Publishing

Comic-Con canceled: Here’s how creators and fans will experience the con ‘At Home’ – OCRegister

The end of July usually means more than 130,000 fans, creators, collectors, merchants, nerds and geeks of all manner head to San Diego Comic-Con.

But since the event was canceled in April due to concerns over the novel coronavirus pandemic, no one is going to San Diego Comic-Con this year, and it’s going to be weird.

Actually, it’s going to be Comic-Con@Home, which will allow fans unable to come to experience at least some of the fun they’d normally have at the event — and support comic shops who are missing out on a big sales event. We picked 17 virtual events we can’t wait to experience — and there are lots more.

To find out more about how the Comic-Con cancellation is affecting those who normally would be heading there this week, we talked to artists and writers, business owners, cosplayers, even a couple of kids who are famous for the cardboard superheroes they make.

Here’s what we heard:

  • Keithan Jones is the creator of the “Power Knights” comic book, owner of Kid Comics, and founder of San Diego’s Black Com!x Day. He was slated to be a special guest at San Diego Comic-Con before the pandemic shut it down. (Photo courtesy of Keithan Jones)

  • Kenny Jacobs, seen here at Nuclear Comics, his Lagunan Hills store, will miss San Diego Comic-Con this year after 19 years as an exhibitor there. (Photo by PAUL RODRIGUEZ, Orange County Register)

  • Darcie Little Badger’s debut novel “Elatsoe” blends her Lipan Apache heritage with paranormal elements. She was set to promote it as a special guest of Comic-Con next week before the con got shut down. (Photo courtesy of Darcie Little Badger)

  • Comic book artist Todd Nauck poses while cosplaying as Peter B. Parker with a cosplayer dressed as Miles Morales at Comic-Con. (Photo courtesy of Todd Nauck)

  • “Power Knights” is the comic book series created by Keithan Jones. He was set to be a special guest at San Diego Comic-Con this year before the pandemic shut it down. (Image courtesy of Keithan Jones)

  • “Elatsoe” is the debut novel by Darcie Little Badger, who had planned to attend San Diego Comic-Con to promote it before the pandemic shut things down. (Image courtesy of Levine Querido)

  • The enamel pin company Yesterdays normally sells it pop culture wares at San Diego Comic-Con each summer, but this year,, with the shutdown, they can’t. So they made a limited edition of 100 pins that will go onsale next week when Comic-Con would have opened that expresses what they and all Comic-Con stakeholders are feeling. (Photo courtesy of Yesterdays)

  • This portrayal of Spider-Gwen was commissioned from comic book artist Todd Nauck. (Image courtesy of Todd Nauck)

  • Connor Lee, 15, and his brother Bauer Lee, 13, are the creators of Cardboard Superheroes, a non-profit they formed to each people how to do as they do and make superheroes and props out of pieces of cardboard. They will be panelists at Comic-Con@Home, the virtual version of the traditional summer celebration of pop culture. (Photo courtesy of Cardboard Superheroes)

  • The founders of Yesterdays, a Santa Ana-based company that specializes in unique pop culture enamel pins, are Dana Jazayeri, head of Business Operations/ Production, Suman Chatterjee, Art Director/Production, and Quang Le. Normally the three would be at San Diego Comic-Con but this year they’re focusing their collections and exclusive online because of the pandemic shutdown. (Photo courtesy of Yesterdays)

  • This portrayal of Miles Morales was commissioned from comic book artist Todd Nauck. (Image courtesy of Todd Nauck)

  • Artist Patrick Ballesteros usually shows and sells his work in Artists Alley at San Diego Comic-Con. This year, with the Con closed down, he’s doing the same on his website. (Photo courtesy of Patrick Ballesteros)

  • This portrayal of Captain America was commissioned from comic book artist Todd Nauck. (Image courtesy of Todd Nauck)

  • This portrayal of Spider-Man/Hobgoblin was commissioned from comic book artist Todd Nauck. (Image courtesy of Todd Nauck)

  • Patrick Ballesteros is a San Diego artist who normally shows and sells his work at Comic-Con every summer. Seen here are examples of his work. (Photo courtesy of Patrick Ballesteros)

  • “Power Knights” is a comic book series created by Keithan Jones, who is also founder and owner of Kid Comics. (Image courtesy of Keithan Jones)

of

Expand

The artist

Todd Nauck hasn’t missed a Comic-Con since his first trip to San Diego in 1994 after he’d moved to Southern California to work for Rob Liefeld at Image Comics.

