Comics Ate My Brain

July 26, 2004

San Diego Diary, Last Day

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom Bondurant @ 11:01 pm

Saturday, July 24

Woke up in the middle of the night thanks to stereo snoring. One would snore and the other would answer. Very strange.

Tried to make up for the room-service imbroglio from yesterday by getting my own breakfast. Everybody else was still asleep, so after getting cleaned up, I moseyed down to the hotel restaurant and had granola and a croissant on the veranda by the pool. Read the New York Times, too. It felt very high-toned.

The water taxi didn’t start until 10:00 a.m., so I was late getting to the 10:00 “Lost” panel. For those who don’t know, Lost is a new ABC series from JJ Abrams, the creator of Alias. My lovely wife and I are big Alias fans, and she asked about the panel when we talked on Friday night, so I figured I had to make a decent effort to get there.

Went to Room 20, but the panel had moved across the convention center and it was a pretty good hike to get there. Still saw about 15 minutes of the first episode — survivors of a plane crash explore the wreckage and get terrorized by some mysterious thing. All things considered, it was probably good I didn’t see the actual plane-crash scenes. After the show, the cast and some of the writers came out for Q & A. Dominic Monaghan, who played Merry in Lord of the Rings, is in this show, and he was the subject of much squealing and screaming from what I took to be the teenage girls in the first few rows. Not bad for a guy I thought was the Ringo of the four hobbits. Neither Abrams nor Greg Grunberg (an Alias alum who is also in Lost) was on stage, which was a little disappointing, but it was still a good presentation.

After about an hour on the convention floor, it was time for the Identity Crisis panel. I had expected a little more acrimony from the crowd, considering that the series has done some pretty horrible things to a character who was always pretty light-hearted. However, everyone was cordial, and the phrase “love-fest” was used a few times. I suppose the people who don’t much like IC wouldn’t have come to the panel just to vent, but I was surprised nobody said anything negative. I asked a question and, after the panel, made a couple of positive comments to writer Brad Meltzer.

Dropped in on the Cartoon Voices panel next, and enjoyed stories from Tom Kenny (who voices SpongeBob and a couple of characters on The Powerpuff Girls) and Billy West (who starred in Futurama and Ren & Stimpy). Left that one early to go to the Pros vs. Fans Trivia Challenge. Before that panel, I talked to Mark Waid and Kurt Busiek and basically told them they’d “made my year” for JLA/Avengers and Superman: Birthright. I then told Waid his first Fantastic Four issue was one of the best single issues of comics I’d read. None of these were real exaggerations — I did enjoy JLA/Avengers even though, and probably because, it was blatant pandering to the fans. I do like Birthright, which revised Superman’s first adventures, better than its predecessor Man of Steel. The reinterpretation that Waid outlined for Reed Richards, leader of the Fantastic Four, did really stun me. (Waid told me it was editor Tom Brevoort’s idea.) I try to say something nice to everyone, even Chuck Austen, just to be nice — but I wanted these guys to know how much I appreciated their work. Busiek’ s going to be the regular writer of JLA next year, so I’m excited about that.

Anyway, the trivia panel was fun enough. They took questions from the audience for a while, and I contributed a couple. It wasn’t as entertaining as I’d seen it, but it was still diverting.

The general DC Comics panel was next. I’d heard most of the information before at other panels, but it was announced that DC would start reprinting every single Batman story in order, in paperback form. I wonder how long DC will stick with this, because a complete set of Batman stories just through the 1970s would cover half a wall.

Caught up with Sam on the convention floor, and we walked around while he shopped for his kids and waited for his panel to begin. I had already gotten my wife a couple of gifts, and took them to the on-site UPS store to be shipped back. (One thing about coming to San Diego — I always limit myself to carry-on baggage, and my bags were pretty full. By this point, they were a lot heavier too.)

Sam did pretty well on his panel. He was on with several other sculptors, talking about making action figures. Most of the crowd were artists themselves, so hopefully they found it informative. We left the convention, caught a taxi, and got to the airport about 2 hours before the flight was supposed to leave.

Sunday, July 25

We left San Diego at about 1:30 a.m. EDT and flew straight to Atlanta. I slept for about 2-3 hours on the plane, and the rest of the time tried to drown out the cabin noise with my MP3 player. We landed in Atlanta at 5:00 a.m., where we settled in for a 2 1/2 hour layover. This consisted of watching Airport CNN, listening to the piercing beeps of the courtesy golf cart making its rounds, and growing slowly colder under the glacial influence of determined air conditioning. A little plane, like the one which took us to Dallas, returned us to Lexington. I got home about 9:30 a.m., took a shower, and went to church.

Before too long, my wife will have to experience all of this.

