Lodestone Theatre's first musical production revamps 1885's controversial opera, The Mikado, and celebrates Asian American theatre with dose of politics and sweet harmony.
Spring is festival season here in Los Angeles, especially for fans of Asian and Asian American cinema. But rare is the new festival that combines innovative programming with a love for contemporary world cinema.
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Always busy and never boring, the increasingly populist Comic-Con International celebrates its 40th anniversary with geeks, celebrities, and lines everywhere. APA presents two tales of Comic-Con: one from fangirl first-timer Kanara Ty and another from veteran attendee, William Hong.
Report from Kanara Ty
As much of a fangirl I can be, I realized quickly that my level of fandom cannot compete with the intensity of Comic-Con attendees. If you're not sure what the San Diego Comic-Con International is, surely you must be living under a rock. It's the mecca of all conventions, based on the number of the attendees they attract every year and their guests, which get more and more high profile each year. Not just about comics and science fiction anymore, Comic-Con has blossomed to include wider elements of pop culture. The hottest Hollywood stars have graced the San Diego Convention Center halls, and Comic-Con International seems to only get better and better.
Comic-Con's Exhibit Hall boasts an incredibly large number of exhibitors, ranging from Hollywood studios in towering booths to smaller, privately-owned comic book shops that take pride in having vintage comic books for die-hard collectors. Much of the chaos came from Hollywood's presence: the highly-anticipated New Moon from the Twilight series, the Fall premieres for popular television series like True Blood, Lost, and Heroes, and previews for video game and comic book releases.
Despite the panels boasting glittering celebrities, I was most interested in the "Women in Manga" panel, which looked both at Japanese manga as well as the manhwa (Korean comic book) industry. Whereas there still isn't a high percentage of women working in manga, the manhwa industry has included many female comic book creators and staffers from the beginning. The panelists discussed the future of manga for women, both as creators and readers -- and debated whether the Twilight mania would get young female readers more interested in manga.
It was nice to see the Asian American superhero anthology, Secret Identities, make an appearance with its editors, which include Gene Yang, Perry Shen, and Keith Chow. Other contributors such as Keiko Agena and Kelly Hu were also at the convention to help get the word out. But for me, the largest highlight of Comic-Con was Hayao Miyazaki, making a rare public appearance as a part of his California tour to promote Ponyo. He introduced the film's screening at Comic-Con and took part in a Disney/Pixar panel with John Lasseter.
Report from William Hong
The very first thing you notice when you walk within the vicinity of the San Diego Convention Center during Comic-Con is the crowd. No matter where you turn, there are hoards of people everywhere. Even in the middle of an economic recession, Comic Con showed no signs of slowing down. This year drew in over 140,000 attendees. If you're a first time Comic-Con attendee, get used to waiting in line. There were lines to get into panels, lines to get free swag in the exhibit hall, and at one point Friday afternoon, there was even a line to use the escalator! If not for the ace convention center staff running crowd control and directing traffic, one could only imagine the madness.
Comic-Con has become a popular stomping ground for celebrities. If you're not privy to the Hollywood scene, Comic-Con is probably your best bet to catch a glimpse of celebrities like Robert Patterson or Megan Fox in the flesh. A lot of patience is required, though; throngs of young teenage girls waited in line the evening prior to Thursday afternoon's Twilight panel. For the most part, I didn't see any celebrities aside from two legends in their respective fields: Stan Lee and Hayao Miyazaki. Lee, the creator of X-Men, Spider Man, and other timeless Marvel Comics characters, walked past me. For an old guy, he moves really fast. As a Comic-Con regular, he probably knows the drill better than anyone else: stop and get mobbed by fan boys. The much more elusive Miyazaki was on hand to participate in Disney's panel and to present Ponyo at a nearby movie theater. It marked his first visit to US in well over a decade; he famously declined to accept his Academy Award for Spirited Away in person to express his disapproval of America's invasion of Iraq. Miyazaki dutifully stressed the importance of hand-drawn, 2D animation and expressed his distaste for over-reliance on computer technology.
