It goes without saying, but Salt Lake Comic Con 2015 was amazing and I had a great time. There was a lot that I did and didn’t get to do, but probably one of the most memorable parts of my experience was helping break the World Record for the most people dressed as Comic Book characters in one place.
I don’t need a lot of excuses to be excited about the upcoming comic con here in Salt Lake City, especially with the event being only a month away. It is the highlight of the year for geeks and freaks throughout the Wasatch Front and beyond. There have been two events this last week that have really got me thinking about the first weekend in September. One was, of course, the San Diego Comic-Con sending their friendly letter to Salt Lake Comic Con. I wrote about that in a blog post earlier this week. The other was Mile High Comics announcing that this year was possibly their last at San Diego Comic-Con (they have since announced that they will, reluctantly, be back for next year). These two events, I think, are reflective of something going on in our peaceful realm of Geekdom. I was discussing it with a coworker today. There seems to be two main strains of geeks. There is the mainstream geekery and then the actual, legit , geeks. When I was a kid, there was a much smaller population of mainstream geeks. It was not cool to like comics or fantasy books or Sci Fi or Star Trek or Star Wars (I mean it was always cool, but not everybody thought it was cool). Fast forward to today, and that has all changed. In a lot of ways, I am grateful. I enjoy the big Summer blockbusters based on comic book characters, and the TV shows and the overall availability of stuff. But there is a lot of negative that comes with this too. As things become more mainstream, the more commercialized it becomes. Now, I am not some anti-commercialism, capitalism person. I understand that a lot of good comes with that, but it also tends to cheapen the experience for those of us who have been with it for so long. I don’t think I am explaining myself well, so let me explain what these two examples have to do with what I am saying, and see if that clears it up.
San Diego Comic-Con used to be this weird place where only the geekiest of geeks went to be with other geeks and talk about geeky stuff, mostly comics (go figure!). The main publishers would come and talk about their major announcements for the next year, but there certainly wasn’t the media exposure there is today. One might argue that this is true about anything. There is just more media to provide coverage today than there was before. But, even taking that into consideration, I don’t think there was the equivalent media coverage that there is today. SDCC has become a really big deal. It is not just for comics fans anymore, which is fine. In the geek world, the more the merrier (even you, Bronies), but SDCC has become the place to unveil any major blockbuster movie and footage whether it has something to do with comics or not. This has become a major media mecca in the middle of summer. The added attention is great and assures that it will be around for a while, but it has led to the convention becoming one of these large corporations. Before I write my next sentence, I don’t want to come off as naive, I understand that every comic con out there, or any other convention, is out there to make money. They want the geeks to come and spend money. I get that. San Diego has become only about that. There is a certain genuineness that seems to be gone now from SDCC, and the letter they sent to Salt Lake is representative of that. They don’t want other cons moving in on a piece of their pie. They want their con to be the only con. Not just a really big comic con in San Diego, but THE comic con. The whole letter had this feeling of “if you don’t cooperate, then I am going to take my ball and leave.” I read some comments on the Facebook page of Salt Lake Comic Con of fans warning other fans to not make SDCC angry because they can cause major vendors to boycott our con if they are unhappy. Other fans mentioned that in the end, all SDCC wanted was not for SLCC to be shut down, but for SLCC and other cons to pay a royalty to SDCC for using their name. If they agree to do that, then maybe the other cons will be safe from vendors pulling from them and celebrities and so on. These comments came from fans, not from SDCC themselves, just to be clear. When I read those things I thought, “isn’t that how the mob works?” And that made me sad. I always had a dream to someday go to SDCC, but now, I have lost a lot of my desire to do that. I kind of don’t want them to get my money, and I hope Dan Farr and company will continue to stand up to them.
The second example of Mile High threatening to pull out of SDCC next year is another representation of how corporate SDCC has become. The president of Mile High reported that his store lost $10,000 on their trip to San Diego. That is a pretty expensive vacation where you have to work a lot. That is an astounding number to me. By comparison he mentioned that they turned a nice profit at Denver Comic Con (as far as I know their mailbox has been free of any SDCC letters this week), where they had only half the crowd. What was the difference? He mentioned it in his newsletter. They were competing against the publishers, whose books they push all year-long. Big houses like DC, Marvel, Dark Horse, etc. are all there and they’re selling their exclusive Comic-con variants. I hate comic book variants. There has never been a bigger scam to take your money than the comic book variant, which had its heyday in the 1990s. The big publishers are there competing against the other vendors, pushing this stuff, and the smaller vendors can’t compete. This is only going to get worse. As the demand for it goes up, so will the supply, and it will be harder and harder for local, smaller vendors to make it happen at SDCC. (Not that Mile High is a local, or small vendor, but you get the point)
Why does all of this get me excited for Salt Lake Comic Con? I feel like right now, SLCC is different. It is just starting out and is relying on building and keeping a loyal fan base. They have been successful at doing that as demonstrated by the huge success they had with FanX in April, and the success they are hoping to have again in September. They will get better, but right now, when you walk the aisles you will find a huge selection of vendors, many of whom are local. When you go to the panels you will find many panels that have local writers and artists. I know that most of the people working behind the scenes are real live bona-fide geeks with strong local ties, and they seem to want to represent that in the con. I love that. When you visit SLCC it still feels like our own quirky little con. Someday, with our success, maybe it will outgrow that, but I get the feeling that although they are trying to get this as big as possible, they still want it to be ours. I am excited for September because it will be three days where I can escape my regular 9-5 job and just be a geek with other geeks. I hope it stays that way for a long time, regardless of how big it gets.
