Contributing writer Ryan Ingram gives us the skinny on a few of the panels you may have overlooked at this year’s San Diego Comic Con.
SPORE w/ Will Wright
The human idea-machine Will Wright made his first Comic-Con appearance to promote SPORE—a game that lets you play as George Lucas, instead of Luke Skywalker, creating everything from your own alien species, to space ships that travel through different galaxies. It’s taking the work he did on SimCity to the next logical level, but still offering something new and completely insane-looking.
There aren’t many people that can make watching videogames and a slideshow engaging, but fast-talking Wright pulled it off in spades. He began telling a convention anecdote of his own; hunting down about a rare 2001: Space Odyssey poster, that he unknowingly bought off one of the film’s actors, who then wanted to sign his pristine poster.
Wright also talked about video games as an art form, and mentioned the current Vancouver art show that features anime, manga, graphic novels and video games. He acted as curator for the video game section, and was surprised to learn that the comic book curators didn’t see video games as an art form, and implied that video games were “bottom of the barrel.” He drew a parallel between the current mainstream perception of video games to books in the 1500’s, which were first seen as satanic time-wasters that killed human interaction.
He also explained how Gilligan’s Island is the predecessor to Neil Gaiman’s Sandman.
Then he showed a half-hour demo of the game, which has mind-boggling levels of detail and offers the power to customize nearly everything in the game. Within 18 days of the SPORE creature generator over 2 million unique species have been created—almost double the total known species on Earth.
There was also a new feature announced that will let players create their own comic stories and YouTube videos that will feature their characters and stories.
Highlight: With some remaining time, he gave the audience the choice between a quick Q&A and a Russian Space Minute (where he gives power point presentation on Russian Space program, a hobby of his.) The crowd chose the latter, and he gave a brief history of the life of Wernher von Braun, the creator of the V2 rocket. While it was actually a German Space Minute, he talked about the brilliant rocket scientist who ran with the Nazis, the U.S. government, and even Walt Disney.
Entertainment Weekly’s The Visionaries: Comics
If the Justice League assembled in the real-world as a group of comic creators, it would probably resemble the seven artists, writers and writers/artists that met for Entertainment Weekly’s first “Visionaries” panel. (The other two EW panels included a movie and television one.)
A solid mix of (almost) veteran and newcomer creators assembled, but with Jim Lee, Mike Mignola, John Cassaday, Matt Fraction, Colleen Doran, Robert Kirkman and Grant Morrison all present they didn’t really seem to shine and the conversation seemed defensive and little awkward. The panel mostly answered questions that were variations of how comics are different from movies. This is made even lamer, since EW stuck Frank Miller on the movie panel instead of this one.
But other than that gripe, Grant Morrison loves superheroes. Jim Lee hates continuity. And an audience member complained about late comics. It didn’t seem like there was a whole lot of new discussion breached during the panel, but it was still alright.
Highlight: John Cassaday explaining a problem with the group being labeled visionaries, since most of the panelists got lost on their way to the discussion. And also Colleen Doran’s reason for getting into comics; she thought Aquaman was hot.
I accidentally showed up to the last half of this panel, and immediately regretted not getting there earlier. It was a good example of panel reflecting the diversity that should be found in the pop culture convention. And it didn’t hurt that it was packed with some obviously opinionated and clever minds.
One cartoonist referred to the current depressing state of the newspaper industry “like living in Pompeii,” with newspapers closures and constant job cuts happening across the country. There was talk about how to make the move online, but it’s a still a sad reality that these voices are becoming closer and closer to being silenced with declining readership.
A lot of the cartoonists agreed that as long as they get read, they’re happy—even if you hate what they do. One cartoonist mentioned how the bags of hate mail continue to fuel him.
Highlight: The panel’s lone Republican’s answered a questions about why they are few Red-state editorial cartoonists (“It’s a vast left-wing conspiracy”) got a laugh from everyone in the room and on the panel. Another panelist quipped back, saying it was because they’re just not funny.
Grade: B+, although it could have been higher had I made it for the whole panel.
Deepak Chopra and Grant Morrison
I saw the two of these guys on a panel years ago, and it was an all-time Comic-Con highlight. And since seeing Grant Morrison on a Friday panel—where he briefly talked about the sun’s field changing the human consciousness every 11 years—it seemed like he was just getting warmed up to bring the crazy-awesome to his Sunday panel.
There was a bit of a discussion of the similarities between Jesus, Buddha and Superman that seemed to be déjà vu-ish from the 2005 panel, but was worth it to hear Morrison ask if Superman could beat up Jesus.
The two also spent considerable time talking about “The Dark Knight.” Chopra discussed the Joker and Batman’s religious relationship as a mixing of the sacred and the profane that complete each other and “that are explicit enemies but implicit allies.” The two are needed to keep “the story” going and ask us to redeem ourselves, similar to Jesus.
Later, Morrison came back to the movie and talked about the idea of “One-Face”, a future version of consciousness where we can integrate this duality smoothly.
He also talked about how human consciousness is like separate fingers trying to kill itself—and that we need reach a level where we all make peace with “the entire hand.”
And that global warming may be an incubation period for this global awareness—In other words, he brought crazy-awesome as expected.
Highlight: Being the last panel of the day for me on Sunday, it was the perfect cure for the comic con hangover.
Grade: A-. (The bungled video footage for the Virgin comics things took up time Chopra and Morrison could have been blowing the audience’s minds.)