Phoenix Comicon 2014: Saturday – Legendary Creators and costumes
First off, an update on the Phoenix Ultimate Geek Smackdown results from the finale on Friday night. We were locked out of the overfull event, but apparently Shannon, who we saw dethrone the 2013 Champ on Thursday night, was victorious overall and is the new reigning PUGS champion.
There were huge crowds at Saturday’s 2014 Phoenix Comicon, although it didn’t seem quite as packed as it was with last year’s weekend crowd. This might have something to do with the expanded space on the exhibit floor, or the fact that last year’s show was in conjunction with a holiday weekend. Nevertheless, the hot temperatures outside couldn’t stop the droves of fans in attendance.
One has to give the costumers at this year’s Con credit for not only coming up with elaborate outfits, but also for braving the heat in what has to be extremely uncomfortable attire. Their presence at the show makes each day a unique experience, and we sincerely appreciate their entertaining efforts.
Our Saturday schedule was dedicated to attending the classic comic creator panels that featured some of the biggest names in sequential art history, and we also took a slew of photos for your viewing pleasure, including pictures of the Steampunk Fashion Show. Here’s a wrap-up of Saturday’s activities and a gallery of images captured throughout the day.
Wolverine: The Most Dangerous Mutant –
Living legends Len Wein and Chris Claremont were the featured guests at the Wolverine panel, with Wein being the co-creator of the Canadian hero, and Claremont having made the ill-tempered mutant one of the most popular characters in the Marvel canon.
The writers were very affable and often outright funny. Mr. Wein, dressed in a Nightcrawler t-shirt, Wolverine club-shirt and Batman ball-cap, warned the crowd at the start that, “We’re going to make-up all the answers.” Additional Nerdist panelists included Heath Corson, Adam Beechen, and Marc Bernardin.
Wein started off the discussion and recounted his history at Marvel leading up to the creation of Wolverine, whose genesis began in the pages of Brother Voodoo, where Len’s penchant for writing accents was noted by Marvel’s editor-in-chief at the time, Roy Thomas.
Thomas ordered Wein, who was working on the Incredible Hulk title, to come up with a Canadian hero named Wolverine, and after conducting research on the animals, Len determined the new hero should be short, hairy, vicious, and fearless. He also made Wolvie a mutant, thinking forward to the planned revision of the X-Men super-team.
Claremont discussed how he believed the character really took off after X-Men #108, when artist John Byrne took over the pencils on the title and moved Wolverine “up the food chain” in the mutant universe. Wein had initially planned for Colossus to be the star of the comic, and the former illustrator, Dave Cockrum, loved Nightcrawler; but the diminutive Canadian gained in popularity and was soon the leading X-Man.
Wein and Claremont discussed how Wolverine’s claws were originally planned to be part of his gloves, but that they felt anyone wearing the gloves could then become the hero, so in X-Men #99 they showed his claws popping out of his hands for the very first time.
The veteran writers are not fans of the Wolverine origin tale and feel that the character should have remained a mystery inside of an enigma and “wrapped with a nice prosciutto,” joked Wein. They feel the character was best when very little was known about his past, and when his acts of violence were mostly off the page and only reflected in the reactions of his teammates.
When asked about their thoughts on the Wolverine movies, the writers said that the filmmakers generally aren’t interested in what the creators think and don’t want their participation. It’s too bad, because these two men are still sharp, witty and the most knowledgeable people on the planet when it comes to their creations. This was a fascinating panel.
Spotlight: Mark Evanier –
Next up on Saturday was a panel featuring comic book historian, writer and cartoon producer, Mark Evanier. This pop culture veteran has pretty much done it all; from Rocky & Bullwinkle to the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon series and Garfield. He is well renowned as the leading expert in all things Jack Kirby, and even worked with the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate for several years, overseeing the Tarzan and Korak comics.
I asked Mr. Evanier why he thought that comic conventions had such a sparse Burroughs presence (if any at all), and he believes it is because the major players in the pop culture world don’t own the characters of Tarzan and John Carter. He also let the attendees know about an upcoming article addressing this very concern in Roy Thomas’ Alter Ego magazine.