Well, another San Diego Comic-Con is in the books. It was just like every other year. Major announcements, new footage for upcoming films, plenty of celebrities and lots of cosplay. Those who attended got to see concept art and footage from numerous upcoming movies and got to hear from panels and stars galore. It is THE annual geekfest mecca for all lovers of geekdom from around the country. And apparently, San Diego Comic-Con International believe that they are the only people who can bring you a “comic con.” Legally, at least. In a move that totally soured the weekend for many fans of geekery here in Utah, SDCC has sent a “cease and desist” letter to Salt Lake Comic Con for using the term “comic con.” San Diego Comic-Con International believes they hold some kind of trademark to the term “comic con” and as such, SLCC is not allowed to use it. It is a regular David vs. Goliath kind of a thing. SDCC is the big boy, the granddaddy of all comic cons, I don’t think anyone would argue that, and they don’t like this upstart con in Salt Lake City, and they plan to do something about it. The problem is, they can’t really do anything about it. Comic con is a phrase, and it can’t be trademarked. It’s short for comic convention, and it’s used by numerous cons throughout the country who are not owned by SDCC International. A similar action to this was taken a few years ago against Denver Comic Con, and SDCC lost. They probably won’t get anywhere with this action either. The way I look at it, this has really just accomplished a couple of things:
1. SDCC has been exposed as a bunch of jerks. I mean, really, there’s no other way to put it. They feel somehow threatened by this little upstart con, and they are trying to take them out before they become any kind of real threat. When you think about it, prior to 2013, the two biggest cons on the west coast were SDCC in San Diego, and WonderCon in Anaheim, both put on by SDCC international. Last September, SLCC burst onto the scene with over 72,000 guests in attendance, making it the largest debut con ever. In April of 2014, Salt Lake Comic Con was back with a second event, Fan eXperience, or FanX, which attracted 100,000 guests over three days, making it the third largest comic con in the country. All of a sudden there is a new player in the game, a new kid on the block, and SDCC doesn’t like it. Normally, the geek crowd is pretty easy-going and pretty accepting, but not if you’re giant corporation that is just milking all these geeks for money. Then you get upset if someone else might be moving in on your territory. So what do you do? Try to throw your weight around like a big bully. Well, if there’s one thing we geeks can’t stand, it’s a bully. San Diego Comic-Con has revealed itself for what it is. Just there to take our money, and they’re not sharing. They sent the letter knowing they have no legal ground to stand on, hoping SLCC would back down and go quietly away. That’s how bullies operate. They don’t want to fight anybody, they just want you to be intimidated and go away. Once someone stands up to them, then they’re through. I say kudos to Dan Farr and Bryan Brandenburg for standing up to the bully and not backing down, and for recognizing that there is more on the line here than just their own convention.
2. It has really just been a ton of free press for the Salt Lake Comic Con. It has hit local and national headlines alike. The letter was really sent at the perfect time. SDCC sent it while they were right in the middle of their own convention, when everyone was talking about comic cons in general, there was already a lot of attention on the subject. Then to find out that this big behemoth is pushing around the little guy, that makes for great news, and people who are interested are going to find it because they are searching the inter webs for news on San Diego Comic-Con. Really, it could not have worked out better for Salt Lake. More people are talking about the event than ever before and finding out how large it is, and that it might be a big deal. Just perfect and Dan Farr and co. have really jumped in front of this and have really harnessed all the press. This may end up being a huge thing for SLCC, which is just great poetic justice. I hope it does.
I love the Salt Lake Comic Con and how successful it’s been. I don’t know if I will ever make it to the big show in San Diego, but I can make it downtown for our show here, and it’s pretty darn good. The people behind it have worked really hard to make this happen and make it high quality. It’s nice to see that all that hard work is paying off and that they have gotten the attention of the big con. I think it really demonstrates that this little con in little ol’ Salt Lake City is actually a big deal. Maybe in the end, SLCC might be thanking SDCC for all the free advertising.
