San Diego Comic-Con 2023 Analysis

As usual, I viewed the San Diego Comic-Con’s 2023 edition as an opportunity to get a barometer on the next year in high-profile genre films and television shows, along with pop culture in general. Although I did not attend the convention in person this year, I waded through Twitter, online panel recaps, and videos of the various panels to pull together what I found to be the highlights.

Table of Contents

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Strike Impacts

The main talking point headed into the convention was the impact of the ongoing writers’ strike and the relatively recent actors’ strike occurring with the respective unions in Hollywood. The strikes had led studios to largely pull out of the convention. While some movie and television panels would still occur, the typical marquee panels – like a Hall H panel featuring Marvel Studios – were not happening. The panels that did go on would feature producers and possibly some voice talent (but even those appearances were not common). Over the years, many complained about how San Diego Comic-Con was no longer a comics-centric convention, but for at least this year, it was going to have to be.

Parties Still Happening

While the evening off-site parties weren’t going to feature ‘name’ talent like in the past, there were still a large number of promotional events going on off-site. The biggest, most exclusive party – held by Entertainment Weekly – was canceled, but that wasn’t a giant loss since most non-stars weren’t going to get into it anyway.

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom

No, this sequel to the Jason Momoa hit film was not going to be featured at the convention, but on the convention eve, the Hollywood Reporter ran a story about the film’s reshoots amid James Gunn taking over the running of DC’s film adaptations. Of note were appearances by both Michael Keaton and Ben Affleck as Batman, both now seemingly left on the cutting room floor.

Comic-Con Cruise?

The organizers of the convention announced a cruise ship experience. Unfortunately, it wasn’t going to be tied to the convention in San Diego though – no cruise ship docking outside of the convention hall. Rather, it will be a stand-alone event next February.

Panels that Weren’t?

Besides panels canceled for strike-related reasons, a rejected San Diego Comic-Con history panel made some news for more controversial reasons. A publicized example was a panel to promote the book “See You at San Diego: An Oral History of Comic-Con, Fandom, and The Triumph of Geek Culture” by Mathew Kickstein that never happened, likely due to the convention organizers not wanting some of that book’s more (pretty mildly) salacious stories aired in a panel forum.

Public Transit Concerns.

Concerning news emerged on the eve of the convention that Amtrak rail service – which I’ve relied on a number of times while attending the convention in person – was experiencing delays and hiccups due to mechanical reasons.

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Paramount Pictures: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem

The film hits theaters in a couple of weeks, and the new film’s director showed 20 minutes from the film to the crowd. Paramount must be bullish on the film, as a sequel and spin-off television series were both announced. Perhaps more symbolically interesting (if this really will shape up to be more of an ‘old school’ comics-centric show) was that this panel opened Hall H at the convention with “Turtles” creator Kevin Eastman in tow. Eastman poignantly celebrated the fact that he was still drawing the turtles nearly 40 years later.

Project K: Inside India’s History-Making Sci-Fi Epic

With the niche success of “RRR” (2022), the film industry in India has gotten a boost of attention globally. “Project K” appears to be a very different film but also featuring top Indian stars. The name of the film was apparently revealed as “Kalki 2898-AD,” and a CGI/Effects-heavy sci-fi trailer was shown that looked like a mix of maybe “Dune” and “Star Wars” and some crazy Indian movies. The crowd in Hall H was apparently really into it.

Spotlight on John Romita Jr.

I’ve met Romita Jr. in person once, and he gave off big vibes of being ‘The guy that all the girls like.’ Romita was promoting his return to the “Amazing Spider-Man” for Marvel. Casting a big shadow over the panel was the passing of his father (John Romita Sr, who was one of the definitive Spider-Man artists).

The Human Fly: Real-Life Hero Returns!

