It’s true that Comic-Con is way more commercial than it used to be and it’s almost impossible to get passes. It doesn’t seem right for nerd culture to have been taken over by the popular kids, exclusive toys to be more coveted than comics, and models to be wearing cosplay. But if you manage to get in and look past all the distractions there are more amazing comic books than ever (Drawn & Quarterly, Fantagraphics…), stuff you can’t find anywhere else (Super 7, Giant Robot…) and plenty of cool panels to check out (not necessarily in Hall H, where Entertainment Weekly hangs out) when you’re not on the floor looking for artists, writers, and friends gathered from around the world.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s Mycroft Comics (Thursday, 12:00 – 1:00 in 5AB): Seeing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar talk about his new Mycroft Holmes comics was a big deal to me. The NBA Hall of Famer, Lakers great, legendary Bruin, and friend of Bruce Lee had already transitioned into making a name for himself as a historian and culture columnist before writing his first fiction: an excellent mystery about Sherlock Holmes’s older and smarter brother. He explained that he was an English major at UCLA who always wanted to be a writer, but basketball got in the way. As for his choice of genre, he first read Arthur Conan Doyle at nearby Seaport Village when he was a rookie for the Milwaukee Bucks and his presenting the comic adaptation of his Sherlockian novel was coming full circle.
Snoopy for President: Politics in Peanuts (Thursday, 3:00 – 4:00 in 32AB) – Politics can be divisive and depressing, but this fun discussion covered the social undertones in Charles M. Schulz’s famous comic strip, vintage licensing made to go with previous campaigns, and the Peanuts gang’s current involvement in the Rock The Vote effort to get Americans to register to vote. There was a lot of deep Schulz trivia thrown around, classic strips recalled, and interesting licensed stuff as well as anecdotes dug up about the famed cartoonist from representatives of the Schulz Museum (one of my favorite pilgrimages) and Hallmark (longtime collaborators with their own vault of Schultz goodies).
MAD about MAD (Thursday, 6:00 – 7:00 in 5AB) – The MAD magazine panel with the usual gang of idots (including Mad marginals illustrator/Con legend Sergio Aragones) was a crackup. Most jokes circulated about a certain Presidential candidate, and if the the enactment of the Trump vs. The Bible piece or free diploma from Trump University handed out after the panel weren’t enough, you can check out the Mad Dumps on Trump ebook for free. Also, MAD TV is coming back.
Hermes Press: Jim Davis and The Art of Garfield (Friday, 3:30 – 4:30 in 5AB) – Jim Davis, the creator of Garfield, made his first ever appearance at Comic-Con. I have to admit that I am a recent convert to Garfield who grew up preferring Heathcliff. But the simplicity won me over, as did an appearance by the cat in Stephen Chow’s Love on Delivery and my eight-year-old daughter’s affection for the strip. Of course, Peanuts is the peak of the art form and there’s a huge drop off after that. But I think Garfiled might be the next in line and Davis was a really nice guy when I had the new coffee-table book signed.
Paul Gulacy: Spies, Vixens, and Masters of Kung Fu (Friday, 6:00 – 7:00 in 4) – Paul Gulacy is best known to Silver Age comics fans for his hyper detailed and pop-art stylized runs on Master of Kung Fu and Batman. As a Marvel collector in my youth, I am a big fan of MOKF, which combined the vibe of Bruce Lee’s Enter The Dragon and the aesthetic of James Bond flicks. I never thought I’d ever meet him, much less get to hear about what went into these issues and his partnership with writer Doug Moench. A legend of comics, who was super nice when I asked him to sign my book, too!
MARCH with Congressman John Lewis (Saturday, 10:00 – 11:00 in 23ABC) – My wife and daughter we able to attend over the weekend, but we got in line too late to get into the MARCH panel with the Freedom Rider, Civil Rights icon, senator, gun sense advocate, and now comic book creator John Lewis. However, we placed ourselves in position so Eloise could join Lewis’s now-traditional children’s march (his third autobiographical book with Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell just came out). The children followed Lewis in his iconic trenchcoat–not patterned after The Thing but what he wore in Selma–through the upstairs hall, down the escalator, and onto the floor where they got to be first in line to shake hands and perhaps even get an autograph. Now all three of our volumes are signed.
World Premiere of DC Super Hero Girls: Hero of the Year (Sunday, 10:00 – 12:00 in 6BCF) – The DC Super Hero Girls panel entailed a premiere of the straight-to-video/streaming feature and a Q&A with the writers, producer, and voice actors. Much of Comic-Con–and comics and media, in general–is a boys club and it was cool to take my daughter to see something like this that is made for girl comic book fans by women. The fandom runs deep, with traditional characters such as Supergirl, Batgirl, and Wonder Woman in high school solving crimes but also facing stuff that might be faced by young viewers (loneliness, relying on brains instead of strength, being awkward, respectively). There are references to the larger DC Universe as well as plenty of male characters who don’t have to come to the girls’ rescue or be their love interests, which I like.
Sailor Moon (Sunday, 1:00 – 2:00 in 6A) – More girl power, in the form of Sailor Scouts. This anime classic was a favorite of young riot grrls and indie rockers in the mid to early ’90s (way cooler than Spice Girls) and I like that Eloise is into them. The panel started off strong with free posters and a singalong to the theme song led by to women in cosplay and there were some cool videos previewing upcoming subtitled and dubbed releases from Viz. The trivia was way too deep for casual fans like us, though. Time to hit the floor one more time and get some comics!