EVER permanent in super-hero comics.
Not even the death of a Universe.

But that doesn’t mean there won’t be some darn good stories told as part of the Secret Wars event…

Bob Bretall: Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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How Valiant Comics Lost a Dedicated Fan…


CREDIT: Valiant

That specter of death on the cover of Book of Death #1 from Valiant may as well be looming over my fan status.  The marketing stunt Valiant is launching in relation to this book is causing me to pull back and NOT buy every Valiant comic for the first time since their relaunch.

Valiant fandom is a funny thing, it falls into a few categories:

Hard-Core Fans: These folks buy everything Valiant puts out.  And I mean everything.  They collect all the comics and more, they collect all (or many/most) of the myriad variant covers Valiant puts out every month as well.

Dedicated Fans: I put myself in this category.  I buy all the Valiant comics, but I don’t buy all the variant covers.  I have been known to occasionally double or triple dip and get multiple covers to the same book, but not all the time, and not as much lately since I’ve been pulling back on variant covers in general.

Casual Fans: They “buy what they like”.  They get a handful of books and go on and off books.  They may read monthly comics or they may just pick up the stories in collected edition form.

It’s funny, because for most other companies “buying every comic they publish” would make you a hard-core fan.  Not so for Valiant.  I see them at cons and when I see how the really hard-core fans collect, I realize that me just buying 1 copy of each comic makes me a mid-tier fan at best.

So, what was the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back”?


CREDIT: Valiant

A special BOOK OF DEATH retailer incentive! The true history and lineage of the Geomancers – revealed here in an all-new series of never-before-seen stories from New York Times best-selling writer Fred Van Lente (IVAR, TIMEWALKER) and artist Juan Jose Ryp (Ghosted) that won’t be collected for the trade paperback!

If you order from DCBS like I do, it will cost you $20 to get this comics that is “all-new” and won’t be collected anywhere else (or so they say now).  This is issue 1 of a 4 issue series.  I love Valiant, but I am NOT going to pay $20 for a 24 page comic.  And it’s just the 1st issue of 4.  I’m not going to pay potentially $80 for the entire series.  There are a LOT of other comics I’d rather buy for $20 to $80.

EDIT: Some people have been confused.  The normal Book of Death series is not $20.  It is the Legends of the Geomancer mini-series that is a Retailer Incentive book and will cost whatever your retailer decides they need to charge for it.  DCBS is charging $20.
I am also told that #1 is 1:25 and #s 2-4 are 1:10 so will likely be more like $10 each.  So ~$50 to read this mini-series.

I’m curious on the blow-back this may have with fans of all categories. Maybe no impact for casual fans, because most won’t even notice what they’re missing.  Maybe other dedicated fans will just shrug their shoulders and say “Oh well, I guess I just won’t get this one, but I’ll still get all the others”.  Hard core fans?  Some may see this as yet another badge to show that they are the ultimate Valiant collector, superior to lesser fans.  Others may begrudgingly buy it and be a little bitter about Valiant reaching into their wallet.

If you’re not a completist like I am it may not bother you at all. For me, once I cross the line of “I’m not getting them all” it’s a short trip to “I’m not getting any”.  This has happened to me before when Publishers pushed me away from collecting everything by making some elite items unobtainable by normal means.  When I cannot collect everything without digging down deep and paying a lot of extra $$, for me personally it gets me thinking that maybe I can just do without a lot more than just the special thing they are making super-collectible.

Since I’m not getting this, I will instead go “All Out” on the Book of Death event. I will just skip the DCBS “all Valiant bundle” for the very first time.  That is 8 comics Valiant will not be selling me from July to September.  Moving forward, I may never go back to getting all the Valiant books.  What this means is I won’t buy every book automatically just because I’m getting the “Valiant bundle”.  I know I’m not getting Book of Death, beyond that, every book will need to stand on it’s own merits, which is probably as it should have been all along, but doing a blind “I’ll get them all at a 50% discount” (the DCBS bundle) was very compelling up to this point.

Is it just me?  I asked some people what they thought:

I’m only in on a few Valiants right now,  I stopped a bit earlier and hearing great reviews on Rai got me back in.  I was thinking maybe I should get “all in with” Book of Death but I may just stick with the few titles I’m reading.

Like many shops, mine barely pulls Valiant. There’s no way they would order enough to get this book. I know, I talked to them about it.