Back in the 1970s, Marvel put out a 19-issue run of a comic featuring the fictional adventures of a real-life stuntman who ran around in a costume when he performed his daredevil antics. It was odd. As a kid, I was fascinated by seeing advertisements for this old comic and eventually got the first issue. It didn’t stick for me then. That said, when I saw that some writer out of Sydney, Australia, was pushing a return of the character at a new indie publisher, it at least rang a nostalgia bell – maybe this ends up being better than the Marvel originals?

Spotlight on Jim Lee

Comics royalty Jim Lee somehow managed to survive another corporate merger/takeover at DC Comics with Warner Bros-Discovery being formed. Lee remains the de facto face of the company and seemingly its creative leader. Lee had been part of DC’s return to the Comic-Con floor for the first time since 2019, with a toy partnership with Lee’s old colleague Todd McFarlane’s toy company in the spotlight. The latest DC relaunch was also a talking point, as the recent plan announcements for a Warner Bros relaunch of films under James Gunn have apparently led to some nice comic book sales boosts for DC.

Justice League vs Godzilla Vs Kong

I’m not sure that there was much of a grassroots fan push for this mashup – which smells pretty ‘corporate synergy’ – but it was hard not to be at least mildly intrigued.

Marvel’s Spider-Man 2: Symbiotic Relationships

Technically the third game in a series of well-regarded recent “Spider-Man” video games. Given a lack of giant Hollywood panels in Hall H, this video game managed to snag a Hall H slot, and the crowd seemed to be into it. Maybe we’ll see more big-ticket video games in Hall H in the future?

Celebrating 1982: Greatest Geek Year Ever on the CW

This has been an ongoing documentary look at the legendary 1982, perhaps most famous for a string of fan-favorite movies that summer. While the documentary doesn’t seem to land fresh interviews with any giant names, it at least looked solid and it featured a few familiar ‘geek pundit’ names.

Masters of the Universe: Revolution, a Conversation with Kevin Smith

Kevin Smith hit Hall H to promote the next season of his Netflix “Masters of the Universe” show. While I enjoyed the initial batch of episodes a couple of years ago, fandom was split in their reaction. Smith promised to be addressing some of the fan feedback – much of it revolving around how little He-Man was actually in the show. A release date of 2024 was mentioned, so hopefully it is early 2024.

Spotlight on P. Craig Russell

Russell’s most notable recent work has been contributions to an adaptation of “The Complete Norse Mythology.” A collection of that work was announced as coming in November 2023.

Focus on Kevin Eastman

Speaking of Eastman, he hosted his own spotlight panel late in the first day. Eastman had credits on an ongoing expansion series sequel to the hit “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” comic book “The Last Ronin.”

Lost Comic Book Universes

An interesting panel on failed/forgotten comic book universes from the past few decades. Examples included Atlas-Seaboard, Milestone, CrossGen, (the original) Valiant. MLJ/Archie, The Ultraverse. Marvel’s New Universe, Future Comics, Comics’ Greatest World, Defiant, The T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents. Of course, in a world where Hollywood continues to be interested in comic book IPs, the question of how dormant these universes would remain seemed unclear.

Chasing Chasing Amy: How Fandom Inspires Creativity

Kevin Smith popped up again later in the afternoon to feature in a panel talking about a new Tribeca Film Festival-selected documentary entitled “Chasing Chasing Amy.”

35th Anniversary of Beetlejuice

“Beetlejuice 2” was actually filmed after decades of rumors and false starts. Of course, no one involved with that sequel was at this panel, which instead leaned on ties to the first film.

Legion M: It’s All Happening

Besides continuing to push a William Shatner documentary (and announce a related music video), the entertainment crowdsourced funding scheme Legion M had the upcoming British dark comedy film “Nandor Fodor and the Talking Mongoose” (2023) starring Simon Pegg and Minnie Driver coming theatrically in September.

The Official Power Rangers 30th Anniversary Celebration

I was not a “Power Rangers” fan back in the day, so I merely mention this big anniversary panel to point out that people who were fans of that show back in the day are now very old. Yikes.

