Day in the Life: Covering Fan Expo 2010 as a Member of the Press Corps

I got busy last night and didn’t get a chance to post this (I posted my report for the Pint o’CB panel instead). So, without further ado, here’s what my Saturday looked like:

7:00am – Jolted awake by the blaring of my hotel room alarm clock

7:01am – Bleary-eyed and probably still technically sleeping, stumble over to the coffee maker and fumble with it until a cup of in-room coffee has begun to percolate.

7:02am – Wish I was more bright eyed and bushy tailed in the mornings (I can get quite grumpy).

7:03am – Add sugar and powered creamer to coffee. Somehow manage to gulp the resulting sludge down.

7:06am – Started getting ready for the day by jumping in the shower. The hot water lulls me into closing my eyes again.

7:45am – Showered, dressed, and a little less grumpy (but still feeling fairly misanthropic), I leave for breakfast

8:00am – Arrive at the Lakeview for breakfast. Carbs, sugar, and grease soon set me right. With a little more coffee in me, I’m ready to start the day.

9:15am – Arrive at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (MTCC) to find quite a long line-up. Deposit partner in the line and go to the InterContinental Toronto Centre to get my media pass from the press room. Get admitted to the MTCC and watch the exhibitors and guests set up for the day.

9:20am – Meet up with Alice-ann, who’s come down to photograph the event for CBD. We start to plan the day by looking at the panel schedules.

9:50am – Loiter downstairs (i.e. street level) with Alice-ann after seeing what is possibly the BEST COSTUME AT THE CONVENTION: a working, talking (Imperial) Dalek. It was awesome.

10:00am – Ticketholders are admitted and our day starts. Get a picture with the Dalek.

10:05am – Meet up with our very own J. Jonah Jameson, Pete, to discuss our respective plans for the day. Media plan in hand, we all go our separate ways. Since I’m covering three panels during the afternoon, so I take this time to make my way through the dealer tables and artists’ alley.

10:59am – Get in line for Felicia Day.

11:30am – Purchase the two DVD volumes of The Guild. Get them signed by Felicia Day who complements my hair. SQUEE!

11:41am – Eat a barely warm and horribly overpriced hotdog, regret not going down to get street meat.

11:42pm – While eating, slowly navigate crowds to get down to the room the Stan “The Man” Lee panel

12:02pm – Ask another volunteer as to their press policy. Quickly escalates into a battle with the door person at the Stan Lee panel who have not been informed about the amount of access press credentials have.

12:12pm – Get my partner to stand in line and run back to the press room to get the press policy clarified.

12:13pm – Go to press room. Learn there’s no set policy for access. Curses the media pass and vows to get an all-access pass next year. Mentally curse out the con organizers and remember fondly the organization at Wizard World (they made it so easy to cover the event!).

12:17pm – Go into the Public Relations (PR) room and get attitude from one of the workers when I ask her to clarify the policy. If staff is this rude to me, I wonder how rude they are to ticketholders. She clearly sees my media badge. You’d think that given the horrible organization and the event’s inability to handle the influx of people, I wonder why this woman isn’t trying to run damage control. You know, WITH THE MEDIA.

12:25pm – Head back to the line, fighting the wall-to-wall people.

12:30pm – On my way back to the line, I’m very excited to see a female staff member in a hockey jersey (usually they tend to be more knowledgeable as they’ve been involved in the planning process). After I ask my question, she gets exasperated at me, as if I’m wasting her precious time with what should be a simple question. Yes, I know it’s insane what with the three-hour line-ups to get in and all; and that you’re stressed out of your mind. But I’m just as frustrated with the entire con and I’ve made sure to address you with politeness and respect, you could do the same. (I save the outspoken snark for my columns; also, you never know who you’re talking to so copping an attitude could come back and bite you in the ass if you’re not careful.)

12:45pm – Return to line; start writing this article on my netbook. My photographer returns and mentions that someone who is manning the door is now telling staff to line up behind the VIPs/All Access passholders. This is awesome news. But I also realize that a monkey shit fight at the zoo is more organized than this event is.

