Comic-Con@Home, again, day two

Today is day two of the second, and hopefully last, Comic-Con@Home. This year, the con is only three days, and not the usual four. The length, of course, doesn’t matter that much with this kind of thing, since the panels are all prerecorded and dumped on YouTube, so there’s not really much of a sense of participating in a specific thing that’s constrained in time and space. I can watch the panels whenever I want, and there’s not much of a “live” aspect to it at all. But I did take a day off yesterday to “attend” the con and tried to get into the spirit of things.

Comparing this year to last year, things seem a bit more organized but also a lot more subdued. All the folks who didn’t really know how to do Zoom panels last year have now figured it out, so the video and sound on those is generally a lot better than it was last year. I guess we’ve all figured out how to do Zoom (and Teams and WebEx and whatever else) pretty well over the last year and a half.

At the start of the pandemic, I made the decision to write a short post in Day One every day, and I’ve kept that going since. I just recently noticed that I’ve hit a 500 day streak in Day One. And then I noticed this blog post from Mark Evanier, pointing out that it has now been 500 days since the start of the pandemic lockdown/quarantine/whatever. I guess it depends on when you start counting, but, for me, I’d start from my birthday last year, 3/13/2020, and 500 days from then is 7/26/21, so we’re not quite at 500 days, but we’re close. Of course, things are starting to get back to “normal,” but COVID-19 is still with us, and I’m still working from home and wearing a mask when I go grocery shopping. Things will get much more “normal” in September when I’ll need to start going back into the office. (But that’s a topic for another post.)

Anyway, that 500 day mark, and the second virtual SDCC, has gotten me thinking about how long this has all lasted and where we are now and where we’re headed. But I really meant this post to just be about fun comics stuff, so I’m going to stop thinking about that and write up some notes on the panels I “attended” yesterday.

  • Ducks All the Way Down: Metafiction in Comics – This was a weird one, to start the day. A nice nerdy conversation about metafiction in comics.
  • Stan Sakai and the Usagi Chronicles – This panel was about the new Usagi Yojimbo animated series that’s going to be on Netflix. There’s an article about it here. They haven’t announced a release date for it yet. I’m cautiously optimistic about it.
  • Max Allan Collins–Three Hard Cases: Ms Tree, Mike Hammer & Nolan – This was a good one to watch, since I haven’t really been keeping up with Max Allan Collins recently. I loved Ms Tree when it first came out, years ago. I should probably buy the new Ms Tree collections coming out from Titan. I don’t really need them, since I’ve already read all of those stories, but it would be nice to have the collections and reread them.
  • 35 Years of Dark Horse: Past and Present – I’ve been reading Dark Horse books since their early days. Boris the Bear #1 was probably the first Dark Horse book I ever bought. Dark Horse has a timeline up on their site that goes from 1986 through to 2013. (I notice that it doesn’t mention Boris though.) The company has had an interesting history, with some ups and downs. The panel was more about the present than the past though. It would have been cool to have a panel with some of the original Dark Horse creators talking about the early days of the company, but that’s not what this was.
  • Greatest Geek Year Ever: 1981 Week – This was a a fun panel from the guys who usually do Starship Smackdown at the con. The idea of this panel was, basically, to program a week’s worth of movies from 1981. They do a podcast called The 4:30 Movie where they do this for a different theme each episode. This one brought back a lot of childhood memories for me. I hadn’t thought about Dragonslayer in years. I should probably consider subscribing to their podcast, but I’m juggling too many podcasts right now.
  • Scott Shaw! Oddball Comics: The Batman Edition – Scott’s “oddball comics” slideshows are always fun. He did an all-Batman edition for this year.

There are two panels from yesterday that I haven’t gotten around to watching yet: the Frank Thorne Memorial Panel, and the Eisner Awards presentation. I actually started watching the Eisner one this morning, but didn’t get too far. Much like last year, it’s kind of dry. It’s mostly just Phil LaMarr reading out the nominees for each category, then announcing the winner. Since it wasn’t done live, there isn’t really any excitement or suspense in it. And there aren’t any acceptance speeches. I was hoping that maybe they’d find a way to make it more interesting this year.

