Monday, July 24, 2006

Post Post 2: Comic-Con People

This is my second post about my long weekend at the San Diego Comic-Con. You'd do best to start with the first one and then come back here, I think.

I am always impressed by how nice people in the comics business are. I know there are also prima donnas and raging egos, maybe more than you'd find among the general population, but the pros I meet--who tend to be either friends of friends or people whose work I respect--have been warm, gracious, and generous with their time. I can't think of an exception.

The first person I sought out when I arrived for Preview Night on Wednesday was Otis Frampton. Otis created the "Oddly Normal" character for a series of Viper Comics books and has done hundreds of officially authorized sketch cards (like cartoon trading cards) of characters from Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Marvel Comics. He's a great guy with a very clean, stylized line I like very much. Unfortunately, we only had a few minutes to catch up before he had to get back to working his table.

Raina Telgemeier and Dave Roman are two very good cartoonists engaged to marry each other later this year. The comic they drew together describing their courtship and engagement is one of the warmest, least cynical things I've ever read. I'll write a bit more about Raina in the next post, but for now suffice to say that I had a couple of occasions to chat with them both and consider those moments a highlight of my Con.

Jeff Kinney spent eight years developing his "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" webcomic, which Editor Charlie recently acquired for Abrams. In other words, he's almost exactly where I was about a year and a half ago. We'd corresponded a couple of times and finally had a chance to meet during the Con, where we sat on the floor next to a trash can surrounded by screaming kids while I spilled my guts. I hoped to paint a clear and honest picture of the months awaiting him; judging by his tearful anguished sobs I succeeded. I was happy to provide whatever small experience-based advice I could and I really hope his book is a huge success. If people bought books based on the author's niceness, Jeff would be J.K. Rowling.

Jeff Kinney, Charlie Kochman, and me

Without Jerry Robinson, Batman wouldn't have had either Robin or the Joker, at least as we know them today. Along with Bob Kane and Bill Finger (arguments still rage about how much credit each deserves), Robinson created Batman and his world. I actually met Mr. Robinson last year, but only briefly at his Artists Alley table, long enough to say hello and thank him for his work. At this year's Eisner Awards, I got a proper introduction from Charlie and had a very nice conversation with him.

With Jerry Robinson

I'd also met Irwin Hasen before, at my book launch party in New York in February, and had a chance to reconnect with him last weekend. Mr. Hasen is another industry giant, drawing the original Flash, Green Lantern, and Justice Society of America in the 1940s and later starting the comic strip Dondi. I've got a short story about Mr. Hasen that, like Raina, will wait for the next installment.

Mark Evanier has had a long career in comics and show business, working as an assistant to Jack Kirby, a writer/producer on Welcome Back Kotter and dozens of other programs and specials, producer of the Garfield animated series, co-creator of "Groo the Wanderer," and much more. He's also a terrific, prolific blogger whose News From Me is a daily stop of mine. Mark was sitting with Jerry Robinson at the Eisners when Charlie introduced me to both, and I was floored when Mark said that not only had he read and liked my book, but that he'd lost his only copy by lending it to a friend. I think about the sweetest words a writer can hear is that someone liked your work enough to give it to a friend. I'll be sending Mark an inscribed replacement as soon as I can.

Brian Walker is the son of cartoonist Mort Walker, a writer for Beetle Bailey, and a respected comics historian in his own right. As with Mr. Hasen, I'd met Brian in New York and had a brief conversation with him there. I certainly had no reason to expect him to remember me when I approached him after the NCS panel at Comic-Con, but he did. He added that he'd recently spoken to a group about webcomics and used me and Mom's Cancer as an example of one avenue of success available through the medium. I was both astonished and grateful, though I think Brian may need to recalibrate his definition of "success."

Standing beside Brian after the NCS panel was Jay Kennedy. Mr. Kennedy ("call me Jay") is the comics editor for King Features Syndicate, the company that distributes comic strips like Blondie, Beetle Bailey, Popeye, Family Circus, Zits, Sally Forth, Bizarro, and a bajillion others throughout the known world. Although I haven't done so for several years, for a long period of my life I regularly sent comic strip proposals to King Features and the other syndicates. Jay was one of the first to send me anything other than a standard rejection letter. Later, when I submitted an idea he kind of liked, he spent quite a bit of time providing detailed feedback about what worked, what didn't, what he wanted to see more of, etc. That idea eventually died but ever since I've hoped to have the opportunity to thank him in person for his encouragement and unique approach to new talent. So I was stunned and frankly incredulous when Jay looked at my name tag, said he thought Mom's Cancer was great, and added that he remembered my work and liked it very much.

I can't stress too strongly that I'm not being falsely modest or disingenuous when I say I'm surprised that people like Mark Evanier and Jay Kennedy know my work. I had absolutely no expectation that they would. Zero. It never entered my mind. Which is why I froze, stammered, and said stupid things when they informed me otherwise. Now they'll remember me as that babbling idiot who drooled on their shoes.

And now....

Pictures of People I Didn't Meet But Got Close Enough to to Take Their Picture

John DeLancie, "Q" on Star Trek. I actually had a brief conversation with him but he lost interest quickly. I could tell we were done when his gaze moved past me...not onto anyone else in line (there was no line), but at a molecule of air five feet beyond me that was apparently more fascinating than I was.

Erin Gray (from Buck Rogers) and Nichelle Nichols (if I need to explain, get off of my blog). Ms. Nichols looked quite wonderful, while Ms. Gray very much reminded me why I would have killed a hobo for her if she'd asked me to back in 1980 or so.

Also seen up close and personal: Richard Hatch (from the real Battlestar Galactica), who should be gently told that gym shorts and a sleeveless sweatshirt stopped being a good look for him a while ago. Greg Evans (Luann), still sporting the best head of hair in cartooning. Richard Anderson, the Six-Million-Dollar Man's Oscar Goldman, looking very distinguished and dapper but hot and bored. Marc Singer, the Beastmaster, who left me with no particular impression. Plus, a gorgeous six-foot-four Supergirl who might have been a guy but at the moment I didn't care.

Plus all these people:

If that's you in there, drop me a line and let me know.


ronnie said...

Oh, my God, Erin Gray and Nichelle Nichols?

I like Erin Gray, but I love Nichelle Nichols so much I don't even know where to begin. She was such a role model for me when I was a kid! I idolized the cast of the original Star Trek - it was in repeats on our only tv station, my mother was a huge fan, and we watched it while eating dinner every single night - and I can't tell you how important this smart, strong woman playing an important role as a key part of a crackerjack team was for me as a little girl.

And it's nice to see that she still is a role model, now that I am a "Woman of a Certain Age" and she is, too - and she looks freaking fabulous.

Thanks for the picture!


D.D.Degg said...

Regarding the picture of you and
Jerry Robinson - are those halos?

Brian Fies said...

Ronnie, my impression of Nichelle Nichols (based on two minutes of first-person observation and forty years of fantasizing) is that she is a radiant force of nature. I think you chose your role model well.

DD, those are indeed halos. Unfortunately, they're actually hovering over the heads of other people behind Mr. Robinson and me. I think one of them was Frank Miller.

Kid Sis said...

Yup. Supergirl was a guy.