Epic Fail Comic Con

One of the things I’ve missed out on by living in China is the glory of comic conventions. I went to the San Diego con — biggest in America, a number of times. I used to go to small ones in Cincinnati. Buy discount bundles of comics, get some signed by artists and writers. In San Diego, of course, many big-time celebrities to gawk at. Pretty much the funnest thing¬†there is to do.

I did go to an animation festival in Shenzhen a few years back, and it was fun. Students making CGI films, Japanese manga translated into Chinese. But no Western comics.

With the popularity of the Marvel films all over the world, Wizard World — and I’d gone to a Wizard World in Chicago back in the day — decided to host their first convention in China at the nearby city of Guangzhou. Imagine my pleasure at hearing this!

Then imagine my extreme disappointment when I went last month and it was an abyssmal failure. ūüė¶

Now, I didn’t expect much. Wizard World Guangzhou was beaten by the Shanghai comic con, and the reviews weren’t great. Just a bit of cosplay, toys to buy, and very little actual comics to purchase but apparently at least a few. As¬†Marta Lives in China had written about:¬†https://martalivesinchina.wordpress.com/2015/05/18/shanghai-comic-con/

What a long story the failure of the Guangzhou con. Where to even start?

Only a few days before schedule I’d suddenly heard that they changed venues. Guangzhou, host city of the large scale international Canton Fair, should know how to do big events. China has trade conventions all the time; I’ve been to many. Yet the new venue was suspiciously small. Apparently¬†they built a big tent or something.

We¬†arrived Saturday in the afternoon, and heard from friends that they’d been waiting in line in the scorching heat for several hours. Two Americans in China has more details here:¬†http://www.twoamericansinchina.com/2015/05/the-big-con-nightmare-guangzhou-comic-con.html

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Nothing but long lines. Hours and hours of this. We decided to go eat nearby, in no hurry to join the lines and wait, and gather some intel.

Finally, after hours of walking in circles just wondering if the line was even moving, the story had been pieced together. Turned out the the original venue had backed out. There were rumors they wanted to overcharge the westerners at the last minute, and/or they double-booked. Probably another stupid boring trade show about cell phone parts or something. Gosh forbid they do an exhibition with some culture.

Fanstang, the incompetent Chinese-based organization working with Wizard World (and Wizard bears responsibility too), only had time for this very small alternative location. Seemed all the vendors were cancelled. Couldn’t even buy a dang T-shirt. I never did get to see the inside, but a few others had and said it was extremely disappointing.

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The only discernible point of this thing was to look at a few celebrities.

I felt silly taking pics with the crowd, but what else was there to do?

This guy is Stefon from Vampire Diaries, so I’m told. Paul Wesley.

20150530_143243The bald guy walking away is, believe it or not, is Dominic Purcell the older brother from Prison Break.

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And this girl on the right walking away is Skye from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which I don’t watch. Actress¬†Chloe Bennet.

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And that is unfortunately all I got.

The biggest name was Lee Pace, Thranduil from the Hobbit and Ronan from Guardians of the Galaxy. Whatever.

 

I took these pictures when the celebrities were leaving. It was scheduled until 6:00, I figured the last hour or so could be enjoyed there, but at 4:00 the stars got fed up and left. It was over.

The remaining crowds were not happy. It was very difficult to get a straight answer about refunds.¬†Finally, an¬†American in charge¬†told me the rest of the story. The police wouldn’t let the people in, as there were something like¬†7000 tickets sold but the venue could only hold several hundred¬†people. Yes, that big a discrepancy. Only “VIP” tickets would be let in the next day, which cost 500 yuan, and absolutely not worth it. They were still figuring out details on regular-priced ticket refunds and sending signed autographs or something.

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In the end, what a clusterfuck. An epic China fail if ever there was one.

What bothers me the most is how much it embarrasses China. Talk about losing face. All these celebrities, who have¬†much social capital, are left with a terrible impression of doing business in China. These people are not impressed with Guanghzou. If this worked it could have been a lot of fun for fans and opened up Western pop culture to this grand country. Instead, it reinforced the worst examples of how China is not quite yet ready to be a modern country. I’m very sorry about that, but what other conclusion can be drawn? It’s true.

The lesson is to tread carefully in China, and don’t have high expectations.

 

That said, with my low expectations we still had some fun in China.

Next post: an overview of the Redtory arts district in GZ

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Time for Warren Ellis, comics writer

https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/765636-ray?shelf=warren-ellis

 

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That’s just a blurry pic I took at Comic Con ’07 or ’08. He is¬†SO funny in person.

 

Warren Ellis is a damn interesting writer.