If you want to see more information on this story, then click here, that will take you to the web site for Salt Lake Comic Con, and their page with all the articles pertaining to this situation as well as the actual letter sent by SDCC. While you are on the site, check it out, maybe buy tickets and come join us for some great geeky fun.
By now, pretty much everyone has heard about the drastic changes that are coming to some of Earth’s mightiest heroes. Sam Wilson is going to become Captain America, and some un-named woman will be taking up the mantle of Thor. These are indeed big changes, and at first I had some thoughts about why Marvel was doing it, and most of those thoughts centered on the word gimmick. As in, this must be a sales gimmick. And maybe, on some level it is, but I’ve allowed myself a little bit of time to digest the announcements that seemed to be coming fast and furious yesterday (3 concerning Thor, Cap and Iron Man). That time has helped look at the whole thing differently, and I’m not sure it is all about the sales, and I’m not sure that the changes will be all that bad. So let me break them down one by one and offer my thoughts, for what their worth.
First, Iron Man. The announcement concerning Iron Man was small in comparison to the Thor and Cap announcements, so it should be easy to break that down. Tony will continue to be Iron Man, but he will have a new suit that will be silver and black, and he will be leaving Stark tower and New York, and moving to the West Coast, San Francisco. The moving part is the biggest news, i think. Marvel has always been a New York centric publisher. All of their major characters reside in the Big Apple, so to move one that is as big a deal as Iron Man is right now to San Francisco is a surprise. The release about the big move mentioned that he has some big ideas for his new city and not everyone will be on board. That’s about all we got. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I personally believe that this is the beginning of the return of The Avengers: West Coast. One can only dream, I suppose.
Next up, Thor. This announcement was a little bigger. Basically, Thor will no longer be Thor. He won’t be worthy to wield Mjolnir, the mighty hammer, for some reason. The person who will be worthy to have the hammer will be a woman. She will take on the mantle of the Thunder God…er… Goddess. This is a big departure for the character, obviously. This is not the first time that someone else has had the hammer, so that part is not new, but it is the first time that someone is a woman. This shouldn’t be a big shock to those who have read Thor recently. It is a series full of strong female characters, especially once Odin was out of the picture and Asgard was protected by three queens. So, it is not a huge stretch for this series to go in this direction. The timing was a little weird, I thought. Thor 2 had a pretty good run last year in the theaters and then on blu ray and digital download. Plus, we have The Avengers: Age of Ultron hitting theaters next year. I know that the success of these movies has caused a few people to walk into their local comic book store (mine is Black Cat Comics in Sugar House, stop by and see Greg for all your comics needs) looking for these characters. I thought this was just another way to get people to continue to talk about Thor in between theatrical runs. The reality, though, is that when people go in and look for these titles on the shelves, what they want to find is the comic book version of Chris Hemsworth, and might be disappointed when it is some woman they don’t know. Then they will probably put it back and slowly walk away. Meaning, that if this is just a ploy to sell more issues, it’s actually a little counterintuitive.
So, then why do it? I began to think maybe it was just the opposite of all that. What if Marvel was doing this right now because of the success the Avengers have had in the theaters lately? What if they were wanting to springboard off this success and introduce just a little more diversity into the ranks? When I thought of it that way, I started to warm up to the idea. The success of the Avengers has brought Black Widow into the forefront as far as strong women characters, so why not try to capitalize on that more. How many other sting female characters have their own title in the Marvel universe? This could be a great opportunity to establish a new , positive role model for girls in the comics. I’m not saying there aren’t any out there, but it doesn’t hurt to add more, and they are still drastically outnumbered by male characters, especially in leading roles. The biggest key will be the writing and the story. There are strong women out there, but they seem to be overlooked because they are under-developed and poorly written (DC and Wonder Woman, I’m looking at you). This could be a big opportunity to change that for Marvel, and I for one hope they do. I think this change is worth checking out.
Finally, we have Captain America. I have always felt that Captain America should be bigger than Steve Rogers, and in some ways he has been. There have been others that have donned the stars and stripes and shield, including when Cap (Rogers) “died” a few years back and Bucky Barnes took over for a while. For whatever reason, I have always thought of Captain America and Batman as symbols larger than Rogers and Wayne, more than other heroes, like Superman who should always be Clark Kent, and there should only ever be one. I don’t mind the idea of Steve getting a bit on in age and needing to step away from the front lines and passing this on to Sam Wilson. Sam is a great choice, in my opinion, and will make for some interesting stories. One major difference is that Sam has never had any super serum like Steve was, so he has no super powers. He is just a regular guy. I think this makes for some potentially good story telling. Think about it. We all like that Steve Rogers was just a regular guy with a big heart, and he got the serum and became Captain America. Sam Wilson is all of that, minus the super serum part. The biggest deal, at least in the media, is that Sam Wilson is black. The fact that it’s a big deal is why that part of the story is still a big deal. Really, it’s about time that we had one of the big flagship titles have a black lead. Again, I think this is Marvel taking the success and popularity of the Avenger characters and using that to promote and push more diversity, which is not a bad thing. I am intrigued to see how Sam and the new Thor work out. I think there is a lot of potential for some great story telling, I just hope Marvel will deliver.
