When I arrived in San Diego on Wednesday morning, it was already becoming clear that this year's San Diego Comic-Con would be a major movie, games and TV-driven event, maybe even more so than previous years. Huge building-sized signs promoting upcoming movies were everywhere. The San Diego Hilton Bayside Hotel was covered with a giant multi-story poster for Scott Pilgrim vs. the World the new Edgar Wright (Shawn of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) film based on the graphic novels by Bryan Lee O'Malley.
I saw ads for the Sony Picture Entertainment's Priest all over the Hard Rock Hotel, including a display of one of the prop motorcycles from this action-adventure / Western / vampire flick based on Minwoo Hyung's manhwa. There was a life-sized helicopter "crashed" in front of the Omni hotel to promote the March 2011 release of Battle: Los Angeles, a movie about an alien invasion of Southern California. And street banners promoting the new Tron: Legacy film from Disney lined the streets of the historic Gaslamp District fronting the convention center. Geek Week had officially begun and the gorgeous seaside city of San Diego battened down the hatches to prepare for the invasion of over 100,000 fans, comics creators, movies/gaming pros and celebrities from all over the world.
Like many fans who have attended Comic-Con in years past, I am just blown away by how huge this event has become. This year, tickets for the event were sold out months before the doors opened for Preview Night on Wednesday. Finding a hotel room in downtown San Diego for Comic-Con has become excruciatingly difficult. Checking out any event in Hall H involves hours of sitting in line. With great popularity comes great headaches, but also great rewards. I've attended my share of comics shows, but no other event compares to the excitement, the fun and the sheer starpower that radiates from this show, both from Hollywood and the world of comics/manga.
A DRUNKEN DREAM AND AX ALTERNATIVE MANGA DEBUT
This year, Comic-Con welcomed several noteworthy celebs and comics creators, although in my book, the most exciting guest was shojo manga pioneer Moto Hagio, the creator of A Drunken Dream, a new collection of short stories published by Fantagraphics. What Osamu Tezuka is to shonen and seinen manga, Moto Hagio is to shojo manga -- a true innovator who challenged and stretched the conventions of the medium by created touching, memorable and truly artistic comics stories.
Hagio-sensei was accompanied by Matt Thorn, manga scholar and translator for A Drunken Dream, who also came from Japan for the occasion. Fantagraphics had copies of the absolutely gorgeous hardcover edition of A Drunken Dream available for sale at their booth, a month in advance of its Fall 2010 release date.
Also making its debut at Comic-Con was Top Shelf's edition of AX: Alternative Manga. Editor Sean Michael Wilson arrived from Japan to help promote this new collection of experimental and interesting comics from outside manga's mainstream.
MOVIES, GAMES AND VERY, VERY BIG SCHWAG BAGS
There wasn't much on the programming schedule for Wednesday night, so the main focus of Wednesday's events was the Exhibit Hall. Movie and TV studios, comics publishers, game companies, comics creators, toy manufacturers, and much, much more set up booths large and small to show off their latest and greatest creations and coming attractions.
The huge Warner Brothers tote bags have been a favorite of con-goers for the past few years, so WB did something different this year: they gave every Comic-Con attendee a mega-bag at registration. There were several different designs, each promoting a different Warner Brothers TV show, movie or video game, so depending on which day you arrived at the show, you could get a bag promoting Vampire Diaries, the Batman Brave and the Bold video game, the new Scooby Doo animated TV series, or one of eleven available designs. So needless to say, these bags were EVERYwhere.
Why such a huge bag? Why to carry the bushels of freebies given out at this show: toys, posters, buttons, comics and paper hats were just some of the goodies given out at some of the booths. Fans swung around blow-up swords and wore paper hats that made them look like Marvel's omnipotent galaxy-eater, Galactus or gave them a head of blonde, spikey hair like Dragon Ball Z's Gohan.
But the schwag was just one reason to brave the crowds at Comic-Con's exhibit hall. No other show offers the sheer sensory overload of sights to see, like life-sized models of the power suit from Avatar, the huge golden throne of Odin from the upcoming movie adaptation of Marvel's Thor, and video monitors showcasing the latest games, TV shows and movies.
Also new and cool was THQ's giant warrior robot, promoting their upcoming release of Red Faction Armageddon. The helmet and chest plate of this 10-foot tall statue would open and people could climb up the back, pose in the chest section of the robot and get their picture taken as a video game cyborg warrior.
ABC TV promoted their TV show No Ordinary Family by giving fans a chance to pull off a feat of superhero-like strength. A prop car with hydraulics underneath was set up, so fans could get a picture snapped of themselves lifting a red sedan.
SQUARE ENIX DIVES INTO DIGITAL MANGA, SEVEN SEAS AND VERTICAL ADD NEW TITLES
The Square Enix Booth featured a gallery of original art created just for Comic-Con by the creators of Fullmetal Alchemist, Black Butler and Soul Eater, as well as several showcases filled with Final Fantasy and Devil May Cry figures. But for manga fans, the most exciting bit of news was Square Enix's announcement that they would be launching an online manga website for fans in North America and France this fall.
As part of the free preview before the pay-per-read site opens in Fall 2010, fans can check out chapters of Black Butler by Yana Toboso, Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa, Soul Eater by Atsushi Okubo and O-Parts Hunter by Seishi Kishimoto (the twin brother of Masashi Kishimoto, the creator of Naruto). You'll need to register on the Square Enix website to view these titles at http://www.Square Enix.com/na/manga/ (for North America) and http://www.Square Enix.com/eu/fr/manga/ (for France).
There were lots more manga publishers out on the floor, including VIZ Media (who had a huge booth with a toy catcher machine) and TokyoPop (who had a much more modest-sized showcase for their upcoming titles, along with their TokyoPop tour bus, which was parked near the convention center). Seven Seas Manga, Yen Press, Vertical, Fanfare-Ponent Mon, Udon Entertainment, EigoManga, Drawn and Quarterly, Oni Press, Top Shelf and Fantagraphics also had booths at Comic-Con to show off and sell their latest releases.
Prior to the show, Seven Seas Manga announced three new titles for 2011 that they hinted with anagrams and riddles via Twitter. The sharp folks at Anime News Network figured out the clues and Seven Seas Manga confirmed that they would soon be publishing:
- Toradora! by Yuyuko Takemiya and Zekkyo
- Amnesia Labyrinth by Nagaru Tanigawa (the author of the Haruhi Suzumiya light novels) and Kohane Natsumi.
- A Certain Scientific Raygun (Toaru Kagaku no Railgun) by Motoi Fuyukawa, a spin-off series based on the light novels by Kazuma Kamachi
Vertical also announced a new title for 2011:
- Lychee Light Club (Lichi Hikari Club) by Usamaru Furuya (creator of Short Cuts, Genkaku Picasso and 51 Ways to Save Her)
Ed Chavez, marketing director for Vertical also reported strong sales for Chi's Sweet Home volumes 1 and 2 at the Vertical booth, with both books selling out by the end of Wednesday night.
I spoke with several exhibitors at Comic-Con, and many were amazed that the exhibit hall was so packed with people on Preview night, a time that was previously thought of as the "mellow" night of the show. But as everyone in the halls knew, the real action would kick into gear on Thursday morning, the official first day of Comic-Con.
NEXT UP: Thursday at Comic-Con, featuring gekiga, best and worst manga, translators and much more.
Image credits: © Deb Aoki, © Yuyuko Takemiya and Zekkyo