1:00pm – Finally allowed into the room

1:15pm – Stan Lee arrives on stage. And it is magical. For the next 35 minutes I bathe in the awesomeness that is Stan.

1:50pm – Stan Lee leaves. My photographer and I run over to the Felicia Day panel where my friends have managed to save me a seat.

2:00pm – Panel begins. The panel consists of both Felicia Day and Amy Okuda (who plays Tink on The Guild).

3:00pm – Leave the panel. Head upstairs.

3:25pm – Wonder what the capacity for the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (MTCC) is while I fight my way through the wall of people. Wait to get readmitted to the dealers’ room. Later I learn through the press grapevine that the Fire Marshal locked down the building (i.e. didn’t let anyone else in) because it was at capacity. (This resulted in a two to three hour wait for anyone who left the building.)

3:30pm – Run down to room 206C to watch the Pint o’CB panel.

4:30pm – Make my way to the press room and write up my panel report for Pint o’ CB.

6:00pm – Media room closes for the day.

6:01pm – Meet up with my partner, who has purchased Stan Lee photo-op tickets and is returning them as they’ve been woefully oversold.

8:01pm – Partner and I head back to the hotel to relax. I recharge my batteries and manage to eliminate some of the tensions (I’m still a giant stress ball though).

9:00pm – Head out to the Overdraught Irish Pub (on Front Street) for a CBD mixer; have a grand old time.

9:12pm – Think of this article and the panel reports I have to write as I eat chicken fingers.

11:30pm – Exhausted, my partner and I return to the hotel a little earlier than planned.

11:45pm – Pass out on the bed watching TV.

Shelley Smarz is a business woman and a comic book scholar. She’s currently finishing up a “Lookback on Fan Expo 2010” article and will be posting her four remaining panel reports regularly though the week.

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Fan Expo 2010 Panel Report :: Pint o’ CB

When and Where: Saturday August 28, 2010 @ 3:30pm; Room 206c, Metro Toronto Convention Centre (MTCC)

Steve Wacker, CB Cebulski, and Arune Singh

Before I move onto the announcements, I have to congratulate CB Cebulski on his thirteenth consecutive appearance at Fan Expo Canada. CB (who is Marvel’s Senior Vice President, Creator and  Content Development) is joined on this panel with Arune Singh (Manager of Sales Communications) and Steve Wacker (Editor of Amazing Spider-Man and he tried valiantly to come up with what the initialism HAMMER stands for).

In October 2010, the five-issue miniseries

Chaos War

will be released. This series continues from the storylines started in

Incredible Hercules

and

Incredible Hulk

and will deal with the war of the Gods and how different pantheons team up with different heroes. Galactus makes an appearance, so that makes everything AWESOME! in my book.

While the main action occurs in the main title, there will be a number of spinoffs, including Dead Avengers (with appearances from dead characters like the Wasp and Captain Marvel) and Alpha Flight. The series and its spin-offs play in that interstitial space between the living and the dead and looks to be awesome! In other Alpha Flight news, the panel reported that there’s a strong likelihood that we’ll be seeing a return of the team (and its original characters) in its own series over the next 12 months.

As for Marvel’s relationship with Disney, there will be a number of super-secret variant covers that will be popping up, including one for Avengers Academy #7, which also sees the return of Giant-Man.

There’s going to be an upcoming Thor book from Mike Carey and Mike Perkins called Thor: Wolves of Asgard, where we see the reappearance of Hela.

Unfortunately for Nightcrawler fans, we will not be seeing him again for awhile. As CB put it, “Dead is dead.”

Strong buzz about Allan Heinberg’s and Jim Cheung’s Avengers: Children’s Crusade. The panellists lauded the return of the Scarlet Witch. They say that, while this story should be a huge event, the strength of the series (and Wanda’s return) lies in the fact that it’s told in a very personal way. Despite the focus of the individual, this heart-wrenching story’s impact reverberates over the entire Marvel Universe. Apparently, the ending is AMAZING.

The year of the Women at Marvel is ending on a bang. With an online initiative (a series of one-shots) coming in November, including a story featuring Inhumans’ Medusa and Crystal. Girls’ Comics wraps up soon. There are a number of Women of Marvel trades that have been (and continue to be) released. Also, there are a number of Women of Marvel statues (inspired by the Women of Marvel variant covers that have been released over the year).

