Greg spends two days at the San Diego Comic Convention, during which he attends no panels, breaks no shocking news, and generally just wanders around aimlessly!

And yet, you know you want to read this post, even if it goes on far too long! I mean, there are scantily-clad chicks! Who doesn't love scantily-clad chicks?

Here's a link to last year's report, in case you're interested. Plus, I should let you know that I'm just dropping random pictures of attendees into this post. They don't necessarily have anything to do with what I'm writing about at that time. Just so you know!

Some pre-convention nuggets of fun:

At a few minutes to seven in the morning on Friday, 25 July, the shuttle picked me up to take me to the airport. My lovely wife was about to walk out the door to go to work. Luckily, she hadn't left yet, as our babysitter had yet to arrive. Oh dear. I called her and ... woke her up. She's usually very reliable, but something happened to her alarm clock and she didn't wake up. My wife graciously decided to stay home and be late for work to wait for our babysitter so I could make my flight. This is another reason why my wife is the coolest person on the planet and I avoid pissing her off as much as possible!

The only time I ever read "men's magazines" is when I fly alone. Usually I take a book, but the flight to San Diego is only an hour, so I stopped and bought Entertainment Weekly (not really a "men's magazine," but it had a Watchmen cover!), Esquire, and Maxim. Ironically, I never got to read the Maxim, so I'm still at a loss as to why I should care about Amber Heard (who's on the cover). But here's what I learned from the other two:

Nicole Richie is guest-starring on Chuck this fall.Quentin Tarantino has finished his World War II script. Shockingly, it features ultra-violence and a Mexican stand-off. Oh, Quentin. What are we to do with you?Despite the fact that this is an apt description, the fact that Zack Snyder describes his latest film thusly - "In my movie, Superman doesn't care about humanity, Batman can't get it up, and the bad guy wants world peace" - does not fill me with confidence.Jackie Earle Haley plays Rorschach! Yes, that Jackie Earle Haley!In 1998, Comic-Con International had 42,000 attendees. This year I think they were expecting 150,000.Spaced: The Complete Series is out on DVD. I've never heard of it, but it sounds great, plus it has Simon Pegg. Damn this mass consumer society we live in! How I am supposed to fight it????Anita Briem tells an unfunny joke in Esquire's feature: "Funny Joke from a Beautiful Woman." It's a good thing they don't guarantee the funniness of it. No, I didn't know who Anita Briem was either.Of the 75 things every man should do (according to Esquire, of course), I have done 15 (I drove the Great Ocean Road in Australia - with my parents, but still; recognized the accomplishments of others; flipped off a diving board; shoplifted - although I didn't put it back, as they suggest, and no, I'm not proud of it; lived outside the homeland; overspent; sang in public; gave up my seat; kept a vow; had sex in a body of water; rode a horse; got a manicure; got a deep-tissue massage; slept outside for a week; bungee jumped).Stephen Colbert's story about the victimization of the white man isn't that funny.

I arrived in San Diego, was reminded how much I love the city, and took a taxi to the con. I got there about 10.45, so it had been open for a while, which meant I didn't have to wait with the crush of people like I did last year. I had two bags, one for purchases and one to hold my change of clothes, so I checked one (last year I didn't know about the bag-checking place, so I lugged my bag around all day even though it was packed with comics - I wasn't going to make that mistake this year!) and took the other. I collected my press pass (thanks, Brian and Jonah!) and strolled on in. Let the conventioning begin!

