Tuesday, July 31, 2007

After the Con

Well, that went pretty much as I expected.

Comic-Con International in San Diego was a tightly packed pressure cooker of crowds, noise and fun. Compared to the past two years, my impression was that the mob was a little less unruly, perhaps because convention organizers stopped selling tickets and advertised the fact that particular days were sold out. We had no trouble getting our badges. In terms of organization and crowd control, Con organizers seem to have learned from past difficulties. Still, 120,000 people in one place is a bunch no matter how you slice 'em.

A short movie I shot on Saturday, the busiest day, panning the convention floor from the mezzanine. Booths are downstairs, several simultaneous panels are going on upstairs. It's all more than anyone could possibly absorb.

People-watching is a terrific sport at Comic-Con. We criticize TV newscasts and other media for only focusing on the outlandishly costumed, complaining that the weirdos don't represent the normal level-headed comics fans like us, but in fact we're just as bad. People in good costumes drew conferees who couldn't wait to take their pictures, and if they got together with a few friends--like the Batman-Robin-Catwoman trifecta or a gaggle of Star Wars Stormtroopers--they could stop traffic for 20 yards. Usually in the worst possible spot.

Galactic bounty hunters come in all sizes.

Klingon on a cell phone. "Can you hear me now, P'takh?"

All in all, my general thoughts on Comic-Con were well summarized by Mark Evanier, who moderated approximately 153 panels and has been attending the event since it began. In his blog Mark wrote: I sometimes think that anyone can have a great time at that convention if they'll only do a little advance planning and make the effort to find the convention they want to attend. There are a lot of conventions occurring simultaneously in that hall, ranging in intensity from the high-tech, high-pressure trade show located where the toy and videogame companies are situated, all the way down to the friendly and creative low-tech con in and around Artists' Alley. What interests you is probably in there somewhere but you have to go looking for it. It won't find you.
I found my convention.
The Eisner Awards were long, more than three hours, but the ceremony moved along most of the time. My sister Elisabeth ("Kid Sis") came and it was great to see her. I thought most of the presenters did a commendable job. Actor/comedian Brian Posehn was very funny, as were Ben Garant and Tom Lennon from "Reno: 911." Garant and Lennon noted with surprise that no Eisner Award winners had yet thanked God for their victories. That became a running gag after they left the stage, as a couple of winners thanked God sarcastically and Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese) appeared to do so sincerely. The evening's other running gag involved trophy presenter and co-host Jane Wiedlin, guitarist for the Go-Gos. Ms. Wiedlin is an attractive woman whose responsibilities included herding winners off the right side of the stage to have their photos taken; after a while, the winners deduced they could get a nice embrace from her if they pretended to walk off in the wrong direction. My two categories were near the end of the evening and I had the pleasure of hearing Neil Gaiman mispronounce my name twice. Then I lost and slumped back to my hotel to silently weep myself to sleep.

Paul Dini and Mark Evanier presenting Eisner Awards, with Jane Wiedlin to the left. It may be hard to see at this resolution but the award second from the right was missing its spinning globe. Unbearable suspense built through evening as everyone wondered who would win the broken trophy. As I recall, it went to comic book artist Paul Pope (I assume Comic-Con will get him a new one, although personally I'd be tempted to keep the broken one).

My book signing on Saturday didn't draw a big crowd. However, quality more than compensated for quantity. People who've read and appreciated Mom's Cancer enough to seek me out at a convention are invariably the nicest people I've met. Almost every conversation touches me in some way and reminds me why I wrote the book. The people staffing the Abrams booth told me they got similar reactions even when I wasn't there. It's hugely gratifying.

Signing books, with my editor Charlie Kochman and his girlfriend Rachel (left) and Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney and his wife Julie (right).

In addition, I met and answered a few questions for a master's candidate at Northwestern University doing a thesis on the form and aesthetics of graphic memoirs, including mine. I saw some of his analysis and it's quite academic and literary, not at all "fanboyish," and I'm sure we'll follow up with each other later. It's a treat to talk to someone who takes the medium seriously, not to mention flattering to be considered worth studying.

Nice People
[Fair Warning: all of the people I mention below can be described as "very nice." Some even as "extraordinarily nice." This is my honest appraisal of their character; I am not naturally a pollyanna and would tell you if they were jerks--or, more likely, not mention them at all. (So if I met you at Comic-Con and don't mention you below, assume you were a jerk.)]

