Part 1: Yikes! (an overview)
"Geek is good" said Marc Bernardin, Entertainment Weekly and EW.com Senior Editor on Friday’s Entertainment Weekly’s Filmmakers panel.
That’s the second impression you get after the initial shock of the sheer size of the convention. It is about 200,000 of your closest friends. This year was the first Comic-Con that sold out entirely through pre-registration.
The central core of Comic-Con is "comics." In reality it’s a multimedia cross-section of pop-culture. Picture if you will the football field-sized Exhibitor’s Hall. Major movie studios such as Sony, Paramount, and Warner Brothers rub shoulders comfortably alongside the big two of the comics industry: DC and Marvel. Video game companies such as NCSoft, Square Enix, and Sony Computer Entertainment also showcase their latest work, as well as television networks such as Fox, BBC America, and the Independant Film Channel giving previews of their latest shows. Add to that a myriad of independant artists and comics companies, comics vendors, art suppliers, tabletop gaming companies, toy companies, and organized fan groups.
Outsider art was also represented with designer toy companies and sculptors. Writers are there selling their novels (both graphic and otherwise.) Celebrities of various grades work their own booths or are in studio booths promoting tv and film projects. Weta, the special effects company of Lord of the Rings and Narnia fame, had a booth of products based off of their concept work for film. You can also meet your favorite artists and illustrators in a specialized area known as Artist’s Alley. Many will take on-the-spot simple sketch commissions. Much to my suprise there were also those who sold vintage art print reproductions and rare art books.
Another convention must is the panels. For the pure fan, panels for upcoming films such as the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still and Terminator Salvation had trailers, clips, and guests available for Q&A. Established shows such as Battlestar Galatica, Lost, Stargate SG-1, Stargate:Atlantis, and Dr. Who held panels as upcoming projects such as Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse. And speaking of Whedon, he was there with the cast and all the writers for his latest internet-driven project Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-Long Blog. Conceived during the Writer’s Strike, Dr. Horrible was produced out-of-pocket and then released on the internet and iTunes. It has become a major sensation due to it’s entirely creator-driven content which bypassed the studio system. There was much discussion of where and how others will follow. A fan can be entirely happy spending their entire time in Hall H or Ballroom 20 (where most of the major media panels and sneaks such as the Wolverine and Tron 2 trailer were shown.
However, for professionals or earnest would-bes, there is myriad professional content available in panels. This year offered topics such as creating and selling your graphic novel, how to make or break your way into the comics industry, and how to create and sell your pitch. Artists frequently held forums on content creation, and technique. If there was an overall theme to the professional side of the field, it was of media diversity. Again and again people advised not be afraid to explore other mediums to expand and create your content. Panels were also held for comics retailers and for those interested in setting up shop and using the media and popular culture to promote their business.
Another invaluable part of Comic-Con is that it has times and areas which are specifically for portfolio review with a wide assortment of potential employers. Among the familiar names were Cartoon Network, Hasbro, Lucasfilm, Nickelodeon, and Wizards of the Coast, Inc. Also there were various names both known and not as popularly known such as High Moon Studios, Microsoft Game Studios, Committed Comics, and Dark Horse Comics. However it wasn’t just limited to what you would think a "comics" convention would attract. Several advertising studios and media agencies were also looking at portfolios, and there was one Art and Design College. The type of work reviewed: sequential art (pencillers, inkers, or colorists), conceptual art, storyboarding, illustration, video game design and technical artists, and sculptors. If you specialized in manga art, which is currently enjoying mainstream success here in the US, you could be reviewed by eigoMANGA and VIZ. An important note here is that if you participate in a portfolio review, this is considered to be a job interview even though it takes place in the middle of a comics convention. Do take all the normal steps such as preparing your portfolio presentation and research into the companies you will be reviewing for. Also the dress is "business casual." If you want to be taken seriously, showing up dressed in a Starfleet uniform will not leave a good impression.
Other convention staples are the Eisner Awards, which is considered the "Oscars" of the comic industry and a gala event. The keynote speaker this year was Frank Miller. Comic-Con also has it’s own Inkpot Awards which are given to recipients at various times over the course of the convention. The program guide contains the details of the winners and their presentation time. The Masquerade is one of the best costume contests in terms of both the quality of entries and awards. It is held in the main ballroom, however it is simulcast in three rooms. There is also a central atrium area upstairs where Registration takes place, which also has a "freebie table" and areas reserved for convention guests who are providing scheduled autograph times.
Next in part two: Learn what this blind guest experienced about the other parts of the elephant.