There are so many worthy panels at the San Diego Comic-con it can take a little time to get around to them all. Here’s a short list of notable events with the focus on a forthcoming collection of queer comics, Orson Scott Card and Hope Larson, a hot show-special release and a spotlight panel on the innovative comics storyteller Jason Shiga.
Fantagraphics Debuts Definitive Queer Comics Anthology
Editor Justin Hall (Best American Comics 2007, Hard To Swallow) commemorated the release of his new Fantagraphics anthology, No Straight Lines: Four Decades of Queer Comics, at San Diego Comic Con with a star studded panel and a release party benefiting the Prism Comics Queer Press Grant at this year’s San Diego Comic Con. Featuring four decades of queer comics, No Straight Lines is the most definitive collection to date of LBGT (lesbian, bi-sexual, gay, transgender) comics. It features the work of Allison Bechdel, Robert Kirby, Dan Savage and Ellen Forney, along with many more accomplished cartoonists.
At the panel, Hall moderated a discussion about the book and the queer cartooning movement with Bechdel and fellow contributors, such as Trina Robbins and Ed Luce. The panel discussed the definition of queer comics and the problem of being “pigeon-holed,” as Ms. Bechdel put it, in the “queer comics ghetto.” In response to a question from the audience as to how he compiled the groundbreaking collection, Hall replied that while there’s “a lot of amazing (queer) erotic material” he did not include it in the book. He also stayed away from manga, explaining that the genre requires it’s own book. Instead, Hall focused on collecting “literary queer comics in danger of being lost” with the focus instead on literary, self-contained works that would give the reader the experience of being “satisfied” with each of the stories.”
Speculative Fiction Authors Draw Huge Crowd
Fans of one of the most historically celebrated art forms at Comic Con – speculative fiction – showed their passion for the genre by eagerly waiting in a line that rivaled those in Hall H to get into a panel entitled Wrinkle in Time. Featuring several distinguished authors whose work explores time, space and other dimensions, the panelists included David Brin (Existence), Deborah Harkness (Shadow of Night), Charles Yu (Sorry Please Thank You), Orson Scott Card (Ender’s Game), and Hope Larson (A Wrinkle in Time – graphic novel adaptation).
The mood was friendly and warm, with much of the discussion centering on picking the authors’ brains about what the future holds. David Brin offered that what he’d most like to see in twenty years is, “a breakthrough in gerontology – (things) to keep us all sprightly and fabulous.” Although, with Comic Con changing so much in recent years from comics to film as the dominant force of programming, the discussion also turned to what the convention itself will look like in the future. Legendary sci-fi novelist, Orson Scott Card, noted that, “Comic Con is about things that were created 30 – 50 years ago. The future of Comic Con is the past of what already is – the literature of the 20th Century.” While the only cartoonist on the panel, Hope Larson, concluded, “All the kids that are now being influenced by manga will be making their own amazing comics (then). I’d like to think that in twenty years comics will once again be the dominant art form at Comic Con” a sentiment to which the crowded room responded with thunderous applause.
Limited Edition Adventure Time Comics are Top Sellers
The licensed Adventure Time comics are already top sellers for Boom Studios’ kid comics imprint, Kaboom!, but Boom!’s old school but savvy strategy of featuring imaginative, critically lauded comics creators using unique comics packaging formats brought the up and coming indie comics company even higher sales at this year’s Comic Con.
Although any and everything Adventure Time related at the show did well – from the Adventure Time exhibit at the San Diego Children’s Museum to the Cartoon Network Adventure Time panel (where storyboarder, Rebecca Sugar, sang several of her original songs that have appeared on the show which the standing room only crowd reportedly sang along to) – Boom!’s 2012 Comic Con exclusives and releases still managed to stand out.
Along with the release of the highly anticipated Marcelene and the Scream Queens Adventure Time spinoff comic (featuring work by Meredith Gran and Jen Wang), Jon Chad, a faculty member at the Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont, created an exclusive to Comic Con screen printed mini-comic that sold out on the Saturday afternoon of the show (and is now currently re-selling for four times its original cover price on eBay). Like Chad’s mini-comic, which featured a fold out poster of Adventure Time heroes Finn and Jake, issue #6 of the licensed comic was also characteristic of the innovative book packaging Boom! is embracing for the project. The latest issue featured a Comic Con exclusive special sketch cover which show creator, Pendleton Ward, covered with original artwork for convention attendees, many of them happy and excited kids accompanied by parents who seemed equally thrilled that this year’s Comic Con was all about Adventure Time.
Spotlight on Jason Shiga
A special guest at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, Eisner and Ignatz award winning cartoonist Jason Shiga presented a career retrospective of his work at a spotlight panel on the Sunday morning of the show that detailed his unique process of making comics in depth.
Shiga described his process as somewhat similar to animation character design. For his well regarded book, Empire State (Abrams, 2010) Shiga penciled and inked each character in up to 100 different poses and facial expressions on a lightbox, then assembled them in Photoshop against hand drawn backgrounds. In answer to a question from cartoonist and scholar Scott McCloud (Understanding Comics) about his process for making inventive choose your own adventure graphic novels such as Meanwhile, Shiga likened the format to “designing a garden as probably the closest art form that I can think of” to the popular children’s book format.
The cartoonist kept the crowd laughing with many of his responses, including the revelation that his new book, Demon, “will actually be 712 pages – one page longer than (Craig Thompson’s) Habibi,” which will give him rights to say that he has created a longer graphic novel than the Eisner Award winning book for this year’s Best Graphic Album.