Fleischer Cartoons: The Art and Inventions of Max Fleischer

The Superman cartoons of the 1940s continued to be the main talking point with Fleischer, as official releases of those cartoons hit Blu-Ray disc back in May.

Robotech: Past Prologue

I mention this every year because every year they have a panel that features a shocking amount of new ‘merch’ related to Robotech that a small but very die-hard fan base must be buying. This year was more of the same. I again checked in for news on a feature film project, and that glacial project was again teased. I expect no actual movement for another year but would like to be wrong.

Splattergore: The History of ’90s Horror Comics

While some other examples of late 1980s/1990s horror comics were also included in this panel (ex. “Cry for Dawn”), the star seemed to be “Faust.” Tim Vigil and David Quinn’s adults-only sex-and-violence-filled ‘deconstruction’ of superhero vigilantes were a big hit in its time. There is a new omnibus collection coming out this fall, on the heels of a quickly-funded limited Kickstarter release.

Friday, July 21, 2023

A Look Back at Animated Series from the ’80s

This panel featured staff from 1980s-era notable cartoons “The Real Ghostbusters,” “The Smurfs,” “The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo,” “A Pup Named Scooby-Doo,” “Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors,” “DuckTales,” “My Little Pony,” “Superfriends,” and (last but not least) “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.” Whew. Those series had a range of lasting staying power and all rang certain bells for me. Not big news items out of this panel but rather a chance for fans to talk to some of the staff members 40 years later.

Eisner Awards Hall of Fame Presentation

There were a number of judges’ choice honorees this year, such as Kim Thompson, Mort Walker, and Garry Trudeau. The actual voter choices were perhaps more interesting though: Brian Bolland, Ann Nocenti, Tim Sale, and Diana Schutz. Fine enough but oddly overlooked on the ballot of choices? Todd McFarlane.

Spotlight on Todd McFarlane

The king of late 1980s/early 1990s comics was at it again in San Diego with his own self-promotional spotlight panel.  The panel focused on the launch of 5 comics that (mostly) seemed related to the “Spawn” franchise but that were largely farmed out to writers/artists who were not McFarlane.

In what can only be described as the state of collectibles in 2023, McFarlane announced that the Image Comics booth at the convention was constructed such that it can be taken apart and sold in (autographed) pieces in August on the live video selling site Whatnot.

Collider: Directors on Directing

Directors Gareth Edwards, Justin Simien, and Louis Leterrier were not on strike due to the Director’s Guild having recently landed a contract. They covered upcoming movies that each had in the pipeline and discussed some wishful ideas for films that they would want to tackle. Simien – who has a “Haunted Mansion” film coming – mentioned “The Wiz” and Leterrier – fresh off of “Fast X” (2023) mentioned “Fortnite.”

Celebrating Red Sonja’s 50th Anniversary

Did you know that Red Sonja wasn’t created by “Conan” creator Robert E. Howard? I probably did at times but keep forgetting that the famous red head was actually created by writer Roy Thomas and artist Barry Windsor-Smith for Marvel Comics in 1973’s “Conan the Barbarian” #23.  This panel included a push for an upcoming ‘Best of’-type omnibus of Red Sonja material.

The McFarlane Toys Multiverse

Todd McFarlane was back on stage, this time representing his toy company. Amongst a number of toy figure-related announcements, oddly enough the main headline that seemed to come out of this panel was the release of a George Clooney Batman figure – apparently it was the first such figure for Clooney.

Comic Collecting in Today’s Market: Buying, Personal Collecting, and Long-Term Investing

The only reason that this panel caught my eye was due to Mickey Finnegan, a YouTube personality focused on Comic Book ‘investment’ being on board. Finnegan has tried to popularize an index fund approach to tracking how different eras of the most popular ‘key’ comic books are performing in the collectible sales market. It has been interesting to follow as the ‘nostalgia boom’ that drove up prices 2x-4x on many keys has receded by as much as 50% but seemed to (perhaps) be finding a floor.

