many ways to navigate, or experience, San Diego Comic-Con International. This
year I was an Official Guest and the subject of a Spotlight Panel, which was
quite nice, but I also spent time in the crush of humanity on the exhibition
floor. As you may know, some veteran attendees and dealers bemoan the fact that
a once-clubby gathering of fans and dealers has become a chaotic destination
for pop culture fans of all ages and stripes. But, as I learned, one can choose
how to experience this unique event.
My Comic-Con sojourn
got off to a great start Wednesday night when I appeared on an episode of Doug
Benson’s popular podcast Doug Loves
Movies recorded at the American Comedy Company in San Diego’s Gas Lamp
District. This has become an annual event and it was well attended; Doug tells
me that as his fans are at his home base in Los Angeles, the enthusiasm level
is exponentially higher out on the road when he plays his trivia contest “The
Leonard Maltin Game.” I shared the stage with The Nerdist’s Matt Mira and actress Clare Kramer, who is also the
co-founder of Geek Nation, which was well represented at Comic-Con. I also
salvaged my reputation, somewhat, by actually coming up with some correct
answers during the quiz. We all had a great time. Afterwards, my family and I
found the streets of the Gas Lamp District had become a kind of happening where
we had lively conversations with strangers and ran into a number of friends.
One acquaintance dubbed it Nerdi Gras.
thousands of fanboys (and girls) lined up for hours to see stars and creators
of their favorite TV shows and preview upcoming movies, I participated in a
handful of more modest-sized panels. Jerry Beck, of Cartoon Research, and I
moderated a tribute to veteran animator and Oscar winning filmmaker Gene
Deitch, who flew in from his home in Prague to mark the publication of his new
book, Nudnik Revealed, from
Fantagraphics Books. It was great to hear Gene relate some of his experiences
working for animation legend John Hubley, the UPA studio and Terrytoons, where
he created Tom Terrific, before setting off on his own overseas. Nudnik
is a pet character of his who is enjoying a kind of renaissance thanks to this
book and a new DVD. At the end of our hour-long session, Gene was presented
with Comic-Con’s beautiful Inkpot Award.
On Friday, I
was part of a panel sponsored by Warner Archive celebrating that DVD label’s B
movies, joined by Warner’s movie guru George Feltenstein, his podcast cohorts
Matt Patterson and Dan Ferranti, and screenwriter/film buff Josh Olson. We had a
great turnout and the crowd responded well to a fun selection of film clips
that ranged from Bomba the Jungle Boy to The Phynx.
wary of book signings but I was relieved to find a line of people waiting for
me at the event that followed in the convention center’s official autograph
area. I met a lot of nice people there; in fact, everyone I encountered over
the weekend who wanted to say hello or get a photo was polite and friendly.
I can’t use
those exact terms for the folks who packed the room for Rotten Tomatoes’ Friday
night panel titled Your Opinion Sucks,
but I was pleasantly surprised that—given the passionate feelings
expressed—everyone was well behaved. I shared the stage with RT editor Matt
Atchity, Scott Mantz of Access Hollywood,
Ben Lyons of Extra, Jim Vejvoda of IGN, Jenna Busch of Fanhattan, Nell Minow of Movie Mom,
and RT’s senior editor Tim Ryan, with the effervescent Grae Drake serving as
interlocutor between us and audience members who wanted to challenge our
thoughts on some of their favorite films. It isn’t easy to face a teeming crowd
and stand by an unpopular opinion—but I survived.
On Saturday, Comic-Con stalwart Mark Evanier invited me to be a
surprise guest at his annual Quick Draw session, which featured three
cartoonists (Neal Adams, Scott Shaw!, and the amazing Sergio Aragonés, who
wield the fastest pens in the West. In my segment they tried to convey the
names of Oscar-winning films through strictly visual language, and I stumbled
through an attempt to guess the answers—before an audience of 3,200 people. The
one that came immediately was Adams’ rendering of the White House with the
words “in Spanish” below. I knew right away he meant Casablanca. Whew!
day Mark interviewed me on my own Spotlight Panel, which was relaxed and
enjoyable—and led to a most unexpected conclusion, as I was presented with a Comic-Con Inkpot Award! I had no idea I was going
to be honored this way and I couldn’t be happier.
the exhibition floor and checking out the various dealers is the most
challenging part of the convention nowadays, as the sheer crush of humanity in
the aisles is daunting, to say the least. But I did get to see some old friends
and make a few small purchases—trying to show restraint. My wife surprised me
by purchasing a limited-edition steel blue Robby the Robot, which along with my
Inkpot will remind me of the 2013 Comic-Con International for many years to come.