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How to Compensate for Comic-Con?

For a second year in a row, the annual San Diego Comic-Con International will forego a physical event and become virtual.Taking place July 21 to 25, Comic-Con@Home features pre-recorded panel discussions about all things pop culture – comic books, television series, feature films, book publishing and more.

While HBO is not presenting at this year’s con, its sister network HBO Max is, in conjunction with Warner Bros. Animation. The two companies, both based in Burbank, will present panels on iconic animated characters in Looney Tunes and on “Jellystone,” a new animated series debuting on July 29 on HBO Max and featuring old favorites Yogi Bear, Top Cat and Huckleberry Hound.Among those taking part in panel discussions are Jim Sullos and two colleagues at Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc., the Tarzana company that handles the licensing of Burroughs characters, including Tarzan and John Carter of Mars.The Burroughs panel was recorded in early June, and features Sullos, the president of ERB; Cathy Wilbanks, vice president of operations; and Christopher Paul Carey, the director of publishing.“We structured it so that we have many of our heavy hitters for new projects coming up on the panel,” Wilbanks said. “Jim gives a brief overview of how the year has been and anything that’s happening with our movies or TV and any other information that we share with the fans.”Joining the three are Sergio Aragones, the humorist and satirist best known for work with Mad Magazine; Thomas Yeates, who Carey described as one of the top Tarzan artists; and Joe Jusko, who is creating the art for the 80-plus volumes of the Burroughs Authorized Library that the company is publishing.  Aragones and Yeates discussed their Dark Horse Comics collaboration of Groo the Wanderer meets Tarzan. Groo is a parody of sorts of Conan the Barbarian created by Aragones, and Yeates drew the famed ape man for the comic.“It is an unlikely pair up of these characters,” Carey said. “It is really funny and very good stuff.” He added about Jusko’s work that it was the first time a single artist will have illustrated all of Burroughs’s published books. So far there have been 12 volumes of Tarzan novels published as part of the Authorized Library project, with another 12 to go.

“It is a multi-year project. It is a major undertaking that is being well received,” Carey said.

The books include rare, never seen documentation such as correspondences, outlines, scans of pages from Burroughs’s original notebooks and manuscript pages, he continued, adding: “It’s a lot of unpublished, unavailable or rare material.”  The ERB staffers used the panel to make two major announcements. The first was a Kickstarter campaign that will begin July 22 to raise money for a comic book based on Jane Porter, Tarzan’s wife. The comic will be about Jane’s adventures as an archaeologist and zoologist, Carey said.

“We are developing her as a heroine in her own right and have her stepping out of the shadows of her famous husband,” he added.

The second announcement was about “John Carter of Mars: Gods of the Forgotten,” by Geary Gravel being the next title in the Edgar Rice Burroughs Universe series. These are books based on Burroughs’s characters and settings but written by current authors.  A lot of people are unaware that Burroughs linked a lot of his different series and books together using cross overs of various characters, Carey said. So, Tarzan could meet John Carter of Mars or Carson of Venus or travel to Pellucidar, a world at the Earth’s core.

“In a way Edgar Rice Burroughs beat the Marvel universe to the punch,” Carey added. “He was the original guy doing that kind of stuff.” Marvel Studios, owned by Walt Disney Co. in Burbank, is not going to take part in Comic-Con@Home this year. Nor is DC Films, a part of Warner Bros. Entertainment in Burbank.Jason Labowitz, president and co-founder of Entertainment Earth Inc., a Simi Valley collectibles online vendor, said the company has a variety of exclusive product for this year’s virtual Comic-Con, including from Marvel and its recently finished series “Loki” which aired on streaming service Disney+.“The goal is to ensure that products originally developed for physical conventions are available for fans to purchase online, and to try to keep that convention excitement alive until we return in person next summer,” Labowitz said in an email to the Business Journal.He called the San Diego Comic-Con the annual tentpole event for the industry and fans, with New York Comic-Con a close second in terms of clout while attracting a large audience.

“Not only do we get to meet our clients and interact with them in a more personal manner, we also get to see colleagues, press and other partners,” Labowitz said in his email. “The good news is that we’re already planning for our big return in 2022.”Sideshow, a Thousand Oaks business that makes its own collectibles and distributes those from its partners, is hosting Sideshow Con for a second year from July 19 to 25 instead of taking part in Comic-Con@Home.

Like last year, the centerpiece of the virtual event is a custom-made installation that recreates Sideshow’s Comic-Con exhibition/art gallery-style presence, wrote Andy Smith, a spokesman for the company, in an email to the Business Journal.

The installation will feature “hundreds of new statues, figures, art prints and collectibles, enabling fans from all over the world to engage with Sideshow’s team for seven whole days,” Smith wrote in the email.

Fans will have live access to high-definition streams of all new product reveals from Sideshow and its brand partners, as well as show-exclusive products, discounts and contests, Smith added.

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
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