Friday, April 30, 2010

Tomorrow is Free Comic Book Day!

Tomorrow is the first Saturday in May, which means it's Free Comic Book Day!

It's hard to believe this is the ninth Free Comic Book Day — or how radical the idea seemed way back when it started.

Now, we've got this cool video ad with voiceover from Kevin Smith, plus almost every shop (in my area at least) is doing some kind of event or signing.

Of the local events, I have to say Collector's Paradise in Canoga Park has an impressive lineup of creators signing, including a bunch of Top Cow folks (including Marc Silvestri), Bongo Comics' chief Bill Morrison and writer Marv Wolfman. Earth-2 Comics also has some top talent, with writer Mark Waid appearing at the Northridge store. Closer to home, Comic Odyssey in Pasadena actually scored a signing with Stan Lee from noon to 2 p.m.  Tumble Creek Press is taking part in a FCBD Festival at 4 Color Fantasies in Rancho Cucamonga. Meltdown in Hollywood is working with Archaia Studios Press with Fraggle Rock comics creators Sam Humphries and Jeremy Love. And Golden Apple has signings all day with folks like Hulk writer Greg Pak and Manhunter writer Marc Andreyko.

I don't know if I'll have time to hit more than one or maybe two of these, but I definitely will be getting free comics from somewhere!

The freebie I'm most looking forward to is the Dark Horse Magnus/Dr. Solar preview. If you've been reading this blog for a while, it shouldn't surprise you to learn I was a big fan of Jim Shooter's work on the early Valiant titles, and I look forward to seeing him return to these characters.

Beyond that, I hope to come across a few surprises. If you need to find a participating comic shop near you, visit, and they'll help you out.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

'Kick-Ass' and 'The Losers': A Tale of Two Comic Book Movies

We’re just about exactly ten years into the wave of comic book movies kicked off with the surprise success of Bryan Singer’s first X-Men movie in 2000, and the number of comic book movies both set for release and in development still appears to not have peaked.

The most-recent one-two punch of Kick-Ass and The Losers (with Iron Man 2 just around the corner) shows both how far comic-based movies have come while also demonstrating their limits. Having caught both movies the past few days, it’s clear that Kick-Ass is the superior film of the two, though The Losers is not without its charms.

Of course, Kick-Ass was always meant to be movie. The comic book first hit about two years ago (read my review of issue #1 here) and it took until just recently to bring “Book 1” to a conclusion at eight issues. When this book came out, Millar was riding high on the then-upcoming release of Wanted, the movie based on his Top Cow series. Wanted was a hit, and it was made clear in a couple of interviews that the experience on Wanted made Millar want to develop more creator-owned material that he could sell to Hollywood. Kick-Ass was the first such series, with the Image series War Heroes also cast in the same mould, and now his most-recent series, Nemesis.

Millar loves to push buttons, and arguably does it quite well. His comics take rather obvious premises and then takes them to an extreme. Wanted, for example, was about what if the villains won? War Heroes is about superheroes in the military. And Kick-Ass is the obvious what if some kid really did try to become a superhero? This works much better when Millar is playing with his own creations as fanboys are remarkably resistant to anyone messing too much with established icons.

The movie version of Kick-Ass, as adapted by director Matthew Vaughn and his co-writer Jane Goldman, sticks really closely to the comic and successfully retains its subversive tone and Millar’s button-pushing antics. The way the film plays with and subverts the conventions of the superhero genre works for movie audiences now that superheroes have become standard Hollywood fare. Movie audiences are now as familiar with the standard superhero arc as Dave Lizewski is in the movie, and you don’t have to be a comic book obsessive to understand that by becoming Kick-Ass, Lizewski is trying to live out the same arc as Peter Parker, Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne have: finding the hero within as a way to find purpose in life, save the world and get the girl — even if nobody else can know about it.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Anaheim Comic Con makes a play for the mainstream

It was a big weekend for comic conventions this weekend, with the inaugural C2E2 landing at last in Chicago. While most of the comic book publishing industry was there, I was heading south from L.A. to the Wizard World Anaheim Comic Con, which was more full of pop culture celebrities than comic book folks

Let me talk about Chicago first. This was the first show in Chicago put on by Reed Exhibitions, a sister company to Reed Business publisher Variety that has extensive experience putting on trade shows all over the world. It’s best known to comics types for putting on Book Expo America and New York Comic-Con, which has shifted from chilly February to fall for this year’s fifth annual gathering.

