Saturday, April 26, 2008

New York — This year’s New York Comic Con clearly became the Stan Lee Con as the spry 85-year-old sequential art legend dazzled fans with his unbridled enthusiasm during the three-day event.

His appearance at the Virgin Megastore in Times Square on Thursday night to receive the first New York Comics Legend award was just the opening shot of this octogenarian’s frenzied appearances.

Industry bigwigs such as Marvel Publishing’s editor in chief Joe Quesada and writer Peter David were on hand to pay tribute to Mr. Lee, who soaked up the accolades and reminded fans to buy his new book, “Election Daze,” either at the Virgin Store or

The creator of Spider-Man, X-Men and Fin Fang Foom, to name a few of his characters, then settled in at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on Friday afternoon for one of the most important gatherings in the history of comic conventions.

The aptly named session, “The Legends Behind the Comic Books,” delivered to fans Mr. Lee; Joe Simon, co-creator of Captain America; inker Joe Sinnott, Fantastic Four; Jerry Robinson, co-creator of the Joker; John Romita, Spider-Man; Dick Ayers, Ghost Rider; Murphy Anderson, Justice League of America; Ramona Fradon, co-creator of Metamorpho; and artist Irwin Hasen, Golden Age Wonder Woman.

These folks, who helped define sequential art, sat onstage and offered about 30 minutes of memories from their golden and silver age experiences.

Mr. Lee was at his most animated as he touted his greatest achievement in the industry as being able to “live long enough to appear here.” He hugged and greeted his former co-workers, complimented some he had not had the opportunity to work with and took a few hilarious verbal shots from Mr. Robinson and Mr. Hasen.

My only disappointment in seeing these legends reminiscing was the sparse attendance at the panel. It was unbelievable to me that the deities who shaped the sequential-art medium would not get a much larger reception.

Mr. Lee — the P.T. Barnum of the comic book industry — also was robustly promoting his new company, POW! Entertainment, as well as new projects with Viz Media (the manga Ultimo) and Virgin Comics (a new superhero universe) as he moved faster than Quicksilver between panels.

Although Stan the Man consumed a bunch of my time, I still was able to find an incredible amount to do at this impressive convention, which threatens to rival the mighty San Diego Comic Con. The event brought together an impressive display of comic-book publishers, animation houses, movie studios, video developers and action-figure makers under the Javits’ massive roof.

Here are just a few of the moments worthy of a mention at the New York Comic Con:

m As Hollywood continues to foster a symbiotic relationship with the sequential-art industry, the event’s star-studded lineup made it difficult for the average fan to even care about looking for a comic book.

On Saturday, most impressive was seeing the amazing bonding between the fans and actors of the highly acclaimed Sci-Fi Channel series “Battlestar Galactica.”

With the show in its fourth and final season, there was no reason to even have a panel, but, before a packed house, stars Michael “Col. Saul Tigh” Hogan, Rekha “Tory Foster” Sharma and Michael “Ensign Samuel T. Anders” Trucco joined Sci-Fi Channel Vice President Mark Stern to banter about the show and field fan questions.

With a vibe one might find at a family Thanksgiving dinner rather than a massive convention, the actors talked about their new roles as Cylons, the politics of the show and why the word “frak” is so overused. The reimagined “Battlestar Galactica” is a special series and definitely will be missed.

A bit odder was a later session devoted to “Hellboy 2: The Golden Army.” An impressive group led by director Guillermo del Toro and stars Ron Perlman, Selma Blair and Doug Jones made the fans dizzy with delight.

Life-size creatures from the film also were onstage, making for a surreal experience. Mr. del Toro, whose profanity-laced enthusiasm for life and rebel filmmaking attitude dominated the panel, was a constant source of amusement for his devotees. His presence completely overshadowed the stars, who had little to say and were asked few questions.

Most disappointing of the Hollywood presentations was the infomercial delivered by LucasFilm representative Steven Sansweet. His chronic plugging of products tied to the new animated “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and movie “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” along with “Star Wars” convention promos was just suffocating.

Only the appearance of “Robot Chicken” creators Seth Green and Matthew Senreich (on hand to plug their “Star Wars”-themed “Chicken” episode on DVD) offered a breath of comedic fresh air to Mr. Sansweet’s stale sell.

• I am always amazed at the comic-book star power that is hanging out at small booths in artists’ alley at conventions of this magnitude. For this comic-book fan, I liken it to having Cecil B. DeMille, Alfred Hitchcock and Steven Spielberg just waiting for someone to chat with.

Big, big names such as Mike Mignola (Hellboy), Peter Laird (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), Thomas Yeates (Zorro), Jim Steranko (Nick Fury), David Finch (The New Avengers), Bryan Hitch (Ultimates), were all so very accessible to fans, especially young ones.

• Despite the convention opening its doors to children younger than 12 for its programming all day Sunday, the choices the comic-book content creators push still makes me crazy. Basically, there were too many bad girls barely dressed in aisles pushing stupidly mature content. It was just bad form and slightly embarrassing, considering the type of quality material available for the comics fans these days.

Children need to embrace reading and comic books for the industry to thrive. Although many creators get it — especially Peter David, who gave away signed copies of his new book “Tigerheart” to youngsters — many seem to think drawing anatomically enhanced females is the path to glory.

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