Masters of the Universe Design Panel and Product Reveals

Of interest to me was the continued releases in the retro update ‘Origins’ line that matched up with figures from the 1980s release of “Masters of the Universe.” Another wave was previewed, along with double-dipping on some variant Origins line reflecting the Filmation animated series versions of certain characters.

Jamie Lee Curtis’s Mother Nature: A Candid Discussion of Her All-New Graphic Novel/Movie

I saw some debate online regarding who the biggest star was in San Diego this year, given the ongoing actor strike. Curtis was arguably bigger than Kevin Smith but what about William Shatner?  Anyway, Curtis was in town promoting a graphic novel that she apparently had a hand in writing/creating

The Walking Dead Universe (AMC/AMC+)

There was a time when “The Walking Dead” was packing Hall H but we’re now years past that moment. With the ‘main’ series having ended and no actors to promote the multiple spin-off series, this franchise generated little buzz.

Spotlight on J. Scott Campbell

Campbell still seemed to be focused on artistic endeavors that didn’t involve him doing any sort of interior comic book art. Not a big surprise. His long-running ‘fairytale fantasies’ line of merchandise that featured ‘beautiful women from classic fantasy stories’ seemed to be getting an extra push this year.

Weta Workshop: Celebrating 20 years of Middle-earth

Peter Jackson’s Weta Workshop provided the key physical props and effects behind his “Lord of the Rings” trilogy in the early 2000s. They’re a well-regarded shop to this day, so fans can forgive that this 20th-anniversary look back at their work has seemingly been stretched an extra year on the convention circuit and beyond since it began in early 2022.

First Look at the Continental: From the World of John Wick

This was a 1970s-set prequel to the John Wick films, focusing on a hotel that has been a key location in that series. The ‘event series’ will span three nights this fall, with a two-hour movie per night.  In terms of cast members, it was of odd note that Mel Gibson had a role.

Graphix Origins: The Rise of Children’s Graphic Novels

Jeff Smith of “Bone” fame popped into this panel with news of a 128-page graphic novel entitled “More Tall Tales” featuring short stories involving the Bone-related characters. Smith appeared to be contributing some new material to the book but it wasn’t clear how much (likely little). On a related note, Smith announced a long-awaited book collection of his Ohio State University student strip, the pre-Bone “Thorn” material.

Horror Writers AMA (Ask Me Anything) with the Creators of Storm King Comics

I remain surprised that Storm King comics continues to have what seems like a robust business for a small publisher. It has relied on the name of horror icon John Carpenter, although how much he’s been involved with the publication of various works seems limited. This is more of a project for his wife, Sandy King. As usual, she had a booth and panel but John Carpenter was nowhere to be found in San Diego – although word did break that he had recently directed some sort of television project (from his couch at home).

Marvel Fanfare with C. B. Cebulski

Joe Quesada and John Romita Jr joined Marvel Editor-in-Chief C.B. Cebulski at this Marvel news panel. Quesada was well known for his similar ‘Cup of Joe’ panels when he was head of Marvel and apparently had a new secret project coming at Marvel. Romita Jr. was back at Marvel on “The Amazing Spider-Man” after a time at DC.

Rob Liefeld: Deadpool: Badder Blood

In a case of ‘of course it would be Rob Liefeld’ it appears that some sort of miscommunication from someone led to Deadpool creator Rob Liefeld somehow missing his main convention spotlight panel. A couple hundred angry fans waited for him for 40 minutes without success and Liefeld later pointed a finger at the convention organizers – who said that they were ‘investigating’ the matter.

Liefeld did inspire fan delight by leaving random sketches around San Diego, a tradition dating back to 2015.

