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Saturday Morning at Comic-Con

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Carolyn Kelly
Photo by Bruce Guthrie

Change of plans: For the remainder of this convention, I will not be found much, if at all, sitting at Table I-8 in the hall. You will find my buddy Scott Shaw! there and I encourage you to stop by and visit and if you're a small kid, he'll draw you a mean Fred Flintstone or Fozzie Bear. But you will not find me seated alongside him. I tried that for a day or so and realized how much I don't like sitting behind a table at a convention. This is no reflection on anyone who savors the experience but as long as my Orthopedist will keep injecting my knee with Cortisone, you will not find me doing that for very long. I may write more about this after the con.

I spent yesterday in business-type meetings and doing interviews and moderating but one panel. I will make up for that today and tomorrow. But the one panel was a good one, a panel noting the 101st birthday of the great Walt Kelly, creator of (arguably) the greatest newspaper strip ever done, Pogo. Oh, if you thought it was Peanuts or Krazy Kat or Doonesbury or Marmaduke, I wouldn't argue. I might if you said Little Orphan Annie and I'd win. But I just think Pogo is great and so do a whole lotta folks who filled Room 8 yesterday to hear Leonard Maltin, Maggie Thompson, David Silverman (director of The Simpsons), Jeff Smith (that Bone guy), Willie Ito (who once did some ghosting on Pogo) and Carolyn Kelly speak glowingly of it. Carolyn is, of course, the daughter of Walt K. and she's also co-editor of the series of books from Fantagraphics that are reprinting every single Pogo newspaper strip in chronological order.

That's her above holding a mock-up of Volume 3, which is currently being printed for a November release. I dragged her co-editor Eric Reynolds up on stage to also talk a bit about it and we were all excited and happy and if you ever want to have a good time, just hang around with Walt Kelly fans. Better still, read Walt Kelly.

In the evening, many of us shlepped over to the Indigo Ballroom at the Hilton for what turned out to be the shortest Eisner Awards ceremony ever. By that, I mean it was actually over on the same date it started. I presented the Bill Finger Award to Robert Kanigher, Bill Mantlo and Jack Mendelsohn and that was nice. Also nice was that my co-presenter was Athena Finger, granddaughter of perhaps the most undercredited man in the history of comics. Athena is receiving a lot of love at this convention and great support for the campaign to get her late grandfather recognized as the co-creator of Batman. More on this in a future posting. I also accepted a Hall of Fame Award on behalf of Irwin Hasen, best known for the super-hero feature Wildcat (which he co-created with BILL FINGER) and for the newspaper strip, Dondi. Irwin couldn't be there because he's just too short.

Nice ceremony. Nice afterparty. My congrats to the winners, who all seemed to be deserving…which is not to say that all the nominees were not. I gotta go prep for four panels today, the first of which is Quick Draw! This one could be bloody because this time, they're playing for keeps. Later.

Friday Morning at Comic-Con

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I snapped the above photo of a sign on a door into Comic-Con. It amused me to think that anyone thought there was any adult supervision of anyone inside.

Thursday seemed less crowded than usual to me…and apparently, only to me. Others were still moaning about how wall-to-wall the place was with human beings and many who went to elaborate lengths to not look like one. If you ventured into certain sections down certain aisles, I'm sure that was so. But where I was, the walkways seemed manageable.

I tried something different this year…different for me, anyway. Partly because I feared my knee might be bothering me, I secured some space in the hall and figured to spend much of the con sitting there, right alongside Sergio instead of roaming the convention floor. That cortisone shot I got in my knee on Tuesday kicked in at just the right time. My knee stopped hurting about the time I was ready to make my first trip from my hotel room to the convention…which was fortunate because I learned that my tolerance for sitting behind a table is about fifteen minutes. After the con, I'll write a longer piece about why I feel that way…and why you won't find me doing that much in the future as long as I'm ambulatory.

This morning, I'm due at the Dark Horse booth at 10 AM for an hour of signing copies of Groo Vs. Conan alongside Sergio. I will tough it out but really. If I wanted to sit around doing the same thing over and over and over, I'd go back to writing Scooby Doo cartoons. It pays slightly better.

