San Diego Comic-Con: Friday — Defense mechanisms

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The Three StoogesThe crowd is getting bigger and bigger as the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con went into its second full day on Friday the 13th; and it’s getting even more difficult to get into those popular panel programs, like the 10th anniversary reunion of the cast from Firefly, or The Walking Dead event in Hall H. So rather than fight the thousands of people lining up for these attractions, I decided to go ‘old-school’ on this day and focused on the things that made this a great event in the first place – comics and comic art!

First stop was the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s panel “The History of Comics Censorship,” where CBLDF executive director Charles Brownstein covered a brief history of what used to be art’s red-headed step-child, comic-books. The sequential art medium has a long and sordid history of artists, retailers and readers being persecuted for practicing their 1st amendment rights. But in the mid-eighties, industry leaders decided it was time to start fighting back and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund was born.

Director Brownstein explained that during World War II, 25% of all printed materials being shipped to the troops fighting in the war were comic books. So the government initially had no problems with the medium and its stories. But after the troops came home from the war, moral crusaders like Fredric Wertham felt like comic books were the root of all evil and that they were morally corrupting children with their stories of horror and men running around in skin tight costumes.

Crashed & BurnedWertham’s theories and “junk science” led to Senate hearings on comic books and the corruption of youth, which in turn led to the industry policing itself with the Comics Code Authority, which basically only allowed the tamest of tales and was the cause of comics to be considered a “kids” medium for many years after.

Comics were even burned in the 50s and who knows what the collective value of those books that went up in flames would be today. Mr. Brownstein also covered the alternative works of R. Crumb and ZAP comics, and how MAD founder William Gaines caused severe damage to the industry by treating his Senate hearing in a flippant manner.

Censorship is still happening even today, as comics have become “the heart of popular and creative culture.” The CBLDF is busier than ever, especially in defense of some of the edgier Manga materials and other comics that are most certainly not created for children. The CBLDF’s censorship presentation was a very insightful, informative and an entertaining history of comic books.

Next stop was a casual stroll (if you call ricocheting off of hundreds of people casual) down artist alley on the exhibit show floor. Here industry professional artists are mixed with well known independent artists and up & coming hopefuls making their first appearance on the world’s biggest geek stage.

Dan Cooney - Atomic YetiComics and creators that especially caught my eye on Friday were Dan Cooney with his independently published book and Con exclusive, Atomic Yeti, which looks like a classic EC horror comic – and I can never pass-up a good bigfoot (or Yeti) story. You can find Atomic Yeti, Dan and many more of his creations at booth #5530 on the exhibit floor.

I thought artist Tommy Castillo had the coolest overall collection of original art and art prints on Friday, and he has an amazing new collection of dark Oz images that blew me away. The rehashing of the Oz universe is starting to get a little old, but I was really impressed with Tommy’s work and I’m looking forward to his upcoming comic with these characters. You’ll find Tommy’s incredible spread at booth #4823.

The art book that caught my attention is Frank Reade: Adventures in the Age of Invention, the new collection of revised history stories by Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett, the same creative team who did Boilerplate (currently in development as a film by J.J. Abrams.) Once again Guinan and Bennett have taken old stale history and images and turned them into something new and entertaining. You’ll find Paul & Anina in section CC01 of artist alley.

Stan Goldberg signs a book for a fan.At the end of the day I took in a discussion panel that celebrated the 50th anniversary of many of the Marvel Comics heroes. Jack Kirby biographer Mark Evanier lead a discussion with Marvel veteran creators Herb Trimpe, who spent 8 years as the primary artist on the Incredible Hulk, and Stan Goldberg, who has been a Marvel artist and colorist since 1949. The two artists reminisced about the old days at Marvel, told some stories about Stan Lee, and said that in the 60s they were most interested in just providing for their families and putting food on the table. They had no idea that their work would one day be so revered.

Along my travels on Friday I came across hundreds of amazing attractions and you can see the photographic proof of my journey in the slideshow below. Saturday is going to be a Hall-H day, all-day, for a sneak peek of The Hobbit, Iron Man 3 and the upcoming Man of Steel film. Be sure to follow the Nerdvana Comic-Con coverage on Twitter (when it isn’t jammed-up from thousands of con tweets) and see all of our Con blog posts HERE.

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About the author

Bob Leeper

Bob Leeper is the co-owner and manager of "Arizona’s Pop Culture and Alternative Art Network," Evermore Nevermore. He is the co-creator of the pop culture events Steampunk Street and ENCREDICON, and is a member of the Phoenix Film Critics Society. He also curates the Facebook fan site The Arizona Cave – AZ Fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and is one of the few brave and bold fans of Jar Jar Binks.