Where The Hell Am I

Wed, October 13th, 2010 at 1:58pm PDT

Comic Books
Jason Aaron, Columnist
11

NYCC 2010 RECAP

What do comic creators really do at comic cons? Here's an idea.

Hint: it involves beer.

THURSDAY

The whole "Scalped" team in NYC: from left to right, letterer Steve Wands, Jason Aaron, editor Will Dennis, R.M. Guera, colorist Giulia Brusco and editor Mark Doyle

I've never gotten car sick in my life, except on cab rides from LaGuardia to Manhattan. Happens almost every time. A few times I've come awfully close to puking all over the backseat. This one's not so bad, though. I quickly dump my stuff off at my hotel and hustle to a meeting with my agent and an actor who's interested in playing Dash Bad Horse if a "Scalped" TV series should happen. I ask him if he's willing to shave his head. He is. First hurdle cleared. Also have what will be the first of many discussions this weekend involving Michael Mann's "Last of the Mohicans."

Meeting goes great. I chat with my agent a few minutes longer and have to run. My "Scalped" co-creator R.M. Guera was supposed to make it in for the meeting, but his flight was delayed by three hours. Now he's here and waiting for me at the hotel. Even though Guera and I have been working together for almost five years now, this will be the first time we've ever met in person.

These days with creators from all over the world working in American comics, it's not uncommon to work with artists you've never actually met. Generally your only contact is through email, but sometimes there's not even that. Sometimes everything goes through the editors and you never have any contact with the artist at all. Over the last few years, I've worked with guys who are close friends, who I talk to all the time, and guys who I've never heard from at all. Just depends on the project.

Guera and I have always been in touch through email and the occasional phone call, but now here we are, after 40 issues of "Scalped," about to finally be face-to-face. Guera is Serbian and lives in Spain. I'm originally from Alabama but live in Kansas City. And now we're meeting for the first time in New York, so we can talk about our book set in South Dakota. Makes perfect sense, right?

Guera and I are sharing a hotel room, so here's hoping we don't drive each other crazy or come Monday morning it could be the end of "Scalped" as we know it.

We meet at the hotel and share a hug. It's like meeting an old friend for the first time. We get Guera settled in and head out to dinner with our Vertigo editors, Will Dennis and Mark Doyle. It's a huge dinner party, including "Scalped" colorist Giulia Brusco (an Italian who lives in London), former "Y The Last Man" artist Goran Sudzuka (Croatian) and at least 20 or so other Italians and Brazilians and Spaniards. To add to the international flavor, we all meet up in Chinatown. Lots of Tsingtao beers are clinked together in toasts and many plates of Beef Chow Fun and Peking Pork Chops passed around. We end up later at our usual bar on Mott Street with Will playing Stones songs on the jukebox and somebody buying shots of Jameson and really no one talking much at all about comics. It's been a long day of travel though, so Guera and I pull the shoot early. It's only Thursday after all.

FRIDAY

Guera sketching for a fan

Guera and I have a breakfast meeting with our agent and discuss the possibilities of a "Scalped" TV series. People ask me all the time about "Scalped" on the small screen and I always give them the same answer. If something does ever materialize, I will most certainly want to be involved in some meaningful way. But I'm not looking to move to L.A. I'm not interested in working in Hollywood full-time. Whether something happens with "Scalped" or not, I'm perfectly content to spend the rest of my days writing comic books. I certainly wouldn't mind some of that Hollywood money, though.

After our meeting, I take Guera for his first visit to the DC offices, and the whole "Scalped" crew goes out to lunch: me, Guera, our editors Will and Mark, colorist Giulia and letterer Steve Wands. All we're missing is a certain Scottish cover artist (Jock, where are you?) At some point over lunch, Guera relates an ancient Serbian proverb that we're all pretty sure he'd just made up: "If you don't have a life, go fuck a camel." And on that note, we head to the con.

While Guera has his first signing at the Vertigo booth, I've got an X-Men panel. I talk some "Wolverine" (Best selling book of the month for September! Woot!) then hook back up with Guera. We run into CBR's own Tim Callahan and artist Jason Latour. Guera and Latour hit it off famously, as I suspected they would, and Tim and I just stand back and let them go. Guera tells us about how he draws, sitting in a big cushy chair with his drawing board on his lap, so he can move around and change position and keep his back from aching. He also tells Latour that when he's making a line to look at the endpoint, not the line, which strikes me as a fascinating piece of advice. God, I wish I could draw.

I leave Guera and Latour to their own devices and head to my first Marvel signing. Lots of Wolverine fans. Any comic book writer who ever complains about having to sign comics has forgotten what it's like to work a real job. Unless we're holding up a line, I'm always willing to sign whatever comics you got. I'm just thankful to you for buying them.

Don't ask me to draw sketches, though. I can't draw for shit. I've thought before about taking an art class so I can learn to draw just one thing, just one go-to sketch. As of now, I got nothing.

By the time the show closes for the day, Guera has wandered off somewhere to drink with Latour. I track them down and wrangle Guera so we can head to the big DC party. We walk over with Will and artist Cliff Chiang, who's not only one of my favorite artists working today but also one of my favorite people in comics period. At the party, I try to mingle best I can, but the place is packed. I talk "Punisher" with Dave Johnson and hear a few of his best dirty jokes. I chat up DC exec Jack Mahan, a fellow Southerner and a guy who's always been one of my biggest supporters at DC. I raid the buffet with writer Ivan Brandon, the secret mayor of Comic Town. Before long, though, I'm off in the corner with Guera and Latour talking about, among other things, Michael Mann's "Last of the Mohicans."

