Friday, August 1, 2008

Comicon 2008 Finale

As promised, here are some of the hundreds of photographs I made during the five days we were in San Diego for Comicon International this year. I've just redone the entire post, so I hope the images are centered and the captions are in the right place.

We managed to get green "Exhibitor" badges on Wednesday, which got us onto the floor an hour or so before it opened for the preview. In years past, the preview was limited to the professionals in attendance. Now, unfortunately (she says in an elitist manner) it is open to anyone who has a four-day membership. It is just as crowded on Wednesday evening as it is on Saturday--at least it feels that way. Because we got in early, I had plenty of room to back up and photograph Len against this mural of the X-men. Len co-created Wolverine (behind Len's left shoulder), Nightcrawler (lower right), Storm (upper right) and Colossus (the metal man at the top of the mural.) I call them my step-children, since they all predate our marriage.

I ran upstairs to the mezzanine where I knew I could get a photograph of part of the showroom while it was still pretty empty. The San Diego Convention Center floor is about 20 acres, so this is a very small section of the floor.

The one thing I am very sorry I missed getting when we were on the floor without the crowds is good photographs of the Owl Ship from the Watchmen movie, about which a little more below. Len desperately wanted to get inside it.

The next image shows the Sideshow Collectibles booth. They are no longer doing any Lord of the Rings pieces, so my credit cards were safe this year. I own several of the pieces Sideshow did, including the fairly large Aragorn on Brego at the Black Gates. Len was given the 1/5 life-size Logan (Wolverine's non-code-name) figure they did as a gift after he raved about it on camera a couple of years ago. Sideshow ran the video on its website to advertise the figure, which was a pretty fair trade. It's more than we've ever gotten from Marvel.

The picture below is a view of the DC booth. In the lower left is DC Publisher Paul Levitz, who was given the Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award at the Eisners, well deserved for his work at getting recognition and recompense for creators who preceded the days of creative profit sharing in their comic book creations.
Here we have Len with a Wolverine soft toy. If it was a DC character, we'd see royalties. In fact, if it was a DC character, we'd have half a dozen of them sent to us on production. But Wolverine is a Marvel property. Oh, well.
We had gotten word that we should be at the Fox presentation on Thursday morning. There were special tags for us to get to the Studio Seating section and our friend Jeff Walker got Len a backstage pass and made it quite clear that Len needed to be there. We also got the word that there would be a special appearance that we didn't want to miss. Len cut his autograph signing at the DC booth to get there on time. Fortunately for him, a mishap with the curtains in the auditorium delayed the start of the presentations.

Before the special appearance, we needed to sit through the presentations of promotion for the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, starring Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Connelly. In this picture they are on the panel together, followed by a solo shot of Keanu.

The Day the Earth Stood Still starring Michael Rennie is one of my very favorite science fiction films. I remember the first time I saw it, on Saturday Night at the Movies, the day before my 11th birthday. I do not believe that it needed to be remade. There is so much good science fiction which has not been made into film, let alone made into a classic film, that there's plenty of opportunity to do something new. Unfortunately, Hollywood fears new.

Following the presentation for The Day the Earth Stood Still, we got to see the very loud presentation of Max Payne, based on a video game and starring Mark Wahlberg and Ludicris, who appeared on the panel and are in the eighth picture. We were invited to a party that night where Ludicris was supposed to perform, but we passed on it in favor of staying at a dinner with friends and good conversation where we could hear each other.

Just as most people thought the Fox presentation was finished, on came the surprise appearance of Hugh Jackman who flew in from Australia with footage from X-men Origins: Wolverine. The crowd went wild over both him and the film.

The photograph of Hugh is from right after he went back to the stage after coming into the audience to shake Len's hand. He was still addressing Len from the stage, which is how I was able to get such good eye-contact in the photograph (believe me, I would have waited all day for the moment!)

Following the presentation, Jeff Walker pulled Len backstage to talk to Hugh. Jeff's wife, my fellow photographer Kim Gottleib-Walker, got me past the security guards, so I was able to get a series of shots of Hugh and Len together, one of which is the tenth picture of this set. When Kim gets back from New York, I may have a shot of Len, Hugh, and me to post. This was just such a great moment and I cannot say enough about what a kind and gracious man Hugh Jackman is.

Later in the convention, Len appeared on a panel about working in comics in the 1970s. Here he is with Bernie Wrightson, the artist who co-created Swamp Thing. Bernie did the covers for Len's Batman-Edgar Allen Poe Else-worlds miniseries a few years ago and it looks like they will be doing some work together again in the not too distant future. Bernie's a terrific horror artist. He also does design work for Hollywood, including the villains in Galaxy Quest.

On Friday night, we went to the Eisner Awards. There were a number of surprise presenters, including Samuel L. Jackson, soon to be seen as Nick Fury in a full-fledged movie. For those of you who have seen Iron Man, you've already seen him show up as the character. One of the Go-gos made an appearance, accompanied by a platoon of Stormtroopers, but I don't seem to have exported one of those images.

And here is rocker Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance, picking up his award for writing. He loved Len's dress coat.
The next picture is Len again, soon after he got back to our table after receiving his Eisner for his induction into the Hall of Fame. He's already adjusted things on our mantle to make room for it among the statues of the X-men and Swampy. He certainly earned the recognition after 40 years in a business where he has had a huge impact. If you skip down a couple of blog entries, you can see his acceptance speech.

