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WonderCon: Buddy-L reports in! Sergio Aragones on GROO movie! Mike Mignola! Becky Cloonan! DC Comics and more!!!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. I have one more WonderCon report to file and that's on the HAROLD AND KUMAR ESCAPE FROM GUANTANAMO BAY panel. Look for that to hit tonight or tomorrow at the latest. While I was busy at the Con our regular WonderCon spy known as Buddy-L sent in his report from his exploration of the Con. I hope he has a few more for us before he calls it quits for this year. Buddy's got a lot of Comic Book stuff, which is great since at these Cons I'm usually buried at the movie stuff. He's got some great stuff below. Enjoy!

Hey, AICN. I'm back again to report on the big shindig of my fair city: WONDERCON '08. Sorry for the lateness of this Day 1 report. I know Quint is here, too, with his own report on the Hollywood panels so I'll just mention some other things with a little info on the movie panels. As usual, they couldn't start on time to save their lives. We were suppose to be let in at 12-noon, but got in closer to 12:30. Nevertheless, the place was bustling upon entry.

I was surprised to see that the Hollywood studio booths looked--for the most part--pretty sparse. Usually they'll decorate their booth to-the-nines, if the New Line hadn't had a HAROLD & KUMAR poster up, I never would have known it was there. However, Lionsgate had a kick-ass display which, surprisingly, was one of the few on the entire floor to have booth babes. They were made up all "redneck-y" to promote WITLESS PROTECTION and applying fake stencil tats from RAMBO.

But they all had posters and knicknacks galore. Lionsgate had stuff for the afformentioned flicks plus THE BANK JOB and FORBIDDEN KINGDOM. New Line had posters for HAROLD & KUMAR/GITMO and JOURNEY 3-D (for which it was giving out passes to special 30 min--yes, just 30 min.--sneek later that evening), plus posters and mock trading cards for SEMI-PRO. WB gave away posters and lenticular pins for 10,000 BC, I AM LEGEND on DVD, and posters, mock business cards, and a pair of fine white gloves for FUNNY GAMES.

After loading up, I went around to get some things signed. There was a mile-long queue at the DC booth to get Jim Lee's autograph. Your Truly wound up the guy holding the infamous "Sorry... I'm the last one in line" card. Needless to say, this sorta pissed off the folks standing behind me. To speed things up, there was only a five-item limit. So I got a couple old X-MEN issues signed and shook his hand. DC also pulled a fast one by bringing Mark Bagley in, but not telling anyone. Fortunately, he's coming back Sat. & Sun. so I plan to get some of my old SPIDEYs signed. I also went to the ARTIST ALLEY and got a copy of HELLBOY singed by Mike Mignola, who was there with his wife and daughter. I said I couldn't wait to see the film (HELLBOY: THE GOLDEN ARMY). He said he'd gotten a call just the night before from Guillermo del Toro saying he'd just finished the most recent (possibly "final") cut and wanted Mike to fly out and see it. Unfortunately, he had to decline to be at the convention. I asked if he ever planned to do like Neil Gaiman and write something original just for the screen? He said that he'd written a novel last year that is being optioned by studios "but the problem with Hollywood is that when you give them something, you never know if it'll EVER get made. I like to be sure of my projects." Got lots of books signed by Terry Dodson. Also saw Boston-turned-San Fran-now turned-L.A.-artist Keith Knight, whose work I've always dug (if you don't have FEAR OF A BLACK MARKER, you're missing something in your collection). When he was based here in SF, I was (and still am) an avid reader of his two strips THE (K) CHRONICLES and (th)INK. He was there with his (expectant) wife selling his self-published books, including his latest, I LEFT MY ARSE IN SAN FRANCISCO which I just had to buy. When I saw him I said how surprised I was to see he's now signed with Dark Horse, which will be releasing big collections of his past work pretty soon and he's gonna be signing at their booth on Sunday. He's also recently closed a deal to get his strip published in papers nationally. That's cool, it's great material. After this I wanted to go see Becky Cloonan's (AMERICAN VIRGIN) panel, but I hadn't eaten all day and it was starting to take it's toll. So I left the floor and went the Moscone's eating area and paid waaaaay too much for eats ("snacks" have no business costing $12.50+). When I was done, I caught the tail-end of Becky's panel. She was telling a story of how when she was younger she was a big X-MEN fan and therefore a big fan of Gambit. During one story arc, the cajun is apparently exile to Antartica for a long stretch--something that drew the ire of the young Cloonan. She wrote letters to the comic and, years later, blogged about it. To her surprise, one day the writer of that arc actually came to meet her at a convention to APOLOGISE to her. At the end of the panel I got to shake her hand. It sucks that VIRGIN just got cancelled but she says another graphic novel collecting the final issues is in the works. Becky Cloonan: great gal, cute as button, short as elf (seriously, she's like 4'8" or something).

