San Diego Comic-Con 2013: Saturday – Comic concentration
I spent Saturday at the San Diego Comic-Con sitting in panel discussions celebrating old school comic writers and artists, and although this wasn’t my original plan, it was nevertheless a fascinating look at the history of comics through the eyes of some of the people who lived it and created it.
My day started at 1:30 a.m. hoping that leaving the hotel at that time would get me in line for the Hall H movie panel events by no later than 4:00 a.m. (two-hours earlier than my ill-fated 6:00 a.m. attempt from the previous day.) Alas, Saturday delivered another disappointment as by the time I arrived at the end of the line it was already well past my previous day’s pole-position – which could only mean there was no hope for getting into the hallowed hall.
So back to the car I went to strategize another plan of attack (and to catch a couple of Zzz before the venue opened.) After perusing the day’s schedule I found there were several panels focusing on old school comic creators and I would be remiss not to honor these fellows at an event that their past works built, long before genre movies took over the Con.
Here are some of the highlights of my day spent with the comic-book veterans:
“Remembering Joe Kubert” –
Joe Kubert is one of the most influential artists of the 50s & 60s, best know for his work on Hawkman, Sgt. Rock and the DC Comics’ Tarzan series. The late creator and businessman is also the founder of the Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art. Comic-Con assembled an all-star panel of veterans, including Mark Evanier, Sergio Aragones, Paul Levitz, Marv Wolfman,Tom Yeates, Jon B. Cooke and Russ Heath, to look back at the Kubert’s life and work.
The group recounted Mr. Kubert’s love for his art form and strong work ethic, with Mark Evanier saying, “He had a story to tell and the expertise to tell it.” They all commented on how quickly and masterfully he could produce his work, and Sergio Aragones described him as being like the magic hand you see in Disney cartoons, where with just a couple of strokes the art just seemed to appear. “He blew my mind,” Aragones said.
Kubert was also a patient and constructive teacher, a well regarded family man, a humble and sophisticated artist, and a creator who used his art for social commentary. Tom Yeates described him as, “the John Wayne of comics.”
Kubert died in 2012, but worked on various projects up until his death. Both of his sons were taught by him and work in the comic and graphic art industry.
“Spotlight on Roy Thomas” –
Comic veteran Jon B. Cooke hosted a discussion with comic-book writer and editor Roy Thomas, the man responsible for such work as the Kree-Skrull War, creating The Vision, Marvel’s take on Conan the Barbarian, and his personal favorite, the Justice Society of America.
Mr. Thomas recounted his childhood fascination with comics and told a story about attending comic burnings during the Fredric Wertham era and how he was the only kid who came home from a burning with a new pile of comics that he had snatched off of the pile.
Another interesting tale was how he ended up writing the Conan books. He had overbid for the license and being afraid he might have to pay the difference out of his own pocket, he took the book on himself to ensure its quality and success.
“Mad about MAD” –
This panel was definitely the most fun I’ve had at this year’s Con, and what would you expect from the “usual gang of idiots,” including editor John Ficarra, art director Sam Viviano, and cartoonists Sergio Aragones, Peter Kuper and Tom Richmond. They prefaced the panel by saying, “There are no stupid questions, but we guarantee there will be stupid answers.”
The MAD crew started the event with a hilariously fun sing-a-long that was an anthem to their corporate sponsors, then showcased their upcoming projects, including the book, “Inside MAD,” that has creators and celebrity fans showcasing their favorite MAD moments with accompanying essays about the selected pieces.
Another upcoming book features the art and humor of Dave Berg, of “The Lighter Side of…” fame. It will of course be called, “Dave Berg: Five Decades of The Lighter Side of…” Both books go on sale this coming October. Cool MAD swag was given out to all who asked questions at the panel event.
“Spotlight on Gerry Conway” –
This panel was a little odd in the Gerry Conway hosted himself, but that was okay as he had some great stories and insight without being prompted by a second party. Mr. Conway is the man responsible for the infamous “Death of Gwen Stacy” story and he is also the creator of The Punisher and up to 150 other characters in the Marvel and DC universes.
On the death of Gwen Stacy, the creator said he just wanted to “shake things up,” and that he never understood why Peter Parker was with Gwen instead of Mary Jane (he thinks it might have had something to with Gwen having a resemblance to Stan Lee’s wife.)
Conway’s “real-world” approach to storytelling was an inevitable “next step from what Stan Lee had initiated in the 60s,” said the comic-book veteran, and the Stacy death was a turning point in the comic industry.
He stayed out of the limelight for several years after the Gwen Stacy incident, after receiving threats and fan blow-back. But he continued creating some of the most memorable Spider-Man characters (The Grizzly) and story-lines like the wedding of Doc Ock and Aunt May and the infamous Spider-Mobile. Mr. Conway is now a successful television and film writer (Law & Order, Diagnosis Murder)
After my last panel, I hit the show-floor to take some pics (which you’ll find below) and scope-out some purchases I want to make on the show’s final day, but I already came across a great bargain at the Heavy Metal booth, which had archived HM magazines on sale 10 for $10 and hardcover book compilations for only $5.00. Approximately 50 pounds of books later I made my way to the car and back to the hotel to catch up on sleep lost during my two days of futile Hall H efforts.
Follow Nerdvana’s coverage all through the weekend, both here and “live” via Twitter @Nerdvana.
Nerdvana’s San Diego Comic-Con 2013 – Saturday Photo Gallery
(Click to see larger image.)