SAN DIEGO DAY ONE -- THURSDAY
San Diego is huge this year. A segment of the new addition to the convention center is complete. There's a huge new addition to the con now, adding about another 25% or so to the floor size.
To make use of the space, the convention organizers have moved Artist's Alley to the new wing. The dealers must have loved this. The Artists Alley is on one far side off to the left and the comics companies are off to the far right. The dealers are in the middle and getting all the extra traffic through the middle of the convention hall.
The Artists Alley end of things is half filled with artists and half with really large exhibits. The Mattel people are there with a huge He-Man: Maters of the Universe exhibit. They play episodes of the 80s series on large screens while three guys dressed in orange and white shirts attract an incredibly and inexplicably long line. Just across from there is a large G.I. JOE display with new figures and whatnot on display. The upcoming TIME MACHINE has a mammoth (by San Diego standards) booth size with movie props and trailers playing that rival any of the major publishers.
The Artists Alley is still half empty today. But there are a lot of great people in there. I had the chance to talk to Steve Lieber, although I've run out of books for him to sign or draw sketches in. Sitting right next to him is SUPERGIRL's Leonard Kirk, whose stack of original art is just way too tempting. He showed me the pencils and photocopies for the next three issues, and it's extremely sharp stuff. Robin Riggs has been experimenting with his art style and is using a slightly thicker line to pop things off the page with. Looks good so far, but I'm a bit worried it could veer off into a manga look. I'll give it some time.
Talked to John Lustig, of LAST KISS fame. If you're in San Diego, please go take a look at his stuff. He's down to his last batch of LAST KISS #1 issues. With number 2 on the way next month, you should jump on the bandwagon now. Picked up a couple of t-shirts for myself. You can also get some magnets or signed lithographs if you're into those sorts of things.
Had the pleasure of chatting with Rick Geary and his wife, Deborah. They are really nice people. If you ever get the chance to meet them at a con, do so. If you need a talking point, you can jump in with Rick's appearance on JEOPARDY! a few years ago. No, he didn't win. And Alex Trebek only looked slightly confounded when Rick mentioned that he didn't draw Spider-Man. In any case, I picked up a paperback original graphic novel detailing the assassination of James Garfield. The American History minor in me is excited to read this.
There are some awkward layout issues at the con this year. Men of Action - the new collective that includes Joe Casey, Duncan Rouleau, and Joe Kelly - has a booth in the midst of a batch of dealers a couple of rows away from Artists Alley. Erik Larsen's table is in Artist's Alley now instead of in the Image Pavilion. That's just two of them. I wish the dealer's section could be worked out better to segment the various types, too. Put all the bootleg video dealers together so the local cops have quick one stop shopping if they so decide. Put all the original art dealers together in one large area. I realize this is a daunting and potentially impossible task, but I'd love to see it someday.
There are always going to be these odd associations every year. The con floor is such an immense place that laying it out can only be a nightmare of amazing proportions. I give the con organizers credit for getting as much right as they do every year. The art show is downstairs this year, where the Artist's Alley used to be. And the art auction is over by the Artist's Alley, too. I think that, for example, makes a lot of sense.
The booth babe quotient is down, but since all the Dot Com money has flown out the window, I imagine that it's a given. Eruptor is gone. NPO is dead and buried in Thor's toilet. Fandom isn't draining cash with girls in silver skirts. Icebox melted away. And Toonscape's aluminum pencil cases will be absent at the Eisners tomorrow night.
It's a healthier con altogether. The cutest darn image of the day: At the Marvel booth, Spider-Man was crouched down on the floor with a little four year old girl who was playing with a balloon. A whole crowd was gathered round taking pictures. If only more people were getting pictures like that instead of the ones they were getting with the model in a black wig dressed up as Elektra holding a sai to their throats...
The CrossGen booth is VERY impressive this year. It's just as big as Marvel's or DC's, I'd guess. Tables are set up in the middle for the various creative teams to sit at and sign. They all drew consistent lines of 6 to 10 people that I saw, although the lines were moving fairly slowly, probably due to artists sketching and whatnot. I'd love to talk to those creators (must swap diabetes stories with George Perez), but I just don't have the patience for standing in line after line.
