It's been a couple of weeks since the 2007 ComicCon, and I'm just now getting around to writing about it. It's sad, I know. Even more sad is how long and monotonous this recap will inevitably be, so find a comfy chair (a comfy chair!!) and set aside a big block of time...
I ended up having two full days of Con fun this year, thanks to the beneficence of my new friend, Tyler. I had planned to wait until the last minute (as I always do) to buy tickets for Saturday, when I heard that Saturday had already sold out.
Wait...what? Sold out? How could that be?
Apparently, the powers-that-be who run the Con decided to cut down on the over-crowding (I'm not sure if it worked - it still seemed awfully crowded on Saturday), so they placed a much lower limit on the number of tickets available for Saturday. And having no vacation with my current employer (I think I've already complained about this a time or two, so let me just repeat my new mantra: "contracting jobs suck!"), I was seriously bummed that I would have to forego a day's pay to attend the convention, but a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do...
I went to the ComicCon web site and bought a ticket for Friday and then, after complaining about this very turn of events elsewhere online, received a message from a guy named Tyler who I had seen around, but didn't really know very well. Do you realize that nearly every comic book publisher has an online forum of readers discussing anything and everything? Abacus and Dynamite are a couple that I pop into occasionally. Anyway, his message asked if I needed passes to the Con and I figured he meant for days other than Saturday, so I told him that I wished I had heard from him earlier. But, as it turned out, he also had passes for Saturday and was willing to share.
So, to make a painfully long story even longer, I was able to go to the Con on both Friday and Saturday, thanks to Tyler. And it was a whole new experience, as I will explain shortly...
I actually did something I never do this year: I compiled a list from the online Con program of events and checked for panels that I wanted to see (knowing I had a second day to wander the massive show floor) as well as locating the booths of the artists & creators I most hoped to talk to.
I was somewhat disappointed to not see many of the names I had hoped to see on the exhibitor list: Mark Oakley (he never comes anymore, so it wasn't really a surprise), Ryan Woodward (that's two years in a row he's missed), Summertime books (it's Ryan's company and even though he was AWOL last year, there were a few others - Courtney Huddleston and Mike Garcia - there), Mike Kunkel (he was actually wandering the floor and I ran into him at Bobby Rubio's booth, but he wasn't exhibiting), the great Mark Schultz (who actually DID turn out to be there, he just wan't listed by name), Justine Joli (yeah, she's not really a "comic book" industry person, but she definitely adds something to the Con-experience), Dynamite Comics (I actually knew they weren't going to be there, but I still hoped they'd show up anyway - probably a third of the comics on my current reading list are Dynamite books) and Abacus comics (a new company formed from the ashes of Alias comics - the publisher of the wonderful Lullaby series).
And there was even one surprise: Joe Linsner. He has been absent from the San Diego Con for several years now (he goes to all the east coast cons, but stopped coming to San Diego because of the trouble and expense, I think). He's not the same hungry Joe he was in the cons on the 90's (he's definitely not going hungry - the dude has packed on a lot of weight), but he's still somewhat approachable. I remember getting him and Joe Monks to sign my old Cry for Dawn Con-exclusive books back in the day...good times.
So I had a list of exhibitors to see, a Neil Gaiman panel I didn't want to miss and even an autograph session with Jane Wiedlin that I thought would be fun. I was ready.
My first stop of the day was actually just outside of the Convention center: the Blood Mobile (to be drained of a couple gallons of blood - give or take). I missed last year's opportunity to be leeched because they weren't open all four days of the Con, but this year they were there all day, every day so I had no problem getting in. I was leeched, drank some juice and made off with my bag of comics and an unpainted Buffy action figure (exclusive "T1" unpainted "Lessons" Dawn action figure. Limited to 250 pieces - mine was #19).
Sufficiently re-juiced, I was off to the show floor to visit the booths I had noted in the program. Sadly, knowing the "addresses" of the booths, autograph areas, etc isn't really very helpful unless you're looking for one of the standard-numbered booths. And even then, it can mean a trek of a quarter mile to get there. Unfortunately, several of the stops I had "scheduled" were in the non-standard-numbered locations, so I sought out the booths I could easily find first and then wandered around in hopes of finding the others (this is the first time I can remember that I haven't combed the entire show floor, criss-crossing every single row).