The clown prince of comics continued to keep his brand fresh and relevant. It seemed like Rob was busier than ever in self-promotion with his podcast entering another year of Rob regularly talking for 2-3 hours per week online. Over on the video sales platform WhatNot, Rob apparently added another several hours per week of fan interaction (and sales). He was slated for his first CGC mail-in signing, likely resulting in a cascade of comics for him to sign at a $130 price point. When does he have time to create comics? Well, he’s still writing and drawing and back at Marvel with a sequel to his prior “Deadpool: Bad Blood” graphic novel. The villain appeared to be the (sexy, obviously) daughter of longtime X-Men villain Arcade. He also announced a new “Major X” comic in the future for Marvel, along with a comic relating to his Cable character visiting the original X-Men team.

A Conversation with the Cast and Creator of Prime Video’s Invincible

Amazon Prime announced the return of Robert Kirkman’s “Invincible” for a second season starting on November 3rd.

Jim Lee & Friends

The main headline out of this panel that got ‘heat’ online was Dan Jurgens announcing a 30th-anniversary project related to the “Return of Superman” storyline from 1993. This was a storyline that took place soon after the big “Death of Superman” storyline and its follow up “Funeral for a Friend.” It appeared that many creators from that original work would be involved in the revisit.

Sharknado 10th Anniversary

Is it bad to say that I thought that “Sharknado” was more than ten years old? Anyway, if you were wanting to catch up with actress Tara Reid, she was originally announced as being on the panel but amid the actor strike in Hollywood, I couldn’t find any evidence that she made it to the convention.

Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards

DC Comics had wins across most of the top categories. Writers Tom King and James Tynion came up big, again.

Justice League: Warworld

It was the premiere of a film that was apparently the sequel to a ‘Tomorrowverse’ that was established by DC’s well-regarded animated direct-to-video line back in 2020’s “Superman: Man of Tomorrow.” In this case, it featured Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman in a trio of alternate reality storylines in Western, sword-and-sorcery, and 1950s-era sci-fi that had some resemblance to Marvel’s recent “Secret Wars” effort.

In the aftermath of this premiere, “Justice League: Crisis on Infinite Earth” and “Watchmen” (yes, another adaptation) films were announced from the DC animation unit.

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Dungeons & Dragons: An Animated Anniversary

Some of the creators behind the 1983 CBS animated “Dungeons & Dragons” series were present for a 40th-anniversary panel. Mark Evanier had written the show pilot and was present, as were a couple of voice actors and the writer of IDW’s recent comic book series set in the same world/continuity. Luke Gygax, son of Dungeons & Dragons originator Gary Gygax, was also at the panel.

Inside the Writers’ Room: Building a Better Future for Writers

Would you believe that a main talker was the WGA strike that was in progress, and the related concerns about the impact of artificial intelligence use by writers/studios? Yeah, you figured as much.

Space Command: Epic Adventures

This was a Kickstarter-based self-described epic/multi-generational space opera, with aspects of it dating back a number of years. Doug Jones plays a late role, with other ‘fan favorite’ actors like Bill Mumy appearing. The creative force behind it was Marc Zicree, who had worked on late 1980s/90s TV anthology series as well as “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.”

TMNT: The Next Evolution of Turtlemania

While discussing upcoming “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” animated media (who cares about that, right?), Nickelodeon announced plans to bring the classic 1987 animated series – that ran for 193 episodes – to its various streaming/digital platforms. No word if it got some sort of HD upscale or remaster.

Legendary Entertainment

This panel was canceled less than a week before it was scheduled. Unfortunately, fans never had a chance to see footage from “Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire” nor whatever might have been shown regarding Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune: Part 2.”

Top Cow Universe Relaunch

I swear that longtime comics art legend Marc Silvestri has relaunched his Top Cow imprint multiple times since he first brought it to life at Image Comics in the early 1990s. This panel mostly focused on the work that other creators would be bringing to market under his banner.

