Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Comic-Con 2007 - The long and long of it all

So I'm back from Comic-Con International in San Diego. Every year this show gets larger, with more to see and do. I try to cram it all in, but it's just not possible. Here's what I did manage to do over the weekend. One caveat: the weekend is all a bit of a blur, so if I've forgotten to mention something or someone, please let me know and I'll edit this blog. All artwork mentioned has been posted on http://www.mxyzptlk.com

Wednesday

After checking traffic.com and sigalert.com, I left late in the morning on Wednesday for the drive down the 5. Even with the advice from the web and KFWB, I couldn't avoid traffic in East L.A. and in the Encinitas area, so a drive that should have taken 2 hours took 3. Upon arrival at the Hyatt, I checked in very quickly and started to unpack. At this point I found that the mental checklist that I went over repeatedly had one flaw. Though I thought I'd packed socks, I had not. At this point, the show was about 3 hours from opening; so of course I had to go get in line. After getting my badge, which was a much faster process than in years past, the line seemed really short, so instead of standing around for hours waiting, I headed out to Horton Plaza to rectify my dearth of socks. From there, I headed back to the hotel to drop them off and returned to the con, where the line still wasn't very long. I thought that Preview Night might be lightly populated. I was wrong.

It was a complete madhouse. I don't know where the people came from, but the floor was packed the whole evening. Preview Night isn't usually a big night for artists' alley, so I walked the floor looking for some of the books and other items I wanted to procure. The comic dealers I tend to frequent don't really offer any deeper discounts as the weekend goes along, as they start off their prices at 50-70% off. So I started filling some of the slots in my checklist right away. Though I normally don't care about the quality of a physical comic, there was one book that I wanted to get in the best possible condition I could find: Iron Man 118. I spent a lot of time going from booth to booth comparing the prices and qualities of that book until I found a copy I was happy with.

My bag now already quite hefty, I moved on to the other side of the floor, and visited with Andie, Allison, and Adam at the Adam Hughes/J.G. Jones booth. I don't get to see them often, so it's always a pleasure catching up. I also picked up Adam's new sketchbooks, and watched as a guy skirted the one-per-customer rule on Adam's new, limited-edition, color sketchbook by sending his daughters--perhaps 8 and 6 years old--to buy copies after he had bought one for himself. I expect to see these on eBay within the week.

I spent the rest of the abbreviated evening locating some of the booths and artists alley tables that I would visit later in the show. Every year, companies seem to compete to hand out the dumbest freebie bag. Eventually, 100,000 people end up walking around with these ridiculous sized bags, usually smacking the hell out of everyone else with them. On Preview Night, the winner had already become clear. Warner Brothers gave out Smallville bags that can only be described as ridiculous. The bags were made of some sort of fabric, and were roughly the size of a large sofa cushion, but with no depth. I mentally made the joke that they were big enough that you could make a dress out of them. By Sunday, someone had done so. Honest. A woman behind me in line was wearing a Smallville-bag dress. But I digress.
I left Preview Night about twenty minutes before closing, so that I could get back to the hotel and then head out to dinner before the crowd flooded out of the convention. After a quick bite, I went back to my room to plan and to rest up for the next day.

Thursday

I got up a little later than I would have preferred, but nevertheless, I ended up in line just before 8 o'clock, which meant I stood outside for only a few minutes before they let us in to wait in the air conditioning. I listened to an episode of Comic Geek Speak and watched some of my video clips on my iPod as I waited in line. 10 o'clock rolled around pretty quickly, but the doors didn't open right away. I know this because the moron in line behind me kept yelling out time updates every minute on the minute, as if someone might possibly be getting in before us.

Once inside, I began the process of setting up sketches. Throughout the day, I requested sketches from Sergio Cariello, Dick Ayers, Freddie E. Williams II, J.G. Jones, Chris Moreno, Dave Kellett, Ethan Van Sciver, Cat Staggs, Andy Runton, and Jonathan Hickman. All of them were kind with their time. I enjoyed talking again to those I'd met before, and introducing myself to those I hadn't. In particular, I spent quite a bit of time talking with Freddie E. Williams II, and Jonathan Hickman, neither of whom I'd met before. Freddie provides art for Robin from D.C. Comics, and his art just amazes me. Jonathan is the creator of the book The Nightly News from Image, which from every standpoint (story, art, design, etc.) blew me away. For my friends who don't read superhero comics, the recently released collection of The Nightly News would be worth your while to seek out. It's an amazing story.