For him, the end of July meant packing up the car and driving south from his home in Costa Mesa. It’s a trip he won’t be making this year.

“I’m interested in finding out what that will be like next week,” says Nauck, whose career has included lots of Spider-Man work for Marvel, a run on “Young Justice” for DC, and his own “Wildguard” series for Image. “One thing I’m not missing is gearing up for the trip. Getting all the materials ready, loading up the car.

“But it will feel weird,” he says. “It will feel maybe a little bit like a void, or I’m out of step with time because that is five solid days of July.

“I hope I’m not cowering in the corner, sucking my thumb and rocking back and forth by the weekend,” Nauck says, laughing.

Early in his career at Comic-Con, he did signings and sketches at the Image or DC booths. Every year since 2005, however, he’s had his own table in Artists Alley, drawing commissions and signing comics for all the fans who stop by.

“It is my chance to be an extrovert,” Nauck says of those days spent on the floor at Comic-Con. “I kind of test right in the middle of the scale between introvert and extrovert. I love to do my work at home, get my pages done, but when I come to a convention it’s my chance to meet other like-minded geeks and have fun.

“I really have been missing that, since I have done zero conventions this year.”

Publication of his latest book — Marvel’s “Gwen Stacy,” the story of Spider-Man’s girlfriend before they met — was paused due to the coronavirus after the publication of the first two issues. But he’s kept busy with studio commissions as well as those for fans while stuck at home this spring and summer.

“It’s kept me feeling as normal as possible,” Nauck says. “That I have a direction to go each day.”

Nauck will do art livestreams on his YouTube channel during Comic-Con weekend at Youtube.com/toddnauck. Also, find him @toddnauck on Instagram and Twitter.

The author

Writer Darcie Little Badger planned to make her first-ever trip to San Diego Comic-Con this year in part to promote her debut novel “Elatsoe” but also fulfill a lifelong dream.

“It’s been a childhood dream of mine because I’d always see these images from the convention and think of it as the place to be as a comic book fan,” says Little Badger, who lives in Corona Del Mar with her fiance.

Chosen as a special guest for the Con, she’d planned on giving away advance copies of her book, the story of a teenage girl from the same Lipan Apache heritage as Little Badger who embarks with her ghost dog on a quest to avenge the murder of her cousin in a vampire-infested Texas town.

“I started with the idea of how cool it would be if there was a world where animal ghosts roamed around, and you could have a ghost dog and teach it supernatural tricks,” she says of the book that features illustrations by Rovina Cai and arrives in August.

Little Badger, who is also co-writer of the “Strangelands” comic book series, says she’d been looking forward the opportunity to debut her first major piece of cosplay as well as enjoying the social aspect of networking and hanging out with others of shared passions.

“I wanted to make my interpretation Poison Ivy using beadwork in the style of my mother and grandmother,” she says. “We’re Lipan Apache and I thought it would be cool to bead the entire top of Poison Ivy’s outfit.

“Turns out that takes a long time with beads that are about the size of grains of sands,” she says, laughing.

Being in San Diego — a dream now delayed — would also have been a joy in the camaraderie it would have offered.

“Sometimes it can feel a little lonely being a fan of sci-fi comics, especially now,” Little Badger says. “Loneliness has been on my mind lately.

“Just to be in an area where you realize you are not alone would have been nice.”

Find her online at darcielittlebadger.wordpress.com or @ShiningComic on Twitter.

The cosplay photographer

Brandon Jackson remembers visiting his grandmother in San Diego in 1993 and while downtown stumbling onto Comic-Con for the very first time.

“I went there, and it was like dreams come true,” he says.

A few years later he joined the Navy, and before he retired in 2018 as a chief petty officer, he always went back to Comic-Con when he wasn’t deployed in some far-off land.

He’s been every year since 2010, and since 2016 has served as a staff photographer for Comic-Con, cosplaying himself and documenting the costumes of others.

“The thing about being a staff photographer: It is fun, it is extremely fun,” he says of his work at Comic-Con. He coordinates the Star Wars group photos each year as well as at other conventions and cosplay events around Southern California.

“Ninety-nine percent of all my costumes are Star Wars,” says Jackson from his home in Murrieta. “One of the things I’m most known for is playing Finn. I have all the Finn costumes. All of his movie costumes. The only one I’ve not done yet is the bubble suit after he comes out of a coma in ‘The Last Jedi.’”

That was supposed to be his big reveal at Comic-Con this year. Now it must wait ’til next year.

Asked what it will be like to experience Comic-Con this year he lets out a long sigh before answering.