Mike Kunkel's HEROBEAR AND THE KID booth continues to expand. For a man with only three issues of a comic book to his name, he's sure merchandising the heck out of those images. In the brief glances I got, I noticed two new lithographs, a flipbook, and some new t-shirts. He also had some of his original art on display, and the usual assortment of comics and beanie baby type thing.
Steve Troop's MAYBERRY MELONPOOL was getting a stream of attention, most likely due to the lineup of Melonpool puppets that adorn his booth. They're quite eye catching. I picked up a copy of his original self-published Melonpool comic from about 5 years ago. It has that early Melonpool style to it, but its still nifty looking. Haven't had the chance to read it yet.
I only ended up attending two panels today. The first was the Comics Journalism on the Internet, hosted by Charles Brownstein, and featuring Rick Veitch, Maggie Thompson, Matt Brady, Jonah Weiland, and Anne something from The Comics Journal. (Sorry; her name was not available on a placard and I missed it when given. I hope the gang at Fantagraphics will forgive me tomorrow. I'll pick up the new JOURNAL issue from them tomorrow in return.)
Overall, it seemed like the panel and the attendants were just talking amongst themselves. Quite honestly, I don't see how constructive it could have been. It seemed that everyone there was writing for a web site already and had a vested interest. That's fine and all - it's to be expected. But there's an amount of Preaching to the Converted here, and I was a bit disappointed that a couple of the behind-the-scenes stories given as examples of comics journalism were left incomplete and missing crucial details.
In the end, though, everyone got along. The one thought that I found most interesting came from Maggie Thompson, who pointed out that there is no real single wide-ranging internet site that covers it all -- from editorial cartoons to comic strips to indie comics to major company books to movie stuff and more. The field of comics is immense today and most comics web sites thrive on one particular niche of it.
One of the inherent problems with that broadening the focus of a web site is that it's a scheme that just isn't supported terribly well. People like their websites focused. And the second you try being all things to all people is the second you lose that focus and your website dies. We've already seen examples of sites trying to be a comics site as well as a movie site as well as a science-fiction site doesn't really work all that well, or it does at the expense of one or more of the sections.
The Image Q&A panel was hosted by Jim Valentino, with Anthony Bozzi in a very quiet role sitting next to him. Valentino fielded questions for an hour from a crowd made up mostly of young wannabe creators, who spent most of the hour grilling him on the Image submissions process. Valentino reiterated multiple times that
- Image does not pair artists and writers, but will suggest letterers or colorists where necessary.
- Image gets 20 to 50 submissions a week and most get killfiled. If Valentino doesn't like it, the submission gets tossed in the can. It's part of his "Touch It Once" philosophy. By throwing it out after rejecting it, he assures himself that he won't see it again.
It costs $20,000 just to print up a trade paperback, so you had better be sure to have something that will sell. And that's for a moderate range print run.
When I asked Valentino about it after the panel, he said that a trade like RED STAR was collected into will be much more expensive than that, just due to the paper size. It's unfortunate, but that format is really limiting, for financial reasons. I got a look at the forthcoming sixth issue while I was at the Image table. It's another beautiful book. It seems like the team at RED STAR decided to experiment a little with the colors. This issue is much brighter and bolder. There are more primary colors used in this issue than the past five combined.
Speaking of money, the topic of the 1963 Annual came up and Valentino used it to make a point about something. By working at Image, the final profit or loss is the creator's. If the book is going to lose money, the Image Central Office will be giving the creator a call to apprise him or her that it might not be a great idea to publish the book. The creator - not Image --- will be responsible for the money owed at the end of the day.
1963 came out during the boom years. Valentino wrote a check out to Alan Moore, Rick Veitch, and Steve Bissette for a million dollars. That was their profit on the book. Image Central kept their standard printing fees for the book and nothing else.
When asked about bringing back GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, Valentino replied with a laugh that it's "sorta like an old girlfriend. You don't look forward to seeing her again."
He's promised a big announcement at the Image panel on Saturday afternoon. It's Image's tenth anniversary. We already know that Valentino plans to bring ShadowHawk back. And Erik Larsen will definitely be hitting issue #100 on the tenth anniversary, barring any further health issues. Rumors are swirling of some sort of Image Founding Father short story collection, but we won't know for sure until Saturday. Keep an eye out on The CBR News for all the details over the weekend.
