This past weekend was the NY Comic Con & Anime Festival. For the first time, they combined the Con and the Fest. I was a little disappointed in that decision because I knew the comics portion would have a much larger presence than the anime (and I was right), but then I remembered that the Anime Fest sucked last year... There weren't that many vendors, there weren't any screenings or panels I was interested in, and it seemed smaller than the 2008 Fest. So I stopped worrying and got really excited instead.
And that was an excellent choice because the Con was awesome! Easily the best Comic Con yet (I've attended the last three years). There were tons of vendors that spanned so many interests...classic comics, manga, small press, publishers, gaming... The convention was incredibly well-organized (well, except that it was difficult to find the guidebook), the main dealers' floor was huge, and there were a lot of great panels. In fact, there were so many I wanted to attend that they ended up overlapping and I couldn't get to everything. Here are the panels I did attend, and my impression of them all:
"Comics, Graphic Novels, And Manga For Adults"
With moderator Martha Cornog (graphic novel columnist and librarian), and panelists Robin E. Brenner (Massachusetts librarian), Ryan Donovan (NYC librarian), Karen Green (Columbia University librarian), and Natalie Korsavidis (Farmingdale, NY librarian).
This panel followed two others about comics for children and comics for teens and young adults. Discussion focused mainly on the difficulty the librarians have in convincing their co-workers and patrons that comics are not just for kids, and the resulting fight they go through to get those comics on the shelves. All the panelists were very clear in their opinion that comics are just as viable a reading source as conventional books. What I mostly took away from the panel was that comics still have a stigma of being "kids' stuff" despite the existence of titles like Maus, Persepolis, and all the adult-themed manga out there, but there are adults in academic positions who are working to erase that stereotype. Yay for librarians! I also learned that 95% of the time, if you ask your local librarian to get a particular book or book series, they will actually do it. And if your library doesn't have any comics on the shelves, check their inter-library loan. Sometimes all the comics are housed at a central library.
"MARVEL Television Presents MARVEL Anime"
I almost skipped this, but I am so glad I went! Marvel has been working with Studio Madhouse (a really, really great anime studio) to create anime shows about Iron Man, Wolverine, and Blade. These are going to be real anime, created by a Japanese anime house, not an anime-style American show. They're even all set in Japan and have Japanese dialogue with English subtitles. In this panel, we got to watch the first full-length episode of Iron Man and see a trailer for Wolverine. Iron Man was...pretty good. It was a bit flat, both in appearance and action, but I still have high hopes for it as the series progresses. The one thing I really didn't like were the scene transitions. They weren't smooth and felt unnatural. It was things like, there'd be two people in a car talking for a minute, and the next scene would be one of them getting off a plane that just landed. What about all the time between the car and plane? Where'd the other guy go? It's not really action you want to see, but the sequence was still jarring.
The Wolverine trailer, on the other hand, looked amazing. The only trailer on YouTube is an older one that looks quite different. The Comic Con trailer was modern while staying true to the Wolverine aesthetic, whereas the YouTube clip is too stylized and looks dated (Wolverine has a huge Labyrinth-style David Bowie mullet!). Wolverine already has a back story rooted in Japan, so it's a natural fit for him to be turned into an anime. Both these shows will begin airing on the G4 network in 2011. (I don't remember when they said Blade would air.)
"Indie Cred - Why Indie Comics Matter"
With moderator Tracey John (UGO's Comics, Toys, and Collectibles Editor), and panelists Julia Wertz (author of Fart Party), Jason Little (author of Shutterbug Follies), Mike Dawson (author of Troop 142), and Alex Robinson (author of Tricked).
I only went to this panel because I freaking love Fart Party! (Seriously, go read it. It's not about farts or parties, I swear.) It was basically what I expected. The panelists talked about how they got into comics, how they managed to get picked up by large publishers, and the differences between working with small press vs. "real" publishing houses. I thought the tone was awfully pessimistic, though. Little at one point said comics "are not a career" when an attendee asked for advice for aspiring comic artists. God, what a downer. When I spoke with Faith Erin Hicks, another indie and online comic writer who I love, she was all happy and said she couldn't believe she's being paid to do comics, and gave advice that can actually be acted upon (i.e. publish your work online immediately).
"Unusual Manga Genres"
With moderators Erin and Noah from the Ninja Consultant podcast.
I wish this panel had been longer. The moderators were only allotted an hour, so they (admittedly) rushed through it somewhat. Erin presented a slide show of all the "weird" manga that's not published in Japan. She spent the most time on games and sports-based manga. Japanese readers apparently really like reading about boring sports. There are literally dozens of titles based on golf, and numerous ones about...badminton! And...curling?? There is probably a manga title for any topic you can think of. Wheelchair basketball? Check. Baking bread? Check. Board games? Check. This was a really fun panel.
On to Sunday!
"MARVEL: The Women of MARVEL"
With moderator Jeanine Schaefer (editor), and panelists Lauren Sankovitch (editor), Colleen Coover (artist), Rachel Pinellas (writer), Christina Strain (colorist), Sana Amanat (editor), Grace Randolph (writer), and Stepanie Hans (artist).
I got up early to catch this panel. It was about the women who work at Marvel, not Marvel's female characters. It was the best panel! The discussion didn't really focus so much on the fact that they were women, but focused more on how they all first got interested in comics, and how they all got into comics as a career. Interestingly enough, most of them came from unrelated backgrounds (architecture, publishing, musical theatre...). I asked the first audience question, which was how the editors got their jobs. Only one started out as an intern, and all but one of them came into it with no comic editing experience and were really taught the ropes once they got the job. I've wanted to work in comics for a long time now (applied to DC three times with no response), so this was pretty inspiring.
"Black Butler Screening & Panel"
Sigh... This was the only panel I didn't like. It was a screening of the first two dubbed episodes of the anime show Black Butler. This title has gotten really big in the U.S. in recent months. The comic it's based on has been on the NY Times bestselling manga list for the last few weeks. So I wanted to see what the big deal was. But oh my god this show is not funny! It's full of all the standard anime humor tropes, so I feel like it's nothing new. It's about a rich British child whose parents have passed away, and the butler who is supernaturally tied to him and is tasked with keeping the home in order and protecting the child. God, the fans of this show were annoying. Every time the child was on screen, girls in the audience would scream like they had crushes on him--and bear in mind that this is a 12-year-old character (Ew! Stop lusting after a prepubescent cartoon!). Every time the butler was on screen or said his catchphrase of "I'm just one hell of a butler," the entire audience would break out in cheers. This response also happened every time something "funny" happened, to the point that you couldn't hear the dialogue. Ugh. As much as I love anime, I have to say, I hate anime fans! I left after the second episode, as I had no interest in listening to the creators and voice actors talk about the show.
"The Changing Faces of Anime"
With moderator Join Evan Minto (of AniGamers.com).
This was a fun panel. Minto went through the history of character design in anime, all the way from Osamu Tezuka's Astro Boy to today's American anime-style shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender. Minto narrated a slide show that went through character styles chronologically. The takeaway was that anime started out being influenced by Disney, and eventually came full circle to have American shows today highly influenced by anime.