“The way I see it is I’m trying to treat this whole quarantine life as a deployment at home,” Jackson says. “As someone who’s deployed many times before, I’m doing my best to bide my time and be active.

“I’m a little sad because I’m not going to see my friends and have fun, but at the same time I’m optimistic. I have my family and we’re all healthy.”

Jackson’s photography can be found at facebook.com/chiefgeekphotography

The comic-book shop owner

“This would have been our 20-year anniversary at Comic-Con,” says Kenny Jacobs, owner of Nuclear Comics, when reached one recent morning at his shop in Laguna Hills. “We do anywhere from 4 to 6, sometimes 7, shows a year. And obviously that’s the biggest one.

“It’s a lot of time and it’s intense. I’s a whirlwind of a day.”

Jacobs says his day at the Nuclear Comics booth begins when he arrives at the exhibition hall no later than 7 a.m. to get ready for the crowds that will soon come. It ends early in the evening after packing up, grabbing dinner, and maybe staying awake half an hour after getting back the hotel room.

For Jacobs and Nuclear Comics, going to Comic-Con isn’t so much about making piles of money as it about building a customer base for the store year-round.

“What we offer is what very few people offer, so we cultivate customers from the show that translates to business at the store,” he says. “Obviously business at the show is good, but it’s big gross, not big profits.”

Afterwards, though, the customers who’ve discovered Nuclear Comics stay customers — no matter where they live.

“We”ve been doing shows up in the Bay Area starting in 2004,” Jacobs says. “I’ve got customers there I haven’t seen in five years but they still order. I have a regular customer that I met at the Las Vegas show two or three years ago and he has me ship comic books monthly.”

He’d planned to have a big sale weekend during the dates he wouldn’t be going to Comic-Con this year, but the resurgent coronavirus pandemic nixed that plan. Instead, he’s heading up to the Central Coast for his first July vacation in two decades.

“It’s the best alternative to not doing Comic-Con,” Jacobs says. “I could just stay home and go to the beach, but as a small business owner, I don’t actually get away until I’m out of the area. I can’t get my head out of it otherwise.”

Visit Nuclear Comics at 24741 Alicia Parkway, Laguna Hills or online at Nuclearcomics.com

The comic creator

Keithan Jones went to his first Comic-Con when he was 15. Until walking into the old convention center that day, the wide-eyed San Diego teen had no idea you could actually meet the people who wrote and illustrated your favorite comic books.

The next year, 1986, he brought his portfolio and left with a deal to do a Dracula story for Apple Comics. Since then, with the exception of a few years at college, he’s been a fixture as a fan and eventually a creator.

“For me, Comic-Con is always exciting to meet the people I see in the credits of my favorite comics, or showing them my work, or just talking with people who know what I like to talk about,” says Jones, who launched Kid Comics as an independent company to publish his own “Power Knights” series and work by other artists.

“I was a Teen Titans fan as a kid and I created Power Knights when I was 11 years old,” he says. “At that point, it was just pure innocent fun, wide-eyed, bushy-tailed. I didn’t know how things worked but I thought I was making a comic.”

Five or six years ago while working at an advertising firm, he decided it was time to follow his passion for comic books and he rebooted the comic book of his childhood as the real deal.

“I felt I owed my younger self the opportunity to bring those characters to the market,” Jones says.

Since then he’s traveled the country to cons and comic stores to promote his book and his company, sharing part of a booth at Comic-Con across from the massive DC Comics booth with childhood friend Bobby Rubio, a Pixar animator.

“It sucks not being there, because this was going to be my first year featured as a special guest,” Jones says. “Of course, COVID hits. I’m like, ‘Yeah, this would be the year that happens.’ But they gave a rain check for next year.”

In February, before the pandemic shutdowns began, Jones organized his third annual Black Com!x Day in San Diego, bringing Black comic writers and artists together with fans in Balboa Park.

“I guess the planets lined up for me because our very first show — I’m not kidding — I picked a random date in February and it just so happened to be the day ‘Black Panther’ premiered. “Talk about riding a wave. People were really amped up and it just all came together for me.”

Find Jones and Kid Comics at kid-comics.com

The Artist II

Patrick Ballesteros has been to many comic conventions around the world. But for the San Diego artist, there’s no place like home.

“San Diego Comic-Con, aside from me living here, you walk in there and it’s like the essence of a comic con is breathing in you,” he says. “Not to sound all hokey but I’ve been to cons lots of other places and there really is no place like this.

“The overall positive there is an energy at Comic-Con that you really can’t find at any other con. It’s like this vibe when you walk in you’re like, ‘Oh, yeah, this is Comic-Con.’”