As hard as I am on the industry for poorly representing women (in both behind the scenes and as characters), the panel did make a good point. The Women in Marvel initiative was to publicize what Marvel’s been doing over the years – they’ve consistently had more women and more minority creators than any other company in the industry. What the Women in Marvel initiative did was introduce new female creators into the mix. (I’m tickled that a lot of the women that were showcased during Girl Comics and Her-oes have gotten gigs out of it. As problematic as the series was in terms of “trying to attract that elusive female market in comics”* this really makes me excited for the future.)

Also, I’m pleased to report that the Senty is NEVER AGAIN coming back. WHOO HOO! I hated this cheap Superman rip-off and was annoyed with the giant retcon (and usually they don’t bother me much) to integrate him into the Marvel Universe. He was just a profoundly boring and annoying character.

Finally, Marvel (who’s been at the forefront of the comics’ digital revolution) has seen some really good success in the digital market (it’s bringing in a whole bunch of readers). This means that we’ll be seeing some experiments in digital distribution in the future. Exciting!

Best (collective) quote of the panel: “For the sake of this panel, Deadpool is Canadian. He’s said the oath, drank the syrup, and ate the poutine.”

Steve Wacker, CB Cebulski, and Arune Singh

*Not all girls like unicorns and sparkles and 90210 guys. As a general critique, rather than trying to attract new female readers by putting out books you think girls will like, companies need to work on making sure that the industry and the books are female-friendly (i.e. Not horribly sexist, resist women in refrigerators, etc.). Once you do that, more girls will be attracted. Trust me.

Shelley Smarz is a comic book scholar and a wanna-be Lois Lane. The internet in the press room is driving her insane. Her favourite cosplay of the day was the WORKING Dalek. It was single-handedly the best costume she’s ever seen.

Fan Expo 2010 Panel Report :: How to Break into Comics….

Over the years, as an aspiring comic book writers, I’ve sat in on a number of con panels that offers advice on how to break into comics.

Most of the advice cautions against submitting unsolicited Word documents of their scripts to editors. Rather, most industry insiders state that aspiring comics writers should collaborate with an artist (or artists) and final product (i.e. the finished comic) publishers for their consideration. The reasoning is that it gives editors a better idea of how your writing style will translate into the medium. (It will also give you, the aspiring writer, an opportunity to work with an artist and is a valuable learning experience because you have the opportunity to identify (and hopefully rectify) any issues that come up during the collaboration process.)

This afternoon, I had the opportunity to sit in on a panel called “The Secret Life of the Comic Book Editor” with DC editor Joey Cavalieri. Cavalieri is an awesome panelist and he offered an extension on the above advice. He agreed that, by adding art to your writing, does bring stories to life, but that you should make sure that you use the best possible art that you can afford (he also suggest that you should pay your artist(s) for their contribution to the finished project). Cavalieri, who has his BFA in visual arts and is also a writer, cautions that bad art may be a roadblock to getting noticed. There are a lot of editors who simply get past the bad art to read what you’ve written.

He also mentioned that aspiring comics creators should become quite self-reflexive in terms of their own comic book choices in order to understand why you choose the comic books you do. There are a lot of comics out there and most of our decisions on what to buy comes from the judgements we make about what’s on the cover of a particular issue. Aspiring creators should take note about what attracts them and what repulses them. Cavalieri states that you should think hard about why you picked that particular comic up  and, perhaps more importantly, to reflect on those covers that you reject. By asking yourself why you weren’t attracted to a particular comic, you can identify reasons why people might not pick up your comic. In other words, make sure that once you’ve identified those repulsive elements, you should make sure that you include them in your own covers.

Shelley Smarz is a comic book scholar and business woman. While she’s disappointed that her original plan of “interviews! interviews! interviews!” will probably not happen because things are utterly and completely INSANE. However, in the spirit of making lemonaid when she’s given lemons, she’s content to cover panels and offer off-colour commentary instead. Stay tuned!