Evanier discussed his lengthy career and told stories about his adventures with his best friend, Sergio Aragones, the famous MAD artist and creator of Groo the Wanderer. The friends have an upcoming comic project that has the cartoony barbarian teaming-up with the real Conan. They hope to unveil the book at July’s San Diego Comic-Con.
Mr. Evanier has had a fascinating career and is one of the few living people in the world, maybe the only one, who can boast of having worked with Jerry Siegel (creator of Superman), Bob Kane (creator of Batman), and Jack Kirby (the creator of everything else, as Mark is fond of saying.) This was another captivating, informative, and educational panel by an expert in comic book history.
Spotlight: Chris Claremont –
PHXCC room 129A was filled to capacity with fans waiting to hear from the seminal X-men writer, Chris Claremont. With the same Nerdist panelists who participated in the earlier Wolverine panel, and with Len Wein showing up as well, this was just an extension of the conversation from the Wolvie panel, but it was nonetheless entertaining and informative.
Once again, Len Wein broke the ice with a pitch for a new super-character called, “Combat Cow,” who milks crime for all it’s worth, and is utterly amazing in a story called, “In the Teat of the Night.” Very funny.
Claremont recounted his journey from studying to be a political theorist to becoming a drama major, to getting a job as an intern with Marvel through his parents’ connection to MAD artist, Al Jaffee. He got his gig working on the X-Men books when Wein was looking for a writer to take over the title and Claremont was the only one enthusiastic about doing it. He’d spend the next 17 years writing the greatest X-Men stories ever told, including the tale, Days of Future Past, which of course is one of the most popular movies in the world right now.
Chris and Len talked about how Yellowjacket is the dumbest guy ever to wear a costume, their work on Marvel Team-up, too-long story arcs (Days of Future Past only took up two issues), and how the film industry has prevented Marvel from creating any new mutant characters, for fear of losing the rights to them.
I could sit all day and listen to these men tell stories about their days at Marvel, but a couple of hours with these gentlemen on this Saturday was a genuine treat I won’t soon forget. If you ever get the opportunity to hear them speak, I highly recommend you take it.
Jack Kirby: King of Comic Books –
Our final panel of the day was a tribute to the “King of comics,” Jack Kirby, the co-creator of nearly every iconic character in the Marvel canon. The panelists included comic historian and Kirby expert, Mark Evanier (whose spotlight panel we had attended earlier), Marvel Zombies author, Fred Van Lente, and local comic shop owner, Jesse James.
James started by recounting his experience with Kirby as a twelve year-old kid working in a comic shop and setting up a signing event with the famous artist. Jesse was so inspired by Kirby that he has devoted his life to the comics industry that Jack Kirby helped to create.
Van Lente discussed his background with Kirby as well, but everyone was there to hear Evanier talk about the man he knew and worked closely with for several years. Mark Evanier is still a close friend and advisor to the Kirby estate and is even involved with the family’s lawsuit that is currently under review by the Supreme Court.
Evanier talked about Kirby’s depression era ethics and how he has never known a harder worker or more humble and honorable man; and how Kirby’s most important goals were to be able to provide for his family and be recognized for his work. It has been a never-ending battle on both of those counts.
Mark went into his history with Kirby and how the man oozed creativity and inspired everyone who ever came into contact with him. He told the story of how the artist got his nickname (over a friendly jibe at publisher Victor Fox, who used to claim he was “the king of comics.”
Kirby is sadly the poster child for the pitfalls of creating art for corporations, who go on to make billions off the work produced by artists like Jack Kirby. Here’s hoping his family gains some ground with their Supreme Court case, and bravo to Evanier for leading the charge.
Check out our photo gallery of images (below) from Saturday’s 2014 Phoenix Comicon!For up-to-date details about Phoenix Comicon 2014, go to: phoenixcomicon.com. For all of NERDVANA’s Phoenix Comicon coverage, click HERE; and follow our ‘live’ Phoenix Comicon 2014 coverage on Twitter @nerdvana.