Comic-Con 2011: I am described as "persnickety" and other anecdotes from San Diego

Yes, it's time for the Mother of All Con Reports! No panel coverage, no breaking news, no fascinating interviews - just stories from the convention trenches! See: Superheroes struggle to text! Read about: The man with no sunglasses! Behold: Your humble author's clothing! Nothing is sacred, not even the reputation of our newly-minted Eisner-award-winning Grand Poobah!

(In case you want a closer look, you can click on the pictures to enlarge them. Well, most of them. Some you can't. Oh well.)

So there I was, on Saturday, 16 June 2011, driving west from Phoenix across the great desert toward the promised land of San Diego, where the rumors tell of a gathering of nerds the likes of which the world has never seen!

Last year, I asked my parents if they would be willing to go to California with us, mainly to babysit the children. In '09, when I went to the con with my family, my wife was stuck in the bungalow at night because the kids needed a babysitter (and I went out only once, I think, because I felt guilty about leaving her there). As my parents often take vacations with my sister and her family (because they live near each other back East, so it's easier), I figured they could do the same for us, right? Plus, they had only been to San Diego once before, and it was in November and it rained a lot, so they didn't have the same mental vision of San Diego that 99% of the world has. I felt it was my mission to change that!!!!

My lovely wife found a house in Mission Beach that was about half a block from the sand, and we rented it for the week. We arrived late on Saturday (the less said about the drive on Interstate 8 through Yuma and El Centro the better) and discovered that it was a nifty little house - three stories, with bedrooms on the top two floors, a nice little patio, and groovy balconies. We walked up the "boardwalk" that night (it's not an actual boardwalk as it's not made out of wood, but it's a concrete roadway along the beach where you can stroll and watch the hippies and/or vacationers ride their bikes and hang out on their porches watching the sun set) and I think my parents quickly realized that 75-degree temperatures in July is, you know, all right with them.

The first few days passed like any vacation. We went to a combination birthday/christening party (my parents know people everywhere; in this case my mom's old college friend's daughter lives in San Diego - well, Rancho Bernardo - and her daughter was turning three while her son was just baptized, and I was happy to go along, as I was friends with the daughter when we were growing up and haven't seen her in over twenty years);

we strolled around in the Gaslamp District (and had a nice lunch at Henry's Pub), we visited the USS Midway because Norah thought it would be awesome (and she had a great time, as did Mia); we hung out on the beach, where the water was really cold (but refreshing!); we drove up to La Jolla to see the seals come ashore; we drove over the Coronado Bridge (because it's keen) and drove out to Point Loma just because we could; we went to Anthony's Fish Grotto on the harbor to celebrate my mom's birthday (and where we got both children to eat calamari - Mia in particular loved it, which is why she's the oddest kid on the planet, because she'll eat squid but not, say, oatmeal). All in all, it was very relaxing.

Then, of course, the nerdstorm hit. On Wednesday night I went down to the marina to visit the CBR yacht. I did this two years ago and had a fun time, so why wouldn't I go again? Jonah, as he always does, gets me a press pass, which is stretching the definition of "press," if you ask me.

I don't know why he does it, but I always appreciate it, especially if he does it next year, when the prices are jacked up even higher (seriously, SDCC?). So I moseyed on down to the yacht to pick up my pass from his assistant, the delightfully-named Andhrea (who, no matter what she's making, deserves a raise for having to deal with Jonah all the time), and then I went to preview night. That was kind of odd - I'd never been to preview night before, and was surprised by how busy it was. It seems unfair to people who bought four-day passes to have all that stuff happening on preview night, when they can't get it. Oh well. Then I went back to the boat, where we had our little get-together. Jonah introduced me as a "persnickety" blogger, which, upon reflection, I decided to take as a compliment (he even meant it that way!). He showed me the "tiki room" where he was going to interview creators (if you check out the Mothership, I'm sure you can find a view of it somewhere), and everyone had drinks. I spoke with Katie Calautti of Spinoff Online, our partner in Jonah's quest for world domination, about Game of Thrones and how, you know, goddamned awesome it is. Katie had never been to a comic book convention before, and it appears she survived intact (she wrote about the Game of Thrones panel here, and her writing betrays no hint of impending madness). I also spoke to one of Jonah's reporters (whose last name escapes me - his first name is Eric, though!) about my role at the con. I told him that I get in free, don't cover any panels, don't submit any stories, don't have to interview anyone, and wander around the floor whenever I like and eventually type up a long blog post about it (this very one you're reading - or skimming - right now!), and that's the extent of my involvement.

To which he replied admiringly, "You bastard." Jonah never reads this blog, so he'll never know that I'm laughing evilly even as I type this!!!!! I've snookered him again! (Oh, wait. Jonah does read the blog? Well, dang it. I certainly can't backspace that out of here, can I? I mean, I'm committed to laughing evilly!)