Gala Film: Ghosts of Ruin

This futuristic battle royale tournament animated series got a notably higher-profile push, but it seemed to be based around an audience interactivity gimmick. It will debut online in August.

Dispatches from Middle-earth: War of the Rohirrim

Weirdly, this panel was deja-vu with its 2022 edition, as footage was shown from the same “Lord of the Rings” animated film. It was set 183 years prior to the events in “The Two Towers” and would finally get a release on April 12, 2024.

Star Trek Universe

Star Trek anchored Hall H for 90 minutes on Saturday afternoon with sizzle reels for “Star Trek: Discovery,” “Star Trek: Lower Decks,” and “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.” These shows all remain controversial amongst longtime comics fans (in contrast to the recent third season of “Star Trek: Picard” with its de facto Season 8 of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”). That said, the reaction was positive from attendees.

Spotlight on Joe Quesada

Popular former longtime Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Joe Quesada was at the convention to push both a Substack newsletter and some new Marvel work that fans will have to wait until next summer to consume.

The One and Only IDW Artist’s Edition Panel

Artist’s Edition originator and series editor Scott Dunbier offered a few hints and teases (and some loose-leaf galley edition pages from different Artist’s Edition books as freebies to fans). In terms of concrete news. The best bits involved a couple of Neal Adams books – one featuring Adams art from DC and the other from Marvel works.

Legendary Comics: From Monsterverse to Dune and Beyond

With Legendary Films having no panel, the comics division ended up having the most bus from a partnership book – the “Justice League vs. Godzilla vs. Kong” upcoming whatever it is. Beyond that, “Dune” material still seemed to be coming out, particularly in anticipation of the fall film “Dune: Part 2.”

Maggie Thompson Spotlight: Wrangling History (How to Preserve the Past So We Can Read in the Future)

Thompson was the longtime co-publisher of the “Comics Buyer’s Guide” newspaper. She’s since focused on comics history and preservation. This panel featured the publisher of Abrams Comicsarts and a curator of the comics-related collection at Columbia University.

Marvel: Next Big Thing

The next big thing was a Spider-Man-centric crossover event revolving around a gang leader war in New York City.

Entertainment Weekly and Robert Kirkman: One-on-One

Kirkman opened up about some regrets that he had regarding deviations from his comics vs. the television adaptation of “The Walking Dead.” He pushed the “Invincible” season 2 release date of November 3rd and insisted that that series would largely stay true to the events in the comics.

Abrams ComicArts

The publisher announced plans earlier this spring to bring more manga out in 2024. I’ve had an interest in their “Panel by Panel” series by Chip Kidd that has a “Spider-Man” volume supposedly hitting stands in December 2023 after a lengthy delay.

Frank Miller Presents

Despite having a number of comics in print, including “Ronin II,” comics legend Frank Miller continued to offer little in the way of new artwork (outside of some controversially simplistic recent Marvel Comics variant/gimmick covers. Of primary interest to fans, there was little to no news presented regarding the 1858-set “Sin City: Blood & Dust.”

Transformers & G.I. Joe Return in The Energon Universe

This panel referred to the plans that have been unfolding of late from Robert Kirkman’s Skybound Entertainment after they landed the Transformers and G.I. Joe licenses from IDW. Hasbro apparently liked their pitch to have some sort of shared mega-franchise – not entirely a new idea but always an odd mash-up when it has happened. Skybound referred to this as the ‘energon Universe’ and it debuted in the recent “Void Rivals” comic book series. We’ll see where this goes. Classic “G.I. Joe” fans could continue to look forward to Larry Hama writing a comic featuring the Joe Team for Skybound.

William Shatner: You Can Call Me Bill

Shatner appeared at the convention to promote the same as-yet-unreleased documentary “You Can Call Me Bill” that was crowd-funded by the Legion M scheme. That same outfit also announced plans for a music video featuring Shatner.