Editor Charlie took a small party of us to dinner Friday night before the Eisners, including my friend and bestselling author (I never get tired of writing that) Jeff Kinney. Jeff's Diary of a Wimpy Kid has spent 14 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List for Children's Chapter Books; I believe it's currently #2. I met Jeff's wife Julie, and he and I sat at one end of the table talking shop and saying catty things about the Bestseller List's #1. As I probably said too often, if all of the success and opportunities coming Jeff's way had happened to anyone else, I'd be jealous. Knowing him, I can only be happy for him. Jeff and Julie also came to the Eisner Awards and sat through the entire ordeal even though they didn't have to. That's loyalty. Or something.

Other Abrams authors I spent a few minutes with were Brom, whom I got to know when my book was released in New York and whose new book, The Devil's Rose, is packed with his lush and disturbing paintings, and Lela Lee, creator of the Angry Little Girls series, which I understand has an enormous fanbase. Both good people.

Before the convention, I made a list of the people I wanted to find. Top of the list was Otis Frampton, creator of the "Oddly Normal" series published by Viper Comics. Otis is a great guy and we finally had a chance to talk, in contrast to last year when we said a quick Hello expecting to meet up again and never did. I met Otis's wife Leigh, whom he married in Japan over Christmas. Leigh is terrific. Like many spouses, she doesn't quite share her partner's passion for this comics universe, but plunges in fully to provide all the support she can regardless. I grok.

Me with Otis and Leigh. The critter on Leigh's head is one of Otis's characters, Oopie, which Leigh sewed days before the Con and wore for four days straight. That's love.

Second on my list were Raina Telgemeier and Dave Roman, also married (to each other) since the last time I saw them. I found Raina first and had a nice long talk with her about her work on "The Baby-Sitters Club" graphic adaptations and new projects we're both contemplating, and briefly caught up with Dave later. Dave and Raina also both did stories for the latest Flight 4 anthology. Raina didn't believe I'd actually made a list that had her name on it until I pulled it out and showed it to her; then I think she became a bit spooked. Nicest people in the world, buy their stuff so they can keep doing it.

With Raina

I had a long and very good talk with Michael Jantze, creator of the formerly syndicated comic strip "The Norm," who lives in my part of the country. He'd read Mom's Cancer and, like many readers, found ways in which it related all too well to his life. I was very pleased to discover that merely by virtue of being on his cartoonists e-mailing list I am considered a member of the Northern California division of the National Cartoonists Society ("just Northern California," he was quick to point out). I thanked him and said that as an antisocial loner I probably wouldn't be showing up to too many functions; he pointed out that I'd pretty much just defined the word "cartoonist." Just thinking about it makes me misty.

With Michael Jantze

I've met "Luann" cartoonist Greg Evans a few times before, a fact I reminded him of when I reintroduced myself to him as he manned the National Cartoonists Society booth. He's always very nice about it. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: "I actually met you at the Schulz Museum recently, and at the Eisner Awards a couple of years ago."

Mr. Evans: "Oh!"

"Yeah. In fact, I was nominated for two Eisner Awards last night but I didn't win."

"I'm sorry."

"My strategy is to keep introducing myself to you everytime I see you until you finally remember me."

"Well, now I'll remember you as 'that Loser Guy.'"

In print that looks like kind of a nasty comeback, but in person--said dryly with a sly smile on his lips--it was hilarious.

Greg Evans (in green shirt) at the NCS booth.
I swear this photo was in focus when I took it.

I saw some amazing original art and almost bought a couple of pieces in my price range. It was tempting. However, I was stopped by my "rule" that I only acquire artwork directly from artists with whom I've made some personal connection. I've decided that rule doesn't apply to deceased artists and almost picked up a Walt Kelly "Pogo," but that's a slippery and potentially expensive slope indeed. In the end I came home with nothing but some free posters I'll never post, a free t-shirt I'll never wear advertising a movie I'll never see, and four art pens that cost me $10. In point of fact, aside from a few pieces of art and a nearly three-foot-long $1200 USS Enterprise, I didn't see anything I really wanted. No regrets.

Someday, my lovely, you will be mine.

That's about it. My wife and I managed to escape the convention center and spend some time doing other things in San Diego, one of our favorite cities. We didn't rent a car and had no regrets about that, either. Between the city's trolleys and bus system, we got everywhere we wanted to go.

The next notable event on my radar is the Harvey Awards, to be presented at the Baltimore Comic-Con on September 8. Mom's Cancer is nominated in three categories. I haven't made any reservations yet, but I intend to attend. I've got an almost-new acceptance speech all ready to go.

1 comment:

Gare_NY said...

Good luck at the Harvey's, Brian!