For today, I’ve got a list of about a half-dozen panels that I want to watch, including a couple of Mark Evanier’s regular panels. So that should all be fun. As I did last year, I’m trying to disappear into the con a bit and escape from the reality around me, to some extent. I had a good day yesterday, and can’t really complain, but watching panels on my laptop or TV doesn’t really compare to the real thing. Hopefully, I can have a good “in-person” con experience at NYCC later this year.

SDCC, NYCC, Black Widow, and so on

Today is the Fan Verification Onsale date for NYCC 2021. Anyone who was “fan verified” for the 2019 con can buy tickets for this year’s con, starting at 10 AM today. The con is scheduled for October 7-10. Hopefully, it’ll be safe to hold a comic convention in NYC by then. I’d be reticent about going to something like NYCC right now. And honestly I’m not sure if we’ll be better off or worse off in October. But I’m probably going to attempt to buy tickets today.

Badges are pretty expensive this year, at $60/day with no multi-day passes, so going to all four days would be $240. Maybe I’ll just buy Thursday and Friday badges? I haven’t really decided yet. And there’s always a chance that one or more days will sell out before I get to the head of the queue, so maybe I won’t even be able to buy all four days. They’re supposed to be reducing the number of badges they’re selling this year, so the con won’t be too crowded, but I haven’t seen specific numbers on that. And there seems to be a good bit of interest in the con this year, but it might be significantly less than usual, specifically from folks who aren’t local. So, really, I have no idea what the situation will be. I guess I can buy badges today, then decide not to go if the situation in October isn’t good. Or maybe I’ll never make it out of the queue, and all this waffling won’t matter.

Meanwhile, SDCC’s Comic-Con@Home is coming soon (July 23-25). I’m looking forward to that. I’m probably going to take a PTO day on July 23rd and try to recreate a bit of the con experience at home, like I did last year. There doesn’t seem to be much excitement around this year’s virtual con, really. I think people are really looking forward to the next in-person con.

There’s a good article about the @Home con, and the upcoming in-person con in November, at Gizmodo. It sounds like most of the panels will be pre-recorded, like last year, which is a little disappointing but understandable. The panel schedule has now been released, but I haven’t had a chance to look at it yet. It can be found here. On first glance, it looked like there wasn’t much going on, but then I realized that the panel list was an iframe that scrolls separately from the rest of the page. (Sigh.) There’s actually quite a lot on the schedule, so that’s cool.

I’ve been getting into the mood for SDCC by listening to the Comic-Con Begins podcast. It’s a pretty good “oral history” podcast recounting the founding and early days of the con. It’s a fairly professional production, released by SiriusXM. I already know some of the stories they’re telling, but a good bit of it is new to me. Anyway, it’s fun.

One more comic-related (and COVID-related) note: I spent the $30 to buy access to Black Widow on Disney+ on Friday. It’s a pretty good movie, but maybe not worth $30 just for the privilege of watching it at home while it’s still in theaters. But I really wanted to see it Friday, and I didn’t want to go to a theater. I think I’m probably ready to go back and see a movie in a theater, theoretically, but I really just wanted to plop down on my sofa after work Friday and watch a new Marvel movie with my AirPod Pros in my ears, and my shades drawn, and forgot about the real world for two hours. There’s an interesting article about the business aspect of this release on CNN. And here’s an article from Wired about the timing of the release. I might watch it again tonight, though I started watching the last season of Bosch last night, so I’ll probably just watch more of that. (There’s way too much good stuff streaming right now.)

Comic-Con Special Edition and thinking ahead

As I mentioned yesterday, The SDCC folks are going to try to put on an in-person con in November. There’s been a lot of reaction to that online. Mark Evanier has a reasonable blog post about it. Rich Johnston has gone all-in and booked a flight to San Diego (from London) and an Airbnb already. I wish I was optimistic enough to do that. But we’re really not doing great with the pandemic here in New Jersey right now. In the US, overall, we’re looking at a fourth wave, and the director of the CDC is using phrases like “impending doom.” So I guess I’m not going to make any plans that involve traveling more than, say, 50 miles from home this year.

