Preview night at the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con
– by Shawn Conner
The biggest news I came across at Preview Night, the kick-off event for the annual San Diego Comic-Con, was the announcement that director Guillermo del Toro would have something to do with a horror comic, due out in the fall, for Dark Horse.
Also working on a comic for the Oregon-based publisher: Tom Morello. Yes, musician Tom Morello, of Audioslave and Rage Against the Machine, has come up with something that he described at the Dark Horse booth as “epic” and with a “social conscience” and which features a 16-year-old prostitute. No, I’m not making this up.
This is a world that Stan Lee made. I was reminded of this early in the evening when Emma Badame, a writer for Cineplex.com, pointed out the creator of Marvel Comics as he walked by in the lobby of the Marriott Hotel. A little while later, in the convention, of course we were all surrounded by his creations; Spider-Man, the Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, grafted onto comic covers, beer steins, you name it.
And then, while I was hanging out at the Dark Horse booth, a girl came by with flyers advertising that Lee would be signing autographs in a day or two. Anything you wanted signed, including body parts (yes, she said it before I could), only fifty bucks.
The middle part of the main room, near where the Dark Horse booth is situated, was where the crowds thickened and it became nearly impossible to move as people craned their necks to see what was being given away at the various movie and TV booths.
Over at movie distributor/producer Lionsgate, for instance, girls dressed in bargain-basement slave-girl outfits lured the menfolk (of which there is no short supply) over to check out an interactive wall display advertising the summer blockbuster featuring everyone’s favourite barbarian, Conan. At Marvel Entertainment, a crowd, desperate for The Avengers swag, had gathered, and grabbed at the T-shirts thrown into their midst.
In fact swag is what makes this evening run, as people try to get to the free stuff – most of the major booths have at least something – before it runs out.
Lego added to the visual noise with reproductions of movie characters such as the pirate Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean. Meanwhile, over at the Bongo (The Simpsons, Futurama, various spin-offs) Comics booth, nothing much was happening. Come back tomorrow morning for a chance to win a special commemorative San Diego Comic-Con collection of Simpsons stories, I was told. Yeah, right.
At one point I found myself in Artists’ Alley, so named because every time you turn around there’s another artist. For a comics fan like myself this was nirvana, as in quick succession I encountered such master (particularly of the female form) draftsmen as Terry Dodson, Adam Hughes, Frank Cho, and Jim Silke. Also appearing was Doug Sneyd.
The latter is interesting because he was, for decades, one of Playboy‘s preeminent cartoonists; if you flipped through the magazine at any time between 1960 – 1980 you will probably recognize his work. The aforementioned Dark Horse (yes, they come up a lot in this piece, and no, I’m not shilling for them) has just published a hardcover collection of Sneyd’s work and there was the Guelph-born cartoonist, 80 years old, doing a quick sketch for someone in a copy of a book of his unpublished cartoons.
Besides the guy getting the drawing in his book, there was no one else around, and suddenly Preview Night made sense; while all the celebrity-seekers and swag-hounds clogged up the midway, and whereas the next few days will see this hall overflowing, geeky losers like me actually had a chance to say hi and chat with artists we admire. (You can find great gifts for the artists in your life at Office Depot art supplies.)
Just as Sneyd was adding the last detail to another drawing in a copy of The Art of Doug Sneyd (my copy, if you must know) a voice announced that the exhibition hall would close in 15 minutes. I couldn’t believe it – I was just getting started!
Then it was time to leave, and I found myself in a swarm of thousands of people, barely moving, almost all of them clutching their giant-size convention bags that were now filled with comic books, action figures, sketchpads, graphic novels, T-shirts, weird-looking and vaguely creepy Japanese toys, and more useless junk that they will, almost to a one, someday regret buying.
My people, I thought.