I'm back home from The Big One, the San Diego Comic-Con International 2006, hotter and more hectic than I remember from 2005. The event had a different feel for me this year. Mostly, I didn't have to fret about whether I was going to win an Eisner Award, although it was still very much a working vacation for me. My three panels went well, I think, and I met some great readers during two hours of signing books at the Abrams booth. I also felt like I had a few more friends and was a little more at home.
This entry had the potential to be either the longest blog post in the storied history of blogging or not. I decided "not." This'll be a quick overview, followed soon by posts focusing on People I Met, Stuff I Got, and maybe more (when I write those entries, I'll add links from here).
Overview: Fantastic. As I was a special guest this year, Guest Coordinator Sue Lord and her staff went to great effort to smooth my path and make me feel welcome. After my wife, girls, and two of our girls' friends flew in Wednesday, we were met in the hotel lobby by Vicki (don't remember if she spells it with an "i" or "y") who helped us check in and had our Con badges waiting for us, along with a Big Bag O' Swag: Comic-Con mugs, chocolates, cookies, stationery, first-aid kit, tissues, water bottles--an enviable trove. I learned early the next day that Sue had also assigned volunteers to be at my disposal, ferrying me wherever I wanted to go, finding whatever I asked for, and fulfilling my every wish. My first request was that they take the weekend off and leave me alone because they were creeping me out. And yet they persevered, which turned out to be a good thing later. My thanks especially to Jerry, a great guy who more than once "coincidentally" emerged from a shadow or popped out from behind a pillar to appear just when I needed him. In fact, I think I hear him in my kitchen now, preparing me a mid-evening snack.
Thursday was my big work day, with a 2 p.m. book signing, 5 p.m. Spotlight Panel, and 6 p.m. Webcomics panel. I find that my signings in comics-related venues aren't big draws. Although Mom's Cancer is a comic, I don't think this is precisely my audience. However, what I lack in quantity I recoup in quality. I met at least a dozen people this weekend who reminded me exactly why I wrote Mom's Cancer and made me very glad I did. I'm grateful to them. Wolverine has more readers but I wouldn't trade.
I think my Spotlight Panel went fine. I'd never done a full dress rehearsal with my PowerPoint presentation but figured it would run long, which it did. I had to rush toward the end but managed to finish and hit all the good stuff. Nurse Sis and Kid Sis both attended, which was fantastic. My favorite moment: a Comic-Con staffer standing at the back of the room held up a "15 Minutes Left" sign. I caught the staffer's eye and unthinkingly said "Thank you" to her for the time cue. The audience must have figured I'd abruptly finished my talk in mid-thought and immediately began applauding. I felt a little apologetic explaining that I wasn't quite done yet. The other parts of my talk that I intended to be funny seemed to be, the serious parts seemed likewise well received, and I think I hit a nice balance. I took a few questions, then had to immediately excuse myself to run 50 feet down the hall to my second panel on "Developing Your Webcomic."
Me in the Spotlight, wielding a laser pointer--usually a mistake.
I think this also went well, and frankly turned out to be more focused than I expected. We talked a lot about the freedom the Web provides, the promise of Internet cartooning versus how it's actually applied, each of our worst mistakes/best advice, etc. Moderator Bill Barnes from "Unshelved" did a good job keeping things moving, and about half the panel was turned over to audience questions. I don't know what the audience got out of it but I enjoyed participating.
Friday we went to the Zoo. Then I went to the Eisner Awards. Since this was more or less a whim on my part, I was surprised to be greeted at the door by Vicki, who tut-tutted that she had a seat reserved for me at Table 23. I protested; I really just wanted to sit in the audience. I wasn't dressed for an awards show (although I had showered after the Zoo visit, thank goodness) and it's a lot easier to sneak out that way. Vicki insisted, and I was tackled by my editor, Charlie Kochman, who also insisted and sat me down next to one of his best and oldest friends, Rob Simpson, an editor for Dark Horse Comics. Charlie has good taste in friends and I really enjoyed talking with Rob. I met some people (more later) and sat five feet from Frank Miller and 10 feet from Jim Steranko (didn't meet them; just basked in the incandescence of their greatness). I was also tremendously entertained by a belligerent drunk who let his opinion be heard on every nominee and especially the winners he found undeserving. The show really did turn out to be much better from the tables.
Saturday began with a 90-minute panel on the question "What is Mainstream?" Again, I thought this moved right along and was surprisingly focused. The basic thrust of the discussion was whether comics are moving into mainstream culture, how that is happening, how we could generate more of it, etc., but there was plenty of digression. Eight panelists made for a big group, but we brought an interesting diversity of perspective and experience to the discussion. It was a pretty free-wheeling but smart conversation, I thought. More good questions. Worth everyone's time, I hope.
Moderator Chris Brandt herded (L to R) Abrams' Charles Kochman (that's right, my Editor Charlie), Bryce Coleman (Tokyopop), me, Landry Walker and Eric Jones (Kid Gravity, Super Scary Monster Show, Disney digests), Linda Medley (Castle Waiting; I also did a panel with her at San Francisco's Alternative Press Expo), Andy Runton (Owly, which won an Eisner Award the previous day), and Batton Lash (Supernatural Law).
Another signing Saturday afternoon, with plenty of free time Thursday through Saturday for my own fannish ogling and shopping. I attended several panels I was interested in, among the best a panel put on by the National Cartoonists Society (NCS) about syndicated comic strips. I met some people (more later, I said!). It was a very good talk, little I hadn't really heard before, no big spoilers, but it carried a lot of weight coming from the mouths of pros. They talked a bit about their different approaches to the job and how their individual problem-solving process works. And some of these guys are pretty quick and funny.
Moderator Fred Bronson with NCS panelists Brian Walker (Beetle Bailey), Vic Lee (Pardon My Planet), Michael Jantze (The Norm), Dan Piraro (Bizarro), Jeff "Not Little Jeffy Anymore" Keane (Family Circus), and Andrew Feinstein (Girls and Sports).
That photo's mostly for my friends on the newsgroup rec.arts.comics.strips. They actually wanted a picture of the NCS booth at the Con, which I visited but didn't photograph. This is the best I can do, gang. Apologies for the quality of the photos in general, but they keep those rooms surprisingly dark to help out the video projectors.