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JEB writes...

Gathering 2005 Journal - Day 2 (Part 2)
July 30, 2005 (continued)

After the Series Development and Production panel, I headed back to my room and lounged around for an hour or so, then headed to the Modern Martial Arts panel. An entertaining panel, featuring Flanker, Paul, Shara and Julie demonstrating various techniques. Flanker explained that there are two basic types of martial arts- striking, which focus on attack, and redirective, which focus on using the opponent's movements and momentum against them. He also noted that (in his opinion- and mine) that martial arts includes more than just the Asian fighting styles- it also includes western styles such as fencing.

After that brief introduction, Flanker and Paul sparred for us, Flanker using a freestyle sort of kung fu, and Paul using tae kwon do. Each got their share of strikes in, and fun doing it.

Flanker believed the best option for learning a martial art was to join a club or team, because they wanted you to get good and win them trophies. The other ends of the spectrum- quick and cheap, or expensive and high-end- were flawed, in his opinion. To him, it seemed, the main reason to learn martial arts was for self-defense- everything else was an extra at best or superfluous at worst. (Paul seemed to disagree, favoring practice movements like kata.) That said, Flanker didn't dismiss the value of other reasons- he just didn't feel that way himself.

We also received a demonstration of tae kwon do from Shara, and Flanker listed some interesting facts about fighting systems ranging from the Russian Special Forces' systema to the fast, brutal Israeli Special Forces' krav maga to the more traditional karate. He made an interesting statement- "professionals are predictable- amateurs are dangerous." (Referring to the fact that a professional in combat is patterned, while an amateur doesn't know when to pull back or control themselves.) Julie, a federal agent with the OSI, said her training focused on surviving a confrontation using escalation of force- you work your way up from minimal force to damaging to, if necessary, lethal. She also had an interesting piece of advice: the best deterrent against criminals could be an unloaded 12-gauge shotgun, as the intimidation factor was sufficient to scare off most bad guys.

After the panel ended, the con was interrupted briefly by a fire alarm (which turned out to have been pulled by some kid). We gathered up for the Gargoyles Comic and Creature Comics.com panel following that. While we waited, I chatted with Shan (who, unknown to me, was webcomic creator Shannon Muir) about iBooks (which, she informed me, was intended to bring comic-book properties to a wider, book-reading audience) and the state of the current comic industry in relation to different genres and manga.

The panel featured Greg Weisman, Slave Labor Graphic chief Dan Vado and Marty Lund. The facts given on the Gargoyles comic are as follows:

- It will be the third season as Greg Weisman would have done it, starting after "Hunter's Moon" Part III.
- The comic will be released bi-monthly, and each issue will be 32 pages in length. They hope the first issue will be released sometime during the first half of 2006. The license from Disney will last for three years, after which it's up for renewal.
- They didn't provide any teasers on artists. The only actual art that's been finished for Gargoyles- which was a late-comer to Slave Labor Graphics' Disney line- was the picture of Goliath and Elisa from the San Diego Comic-Con drawn by Greg Guler. Although SLG is accepting submissions, Dan Vado wasn't sure if they'll be open to hiring outside artists. Fan art might be featured on the letters page.
- The individual issues of the comic will be available through Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble's Web site. (That goes for the other SLG Disney comics as well.) Disney will publish the collected editions of the comic.
- Greg isn't 100% sure that everything he revealed over the last several years will be part of the comic, but the bigger revelations will likely be kept- mainly so as not to cheat the fans.
- Greg admitted he's a little worried about the comic- after so long a wait (almost ten years), he hopes the final product doesn't disappoint! He also still has some surprises in store.
- The comic will be set in late 1996, but Greg doesn't plan to make this explicit in the comic itself (he doesn't want to discourage new readers).
- There will be an advertising budget. They hope to make sure there are plenty of ways for people to find out about the comic.
- They're not sure if they'll have access to material from the previous Marvel comic. Even if they did, Greg would need to look the material over to decide if he wants to include it- he recalled being less than thrilled by some elements. (I imagine the character of Venus was one of those elements.)
- The title will focus on the Gargoyles thread primarily, although it will touch on elements of the spin-offs (including Timedancer). The spin-offs may become comics of their own if Gargoyles is a good enough seller to justify it.
- Vinnie will be in the comic! (Quoth Greg: "It'd be like leaving me out!")
- Greg Weisman will be the only writer.

As for SLG's Disney line and Creature Comics.com:

- The very deal itself is a bit odd- Dan Vado said there's nothing in SLG's 20-year history to suggest they'd be a good venue for Disney comics (they're best known for stuff like Milk and Cheese or Johnny the Homicidal Maniac). However, Disney chose SLG because they thought they'd be able to snag the teen demographic. Although a final contract has yet to be signed, SLG signed a letter of intent prior to the San Diego Comic-Con (and Disney promptly promoted the SLG-Disney material at their booth). This basically means it's a done deal.
- Disney will have approval on all content in the line, but Disney is also aware that the comics are aimed at an older crowd than most of their stuff.
- The entire line will be full-color, except for Haunted Mansion.
- Haunted Mansion, due out in October, is based on the ride (not the movie), and the art will be done by Roman Dirge (artist for SLG title Lenore. It will tell the tales of the 999 ghosts that unlive within the mansion.
- Wonderland is basically Alice in Wonderland without Alice, taking place after the Disney movie. Dan Vado described it as akin to one piece of sample art- the Cheshire Cat looking all strung out. The art is by Sunny Lu (and I have no idea if that's spelled right), whose style looks rather similar to Tony DiTerlizzi of Spiderwick Chronicles and Planescape fame; according to Dan, the writer was so into Wonderland that his dad dug a hole in the backyard when he was a kid so he could wait for the White Rabbit!
- Tron, due out in January or February 2006, is one of the more demanded titles- apparently Tron has quite a fandom, which has basically been telling Dan that he'd better not screw it up. It's set six months after the film, but quickly goes to times before and during the film. SLG was the second company to get the license- the previous company's license fell through. (They planned a more superheroic direction for the title.) The writer for Tron has apparently been waiting 20 years to work on it. Two scripts have been written thus far.
- When asked about making a Team Atlantis comic, they didn't have plans to do one, but "The Last" (the aforementioned episode that's a pseudo-crossover with Gargoyles) might be done in comic form.
- SLG might be involved in the 2006 Gathering- possibly sending staff or such there.
- Creature Comics.com will work on other original properties, in addition to Gargoyles. Greg has one specific one in mind (which he didn't identify), but there are time issues involved in making it.

Dan Vado was contacted by Marty Lund- who'd been referred to SLG by their mutual contact at Disney- via e-mail. After learning about Gargoyles, he discovered that his kids and three employees were all big fans of the show- then he watched some episodes for himself on DVD. Dan wasn't surprised to discover there was a fandom- after all, even he, Dan Vado, had his single fan who visits him at cons! Dan chooses comics on whether they'll be good, not if they make money. (This is in part because he tried to do some titles for profit motives, and they failed.)

Towards the end of the panel, the topic veered to the comic-book industry. In Dan's opinion, the "meltdown" in the industry began in the late 1980s, and intensified as they focused more and more on the collectors' market. Only in the last few years has the shrinkage of the direct comic market began to reverse. Dan assessed that comics were starting to reach more into the mainstream thanks to manga and graphic novels- SLG comics are even sold in Hot Topic stores (which, I assume, means we'll see the Disney ones there too).

Greg responds...

You'll have to do better than that!

Response recorded on December 04, 2006