Category Archives: comic widows

The Last Wizard World Philly?

Comic Widows has been a guest of Wizard World Philadelphia since 2001. That’s right, before we were even a website about comics, before we had our vision clear, and we were filming a sadly aborted documentary called Comic Widows, we were their guest. That weekend of filming and interviewing folks about their experiences, whether they were an entire family all dressed as Thor to the baby-overdue woman outside the main room who didn’t “know nothing ‘bout no Green Lantrin,” was my first time at the show. At the time I was amazed and dazzled by the wonder of it all.

Now I don’t think it’s that I have become jaded, but in the last couple years, the con just isn’t what it used to be. There’s been a name change. It’s now the Philadelphia Comic Con. That’s notable. Not only does it invoke the New York Comic Con, the new gold standard for conventions in the industry, but it lacks the words Wizard World, almost as if they are bad words.

The last few years Wizard World Philly has had a hard time competing with Heroes Con in Charlotte, the same weekend, and fighting for guests. While they are not the same weekend this year, the Con is at the same time as the Philadelphia Writers Conference, and had the Flyers won, there could have been serious competition there in the city. And it’s no secret that Wizard has had some financial problems and it’s also fairly obvious glancing at a schedule that there are very few comics-related guests.

There are only two meeting rooms being utilized this year, not counting gaming, and only one was used today. Wow, that alone says something is wrong. There is no presence from DC Comics or Marvel Comics, so no breaking news, and if you were to take a peek at Newsarama – you couldn’t even guess that there was a major convention going on this weekend. What is the problem here?

Upon arrival and looking at the program guide I was again disappointed. Quite honestly, other than the “What You Need to Know” article, I have never seen a more useless program guide for a con. It barely even rates that title. The map of the Convention Center was more useful, and it makes me wonder why that information wasn’t in the guide?

The Press Room, that only a few people knew about, was locked for most of the afternoon. And while there were at least two friendly and helpful volunteers, the majority were either clueless, didn’t want to be there or didn’t care. Usually when I do a con report, I break it down by day, mostly because so much is going on on any given day. The sad truth is however, there was hardly anything going on today. I’m not paying for a photo or an autograph, and I’m not paying con prices for comics-related goods – so I am sadly leaving early. I have no idea what I will write about the next two days. Maybe it was a slow Friday, maybe not.

I hate disparaging the con, I really do. It is local, and I would rather have a lackluster con than none at all, but… this is kind of embarrassing. I don’t want to bite the hand that feeds, etc. I really wonder if this article will put me on some kind of blacklist for next year, and that this is Comic Widows’ last time at Wizard, but I gotta call ‘em like I see ‘em. I hope that this is not the last time in Philly, but it might be at this rate.

Next: The Other Side of the Coin – Let’s Save Wizard World Philly!

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Howl’s Moving Castle

Howl’s Moving Castle ~ This Hiyao Miyazaki classic is based on an award-winning novel by a British author, Diana Wynne James. Set in a very imaginative 1920s-ish steampunk world where magic exists, this surreal tale is well-suited to Miyazaki’s filmmaking and storytelling talents.

Young Sophie is cursed and turned into an old woman, voiced by the late and legendary Jean Simmons, and starts cleaning a wizard’s giant walking castle – the one referenced in the title. Howl, appropriately played by Christian Bale, is a spoiled brat of a wizard, and a coward to boot, seemingly a perfect role for Bale based on his on-set tantrums of recent years. The voice cast is rounded out by Billy Crystal as a enslaved fire demon, who for the first time in quite some time is not grating on my nerves. The demon, Calcifer, is actually a lot of fun.

The highlight of the film is the subtle way that Sophie ages and de-ages, depending on her emotions and situations, throughout. It’s a wonderful touch. I can’t recommend this enough as I love Miyazaki, but by the same token, it is Miyazaki, and a hard and bizarre pill to swallow at times. The man is a genius, and the animation is visually brilliant, so even just as eye candy, this is so worth seeing.

For another view on this flick, check out the Comic Widows review by Maxine Nelson here.

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Baltimore Comic Con 2009 – Day Two

Bacon!

