Geek Gala

Another year’s Comic-Con has come and gone, bringing with it enough news for us to chew on throughout the months of July and August.

Held in San Diego each year, Comic-Con has grown from a small industry meet-and-greet to a media spectacle so big that film, television and other entertainment mediums are now a part of it – all clamoring for attention on the Con floor.

Despite having become a place for corporations and celebrities to pimp their wares, San Diego Comic-Con is still the big news-making event of the year for comic book companies and all their related products.

So, even though we reside some 2,555 miles away, I’m sure many people’s minds, like mine, were looking to San Diego last month, just salivating over every tidbit as breaking news was released.

COMIC-CON

People love Joss Whedon. And people love “The Walking Dead.” So it’s no surprise that some of the biggest headlines out of Comic-Con this year championed Whedon and “The Walking Dead” creator Robert Kirkman.

Season four of the AMC zombie show will soon be starting, and new to television this fall will be Whedon’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” Plus, there are those who haven’t stopped thinking about “The Avengers” since it was in theaters. And now its sequel has a name: “Age of Ultron.”

Last year I wrote after Comic-Con that: “One of the more exciting items to come out of Comic-Con (to me at least) was the news that Neil Gaiman will be returning to the world of ‘The Sandman.'”

True to form, the man seemed to be everywhere this year. Or maybe my Gaiman-minded brain just picked up on any and all headlines in which his name appeared. Regardless, it’s still mind-blowing to me that the impending return of a Vertigo comic from the 90s is commanding as much attention as the more mainstream superhero and horror stuff.

If it wasn’t Whedon, Kirkman, Zack Snyder or Henry Cavill in a headline, it was Neil Gaiman and artist J.H. Williams III.

A long-running series published by DC under its Vertigo imprint, “The Sandman” has grown from a cult favorite to one of the most critically acclaimed and respected comic series of all time. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the start of the series, and at Comic-Con last year it was announced that DC and Vertigo will be publishing a prequel of sorts to the series.

Stop and think for a second and you’ll see how the circle of hype works. Last year we were given the blip of news about Gaiman and his return to the world of “The Sandman.” Then this year we get the big panel coverage. When I think more about last year, I remember big talk about “The Wolverine” movie, but talk about that this year is minimal. The movie’s out in theaters. Its hype cycle is over. If anything, any and all related talk about that film is actually now just speculation about the next X-Men project. Same with “Man of Steel.” We’re barely two months since the film’s release and already we’re back at the beginning of its next hype cycle, speculating about the sequel and salivating over little news tidbits like the fact that it will be a Batman and Superman film.

They’ve got us hooked. There aren’t any pauses between news cycles, let alone projects. We do it to ourselves though. We’re the ones continuously whipping up frenzy over these things, so of course there will be no respite. We’re in the midst of a comic book related boom, a bubble if you will. And at this time of the year it always seems fattest with news and excitement and anticipation. I guess I’m just always surprised that it’s never hit a critical mass and has yet to pop.

THOUGHTS ON FANDOM

Gaiman said something in a documentary not that long ago: “Comics are a medium, not a genre.”

The film about the history of DC Comics came out back in 2011, and that quote has stayed with me.

Gaiman reiterates this in a documentary about DC Comics.

Comic Books are a medium, not a genre.

It’s one of those things I find myself thinking about at this time of the year, when the comic book industry is given so much public attention.

I have many friends who are heavy readers. Of course, even these friends, many times, do not understand comic books, which you’d think they would, being readers of fiction and so much else. Novels are a medium, not a genre.

Still, these people look at comic books and think only certain types of stories can be told. And they do this despite knowing that novels can offer almost limitless types and styles of stories. It’s not all superheroes in tights.

One of the big misunderstandings which readers of novels have about comic books is that the medium of comics spans decades. Throughout its history, there have been many different writers who crafted stories about the same characters. That’s rarely the case in other mediums.

Take Harry Potter or J.R.R. Tolkien, for instance.

Both those series of books have a limited run in terms of their official canon of content.

Are you a Harry Potter fan? Now imagine dozens of different authors writing Harry Potter stories over the course of 20, 50 or 70 years. Imagine the many re-inventions the character would undergo. There would be youth stories, teen stories and 20-something stories which border on mature content stories.

That’s not the case of course. Harry Potter is the work of J.K. Rowling. Comic books, though, feature characters which belong to corporations. Those companies both acknowledge the creators of their properties, but also hire a broad field of writers and artists to bring them to life. And this has been happening over decades.

It’s a small little detail, but something so few non-comic book people understand. That’s why it’s sometimes so hard to explain to them sometimes that modern movies aren’t ever based entirely off one book, but are more commonly culled from many issues throughout time.

I think I’ve got the start of a manifesto here: Nerding Out For The Comic Book Layman.

TRIVIA QUESTION

Name the new direct-to-DVD cartoon adaptation which DC is putting out, focused largely on The Flash.

Skip to the “Assorted Etceteras” section at the end of this month’s column for the answer.

ASSORTED ETCETERAS

Want more of the “Man of Steel”? By now everyone should have seen Zack Snyder’s film starring Henry Cavill. But are you ready for a two-hour dissection by Kevin Smith and his friend and famed radio personality Ralph Garman? Head over to Smith’s network of podcasts on Smodcast.com. There you’ll find an ongoing show called “Fat Man On Batman.” In one of the more recent episodes though, you’ll find Smith and Garman talking for close to two hours about the new Superman movie and all other Superman movies.

No. Sorry. Not talking. Arguing. They’ve got quite different opinions on the new film. It’s a pretty amazing listen.

Also, in answer to this Monty’s trivia question, DC’s new direct-to-DVD cartoon is called: “Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox.”

Nerding Out With Nick Dean is a monthly column about comic books, movies and more. For more, visit Nerding Out With Nick Dean.blogspot.com.