Last week I wrote about the last few hours at Comic-Con International, and how much artistic love got packed into those last precious hours in San Diego. This week I want to give you the rundown on the crazy day-to-day experience of the convention, and a of the few odd events which made the days so rich.
The best way to start a working Comic-Con has to be with a mellow little party on the Comic Book Resources yacht. Getting to meet so many friendly faces and sharing comic book passions set me up beautifully for the work ahead. As part of a great team of smart, friendly, comic book-adoring people, I felt ready to begin this unique experience. At least that’s what I thought, till I sat down to cover my first panel for CBR, and wouldn’t you know, it was was a behemoth of a panel in terms of note taking; a DC writers panel with five of the most quotable, articulate people I’ve ever listened to. Suffice to say it was somewhat intimidating. Did you know that writers talk a lot? Yeah… well I figured that out after I wrote it up and it was in excess of 3000 words. I’m not sure how that happened in an hour, but it was impressive. In the panel coverage, I had to be professional, but I can tell you that it was absolutely incredible to hear comic book legend Denny O’Neil discuss creating a noir feel for “Batman” in the 70’s. O’Neil talked about the lucky synchronicity as Neal Adams began to simultaneously push his own more serious vision of “Batman”, and the ideas that they had, that they were simply returning Batman to the originally intended mood. However, upon rereading the original comic books, realizing that it was actually his own interpretation of the character that he was returning to. This was a fascinating premise, and set my mind to wondering about all sorts of great superhero interpretations. How often do the writers feel that they are simply being faithful to the “true” character of the hero, only to realize later that it is in fact their own ideas about the fictitious character they are expressing?
As I stumbled out in the sunlight a friendly face appeared; fellow CSBG writer Greg Burgas introduced himself and we finally got to meet face to face. While I enjoy his writing and the diverse reading he does, I had no idea that Greg was such a well-rounded individual. While we initially discussed our experiences as writers, and Comic-Con goers, the talk quickly progressed to everything under the sun; family, life, the universe, and everything. He really is a great person, kind and supportive, and I felt bolstered by meeting him. In fact, after my experiences meeting all of my CBR coworkers, I’d encourage anyone that has online friends to speak up at the convention and find each other, it’s a lovely thing to actually meet. From my point of view, it was an unexpected bonus to attending the convention, and renewed my enthusiasm for writing these articles.
Back to the convention, and I did my best to take in a little more of the culture. Later that night, Greg Burgas and I met up at the bustling Boom! studios party in the bar of the new Hilton hotel. This Hilton is only a year or so old, so the decor is all glass and hard lines, so the bar is designed to bounce sound around and create that bustling, loud atmosphere. There we discovered that we’re old enough to say things like “Wow, it’s LOUD in here. What did you say?” a lot. So after a little bit of hand-shaking and human interaction with other comic book folks, we caught a quick taxi to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund party where things were a whole lot more sedate. On the rooftop of the very old-school Westgate Hotel, with its massive chandeliers and baroque carpets, I felt like I was walking into a party scene from a movie in the late ’60’s. The outdoor party was terribly languid, with the sort of shallow pond that makes drunk people walk into it because it looks so much like the floor (sadly no one did), and packed with incredibly nice people and absolutely bizarre music. By the end of the party, I was lusting after some actual food, and so while everyone else went on the further socializing at the Hyatt, I stumbled back to the bar at the Hilton and ordered a late night dinner at the bar while the BOOM! party continued to throb around me. I really wish that we’d had the tenacity to continue on to a third party scene, (who knows what great stories we missed due to my frailty), but I’ll just have to try a little harder next year.