Four panels yesterday. The first was one I was on but didn't moderate about the great, unheralded co-creator of Batman, Bill Finger. I planned to repeat a lot of my "defense" of Bob Kane — the quotes are because much of his credit-claiming seemed indefensible to me — but there wasn't time. I did get to meet the charming Athena Finger, granddaughter of the late, wronged writer. She and I will be co-presenting three Bill Finger Awards at the Eisner ceremony this evening.

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Phil Geiger took this photo of me, Anthony Tollin, Neal Adams, Denny O'Neil, Michael Uslan and Len "Two Badges" Wein. Click on it to make it bigger.

My second panel of the day was great. I moderated "Batman in the 70s" with Neal Adams, Denny O'Neil, Michael Uslan, Anthony Tollin and Len Wein. I'm sure there will be many accounts and probably an audio of the whole thing posted to the 'net in the coming days. Neal and Denny were particularly interesting as they discussed their collaborations on the Caped Crusader and how they reinvented him more or less forever.

Then the third panel…ah, the "Jules Feiffer Goes Noir" panel. It was billed as Paul Levitz and m.e. interviewing the great writer-cartoonist and that's what it would have been, had he been able to make it out from the east coast. Amazingly, few walked out when it was announced that Mr. Feiffer was not present. But we sat and spoke of him and his work for 50 minutes and attendees seemed to find that an acceptable alternative. (When I heard he wasn't coming, my suggestion was that we go down to the bad part of town, find some hopelessly-inebriated derelict, slap a Jules Feiffer badge on him and bring the guy in to be interviewed. How many people, I figured, even know what Jules Feiffer looks like, anyway?)

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Tom Yeates, me, Sergio Aragonés and Stan Sakai.
Photo by Bruce Guthrie.

Lastly, we had the annual Sergio and Mark Show on which we spoke of Groo Vs. Conan and upcoming projects and discussed our silly careers. We were joined by Stan Sakai and Tom Yeates and it was covered briefly here.

Today, I have that signing, many meetings and but one panel — a spotlight on Walt Kelly and Pogo at 3:30 in Room 8. If you're not there, you'll miss the announcement that Volume 3 of the Fantagraphics series that reprints that great newspaper strip in full has gone to press. Then later…the Eisner Awards. I have to go get dressed and practice signing my name as fast as Sergio signs his. Bye now.

My Latest Tweet

  • I'm at Comic-Con where the definition of the word "legend" has devolved to "anyone I ever heard of."

Today's Video Link

If you have four women around, preferably with strong thighs, you might want to try this…

Recommended Fred Kaplan Reading

Fred Kaplan writes that the choice of weapon used to bring down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 pretty much proves Vladimir Putin has blood on his mitts.

Fred Kaplan also reminds us that back in 1988, this country did something uncomfortably similar.

Wednesday Morning

Sergio and I are driving down to San Diego and should be set up in time for Preview Night. A couple of folks have written to say they intend to drop by my station in the hall — I-8, to the left of Sergio, where I'm poaching with Scott Shaw! — to buy whatever I'm selling. Well, that'll be cheap because I'm selling nothing. I may be the only person behind a table in that building who is selling nothing…intentionally. I'm just there because my knee being what it is, I need a place to sit instead of wandering the premises like I usually do. My knee's appearance, by the way, is made possible by a shot of Cortisone from a nice man at the Beverly Hills Orthopedic Group.

Preview Night used to be three hours of the con at a more leisurely, less-crowded pace. Now, it's a place to say, "My God, if it's this packed for Preview Night, imagine what Saturday's gonna be like in this room!"

That statement, by the way, is kind of a throwback to a time when not every day of the convention sold out…so Saturday was the day with the most attendees. Now, since every day is long since sold out, every day is the day with the most attendees. Still, there are those who put on panels and fight for Saturday slots because they think that's the day most people are there.