Meanwhile, there was an unusual incident on the yacht. CBR staffer Chris Evans showed up with a black bag. He said that it had been delivered to his hotel room and contained Ketel One vodka and Red Bull. The note enclosed made it obvious it was supposed to be delivered to Chris Evans, the actor. He just assumed that whoever put the bag together sent it to every hotel in the area with directions to deliver it to "Chris Evans." Why the actor would register under his own name is beyond me, especially at Comic-Con. But CBR's Chris Evans didn't care - he got some vodka and Red Bull out of it!

On Thursday I began my wandering in earnest. The family was off to Sea World, which I visited two years ago and therefore told them they could go without me if they so chose, and I was off to the con. I have mentioned recently that I was keen on getting new, nicer clothing, as I haven't had a job in six or so years (willingly, mind you) and the clothes I used to wear to work were kind of shabby, plus I've gotten fatter in the interim, so I don't even fit into them anymore. While I was in Pennsylvania I bought some nicer clothes, but I was inspired by Ms. Sonia Harris (who will feature a bit more prominently below) to go with bright colors instead of drab khaki. Then I wondered where I might wear such finery, because I still don't have a job and I'm not wearing long pants and sleeves in the Arizona summer. I decided that San Diego in July is a pleasant climate and, as Jonah was kind enough to get me a pass, covering the con was kind of like work, so I figured I should dress for success! Thus, my outfits for all three days:

Thursday ...

Friday ...

Saturday ...

Look upon my style, ye mighty, and despair!

As usual, I had no real plans for the cons - I don't like going to panels, so I skip those, although I would have been a bit interested in the Grant Morrison one - but I did find out when some people were signing at specific places this time around, because I often miss people because I don't go by their booths at the right time. So I wrote down a few people and times, but otherwise I figured I'd trust that people were going to be around. I started in Artists' Alley, because I always do. Unfortunately, I arrived awfully "early" in the con (about 10.30 in the morning), so a lot of people hadn't set up yet. I did speak to Nathan Fox a bit about his work, because Nathan Fox is pretty awesome. He's been working on Blue Estate recently, which you should all be reading (more on that below), and his run on Haunt is about to start, so if you can't find his work, it's your own damned fault, isn't it? I also bought a print from him:

I've been writing about this recently, but I'll explain again. I used to be a writer guy with regard to comics, because I grew up reading and I went to college for writing and I'm a writer who can't draw to save his life. As I started reviewing more and more comics, I realized I was pretty lousy at writing about art, so I've tried to get better.

This has led to more appreciation of artwork beyond the visceral "I like it/I hate it," so I've been really keen on prints recently. I don't have the money for commissions, and sketches are nice enough, but I'm digging prints. Of course, I have absolutely no place to hang them or display them in other ways, so my lovely wife mocked me for getting so many. Some day I will have room, so swear I! Remember that when I show you many of the prints I got - I have no place to display them. But I love them all!

I decided to zip over to the Elephantmen booth, because I always do and Richard Starkings and JG Roshell are always fun to chat with. While I was there, not only did Starkings give me the issues I missed (with my usual disclaimer that I would buy the confounded issues if he didn't give them to me, because Elephantmen rocks), but I spoke to Tony Parker, a local Phoenix artist whose star is on the rise a bit thanks to his work on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sleep? by Boom! Parker is drawing an issue of Elephantmen that comes out early next year, and his raw pencils look tremendous. One of the problems I've had with Parker's work in the past is that it seems like whoever's coloring him smoothes him out too much (which is an issue on DADoES?), so I'm curious to see what his Elephantmen work looks like.

I had made it down to the Small Press area, so I sought out GB Tran, writer/artist of the tremendous Vietnamerica, which is the best graphic novel of the year so far by a wide margin. I met Tran a few years ago at the con, and he was just as swell now as he was then. He was happy that he had gotten out of Brooklyn before the sun, apparently, decided to take up residence a mile above New York this past weekend, and we spoke a bit about his comic, because it's so impressive. Seriously, people - you need to read it! He's planning another comic about his return to Vietnam, but this one, he says, will be much less serious - he told me that his family members making fun of him was far harsher than he depicted in Vietnamerica, and that will be in the new book. He said he wanted to do something a bit more light-hearted next. I eventually bought two prints from him (I didn't have the cash at that point) - one from Vietnamerica, one from (unless I'm misremembering) Content. Yes, I couldn't make up my mind!

I was in the vicinity of the Oni Press booth, so I walked over to see Antony Johnston, writer of Wasteland (among other things). Christopher Mitten, until recently the artist of Wasteland, was sitting next to him, and it's always good to see those gentlemen.