I save enough money on my DCBS order overall that I will be getting the exclusive books anyway, despite my reservations.  There are plenty of people that will neither have the access or the money, so I’m lucky in that respect. And I’ve spent that kind of money on regular variants without new story.

The comic shops are stuck in the middle: They potentially get stuck with piles of unsold comics and/or they have pissed off fans who either don’t get a comic that they want or feel like they were ripped off paying a high price for it.

EDIT: I am told that the Book of Death comics are “fully returnable” so if a comic shop orders 25 to get the Geomancer book they can return the unsold copies.  That said there is always a cost.  Labor.  Possible return shipping fees.  Something.  Many shops will not want to bother with this and would rather just skip dealing with it.
I talked to my Local Shop AFTER Atom! Freeman had a chance to personally call them with his Book of Death sales pitch.  They told me they already support Valiant.  There are already Valiant comics on the rack for people to buy (I know this is true, I see them when I go in there) so people are not missing out on Valiant because there are no books to buy.  If they wanted to get enough of the Geomancer books so customers who wanted it would get copies they would have to order several hundred more copies of Book of Death than they can sell that they know they would have to return.  They didn’t think just having 100s of extra comics on the rack was going to translate into 100s of extra sales.  They have copies for people to buy now that do not sell.  They’ll up their orders a bit, still not have enough Geomancer books for people who want it, and will sell it for somewhere around $12-$15 (or whatever the ‘market price’ settles down to when the book comes out) and it will sell on a first come first served basis.  This seems fair.  Since I don’t go to the shop on Wednesday and also won’t pay even $12 for this comic, it means I’m not going to get a copy.

I’m not a fan of “manufactured collectibles” in comics, and this may have unintended side-effects for Valiant.  Instead of building their fan base, this could help tear it down.  Maybe I’m wrong.  I hope I am because I really like the guys at Valiant.  But I’m not letting them reach into my wallet on this one.

EDIT: There has been a LOT of blow-back on this already.  I have been told by some that I am an ‘entitled fanboy that just thinks he should be able to get any comic he wants’.  I do think I should be able to buy any story a publisher puts out and making this story manufactured from the get-go to be read by only a handful of fans is an ill-conceived idea on the part of Valiant.
Turning fans into part of the sales force to badger their shops into buying 25-packs of Book of Death so they can get a copy of the Geomancer book for themselves is a really bad idea.  But that is just my opinion.

So, I used to just get the Valiant bundle from DCBS and order everything they put out.  My May Valiant order is as follows:

I still like these series and will continue to read them.  I’m skipping Book of Death just on general principles.   It may be a great story, but I am not going to support something with a marketing campaign as divisive as the one dreamed up for this series.  If this is a successful campaign I would fully expect to see other Publishers replicating it (it may be replicated even if it fails for Valiant).  I was not crazy about the first issue of Bloodshot Reborn, so I’m dropping that title.   I’m not ordering any more issues of the Dead Drop mini-series until I read the 1st issue.

Will Valiant win me back full-on at some point?  Time will tell.  For now, they are losing me as an “all-in reader”.

Bob Bretall: Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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FCBD 2015 – The Comics: Part 4 (All Ages)

I got all the comics save 1 from FCBD this year and I’m going to be taking a look at each of them on my Blog.  You can see the 1st 12 comics I read in Part 1, followed up by 14 more media tie-in comics in Part 2, and 11 Indie comics in Part 3.  This time around I’m looking at 12 all ages comics.  This is a great group of FCBD comics; as I was reading them they were mostly really well done and would be perfect for getting younger readers into reading comics.  I’m not sure how many actually ended up in the hands of young readers because (a) shops would have to order them and (b) kids, or their parents, would need to pick them instead of comics with familiar super-heroes or media tie-ins.

I’m not going to do full detailed reviews.  I’m going to look at each and try to give an assessment of whether each comic made me want to seek out and but more comics.  That is, I assume, the purpose of these free comics.  They’re teasers to try to get a customer to want more.  Let’s see how effective this year’s batch were; I’ll give some suggested age ranges, but that’s going to be for “first contact”.   In general, once someone becomes a teenager they usually proactively distance themselves from what they perceive as “kid stuff” even though it can still be fun to read even for adults.  My ratings will be as follows:

Buy: This either made me want to buy what comes next, or it looked like it was enough to make “someone who likes this sort of thing” buy more.