With a number of sketches underway, I decided to walk as much of the floor as I possibly could. I worked my way over to the small press area, looking at some of the books I would later pick up, then moved on through the fan area, the retailer area, and back through to the independent and webcomic area, just seeing where everyone was situated for future reference.
Following that, I broke one of my rules about comic conventions. I stood in line for an autograph. I never do that. However, I have a very limited series of books that I'm trying to get autographed by the twelve creators who worked on them, two of whom were at the show. Today it was Darwyn Cooke. I waited about an hour to get his autograph. More about Darwyn later.

I headed back to artists' alley, where Sergio Cariello had already finished a gorgeous Lone Ranger sketch for me. I took my sketchbook next to Steve Lieber. Steve does wonderful artwork, and is the artist of one of my favorite comic stories ever, Whiteout (starring Kate Beckinsale, coming soon). Then I returned to the webcomics area, where I found my friend Dave Kellett, who does the webcomic Sheldon (http://www.sheldoncomics.com), which is totally awesome-sauce. We talked for a while, and I picked up a shirt and promised to come back for his new book on Saturday. By then, the time approached six, so I left the show early to drop off my day's purchases at the hotel and get cleaned up for the Comic Geek Speak dinner.

Dinner at the Rock Bottom Brewery was fantastic. Though I didn't get a chance to meet all thirty-plus people who attended, I did get a chance to visit with some old friends and make plenty of new ones, including Brian Christman, one of the hosts of Comic Geek Speak, and Matt, who flew in all the way from Australia for the show. After dinner, about a half dozen or so of us followed Dave Dwonch (creator of the book Special Education) out to a bar called Maloney's for some of the largest beers I have ever seen. I swear they could have come with a diving board. We all talked life and comics for several hours, and by 1:30am, I started to fade. I took my leave and walked back to the hotel, turning in for the night.

Friday

When my alarm went off at 5:45am on Friday morning, I almost threw it out the window. I re-awoke around 7am, which left me with enough time to wake up, clean up, and get in line just as it was let inside for the wait for 10am. I had more planning to do this morning, so the line was actually a welcome thing.

Once inside, I headed toward the Hero Initiative booth. The Hero Initiative is a great charity, providing needed assistance to older comic creators, who worked when companies offered no benefits, health insurance, pension, nothing. Darwyn Cooke was there doing sketches, so I waited an hour and a half in line for a sketch, and when he got to me he asked, "Do you want a sketch right now, or do you want the best possible sketch?" Of course, I took option 2. His allotted time was up, so he took my sketchbook and those of the people behind me with him, and did our sketches elsewhere when he had time. Returning to the Hero Initiative booth to check on the sketchbook would be a leitmotif for the remainder of the convention.

After a quick bite of lunch, I spent the better part of the day visiting the booths of people I'd met previously, and picking up books I couldn't find anywhere else. I went through the small press area, picking up a couple of books, including Bushi Tales. Then I hit up the MAW booth and bought the Jetta series and said Hi to Martheus, Janet, and Kitty, who I'd briefly met at dinner on Thursday. I dropped by the Bloodfire studios booth and picked up the Utopiates. Up next was the First Second booth, where they were having a three-for-two sale on trade paperbacks, so I took advantage of that. Then I hit the Ape Entertainment booth, where I bought a few issues I'd been missing, and re-introduced myself to Steve Bryant, one of the creators of Athena Voltaire. We were both in a bit of a hurry, so we agreed to meet up later at his booth in the Small Press area.

Then it was time to wait in line again. This time, for Paul Pope. Again, I waited about an hour to get his autograph.

Finally, I made my way back to the small press area to talk with Steve Bryant again, and there I met Jim Heffron, creator of Territory 51. I had a great time talking with both of them for about an hour, and I picked up a collection of Territory 51 and a page of original art from Steve.
Before I left for the day, I made my way back to the Hero Initiative booth to check in for the first of many times to come. I was told to check back the following morning. I should note at this point that I wasn't bothered in the least by this situation; I merely didn't want Darwyn Cooke to have to lug my sketchbook around with him any more than necessary.

