Saturday morning, I headed back down to Long Beach. Again, the easy atmosphere was very pleasant. Mind you, I actually enjoy the high-energy intensity of the huge San Diego Comic Con. But the runners of the Long Beach convention have wisely chosen to keep a local feel and easy-going attitude. On entering the lobby of the exhibit hall, I noticed that one of the cosplayers dressed as a Rebel pilot was accompanied by a full size R2 Unit. I’m afraid that the R2 got more attention than the human.
Once into the hall, I went by the Golden Apple booth, to greet my friends there. Sharon Liebowitz was in the spirit of the holiday weekend with a headband adorned with bobbing pumpkins.
In the exhibit hall there were lots and lots of tables for the Artists Alley (the shrinking of Artists Alley at San Diego has been cause for some grumbling). Not only plenty of tables but also plenty of space on those tables.
I did a quick round of picking up some action figures and some books, so I’d be sure to get them before they were gone. I then deposited them in the trunk of my car on my way to the programming in the other building.
My first stop on this day was a presentation by writer Mark Sable, titled “Writing for Comics, TV and Film: How to Break In and What To Do When You Get There.”
Mark talked about his varying experiences in comics and television, as a way of giving the aspiring writers an idea of what they might face in breaking into the businesses. But he made a point of saying that there is no one way to break into any of the businesses. The important thing is to write well.
I followed this by sitting in on the “50 Questions in 50 Minutes With Mark Waid.”
Most of the questions had been collected from the Comic Book Resources boards, but every few minutes some spontaneous ones were taken from the attendees. And in the midst of it too, a professional trumpeter was called in to play the fanfare from the original Superman movie. Mark liked it so much, he asked the trumpeter to come up to the panel table and play the opening again – so he could record it to become a ring-tone for his phone! There were a few questions about his Boom! books Irredeemable and Incorruptible which got some very interesting answers from Mark.
After that amusing hour, I moved on to the “Girl Power!” panel.
The panelists above (left to right) were: Lillian Diaz-Pzrybyl, Haven Alexander, Brandii R. Grace, Barbara Randall Kesel (partly obscured by the microphone), and Joelle Sellner. Sadly, there were more males in the audience than females, but that didn’t stop a lively discussion of what women run into in the comics business. Certainly, one of the major obstacles has been that women don’t always get taken seriously. Joelle mentioned how she writes action, but in one company it was suggested that she write romance comics. Because she was a woman. Even though she prefers action. There was also the discussion about how in both comics and the film/television businesses, there is a reluctance on the part of the Power Brokers to develop stories with female main characters. Even in this day and age. And then, of course, those same Power Brokers wonder why women don’t go see the movies or buy the books: “Oh, well. Guess they aren’t interested in comic books or action movies.” The fact that the Power Brokers won’t let writers put out female characters that women can actually respect does not seem to register with them. But I don’t want to create the impression that this was a bitter panel. It was not. It was, all things considered, upbeat and full of humor.
After that panel, I followed Barbara to another room, where she was going to be “interviewing” Howard Chaykin, in a bit of programming that was added late and didn’t get much hype. The result was a small audience, but it made for an interesting hour.
The relaxed atmosphere encouraged amiable racounteuring – which Barbara began by describing how Howard had rescued her from the icy waters of the Snake River when a bunch of creators where riding down it in a zodiac boat. Humorous anecdotes aside, one of the most important things that Chaykin spoke to was the need to regard the job of writing as a job, one that required professionalism and a commitment to do the job as well as possible.
Last up for the day was the always entertaining Jimmy Palmiotti, talking about protecting your intellectual properties, and getting them recognized in the marketplace (not just with the audience, but also with publishers and production companies).
Jimmy illustrated points by relating some of his experiences with properties, shuffling titles and character names because of possible conflicts, keeping track of rights. In some ways, getting the points hammered home by way of anecdotes helps make the straight-up facts of the business clearer for the aspiring storytellers.
All in all, a good day at a convention.
And then I had to drive home, and (because of a couple of freeway accidents I didn’t know about until later) had the longest drive back to Hollywood. An hour and a half. I was quite ready to get out of the car when I got home.