Check me out!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom Bondurant @ 7:30 pm

First update on the Omnibus Blog Update website!

San Diego Diary, Day 2

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom Bondurant @ 4:45 pm

Friday, July 23

Going to Comic-Con inevitably reminds me of going on marching band trips. I am always just on the outskirts of feeling sufficiently socialized to deal with these ritzy settings, and here I am doing something which many people consider somewhat juvenile. This is a long way of saying I couldn’t navigate the room-service menu well enough to order for 4 people and still keep within our budget.

Friday also saw the arrival of the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan, which would have San Diego as its home port. All the local TV stations gave it massive coverage, of course. Nancy was there. We had no idea whether it would come close enough to us to affect the water taxi. It didn’t, but I halfway expected to go out to the dock and see a couple of destroyers floating calmly between me and the convention. We did count at least 4 helicopters hovering over the city. Don’t know whether they were news or military. Probably both.

The big attraction for me on Friday was the Batman Begins panel, because I hoped they’d premiere the rumored teaser trailer. No such luck. Instead, we 6,500 assembled in Hall H got an entertaining session with writer David Goyer and actor Cillian (Scarecrow) Murphy. Goyer assured us that he was more than pleased with the way the film turned out; it’s the Batman film he’s always wanted to see; and nothing anyone hated about the last four movies is in this one. There was also a taped greeting from director Chris Nolan and star Christian Bale. Bale looked fidgety and tired, but maybe that’s just me.

The BB show also included a look at Constantine. I wonder if anyone at Warner Bros. appreciated the irony of putting these two movies together. Batman had long been rumored to be the most faithful adaptation of the comics, whereas Constantine took a character conceived as a seedy bleach-blond British occult con-man and turned him into an American played by Keanu Reeves. (The original model for the character, some 20 years ago, was Sting.) In other words, fans came to be reassured about Batman, and quite possibly to vent about the liberties being taken with Constantine. However, Warners did a pretty credible job of showing that Constantine would still be a dark, disturbing trip through Heaven and Hell, and Keanu (who was there in person) acquitted himself well. I had no interest in Constantine before this presentation, but I do now.

Warners also showed trailers for its Exorcist prequel (it tried hard, but not quite) and A Sound of Thunder. The latter is based on the Ray Bradbury short story about a group of hunters who travel back in time to hunt a tyrannosaur and end up changing history. The trailer had the advantage of being introduced by Mr. Bradbury, and it was nice to see how many people of all ages still appreciate him and his contributions to SF/F. Thunder looks pretty decent — more of an action film than an ironic commentary, but probably enjoyable.

Next up for me was the Superman panel. There were a couple of interesting tidbits about the books themselves. Adventures of Superman writer Greg Rucka said that writing Superman isn’t easy because of his powers, it’s hard because you have to tell a good story despite the powers. (I’m paraphrasing terribly.) Superman/Batman writer Jeph Loeb disclosed that he plans to leave the book after about another year, and explained that his next big arc on the book would have our heroes taking over the world.

The panel was dominated by a couple of fans who started arguing with the creators. The first one said he felt lost by the changes in the books since April (when new creative teams took over) and wanted to know if he should have gotten any special issue. The short answer was no, he was supposed to feel lost; but this took quite a while to sink in. The other guy wanted to know why there were so many new one-off villains, and couldn’t the creators use some of the older, more familiar ones? Again, the short answer was that the writers and artists got paid to think up new things. That was met with a conspiratorial “that’s just a publisher’s directive” reply, but Rucka basically said they all liked thinking up new villains, not just doing the latest Luthor story.

However, I did get to talk to Chuck Austen and Super-editor Eddie Berganza after the panel. Austen confirmed for me that the wacky doctor was based on Jack Black. Berganza was very gracious with his time, answering my questions about whether Clark Kent was slated exclusively for Adventures, and talking about the time-twisting ramifications of Superman #200 and Superman: Birthright. He didn’t have to be as nice as he was, so I appreciated his time.

After bumming around a couple of other panels for an hour or so, I went to the Warner Bros. Animation presentation, which talked about the Cartoon Network series Justice League Unlimited, Teen Titans, and The Batman. The Justice League and Teen Titans presentations were pretty entertaining, and most of the Titans cast was there. As for The Batman (so named to distinguish itself from the long-running Batman: The Animated Series), an entire episode was shown (featuring Man-Bat), but much of the comments seemed designed to assure fans of the earlier series that they had the utmost respect for the show’s predecessor and would be happy if the new one were half as good. The episode itself was OK. While the vigilante Batman is being chased by the police, the monstrous Man-Bat appears, and the chaos he causes rubs off on Batman’s reputation. It didn’t seem as deep as an average episode of the earlier series, but it’s hard to judge.