First stop (inside the Con): Bobby Rubio (Alcatraz High).
I met Bobby at the con a couple of years ago after hearing from Dirty Dan that his friend from High School had created a comic book and would be at the Con. Bobby's book, Alcatraz High is self-published, so you've never seen it on the shelves of your local comic book store, but you can buy it from him at the Con or get it from his web site. The first three issues are such high quality stuff that it's surprising they're self-published. Bobby has worked for Disney, Nickelodeon, and is currently employed by Pixar - so the guy knows what he's doing. And it shows in the books. Unfortunately, I think the demands of the job have been a little high for the past couple of years because he hasn't been able to publish another issue to rival the first three. He did an issue #3.5 last year and an issue #0 this year, but these books - while still well-illustrated, are smaller and printed on less high quality materials. Regardless, it was great to see and talk to Bobby again. One last thing about Bobby - he will sketch a character in any book you buy from him, which seems to be more and more rare with comic artists these days (the "free" part, especially).
Next stop: Konsequential Studios.
I met Laurie, Kandrix and Jess at 2005's Con (Laurie and Kandrix were married last year) and have looked forward to seeing them again and picking up their latest books each year since then. Their books are also self-published (a comic series called A Monk's Tale). The art is very nice black and white tonal work and their books are all produced with high-quality cardstock covers and heavy paper on the interior pages - there's none of that flimsy crap you get from DC/Marvel here. Jess hasn't been to the Con the last two years due to demands with her schooling (Laurie explained that she has now finished school and will be...doing something else). Laurie is the heart and soul of Konsequential. She's also willing to do a sketch for you, if asked. And her sketches are really super cute. One last thing about A Monk's Tale: The trilogy (7 issues plus an issue #0) is finally complete, so they're going to be soliciting their book through Diamond. A Monk's Tale, previously only available online or at the Con, will be coming to a comic shop near you!
After talking to Laurie and Kandrix for a while, I didn't really have any other booths I was dying to get to (I did have many more listed, but figured I'd get to them eventually) and I went looking for back issues to comics I had missed throughout the year (there are always a few) while I waited for the Neil Gaiman panel to start. I found a few issues I was missing and even found a few issues for books that I thought were dead: Wonderland, Red Star and Arhena Voltaire. The Artist of Wonderland, Sonny Liew, even signed and doodled on the three issues I picked up. Very cool.
With the scheduled start of Neil's panel quickly approaching, I went to see if I could find Jane Wiedlin on my way. I was sure that I knew where she was supposed to be, but I could find no sign of her. So, head hung low with dejection, I headed to Hall 6 to see the Spotlight on Neil Gaiman panel.
I did see Olivia Munn and her co-host (Kevin...something) from Attack of the Show signing autographs. Man, you wouldn't believe how long that line was! I considered waiting in it for about two seconds and then just took a few photos of Olivia from the periphery of the signing.
Hall 6 was big. Real big. But, as big as it was and even ten minutes early, the room was packed. So I looked for a semi-close seat, but ended up sitting very near the back of what appeared to be a 2,000 seat venue. At least I wasn't one of the many who stood along the walls. Luckily, there was a huge video screen and a camera on Neil at all times, so I was able to see him well enough.
Neil was just as brilliant as everyone expected him to be (I heard him speak at the signing for Anansi Boys, so I wasn't surprised by his performance). He had been, apparently, expecting an agenda of topics to speak on or an interview, so he had come completely unprepared, but that didn't stop him from talking for over an hour. He was witty, intelligent, and told stories in person as well as he does in any of his books. Mainly, he spoke about Coraline, Beowulf, Death and a few other movie projects that aren't exactly going anywhere, but he didn't limit his comments to movies. He told stories and talked about his family and was...just Neil.
