Tag: will wright

SDCC 08: Ryan’s Panel Rundown

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.

Grade: A+

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.

Grade: C+

Editorial Cartoons

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.)

Comics, anime, video games in an art gallery? KRAZY!

Filling the halls of an art gallery with comic strips, a constant stream of anime and a playable Pac-Man arcade game is a bold move. Not only does it risk pissing off highbrow art patrons, but it also has the potential to alienate followers of all things pop culture.

But the Vancouver Art Gallery’s KRAZY! The Delirious World of Anime + Comics + Video Games + Art exhibit transcends any potential art-class feud by showing off the diversity of visual mediums over the last 100 years. From Gertie the Dinosaur to Will Wright’s universe-spanning Spore, KRAZY! is where mass media-lovin’ geeks and art-snobs can get together in appreciation under the same roof.

The exhibit is composed of over 600 pieces of artwork from seven different fields; Comics, “Graphic Novels”, Manga, Anime, Animated Cartoons, Video Games and Visual Art. Each section is self-contained within the gallery, but the connections between each discipline emerge quickly. At the very least, the exhibit fulfills project mastermind Bruce Grenville’s vision of composing a “survey of visual culture.” At the very best, the exhibit is a discussion on the potential of visual storytelling, represented by some of the brightest minds from all realms of popular culture.

Grenville likens the connection between each medium to the tangled relationship between the mouse, cat and dog featured in George Herriman’s Krazy Kat comic strip. Although each discipline functions separately, they “are inextricably linked together in ways that have come to define the scope and the purpose of their mutual endeavor.” He also hopes that the project will illustrate some French philosopher’s idea of an “inoperative community,” or “a community without community.” Which, from what I can tell, is when individuals benefit from belonging to a group that’s loosely tied together. [Which may be another way of saying it’s sort of like the relationship shared between cousins Larry Appleton and Balki Bartokomous in the 80’s sitcom ‘Perfect Strangers.’]

Even though the gallery has a worthwhile smorgasbord of multimedia on display, if you’re not willing or able to get to Vancouver, the catalogue does a serviceable job of presenting the exhibit. Although only a fraction of the gallery’s wares are featured inside the book, there’s still enough worthwhile content stuffed into 260 pages. This is largely due to Grenville’s approach to wrangling what should have been an impossibly large feat.

Instead of single-handedly picking all the material, he selected six co-curators— each one a respected voice within their discipline —and encouraged them to be as personal as possible while picking their selections. Each co-curator’s dialogue on the subject — from defending their selections, to their musings on their discipline— is what makes the project unique. You may not agree with each co-curator’s choices, but it’s impossible not to respect their opinions.

Art Spiegelman and Seth, who worked together on both the Comic and “Graphic Novel” sections, explain their hesitance to accept “graphic novels” as a label separate from comics, but still play along, referring to the section-in-question with quotation marks. They also explain the challenge in choosing which artists belonged in which category. But both the Comics and “Graphic Novel” sections form an expected and surprising group of passionate cartoonists that all blur artistic and storytelling boundaries. Chris Ware and Dan Clowes are there, as well as ‘paintoonist’ Jerry Moriarty and Shaun Tan.

Acting as curator for the Video Game section, SimCity-creator Will Wright puts forth his list of essential video games, from Pac-Man to his own soon-to-released Spore. Elsewhere, media critics Toshiya Ueno and Kiyoshi Kusumi split duties on the Anime and Manga sections, focusing solely on works from the last 20 years while the animation section, curated by Over The Hedge director Tim Johnson, takes a more sweeping approach and features one of the more diverse collections, showing off animation old and new, as well as examples of silhouette, digital and clay animation.

It’s an overwhelming exhibit that really comes together with Grenville’s Visual Art section (which he put together himself). It consists of ‘fine art’ influenced by mass media, with the obvious inclusion of Roy Lichtenstein, as well as the not-so-obvious SUV-sized sculpture of a psychedelic manga head. After walking the halls of the gallery, or flipping through the book, it almost seems possible that highbrow and lowbrow can cross paths and remain intact. Sort of like a community without community. I think.

Krazy!: The Delirious World of Anime + Comics + Video Games + Art runs until September 7th at the Vancouver Art Gallery.