Comic-Con 2016 Review! Funneling Comic-Con Into a More-Than-Willing Bawbshway

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Comic Con 2016 has come and gone and wow! What an experience! It was big, colossal, gigantic, epic, monolithic! So much to do, to take in, to look at! Crowds and content oozing deliciously from every pore of the San Diego Convention Center and its Downtown area. I was on pop culture and nerd overload and I loved it.

Jason Felix with his creepy, disturbing and inspirational art!
Jason Felix with his creepy, disturbing and inspirational art!

But that’s also what I wanted to write about. Last year, in trying to describe the con and everything I saw, in trying to do and to say and to comment on everything that happened, running from place to place, standing in lines and constantly afraid I was going to miss something, I came out of it feeling drained and anxious and a little depressed. Because even though I had done so much, there was so much to do that I had planned and missed, that I wanted to see and didn’t, and I wanted to feel which somehow eluded me.

Bob the Angry Flower!
Bob the Angry Flower!

So I thought about that going into the con this year and I realized something. I had to take that little kid wonder, that unbridled passion for all things nerdy, that feeling you have as a child on your birthday when you want to rip open all your presents at once and give it some context, some control, some focus, so that I wasn’t overwhelmed and drowning in everything I love. Because last year was definitely a case of grasping tiny pieces of a million different things and coming out without a whole picture that felt satisfying. In a crowd of a hundred thousand people, in an place that has a million square feet of event space, my mission this year was to make comic con personal and accessible. I needed an entry point, a through line, a way to FUNNEL it into myself, instead of it just exploding all over me and blowing up my brain and body. So here is what I saw and did, and how I managed not to make myself crazy doing it.

 

John T Chiang with his Defender of the Universe! His original artwork is super cool!
John T. Chiang with his Defender of the Universe! His original artwork is super cool!

Fortunately for me, I was able to get early access on Wednesday around 1 pm and watch the booths set up. It was quite surreal to see the place only have a few thousand people milling around putting up sets and booths and tables, but I walked around and talked to people. I decided that one of my guiding rules for this year would be this: ONLY NEW STUFF. There are a million reboots, rehashes, mashups, new takes, homages etc, to ALL my favorite characters and stories, and it was really hard to not jump from booth to booth to see the latest Superman or Goku art or Batman and Shonen comics, and to buy the swag that derives from all the things I have already seen a million times. And don’t get me wrong, I love those things! “But there will always be time for that” is a mantra I had to repeat to myself over and over during con. This year was a time to challenge my perceptions on art, writing, comics, and nerdy pop culture by paying attention to new things and getting involved with the people who make them.

Greg Hall doing his bright, expressive work with a bright expressive face! His cohort to the left photo bombed with classic cheesy face.
Greg Hall doing his bright, expressive work with a bright expressive face! His cohort to the left photo- bombed with classic cheesy-face.

But that’s not to say I didn’t do some of my favorites from years past. But I tried to get all those things done first on Preview Night. Much of these things I will discuss with the other NerdFunnel crew on our Comic Con Review Cast, so be sure to listen to that! But I hit up the Square Enix booth and played FFXV (completely awesome) , Deus EX Mankind Divided (completely the same as Human Revolution), and I am Setsuna (completely a nostalgia piece for Chrono Trigger), I hit up the DC and Marvel and Lego booths and saw great figures and costumes, hit up the Hasbro booth for awesome toys, and all the major booths in the Hall. They were all fantastic and exactly what I expected. And that’s what I wanted to get past. I went to the voice over panel (always a riot and entertaining) with the greats like Billy West and Tara Strong, saw the Starship Smackdown ( a yearly favorite for me where nerds just argue which ships could take on which), a panel on William Gibson, and some on the science of superheros and Star Trek. And oh yes, I watched all the trailer releases and teasers, and yes I’m super hype for Justice League trailer, with Batman playing the role of Nick Fury, assembling the team, with Aquaman his new ideological opposite (with Supes KIA) and Wonder Woman trying to hold them together, and what seems to be Flash as comic relief, and Cyborg as the emo, tortured soul. And I’m super excited for the new Star Trek Discovery trailer, with the new starship Discovery based off the Ralph McQuarrie designs from the 70’s and intrigued by the Dr. Strange trailer and what kind of film it wants to be. But we will cover that on the podcast.

These guys always deliver quality art and stories, in no small thanks to Michael Alan Nelson!
These guys always deliver quality art and stories, in no small thanks to Michael Alan Nelson!

What I did not do this year was spend too much time waiting on the big things I could see pretty well online or read about later. I didn’t bother with Hall H this year because honestly I didn’t want to waste time in line when there was lots of NEW stuff I could  be looking at. I didn’t stand in line for autographs of big celebrities or releases of limited edition stuff. I even surrendered my usual trip to the symphony for a nerd themed concert, which I’ve done every year with Final Fantasy or Legend of Zelda since they started doing them.  This was EXTREMELY difficult, but I did it, and instead went to GameGrumps live,  a live Let’s Play and comedy show at the Observatory in San Diego. It was a new experience and totally fun, in a different way than a music concert, but still an amazing experience!

Love that Arin and Danny duo!
Love that Arin and Danny duo!

But as far as the NEW stuff is concerned, I spent a lot of time in artist’s alley and the comic book sections looking for art that spoke to me with characters I hadn’t seen before. I looked for stories that seemed new and fresh, that took a risk, that tried to look at the world a different way. And you know what? I was rewarded. I met tons of new, interesting people with new, interesting work. I found some amazing new art and comic book pieces that I hadn’t experienced before, that I am now enjoying this week in tiny, tiny fractions of downtime. I hit up Boom! Studios to chat with the charismatic Michael Alan Nelson on his latest stuff. He did Fall of Cthulhu, but I asked him about any original work with new characters and ideas he is working on and we had an awesome conversation, and I bought Day Men vol. 1 from him, which I am thoroughly enjoying. I bought art from Scott Kikuta, a great artist and stellar, talented dude,  for my father, an 80 year old man with no history of Gundam or giant robot anime experience. But Scott’s art was so unique and spoke so much to the relationship I have with my father, that even though Dad has never watched minute 1 of Gundam Wing or anything of the sort, he appreciated the message that the art piece was trying to convey. It gave both him and I a new way to view a common experience we had. And THAT was what I was looking for. I bought art and comics for me and my friends, got my portrait done by Todd Webb, a guy who I’ve never met before but wish I had met at con years ago. And if I had stepped out of my nerd comfort zone earlier, maybe I would have. By not taking some time to miss the things I already know I like, I was missing out on all the things didn’t know I liked. And this year, I’m glad I made that change.

Even now I feel like I haven’t included enough, covered enough, written enough and i feel anxious, but this year i decided to do quality over quantity, new over old, interesting over comfortable, and my con experience felt bigger and better than ever. I found the right way to FUNNEL it!

Shoutouts to the following writers and artists and generally awesome people that made my Comic Con 2016 memorable. Check them out!

Scott Kikuta, Jason Felix, Todd Webb, EFX Studios, Bob the Angry Flower, Steampunk Poker, Greg Hall,  and Michael Alan Nelson at Boom! Studios. Search them, seek them out and support them and go find new folks doing new and interesting things and support them too!