Johnston missed the con last year, so it was good he could get back to it. I asked, of course, about the future of Wasteland, as its schedule has hit a serious snag recently, and Johnston said it was definitely back on track, and he figured in the new year it would get back to (mostly) monthly scheduling. Issue #31, he said, should be out soon, and after that, things should ramp back up. Wasteland is a tremendous comic, so I'm glad its problems seemed to have been ironed out. Johnston is also writing a new graphic novel from Marvel (a new graphic novel from Marvel?) called Daredevil: Season One, which retells, he said, the first six issues of the series from a new perspective. No, it's not the boldest move by Marvel, but considering it's been years since they've done OGNs (and Joey Q has been notoriously against them), it's a step in the right direction. You can read more about the "series" here, even though they got a couple of things wrong early in the article (Marvel has published graphic novels before, and 2012 is not the company's 50th anniversary). I'm totally getting the McKelvie X-Men book and the Cullen Bunn Spider-Man book, as well as Johnston's. Meanwhile, Mitten is working on a new iteration of Criminal Macabre with Steve Niles, which will begin soon in Dark Horse Presents. You know you want to buy it!

Near the Oni booth was the Top Shelf booth, so I checked it out. Nate Powell, creator of the phenomenal Swallow Me Whole, has a new book out called Any Empire, which looks fantastic. I couldn't pick it up because I pre-ordered it, but I told him I'm very keen to read it. He says there's a clearer narrative in it than in Swallow Me Whole, which was very dreamlike, but he says it does get a bit weird toward the end. Standing next to him was Kagan McLeod, whose Infinite Kung Fu I did buy, because I honestly couldn't remember if I pre-ordered or not (a few commenters told me how good it was, but I still wasn't sure). As it turned out, I did pre-order it, but that's okay - I got a copy with a nice sketch in it, and I'll have one to give away if I ever get off my ass and have another "guess the panel" contests (which I plan to do, but never get around to it). I actually own quite a bit of what Top Shelf was selling, so I spent no more there!

After that I moseyed back toward the eastern end of the building. Last year I missed out on a chance to get a print by Amanda Conner because she's so darned popular, and I wanted to get one this year!

As it turned out, she might have been even more popular this year! So I didn't stay too long around her area, because I figured I had plenty of time during the weekend to catch her. I did, however, buy a couple of Jim Silke books, because who doesn't love scantily-clad women? Jungle Girls, which I bought, is actually a fascinating book - Silke writes about various genres of B-movies and the women who populated them, with gorgeous illustrations scattered throughout. I like older pros like Silke - they seem a bit bemused by the utter geekiness of the crowds, when for them, I think, creating art is more of a serious job and they find the cosplaying a bit strange. I could be wrong, but whenever some of the older pros are watching the crowd, they do it with some ironic detachment.

Back in Artists' Alley, I found Joëlle Jones, another creator I really wanted to say hello to. I was looking at her blog last week and saw that she was selling her vintage advert prints and she didn't have a lot of them. Now, Jones isn't the superstar she should be, but I still wanted to get some prints before they were gone forever. I bought one but didn't have the cash to get another, which began another strange quest to make it back to her table while she was there, something I didn't accomplish until Saturday. In the meantime, I may have frightened her when I saw her on Friday night and told her I would be at her table the next day. If I did, I apologize! Jones is a superb artist, and I stood at her table while she worked on a commission and watched in wonder as she painted a scene. I love watching artists take a blank piece of paper and dive right in, turning it into artwork. I would watch other artists turn a few lines into a gorgeous drawing, culminating with Matthew Southworth scratching a few marks and somehow turning it into Dex Parios. But that too lies in the future!

Eventually I made it over to the Image area, where several people were signing stuff. I checked in on Viktor Kalvachev, the mad scientist behing Blue Estate, and spoke to him about the book. He has the first 12 issues plotted and mostly scripted, and he hopes to have more "seasons" after that. The book has a few different artists, and Kalvachev told me they're basically friends of his whom he enlisted. He also had a neat idea to sculpt several characters to keep their looks consistent over the course of different artists interpreting them:

I later found out that Kalvachev color-codes the script so that each artist knows which part he or she has to illustrate but can also see what the others are doing, which is kind of neat. On Saturday I spoke to Andrew Osborne, who scripts the whole thing, and he told me they have the first "season" done, but they take the opportunity to change it as they see fit. He said the response to Cherry Popz in issue #2 was so overwhelmingly positive that they enlarged her role in the book, and she plays a major part of issue #5. I thought that was pretty keen. Osborne also told me that they added the crazy recap pages because some people were having trouble following the convoluted story. I don't care about the recap pages, but I do admit they're designed in a fun manner.

Kalvachev also showed me some pages from issue #5, which features Marley Zarcone on some pages, and it looks, well, as good as the others. The first trade is coming out soon, so if you're interested in blackly humorous noir, check it out!