Comic-Con has transformed into a general pop culture convention over the past decade (largely due to the successful superhero film adaptations), so there's also plenty of entertainment for anime fans. There were three rooms devoted to anime screenings throughout the entire convention, ranging from contemporary shows to classics like Urusei Yatsura. Viz, Tokyopop (at a much smaller capacity compared to previous years, sadly), and Yen Press were present. Yasuhiro Nightow, the creator of Trigun (who we interviewed last month), was also on hand at the Dark Horse booth to do signings. There were also several anime-themed panels that ranged from academic discussions on the latest manga trends to more conventional industry ones used to announce the latest licensing acquisitions. Of course, there was a pocketful of anime and video game cosplayers, but they are always outnumbered by American costumers. The Dark Knight Joker was particularly popular this year, as well as the cast of Watchmen. Thankfully, I didn't bump into Doctor Manhattan (and his celestial lance) this year.
There were also plenty of things to do for gamers as well. Capcom, arguably the greatest Japanese third-party developer on the planet, had the busiest booth, with popular titles like Tatsunoko vs Capcom: Ultimate All Stars, Lost Planet 2, and Marvel vs Capcom 2. It also helped that they gave away free swag for playing the games. I'm particularly stoked for Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth, the latest entry in the acclaimed lawyer sim series. It wasn't just all about the big shot game companies, though. Rockin' Android, a new company that specializes in releasing indie Japanese games in the US, also had a small booth to demo their vertical scrolling shoot-em-up games. There were also several video game panels. The panels at Comic-Con are always well done, with the larger ones providing a live video feed on a projector screen so that folks sitting in the back can get a good glimpse of the panelists. That was something that was sorely missing at some of the panels at Anime Expo. The main Capcom panel gave gamers an opportunity to meet and question some of the companies' leading developers and creators. JAST USA, known for localizing visual novels and eroge games, also held a panel to discuss the history of the genre to neophytes as well as promote their upcoming titles.
Aside from spending hours wandering through the massive exhibit hall or waiting in line for something, there's always plenty of other side events going. Though not officially a part of of the convention, Video Games Live held an orchestral concert featuring popular video game scores at Embarcadero Marina Park (located conveniently behind the SDCC) for the second year in a row. It was a very relaxed, outdoor event. Unlike the more professional Play! video game music concerts, Video Games Live isn't just about the music: it's a combination of cheesy stage skits, laser shows, random audience participation (do we really need to see some guy play Guitar Hero onstage?), and video game music internet celebrities like Martin Leung. The concert also marked the debut of the two most requested arrangements: Mega Man and Chrono Trigger.
The heart and soul of Comic-Con remains intact on the quieter side of the exhibit hall, away from the flashy movie studios and video game companies. If you're going to the convention to look for comics (heaven forbid), go the to the Small Press Area. There you can meet and support aspiring comic book artists and creators. There were also plenty of web comic creators on hand, including the ever popular Penny Arcade strip.
There's a bit of everything for everyone at Comic-Con, whether you are a comic book connoisseur, toy collector, anime otaku, video gamer, bibliophile, movie fanatic, TV show addict, or even if you're just plain curious. As the attendance continues to grows, my concern is that it may necessitate an attendance cap. The SDCC was probably pushed to the limits this year. I cannot imagine how the con can accommodate a few thousand more. Pre-registration passes were sold out in March, with no on-site registration available for the first time ever, so I imagine they'll be gone even quicker next year. So if you want to experience Comic Con next year, pre-register as early as possible.
For those who want to experience the way Comic-Con was before all the Hollywood-induced madness, the first annual Long Beach Comic Con runs from Oct 1 - 4. For Nor Cal folks, there's also the Alternative Press Expo
Date Posted: 8/14/2009