Monday, April 25, 2011

The Second Comic-Conmandment: Thou Shalt Not Be Creepy

I'm a hugger. I love hugs. Men, women, friends, strangers, doesn't matter. Hugs rock. If you see me at a convention, and you've followed some basic hygiene in the previous day or so, hugs will always be available upon request. All you have to do is ask.

That said, I will not be availing myself of the numerous offers of "Free Hugs" to be found around comic convention floors. When I look around at those making this offer, they mostly seem to be teenagers, and I get the impression that the offer really only extends to other teenagers. Still, every year I see a fifty year-old man walk up to a fourteen year-old girl and wrap her up in a lengthy bear hug. And then I feel the need to take a shower. Thus the hugs-only-upon-request policy.

It's not the age difference that's at issue here. Should a teenager ask me for a hug, a hug they shall receive. The issue is the imbalance of power in that brief relationship. The adult taking advantage of the free hug puts the teenager on the spot, basically forcing them to choose between either accepting a hug they might not otherwise welcome, or shunning the hugger, thus taking some of the fun illusion of freedom and acceptance away from their open offer of affection. It's up to us, as adults, to seriously consider the position in which we put kids in this situation. An easy rule of thumb for adults: if you don't already know a youngster well enough to ask for a hug, leave them alone.

Sadly, the “Free Hugs” kids aren’t the only ones who suffer from creepy behavior by con attendees. Most comic convention floors feature dozens and dozens of cosplayers and booth models. Regardless of their reasons for dressing up, regardless of whether they’re being paid or not, regardless of the clothing they wear (or lack thereof) or how they may act while "in character," inside the costume is a person who deserves the same respect that you should afford to anyone else. All too often I hear post-con horror stories of supposed fans groping booth models and cosplayers, or speaking to them in overly suggestive, if not downright lewd terms. This needs to stop. Now. Have the same consideration and caring for the feelings of your fellow fans that you would for your dearest relatives, and treat them with that same degree of manners and civility.

Comic con attendees deserve a fun, safe environment. As fellow attendees, it’s our responsibility to behave properly, and assure that environment exists for everyone.

This is the second of The Ten Comic-Conmandments series. Check back here or follow me on Twitter to read future entries.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The First Comic-Conmandment: Honor Thine Elders

Comic conventions, particularly larger ones, often become a mad dash from event to event, signing to signing, panel to panel.  Hours can be spent in lines hoping for a sketch from the hot artist of the day or an autograph from the star of a fan-favorite film.  In this insane shuffle, you might take for granted some of the creators or celebrities from years past, and miss the opportunity to say hello and thank you to some of the most influential men and women to work in comics and film.  Do not make this mistake, as I once did.

At Comic-Con International in 2004, while trying to work up the nerve to give my first writing sample to Diana Schutz, I spent some time wandering around the Dark Horse booth.  Lines snaked all around, some for creators, some to purchase books, some for those famous large, yellow bags.  As I stood by the information desk, an older gentleman in a tan suit stopped nearby.  I looked at his badge, and was surprised to find that it was Will Eisner, there to promote the "Will Eisner Sketchbook."  At the time, I knew the name Will Eisner, but I hadn't read very much of his work.  I decided not to say anything to him.  Later that evening, I watched as he spoke at the awards ceremony named in his honor and helped give out the trophies.  I decided that I would read as much of his material as I could find, and the next time I had the opportunity, I would thank him for his work.  I never had the chance.  A little more than five months later, he was gone.  To this day, I regret that missed opportunity.

On the other hand, I can think of a number of creators and celebrities whom I've taken the time to talk with, and in every case, the experience has been wonderful.  Irwin Hasen, Sam Glanzmann, and Dick Ayers are just a few names that come to mind.  Each of them had wonderful stories to tell, and were more than happy to chat.  Still, one name will always stand above the others:  Gene Colan.  Iron Man being my favorite Marvel character, I had been a fan of Gene Colan's artwork since my teenage years.  At the same convention where I failed to speak to Will Eisner, I did take advantage of the opportunity to meet Gene.  Early on opening day, I stopped by his table to say hello, look at his original art pages, and arrange for a sketch of another favorite character, The Spectre.  Having a loving and devoted fan base, Gene's table was swamped, and he didn't have time to talk.  Late on Saturday afternoon of the con, having decided to pretty much call it a day, I thought I'd take one more pass through artist's alley.  Gene was there, and wasn't overrun by fans, so I went over to his table again.  I expressed my enjoyment of his work, and my admiration for the painting entitled "The Boys" that he had recently completed after decades of work.  Gene received my compliments graciously, and then did something completely unexpected.  Somehow, he turned our conversation to my work in television, and told me of his love for sound work, particularly sound effects.  We spoke for twenty minutes, ending only because the convention floor was closing.  That conversation is a memory I will cherish for as long as I live.

Take advantage of these opportunities when they arise.  The rewards for doing so are as great as the regret you may feel if you don't.

This is the first of The Ten Comic-Conmandments series. Check back here or follow me on Twitter to read future entries.