That means this year will definitely feel different for him. Ballesteros has had a table in Artists Alley since 2012 when he applied almost on a whim and got in.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” he says. “I was pretty green going in so when I attended conventions that were held prior to Comic-Con I would walk Artists Alley and see what people were doing. I would also walk up to some artists that I knew and ask, ‘So what advice do you have? What should I be aware of?’”

His artwork aims for what Ballesteros describes as “childhood nostalgia,” taking well-known characters and recasting them as younger versions of themselves.

“Taking a lot of things I grew up with and putting my little twist on them,” he says. “They’re recognizable characters, but I always try to come up with a story that relates to you.

“I try to relate them, pair them, and put them in a scene that not only takes you back to where it’s from but more importantly connects with you. So you go, ‘Oh, yeah, I remember I used to do that,’ or ‘I did that just the other day with my kid.’”

Find Ballesteros at Patrickballesterosart.com or on Twitter at @patrickballest.

Pop culture pin-makers

Dana Jazayeri says he and his two co-owners of Yesterdays went to Comic-Con as fans for years before they launched their pop culture enamel pin company in Santa Ana a handful of years ago.

“We’re avid fans of the entire comic entertainment industry,” he says of himself, Quang Le and Suman Chatterjee. “So once we started making our products, it was a natural fit to want to be there. We went from being fans to being an actual brand that’s there.”

Yesterdays was an early entrant into the world of pop culture pins, carving out a niche for unique and artistic enamel pins that range across the worlds of music, movies, comics, TV and more, often with a weird, funny twist. (Where else are you going to find a pin of E.T. wrapped up in a burrito?)

“Our position was pins are a small representation of who you are, what you like, how you align yourself,” Jazayeri says. “We wanted to make collectible pins. Things you will cherish for years. It’s nice to see our products getting flipped on eBay.

“The name is Yesterdays; it’s what happened yesterday. It’s our childhood, it’s pop culture, the video games we played, the comic books we read.”

For Comic-Con, Yesterdays made an exclusive heart-shaped pin that shows the San Diego Convention Center with the words “I Miss SDCC” in the foreground. Limited to 100 pins, it’s sure to sell out.

The company also has a deal with the gothic punk band the Misfits for exclusive merchandise it releases each year, and this year, with sales open to anyone regardless of whether or not they have a Comic-Con ticket, Jazayeri says their pre-orders for the Misfits T-shirt are three times normal.

That might help the business side of things, Jazayeri says. But it can’t make up for the more fleeting kinds of joy the Con always delivers.

“It’s seeing the people that we see every year,” he says. “It’s a community. We may only see each other at cons, but when we see each other it’s good.”

Find Yesterdays at Yesterdays.com

The teen panelists

Not only are brothers Connor and Bauer Lee creative — let’s see you make a massive Iron Man Hulkbuster suit out of nothing but cardboard — but they’ve got moxie, too.

“Last year when we went we heard that they were launching Comic-Con Museum we got in touch with them and we ran our first big event there,” says Bauer Lee, who is, we should note,13 years old, two years younger than Connor.

At that December event in San Diego, the Woodland Hills teens who have formed a non-profit called Cardboard Superheroes were stunned to see 600 people turn out to learn how to make a replica of Thor’s Hammer in cardboard.

We were actually not expecting as much,” Connor Lee says. “Just seeing how many people were interested was super awesome.”

The Comic-Con people loved them — how could they not? — and not only asked them to host a virtual panel for WonderCon once the pandemic shut it down but also got them to do weekly cardboard craft tutorials online this summer before giving them a Comic-Con panel at noon on Sunday, July 26.

The main part of the Comic-Con panel will be the big reveal of the project that me and my brother have been working on, which is the Hulkbuster,” Bauer Lee says.

“We’ll also go more into our origin story” — because even Cardboard Superheroes need an origin story — “and give tips on how we go about building some of the models and how other people can.”

They’ve been to Comic-Con in person each of the past two years and loved it. Being a panelist? Well, that’s just the plan come true a little bit faster than they might have guessed.

“We’re shocked,” Bauer Lee says. “That’s something my brother and I have always dreamed of. We’ve always wanted to do this.”

Adds Connor, “Ever since I was little, I’ve always heard about Comic-con. When we eventually went there, I went to my first panel and had so much fun. I said, ‘I really want to do this one day.’”

Find Cardboard Superheroes at Cardboardsuperheroes.com

For more about Comic-Con @Home, go to the Comic-Con website.