At the other end of the Image booth sat Daniel Corey and Anthony Diecidue, co-creators of Moriarty, which has recently been upgraded from mini-series to ongoing. They've been working together since 2007, and you can tell when you read the book that they're really on the same page. I don't know how the final issue of the first arc is going to work out, but it's very keen that they're able to continue with the adventures of Professor Moriarty in the twilight of his life. While I was talking to them, Diecidue got ambushed by a scantily-clad chick clutching a microphone (she was from radio station in Los Angeles), who asked them whether they've ever dressed up for Comic-Con. People like that make me roll my eyes. There are so many people dressing up and you're asking guys who, you know, write and draw for a living whether they've ever dressed up? Sheesh. Anyway, down the table from them, John Layman and Rob Guillory were sitting, already confidently predicting their Eisner win for Chew (okay, no they weren't, but that would have been something, wouldn't it, as they faced some good competition). I don't have much to say about them because you know how good Chew is, right? Guillory, as always, is far nattier than that slob Layman, but at least John was wearing some cool glasses. In fact, while I was there, the delightful Ms. Sonia Harris showed up specifically to take a picture of Layman's glasses. That was ... odd. Sonia and I made quite the pair, I reckon:

Next to the Chew guys was Steven Struble, the writer of The Li'l Depressed Boy. I'm terribly embarrassed about meeting him, because I met him last year and plumb forgot about it. Usually it's the creators who forget meeting me (they have classes on how to scrub me from their memories!), so the fact that he remembered and I forgot was really embarrassing. Sorry, Steven! Struble reads my reviews, which always weirds me out a bit (he's not the only one, either). This is why I'm always worried some creator will punch me in the face. Luckily for me, Li'l Depressed Boy is a fine comic, even though Struble jokingly took me to task for my lukewarm review of the latest issue. They can't all be home runs, right? As I did quite often, I bought a print from Struble. It's on glorious cardboard!

While I was around the Image booth, Gianluca Glazer found me, and I was finally able to meet him. Glazer was one of the mainstays at Radical, but he's now working with Benaroya Publishing, which has a bunch of books coming out from Image. He gave me a bunch of comics, which I will review in good time.

Glazer has slightly different tastes in comics than I do, but I do appreciate him sending me his company's stuff so I can get the word out. I've been flipping through the comics he gave me, and The Vault, in particular, looks pretty keen.

The day was wearing on, so I decided to head back to my abode and prepare for the evening. I made plans with Ms. Harris to hang out with her, and I was off! (I got a call on the ride home from famed commenter and incisive commentator Rob Schmidt, but I couldn't get together with him because he was only at the con for one day. Sorry, Rob!) That night my lovely wife and I headed back downtown. Sonia was staying at the Hilton, so we headed there to wait for her. Penn Jillette was taking pictures right near us, but I think we more enjoyed the fact that we later passed Colin Hanks, who was just strolling along with no entourage and no one bothering him. Poor Colin Hanks - I guess not enough people really dug The Good Guys, did they? While we were waiting for Sonia, Chip Mosher of Boom! Studios called me over and we chatted with him for a bit. He was sitting with JK Parkin of Robot 6, whom I had met two years ago on the yacht. Mosher, of course, berated me for not buying every single one of Boom's comics, but he was particularly incensed that I hadn't checked out Planet of the Apes yet. (I should point out that Chip was joking ... I think. He always has a crazy glint in his eyes, so who really knows!) I guess the new series is good, but I can't read everything, man! I will tell a tale of redemption with regard to Boom! later in this post, so there's that to look forward to!

Sonia, JK and I talked about the blogs for a while, which, as JK pointed out, was fun because we bloggers hardly ever get together in person, spread out as we are across the country (and the world!). I don't suppose any of it would be interesting to people who don't blog for the Great Dictator Jonah and our own Dread Lord and Master, but we enjoyed it. Then Sonia, Krys, and I headed to the Westgate Hotel, a nice baroque pile downtown where the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund always holds its Comic-Con party. I went there last year, and it was fun to return. The only significant thing that happened was that Joe Casey showed up ... without his sunglasses. Holy crap, that was a moment. He wouldn't let me take his picture, though. Dang it! Casey also told me I was missing out because I was waiting for the trade of Vengeance, his Marvel mini-series with Nick Dragotta. Well, he would say that, wouldn't he?

I just wanted to confirm that Casey does indeed have eyes, and not flaming pits that suck you into his twisted imagination instead of eyes. That's totally a scoop, right?

So that was Thursday. Yes, if you've never read one of my con recaps, this is generally how long I go on. I didn't promise brevity, people! On Friday morning I decided to take Norah, my six-year-old daughter, to her first convention. Two years ago I took Mia for a while, and she was fine, but whenever I stopped she would demand that we move on, which made talking to people a bit difficult. Norah had only been four then, so I thought she might be too young, but I figured this year was a good time for it. Plus, she had her own agenda! I told her that she needed to hold onto my hand tightly and, if I had to let go for a moment, to stay very close to me. On Thursday she actually got lost at Sea World for a few minutes, and I told her that the crowds at Sea World were nothing compared to the human ocean at Comic-Con. So we were off! Naturally, the instant we walked into the con, we were presented with this tableau:

Norah totally cracked up. She said, "Those women don't have any clothes on!" and I said, "Yes, yes," in my most world-weary voice. After years of conventioning, one gets a bit inured to it all, but Norah thought it was hilarious. She spent a little under two hours with me, and she said, "Those women don't have any clothes on!" quite often. It was quite eye-opening for her. I suppose it was best that we didn't wander past the table where the two Playmates were hanging out. She would have rolled on the floor laughing. (In case you're wondering, it was this one and this one who were there, and, honestly, they were dressed far more demurely than many women at the con.)