Guera's jetlag starts catching up to him so we head out before the party wraps up. Tomorrow's a busy day.

SATURDAY

A lucky fan's "Scalped" sketch

Guera and I have our first signing together at Vertigo, and I get to sit next to him and watch him draw, which is pretty amazing. His sketches are just incredible. We meet loads of "Scalped" fans. Then I have to run over to Marvel for a Wolvie signing with Adam Kubert and Ron Garney, two amazing artists I'm fortunate enough to be working with right now. Ron and I talk about the new project we've got in the works. It's still a secret, though, not announced until tomorrow. Signing wrapped, I do an on-camera interview with Newsarama and talk about everything I'm working on, which sounds like a lot once I start to break it all down. I run into Executive Editor Axel Alonso, the architect of my entire Marvel career, and we talk about another new project I've got coming up. Still very hush hush that one. I rush off to make the Vertigo panel, and the crowds are so thick I barely make it in time. The dais is so packed with talent I worry for a bit about the whole stage collapsing. Everything holds together though and "Scalped" gets a big cheer from the crowd, which warms my heart. Guera and I talk a bit, and I mention how things are building toward "Scalped" #50. Fifty issues. Still can't believe that. And #50 ain't even the end.

"Scalped" fans are incredibly passionate about the book and love talking about their favorite characters and moments. Lots of them come up after the panel for handshakes and photos. I know I usually look pretty surly and unfriendly, but I promise I'm an easygoing guy and don't ever mind people approaching me. I find I get recognized a lot more now too. I guess because of the beard. No, I am not shaving or trimming it anytime soon. Fuck it, I'm gonna keep letting it go. I've got Alan Moore in my gunsights. If nothing else, I'm determined to have the biggest beard in comics.

I shoot an interview for a Warren Ellis documentary, which is being shot by the same dude who did the new Grant Morrison documentary. I mostly just talk about how Warren frightens me. After that I'm done. Guera has disappeared again. Off drinking with Andy Diggle this time. Dude's hard to keep up with. I head back to the hotel just in time to watch the fourth quarter of my beloved Crimson Tide's crushing defeat at the hands of South Carolina. My boys just got whipped up front. No two ways about it. I need beer now to drown my sorrows.

Over dinner at a place called El Quijote, which is right next to the famous Chelsea Hotel, Guera and I talk "Scalped" story ideas, and by the time we're finished, we've written what will someday be the last scene of the series, including the very last page. After that, it's back to our favorite bar on Mott Street. More shots, more beers. Brian Azzarello's there. "American Vampire" writer Scott Snyder shows up. We all surround the jukebox and keep it locked down. Stones and Johnny Cash. The occasional Meatloaf. A discussion breaks out about the greatest Springsteen album. Once Will breaks into the air guitar, we know that things are really getting warmed up. There's a Marvel party somewhere tonight that I planned on attending, but before I know it it's 4 am and the bar is closing down. Time for breakfast.

SUNDAY

A beer at El Quijote

A few hours later, I'm dragging my ass out of bed to hurry to the show and shoot an interview with CBR. I feel surprisingly spry after only 4 hours of sleep, so the interview seems to go well. After grabbing a quick hot dog off the street, I'm off to a Marvel panel where they announce my newest gig: "Ultimate Captain America" with Ron Garney. Damn, those slides of Garney's pages look sweet. He's just killing it on this stuff.

After the panel, Guera and I rush over to Vertigo for our last signing of the show. More passionate "Scalped" fans. More chances to watch Guera at work, doing sketches. We also have a chance to run our plans for "Scalped" #50 by Vertigo exec Karen Berger. She seems into the idea. If all goes according to plan, this'll be a fiftieth issue unlike any of the other big fiftieth issues we've ever seen at Vertigo. I'm jazzed.

And just like that, my schedule is complete. No more signings or panels for me. With less than two hours now left in the show, I'm finally free to just walk around and browse. I've always loved coming to comic conventions and shopping for deals. Now though, even though I come to cons all the time, I don't always have time to actually do much shopping. I browse around and pick up a few cheap trades. I grab some Tiny Titans temporary tattoos for my son (the one book I'm always caught up on without fail is Tiny Titans). As the show winds down, I end up over in Artists Alley talking with Cameron Stewart. Every time we see each other we always talk about working together again. It's just a matter of finding the right project.

Thus endeth the convention. Again, I have to track down Guera so we can have dinner with Will and his family. Before the night's through, there's been more "Scalped" talk, more ideas ironed out for the next year or so of stories. Thankfully Guera and I haven't driven each other crazy. Getting to hang out with him has been a privilege. I feel a bit like I've been to school these last four days, since he's so deeply passionate and knowledgeable about his craft. "Scalped" should only be the better for it.

As always, it was a great show. I love New York. Love this con. This year was crazy crowded at times, which is good to see, but makes it hard to navigate and hard for me to see much of anything in my limited browsing time. I always leave these shows feeling like I didn't see everyone I wanted to see, but you do the best you can.

Thanks to all the fans who came out and said hi, especially those of who mentioned reading this column. Many more columns to come in the weeks ahead. Hope you'll stick around. Until next time.

Jason Aaron is an Eisner and Harvey Award nominated comic book writer whose current work includes the critically-acclaimed crime series "Scalped" for DC/Vertigo and "Wolverine," "Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine" and "PunisherMAX" for Marvel. He was born in Alabama but currently resides in Kansas City. His beard is bigger than yours.

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TAGS:  nycc2010, where the hell am i, jason aaron, scalped, rrm guera

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