Maybe I am a little behind the times, but I missed this great documentary when it premiered on PBS last year. Luckily for me, the three-part series is available on NetFlix, and is totally worth the time. Each episode is 55 minutes long, so it can be easily broken up over three evenings. This production talks about Superheroes, as indicated in the title, but it discusses them in their purest form: Comics. I love comics, and for me they are the canon of the superhero world. Whenever a movie comes out and it doesn’t agree totally with the comics, I always think to myself, “That’s not what really happened.” Somehow, because this is where they originated, comics have always held a stronger value for me.
This film starts at the beginning of Superheroes in the comics. The 1930’s and Superman. That’s where it all began. Say what you will about Big Blue, but he was the original, and without him, you wouldn’t have Batman, or Spider-Man, or Wolverine, or the Avengers or any of it. It all started with this creation by two boys name Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. This film does a great job of setting the historical atmosphere for the early days of comics and Superheroes. I think this is very important, because understanding Superman in his historical context helps us understand why he is such a goody-two-shoes. That was what was expected at the time. Plus, with the depression and the war in Europe, we needed a hero who was above it all and could do all the amazing things he could do. This film also talks briefly about the boys who created Superman personally, and how that influenced how he looked and what powers he had. IT was very interesting. Of course, as Superman became more popular, we begin to see the rise of more heroes. Many are copycats of Superman. Many others are copies of what was found in another medium of the time, the Pulps. This is where some of the darker, non-comic heroes lived, like the Shadow, who was a big influence on Bob Kane’s “The Batman.” The Batman was really something else, as this film discusses. He wasn’t from another planet, or have magical powers. He was just a normal person who put on the tights and fought crime to avenge the death of his parents. While hitting on the bigger names like Batman and Superman, the film also mentions some of the lesser known heroes like Bullet Man and the Blue Beetle. It describes how many of the titles were so similar to each other, and all of them were trying to catch up to Superman.
I love that this documentary talks so much about the History that was happening in the United States as comics hit the scene and so on. The next segment in this first episode goes into WWII, and the United States joining the War. This presented a problem for the writers of Superman. He was a man who could single-handedly end the war in one day if he wanted to, so how would he fit in with what was happening? This is also where we see the emergence of Captain America. He was of course, very popular during WWII, and everyone could get behind his patriotic message. More importantly, Joe Kirby’s art was monumental with Captain America. They discuss this in detail in the movie and talk about how there was just so much movement in every panel. As more and more women were going into the workforce to do their part in the war effort, society was becoming more receptive to a super heroine. Enter Wonder Woman. She had the basically the same powers as Superman, with the addition of the lasso of truth. She believed in sisterhood and women’s rights. She was ahead of her time.
The first episode ends with the 1950’s, which was a rough decade for the comics industry. The things being portrayed in the books were being called into question. The film discusses how comics are linked to delinquent behavior and how congress ends up setting up a watchdog organization and a comics code to make sure that the content is all appropriate in each title and issue. many titles were not allowed to continue, and those that were were strictly monitored. At the same time, TV was catching on, and it didn’t take long for superheroes to show up on the small screen. Superman, again was the first. He now represented Truth, justice, and the American Way more than ever, in an attempt to win over the people who now believed that comics led to juvenile delinquency.
All of that was the first episode. It was great to see the origins of the comics I grew up reading and seeing how the outside world influenced the stories and the content in the books. IT was also interesting to see how this truly American art form began to take shape and change over time. The second episode begins with the 1960’s which means we see the beginning of Stan Lee and his work, and how it was much more relatable than what was in DC at the time. I don’t want to give you a whole rundown of everything in the show, but I recommend checking it out on Netflix. It will be worth your time. It explains the difference between DC and Marvel better than most things that are out there, and gives historical context for why the difference is there. Superman has always been my favorite superhero, but honestly, the Marvel heroes are much easier to understand and identify with. Yes they have amazing powers, but really they are just regular people, just like me. Again, check out this three-part documentary called Superheroes: A Never Ending Battle. It is available right now on NetFlix. It is also a PBS production, so you can also find it at PBS.org to purchase. Worth the time, I promise, if you are into Superheroes at all.