Pass: The comic didn’t provide me a compelling amount of material that made me want to follow it to the next level.

BOOM-10th Chakra Jurassic

BOOM! Ten Years Celebration (BOOM! Studios)
Buy: A great anthology of stories that will give a taste of properties from media tie-ins like Adventure Time, Regular Show Peanuts, Garfield, and Jim Henson’s Labyrinth to creator-owned phenoms like Mouse Guard and Lumberjanes.  I thoroughly enjoyed most of what was in this comic and it was a great sample of all ages material that BOOM! is putting out.  Appropriate for kids & adults of all ages.

Stan Lee’s Chakra the Invincible (Graphic India/POW!)
Buy: This was a great kid-friendly super-hero book showing off 5 different artists on 5 short stories.  I have a feeling Stan Lee’s name is being trotted out here to give this a feeling of legitimacy.  He helped create the character but didn’t write any of the stories in here.  Stan’s name isn’t needed.  This was a good comic that can stand on it’s own.  I’d target this on kids up to about 12 years of age.

Jurassic Strike Force 5 (Silver Dragon Books)
Buy: Shades of the Ninja Turtles!  Here we have fighting dinosaurs who like tacos, but it was all good fun and should be some great action for kids who love dinosaurs up to 12 or 13 years of age.

BodieTroll Rabbids Tick

Bodie Troll (Red 5 Comics)
Buy: Bodie Troll is a fun character and this was a really well done comic.  Appropriate for kids up to 12, but be warned that Bodie gets “drunk” on root beer, so if you’re REALLY hard-core about keeping your kid away from even a hint of such things, read it first before giving to a younger kid.  This also had a story of Drone, where a gamer remotely runs a combat drone, which would be fine for 7 or 8 up to teens.  The issue is rounded out with Creature Academy which should be good for kids into Pokemon or similar properties.

Rabbids (Papercutz)
Buy: The Rabbids remind me of Minions from Despicable Me, albiet with bunny ears.  In any event, they’re fun.  This issue also has a story of Ariol who is searching for that one last collectible sticker to finish off a set, a situation many collectors can relate to.  The issue is rounded out with the Smurfs and Garfield.  A nice selection of stories for kids and adults alike.

The Tick (New England Comics)
Buy: The Tick has been around for a long time.  He made the break into animation and a short-lived live action series, but he’s not a character that seems to have the overall awareness and popularity of “big two” heroes.  Nevertheless, there are some fun stories in this comic that might turn new readers on to the tick and the comic points them at collected editions of all the Tick material that’s out there in some easy to collect “Complete Works” collected editions.  Good for kids, teens, and adults.

Cleopatra VIZ_201502FCBD2015SolicitationCover.indd Overstreet

Cleopatra in Space (graphix)
Buy: This is a story about a tween version of Cleopatra that starts in ancient Egyptm but Cleo finds herself transported to a future/space setting with talking cats and other oddities.  Cleo is a spunky girl and has a fun/rambunctious personality, very likeable.  I enjoyed her time in Egypt, the space adventures which are not really seen other than a basic setup in this issue, now have a bar to surpass.  This should be good fun for kids 6 and up, particularly ones that like cats.

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure (Viz Media)
Pass: Al reviewed the 1st volume of this manga quite favorably, I think maybe reading this in a larger context might be better than the excerpt of story presented here.   The 15 pages presented here seem to jump into the middle of the action, there is some aimless fighting and I never really got a feeling for what was going on.  What I read here would not cause me to want to get any more of this.  The 2nd half was a 15 page Yu-Gi-Oh story that did a much better job of being comprehensible and standing on it’s own.  The JoJo story seemed more suited to older teens (13+) while the Yu-Gi-Oh story would be suitable for readers 10 and up, particularly ones who have watched the TV show or played thee card game.

Overstreet’s Comic Book Marketplace (Gemstone)
Buy: This is genuinely all ages, though probably much more suited to teens and adults.  It’s not really a comic book, but a sample of the Overstreet Comic Book Marketplace magazine with articles like “How DC Comics Took Over Television”, stuff on the monetary value of comics (which is pretty much Overstreet’s gig), a nice article on collecting Winter Soldier original art by Steve Epting, and an excellent examination of the secret Marvel/DC crossover that occurred as part of the comics featuring the Rutland, Vermont Hallowwen parade.  This is well worth picking up for the Crossover article alone.

