In 1981, San Diego Comic-Con held its fourteenth convention, bringing in 5,000 attendees. Over 35 years later, the event is about to celebrate its 50th show with attendance being over 170,000 fans celebrating all aspects of pop culture. If using SDCC is a barometer of fandom, it has certainly grown and evolved since 1981.
Cthulhu. Azathoth. Nyarlathotep. Zoth-Ommog. Yog-Sothoth. Gla’aki...? The various deities, gods, and great ones H.P. Lovecraft created in his day have taken on a life of their own, transcending from short stories and novellas to appearing in board games, comic books, and other media. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu is no doubt the most famous of them all, yet even other authors’ creations have found longevity, such as with Lin Carter’s Zoth-Ommog.
Cullen Bunn is at it again, this time with Brian Hurtt (illustrator) and Bill Crabtree (colorist). Together, they take us back to the days when mobsters owned high-stakes gambling clubs and wore tailored suits, the days of tommy guns and demon keys. Yes, that’s right - demon keys. You see, this universe is populated by demons who have taken rank in the mobster world. This isn’t Sicilian blood that runs through family veins, but demon blood.
In the summer of 1963, Disneyland debuted its newest attraction, the Enchanted Tiki Room. An ambitious show that pioneered animatronics, the Enchanted Tiki Room featured macaws, plants, and statues singing various songs, such as the endearing “The Tiki Tiki Tiki Room.” The attraction was in response to the active tiki culture that flourished in the post-war years; however, tiki culture would eventually decline due to south seas escapism being effectively destroyed by America’s intervention into Vietnam after the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964. While tiki culture would remain in hibernation during this period, the Enchanted Tiki Room saw great success, with the attraction later being duplicated in Walt Disney World and Tokyo Disneyland.
From the animated Sword in the Stone (1963) to John Boorman’s Excalibur (1981), from Antoine Fuqua’s King Arthur (2004) to Starz’s Camelot (2011), and not even including the various comics, books, video games, short stories, and other texts, Arthurian tales have enjoyed incredible longevity via adaptations and re-imaginings. It’s a genre that seems immune to accusations of unoriginality in Hollywood, which is cyclically plagued with remakes, sequels, and prequels. The mythology is so epic and timeless, yet so well known and open to playful reworkings, that each new iteration adds something to the legend, truly making it a dynamic mythology.
Though Alien and Aliens were released in 1979 and 1986, respectively, it was in the 1990s that Aliens, as a universe, solidified and proliferated itself across a variety of other narrative media and paratexts. While the '90s saw the release of the Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection films, it is easily these other forms of storytelling that provided the greatest contributions to the Aliens franchise, both in tangible products to sell, as well as lore and stories to expand the universe (canonical or not). Dark Horse Comics contributed the majority to the narrative through their various Aliens and Aliens vs. Predator comics, an IP they still generate material for to this day. Bantam Books released a plethora of Aliens books in the '90s before DH Press took the reins in the 2000s.
WonderCon 2017 saw quite a few panels and events celebrating milestone anniversaries and histories of various pop culture phenomenons. Fanbase Press’ own Michele Brittany moderated the panel, “Fanbase Press: Star Wars at 40” and other panels included “Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Two Decades with Feeling: A 20th Anniversary Celebration,” “Wildstorm 25th Anniversary,” and “Street Fighter: 30th Anniversary Panel.” Apart from these juggernauts of entertainment, there was a smaller celebratory affair Friday evening to a different pop culture icon. In a small, but very packed room, Warren Davis gave a presentation on the thirty-fifth anniversary of the iconic video game he had developed: Q*bert.
In the realm of pinup and cheesecake artwork, there are several important artists who have had a profound impact on the genre. These include luminaries such as Jim Silke, Dave Stevens, Alberto Vargas, and Gil Elvgren. Olivia De Berardinis is another influential pinup and erotic artist, known for her depictions of powerful women and iconic ladies such as Bettie Page and Julie Strain. De Berardinis has been prolific in her craft for nearly four decades, and a Saturday, April 1, 2017, panel at WonderCon provided an opportunity to not only honor her and her work, but provide an interview and Q&A session with her fans, as well. The panel was moderated by Bob Self of Baby Tattoo publishing, with model Ulorin Vex and De Berardinis’ husband Joel Beren chiming in, as well. A wall screen complemented the dialogue by showing many different pieces De Berardinis had realized over the years.
Pop culture conventions are first and foremost seen as a meeting ground for geekdom to congregate to purchase art and collectables, see their favorite cosplayers and celebrities, and gain first-hand news for major events in the industry. While these activities are certainly consumer-centric, there’s a large portion of attendees who are creators, or creators-in-the-making, who attend pop culture conventions to seek the advice of experts in one-on-one sessions or attend the various panels that impart advice on how to better their craft and careers.
In the final hours of this year’s Long Beach Comic Expo, as the attendees began to trickle out and a few vendors closed shop early, the panel programming was still vibrant with activity. One well-attended panel was the “Writer Seeking Artist: Finding and Maintaining Healthy Collaboration,” full of budding writers eager to be instilled with advice on how to partner with an artist in hopes to see their stories come to fruition. The panel was moderated by Rosie Knight (Cougar and Cub) with Kelly Sue Milano (Hex11), James F. Wright (Lupina, Nutmeg), Johnny Parker II (Elvish, Black Fist and Brown Hand), Joshua Henaman (Bigfoot: Sword of the Earthman), and Nick Marino (Cougar and Cub, Holy F*ck) participating as the subject-matter experts.