As we strolled around, I introduced her to the Men of Action, although not all of them were there. Norah has never watched Ben 10, but I'm sure she'd enjoy it! When I stopped by on Thursday, Duncan Rouleau showed me actual pages to the next issue of The Great Unknown, which he swears will be out soon!

Joe Kelly told me that he and Max Fiumara are working on the next arc of Four Eyes, which would be cool to see. Steven Seagle was nice enough to give Norah a copy of Frankie Stein, the kid's book he did with Marco Cinello. That was awfully swell of him!

We were near the Ait/Planet Lar booth, so we perambulated on over. Larry is always fun to talk to, and I love looking at pictures of his son (Larry appears to be the best dad EVER!). Larry, of course, is the new head of production for First Comics, and Joe Staton was at the booth signing trades of E-Man (I didn't get a chance to talk to him, though). Because I am a horrible reporter, I didn't ask Larry which First titles would be coming back, but he did give me that E-Man trade, a 3-D copy of Zen: Intergalactic Ninja, plus Frickin' Butt-Kickin' Zombie Ants #1 (with art by the Fillbach Brothers, so it looks neat) and Daniel Merlin Goodbrey's Necessary Monsters, which I've been anticipating for two years or so, and I'm glad it's finally out. Hanging out with Larry was Steph Godfrey, who has quickly become one of my favorite comics people. I have no idea if she still has copies of her odd little comic, Panorama, but it's totally worth checking out. I'm looking forward to her next projects! Both of them were very nice to Norah, who naturally became very shy around new folk. That's just how she is!

I took Norah to some of the toy areas, which I generally avoid. In the Lego area, she found a spot where thousands of bricks were on the floor and a bunch of kids were assembling things. Why all the bricks were yellow was beyond me, but Norah put together something abstract:

After that, she got her picture taken with a Lego SpongeBob (I'm not sure why her smile is so forced; probably because she's a kid and doesn't quite know how to smile when she's thinking about it):

I tried to get her picture with Po, the Kung Fu Panda, but as it was a person inside a suit and was therefore moving, she didn't want to. She actually said to me, "I'm too shy," so we moved on! It was about time to take her to see the person she really wanted to see: the creator of Magic Trixie and Scary Godmother, Jill Thompson herself. Norah likes both of those books very much, so when I told her we could get a new Magic Trixie book and the creator would sign it, she was on board! Thompson was very nice, signing two books (one for Norah and one for my niece, whose birthday is today and for whom I got a comic) and telling Norah how cool it was that she liked to draw. I also bought a print of Scary Godmother for Norah, because who can resist my cute daughter? No one, say I! After that it was almost time for Norah to leave, as she was getting a bit tired and she wanted to go to the beach, but we swung by the DC booth just to kill time before Krys could pick her up. While there I ran into some guys I know from Phoenix, which was fun, and I was also accidentally accosted by Francesco Francavilla's wife, who thought I was he (we were both wearing off-white jackets and she approached me from behind). It was cool, though, because I got to meet Francesco Francavilla. So there's that. Moritat was signing at the DC booth, and as he's always fun to talk to, I said hello. He dashed off a quick (yet awesome) sketch of Supergirl for Norah, who ended up with quite the haul, I must say. Moritat is drawing the new Jonah Hex book for DC, about more which below.

Norah took off and I continued to wander. I said hello to Toby Cypress and picked up a copy of Rodd Racer, his race-inspired comic book. He did a neat-o sketch of the book's villain as well, which was fun (again, because I got to watch it blossom from nothing, as well as the fact that it's a neat drawing). He was also promoting his latest work, Kursk, which looks pretty darned keen, if you ask me. He was sharing a booth with Celia Calle, who wasn't there at the time but who was later when I went back to buy a print from her. Calle did one issue of the "five senses" arc of Madame Xanadu, and her art leaps off the page (Kelly Thompson agrees; you can see one of the panels from that issue here). I hope Calle gets more comics work; she's making some coin doing illustrations for Penthouse (seriously; check out her blog for some not-safe-for-work images), but that's not something I really want to buy just to see her art, yaknowwhatimean?

I decided to head up to the Gestalt Comics booth, because I spoke extensively with those dudes last year and it was a lot of fun. Plus, Andrew Constant sent me an e-mail before the con ordering me to visit him at the booth! Constant is the writer of Torn, a horror comic with a twist on the traditional werewolf story, and it features art by Nicola Scott, so of course it looks nice. I said hello to Justin Randall, the creator of Changing Ways, a cool comic that I reviewed here. Randall told me the next installment should be out before the end of the year, and he showed me some pages, which look very keen. The fine folk at Gestalt also gave me a few other comics, which I will review as soon as I can. I have a ton of comics to review, so it might take a little bit!