Gronk March CBLDF

Gronk, a monster’s story (Action Lab)
Buy: Gronk is a lovable monster that has come to live with a woman in rural British Colombia.  This story is a good intro to Gronk, and more can be read on the web (but the webcomic is B&W and the comics collection is in color).  The back half of this comic is another “cat friendly” offering “Hero Cats of Stellar City”.  Both are great for any kids 6 and up, younger if parents read them with their kids.  Wonderful material for young readers.

March Grand Prix (Capstone)
Buy: March is a race-car driving rabbit in this action packed racing adventure for young readers.  I was completely entertained as an adult and think this would be great for reading to young children or giving to young readers as a first comic.  Completely appropriate for any young reader, this was an extremely well done comic that has me wanting to get the full story in the full OGN volume available in August 2015.

CBLDF Presents Defend Comics (CBLDF)
Buy: This presents a variety of shorts focused on communication, freedom of speech, and attempted censorship; perfect subject matter for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.  Some really good takes in here, probably suitable for ages 8 to 10 and up.  It’s a good book the read with your kids and help them understand the concepts that are broached here and how some people like to try to dictate what others can read and express.  Hopefully you’re the kind of person who is in favor of freedom of expression and against censorship and will identify with the people fighting the good fight in these stories.  If you find yourself thinking it’s OK to ban a book and/or tell others what they can choose to read, please unfollow my Blog now ;-)

…and that’s all of the FCBD 2015 offerings (except for Hatter M, which I can recommend on the basis of reading the OGN’s first hand).  A nice batch of comics this year, a lot of them were perfect lead-ins for new readers.  That’s not to say that FCBD is without room for improvement.  I’ll talk about some of the problems with FCBD that should be addressed by Publishers and comic shops to meet the needs of both existing and new readers in the next installment of this Blog….

Bob Bretall: Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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FCBD 2015 – The Comics: Part 3 (The Indies)

I got all the comics save 1 from FCBD this year and I’m going to be taking a look at each of them on my Blog.  You can see the 1st 12 comics I read in Part 1, followed up by 14 more media tie-in comics in Part 2.  This time around I’m looking at 11 indie comics (stuff that is not the major publishers and is likely to be completely new or off-the-beaten track for many comics readers).  This is an interesting group of FCBD comics because they were likely ordered in small quantities by most comics shops and are mostly not featuring flashy/recognizable characters on the covers.

While a casual fan picking up a comic for the 1st time on FCBD might well find something really cool here, this is the group that I wish people mired in super-heroes would try out.  These are books that a comic shop owner should purposely buy and give to readers who primarily read super-heroes and media tie-in comics in addition to their standard 3 or 4 FCBD comics they get to pick at most shops.  Most fans mired in the world of the “Big Two” are usually going to use their 4 picks on the Marvel/DC selections so they keep abreast of the latest for their favorite heroes.  Giving these folks a couple of extras as long as they are in the Indie category would be a great sales tool for a comic shop owner who has these people in their shop every week mostly buying the same old stuff.  Use FCBD to nudge them along the evolutionary path of their comics reading.

I’m not going to do full detailed reviews.  I’m going to look at each and try to give an assessment of whether each comic made me want to seek out and but more comics.  That is, I assume, the purpose of these free comics.  They’re teasers to try to get a customer to want more.  Let’s see how effective this year’s batch were; my ratings will be as follows:

Buy: This either made me want to buy what comes next, or it looked like it was enough to make “someone who likes this sort of thing” buy more.

Pass: The comic didn’t provide me a compelling amount of material that made me want to follow it to the next level.

Valiant Hip Hop

Valiant 25th Anniversary Special (Valiant)
Buy: I tottered on the brink of giving this a “Pass”.  I love Valiant and what they’re doing, but this issue seemed to me like it will play really nicely to existing fans, but I don’t think it had the grab it could have for pulling in new readers.  Bloodshot has been essentially turned into the Punisher; the 1st 4 pages of Ninjak #1 were what pulled this over into Buy territory; the 4 page preview of the Dead Hand storyline coming in X-O Manowar was, I think, impenetrable to a new reader.

