Just come back from Comic-Con in San Diego.
Saturday we spent most of our time wandering the convention hall and looking at various booths. Mrs. Elbeno picked up volume 1 of Amazing Agent Luna (signed by the artist), and we both got J-List t-shirts. She got a blue Totoro shirt and I got a Domo-kun one. We successfully warded off the attentions of the scary L. Ron Hubbard representative woman, and took a look at the art show. It was mostly fantasy artwork, and as such of variable quality and originality. I really tried to find a standout, but there are only so many pictures of rocky alien moonscapes, fairies in bosky glades, and unicorns play-fighting by starlight that one can handle.
We stayed at a Holiday Inn Express. Our room was advertised as no-smoking; perhaps it was a recent convert. At any rate, the cigarette smell was horrible and I found a cigarette burn on the bedspread. Anyway we stuck it out for a night and contented ourselves by tucking the J-List H games brochure inside the Gideon bible, to be discovered by some future guest.
On Sunday we decided to spend the day in lectures and panel discussions rather than the “shop floor” and to that end we planned out the day to take in the various programme elements containing video game/comic crossover material. While waiting for everything to open, we shared a Coke ($2.50!) and got chatting to the creator of Thunder Agents. We talked a little about comics and video games. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he was pro-Marvel in the Marvel vs. NCSoft case.
First event of the day turned out to be excellent: “Lost in Translation”, a panel discussion among 5 translation industry veterans from games, anime, manga, and comics in general. What made the discussion so good was the breadth and depth of experience of the panel, and a knowledgable and interested crowd putting forward insightful questions. We got many insights into the details and technicalities of the translation industry.
That was the high point of the day, and it went downhill from then. A panel discussion about the new X-Men and Fantastic Four videogames was little more than a Marvel/Activision marketing pitch punctuated by fanboy questions which left me, not knowing much about the comics side, cold. The promisingly-titled “Did videogames kill comics?” talk ended up with only two panel members and degenerated into little more than ill-informed teenage opinion (note: the panellists were great, but with no moderator keeping things ticking along, the audience rambled too much and made too many baseless points rather than directing questions on topic).
Finally, Nintendo presented the new Pokemon, Fire Emblem and Zelda games. Obviously Comic-Con doesn't rate on their calendar, because they had sent along a couple of localisation guys instead of PR or marketing folks. Anyway, while Fire Emblem and Zelda both look like great games, I'd seen it before at E3 and in net videos, and the fanboys were hooting and hollering (and heckling) throughout. We left before the barrage of questions.
This was the first con I've been to apart from E3, and it was very different to E3. It seems that comics are much more culturally advanced and varied than the games industry, which for the most part still seems like a one-trick pony. Very few companies are trying to extend games into different areas. Both industries have been through boom and bust (multiple times), and reports of the death of comics are greatly exaggerated. I was glad to see the many small publishing, writing and drawing operations at the con – something that doesn't really break the surface of the games industry. I came away with the feeling that talent can still find a way in comics: someone with skill can pick up a pen and write or draw, and create something original for not much money. By contrast, video games are going the way of Hollywood and marketing-driven mediocrity with high production values.
Perhaps next year I will pay more attention to the Kentia Hall at E3…