One last tip before I post a Video Link, change the header and go finish packing: The convention has a great shuttle bus system that not only will take you to and from where you're staying, it can easily drop you off in other parts of San Diego with great, less-crowded restaurants. The city also has a fine trolley system that can be boarded and unboarded right across from the convention center…and I kinda love that almost all the taxicabs have names that suggest they're from different companies when they all obviously come from the same place. I would avoid the bicycle-driven pedi-cabs if I were you as they tend to overcharge and overturn.

Hope to see some of you down there. Where's the damn power cord for my razor?

Today's Video Link

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I spent a number of years of my life hanging around a magical, mystical place called The Silent Movie Theater here in Los Angeles. It's still there and it's still called that but it's no longer exclusively a silent movie theater. I wrote about the place in this article.

The story of that business is fascinating and mesmerizing and it's told in a new documentary called Palace of Silents that I have not yet seen although I'm in it. I'm eager to see it and they tell me I'll have a copy shortly but in the meantime, I wanted to alert you to it. Here's the trailer. I'm the first interviewee you see on camera…

Today on Stu's Show!

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And today (Wednesday), Stu's guest is Fredd Wayne, who has had one of the longest, most impressive careers of any actor working today. Large chunks of it have been spent in the guise of Benjamin Franklin, and that's who Mr. Wayne was playing when I first became aware of him. He seemed to be popping up everywhere as Franklin, including a memorable episode of Bewitched (see above). Once I learned his name, I spotted it at one time or another in the credits of darn near every TV show I watched, including The Twilight Zone. Stu can fill the show today by just naming the shows Fredd Wayne guested on and I look forward to hearing him talk about some of them. He can't possibly get through them all.

Stu's Show can be heard live (almost) every Wednesday at the Stu's Show website and you can listen for free there. Webcasts start at 4 PM Pacific Time, 7 PM Eastern and other times in other climes. They run a minimum of two hours and sometimes go into major overtime.  Shortly after a show ends, it's available for downloading from the Archives on that site. Downloads are a bargain at 99 cents each and you can get four for the price of three.

By the way: Last week, I was swamped with work and I just plain forgot to post the plug for that week's Stu's Show. His guest was Murray Langston, AKA "The Unknown Comic." Murray is one of the funniest men in his profession and his appearance on Stu's program just confirmed it. It's in the archives if you'd like to order it and laugh a lot.

Tuesday Morning

I am hereby updating my fearless weather forecast for San Diego during Comic-Con. I still say it'll be clear and sunny with nighttime temps between 68° and 70° but I'm upping my prediction of daytime temperatures five degrees to between 75° and 80°. This applies to the convention area near the water. It'll be slightly higher in other parts of the town.

I will be spending those days scurrying about to host panels and attend meetings. At 10 AM on Friday, Sergio and I will be signing copies of the first issue of the newly-released Groo Vs. Conan mini-series for an hour at the Dark Horse booth. At other times, you'll find him at Table I-7 and when I'm not off doing something else, I'll be at I-8 between him and Scott Shaw!

If you're attending the con — or if you aren't and want to pretend you're there — you might want to install the con's new app for iOS or Android. It's very nicely designed and it looks like it'll be quite useful.

I haven't posted a lot of Tips About Attending Comic-Con because everyone else seems to be doing that these days. The main thing I suggest is that you simply accept the fact that you're not going to be able to see and do everything you want; that you avoid crowded aisles instead of complaining about them; that you consult the Programming Guide (and most of the convention website) before you go and do some planning; that you hydrate often and shun the convention center snack bars; that you attend all my panels; that you wear the most comfortable shoes you have, regardless of how they look on you; that you bring more money than you expect to need; that you make it over to Artists' Alley at some point; that you be wary of cosplayers with pointy sticks or other weaponry; and that you just plain Take It Easy.

Oh — and one other suggestion: Out back behind the convention center, easily accessible from doors on the second and third levels, there's a wonderful marina with a real, live ocean. It is not, as you might assume, some kind of IMAX® C.G.I. effect. It is actually there.

Take a moment now and then to wander out there and inhale actual air and to get away from all the dealers and attendees and people dressed like Robotic Zombie Smurfs or whatever the hell they're supposed to be. Go out and look at boats for five minutes now and then. You appreciate everything inside that convention center so much more when you don't allow it to make you utterly forget about Reality.