He’s British, smart, and¬†touches on occulty themes, and yet¬†he was not part of the original 90s “British Invasion” of comics writers such as¬†Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, and Grant Morrison.

His work is violent, intelligent, sometimes dark, with a wicked sense of humor.

In my youth I read some of his¬†Marvel work, like Thor and British X-spinoff Excalibur. I had mixed feelings, because it was that kind of “grim and gritty” style of postmodern comics. Ellis, similar to another (Irish) writer Garth Ennis, clearly hates the superhero genre. He has no use for it, other than a method of making a living sellilng¬†comic scripts. In a perfect world these authors could do other genres without having to slum it among the capes. So they write heroes, all the while cynical and despising what heroism stands for. Still, makes for interesting stories at times.

Warren Ellis is a much sought-after writer for both DC and Marvel, but he rarely does mainstream work anymore. And that’s good.

I became a real fan of¬†the Wildstorm era. Wildstorm, if you recall, was Jim Lee’s company within Image Comics, after all the big name stars left Marvel in the early 90s. Those early comics more than often shit,¬†but Lee ended up with¬†more staying power than, say, Rob Liefeld.

One of those Wildstorm books happened to be Stormwatch, which wasn’t anything great. Seemed another overblown X-Men rippoff about a government team or something. Warren Ellis came upon the title with little fanfair, and it¬†soon gained critical acclaim. No one saw that coming.

I missed it the first time around, but around the mid-2000s I was ruffing it in Los Angeles and enjoyed going to a¬†downtown library. They had an extensive graphic novel collection. I had little money and lots of free time. So I decided to catch up and see what¬†I’d been missing.

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Stormwatch was cool, but¬†eventually all the characters were killed off and something new came along: Authority. That’s what it was truly all about.

Authorty, illustrated by Bryan Hitch (of Ultimates fame) was one of the first “widescreen” comics. Every issue was epic. It starred Apollo and Midnighter — a gay version of Superman and Batman, and Jenny Sparks the spirit of the Twentieth¬†Century. Unapologetic in its epicness, they fought gods and aliens and were always high-level high-concept.

 

Moreover, Warren Ellis’s greatest legacy would be¬†Transmetropolitan.¬†Those graphic novels I ever so cherished, as they¬†kept me going during¬†my starving artist years…

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Published by Vertigo, and that’s more like it. Actually was originally published by DC’s “Helix” imprint, but that went under and only Transmetro remained to become one of Vertigo’s most¬†successful.

The story of gonzo journalist Spider Jerusalem in that Hunter S. Thompson vein, but in an unidentified bizarre sci-fi future. There were crazies with alien DNA, a Nixonian character affectionately referred to as “the Beast”, and an even worse President called the “Smiler.”

Each issue punched you in the face and laughed loudly while doing that. Anarchy and journalistic integrity and weird post-science concepts. At 60 issues, by far a record for Ellis. Well done, sir.

 

In the 2000s Ellis continued with some¬†Marvel projects in the midst of the¬†more mature¬†Quesada era. These weren’t quite rated R books from Image or Vertigo, but¬†better than anything else out.

Nextwave Agents of H.A.T.E. was a cult hit, full of B-list characters like Machine Man and Boom Boom fighting against the Beyond corporation’s ‘Unusual Weapons of Mass Destruction.’ H.A.T.E. being¬†a hilariously biting satire of S.H.I.E.L.D. The whole comic was full of pithy one-liners, nothing else like it from Marvel. First arc was about the dragon Fin Fang Foom and had many comments about purple underpants and lack of genitals. Only lasted 12 issues, which is unfortunately typical for Ellis.

Delicious art by Stuart Immonen.

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Meanwhile at Marvel, Mr. Ellis wrote the Iron Man: Extremis storyline. You may recognize the nanotechnological elements in the film Iron Man 3, based off the comic.

 

Outside of the superhero world, we have Fell. This award-winning comic simpler in scope, starring detective Richard Fell in a very dark crime drama.

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There were other little books here and there I read, miniseries from Image and Wildstorm post-bought out by DC.

Global Frequency, pretty cool. Typical Ellis, an elite team of agents fighting the secret forces of incomprehensible technology and great mysteries (un)revealed at the end.

Ministry of Space, an alternate reality take on what if proper British gentlemen won the space race.

Red, more spies. The bad movie was based off that, sorry.

Supergod, apocalyptic religious-transhumanist themes published by¬†Avatar Press. I’d recommend a lot of¬†his latter years work from Avatar.

Yet even Warren Ellis sometimes misses the mark. Personally, I had to give up on the webcomic FreakAngels

 

The ultimate Warren Ellis opus would absolutely have to be Planetary: Continue reading