One last thing about the panel: Bozzi had a great suggestion to all the writers in the crowd who were searching for an artist. Go to one of the long lines of artist wannabes at the Marvel and DC submissions table, and hook up with one of them. Find an artist you like and develop a rapport with them and see what happens from there.
I HOPE THE AIRLINE DOESN'T CHARGE CHECKED BAGGAGE BY THE POUND…
By the end of the day, I picked up a load of books.
The Slave Labor booth was particularly attractive, if only because they have a credit card machine. I caught up on my SLEEPING DRAGONS issues (both three and four), got the highly acclaimed first two issues of PRIVATE BEACH, an odd MILK AND CHEESE issue, and got the first HECTIC PLANET trade that I needed to fill in the gap of Evan Dorkin's series. Then I found the first three issues of ODDJOB, which is now migrated to the web at oddjob.net.
The first issue of Andi Watson's latest series, SLOW NEWS DAY, is now available from the fine folks over at Slave Labor Graphics, too. When they're not playing hockey at night during comic book conventions, they put out a lovely set of books. I'm actually quite surprised and impressed every year at CCI: San Diego to see just how many good books they have that fly under the radar.
SLOW NEWS DAY is the story of an American abroad. This time, it's an American woman whose working the summer as an intern at a small newspaper in England. She had expected to be working in a professional London-based establishment, but instead got assigned to a failing one-reporter paper.
The tensions between her and the reporter are immediate and tangible. Watson does an excellent job at using small events to show the differences between Katharine, the American, and Owen, the reporter. The friction is part cultural, to be sure, but there's also personal tension between the two that is not helped by the little differences that can begin to grate on one's nerves. The genius of it all is that there's no exposition in this issue. It's all show, not tell. Aspiring writers would do well to study this issue.
Watson's art is as clear and iconic as ever. He isn't making use of the gray tones that he did in BREAKFAST AFTER NOON, but the art is still clear and simple. There's one cardboard-looking figure of Katharine on page 17, but otherwise everything looks great.
It's too soon to tell if this one will have the breakout power of BAN, but it is an enjoyable read. It appears that it will be slightly more upbeat in the end than the previous tale of woeful unemployment.
Meanwhile, at Larry Young's booth, I partook of the new DOUBLE IMAGE issue, and the first FOOT SOLDIERS trade. Then Larry kindly escorted me to see the FRIGHTENING CURVES guys, where I picked up their book.
(Just read Larry's DOUBLE IMAGE #5 story, with painted art from Aman Chaudhary. This story is just perfect proof that Larry is one sick %&$^. Even though I saw something like the final shock ending coming, it's still really well done by both creators. The paper quality for this issue has been upgraded to a slicker paper quality. Chaudhary art is also very easy on the eyes. He beautifully captures the intended feel for the character that we're supposed to get. Artistically speaking, the color choices are well done, with mostly earthen tones chosen to keep the story from being too fantastic looking. It's very well grounded.)
From Mike Brennan's table I picked up the next three issues of ELECTRIC GIRL. I recently wrote a review of the trade paperback colleting the first four issues of the series. Look for that review in this space sometime in the next couple of weeks.
I am going to have incredible indie cred if I ever get around to reviewing the rest of ths weekend's purchases.
I finally found Erik Larsen sitting at the Image Comics both around 4 p.m. Picked up next week's issue of THE SAVAGE DRAGON from him there. His Rob Haynes-type art style continues until about halfway through the issue, and the letters column is incredibly dense. I'll let you know more when I get the chance to read the darn thing.
Also picked up a couple of DRAGON hardcovers I needed to complete my collection of those, as well as a page of original art from his recent run on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. It's a very nice page between Peter Parker and Aunt May.
More madness to come tomorrow. That's when I get my sketchbook and really go to town. =)
For starters, I have to go autograph hunting from Richard Moore, whose BONEYARD is now up to its third issue. I also think I might pick something up from Phil Foglio's table. I need a con shirt, too.
I have no idea how this money is going to last the weekend. Might be time to hit the panels instead. ;-)