Any day that starts with people bringing bacon right to my door is a good day. With that in mind, my associate Ray Cornwall brought up a point in my report on the con yesterday that I was a bit slight on the positives of the Baltimore Comic Con. There are lots, beginning with the fact that the very cool hotel, the Tremont Plaza Hotel, was chosen by the Con. Indirectly, the bacon comes from them.

Other than the sound problems and the partitioned rooms, everything about the BCC is very well put together and nearly flawless. It’s like a smaller, more friendly New York Comic Con, and that’s a compliment. I really appreciate the focus on comics over pop culture, unlike other cons of recent years. Well organized, amazing guests, they even hosted the Harvey Awards – really, what can I say bad about them? I look forward to coming back again and again.

Ring Bearer

The day continued to start bright even before we entered the con. Just outside we saw Berni Wrightson and Steve Niles on a smoke break, marvelling at a great “Groverfield” t-shirt. From there we were just steps away from one of the best costumes of the con, the new Mr. Terrific, and he was accompanied by two members of the Junior Justice Society. The good day had only just begun.

One of my friends back home had asked me to pick up prop rings from DC Comics’ Blackest Night. I didn’t think the various colored rings would be available yet but the DC booth was on the agenda either way. I was right about the rings but DC was giving out the Black Lantern ring (thanks!) and Steven Schreck kindly played ring-model for all the prop rings to come. Apparently a full set will be available shortly from your local comics shop. While I have a certain distaste for events and crossovers, I am enjoying Blackest Night, and the little promotional props, like these rings, make the experience that much cooler.

Community

I mentioned earlier how Baltimore’s con was much friendlier than others I’ve attended. It’s true. While there was a lack of news due to the retailers meeting tomorrow – the big guns saving the announcements for Diamond as opposed to the folks who actually buy their products – there was a very cool sense of community here at Baltimore.

Yesterday I met some folks I hadn’t seen in some time, said hello to new and old friends and met some folks I had only previously known online. But I also made new friends, just striking conversations up with strangers just because we obviously shared a common hobby. This is how the first conventions I attended back in the 70s and 80s were, back in the dark ages before the internet, before we were global and ‘knew’ everybody on a social network.

For instance I chatted casually with a gentleman and his son who had come up from the south. He was taking a rest as I was taking notes. Our conversation went on and off as we each did our thing. We compared hotels, cons and I told him where to find Coca-Cola. The best part of the chat was the bit I wasn’t a part of. The man and his son were of two distinct nerd (and I mean nerd in a good way) generations. Dad would reference the Fantastic Four and the son would parry with Halo. In a geeky way it warmed my heart.

Later when my friend Ray joined me we started talking with a gentleman named Jonathan with whom we chatted for nearly two hours. The passion of which I spoke yesterday burned bright as our conversation jumped from Alter-Ego to Blackest Night from Dark Reign to the identity of the Red Hulk. It never descended into Trekkie or “Big Bang Theory” levels of fanboy-ishness but stayed a positive exciting exchange between people who love their hobby. Now that is what these cons should be about. Community.

Thanks to the Baltimore Comic Con for their cooperation and accommodation. This has been one of the more fun and fulfilling shows I’ve attended. Thanks for the opportunity. I look forward to the chance to come back.

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Baltimore Comic Con Updates

Day One by Glenn Walker

Day One by Ray Cornwall

From Comic Book Resources: The 2009 Harvey Awards.

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Fear and Loathing at Wizard World Philly ’09

Saturday. Met up with my partners in crime – Anthony, Andrea and Ray – just after Wizard World Philadelphia 2009 opened this morning. We hung out in the Green Room for a bit, subtly eavesdropping on Marvel Comics’ Bill Roseman giving portfolio reviews to potential artists. Lots of keen insight on what is expected of artists and how comics should be done was overheard. Quite the learning experience.

Also from the eagle eye view in the Green Room over the con floor we spied one lone Suicide Girl, Kyra, staring at her lap and texting on her phone. She was surrounded by comics geeks and fanboys who just appeared too scared or shy to approach her. It wasn’t until her fellow Suicide Girls showed up that people came up to the table. I guess there’s safety in numbers?

