Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

Comic-Con 2023 Day 1: Kirby, Heroes, and Lego

The Fan Favorites panel ComicCon2023
J. Scott Campbell, Beau Smith, Matthew Southworth in a relaxed moment at the “Fan Favorites: the Heroes We Love.” photo copyright Corrina Lawson

Comic-Con 2023 on Thursday was in full force, proving my suspicion that the absence of the actors did not equal the absence of crowds. This is my third time at Comic-Con. I’ve learned that my limit of things to experience is about three.

I attended two panels, took another look at the Exhibit Floor (with a purchase or two), and toured the Lego Brickbuster booth where I joined the Battle For Endor. That was my three. (Friday I overdid it. More on that tomorrow.)

Comic-Con 2023 Panels: Heroes & Kirby

Fan Favorites: The Heroes We Love Panel

This panel was moderated by Stephanie Gerk and featured Beau Smith, J. Scott Campbell, and Matthew Southworth. It made for a fascinating discussion especially since the three panelists basically represented creators who started work in comics in three different decades. I decided on this panel because I love Smith’s Wynonna Earp work but I’ve also read Southworth’s Stumptown and Campbell needs no introduction to comic readers.

The initial questions were about the heroes each panelist loved but that quickly led to a more philosophical discussion of how society’s perception of heroes has changed over the last 40 years. They were unanimous in their admiration for the original Superman movie but wondered if anyone could do a sincere Superman like that today as the pendulum has shifted to darker heroes. (Hello, DC Live-Action movies.)

Aside: I have an answer to this question and it’s ‘YES.’ Everyone go watch My Adventures of Superman on Max. Clark is a sweet young man trying to sort out his powers but retaining his essential kindness and hopeful nature. The show is for kids but it gets Clark and Lois utterly right.

Southworth said his favorite movie is Taxi Driver but he would love to see a take on Superman that isn’t in that dark vein. Smith pointed out that when he first started reading comics, they were from kids 8-80 and he wondered where comics like that have gone and if there isn’t a chance for them to come back.

The discussion made me think hard about how the superhero comics I read growing up shaped my idea of superheroes. I’m still drawn to heroes who are clearly heroic, however complex their civilian lives might be. My Batman is the Gotham Guardian, a driven man who nonetheless has compassion and empathy for others, not the near-suicidal loner often seen in stories in the present day. (This is, by the way, the Batman in Batman: Wayne Family Adventures on Webtoon.)

Jack Kirby But Not Superheroes

This panel is exactly what the title says: a look at King Kirby’s work in stories other than superheroes. An hour was far too short a time for this topic, which breezed through Kirby’s boy gangs, romance comics, crime, funny animals, and war comics. I admit, I spent a great deal of time staring at Kirby’s “Street Code,” a brilliant street scene that has so many stories inside that it’s impossible to absorb it all in a single setting.

Kirby Street Code
Jack Kirby’s Street Code.

Panelists included Bruce Simon, Mark Badger, John Morrow, Sydney Heifler (a romance comics scholar), and Tracy Kirby, Jack Kirby’s granddaughter. I could have listened to them talk about Kirby’s vision for comics for far long than an hour-long panel. I will, however, visit the Kirby Museum booth on the exhibit floor, which I’ve somehow missed until now.

Comic-Con Lego Brickbuster Booth

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Lego is always a presence at Comic-Con, usually with a twist on their booth. This year, it was a tribute to the defunct Blockbuster video chain with a Brickbuster booth. It was full of terrific displays of various new Lego sets, including a couple from the upcoming Ahsoka Star Wars television series on Disney +. (There were no sets for sale there, alas, as I would be coming home with one for my godson.)

Basically, it was just a cool place to hang out. Lego was giving out exclusives pins each day for each of their partnerships, though Friday’s giveaway of a Star Wars pin had to be stopped early because collectors were sometimes overwhelming the kids. There was also an area to create your own VHS display in Lego, a popular area that produced some very cool Lego VHS boxes. Plus, kids could also make their own minifigs.

And you can fight the Battle for Endor!

Lego Comic Con 2023
Phew! Phew! Zoom! photo copyright Corrina Lawson

This booth struck me as another example of Comic-Con 2023 heroes: why else do kids (and adults) build the sets except to be part of the world of their heroes?

Next post: I visit Jurassic Park.


  1. Edo Bosnar

    To add to your aside response about Superman, I’d also add the way he’s done in Superman & Lois – the show itself has the darker feel of the DC cinematic universe (although not entirely), but Supes himself is portrayed quite close to the Reeve version of the films I think.
    The cartoon sounds awesome, by the way.

    1. Corrina Lawson

      I have put aside the live action Superman & Lois because, to my mind, that show isn’t really interested in Lois as a person–only Lois as she can support her husband and her teenage sons.

      Not a fan of the most interesting thing they can do with Lois is give her cancer. That’s to make the men sad. But I do think they do well with Clark.

      1. Corrina Lawson

        I was talking to a friend at the Con and, apparently, there’s an interview going around when someone asked Kirby how he constructed that scene and he said “I started at the top corner and worked my way down.” If true, that’s absolutely astonishing.

    1. Corrina Lawson

      Tremendous article, Jim! (Though I would slightly disagree with you on African Queen, as Bogart isn’t at all stoic in that one, having re-watched it recently but, then, it’s hard to be stoic around Katherine Hepburn.)

      It’s interesting that I found the men in 70s superhero comics less toxic in some ways. Oh, not Supes hiding his identity form Lois but they seemed to *like* women. Ralph & Sue. (The Thin Man inspired couple.) Barry & Iris. Batman had a good relationship with Robin. Clark Kent had male and female friends.

      You can see most in Batman when things changed. He went from the whole Gotham Guardian with compassion and weakness to Uber-Batman who is such a loner he can’t even talk to anyone, especially his kids. Tom King had him as suicidal for the most part and that’s recent. Miller, oddly, has a Bruce Wayne with flaws in Year One and flawed in Dark Knight Returns, where he’s old, failing, and finally finds his life’s work is to connect with the next generation. A guardian again.

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