I then went what-was-supposed-to-be-the Sergio Aragones/Mark Evanier panel, but when Sergio entered he informed us that Mark missed his plane and was still in L.A., "so there's no one here to introduce me and talk well of me." He said that Mark was catching a later flight as we speak and would probably show up at the end of this panel, so he went into his own story: he talked of how he'd started with MAD magazine in 1962 after being born in Spain, raised in Mexico. As a kid, comics were sold by vendors on street corners in Mexico. His favourite was Will Eisner's THE SPIRIT (the current version of which, he is creator), which came every Wednesday and was the first comic he read in Spanish. He told how he would play hooky every Wed. just to be there when the new issue came out; he did it so often that the folks at school just came to expect it. In th middle of this story, his phone rang. It was Mark Evanier.

He was explaining that the airline didn't come through with the flight so he's stuck in LA. Serio said a very loud obscenity to a very well-known airline whose name I won't mention here, lest they ban him for life. Anyway, he went on explaining how he got his first professional start by doing comics for the school paper in highschool when the editor took the liberty of selling them to a magazine called JA-JA. He wound up at MAD under the guidance of Bill Gaines. It turned out that Bill was also a big SPIRIT fan and had a massive collection--this was how Sergio first read the issues in English. He talked upcoming projects like GROO: HELL ON EARTH (where the Wanderer is responsible for global-warming... don't ask me how); more BACKLASH, his Western for DC; THE SPIRIT for DC ("people say 'he's not Will Eisner'--ofcourse I'm not Will Eisner! But I grew up loving the character and want to show him respect"); an upcoming Dark Horse story where he recollects the humourous time he met Henry Miller, and the long-awaited GROO/CONAN crossover. He was hesitant to do the latter (which will actually feature he and Evanier as characters in the comic) because he didn't want Groo to lose in a fight with Robert Howard's barbarian, likewise fans of Conan wouldn't want him to lose. Sergio says he agreed after watching Kurosawa's RASHOMON and suddenly had an epiphany on how to do the story. He will draw Groo and Tom Yates will draw Conan (details of backgrounds and foliage are still being worked out). He also said he'd been offered GROO/TARZAN. "That would be easier: Tarzan found dinosaurs, he can find Groo. I'm just starting to get that one figured out. They don't have to fight, just switch places--Tarzan goes back [to his jungle] and sees the mess Groo made of it." We then went to Q&A. He was asked if he'd consider a GROO/USAGI YOJIMBO book? He said that would be harder because all the characters are animals and it's a serious historical book. He talked up the tight canon that creator Stan Sakai has created in his book (which Sergio doesn't want to change). He was asked about his feelings on MAD and why they wouldn't let him keep his original art when he first started? "Because in the beginning Bill Gaines was very cheap and no one [the artists] wanted them back." Re: MAD: "It's changed so much I can't even understand [the references] in it--rappers and ballplayers and things. They're trying to appeal to a much younger audience than me. The art is better. It's in colour--it had to go to colour because EVERYTHING'S in colour! There's a whole generation of kids who won't watch or consider a movie that's in b&w." He lamented the addition of "real" advertisements in the magazine. "Bill Gaines never wanted real advertisements because he didn't want a conflict of interest: he didn't want to make fun of Coca-Cola and then have an ad for Pepsi on the next page. But that's changed and they get a lot of revenue from the ads." I had a question but someone across the room asked it for me: the GROO movie? He and Mark had written a script and a company bought an option for it. Dreamworks came close to making it with Rob Minkoff directing, but the studio apparently didn't want Sergio or Mark to have ANY involvement in the film. "I didn't want to direct it; I loved the director. I just wanted to be a part of the creative process. I want to make sure it's the