On the con floor whilst checking out Artist Alley and hunting for HeroClix and Marvel Super Hero Squad figures, we witnessed quite a nasty bit of poaching between booths. A woman from one booth came up behind me while I was at another to say she had all of a certain action figure line – come on over and see. I was incredulous, and even if she did have what I was looking for I wouldn’t buy it (or anything) from her now.

Something else to add to the list of things that had to be seen to be believed was when I was chilling up on the third floor overlooking the entrance to the con floor, just over the concession stand. Two guys in their twenties were taking pictures straight down Yancy Butler’s (“Witchblade,” “Mann and Machine”) low-cut shirt while she was getting a hot dog. I chastised them and told them they should be ashamed of themselves. It seemed to have little to no effect.

Over the last two days I’ve sat in on a few writing panels, and it seems really strange and enlightening to me that everyone has a different process. From Garth Ennis to Raven Gregory to Jimmy Palmiotti to Alan Moore – everyone has a different approach. Interesting stuff. I also want to add that Buddy Scalara who hosted a few of these panels was very enthusiastic, entertaining and educational. Great stuff, Buddy.

The DC Nation panel hosted by Dan DiDio, editor-in-chief of DC Comics, was intriguing. We got a rundown, followed by asking an opinion of the audience, of DC’s current big projects. DiDio called out Green Lantern, Batman, Superman, and when he asked about Wonder Woman, my buddy Ray took him to task saying he didn’t like it, and felt that there was editorial interference on the book – specifically DiDio’s. Ray also mentioned that he thought “Battle for the Cowl” sucked and was one of the worst comics he’d ever read – even worse than US 1. It was made a bit of joke and Dan turned to Ray throughout the panel to ask if certain projects ‘sucked.’

Justice Society was next, then Justice League, Teen Titans, and then a project I’m pretty excited about – Wednesday Comics. Then there was talk of another project that piqued my interest, a series featuring old pulp characters, including Doc Savage, the Spirit, Wildcat, the Blackhawks and maybe a few others, tentatively called First Wave written by Brian Azzarello and penciled by Rags Morales.

A question and answer session followed. There appears to be a surprising amount of support for more of the new Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters. There was some talk of Grant Morrison’s “Multiversity,” as well as speculation on two different Flash ongoing series. I was also amazed by an answer given by Bob Wayne, DC’s sales manager, regarding rising prices and titles per month. Apparently he thinks that this country’s current economic crisis is one big joke. Obviously the man gets his comics for free.

As my impression of Mr. Wayne sank, I must admit that my respect for Mr. DiDio rose quite a bit as the discussion he’d had with Ray continued outside the panel room for about fifteen minutes. With this amazing follow up Dan DiDio talked openly about how his job works and offered his thoughts as well as listening to those of others. Hell of a guy, great stuff. This made the con for me, seeing that the man wasn’t a monster at all but someone who is just like the rest of us – just with a much cooler job.

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Free Comic Book Day 2009

As always, the first Saturday in May is Free Comic Book Day. Comic book retailers, bookstores and libraries across the world celebrate the hobby and literacy by making dozens of new or reprinted comics available for free on this day every year since 2002.

What titles are available? Almost every comics publisher puts out something for FCBD. DC Comics has the opening chapter in this summer’s crossover event “Blackest Night” and Marvel Comics has a brand new Avengers comic up for grabs. For a list of everything, click here.

And for those folks in the South Jersey/Philadelphia area, please stop by All Things Fun! in West Berlin, NJ and the Haddon Township Library in Haddon Township, NJ. Don’t know where to find your local comics shop? Call 1-800-COMIC-Book or click here. Free comics for everyone and even special events, check it out!

And here’s a bonus – Hugh Jackman hyping Free Comic Book Day, plus a look at X-Men Origins: Wolverine, in theatres nationwide tomorrow. Enjoy.

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NYCC 2009 Day One


FRIDAY

The day was not off to a great start. With very little sleep I made the trek from 30th Street Station in Philly to Penn Station in New York. While waiting for the train, my watch broke. I mean, it was still running, it had just decided to show the wrong time and refused to be reset. Then just before New York the train had to stop “to wait for the other trains to leave the tunnel.” Now I’m not sure if we were waiting for every train in Manhattan to use the tunnel first or not, but we were stopped for well over forty-five minutes.