That night, I hadn't made any dinner plans, so after a shower and a change of clothes, I hit the Gaslamp for dinner, and an ice cream at Ghirardelli's. Yum. Then I stopped in to watch the Eisner comic awards. Steve Bryant was nominated for the Russ Manning newcomer award, and I wanted to see if he might win. I stayed through his category (David Petersen won), then returned to the hotel to find a few familiar faces in the bar there, and sat talking with them until about 1am, when I retired to get some sleep.

Saturday

Saturday was supposed to be the biggest, craziest day of the show, so with some trepidation, I brought my camera. I spent the morning taking about 100 photographs of the various booths and people in costume. Hopefully I'll have them developed and posted soon. The crowd, though, was surprisingly light. I imagine that the supposed insanity of the day scared off a lot of the crowd who were coming for the whole weekend. I know some of my friends said that they were just going to hang out by their hotel pool and skip the show. At the DC booth, I met up with Brian Christman again, and we discussed our experience at the show so far, and our wait for our Darwyn sketches (he was two behind me in line). After I'd exhausted five rolls of film, I took the camera back to the hotel.

I returned to the show and retrieved my second sketchbook from Steve Lieber, who had done a wonderful drawing. I took it over to Kim DeMulder, who had an opening, and agreed to do a Johnny Thunder sketch for me. Then I hit the Bloodfire booth again, and met Josh and Kat, the creators of the Utopiates, which I'd bought yesterday. We talked for quite a while about the show, and about our work. Then I visited the booth of David Quiles, who I'd met the previous night at the hotel bar. He had a great Darth Vader piece for sale, so I had to take it home with me. After that, I hit the autograph area, where I got an autograph from Tim Thomerson, an actor from a bunch of movies I've enjoyed, most of which are out of print...or so I thought. As I was there, he mentioned that a booth downstairs had his Trancers series of movies back on DVD. I headed down and got myself a copy.

After that came another check-in at the Hero Initiative (come back tomorrow, followed by many unnecessary apologies). Finally, I grabbed a few more back issues I'd been seeking. I checked out a bunch of art in artists' alley, but didn't buy anything. I did retrieve my second sketchbook from Kim DeMulder, though, and was amazed at the sketch he did for me. Finally, the day nearing an end, I headed out to get cleaned up and get dinner.

I followed dinner with a bit of a pub-crawl. I went to four different bars, stopping for a drink in each. Then I headed back to the Hyatt and found a bunch of people there, including Steve and Jim. We grabbed a couple of tables and sat for a while before they had to go. After a while most of the others I had been sitting with left as well, so I decided to check the bar on the other side of the hotel to see what was going on. In the lobby, I found Steve and Jim again, and we ended up talking for quite a long time with several people, including Tom Cohen of Marvel Films, and Daniel Merlin Goodbrey, creator of The Last Sane Cowboy and Other Stories.
The hour got late, but I couldn't rest without pizza for some reason, so I headed back into the Gaslamp and got a couple of slices--just what I needed to cap off the evening.

Sunday

Everything that was said incorrectly about Saturday was true of Sunday. It was insane. People everywhere. The day was short and flew by. I did attend the one single panel at the show the whole weekend, and that was the CBLDF live art jam/auction. I spent most of the remainder of the day trying to squeeze those last few back issues out of the retailers and checking on sketches. At the very last minute, I finally got my sketchbook back from the Hero Initiative, with a great sketch by Darwyn Cooke in it. J.G. Jones somehow managed to squeeze my sketch request in at the last second, and Chris Moreno was doing two sketches simultaneously, trying to get to all his requests. It took right up until the last minute, but all of them did beautiful work, and were so kind and fun to talk with. I said my goodbyes to Andie at J.G. Jones' booth and headed out again to get cleaned up for dinner. After dinner and a stop at Ghirardelli's to pick up a gift, I returned to the Hyatt, where I once again found Steve and Jim, and was introduced to Molly, who edits Athena Voltaire. We spent the night trading stories about the con and about writing for comics and films. As they left, Dave Wachter, one of the creators of Scar Tissue and I sat down and talked about all sorts of things for an hour or so before I headed off for some sleep before Monday's drive home.

That was the convention in total. I had a fantastic time. I was very happy to meet and talk with everyone, and greatly look forward to doing so again!

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