The day was winding down, but I still had some things to do! Near the Gestalt booth was Ted McKeever, and when I stopped by, I saw that he had quoted me on the trade of Meta 4, which was nice.

Last year we talked about the first issue, which some people didn't like because it confused them, and I can't imagine they were any happier with it when it was finished. We discussed the surreal, dreamlike quality of the comic, which defies narrative expectations, and how it's not a bad thing to be left with questions after you finish reading something. Meta 4 is a stunning piece of work, gorgeous and complex and haunting, and you should all check it out, if only for McKeever's artwork. Next up he's doing something called Mondo, which he told me was his fun comic after he worked on Meta 4. It's a monster story with an environmental bent, and McKeever was gleeful as he described it. It's coming out early next year, and it will be three Golden Age-sized issues, each 48 pages. Sounds neat!

I wound my way back to the Oni Press booth, where I saw Jen van Meter signing stuff and selling an omnibus version of Hopeless Savages. As I am not a Philistine, I listen to the 3 Chicks podcast on this very blog, and a few weeks ago they raved about van Meter, someone whose name I knew but whose work never seemed to coincide with my own interests. But who am I to argue with the ladies of the podcast? I stopped and spoke to her, mostly about Portland and how super it is (she lives there and I wish I still did), but I also brought up the podcast, which she knew about and thought was very flattering. There's a new Hopeless Savages series coming out soon, and the artist, Meredith McClaren, was sitting next to van Meter. Oddly enough, I met McClaren back in October, when she was part of the Sunnyslope Art Walk here in Phoenix, where she lives. She's a good artist, and I'm happy that she's doing something cool next.

So that was Friday. That night Krys and I headed back downtown to visit Tr!ckster, the wine bar across the street from the convention center that some creators had commandeered for the week and had turned into an art center/sushi bar/actual bar. It was a pretty cool space, and we went there because the guys I know from Phoenix said they would be there.

They had a bunch of stuff to buy, of course, and they were having an auction for some very nice artwork by cool creators, including a very nifty piece by Bill Sienkiewicz. While we were looking at the art, I saw Francesco Francavilla's wife again, and we started speaking. I told her I was a fan of his art since The Black Coat, which made her happy because so few people bought that book (which is a shame; it's pretty keen). Francavilla showed up, and he and his wife told us that he's working on the new Swamp Thing with Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette, which is just another reason why I'm going to pick that sucker up. We went outside and sat down with Matt Wagner, who wasn't doing anything at the convention except announcing his affiliation with Legendary Comics the next day. After the Francavillas took off, Krys and I spoke with Wagner for quite some time, about a variety of topics, including ... porn. Of course! We had a nice time, and Krys even bought a gorgeous watercolor by David Mack, which she agonized about for quite some time even though I kept telling her to just buy the damned thing (it was $200, hence the agonizing). When will she get a chance again to pick up a nice David Mack watercolor? Tr!ckster was a pretty keen idea, and I hope it comes back next year and in subsequent years.

On Saturday, I was ready to take more photographs of random things and pick up more comics than I had in the first two days, when I didn't really get too much. Early on in the day, I went by the Oni booth again, mainly because I knew Greg Rucka and Matthew Southworth were going to be there. They are confident that they will have more Stumptown out very soon, which would be nice. Because I'm a sucker, I bought the very nice hardcover of the first four issues, but there are plenty of extras, so that was okay (plus Southworth sketched in it, so there's that). Rucka, who had won an Eisner the night before, is also working on a webcomic called Lady Sabre and the Pirates of the Ineffable Aether with Rick Burchett, so you should all check that out, for sure. I went by the SLG booth and said hello to Gerry Alanguilan, who was selling copies of Elmer (another book everyone should read). Next to him was Des Taylor, who remembered me from my review of The Vesha Valentine Story. Taylor is a very gregarious Englishman, and we got on quite well. He just finished a project, which I will tell you about when it's solicited, and he's planning some more stuff about Vesha. I picked up a nice print from him, and he threw in a slightly more risqué one, because he's awesome. If you check out his web site, you can see some of the very cool prints he has of DC and Marvel superheroes. If that's your thing!

I went by the DC booth and saw both Gail Simone and Nicola Scott, but I only spoke to them briefly as they were busy. So I headed over to the Boom! booth, where I had promised Chip Mosher I would go. I still didn't buy Planet of the Apes, but I did pick up the trades of Dingo and Hexed, which look keen (especially the latter, with Emma Rios on art). Tony Parker was there, so I said hello, and the saleslady behind the counter beguiled me into buying all the hardcover trades of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sleep? that have come out so far. (Actually, it wasn't so much that she was beguiling as that she gave me a slight discount and Parker did a sketch inside one of them.) So I hope Chip leaves me alone for a while now. What else do you want from me, Mosher?!?!?!?!?