The original plan was to stop at the hotel first and check in (more on that later) but I was already late so I made my way to the Jacob Javitz Center first to pick up my press credentials and see what there was to see. Seeking out the press room I met a guy from Issues The Series. Go check it out, lots of fun, kinda like “Scrubs” meets Clerks.

Also saw Mighty Avengers artist Khoi Pham waiting in the professional line to get in. He called after me to say hello. I just have to reiterate my estimation that he’s the nicest guy in the comics biz. How many pros go out of their way to say hi to fans. Helluva artist, helluva guy, class act all the way. While I’m sharing plugs, I hung out with my friend Abraham from Avengers Forever and also bumped into the multi-talented Rob from the Aquaman Shrine.

The Schedule Guide for NYCC #4 has a gorgeous cover by living legend Neal Adams featuring the Green Lanterns Kilowog, Katma Tui, Kyle Rayner, Guy Gardner, John Stewart and a weird-eyed Hal Jordan. Everything is beautiful but Hal’s eyes. It’s disturbing. Maybe they’re crossed, maybe they’re not, but either way they seem to follow you around the room. Brrrr…

Inside are sneak previews of Flash: Rebirth #1 by Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver and Detective Comics #854 by Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III. Other than Kate Kane’s pasty goth skin, the latter actually looks pretty spectacular. The former has me spellbound though. After these five pages I don’t know when the last time I’ve been so excited about a comic. It’s got it all. The Rogues, the JSA, good characterization, respectful characterization, and a Kid Flash is back? I’m going to be loving this book. I can’t wait.

I had to bail on some panels I wanted to see this afternoon to check into our hotel. What a clusterf*ck that was. First there was some confusion over whether it was on the shuttle bus route from the Javitz Center – it’s not, even though folks were telling me it was on the NYCC website. And then there was the question of the non-existent free wireless internet. By the time everything was sorted, the afternoon was gone. But I was determined to get to the Wonder Woman premiere so I went back through crazed taxis and rush hour traffic to get there.

It was well worth it. Also had one of the Javitz Center’s famous (or is it infamous?) hot dogs and saw the CAG Awards as well. I’ll end with a quote I heard as I was leaving the Javitz, “How do the cabs know to stop and pick us up?” Hmmm… and I thought I was out of my element here.

Comic Widows Flashback NYCC 2008

On the eve of the 2009 New York Comic Con, please check out these articles from last year’s show:

NYCC As It Happened

Swag from New York

The BloodRayne Fan Film

East Meets West: Ultimo

Mephisto Wins

Dual Reviews of Iron Man

WWPhilly As It Happened

Please check back here this weekend for updates from this year‘s New York Comic Con!

Birds of Prey Redux

Finally the DVD set for the 2002 “Birds of Prey” TV series has come out. Here are my reviews of the program reviewed as it aired back then:

Birds of Prey

It’s really not as bad as I thought back then. Perhaps it got better with age. It’s not the comic book, not by a long shot, but if you go in with an open mind and a blank slate without knowledge of the comic… it’s really not bad.

Wizard World Philly – Sunday


WIZARD WORLD PHILLY

SUNDAY

The day began much earlier than expected with a family breakfast at the Pop Shop, and no argument, it was a pleasant surprise. From there it was prep and travel time to WW Philly.

The first panel of my day was Prize No Prize hosted by Marvel editor Tom Brevoort along with Dan Slott, Molly Lazer, and C.B. Cebulski among others. This trivia contest is a hometown event, having started at WWPhilly two years ago. Grand prize – an advance copy of Secret Invasion #3 and a statue of Captain America, although many cool prizes were given out throughout.

My old Movies Unlimited co-worker Gary did pretty well here, almost as well as he did on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” a few years back. Can you name eight women who dated Peter Parker? How about nine Avengers who have never had their own title? Twelve mutants depowered in House of M? Then you should have been there. Try again next year.