Still didn’t get a chance to hand out any cards.

San Diego Diary, Day 1

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom Bondurant @ 3:58 pm

Thursday, July 22

Going to San Diego was different this year for a couple of reasons. I was a little nervous about flying. By coincidence, this would be the first time I’d flown since 9/11. In fact, the last time I’d been on a plane was the 2001 Comic-Con.

I’d also skipped the ’02 and ’03 Cons because I was too busy getting engaged and married to afford going out there. Ironically, though, my wife would be flying out of town about 90 minutes before I was supposed to get back, so after I left the house Thursday morning, we wouldn’t see each other for a week.

I’d also bought my first cell phone, which made navigating the con a lot easier. I go mostly as a guest of my buddy Sam, who’s part of “the industry.” This means I get a pass which marks me as “professional” — or, this year, just “industry” — and it means I have to explain why an attorney with no discernable professional connection to comics has such a tag. Because I hate sounding like a hanger-on, I usually just tell people I’ve represented Sam in the past, which is true. This year I have the new blog, but old habits die hard. Anyway, Sam schmoozes while I go to panels and scour back-issue bins, so we get separated pretty quickly.

Left the house at 5:40 a.m. and, after a brief stop to pick up Sam’s portfolios, headed for the airport. Security was not a hassle at all, although I did have to take off my running shoes. Saw a couple of people from church at the gate and talked to them about current church events. A group of high-spirited teens was also there, and since I have little tolerance for peppy people before sunrise, was very glad they weren’t on our flight.

Thunder had awakened me initially, but it passed through before I left the house. Now, however, a second wave of strong storms was moving in, and the airport was caught in a pretty good deluge. Our flight was delayed to make sure the fueling truck wouldn’t be hit by lightning. I want to say there were other electrical problems which almost forced us to deplane, but those were cleared up (still leaving us passengers a little nervous) and we left 30 minutes late, about 8:00 a.m.

The flight was routed through Dallas, so with the lateness of our departure from Lexington, we got to the gate at DFW just in time to see them boarding. We literally had no time to sit down. The plane from LEX to DFW had fewer than 50 seats, making the 737 we flew to San Diego a pleasant, roomier change. The flight to San Diego was uneventful.

It’s not like I am an experienced air traveler, but the San Diego airport is almost like a mall. The crowds are managed well, there’s a lot of sunlight, and the Delta terminal is situated very close to the ground-transportation plaza outside. When we landed at 10:30 Pacific time, we did see a long line stretching from the security checkpoints out the doors and across the skybridge, so we resolved to get to the airport early on Saturday night.

We shuttled into town with a couple of beautiful people who had flown in for a wedding. They were from Houston. We explained that we were from Kentucky, and had come to the convention a few times before. For some reason they asked our opinion on why property taxes were so much higher in Los Angeles than in San Diego. Not knowing why they thought two Kentuckians would know, we faked an answer that seemed to satisfy them. What with dropping off the rest of the shuttle passengers, it took us about an hour to get to our hotel, the Marriott Coronado Resort.

We had originally planned to stay at the Marriott next to the convention center, but the travel agency overbooked rooms and Sam wangled the Coronado at the last minute. It is located across the bay from downtown, meaning we had to take a water taxi to get to the show. The Coronado is a fairly nice hotel, but it suffered a little from not being on a beach. I am probably being slightly unfair to it because we didn’t spend a whole lot of time there — the water taxi kept a strict schedule and cost $5.00 one way.

This meant I missed the first panel of interest (“Focus on Walt and Louise Simonson,” about a married couple who between them worked on Fantastic Four, Thor, and Superman), but I got my badge (my name was misspelled) and started shopping. Within about an hour I’d bought most of what I came for, so I headed back to the room to drop off the heavy stack.

Spent the rest of the day Thursday going to panels. I had wanted to ask a couple of Robin-related questions at the Batman panel (the last one of the day) but boiled them down to “Will we see more Robin in Batman and Detective?” The answer was a vague yes. I get the impression from the Batman writers and artists that they joke a lot about Robin, which is understandable. Besides, these panels are not Meet the Press, although sometimes you can start to think they are.

We had dinner Thursday night at The Yacht Club, a Marriott restaurant next to the convention center. We were there with Sam’s colleagues, who were waiting for a couple of guys to arrive. These guys were sculptors who would be staying with us. By this time it was 10:00 p.m. Eastern and I was starting to get cranky. I didn’t quite fall asleep at the restaurant, nor did I snap at anyone, but came close on both counts. (At 2:30 EDT I grumbled, “Why stop now?”) We finally got back to the Coronado around 3:00 a.m. Eastern, and after getting the two other guys situated in our room, went to sleep.

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