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Nexus Graphica
by Mark London Williams

Other Nexus Graphica Columns
For more information, you can try the following:
Cinematical's "Remote" Con coverage
MMOSite's Comic Con coverage
James Owen on Comic-Con, and other considerations
My friend JoAnn's Comic-Con recounting, from whence a couple of these pictures come
The Walking Dead
12-Gauge Comics
The Watchmen Dog Comic
Recent Books of Interest

Walking Dead #74 & 75 by Robert Kirkman (writer) and Charlie Adlard (art) (Image)
Walking Dead #74 & 75 I am now close enough to finishing a viable first draft of my own zombie-ish novel that -- after a long blackout -- I can encounter other "Z"-themed stories without being (too) afraid of unintended influences (well, look, the whole genre, in modern form, starts with Romero, obviously, and we all branch out from there). So clearly, after my long blackout (I've been working on my own tome, on and offly, for over a year), I'm jumping in to mid/late WD continuity. But it's good stuff (that Eisner win at the most recent Con wasn't misplaced!) -- and I wasn't too lost (got my bearings about most of the "givens" early enough to enjoy the story) and, as with most "genre critter" stories, it isn't so much about the critters (in the case of zombies, it's hard to write from their POV of course, though, per Chris Roberson's I Zombie, some are trying) but about the all-too-human falling apart and trying to cope. Like what humans are doing, rather imperfectly, right this very minute. Imagine what it's gonna be like when the Zombie Apocalypse does come! (On which note -- the Walking Dead's version is coming, of course, to an AMC-fed TV screen near you, this fall!)

Troy Duffy's Boondock Saints, #1 & 2 by Troy Duffy and J.B. Love (writers) and Guus Floor (artist) (12-Gauge Comics)
Troy Duffy's Boondock Saints, #1 & 2 A Comic-Con pick up, mainly because I heard the words "Hey, Mark!," and turned around to see a friend of mine from one of the in-studio writing seminars I teach -- and he's writing the Boondock Saints adaptation, along with director Troy Duffy, for 12-Gauge! So that's the disclosure -- how's the comic? Pretty good, if you already know the Saints films. The mixture of humor and assassination came to the fore in the 90s, of course, under the auspices of filmmakers like Tarantino (that murder has become routinely "funny" is one of the interesting commentaries on our times). And Boondock does the mix pretty well, with some outlandish characters and some accessible moral outrage to get you on the side of the assassins. If you know the films, the comics function as a kind of "DVD extra," giving you more background on the characters and subplots (such as the arc involving Billy Connolly's character). This should hold you until you find out whether Willem Dafoe is really coming back in Boondock Saints 3...

The Watchmen Dog Comic
The Watchmen Dog Comic So here's this viral online comic I hear about from teen son, who found the link on Reddit (you get the link in the links section, over there), and it's a kind of brilliant riff/addendum on Watchmen mythology. Or more specifically, it gives us some background on one of the ethical "sore points" of that masterwork -- Rorschach's slaughtering of the dogs in the backyard of the killer's house. Were the dogs innocent, or deserving of their fate? Here, "thetruestofmikes," as the online poster (and presumed creator) is known, gives us an answer. Which serves, in turn, to make Watchmen -- and Rorschach, ever more disturbing. I want to compare this to John Coltrane redefining My Favorite Things when he recorded yet, though that was a de -- and re -- construction, whereas Watchmen was deconstructing itself -- and comics narrative -- as it went along. This, however, adds to that narrative, and is more than worth the clicked link, when you have a moment.

The Annual Comic-Con Column

So it's time to write again of Comic Con, and my double-foray (which sounds kinky though was, alas, anything but) into Con territories this year...

I've been going to the Con for twenty years now -- and covering them regularly here for, gosh -- has it been three, already? And this year -- I went twice, first for preview night (having lost a bet with my agent about getting a book finished, I bought her drinks), and then back for the weekend, with son and friend in tow

It strikes me that much of what the Con has become is summed up here in this quote from Peter Hall (not the British director, one assumes!), writing for Cinematical: "I didn't even go to Comic-Con, so I can only imagine the flood of information coming out of it is even more intense in person. But even from afar, the tidal wave of new content was overwhelming. It got to the point where I decided I was going to give the con a few days rest after it ended and then attempt to make sense of everything that came out of it."

To be sure, Hall does a commendable job of wrapping up the key comics/genre-related film and TV announcements coming out of the Con (in fact, you can find a link in our links section), but the points embedded in his lead are critical: You don't even have to be there anymore to "experience" the media launchi-ness of the Con, and even if you're not there it's still overwhelming...

Walkin' Dead

Ron Fair, covering the Con for MMOSite, has this to say: "Hooray! We found the comics this year at Comic-Con! It was a tough undertaking and a valiant effort, and I wish to thank everybody who took part in finding the comics in Comic-Con. We couldn't have done it without your hard work and dedication."

