So after months of hype and bluster, Kapow Comic Con 2011 came to London at the weekend. Promising San Diego in London (overpriced hotels, restaurants you can’t get into and panels you can’t get near;), at last there was the chance to see what all of the fuss was about.
Kapow took place at the Business Design Centre, a venue for trade shows located in middle-class North London. The weather in London, and in fact England, during April is normally very changeable with rain likely. But they were lucky with this as it felt like July (in any other country, as July over here is also very unpredictable).
Kapow Comic Con 2011 had a decent lineup of guests (like Brian Bolland, Frank Quitely, Dave Gibbons, Duncan Fegredo, Chris Weston, Sean Phillips, Bryan Hitch and John Romita Jr), a selection of panels featuring things like a preview of Thor the movie with Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston and a lot of Millarworld announcements. The celebrity bullshit with which they partially promoted the show mostly evaporated at the show itself. One of the ‘celebrity’ guests, Jonathan Ross, was only at Kapow for about half of Saturday and many of the other celebs cancelled at the last minute.
The range of comic dealers was decent but big name publishers DC and Marvel were not set up at the show, leaving only Titan (the main bankroller of the show) and magazines Comic Heroes and ImagineFX and a number of independent British outfits like SelfMadeHero and Cinebook to fill the slots.
The Stan Lee Awards were rather amateurish and embarrassing with over half of the winners being absent. The presentation by Guinness World Records for a number of comic-related records was nicely put together though.
The overall vibe was positive however and, removing all of the bluster and hype, Kapow was a very decent London comic show in a nice venue. There’s already talk of another show in 2012 and I am glad. If they learn from the experiences of this year’s event and build on what worked here, then Kapow will be a worthy addition to the British comic show going calendar…
Every now and again, a magazine comes along that changes popular culture forever. While we’re waiting for that magazine, I thought I’d share some thoughts about Clint, Titan’s new magazine ‘edited’ by Mark Millar. It’s a strange beast: clocking in at around 100 pages, the first issue is dominated by comics and peppered with a few ‘features’ including an interview with comedian Jimmy Carr. Let’s start with the comics. The first strip is an installment of Kick Ass 2, which premieres first in Clint and if you’ve read the first comic series, then you know what to expect. It’s a bit of fun and Romita Jr’s art looks pretty at the larger print size. Next up is Turf, Jonathan Ross and Tommy Lee Edwards’ comic series originally published by Image and represented here. It’s not a bad start although Ross often covers up Lee Edwards’ gorgeous art with too much dialogue and the writing could do with a little bit of editing. The next strip, Rex Royd, by comedian Frankie Boyle, Jim Muir with art by Michael Dowling, is an absolute stinker. Reading like the demented child’s version of a Grant Morrison script, its incompetent writing is matched by the pisspoor art. Not its finest moment. Nemesis, written by Mark Millar and drawn by Steve McNiven, reprints the Marvel Icon series and contains all of Millar’s staples as a writer: extreme violence, some swearing and some gratuitous action. Finally, Space Oddities is a three page ‘Future Shock’ type short which rounds off the comics content. The features here all wouldn’t be out of place in a 1995 lad’s magazine like Loaded or FHM. Clint suffers from a schizophrenic ‘editorial’ slant: is it a 1990s lad’s magazine or is it a comic anthology? This is a major problem for the reader as if they’re comics fans, they would already have picked up Nemesis and Turf and if they’re not, then they won’t give a shit anyway. The lad’s magazines market has shrunk away to almost nothing: Loaded, which used to shift half a million in its heyday, now does about a tenth of that, and the rest are just chasing the crumbs from the table. So it seems rather strange to be trying to capitalise on that. And comics just don’t sell on the UK newsstand. 2000AD potters along doing around 80-100,000 a month and that’s had over thirty years to build its brand up. So while I wish Clint well, as it’s always nice to have another outlet for British comic content, I am not convinced this is going to find its market through reprints and shoddy originated content. There were rumours that it was going to feature people like Ian Rankin and I’m hoping this will be the case as it needs a far better class of writers to make it anything like Mark Millar’s initial boasts. It also needs an actual editor on board to maintain some kind of quality control which should include ditching Boyle’s teenage drivel. The Jimmy Carr feature isn’t bad but the rest are pretty weak and pointless. Clint isn’t the worst thing you’ll ever read but it’s certainly a long way from the best…
HITTING THE SHELVES
I’ll return to my West Coast diary in a day or so, but since the TRIPWIRE Superhero Special should be on US comic shop shelves this coming week and in Borders in the UK at the same time, as well as in Barnes & Noble in the US in the next couple of weeks, I thought I’d post a few Kick-Ass spreads from the issue. It’s still available from Diamond, item code DEC084396 and a steal at £4.95 UK/ $7.95 US and chock full of exclusives: Mark Millar and Matthew Vaughn on Kick-Ass the movie and the comic, John Romita Jr on designing the Kick-Ass characters. Plus Brian Michael Bendis on plans for his Marvel books, Geoff Johns on what he has in mind for Barry Allen as The Flash plus Dave Gibbons on the genesis of Watchmen the comic. Also, Tim Kring, Mark Verheiden and Bryan Fuller on their plans for TV’s Heroes.