Gotta go start packing. I don't think I'll be taking my Robotic Zombie Smurf costume this year…

Today's Video Link

A group of people with real good voices sing a medley of Disney songs about flying. You'll like this…

Monday Evening

This morning, before I left the house for the day, I thought I posted a message here explaining that I wasn't going to declare it a Mushroom Soup Monday (i.e., a light posting day) because we'll have enough of that during Comic-Con and anyway, I had that James Garner piece I wrote that I wanted to put up. Somehow, that post seems to have vanished.

In it, I also acknowledged a silly error in the post about On the Town. It was a Broadway show before it was a movie and I knew that and I guess my brain is already down in San Diego. Anyway, I've corrected the post to be accurate and my thanks to every single person on the planet who knows anything about Broadway history for writing to tell me about it.

My Favorite James Garner Moments

There was one scene I remember occurring with slight variations in many episodes of The Rockford Files. I may be mentally exaggerating how often they did this but I liked it and I can't quite explain why.

Jim Rockford, as you may recall, lived in a trailer which I believe was located in Paradise Cove in Malibu, a few yards from what is now one of my favorite restaurants. He would go back to his trailer and he'd have to use a key to get in but he was the only person who did because thugs would be waiting inside for him.

Looking very menacing, one of the thugs would say, "Give us the letter or we break your legs."

And Jim Rockford/Garner would in an instant say, "Here's the letter" and hand it over. No fight. No macho posturing. He somehow had a way of still being a heroic figure as he said, "I'll give you whatever you want. Just please don't hurt me."

I can't think of too many other TV detectives who could or would have done that. Can you imagine Steve McGarrett handing over the letter? Frank Cannon? Joe Mannix? Never. Maybe Banacek but he was only allowed one fight scene per 90 minute episode. Garner was the guy who could go chicken on you and not lose an ounce of testosterone.

I liked him a lot on The Rockford Files and also in several movies like The Americanization of Emily and The Thrill Of It All and Murphy's Romance and…oh, just look over his whole filmography. Even when the movie wasn't great, he was.

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And I haven't seen it in a while but I remember liking him a lot in a lightweight comedy that Carl Reiner co-wrote called The Art of Love. It was not a big hit and when I told his co-star, Dick Van Dyke, that I liked that movie, he gave me one of those "Okay, if that's how you feel" looks. The movie doesn't seem to be available on DVD and I haven't seen it on TV for a long time. Maybe I wouldn't like it if I saw him again but I bet I'd like Jim Garner in it. And Dick Van Dyke, for that matter.

Today's Video Link

In 1949, Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Jules Munshin starred in On the Town, an M.G.M. musical adapted from the Broadway show about three sailors with one day in New York to see the sights and fall in love. The opening number went like this…

Another production of the stage musical is soon to open. Its three stars went out and shot a video re-creating the opening number in the movie. My thanks to Jerry Beck for telling me about this…

Woody Speaks!

We have here a recent interview with Woody Allen about his films. The headline is a bit misleading. It promises you'll hear him speak about "Those Allegations," meaning the ones about sexual misconduct…and he does. He says he won't talk about them.

People keep asking me if I believe the charges or him. This may be a little difficult to explain but follow me for a moment. I think there's a limit to how much someone removed from the situation — someone following it only through the press — can know or be sure of anything. This is why we expect juries to actually appear in the courtroom and hear all the arguments before they decide. We don't just select twelve people to vote Guilty or Not Guilty based on what they've read on TMZ.

Still, we're all entitled to have an opinion if only as spectators from afar. Mine is that he didn't do it. Is this an opinion influenced by the fact that I admire the man and his work? Maybe. But maybe a filmmaker I like and admire is being unjustly accused. The statements of Moses Farrow, who was there at the time and was old enough to comprehend what was going on convinced me Mr. Allen was innocent. If I'm wrong, I'm no more wrong than one of the brothers of the alleged victim.

Recommended Reading

Joe Conason asks the very good question about why so many people who profess to follow the Bible and the teachings of Jesus Christ are so uncaring and hateful about hungry children trying to get to a better, safer place to live.