Groo that I like; the Groo that we know." D'works apparently wouldn't budge on this so the deal fell through and there's no movement on the project now. He was asked about cultural differences in comedy. "Humour is cultural. A doctor in Mexico laughs at the same thing as a doctor in the US because they've both been to medical school. But local things are different. When I first got to MAD, I didn't understand any of the American jokes about taxis, mailmen, etc... I went to a school in the US and drew a funny picture of the teacher--everyone laughed. I [tried the same thing at a school in Mexico] and the whole class waited to see if the teacher laughed first. The Marx Bros doesn't translate well in Mexico--we'd NEVER make fun of old ladies, but the Marx Bros. are slapping and knocking them down!" He went on to say he's neither a fan of the Marxes nor WC Fields. When asked of his motivation, he said it was the variety and keeping busy. "When I get bored with GROO one day, I can move on to SPIRIT. When I get bored with SPIRIT, I move onto MAD. I have such a variety that I don't get burned out. I think when an artist does only one thing for so long it gets bad." Finally, when asked why he still does convention signings and panels when so many of his contemporaries won't even show up? "You guys! I love meeting you guys. At home I'm by myself [with my wife and dogs] and I don't get much respect there!" I then went to the DC Comics DC NATION panel, hosted by Dan Didio, Jann Jones, Mike Carlin, Bob Wayne, Sergio Aragones, and James Robinson. If you've ever been to one of these before then you know that Didio has what-appears-to-be ADD and talks a mile-a-minute. I didn't have a recorder and could barely keep up with my notes so I'll just summarise the panel with bullet points: *James Robinson has a big project in the works "which I can't talk about" involving Green Lantern. *There are no plans for another Marvel crossover. *When asked why Marvel has so many movies coming out this year and DC so few? Bob Wayne: "It's quantity vs. quality." *The next big thing on the horizon is DC UNIVERSE # ZERO which is where COUNTDOWN and 52 have lead us. *There is more stuff with THE SHAPE and THE QUESTION coming. *More ABSOLUTE collections coming, including Frank Miller's RONIN. FYI: they mentioned that the next ALL STAR BATMAN is (as always) "on the way". *More AMBUSH BUG due in July. *Geoff Johns is not likely to come back to TEEN TITANS. *Jimmy Olsen (despite what you may have heard) will soon have his own adventures in Metropolis, as will Lois and the Jim Harper Guardian. *No DC characters will crossover with Veritigo characters. *Coming Soon: Adam Strange in THANAGAR: HOLY WAR. When this was done I went to Hall A to catch the tail-end of the FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL panel (which I now see Quint has written up). I caught the one for WANTED (damn, that clip was cool) and stuck around for part of the JOURNEY 3-D panel. It started with 8-min. EPK about the 3-D system used for the film: it's James Cameron's (who appears on-set in the EPK) Fusion camera HD-3D system and looks cool (if you're into tech stuff as I am). ::sigh:: Then came the actual panel. I was hosted by a writer from WIRED, featured the director, a producer, and Brendan Fraser. The director talked a lot of tech that went over many-a-head, but Fraser... oy. He was asked to give his interpretation of the story. "Well... it's one of the.... most popular stories... of all time... we didn't want to... change to much..." That's not me making something up, people, that's really how he answered--pausing between almost every word and seeming to drift off into space. Panel like this always wind up on YouTube sooner or later so you guys tell me if listening to him talk isn't like watching paint dry? (One guy behind me said "that friggin' guy is stoned, man") I could only take so much before I had to exit. And so ended my first day at WonderCon. Decided to skip the free screening of APPLESEED: EX MACHINA, but I can't wait for Day 2's screening of JUSTICE LEAGUE: NEW FRONTIER. I'll have more photos, too. Till then, I leave you with one final image. The one thing EVERYONE wants to see. Gumby.

Later, y'all. Buddy-L

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