He then continues: "That, of course, is a joke. Comic-Con 2010 has passed and once again it has set records and shattered expectations. Ever since 1988, each Comic-Con has been the biggest Comic-Con, and this year was no different. Over 140,000 people crammed themselves into the San Diego Convention Center for promises of hot new video games, TV news, movie screenings and previews, anime, collectable, and comic book nuggets of joy, and nobody was disappointed."

Fair also does a perfectly serviceable overview (also linked), but I find his lead fascinating for different reasons -- including the western assumption that "biggest" is always "best." (He doesn't say that, but it's inferred). He refers to the late 80s -- right before I started to come on a regular basis -- as the point where each Con grew bigger -- was 1987 smaller than 1986, then?

Nonetheless, I'm not sure that growth for the sake of growth is always such a good thing -- it's the way cancer cells operate, but as an economic theory it tends to devour planets. Ours, at the moment.

Though that's another column.

Will there ever be a thing as too much Con? That's a very real question on the minds of Con organizers, as San Diego's contract is about to run out, and there's some question whether this Super Bowl of Pop Culture will stay there, in its currently maxed-out convention center, or whether it will be lured away by Anaheim, L.A. or even Las Vegas.

Zatanna I'm betting San Diego will keep it -- given how much revenue it brings to town, and what even nearby Motel 6's get away with charging during convention time; in a downward-ratcheting economy, what town could afford to give it up?

Which brings up the question of why Comic-Con -- which of course, isn't really just about "comics" anymore -- is so astonishingly popular; people want to buy scalped badges, and there's a frenzy of planning and marketing around the event.

The alternate realities on display at the Con, and available to participate in (or immerse yourself in) would seem to hold more and more attraction as the overall "consensus reality" keeps falling apart; maybe the Con represents a kind of sanctuary of the imagination, a somewhat safer, or more easy version of Mardi Gras.

Alice In both places people dress up in costumes, but at Con, the costumes already have a thumbnail history you can attach yourself to, like the lovely young lady riding the trolley to the convention center, dressed as DC's Zatanna, suddenly considering that in her fishnet stockings, she was out of context on the train, and so demurely took off her jacket to cover her legs -- until we arrived and she could fully (safely?) reveal her inner-Zatanna self.

Having never gone the "cos-play" route myself -- except perhaps when Halloween or Purim roll around -- I wondered what the experience of attending the whole Con that way might be. While wondering, I happen to pass by a mom taking her little girl up the escalator, with said girl dressed as "Alice" from "In Wonderland" fame (in what has become the traditional, pre-Tim Burton Disney blue-and-white get up). The little girl and her mom then came across a "grown up" Alice, similarly attired, and the young was thrilled: Here was a "real" Alice!

"Real" Alice then stopped and chatted with her younger counterpart, asking her how her Con had been going, etc., and you can imagine the wee one was thrilled.

So there's one bonus -- in a world increasingly devoid of heroes, it's still possible to meet one in the flesh!

That gave me a smile -- an entirely different kind than Zatanna's fishnetted legs, though both, one supposes, exist on the same scale of Comic Con's attractions.

Batman: Under the Red Hood Meanwhile, I mostly stayed away from Hall H, where the big Hollywood previews were happening. With my son and his friend, I did, however, catch a late night reprise screening of the direct-to-animation Batman: Under the Red Hood, which I can recommend as suitably dark and surprising, in its additional spin on the death of Jason Todd, aka "Robin" #2, and it sets up some interesting possibilities for further animated adventures of the moody Bat.

I also caught up with various old pals, like James Owen, of Starchild comic fame, holding forth in a booth of his that also dealt in t-shirts and signed items from his Imaginarium Geographica books.

It was the latter that found him on a YA panel on Sunday (which is dedicated more specifically to kids' programming), which was the last thing I attended before reconnecting with son and heading up the road to L.A.

This column isn't about prose books, per se (even if the rest of this site is), but it was a lively panel -- authors like Neal Shusterman, D.J. MacHale, Kathy "Bones" Reich (doing a YA-spinoff of that franchise), and others, moderated by Cindy Pon, talking about what makes writing for young readers different, especially writing "genre" for them.

There was no one specific answer, but themes that emerged included the joys and challenges of writing for a readership that wants to have their imaginations fired, yet also wants a story that, if not getting right to the point, at least knows where it's going.

That doesn't always mean neat resolution, but the journey has to make its own kind of sense, which is another way of summing up the Comic-Con phenom: When finding yourself in a world where scarcely anything makes "sense" at all, why the hell wouldn't you want to dress up in costume for a few days and assume some exceptional powers?

A hero manque, after all, is better than never having tried being a hero at all, yes?

See you for at least one more year... in San Diego.

Copyright © 2010 Mark London Williams

Mark London Williams wrote the Danger Boy time travel series, and though his current YA manuscript isn't finished as of this column, it really needs to be by the next one. Or, absolutely, the one after that. He gets Twittery @mlondonwmz

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