NO MORE SUPERHEROICS
I spent most of yesterday going through the pages of the TRIPWIRE Superhero Special with Andy Grossberg sending me corrections. I didn’t finish until 3.30am so I’m absolutely knackered today. But everything looks great and looking at the whole thing, you realise how packed it is: Heroes, Kick-Ass (including exclusive Mark Millar interview and John Romita Jr character sketches), Watchmen and loads more. I think it is the best issue we’ve done so far and I’ll be seeing the finished product next Friday. We’ll be selling copies of it at our table at Wonder Con in San Francisco from 27th Feb to March 1st, so if you’re at the show, feel free to pop by and say hello.
A NEW TRIP THROUGH THE WIRES
The latest Previews, Vol XVIII #12, on page 340 has TRIPWIRE Superhero Special, our 80 page special that looks at the world of superheroes at Marvel, DC, Image and Dark Horse. It will include an exclusive Kick Ass feature that looks at bringing Millar and Romita Jr’s comic to the big screen, Paul Cornell on Marvel’s Captain Britain, we look at Watchmen the movie and the comic with its co-creator Dave Gibbons and much more. It’s going to be a really cool package and at £4.95 UK/ $7.95 US, it’s also going to be pretty affordable. Diamond item number is DEC084396, so don’t forget to order it from your local comic shop…
Pinewood Studios is a place rich in film history and so it was going to be interesting getting the chance to see what they’d set up for Kick Ass the movie for my set visit to Pinewood on Thursday. Visiting the Warner Bros lot was a pristine experience with everything in its place and very clean and bright but Pinewood’s Paddock lot where Kick Ass was shooting on its rather nifty New York set was muddy and rather chaotic, the way I’d imagine most film locations are. I went there to do interviews for a Sci Fi Now piece and to gather content for our TRIPWIRE Superhero Special and it was a really great day. We got interview time with director Matthew Vaughn, screenwriter (and Mrs Jonathan Ross) Jane Goldman plus three of the key players in the cast: Aaron Johnson, who plays the lead Dave Lizewski,Christopher Mintz Plasse who is the Red Mist in the film and Chloe Moretz, the super-intelligent 11-year-old who is Mindy/ Hit Girl on screen. The set is fantastic and even includes a mocked-up comic shop, a newsstand and a tattoo parlour. We got to see a little bit of shooting, which was fun. Mark Millar, who wrote the comic, couldn’t make it on set. I also got to meet John Romita Jr, who obviously is the artist on the series, and his wife and son. John was very nice and we’ve cemented his place in Studio Space Volume 2, which we’re very close to locking down. We weren’t allowed to take photos on set but here are two photos I took of John Romita Jr in the hospitality marquee at Pinewood. Happy Thanksgiving to the American visitors to this blog…
Wanted the comic was an amoral and empty concoction of a comic, with Mark Millar turning in an entertaining read that didn’t really stay with you much after you finished. So now we have Wanted the movie, directed by Timur Bekmambetov, Russian director of Night Watch and Day Watch, starring James McAvoy, from Atonement, Morgan Freeman and Angelina Jolie. Wanted deals with the mundane life of one Wesley Gibson (played by McAvoy) who is drawn into a web of intrigue by Angelina Jolie when a man apparently tries to bump him off at a chemist’s and he discovers that he comes from a family of assassins. Sloan, Morgan Freeman, reveals that Gibson is part of a secret society of weavers called The Fraternity, which goes back centuries (Yes it is as stupid as that sounds). But Sloan isn’t being totally straight with Gibson as he pulls him into the assassin’s life under false pretenses. Wanted the film has removed the references to supervillains that ironically was one of the more endearing and distinctive things about the comic series and so it comes across like a dumb action movie with some nice visual flourishes. Bekmambetov, in his first English-language production, directs action pretty impressively but it’s not enough to save it. Jolie looks hot if you like the emaciated look and McAvoy does make the conversion from accounting nebbish to cool assassin with some style but Freeman looks uncomfortable and you’ve seen all of this before done with much more class elsewhere. I can’t really damn Wanted because, at the end of the day, it’s just a stupid summer blockbuster but Iron Man was one of those too and that managed to pull it off with far more intelligence and invention. The film has already collected just over $50m in its opening weekend anyway so it’s done its job. Wanted is loud, fast and stupid…