On This Day

I probably shouldn’t be writing a blog post today, on a Monday, during work hours, but I was poking around and noticed a few things that are too good not to mention. And I just solved a long-standing performance issue with one of my programs, so I think I can take a short break.

  • Two years ago today, I was at WonderCon in Anaheim. Yesterday, I was watching WonderCon@Home panels on YouTube, from my couch.
  • One year ago today, I was just finishing up my second week of working from home. I’m still using the old office chair that I said, in the linked post, was “OK for occasional use.” And I’m still using a single-monitor setup. If I knew then that I’d be working from home for a full year, I probably would have gone ahead and bought that $1300 Aeron chair. (Honestly, the old chair I’m using isn’t that bad.)
  • San Diego Comic-Con has just announced the dates for their November convention. They’re going to try to do a three-day con over Thanksgiving weekend. They’re getting some backlash on that, and I think rightly so. Thanksgiving 2021 may be the first chance that some folks get to have a big family get-together since Christmas 2019. So maybe asking a bunch of people to work a con that weekend isn’t a great idea. And expecting fans and pros to show up may be a bit unrealistic too. On the other hand, this con isn’t supposed to be a full, normal, San Diego con. It’s a “special edition” con. So maybe it’ll be a low-key affair, mostly for locals, with limited attendance, and limited programming. I can’t blame the con organizers for wanting to do something this year to pull in some revenue.

So that’s it for now. Back to work.

Comic-Con@Home, day four

Well, today is the last day of Comic-Con@Home. I attended two panels today, one on Will Eisner and the 80th anniversary of The Spirit, and another on Jack Kirby. I’ll admit I zoned out a bit during parts of both of them. The Eisner panel was hosted by Danny Fingeroth. I went to a similar panel hosted by him at NYCC in 2017, so there was a lot of familiar material in it. The other panelists were Denis Kitchen, Paul Levitz, and Dan Schkade. I’m very familiar with Kitchen and Levitz, and they were both on that 2017 panel, but I’d never heard of Schkade. His perspective, as a younger creator, was interesting. He does a strip on Webtoon called Lavender Jack, which I should probably start following. (Of course, I’m already following a couple of other strips on Webtoon, but I haven’t actually gone over to the site or opened the app to read them in months…)

And the Kirby panel was a “Kirby 101” panel, meant to be an introduction to Jack Kirby. That’s absolutely a worthwhile thing to do, but I’m not really the target audience for that, having already read plenty of Kirby comics and gone to several Kirby con panels. (I’m definitely not a Kirby expert, but I’m at least at the “Kirby 201” level…) Anyway, both panels were fun to watch, but I did zone out during both and found myself scrolling through Twitter on my phone and looking at links to other stuff. If I were actually at an in-person con, I’d probably have paid more attention. Going to a couple of good solid comics-related panels is always a good way to close out a con.

I’ve been curious about the economics of this virtual con, and about how much damage canceling the in-person con will do to the Comic-Con organization and to the San Diego economy in general. This clip from a local San Diego TV news report, from when the cancellation was announced, has some pretty big numbers in it. And this article talks a bit about some of the behind-the-scenes stuff involved in dealing with hotel cancellation fees and other financial stuff. And here’s a recent TV clip about the cancellation. I’m really hoping things work out and they get to have a real con next year (even though I probably won’t be able to go to it).

I tried to do my part to help with the economic situation, by spending some money at the virtual con, but I didn’t manage to spend that much. While they included a virtual “con floor” as part of Comic-Con@Home, it was hard to navigate and honestly kind of useless. There’s not really a good way to simulate the experience of wandering a con floor, browsing all the cool stuff and making a bunch of ill-advised impulse purchases. I bought a t-shirt from the official store, and I bought some Rob Hanes comics from Randy Reynaldo. That’s it though. I thought about picking up some stuff from Two Morrows, but every time I think about doing that, I remember how many books and magazines about comics I have sitting around the apartment, unread, and I realize that adding more to that pile isn’t a great idea, even if they’re really good books and magazines. (Ditto for Hogan’s Alley. I keep thinking I should subscribe to that, or at least buy some back issues, then I realize that they’ll just pile up, and I’ll never read them.)

