Three Days Among Wizards - Part 2

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Part One

It Ain't Hogwarts

A quick recap: I had a thoroughly pleasant time on Friday and Saturday at Wizard World Los Angeles. People gave me free stuff. I found all the back issues I was looking for. Dealers were selling Captain America #25 for the exorbitant amount of fifteen bucks. I won the Pirates tournament. And also, Suicide Girls.

On Sunday, my dog woke me up around 4 in the morning, and I had trouble getting back to sleep. I watched an episode from the Ben 10 DVD I had picked up from Man of Action, took a shower and headed to the Hollywood Farmer's Market for a soul food breakfast. By the time I got back to the convention center, there was still an hour or so to kill before the hall opened. I was shocked to see an enormous line of people waiting outside. A throng of people waited in a queue that extended across the street to the large hall. “There's no way,” I thought to myself. “Did they announce something big that I didn't hear about?”

Luckily my pal Matt was there, about to end his volunteer shift. It turned out that American Inventor, a reality show, was casting in the same building as the convention. Wanting to avoid the crowd, we went upstairs to hang out by the press room. It was the first time I'd gotten to see the convention from a bird's eye view – dealers placed their prize back issues on their racks, the Playstation staff adjusted their inflatables, a mini-forklift drove through the aisles, and for the first time I noticed the catwalk above the show floor.

When the doors finally opened, I took a quick run around the floor. A dealer made sure it was clear to two passers-by that he was buying copies of the exclusive Captain America book that people picked up with their admission. “They're selling for fifty bucks!” I thought to myself, “I think I'll wait for the trade.”

Eventually began my second round of Wizard School. I missed Marv Wolfman's class on Saturday because I was playing in the Pirates tournament. Luckily, my friend Victor took some decent notes. To paraphrase them: There are no rules in writing comics except for grammar. Everything you write should move the plot or the character forward; you should probably cut everything else out.

It was a neat happenstance that Ed Brubaker's class was re-scheduled for Sunday. It meant that I would be able to sit at the foot of one of comics' hottest writers. Of course, when I got to the room, it was completely empty. I took a seat up front, and a few minutes later a lady I recognized from Willingham's class walked in. She was a teacher who wanted some ideas that she could share with her grade school students about comics. Victor and Matt rolled in around Noon, which is when the class was scheduled. A few other faces took some seats, but no sign of Brubaker. I left for a minute to see if there weren't any last second changes, and when I got back, at 12:20, it was just after he arrived. Just a typical rescheduling snafu.

It looked like the ten of us were going to have an intimate conversation with the master. It took us a few minutes to figure out how to get the light on, and then we just asked him a bunch of questions.  He answered questions about how he came up with his idea for Criminal (“If you're a smart professional criminal, you probably walk away from every fight”) to what life was like after killing Captain America (“It's pretty weird. I'm not going to complain... It's overwhelming. I haven't gotten much work done since that comic came out.”). People kept wandering in, because they were just as confused as everyone else about the scheduling. It was an entertaining hour, but more of a Q and A than a class. I probably should have asked him how it felt to have one of his books being sold for fifty bucks.

Right on the heels of that was a class by Peter David. He focused almost exclusively on the Three Act Structure. Peter David is a really engaging speaker and he had a pretty good idea of how to present the material. He was able to break down Watchmen in a way that showed that he really understood how it worked. He did the same for Karate Kid. Damn, Peter David really loves talking about this stuff, and he's entertaining to boot!

Now, after my third year at Wizard School, I can't help but wish that there were a little more to it. Things have changed for me since my first year; certainly, these people have good ideas to share. There was some attempt to make a series of classes, but I can't say that it really came together. Part of it is that being a good writer does not necessarily make someone a good teacher.

The other thing is that other than answering student questions, there's no real participation from the student body. It's all just sitting, listening and note-taking. I'd love it if there was some working done, some practical exercises where students workshop a few pages and get feedback on their work, either from other students or the teachers themselves. Maybe there could be a series where aspiring writers and artists work together to create a short piece. Of course, those suggestions might require a logistical nightmare, but I think that it would be a lot more productive.

Overall, Wizard World was a fun time. When I exited the hall, the American Inventor line was nearing its end. I left with a lot of ideas, some free prizes, a warm and fuzzy feeling, and Suicide Girls stickers.

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