By all accounts, this was a show very much like New York — focused on the publishing side of comics. Pretty much all the top writers, artists, editors, publishers and retailers in the comic book business were at Chicago, and it sounds like anyone who loves and reads today’s comics would have had a total blast. As you would expect from a company like Reed, the show appears to have been very professionally run and I particularly like that photos of the main hall showed large windows that let in some natural light to the place, which is always nice at these shows. The usual comic book news sites — Newsarama, CBR, Bleeding Cool, The Beat, Comics Reporter, etc. — were all there and extensively covered the industry announcements.  Few of those announcements struck me as particularly fantastic — there’s always creative churns on long-running titles, a few new titles to announce, etc. But it does sound a like a terrific show that I hope to catch one year soon, especially since I’ve never had the luck to visit Chicago and would like to do so.

Since I wasn’t going to Chicago, I was already planning to spend a day at the new Anaheim Comic Con, when Newsarama’s Mike Doran emailed with some panels they needed covering. If you haven’t seen them already, head over to Newsarama and you can see what I live blogged from a joint Stan Lee and Avi Arad panel, as well as the 1960s Batman TV show cast Q & A and writeups on the Empire Strikes Back 30th anniversary panel, the William Shatner panel and a panel with Superman movie producer Ilya Salkind.

I was unsure what to expect from the new Anaheim convention. I had been to a number of previous Wizard World shows — two in Long Beach, two in Los Angeles and one in Texas about five years ago — and found them varying widely in quality. The first show in Long Beach was quite good, but each subsequent year seemed to slide a bit as the programming never developed beyond publisher promotions and the number and quality of exhibitors appeared to be either static or declining.

But this is a new version of the Wizard World shows. It is less focused on the comic book publishing industry and more about celebrity appearances, collectibles and cosplay. If you must have your comic book industry presence, this model is not going to be satisfying for you. But for the vast majority of people who attend shows like Comic-Con International: San Diego or New York who are less interested in comics and more interested in an overall pop culture experience, this kind of show is going to scratch that itch perfectly.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

L.A.'s Comic-Con Bid Looking Up

It looks like we can expect an announcement soon on whether Comic-Con will be moving from San Diego and if so, where.

The field has been narrowed down to either Anaheim or Los Angeles, with advocates for both sides (as well as keeping it in San Diego) making their cases on various sites and on Facebook. (I think Las Vegas in the summer is a poor choice for a consumer-driven, family-oriented event. It has lots of hotel rooms, but with 100,000 people coming to town they won’t be cheap. Also, its convention center is isolated and has outdoor areas that won’t be comfortable to anyone in 105 degree July heat.)

Last week, a pretty impressive Facebook page promoting Los Angeles as the new home of Comic-Con was launched. It features some nice color drawings from Doug Davis, who does the editorial cartoons for The Downtown News. It also lays out a very confident and compelling case for Los Angeles as a good home for the convention. They did a good job of dispelling myths about the area that are easy to believe if you haven’t been in the area in a while.

I have spent a fair bit of time down at L.A. Live in the past six months, seeing movies at the new and excellent Regal Cinemas (all digital screens, great 3D), visiting the Grammy Museum, eating at the restaurants (The Yard House, Trader Vic’s, Fleming’s Steakhouse) and heading over to Staples Center to cheer on the Kings, who take on Vancouver in the first round of the NHL playoffs. Yes, this spot that once was a dirt parking lot next to the freeway has, especially with the opening of the new J.W. Marriott Hotel and the Ritz Carlton hotel and residences (I hear Hayao Miyazaki bought the penthouse for $10 million and made the builders customize the column placement to accommodate his feng shui requirements), is on its way to becoming a world-class entertainment district.

San Diego meanwhile has responded with movement on a plan to expand the convention center and add the space Comic-Con has been requesting.

But it seems to me that the Los Angeles bid is gaining momentum, with the professional Facebook page, my gut feeling that the San Diego move is too little too late and a comment from AEG Group President and CEO Tim Leiweke at a civic event late last week about pending announcements for major new conventions coming to town.