Anyway, it was a pretty good con, given the circumstances. My mood has been up and down for these last four days, and I can’t say that the virtual con has had the same brain-resetting effect that a real con often has on me. But I had some fun getting lost in panels about comics and TV and books and movies, and I guess a little escapism is the best I can hope for out of a stay-at-home long-weekend vacation in the middle of a pandemic. (Speaking of escapism, I also read through most of The Escapist series this weekend too. That was fun.)

Comic-Con@Home, day three

Today is Saturday, and day three of Comic-Con@Home. I did all of my usual Saturday errands and chores this morning, and settled in to enjoy con stuff around lunchtime.

I’m continuing to watch a lot of panels. Yesterday, I watched panels about DC, Marvel, Ray Harryhausen, Jack Kirby, and Netflix’s Dragon Prince. I’m not too excited about anything that DC and Marvel are doing these days. There’s a bunch of stuff that I’m curious about, and might pick up when it gets collected, but nothing that I really want to pick up in single issues as it comes out. Both DC and Marvel and doing big crossovers right now, and I really can’t get enthusiastic about picking up stuff like that anymore. It’s too much of a pain to keep track of all the issues, and it’s too expensive if you buy them all. And they rarely come together as well as you’d hope. The Harryhausen panel was fun. The Kirby panel was Mark Evanier’s usual Kirby tribute panel, this time with Alex Ross as a special guest.

I watched last night’s Eisner presentation this morning. That was a little weird. It was mostly just Phil LaMarr reading the nominees and winners. I realize that there’s not much else they could do, all things considered. It would have been cool if they could have found a way to do it live, and bring in the winners in real time for acceptance speeches. The Hall of Fame inductees did get to make speeches, and I enjoyed Maggie Thompson’s speech. (And I might have teared up a bit. Don and Maggie’s CBG was a big part of my formative years.) It might have been good for them to acknowledge and apologize for the voting glitch they had too. Anyway, here’s a list of the winners. There’s a lot of good stuff in there. (Most of which I haven’t read yet.)

So far this afternoon, I’ve watched another DC panel, a Saturday morning cartoon panel, and an Inglorious Treksperts panel. And there are a few more I’ll probably watch before the end of the day. The Trek panel was fun. The guys from the panel have done a bunch of “Starship Smackdown” panels at past cons, and I’ve gone to several of those. I honestly didn’t realize that they’d started a podcast. I should probably subscribe to that.

Overall, I’ve been having fun with the con, though it’s bittersweet, knowing that I probably won’t be able to attend a con in person any time soon.

Comic-Con@Home, day two

My first day of Comic-Con@Home went pretty well. I watched a total of six panels, which is probably a bit more than I’d get to at a real con. I complained yesterday about not being able to watch the Star Trek panel on my TV. That was the only one that was blocked in that way, so I watched all the others on my TV, from my couch. So that’s definitely more comfortable than typical convention center folding chairs. (Edit: this is probably why I couldn’t watch that Trek panel on TV.)

I didn’t do much in the way of creatively simulating a con environment, or doing anything special to get me in the right “con mood,” though I tossed a few ideas around. I remembered there being a “comic con jukebox” episode of Paul Dini’s old Radio Rashy podcast, and I think I found the entry for it, but the audio file itself is gone. That would have been fun to listen to.

I’m starting out today pretty much the same way I started yesterday: still getting up at 6 AM and eating my usual boring breakfast of cereal, a banana, and coffee. I had some ideas about getting creative with breakfast on my days off, but they went down the drain when faced with my usual morning pre-coffee headache. I did manage to find an old San Diego con shirt to wear today, from the 2002 con blood drive.

