Tuesday, July 31, 2007

San Diego Comic Con Report, part one of whatever. 

I'd missed Comic-con last year, when things really exploded, and to tell the truth, it felt great to relax and take the time for myself. I won't get to do that this year, so I have resolved to take it easy and not work myself into a nervous frenzy before the show. I don't print a bunch of posters or spend any time sorting through original art the day before the show. In fact I don't even think about packing until after midnight the evening before flying out. Then I check my ticket and realized I need to get up at 5:00 AM. Oh Christ. I run around the house in, well, in a nervous frenzy and scramble to get things in suitcases. Get to bed at 3:30, sleep an hour and a half, and wake Sara, who gives me a patient sort of smile-grunt, then drives me to the airport.

First meeting of the show is with Sean Stewart. We'd spoken some on the phone a few times this year but haven't had any time to catch up and actually talk. The guy's a mensch. I think he's actually younger than me, but he's who I want to be when I grow up. We meet at Cafe Noir, and the guy who owns the place intuits we're there for Comicon and breaks into our discussion. "Listen, I hate to interrupt, but I should tell you that this isn't just a coffee house, we also hold the world's largest collection of private eye memorabilia. It's my collection, and if you want to bring some comicon folks by later on, I can arrange a showing. I've even got a number of pieces from the J. J. Armes collection. You know Stan Lee's developing him as a superhero." I have no idea what to make of this but Sean's impressed. He tells me about Armes, a private eye who'd had his hands blown off and did all sorts of cool adventure things with replaceable custom hooks.
"So he's like a Swiss-army detective?"
"Kinda, yeah. He once hung in an elevator shaft for hours. Hooks don't get tired."

J.J. Armes

Sean and I meet a collaborator of his at a Turkish kebab joint. They need to get somewhere soon, and I act like a well-travelled local guide. Translation: After fifteen years of Comicon, I sort of know which direction to walk to find the Hyatt. I guess there have to be a few advantages to doing this to myself year after year.

But maybe those advantages are real. When I get to the convention center, I try to get in line to get my pro/exhibitor badges, which wouldn't be a challenge except that the various lines have gotten tangled and I can't even tell which one I'm supposed to be in. I recognize the beginnings of an ugly 45 minute tangle and try to sort out who is going where, when a staffer waves me over and sneaks me my pro-pack. "Did I just get away with something? It feels great."

On my way onto the floor, I run into Jim Ottaviani and Carla Speed McNeil. In a better life I'd see them twice a week instead of twice a year. I can't begin to say how much it means to just hang out with old friends for a few minutes, and I want to just grab them both by the arms and drag them away from the con. Just pull them away and away and take them somewhere quiet to talk, holding tight as if my hands could never tire, and ask a million questions and find out everything there is to know about their lives. I won't of course, even with dinners and time after the show, the talk will be jokes, and rumors, and what's the latest on the table, and how's business, and how's business, and how's business.

Carla Speed McNeil

Inhale, exhale and enter. Artists' alley is easy to find. Go left and go long. When I get to the back, to the back of the back, to Periscope's row, I see that Matthew Clark's already set up. He's put out a gorgeous assortment of merchandise and his fans are starting to jostle for place on his sketch list. Not surprising, the guy does con sketches that're more polished and professional than some peoples' published work. I want to chat but he's got things to do and frankly, so do I. I want to get my books on the table and I want to get to work.

First sketch request comes from Chris Murrin, who has a cowboy book (Great!) and who wants my piece to follow one by a much better artist than me. (Shit!) I ask if I can take it back with me overnight to the room where I'm staying. I've been reading a Cormac McCarthy novel and can get myself in the mood there. It's hard to conjure up cowboyish feelings on the floor at Comicon. The crowds and the jostling and the mean, tight squints on the Elite event staff make a guy feel a lot more like one of the cattle.


Phone call from Colleen Coover! She's outside with her boyfriend/collaborator Paul Tobin and they need me to run over to the Oni Press booth to find out if they put Paul on their talent list. I find my way to Oni, dodging forklifts like I'm running the bulls in Pamplona, and something happens and I swallow air in a weird way and go into an awful coughing jag. James Lucas Jones says "Hey," then:
"You okay, Steve?"
"You want some water or something?"
"Ngarrhkh! Hoogk! Hoogk!"
"Um, do you know where Paul Tobin is? Somehow we wound up with his badge."
"Huurrghk! I... Hurghk!"

(To be continued.)


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