Later I checked out DC Sunday Conversations: For the Love of Comics. I walked in late to what seemed to be an exercise in Dan DiDio (who was running it) asking when we all started reading comics. I have to admit a dislike for DiDio based on previous convention appearances but I also must confess the man showed a genuine warmness and openness during this panel. It’s a better look for him than his usual antics.

The discussion took a turn in the Aqua-direction. DiDio asked the audience, “Who is Aquaman?” and who did we like the most as he cited several examples. About the same amount of folks liked the green glove (original) version as liked the hook-hand version. A couple liked the blue costume. Only a few people liked the water hand Aquaman. Billy Tucci asked if he could breathe his own hand to much laughter.

Stemming from one fan mentioning he liked the writer’s JLA interpretation of the sea king, the talk turned briefly to Grant Morrison and how he can take even the lamest idea or character and make it seem cool. Even electric blue Superman. Somehow this makes me worry about Final Crisis.

Getting back on the Aqua-kick, DiDio mentioned he kinda liked the new Aquagirl quite a bit, and also verified that the latest incarnation of Aquaman was in fact the Golden Age version. It really sounds like DiDio is fishing (sorry, couldn’t help it) for ideas to fix or revamp Aquaman.

Next Dan went around the room asking for folks’ favorite obscure character. Ambush Bug was immediately brought up by my friend Skott Stotland. Others mentioned were G’nort, Vibe, the Metal Men, the female Dr. Light, and then Billy Tucci offered up Lord Malvolio with a story he wants to pitch. For the uninitiated, Lord Malvolio of the Green Flame is a Green Lantern baddie from the old (and much-missed) Action Comics Weekly who wore a copy of Alan Scott’s costume and destroyed Hal Jordan’s power ring.

This prompted DiDio to talk about the three kinds of continuity at DC. There are three levels. The first is immutable, can’t be changed, stuff like Krypton blew up and Bruce Wayne’s parents get shot. There’s a middle level of things that can be altered or played with, and then there’s the third level, where things are ignored or forgotten. He brought up the example of the Paul Levitz Legion of Super-Heroes where Superboy learns the Legionaires are really hundreds of years old. Levitz said of the tale, “I’m not going to undo the story, I’m just never going to mention it again.”

In that third continuity category is where that Legion story goes, as well as the tale of Lord Malvolio. Shame. I’d like to see him come back, especially written by Tucci.

The two Cancelled Comics Cavalcade issues were brought up after someone mentioned the Freedom Fighters as his favorites and thanked DiDio for bringing them back. It took me a moment to process that statement as I don’t think the new version bears much resemblance to the original. What Freedom Fighters comics are you reading, dude?

Anyway, history lesson again – back in the 1970s, the ‘DC Implosion’ when DC expanded at the absolute wrong time and ended up having to cancel about a dozen existing or coming titles. To secure copyright on the cancelled material, DC produced two ‘issues,’ fifty photocopies each, of the stories that were already finished but not slotted to appear elsewhere. Two issues of the 1970s FF title were among them, along with good stuff like Secret Society of Super-Villains, Kamandi, Karate Kid and the first issue of Vixen.

When DiDio first joined DC the first thing he did was get those two issues and find out what happened in those comics from his youth that were never ‘really’ published. Pointing out that memory isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be, he noted those stories were crap.

A rather heated and half-joking discussion of who Batman was and if Nightwing should replace him was interrupted when Tom Brevoort came in and gave Dan a comic. Laughing, DiDio told the story of a comic book he couldn’t find as a kid, until he was on the bus to school and saw it on a spinner rack in a store the bus was passing. He got off the bus, bought it and then found he didn’t have enough cash to catch another bus, so he walked to school. That’s the Captain America comic Tom brought to Dan.

Tom B. then joined the panel. The Tiny Titans guys came in later to much applause. That’s when Dan DiDio asked the big question – why would anyone eat food from this building when the Reading Market is right across the street?

Comic Widows colleagues Crystal and Anthony showed up later as things were quieting down. Ran through the floor for some last minute bargains and to say a few hellos and goodbyes, and then called it a day.

Now there have been lots of reports on this con (and others) and personally, reading other accounts, I have to wonder… what con were they at?