Hip Hop Family Tree Three-In-One (Fantagraphics)
Buy: I’m not the target demographic for this.  I don’t listen to Hip Hop because I don’t particularly like it.  But I love this history of Hip Hop.  I look at it like a history book and I like to learn about things I don’t know about.  The backup story was from something called Cosplayers by Dash Shaw and it was superb!  I’m going to be seeking out and buying Cosplayers and other stuff by Shaw.

Mercury Heat Emily ComicsFestival

Mercury Heat (Avatar)
Buy: A good 11 page intro story to the sci-fi world of Mercury Heat by Kieron Gillen. Particularly nice was the lengthy essay by Gillen explaining the series and characters, this has me sold on this one and looking forward to its debut in July

And Then Emily Was Gone #0 (ComixTribe)
Buy: People will look at this and either fall in love with Iain Laurie’s bizarre art style or be turned off by it.  But what they see is what they’re going to get!  Pretty cool backup story featuring the Oxymoron.  I had not previously seen a fairy sitting on a toilet, but it worked in this story.  Weird, but good weird.

Comics Festival (Toronto Comic Arts Festival)
Buy: A mixed bag of Canadian comics creators in this anthology.  I didn’t like everything, but it’s rare that I read an anthology where I do.  That said, I loved Con/Game by Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang as well as the Superhero Girl story by Faith Erin Hicks.  It gives me some more stuff to be on the lookout for, which it the point of this comic, so it was a success.

Canuck Motorcycle Samurai GFT

Captain Canuck (Chapter House Comics)
Pass: I read the original run of Captain Canuck when it first came out back in the late 1970s, which probably puts me in a very tiny percentage of the people checking out this comic.  I liked it back then, maybe almost because of it’s flaws (journeyman art but a LOT of heart).  This issue was split between a new updated version of the Captain (which I didn’t care for) and a story of the ‘classic’ Captain (which I liked more than the updated version, but also didn’t cry out to me as something that warranted revisiting).  Not for me.

Motorcycle Samurai (Top Shelf)
Pass: This was one of the FCBD books I was most looking forward to, based on early descriptions I had read.  I may have fallen prey to “unrealistic expectations” because the reality of this didn’t live up to what I was expecting and didn’t click with me at all.  It has one of those very distinctive art styles that will either work for a reader or not.  For me it fell into the ‘not’ category.  The narrative didn’t do anything for me either.  That said, people should flip through the book, it may work for them.

Grimm Fairy Tales: Wonderland (Zenescope)
Pass: This read to me like a pseudo-Twilight Zone story with a horror twist.  There were elements of the GFT Wonderland story woven into it, but it wasn’t particularly effective at really delivering the Wonderland backstory in a way that popped for me and made me want to read me.  I got to the end and thought that I had read an average story and didn’t feel compelled to seek out more.

Lady Justice ICE2000AD

Lady Justice (Super Genius)
Pass: Lady Justice originally came out in 1995 from TeknoComix and I bought/read it back when it first came out.  Touted as “Neil Gaiman’s Lady Justice”; Neil came up with the concept, but the execution was left to others who do not execute at Neil’s level of skill.  This is a reprint of the original #1 issue. Reading it again after 20 years, I don’t think it aged well and didn’t really cry out to me as something that needed to be revived / reprinted.

I.C.E. Immigration and Customs Enforcement: Bayou Black Out (12-Gauge)
Buy: I.C.E. is a action oriented police procedural done in comics form and well done for what it is. It’s not an over-used comics genre, though it has been beaten into the ground on TV.  Decent setup for the next series, Bayou Blackout, coming out soon.  I liked the short story “The Ride: The Devil Don’t Sing No Blues” more than the main event.  A nice Twilight Zone-esque standalone short.

2000 AD (2000 AD)
Buy: 2000 AD, the long running British comics prog, is home to a number of fabulous characters, many of whom are not familiar to people in the US.  A character that is familiar to most comics readers is Judge Dredd, who is featured in an all-new story here that is a great example of the character.  There are 2 other new stories: Death Rock (which was very good and left me wanting to know “Who is Harry 20″) and Doctor Sin.  We also get a reprint of Nemesis the Warlock, Dan Dare, Slaine, and 3000 AD The Traveller.   Good stuff that left me wanting more.

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Posted in 12-Gauge, 2000 AD, Avatar, Chapter House, ComixTribe, Fantagraphics, Super Genius, Top Shelf, Toronto Comic Arts Festival, Valiant, Zenescope | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment