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The pilgrimage: A comic book expert's first trip to Comic-Con

I am a college professor hired for my expertise in post-World War II American culture, which somehow led to me teaching an incredibly popular college course on comics and graphic novels. Despite growing up on comic books, until this year I had never been to San Diego Comic Con. Of course I’ve known about SDCC for what feels like my whole life, and I’ve certainly wanted to go. But I transitioned from a poor undergraduate to a poor grad student to a not-so-poor professor without ever having attended. I assumed that I would make the trip with my family when the kids were big enough to handle the crowds and the crazy. But it hadn’t happened yet, so when EW asked me to lend my particular and peculiar expertise to their coverage of SDCC 2012 I jumped at the chance. And here I am, finally, on a pilgrim to my chosen temple of culture.

I came up in a golden age of comics. No not THE golden age, c’mon now. But I used to go to the comic shop and pick up Frank Miller’s Daredevil, Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, Chris Claremont’s X-Men, Marv Wolfman and George Perez’s Teen Titans. Now, these icons of my tween years are multi-platform brands. Moore, Miller, et al were not plotting to take over Hollywood like so many writers of today’s comics — it just sort of happened. And, despite all the movie studio money that depends on comics, this sort of organic movement from the margins to the center is still happening. Take John Layman and Rob Guillory’s Chew, which might be my favorite comic right now. Showtime has optioned the book for development into a series, but the idiosyncratic creator-owned project about an Asian single-dad detective with an unusual palate is a grass roots success. I’m happy that despite all the PR dollars that now get lavished on SDCC, organic growth like this is still possible in the 21st century synergistic entertainment industry.

Still, this is all new to me, and I’m excited to be seeing it from the inside. Because I’m part of team EW, I received a list of all the celebs who have confirmed they are appearing this year. That’s crazy. Not only am I going to see 30 minutes of Django Unchained, I already know if Leo is going to show up for the Q&A. It would have been enough to have waited outside of Hall H for hours with all the other fans. Which, by the way I’m still totally doing. The Django ticket is hot, with seemingly 1/2 of EW lined up to cover it, so I’ve got to get up early and get on line like everyone else.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Jonathan W. Gray is an assistant professor of English and Gender Studies at John Jay College/CUNY. Follow him @elmcitytree.

 

MR. HULK GOES TO COMIC-CON

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BY THE TIME YOU READ THIS, HULK WILL HAVE LEFT THE CITY OF ANGELS, DRIVEN DOWN THE 405 AND ARRIVED IN BEAUTIFUL SAN DIEGO. HULK WILL NOT BE ALONE. THERE WILL BE LONG LINES OF CARS SLOWLY INCHING FORWARD, ALL GOING TO THE SAME EXACT PLACE.

FOR ONE EXTENDED WEEKEND IT SEEMS THAT ALL OF HOLLYWOOD SAUNTERS ON DOWN TO “AMERICA’S FINEST CITY” (SELF-PROCLAIMED) IN ORDER TO GET THEIR PROMOTION ON. WHICH MEANS ONLY ONE THING: IT’S SAN DIEGO COMIC-CON TIME. THE LAST DECADE HAS SEEN AN EXPONENTIAL GROWTH OF INFLUENCE. GONE ARE THE DAYS OF COMIC-CON AND HOLLYWOOD’S FLIRTATION. THIS IS NOW A STRAIGHT UP MARRIAGE, COMPLETE WITH: BLOCKBUSTER TRAILER DEBUTS, BIZARRE PANELS, RARE COLLECTION SHOWS, EXCLUSIVE PARTIES, COPIOUS AMOUNTS OF DRINKING, COSTUMES, COSTUME CONTESTS, COSTUMED WEDDINGS, AND MORE COSTUMES. IT IS THE COMING TOGETHER OF FERVENT FANDOMS; THE HOLY GRAIL DESTINATION FOR ALL THE PROUD NERDS, THE LOVERS OF GENRE, AND THE HOLLYWOOD ELITE WHO SERVE THEM. OH, HOW GLORIOUS AND AMAZING COMIC-CON CAN BE… AND WITH THAT GLOWING APPRAISAL COMES ONE STUNNING, RUEFUL ADMISSION…

HULK HAS NEVER BEEN. READ FULL STORY

Comic-Con off-site events: Or, things to do in San Diego without a badge

Every year when Comic-Con invades San Diego, the geek circus spreads far beyond the Convention Center into San Diego’s Gaslamp District. That’s more true than ever this year, with major companies and fan groups hosting events outside of the Convention. Best of all, none of these events require a Comic-Con badge — which means there’s plenty to do even if you didn’t sign up for a badge when they went on sale five years ago (give or take.) Here’s a list of things to do in San Diego when the walls start closing in: READ FULL STORY

Coldplay to debut 'Mylo Xyloto' comic book at Comic-Con

Vanity project or creative breakthrough?

Coldplay announced Tuesday on their website that the band will debut the first issue of the comic book Mylo Xyloto, directly inspired by their album of the same name, at the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con. A collaboration with animation director Mark Osborne (Kung Fu Panda), the six-part comic series is what Osborne calls “the latest expression of a music-driven feature animated film that the band and I started developing several years ago,” done in concert with the development of what became the album Mylo Xyloto.