The Frazetta Legacy and the Future of the Frazettaverse

Taschen Publishing walked away with an Eisner Award for the book “The Fantastic Worlds of Frank Frazetta.” The ‘Frazettaverse’ referenced in this panel related to comic books being published based on some of the characters from famous Frank Frazetta paintings, such as the Death Dealer.

Babylon 5: The Road Home

J. Michael Straczynski continued what was a busy convention slate (and life in general) with this animated direct-to-video sequel to his “Babylon 5” franchise. The film would come out in mid-August but fans of the original series would need to also save up for a Blu-ray HD upgrade of that series that was announced to hit in December.

Nothing Topps Dinosaurs Attack! Cards

This panel featured a look back at the “Dinosaurs Attack!” cards that Topps put out back in 1998 as a set of 55 cards with 11 sticks. This set was a call back to the classic 1962 “Mars Attacks” set. Over the years it has had comic book-related revivals and even a film adaptation push that has never gotten off of the ground.

EC Fan-Addict Club 10th Anniversary

This was a stacked panel with some familiar names involved for fans who follow the plentiful number of EC Comics reprint options that continue to be produced nearly 70 years after the company ceased operations. Between reprints from Dark Horse and Fantagraphics continuing and special event books from publishers such as Taschen, this remains a golden era for EC reprints.

The Troma Panel

It was the annual Saturday evening Troma panel. I wish that I’d been there. Troma president Lloyd Kaufman presided over the event, along with Toxie from “The Toxic Avenger.” Strangely, the big-budget “The Toxic Avenger” reboot that was filmed with Peter Dinklage way back in the summer of 2023 had still not been released and no such date was in sight.

Sunday, July 23, 2023

Jack Kirby Tribute Panel

This was an annual Mark Evanier-led panel that didn’t seem to have any major revelations or announcements.  It included Kirby’s grandson Jeremy Kirby giving remembrances of his grandfather and featured some of the expected fierce defense of Kirby’s credit over collaborator Stan Lee.  I could confirm that Frank Miller was on the panel – that’s more than I can say for the two other panels that actually featured Frank’s name on them.

Conan the Barbarian Comics Return

Titan Comics had picked up the license to publish new “Conan” comics from recent-licensee Marvel and they plan on hitting nostalgia buttons by relaunching the Magazine format black-and-white art “The Savage Sword of Conan.”  Similar to the original Marvel publication of this magazine in the 1970s, the content would lean adult in nature.

Who Was Steve Ditko?

A highlight of the past year in watching high profile comic book auctions was the sale of “Spider-Man” comics owned by co-creator Steve Ditko via the PBA Galleries auction house.  Ditko’s nephew, Mark Ditko, has been on the convention circuit in recent years and was part of the family contingent behind that sale.  The last batch of Ditko’s personal Spider-Man issues comes up for sale in early August of 2023.

Frank Miller: American Genius

Similar to the Frank Miller Presents panel, there was absolutely zero coverage of this panel on YouTube, Twitter, or various comics news sites days after the convention.  It was odd to note that Miller’s biggest splash in the online press came right before the convention began, when he shared some not-awful WGA and SAG-AFTRA pro-strike drawings.

Spotlight on J. Michael Straczynski

Straczynski has been oddly busy of late with a “Captain America” writing gig at Marvel Comics, some sort of universe foundational series at AWA comics, an animated “Babylon 5” series, and news from Dark Horse Comics regarding a creator-owned graphic novels, series, and mini-series planned in the future (vaguely sketched out so far as crossing many genres).

Selling Superman: The Story Behind the Upcoming Feature

This was a weird documentary project involving a son trying to figure out what to do with the discovery of his estranged father’s massive comic book collection.  The father’s hoarding of comic books apparently strained the family such that his parents divorced.  After the father died, the son discovered that his father’s collection was now worth tens of millions of dollars.  The plan was then to sell off the collection but – in what seems like a really forced premise by the documentary makers – the son apparently gets cold feet about losing the newfound ‘clout’ in the collecting community that the collection has brought him.