On Saturday, the convention floor is traditionally filled with people in full superhero costume and this year was no exception. It was glorious. I’m in awe of people who are able to don the uniform of their favorite hero and proudly walk the floor of Comic-Con, being stared and at photographed by 150,000 people. It’s impressive. Astoundingly to me, my brother is one of these people. He’s always liked the classic, archetypal superheroes, and this year he dressed up as Superman. Obviously Superman does not carry a backpack with his civilian clothing in it, so he recruited me to walk around with him carrying his bag. I had to wonder if all cosplayers have a similar helper, following them about with their bag, it makes the idea of a real superhero (without a utility belt) doubly ridiculous, since these cosplayers are only walking around for a couple of hours, not an entire working day… To my delight, my brother met up with Mark Waid and they shook hands. It was a great moment to bring them together, since Mark Waid’s depiction of Superman in “Kingdom Come” is what brought me back to an appreciation of the hero in more recent years. Naturally, Waid pointed out the inconsistencies in my brother’s costume, but graciously agreed to have his photo taken with this slightly inaccurate Superman.
Sunday is kids day at Comic-Con, so I was delighted to be attending a panel with Roger Langridge, who writes and draws “The Muppet Show. Langridge has cleverly taken his childhood love of the Muppets, his exploration of unconventional storytelling techniques, and his passion for classic vaudeville and combined it all to create this rich comic book. Embracing the original TV show, Langridge manages to charm and audience of all ages, he brings exactly the right flavor to the BOOM kids! comic book, and when I finished covering his panel, I stopped to ask him a few questions about his process. Rather than being influenced by other comic book writers, Langridge finds his inspiration in classic surreal British comedy like the Spike Milligan, and Monty Python. Even today he told me that he listens to comedy shows on BBC Radio like the Goon Show. We discussed the similarities between something which was ostensibly for kids, like “The Muppet Show”, which has influenced so much of the comedy produced by our generation, and Langridge went on to postulate that in many ways, it is the “silly” children’s shows which can say the most, which are the most influential on our culture and that our least important cultural entertainment can have the most impact. I doubt that I’ll ever look at “The Muppet Show” in quite the same way.
There were some really fundamental mistakes that I made this year which I’ve made before and since I’d like to avoid them again, I’m going to share them in the hope that we can all learn something.
Things to remember for SDCC 2011:
Don’t make vague plans to hang out with friends who you see all the time at home, or do extra work which is unrelated to the convention, because you probably won’t have time to do that.
- Don’t bother packing high-heels (unless you’re my friend Kirsten Baldock, who has magic heel-wearing capabilities.) There is going to be so much walking that even when you aren’t going far, your feet will hurt too much to squeeze them into a pair of heels. If you must bring them, expect to wear for an hour one day. After that, forget it.
- Bring food. Protein bars, green food bars, jerky, whatever floats your boat. This is essential because even though there is food available at the convention center, you never know when you’ll find yourself stuck in a panel or even worse, stuck in the sun in a two hour line for a panel.
- Carry water and remember to drink it. Walking around and talking about comic books all day is so much fun, that you might not notice how exhausting it is, I certainly didn’t and by day three I was so dehydrated that I looked like the damn crypt keeper.
- Bring some kind of pain medication and remember to take it before the pain knocks you out, be it a headache from the heat, backache from carrying a laptop, or just the omnipresent achey legs or feet from running around.
- Do a little research, because there might be someone you want to meet. (Greg Burgas met Ted McKeever! How did I miss that?!) Look at the Comic-Con website ahead of time and note things that are essential.
Try to stay up late at least one night, so that you can go out for adventures, even if you don’t drink, other people do and they’re funny when they’re drunk. I missed way too many late nights.
- Carry a camera, unless you hate taking pictures of people doing hysterical things, you’ll want one.
- In a similar vein, carry your sketch book. There is always a chance that a favorite artist will be doing sketches, which s/he won’t be able to do if you forgot don’t have a book with you.
- Finally, accept that there is not going to be enough time. Just become zen about it or something. Even if you go for the entire convention, including the preview day, there will be people you don’t see, things you miss, and places you forget to go. It is just how it is, there is so much to do and so much fun to be had, that you have to be okay with that.
My panel coverage of CCI is gradually going live and can be found here as it goes up.