In a Q&A on the Coldplay site, Osborne provided a hint at the story involving their character Mylo Xyloto, and how it ties back into the band’s album:  READ FULL STORY

Entertainment Geekly: Spider-Man on Film

Ten years ago, the runaway success of Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man movie kickstarted the whole modern era of superhero movies. This week, Sony rebooted the web-swinging franchise with The Amazing Spider-Man, a movie which has earned critical praise (and a bit of cash) despite the general perception that it might be, well, a bit unnecessary. On this week’s episode of Entertainment Geekly, we talk about the history of the Spider-Man movies — and offer just a bit of praise for the widely-loathed Spider-Man 3 — and ponder where the franchise could go from here. We also talk a bit about Comic-Con, where Jeff will be hosting a certain panel featuring the cast of a certain shortlived Joss Whedon TV show about characters who went on adventures while wearing brown coats. (Hint: It ain’t Dollhouse.) READ FULL STORY

Comic-Con: Course of the Force – VIDEO

In the lead-up to the Olympics, the most accomplished athletes and dignitaries bring a torch around the world. In the lead-up to San Diego Comic-Con (July 12-15), dedicated individuals run a lightsaber around Southern California.

Course of the Force is a race complete with an official Hasbro Ultimate FX Course of the Force lightsaber that runs from Santa Monica to San Diego July 7-11. Participants run in quarter-mile increments bringing the lightsaber to Comic-Con.

You can check out the full schedule (and get your nerd on with themed parties throughout the race!) over on the official Course of the Force website.

Below, get the force with you by watching a preview trailer: READ FULL STORY

Your Comic Book Primer for 'The Amazing Spider-Man'

Amongst all the excitement for Columbia Pictures’ Amazing Spider-Man reboot, there lurks a nagging question: Why the Lizard? There were, after all, proven commodities like the Green Goblin and Dr. Octopus, to say nothing of Venom or the Sandman. (No, I’m begging you: Say nothing about Venom or the Sandman.)  If you or your curious tween wants to know more about the web-head’s latest cinematic foe, you should pick up two recent Spider-Man collections: Spectacular Spider-Man: Here There Be Monsters (2004) and Amazing Spider-Man: The Gauntlet #5 — Lizard (2010).  READ FULL STORY

This Week's Cover: 'The Hobbit' -- plus our annual Comic-Con preview

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Nearly a decade after the last of the Lord of the Rings trilogy hit theaters, it’s time to go back to Middle-earth. The Hobbit doesn’t come out until December, but in preparation for Comic-Con (July 12-15 in San Diego) we’ve got exclusive images and on-set scoops from the first of the two movies— An Unexpected Journey — including interviews with Martin Freeman (Bilbo Baggins), Ian McKellen (Gandalf), and director Peter Jackson.

To expand the classic J.R.R. Tolkien book so that it could support two feature films, Jackson drew from a range of Tolkien’s writings, adding characters not present in the Hobbit book, including Orlando Bloom’s elf Legolas and Cate Blachett’s elven ruler Galadriel. “In the movie we want these characters to have story lines and a little more substance than they do in the book,” Jackson explains. “Almost everything we’re doing is from Tolkien somewhere, whether it’s in the book or the subsequent development that wasn’t published in The Hobbit itself.”

Adds McKellen: “A lot of people weren’t even born when we were filming Lord of the Rings and only know the movies from watching them on DVD…. They’ll see Middle-earth on the big screen in The Hobbit, and I guarantee there will be a lot of minds blown wide apart.”

For even more on The Hobbit, as well as EW’s jam-packed guide to Comic-Con—including sneak peeks of Pacific Rim, Iron Man 3, The Walking Dead, and Arrow—pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands Tuesday, July 3.

Comic-Con preview: Is this the return of Jean Grey? -- EXCLUSIVE

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This week, Entertainment Weekly‘s Comic-Con issue will prepare you for the geek event of the year with an in-depth look at a whole host of movies and TV shows. But what’s Comic-Con without comic books? (Nothing but “-Con.” Look at that lonely hyphen!) That’s why EW is excited to reveal an exclusive first look at an upcoming initiative by Marvel Comics that will build off the current Avengers vs. X-Men crossover and radically alter the Marvel Universe as you know it. For now, we just want to tease you with a first look at an exclusive piece of art by Marvel CEO Joe Quesada. READ FULL STORY

Princess Leia headphone covers: More socially acceptable than a gold bikini?

I know we’re a couple days late for gift-giving, but file this under ‘things I can’t live without and ZOMG how did this not exist when I was camping out for the New Hope rerelease in 1997?’: Princess Leia headphone covers.

That’s right – it appears that the obvious has only just now come to Etsy, that treasure trove of handicrafts. Tech blog Geekology discovered this piece of pop culture gold, and notes that you could alternatively (as generations have done before) “glue a pair of cinnamon rolls to your headphones,” but, um, that sounds sticky.

The force is definitely with creator Jacqui Longlegs who posted her various Leia looks on her blog.

Better stock up now — Comic-Con is only six months away, people.

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