I made a couple more stops, but it was getting late in the day and I was beat. I went by the Archaia booth and said hello to Andrew Gaska and Daniel Dussault, the writer and artist of Critical Millennium, which is a wild sci-fi story that, I hope, will continue to come out.

Gaska claims he has years of stories plotted out, which is awfully ambitious, but I'd settle for another mini-series right now! I also said hello to Brandon Thomas, the writer of The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury, the hardcover of which looks stunning (and which I didn't buy because I pre-ordered it, but I'm really looking forward to it). I wandered back toward Amanda Conner's booth, but she was busily sketching away. Standing behind her was her husband, Jimmy Palmiotti, who's always fun to talk to. I sat with him for a while as he told me about his new Jonah Hex book, which sounds frickin' awesome. As you may know, I've always been kind of lukewarm to the current Jonah Hex book, mainly because each issue sounds similar to every other issue (and before you jump all over me, those sentiments are from positive reviews). In the new series, they're doing short arcs, and Palmiotti said they're throwing all sorts of weird shit in there, including Sherlock Holmes. Why the hell not? He has Moritat and Jordi Bernet doing artwork, and I'm getting excited about it. I know every creator talks up their own work, but Palmiotti is a very enthusiastic guy, and you can't help but get swept along. He also has Book Smart with Juan Santacruz coming out, and if you've never seen Santacruz's art, you owe it to yourself to check it out. Finally, he has a top-secret project in the works, and I told him that when he's ready, I'll be more than happy to publicize it for him. It sounds absolutely brilliant, so I'm keen to see it! Plus, Palmiotti let me have this Conner print, so I didn't have to wait in line! Yay!

I hadn't seen Janet Lee in Artists' Alley yet, but when I went by for the last time, she was there, proudly displaying her Eisner Award. I spoke to her about The Return of the Dapper Men and how I felt it was aimed a bit too much at kids for me, but I did gush about her fantastic art. She showed me a page from the new book, in all its wood-and-paint découpage glory. Lee is a relative newcomer to comics, and she sounds like she's still a bit amazed by it all. I saw her later getting interviewed by someone. Good for her! I do look forward to the rest of the trilogy, if not for me, then for my daughter, whom I think will dig the series.

I made one more circle of the floor, because it was getting late. I finally said hello to Steve Bryant, creator of Athena Voltaire, and we talked about that comic and his other book, Cipher: The Sorceror Pope, more of which I hope to see soon.

Bryant's a good guy, and I always hope he continues making cool comics. I also zipped back to the Top Shelf booth, where I spoke to both Jeff Lemire and Matt Kindt. Lemire had some fun insights about his current DC work and he seemed very excited about his DCnU work, and although I was on the fence about Animal Man, I may have to check it out now. Damn you, Lemire! He also has a new book from Top Shelf coming out next summer called The Underwater Welder. Yeah, I'll be getting that. Kindt saw that I called for him to write and draw a Cass Cain book in my post about my personal DCnU 52, which I thought was pretty keen. He's starting a Robotman serial in the new anthology series My Greatest Adventure, so be sure to check that out (because who knows if it will get collected). Finally, before I left, I met Tom Pinchuk, creator of Hybrid Bastards, a cheeky comic about Zeus's more unusual offspring. Pinchuk is working with the artist of that book, Kate Glasheen, on a new book for Archaia, and he says it will be a blend of comics and prose with illustrations. I'm always down for unusual ways to tell a story, so I'll have to keep an eye out for that one.

So that was pretty much it. I didn't go out on Saturday night because we had to leave Mission Beach and stay in a hotel up in La Jolla, and that's too far to go downtown when you're beat like I was.

So I had a quiet night and a pleasant enough drive back across the desert, and here I am! As always, I had a great time at the con. Every year I hear about people who are burned out and don't go or people who don't like conventions in the first place and don't go, but I am not one of those people. I love Comic-Con, even though my feet hurt and my shoulder hurts (from carrying my bag) and my back often hurts (probably because I'm old). I enjoy chatting with the creators and I always hope I don't come across like a gushing fanboy (my wife says I don't, but she's biased because she has to live with me). I like seeing the CBR people, especially Sonia, who's very cool even though she kept dodging me after Thursday night (she'll deny it, but it's totally true!!!!!). And I just like the entire scene. I suppose it's a good thing that I only go to one convention a year, because that keeps me from getting tired of it all, but I'm trying to get to Emerald City next year because Seattle is awesome, and I hear the Phoenix Con is getting better, so maybe by this time next year I'll be sick of it all. But I doubt it.