After Friday night, our schedule was a little less hectic. Len did a spotlight panel on Saturday, which only managed to get through half of his career, so the moderator plans to do the second half next year. On Sunday, he appeared as the captain of the professional team in the Pro-Am Trivia Tournament, but the pros got trounced this year. It is supposed to be all in fun, but the questions have gotten absurdly difficult, making it not very much fun for the audience to watch.

As things wound down close to 5 p.m. on Sunday, when the exhibit hall shut down, I sat in the DC booth watching people walk by--like these far-from-home Spartans....

and the Wicked Witch of the West.

I managed to get this photograph of Dave Gibbons as he was signing in the DC booth on Sunday. Dave is the artist who created Watchman with writer Alan Moore. Watchman, which has been made into a film directed by Zak Snyder, who also directed 300, will be released in March. Len was the editor of the graphic novel, which was published as a 12 issue maxi-series about 20 years ago. Len finished writing the video game which is set up as a prequel to the movie just before we went to San Diego. It will be released around the time the film is. Len always pronounces Dave's name as "DIve," in deference to Dave's British accent.

The last photograph is of the banner which hung in the Convention Center foyer during the weekend. I had this strange desire to take it home with me, but this is the best I could do under the circumstances.

Looking over my pictures makes me want to go out and spend the money for the 18-200 VR lens for my digital camera. It won't do me any good on the new D700 I'd like to buy, but it will work just fine on my D70 or a D300. The problem with the 28-200 I was using is that it is just too slow in low-light situations, like the stage shooting, and I really needed to be able to use a faster shutter speed or something which would minimize camera shake for me, as a VR (vibration reduction) lens would. My fixed-focus lenses, which are faster than the zooms, are not auto-focus and have limited auto-exposure features with the digital body. Upgrading is just too darned expensive and I can't really justify the cost right now.


Grey Horse Matters said...

It certainly sounds like a very exciting time. I think your pictures are great too.

Sage said...

Re the Spartans: So where was Shopping Spartan keeping his wallet?

GH said...

Thanks for posting these, it's a great round-up for a our friends who didn't make it.

The only way I've found to put the photos where I want them on blogspot is by using "Edit HTML" and carefully moving the code that calls them.

M. C. Valada said...

Thanks, Arelene.

Sage: I have no idea where he kept his wallet, except,perhaps in that plastic bag. Maybe he just had a credit card tucked in with his convention badge. I don't think the Spartans had spandex, do you? I also don't believe they had leather Speedos.

Gillian: I wound up copying everything I wrote to word, reloading all of the pictures (including a couple that got dropped out accidentally) so that they were large and centered, and then I re cut and pasted the text. I think it looks better now. I couldn't figure out how to work with the HTML.

Unknown said...

Wow, looks like you had fun!

I was there...

I was at Comicon (my first one) only Friday and Saturday to pitch my screenplay which is being turned into a graphic novel by Zen: Intergalactic Ninja author Stephen Stern. (My project is called Ninja Zombies

But before my partner and I could even start pitching or trying to we have to figure out the place which was vast - we're both in good shape and it was exhausting.

As for hall H (which before heading down I read a few days before would be the hot panels to visit) we couldn't even get in. The lines seemed so, so long and I heard the wait was for hours.

By Saturday I hated Comicon. I hated the pushing. I hated the crowds. I wasn't having fun. My girlfriend got into see the "Pushing Daisies" panel (which she really liked) but I missed it, trying to get a few more pitches in.

We texted one another. She was sad that I couln't even get in that panel. By the time I got there the line was just too long.

So I went downstairs again. My head was even lower.

And, I ran into a guy from Benderspink who was interested in my screenplay.

Suddenly things didn't look so bleak

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for posting about your Comic-con experience and especially the wonderful Hugh Jackman moment. If you have a Flickr account you should post more photos there. I also wrote about it on my blog. So many times the actors you see there are full of ego or seem bored to be there, Hugh, raised the bar.

I should say this on Len's blog or write him but he is one of the main reasons I'm the semi - articulate,social activist I am today. His voice and writing style from the Swamp Thing and Batman, the Justice League and X-Men still echo in my head. They hit me at just the right time in my life that it made a big difference. He, with Denny O'Neil, showed me that to read comics one needed two things, an open mind and a dictionary. :)

Please thank him for me and pass along my happiness with his Eisner Hall of Fame Honor. It's so well deserved.

M. C. Valada said...

Steve: This is my 16th Comicon and my husband's been to every one except the first two or three. We've pretty much got it figured out. I don't go on Saturday as a rule, that's tea and antiques day for me. I don't like crowds, but, being married to "The Famous Len Wein," I'm accepting of having to spend some time at the convention. As much as I love Hugh Jackman, I wouldn't have even tried to get in without the special pass. I did attempt to get into the Big Bang Theory panel, but the idiots at the door insisted I had to stand in line BEHIND people who were there for the NEXT panel. Sorry, guys. I got the lowdown from Len, who just ignored the door Nazis. I can't do that without a really good reason.

Seeker65: Len thanks you for the very kind words. Yes, you should have put them over on his real estate, but he reads the comments here as well and he was touched. I don't have a Flickr account because I'm very selective about what images I'm willing to share with the world without getting paid for it. I'm glad you liked my posts.

Anonymous said...

Is Len Wein gay now?