Here’s a list of the panels I watched yesterday:

  • Star Trek Universe — As I mentioned yesterday, the Discovery table read was a bit weird, but fun. The stuff about the new Lower Decks show looks interesting. I kind of want to watch that now. And I skipped out on most of the Picard stuff, since I still haven’t seen the first season and didn’t want anything spoiled. I should really give in and sign up for CBS All-Access, but I’m still being stubborn about that.
  • Oddball Comics — This was probably my favorite panel. It was really just Scott Shaw!’s usual Oddball Comics slideshow, which I’ve seen several times before. I guess the familiarity of it was comforting. And it’s the kind of panel that translates well to YouTube. it’s just Scott talking over a slideshow. I do miss the audience laughter, but it’s still a really fun presentation and it really took me out of my own head for a while.
  • Humanoids Legacy — This was hosted by Humanoids, so it was of course a promotional panel to some extent, but it was still a good discussion of the history and influence of Humanoids, with a few really good creators, including Mark Waid, Brian Bendis, and Mark Russell. I bought this Humanoids Humble Bundle yesterday too. I already have two copies of The Incal, so I don’t really need a digital copy, but it can’t hurt. And I don’t have most of the other stuff in the bundle, and a lot of it looks pretty good.
  • Twenty Years of Harry Dresden — This was a one-on-one discussion with Jim Butcher. It was pretty low-key, but enjoyable. I’m four or five books behind with the Dresden series, but it is a favorite of mine. I need to get back to it and catch up.
  • Bugs Bunny’s 80th Anniversary — This was a promotional panel by Warner Bros for an 80th anniversary Bugs Bunny Blu-ray set, but it was a lot of fun. The panel included three voice actors who’ve all voiced Bugs. And it included Jerry Beck and Leonard Maltin, who are both quite knowledgeable about animation history. The Blu-ray set is coming out in the fall, I guess. It looks interesting, but I’m not sure I really need it. I tend to buy a lot of DVD and Blu-ray sets that I never get around to watching.
  • Superhero Kung Fu Extravaganza — This is another one that was kind of comforting to watch. This is the 23rd time Ric Meyers has run this panel. The online version is a lot different from the in-person ones that I’ve attended, for a number of reasons, but it was still cool to see that he’s keeping this thing going. The in-person version generally lasts two hours (or more) and features a whole bunch of movie clips. For the online version, he obviously has to limit himself to stuff he can get permission to put on YouTube, so it’s mostly promo clips from recent movies. I’m a bit interested in the new Enter the Fat Dragon movie, though maybe not interested enough to buy the Blu-ray. (Again, I need to remember how many Blu-rays I own that I haven’t watched yet, including stuff I’ve bought based on recommendations from previous Kung Fu panels. For instance, I’m looking at a DVD set of Donnie Yen’s Kung Fu Master TV series that’s been sitting on my shelf for at least ten years.)

I have eight panels on my schedule for today. I’ll probably watch five or six of them. Meanwhile, it’s a rainy morning in Somerville, but I should probably still try to get out for a morning walk.

Comic-Con@Home, day one

Today is the first day of my short vacation, “attending” Comic-Con @ Home. I started the day with a number of vaguely creative ideas in my head about how to simulate actually being at a San Diego con. I didn’t actually execute on any of them. I did wear my WonderCon 2019 t-shirt though, so that’s something.

I’m currently watching the Star Trek Universe panel, my first panel of the con. I knew that the panel was going to be prerecorded, and I’m OK with that, but they’ve also done a couple of other things I’m a little disappointed with. First, they turned off comments on the video. I know that YouTube comments are often terrible, but allowing comments would have made it feel more like a real event, with other real fans in the “room”. They also blocked it from being watched on Apple TV or TiVo, so I’m stuck watching it on my computer. I guess that’s a copyright thing, but it’s still weird. If I wanted to make a copy of the panel, it would be way easier for me to do that on my computer than on my Apple TV or TiVo. Oh well. They’re in the middle of a table read of a Discovery episode right now, which is kind of fun, but also kind of pointless. It would be really fun at a live con, but, prerecorded, it’s kind of boring, to be honest. They’re getting into a Q&A now (with questions that they must solicited in advance, I guess). One nice thing about prerecorded video is that I can pause it if I need a break, and I can skip past any boring parts. I’m going to get back to it now, and see if I can single-task for awhile and just watch the video and relax, without having a bunch of other tabs open and switching back and forth to other stuff.

getting ready for Comic-Con @ Home

Comic-Con @ Home has officially started. And I’m done with work for today, so I’m now officially on vacation. There’s not much going on tonight that I’m interested in, so I really won’t start “attending” the con until tomorrow. Looking at old blog posts from today, I see that in 2008 on this day I was getting ready to leave for San Diego the next day. And I see that I didn’t go in 2009, so I guess 2008 was my last year until I lucked out again in 2012. And I know 2012 was the last time I went. So I guess it’s kind of cool that I get to participate, to some extent, this year.