Anyway, here's the booty I picked up, some of which I actually paid for:

Afrodisiac. Bill Reed talked me into it.All Saints Day. This is the second Amy Devlin OGN by Christina Weir and Nunzio DeFilippis, and I've been meaning to get it for a while. So I did!Bad Planet #7. This isn't the official issue yet, just a teaser for the convention. It features some color pages and some black-and-white pages, and the new artist, Gregory Staples, is really good. I hope this series continues soon, because it's awfully fun.Bettie Page: Queen of the Nile. CHEESECAKERY!!!!!Button Man: The Hitman's Daughter. The first 2000AD book on this list. It's Frazer Irving art!A Collection of Morning E-Mails. This is a bunch of doodles GB Tran did in response to various e-mails he received while working on Vietnamerica.The Crusades Book II: Dei. Completing the wacky Seagle/Kelley Jones Vertigo comic!The Deep: Here be Dragons. The first Gestalt book on this list, it's a nifty-looking all-ages comic.Dingo. One of two Michael Alan Nelson books I bought.Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? volumes 1-4.E-Man: The Early Years. Some of these comics are from the Seventies, man!The Eldritch Kid. Another Gestalt title, this one's a supernatural Western, if you can't figure that out from the name.Elephantmen #30-33. I'm caught up now!Elephantmen: Cover Stories. This is a collection of Boo Cook's covers for the series, with commentary. Very neat.Frickin' Butt-Kickin' Zombie Ants #1. Yes indeed.Hexed. The second Michael Alan Nelson book I bought.Hondo City Law. Lots of cool art, including a Frank Quitely story.Hopeless Savages. All of it between one cover.Infinite Kung Fu. I'll soon have two!Jungle Girls. Historical CHEESECAKERY!!!!!Marksmen #1. This is one of the Benaroya titles that Gianluca Glazer is promoting. More below!Necessary Monsters. Daniel Merlin Goodbrey is good.Red Spike #1 and 2. Another Benaroya book.Rodd Racer. Toby Cypress's racing comic. It looks keen.Rombies #1. I read the preview edition of this book last year, and enjoyed it but didn't love it. This is in color and looks a lot cooler. I want to like a comic about zombies in ancient Rome, I really do! We shall see.Samurai's Blood #1. Another Benaroya book.Storming Heaven. More Frazer Irving art!Stumptown. It's a very nice hardcover, with some extra stuff and nice words from Rucka and Southworth, who included a sure-to-be puzzling reference to "Amy," meaning Amy Winehouse, about whom we heard while sitting around the Oni booth.The Best of Tharg's Future Shocks. With Peter Milligan, Grant Morrison, and Neil Gaiman.Torn. Another Gestalt comic!Ursula. Early Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá from AiT/Planet Lar.The Vault #1. Another Benaroya book.Zen: Intergalactic Ninja #1. It comes with 3-D glasses!

As has become a tradition around these parts, it's now time for GUESS THE COMIC BOOK CREATOR!!!!! These are always fun, right? I have some really tough ones this year - although I suppose I say that every year. Some of these people have been seen before in these posts, but I try to mix it up. Not everyone featured below was mentioned in this post, and I mentioned some people above whose pictures I didn't take. I'm just crazy that way! (Plus, I did crop some pictures to get rid of clues in the background, because I'm evil.) You have 24 hours from when I post this to answer in the comments, and your prize is ... nothing! Just the satisfaction of knowing what some comic book creators actually look like, and isn't that reward enough? After 24 hours, I'll post the answers. So: Get guessing! [Edit: Okay, so it was a little longer than 24 hours. I was busy last night. But here are the answers!]

1. Gail Simone

2. Jim Silke

3. Rob Guillory

4. Justin Randall

5. Nathan Fox

6, 7. Anthony Diecidue and Daniel Corey

8. Moritat

9. Tony Parker (I caught him in the middle of an expression shift; sorry!)

10. Brian Hurtt

11. Michael Alan Nelson

12, 13. Antony Johnston and Christopher Mitten

14. Kagan McLeod

15. Joëlle Jones

16. John Layman

17. Alan Davis

18. Toby Cypress

19. Jill Thompson

20. Joe Kelly

21. Andrew Constant

22. Geoff Darrow

23. GB Tran (I couldn't figure out how to crop this, so it might be a bit too easy.)

24. Meredith McClaren

25. Greg Rucka

26. Gerry Alanguilan

27. Cullen Bunn

28. Viktor Kavalchev

29. Ethan Nicolle

30. Des Taylor

31. Phil Noto

32. Steven Struble (Another mid-expression shift. Whoops!)

33. Nicola Scott (Gail Simone was sitting next to her, hence the name plate.)

34. Daniel Dussault

35. Janet Lee (Sorry, cropping sometimes makes things HUGE!)

36. Nate Powell

37. Steph Godfrey

38. Tim Vigil (He wasn't sleeping, trust me.)

39. Jen van Meter (Whoops!)

40. Andrew Osborne

41, 42. Jamie Rich and Matthew Southworth

43. Jeff Lemire

44. Brandon Thomas

45. Celia Calle

46. Mark Buckingham

And, of course, I couldn't leave you without this:

Thanks for reading, everyone! I hope I didn't bore you!

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