The annual pilgrimage, by a caravan of us devout dorks, to COMIC CON (DorkWorld Mecca) has come and gone… and, as always, I had a lot of fun communing with "my people".
Rhode and I drove down to San Diego on Tuesday in a heavily laden car, tailed closely by Bosco and Steve (looking like assassins in their huge, rented pimp-wagon) who kept an eye on our back wheels, which were splayed cartoonishly outwards by the load of product. (The lads also escorted us homeward on the following Monday; car weighed down with Rhode's cash this time, breaking the trip back with the now traditional majestic meat meal at HARRIS RANCH Steak house on I-5).
Location, Location, Location
This year Abismo/Nerve Bomb had a fantastic booth location (unlike many of our friends) and we put a lot of effort into our display and were very happy with the result, even though we had to deal with Jumpsuit-envy. Most years, I experience some kind of Snafu with either a print deadline, my hotel reservation, or a shipment nightmare… This year all went smoothly at my end. Rhode schooled me in how to be philosopical when confronted by life's mishaps, not only when he graciously went along with the jumpsuit thing (my idea) but also when the mis-direction of several boxes of his books (sent to his home by mistake, rather than the con) made him less upset than I became after paying for two Danish pastries, and later discovered only one in the paper bag when I returned to our booth.
Verilly, Rhode is a classy dude.
Speaking of class, we were BOTH treated to a sneak peek of the awesome first 40 pages of the DEATH DAY graphic novel by the Mighty Sam Hiti, who was our hotel roomie this year. I don't want to give anything away about the book except to say that this project is very different to Tiempos Finales and is even more ambitious. I was very happy to be part of the inner circle; the rest of you will just have to wait a while to see this book. Hah!
Comic con or Media con?
The convention floor was arranged such that I rarely saw exhibitor friends and whenever we met, the discussion was about the layout of the con itself rather than the latest inspiring book, or new talent we had discovered. In recent years there has been a steady growth of big glitzy booths, but this is the first year that it really irked me. Previously, the stuff I was interested in was concentrated in a few areas and was easy to browse during a quick break. This time around, most of the things I wanted to see were sprinkled from one end of the show to the other, hidden away in hard to find nooks and crannies between the massive displays of huge corporate booths…. Artists trying to show their work were placed right in the maw of the media madness zone, consequently I didn't get to see much of what I was looking for.
Some people said Comic Con is now too big. Art and Comics are being overwhelmed by other things; booths promoting TV shows, Toys, Movies, Games and so forth. I understand why media-producers want booths at Comic Con; the most elaborate and expensive booth, brimming with booth-babes, blaring music and flashing monitors, is substantially cheaper than even the cheapest advertising campaign. They get to broadcast their content to over a hundred thousand pairs of eyeballs over the course of a week, which they hope will then translate into free BUZZ that will expand in the blogosphere. But I can't figure out why the general public pays to see what are essentially huge advertisements, but there you have it, they do. Judging from the density of the crowds in the media promotions areas the general public is very interested in what they have to offer.
Personally, I don't mind if Comic Con becomes a general pop-culture media supermarket, but in that case "the product" should be organized so that you can find what you are looking for. I heard rumours that in future the artists alley, small press and art booths may be moved upstairs, leaving the main hall exclusively available to the three-ring media circus. Some artists were annoyed by that idea but I would welcome it, especially if you could buy a ticket to either (a) both areas or, if you preferred, (b) only one or the other. The whole thing could be called MEDIA CON and only the upstairs part; that actually deals with comics, could be called COMIC-con. Others felt that it might be time to create an entirely NEW con, where the focus would be brought back onto artwork, artists, writers and creators. We then wondered why there are no cons after the middle of the year on the west coast and why there isn't one in LA, a city with perhaps the densest concentration of cartoonists… Maybe its is time for a Fall convention located in LA, called CREATOR-con or CONTENT-Con (or simply TOON con)?
Anyway, that's enough of my rambling… It's time to talk about the good stuff: Comics, and the costumed and pear-shaped people who consume them!
I picked up MOST of the stuff on my shopping list (the balance to be procured forthwith at shops here and there) managing to score a few great sketches in my copy of Out of Picture from my sometime Co-workers Daniel Munoz Lopez and Robert Mckenzie. In addition to the stuff I had planned to buy ahead of time I got a copy of Chris Sanders' new sketchbook and pretty much every comic ever drawn by Micheal Aushenker.
Rhode and I were visited by a woman representing a booth full of Convention models who suggested that we contact her if we need any "Booth Babes". I pointed out that in our nifty high-waisted jumpsuits we were our own booth babes this year, and if that she had the need for any "booth dorks" in future, she knew who to contact. As for costumed beauties, I saw the most beautiful Wonder Woman I've ever seen at the con (and I've seen a few, of all shapes and sizes over the years), a very pretty Alice in Wonderland and (brace yourself for a creepy admission) the life sized Princess Leia mannequin in the Gentle Giant booth was exerting a strange attraction on me as well…
Some other great costumes were the two guys painted in shades of grey who were MARV and KEVIN from Sin City, a teeny Supergirl with a huge presence, a great Galactus, a pretty Powergirl and the Robot Caveman guy. I saw a near perfect Chewbacca and, in a strangely disturbing sight, I saw another low-rent Chewie with his head off smoking a ciggie. This year I saw more great costumes on the floor than at the Masquerade, though dancing ninja lady was a crowd pleasing event-closer.
