The first thing I can tell you about the con, was it’s been a long day, I’ll have more coherent stuff about this on a future podcast or article when I’m not dozing off as I type this.
First thing I hit was a screening of “Will Eisner: Portrait of a Sequential Artist“. I didn’t mind all the poorly shot sequences, still talking heads, and slow panning shots of panels. What really took me out of the movie was its poor structuring, glacial pace, and lack of insight into its subject. It was really a shame because I feel like they really had the footage to make something special. I felt they stopped short and made a pedantic History Channel biopic, when they could have said many things. It was a strange experience, because at every point where I started to really get interested in what Eisner or a collaborator was saying, they would cut away to something else. The filmmakers try to create some nuance or controversy by bringing up the Ebony minstrel character present in “The Spirit”, but then immediately bury the controversy as soon as a contemporary (I think it was Gil Kane) divulged that he felt it was inappropriate at the time. It was left unclear what happened at that particular sticking point, and the film quickly continued into it’s ‘rah-rah’ mode, simply honoring Eisner as opposed to giving us a portrait of who he really was.
The film asks more questions than it answers, and despite my trashing it, there was one section that deserves special mention as insight into what the film could have been. There is a segment where Eisner talks about the death of his daughter, and its effect on the book “A Contract with God”, which was such a genuinely moving and well created segment that it only draws more contrast with what a portrait film of this absolutely fascinating man could have been like. But the filmmakers played it safe by failing to make strong choices about their point of view, and failed the audience by doing so. However, Eisner himself remains inscrutable, and more can likely be gleaned from reading the man’s work.
Next I hit a Panel on the state of comics journalism in the online world. There were representatives from IGN, CBR, Newsarama, and Heidi Macdonald from Publishers Weekly. It wasn’t so bad, as the panelists tried to address the issues of the impact of viral marketing and defend themselves from the claim that they simply regurgitate press releases. They managed to drop the nugget that one of their site’s #1 Google search term was ‘Cheerleaders Fighting’, but completely managed to drop the implication of what that means for their ultimate relevance if that’s their hit based Ad-revenue. I have longer notes about this, that I’ll need to get into. Then followed the first what would be a looooong day of the common reoccurring theme of “See kid, if you work hard, maybe one day it’ll be you in this panel.”
I followed it up with the “Women in Comics” panel, with Karen Green (professor/comic librarian from Columbia), Heidi MacDonald (PWBeat), Becky Cloonan (Demo), Shelley Bond (Vertigo/Minx), and Gail Simone (she never stops hustlin’). The questions asked were incredibly unspecific, and the whole panel devolved, through no-one in particular’s fault, into a long list of platitudes and self-promotion. I asked a pretty stupidly phrased question about “How do you reconcile the overwrought-sexuality of superhero comics?” and got what’s probably the proper response which is was “strong girls are hot”. I got dirty looks from Pedro, as they then skipped over him and his smart question, which made me feel bad when he told me. Lots of “We’ve come a long way Baby!” was had in this panel. Crowd asked a few weird creator specific questions, followed by one or two ‘How can I get your job questions’.
I ended the day at “The Black Panel” comfortably surround by my black friends. Reginald Hudlin and Dwayne McDuffie weren’t able to make it, we got shown a somewhat pandering horribly edited video with pans of stills or black characters characters and creators, with cameos for Michael Richards, Don Imus, and George Bush, standing in as some sort of villains. What followed was quite strange as the Moderator, whose name I can’t remember but clearly I should as he has sold many TV shows. The Moderator oscillated between badly imitating Sinbad’s routine from his Bosnian U.S.O trip, hitting on the all the women in the crowd AND the panel while cutting them off and almost completely ignoring what they had to say, and then flipping to what a motivational speech at a entrepreneur’s convention would sound like. Denys Cowan managed to rise above it a bit and talk a little about what they’re trying to do in the animation wing of BET. Following was a bunch of questions from the crowd of which pretty much amounted to “How can I have your job?”. I’m not being fair to the audience as they asked a few other questions, and Cheryl Lynn and Rashida got a few words in edgewise about the history of comics and current favorites, but those asides deserve their own articles and further thought and research.
Unfortunately, it was also the most entertaining panel I saw that day, and despite my cringing and nervous laughter, there was a lot there that me and Jamaal talked about on our way home…
-Joseph, posting exhausted after a very long day, following a very short night.
Tomorrow: Hitting the Grant Morrison spotlight, the Venture Bros. panel/screening thingy, more pictures, and a podcast.