Comics Arts Conference Session #16: Identity Crisis: Trademark Issues

With high-profile creations such as Superman not all that far away (in 2034) from falling into the public domain, it’s a common misconception that public domain status grants certain elements of use that aren’t actually valid.  Trademark being one of the ‘gotchas’ that will trip up prospective exploiters of that IP that try to use the Superman name for their own purposes.

Oddities & Miscellanea

Dealer Sales & Observations

With the larger panel rooms, such as Hall H and Ballroom 20, not being as packed with Hollywood panel attendees as in prior years, the convention floor traffic was said to be extremely heavy and smaller panels were generally better populated than in the past.

The biggest beneficiary of this influx of foot traffic on the convention floor? Dealers and artists who had either booths or tables. Time and again, such individuals were reporting ‘record years’ in terms of sales. Booksellers were reporting sellouts of particular materials, as were toy makers. It was a frenzy.

Neil Gaiman & Sandman

Gaiman’s “The Sandman” comic book series adaptation was picked up for a second season on Netflix last November. There wasn’t any news of note about the series at the convention, but some sort of deluxe yet-another-collection of the Sandman comics was announced. Gaiman was apparently sweetening this latest repackaging with a new (short) text story. The limited-edition version of the set would come with a $750 price tag. If you couldn’t afford that version, a mass market option would apparently ‘only’ cost $500.

Heavy Metal Magazine

After seeming to have a bit of momentum at last year’s convention, the air went out of the balloon at San Diego this summer. It was announced that the well-regarded multi-decade run of the magazine was coming to an end with issue #320 (already published in April) and that plans for a new series launch with a #1 issue had been scrapped.

Hall H Line

The Hall H line seemingly petered out from short to non-existent within the first day or so of the convention. Most of the weekend featured a purported 5-minute walk into Hall H, with most of the wait being at a metal detector system. I have had a multi-year theory that the people in line for Hall H were often out in the elements overnight simply to avoid skyrocketing hotel room fees but that theory was put to the test this year and ended up not holding weight.

Off-Site Activations

In contrast, the free-to-the-public off-site installations throughout downtown San Diego appeared to be more popular than ever and involved longer wait times than in the past. Disney had free ‘Doom Buggy’ rides downtown to promote “Haunted Mansion” (2023). The Paramount+ multi-property ‘Ski Lodge’ was perhaps the big winner of the weekend. There was a hot ticket “Jurassic Park” 30th-anniversary pop-up including a viral toilet seat photo opportunity.

A number of gallery installations were also on exhibit with a Stan Lee setup tying to the (controversial) recent Disney+ documentary on Lee’s life. Horror illustrator Junji Ito made his first trip to San Diego, with a show on display at a downtown gallery.


Heading into the convention, the point was made again and again that it would be the most comics-focused (actual publishing and related merchandise, not movies or television) convention in years if not decades. That proved to be the case.

If you were a fan of an ‘old school’ San Diego Comic-Con, you would presumably have appreciated this year’s iteration. Aside from the two COVID-19-related online shows, this year’s convention featured the least ‘big star’ presence since (arguably) the 1990s.

Not surprisingly, the Hollywood trades and associated publications were shocked (!) that the convention could seemingly be a success without them. The Hollywood influence on the convention had been in decline even before the COVID-19 pandemic, but with comic-related material still flooding pop culture, there seemed to be no end in sight to the number of fans that wanted to make the journey to the convention. Overlooked by the Hollywood press/celebrity press is how other popular areas of interest, such as video games, could (or have) filled the void when Hollywood gives up some of its footprint at the convention. Ticket sales were still an annual sellout, with seemingly many more fans left without tickets than were actually attending.

With Hollywood sure to return in at least some larger way in 2024 though, the future remained sunny in San Diego.

D.S. Christensen
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