Got any Freebies?
We saw a little camera crew (wearing name tags identifying the production company of a famous media mogul) wandering by the booths focussing their camera on the covers of various books, one after the other, as someone read the titles into a microphone. I pictured the mogul himself, sitting in a hot tub, chomping on a cigar while he watched a live feed, and drank in the pop culture cocktail from afar… Others were more direct; both small children and media folk are always hot for free comics and come by blatantly asking for them. I tend to oblige, as long as the freebie-hunter is less than 4 feet tall. The panhandling is less cute from people who got in for free and are on an expense account (if they are as important as they say they are, anyway). It especially sucks giving a free comic book to a reviewer who then tells everyone on the internet how dumb he thinks my comic is…
Ah well, that's SHOWBIZNISS.
Happily, a reviewer who has actually written some NICE things about my silly comics, Michael May, stopped by to say hello in person and it was a pleasure to meet him even if only briefly. Meeting people at the booth is one of my favourite things about Cons and this year was no different, especially as I wasn't getting about much myself. Talented brothers Mike and Matt Cossin from Las Vegas, came by and showed me their very impressive comics work for Humanoids. I met Sonny Liew Whos Malinky Robot comic I have admired for a while, and I had a long chat with Nikos Koutsis, who had come all the way from Greece to attend, about the comics biz in America and Europe the different tastes and so on. Two animation/storyboarder ladies from Vancouver bought some stuff and chatted a bit.
This year I was selling sketches, so thanks to those people who bought some: Dan Bois, Russell Vossler (who usually picks up some of my stuff), Irma and Rafa Navarro. Speaking of sketching, I forgot to attend the Drawing Board Sketch session at the Marriot this year (after coming out of the Masquerade we were so dazed that we weren't thinking straight) consequently I didnt see as many Drawing Boarders as I would have liked…
While wandering through the maze of media noise looking for some booth (which I never located) I stumbled upon old pal and mega-talent Cam de Leon, looking very forlorn in his overshadowed booth. He later visited our booth and we swapped our legal war-stories…
The always entertaining Kirk Thatcher came by to catch his breath. It is surely proof of how draining Comic-Con can be that even Kirk looked beat down for a moment on Saturday, until the B-Minus crew hooked him up with a Tecate and we gave him somewhere to sit and drink it. He paid us back for the use of a chair by scaring away our customers with his smart remarks but redeemed himself by treating us to his absolutely perfect GREEDO impression. Hilarious. On the Thursday night I had an enjoyable dinner with both Kirk and my dear chums John Stevenson and Carol Hughes, who I see less of now that they live in LA.
In addtion to con-going pals from the Bay Area (such as the Ghostbots, the E-Ville Press folk, Maverixes, and other cronies) who I often see at home, I usually meet a few friends and ex co-workers I haven't seen in a while at Comic con. Sometimes it is the only place I DO get to see them. This year Dave Pryor showed us all his new 2 Minute music video he has been making in his spare time. Colossal Pictures compadres Sam Register, and later Sue Crossley also put in much welcome appearances. I was happy to see (briefly) Aaron Blecha, formerly of the Bay Area but now based in London.
Rhode's been doing cons much longer than I have, and he has many regular visitors who I enjoy meeting each time we do San Diego. Edward Artinian and his charming family visited, and I finally got to meet El Gato's Micheal Aushenker after hearing about him for years. He led us all to a part of town most of us hadn't visited before, and to a trendy Sushi restaurant/dance Club where we were by far the ugliest people in the room. After a tasty meal he then showed us how to sashay up to the ladies on the dance floor.
Ted Mathot demonstrated the "never say die" attitude that enabled him to pump out over 160 pages of comics since last Comic Con (in addition to his strenuous day job) when he determinedly led a tired posse of us through town on Sunday night, trying to find a pub that hadn't already closed. Some of us needed to debate the Short Storm/Tall Wolverine thing and Sam needed to wash the broken glass (aquired at "dinner") out of his mouth.
Rhode's childhood pal Jeff, and his wife Lovelyn, often visited Abismo/NerveBomb HQ, as they have in years past, and they brought us sandwiches and burritos a few days in a row. We had an obscenely huge breakfast with them before we left San Diego on Monday morning. The servings at HASH HOUSE Au Go Go are criminally huge, such that not even we dedicated starch munchers can get through them, a fact proven when Jeff (a betting man) threw a twenty dollar gauntlet on the table and flat out challenged all present to try.
Me: STILL didn't hook up with a Vampirella model (next year for sure, though).
Rhode: Not buying the Unicorn VS Werewolf t-shirt.
Don't take my word for it; here are some more CON reports: Ted Mathot, Javier Hernandez (including a great photo of JAV chilling with GALACTUS), Sho Murase, the Out of Picture crew, Lyla Warren's PHOTO gallery (I grabbed a few, thanks Lyla!) and the mighty Ronaldo. Also, don't forget to check out Flickr, the AFTERMATH thread at the Drawing board, and YouTube. Still want more? Bosco has some GREAT pix online: gallery1, gallery2, gallery3, gallery4
And finally, Rhode and I have some cameo appearances in the magnificent Hel on Ice video, produced by the B-MINUS crew.
See you next year, definitely at Comic Con (we paid already) and who knows… maybe even at Creator Con…