One of his stories was related to a nickname he picked up from Alan Moore: Scary Trousers. The story came up because a company called Never Wear had a booth selling two Neil t-shirts (an Anansi Boys shirt and the Scary Trousers tee). I thought the Scary Trousers story was great and the graphic on the tee captures Neil so well that I picked one up after right the panel. Unfortunately, it was only a size large (the biggest size available) and, despite the assurances of the girl who sold it to me, has managed to become a bit tighter than I'd like it to be.
After the panel, I returned to the show floor and sought out the other companies on my list. I found, quite by accident, Mark Schultz and picked up Volume 2 of his sketchbook series (beautiful), found Joe Linsner and picked up a hardcover of his latest pinup book (which he did a little drawing inside of) and a couple of smaller con-exclusive sketchbooks. I visited the Star Wars area, the Pirates display, and many other bright and colorful exhibits.
At some point in the afternoon, I met up with my new friend Tyler (I don't really remember exactly when this happened). We made fun of the costumed attendees, talked about the ever-evolving nature of the Con and just stood around like two old guys...standing around. I also saw a couple of my neighbors with their kids, which was a bit odd. Speaking to anyone other than the small-press folks who I've forced myself up every year feels a little strange. It just goes against my anti-social nature.
Finally, around 6:00, I called it a day.
I had decided to make Saturday a panel day, so I highlighted those that looked the most entertaining...and then failed to go to any of them.
Well, almost any of them. I did get to see Neil again (very briefly) as he spoke about the film version of Coraline and the special viewing to be held later that night in a theater downtown. I didn't go, so I missed out on another signing opportunity (apparently even Maddy was signing this time).
One of the missed opportunities was the Heroes panel. It was impossibly crowded and closed early, so I missed out on that one. There was supposed to have been a sneak preview of the next seasons premiere, but...I missed it. sigh
I ended up staying with Tyler and a few of his other friends in the massive (three times the size of the room Neil had spoken in on Friday) hall I was in, so I saw several movie panels for upcoming releases. Some good, some bad.
The first, for Balls of Fury, was one of the good panels. Not only does the film look hilarious, the panel members were joking non-stop. Lo Pan (Big Trouble in Little China) is in the film and was a late appearance on the panel. Hilarity ensued. I hadn't planned to see this film before the Con, but I just might now.
Then there were the mind numbing panels (with a few bright spots here and there) for "less-than-memorable horror movie" and "generic post-apocalyptic action flick" 9and possibly others that I've already forgotten). Liv Tyler was on the horror movie panel and spoke Elvish at one point, but the film itself was...unremarkable. A later panel for the upcoming Incredible Hulk movie also co-stars Liv, but Ed Norton managed to drag that panel into the ground with every rambling response (plus there was no movie footage to share yet, so it was...dry).
Disney had a couple of interesting panels: Narnia 2 (Prince Caspian) and Pixar's Wall*E. There was a lot of exclusive footage for both shown (accompanied by men in black on the lookout for hidden recorders) and some interesting revelations about the continuing Narnia series (one was that Disney plans to release a new film every summer for the next five years). Wall*E looks especially good, but I'm sure I'll see both.
The highlight (judging by the capacity crowd) was the Iron Man panel with Gwynnth Paltrow and Robert Downey Jr. There had open seats everywhere all day long...until this panel was scheduled to begin. There was also a line outside the door to get in (many, I was told, did not get in). I had my doubts about Robert Downey Jr. playing Iron man, but after seeing the exclusive comiccon clip (not my recording - I just linked to somebody else's youtube upload), I'm sold. This movie should be every bit as good as Batman Returns. Or it might just be another Superman Returns (is that what it was called? I forget). Who knows? I suspect it will be awesome, though.
And that was it for panels. It was around 5:00 by now, so I scurried off to the show floor for a few more quick photos and booth-checks.
Now that I've got that out of the way, maybe I'll get around to mentioning some of the books I've picked up (some of which have even been read - Harry Potter was well worth reading), movies I've seen (mostly DVDs, but The Bourne Ultimatum was awesome) and any other madcap fun I can remember from the past several weeks...