The souvenir book for this year has been posted as a free PDF. And they have a bunch of other PDFs posted here, including a do-it-yourself badge and some door signs. So if you want an official SDCC restroom sign, you can print one out. I’m slightly tempted to do that, but that would just be silly. They also have an odd selection of recipes posted here. Pretty much all of those are… a bit much. But hey, it’s all in fun.

I’ve been trying to think of things I can do to make my Comic-Con @ Home mini-vacation feel more like a real vacation, and I’m not coming up with much. I’ll probably spend tomorrow morning just reading comics and relaxing, then watch some panels in the afternoon. That’s good enough for now, I guess. Maybe I can get some Mexican food. That’ll help.

One aspect of SDCC that definitely can’t be recreated at home, in NJ, is the weather. We’ve been having a heat wave this week, with temperatures in the 90s and high humidity. And we’re currently in the middle of a thunderstorm that’s caused my electricity to blink out twice so far. Meanwhile, San Diego is in the low 70s and partly cloudy. Well, hopefully, I won’t lose electricity (or internet) entirely. That would make for a pretty rotten con!

thinking about Comic-Con

I’m continuing to torture myself by looking at the “on this day” widget in the sidebar of this blog, and the “on this day” view in my Day One journal. The last time I went to SDCC was 2012, and it was going on right now! (And, looking at my journal, I see that, two years ago today, I went to the library and checked out a couple of books, and also went to a Somerset Patriots baseball game. Sigh. Eventually, I’ll be able to do those things again…)

I’ve got my schedule all planned out for Comic-Con @ Home next week. I’ve bookmarked about 35 panels total, from Thursday through Sunday. I’m not sure how many I’ll actually watch, but I’ve got plenty to choose from. I think it’ll be fun. I’ve also been getting myself in the mood a bit by reading some stuff that’s related in some way to the con. I read some issues of Rob Hanes Adventures last weekend, which I bought directly from Randy Reynaldo at that 2012 SDCC I mentioned above. (I’m not sure why I let them sit in my “to be read” pile for so long. It’s a fun series, and the issues are all basically “done in one” stories.) I plan on checking out his virtual booth this year, and maybe picking up all the issues that have come out since 2012.

And I also recently read an Usagi Yojimbo trade paperback. I didn’t buy that particular volume at a San Diego con, but I have bought a number of past volumes directly from Stan Sakai at cons, and I usually see him in San Diego, either at his booth or on a panel. I haven’t heard anything about Stan doing anything for Comic-Con @ Home, but I do know that he’s supposed to be on Mark Evanier’s Groo chat this Thursday, so I’ll probably watch that.

In less pleasant comics-related news, the Warren Ellis thing that I’ve mentioned previously has kind of blown up, with a new website going up this week aggregating the stories of many women who say they have been “targeted and manipulated” by Ellis. The website is… a hell of a thing. It even includes a bar chart graphing the number of women he was involved with per year, from 1999 to 2020. (Peak year: 2009, 22 women.) There’s some coverage of it on The Beat and in The Guardian. I joked about burning my CBLDF t-shirts recently, after the Brownstein thing. I’m not really ready to burn my Warren Ellis comics, but I think I might feel a little differently about them now. I’m not really sure that Ellis ever really understood what he was doing? Or understood how much he was hurting people? I don’t know. I can’t really see him as a super-villain or evil genius. I mean, he was clearly being dishonest with people. (You can’t have 22 girlfriends at once without lying to several of them, at least, I think.) I said in my previous post that I wasn’t sure how to feel about this, and I’m still not. This is all outside my areas of expertise…

Anyway, I need to keep this stuff out of my head and concentrate on positive stuff. Like the fact that NJ is still in the green on the CovidActNow map. (One of only three states in the green! Hope more states join us soon!) Or the fact that there are new Stargirl and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episodes coming out this week!