This year, as I had some more time, I decided to wander a bit more. I started out on the southeast end (the Convention Center is angled from the northwest to the southeast), where Artists' Alley is. Of course, vendors and such have taken over every aspect of the con, so Artists' Alley seemed to be a bit smaller this year, but what are you going to do? I wandered through the rows, checking things out. I spoke briefly to Brian Denham, who drew the X-Files comic that just came out this week. Denham seems to be getting a higher profile, which is cool because he's a good artist. Check out his work on Iron Man: Hypervelocity or the late, lamented (well, by me at least) Elsinore. I then strolled over to Steve Lieber's table. Lieber remembered me from last year (I think; if he didn't, he did a good job faking it), and we had a nice chat. I asked him about Whiteout - the movie! - and he said the release date is in April. I hope it's a good flick - I mean, who wouldn't want to see this woman ... um, totally stuffed into a parka the entire movie? Hmmmm. Anyway, Lieber also said he and Rucka are working on a third series about Carrie Stetko, so that's something to look forward to. We also talked about Periscope Studios, the collective in Portland where he works. It sounds like a fantastic place to create, and he said it's good for the artists because they don't go insane working at home - they can get out, bounce ideas off each other, use each other for photo reference, and generally have a good time. Lieber mentioned that he's working on a book with Jeff Parker called Underground - it's, to use his description, "an environmental thriller." He showed me several pages - they look absolutely stunning. I hope to see it soon.

(The Midnighter has a friendly side!)

Lieber also "forced" me to buy Fallout, a book by Jim Ottaviani about the creation of the atomic bomb to which he contributed. Damn him and his entrepreneurial skills! It was the first book I bought, but it certainly wouldn't be the last. He also told me where I could find Ottaviani (who wrote Bone Sharps, Cowboys, and Thunder Lizards, which was very good, and Levitation: Physics and Psychology in the Service of Deception, which was decent for revealing the nuts and bolts of magic but wasn't as compelling a narrative), who was sitting directly to Bryan Hitch's right. I wonder if anyone got a sketch from Hitch and happened to pick something up from Ottaviani too. When I reached Ottaviani, I had to buy more! So I got Suspended in Language, which is a biography of Niels Bohr. I spoke to Ottaviani about how neat his niche is - comic books about science and scientists - and how the medium is really perfect for it. It's far easier to draw an atomic bomb explosion than to recreate it on screen. Ottaviani's area of interest is just another thing that's perfect for comics. Maybe he doesn't get as deeply into Bohr's life as a standard prose biography could do (I don't know; I haven't read it yet), but by blending pictures and prose, it appears (just from a quick flip-through) that he is able to visualize physics in a way that makes idiots like me appreciate it more (I loved physics in high school, but it still makes my head hurt). Ottaviani's books are in a different vein than Action Philosophers! (they're not meant to be humorous, after all), but if you liked that book, you might want to check one of his out.

(Luke Cage Skrull)

After that I left Artists' Alley and entered the middle section of the hall. I skipped part of this - the part with the non-comics entertainment companies. I'm certainly not going to bemoan the loss of focus on "pure" comics at the con, partly because I've only been there twice and therefore can't compare it to years past, but mainly because if entertainment companies want to come and bring their stars and if it raises the profile of comics, I'm all for it. I'm not terribly interested in those things, however, so I skirted the section until I arrived at the big comic companies' areas. This would be Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Image, and imprints like Top Cow. Last year I tended to avoid this area because it's always the most crowded, but as I had more time I decided to check it out. I'm glad I did, as there are always creators willing to chat. My friend who works at my comic book shoppe and attends the con to get sketches brought this up a few weeks ago. People stalk artists, even if they don't know who they are, just to get sketches. Often a writer is just sitting there, signing books if they're offered, but occasionally ignored. That's just weird, as comics creators are usually terribly interesting people who are great fun to talk to. So I was able to talk to them!

(I was trying to get the costumed people when they weren't posing, because it's funner that way)

I went through the Image section and met Jamie McKelvie. McKelvie is an extremely friendly young man, and I was happy to finally meet him, as I missed him at last year's con. McKelvie was also the first person (this year) who knew me from blogging, which remains a weird feeling. Last year I was much less used to it, but it's still strange to me that creators read the blog. I know McKelvie does, as he's commented here, but it's still bizarre. I asked him what he was up to, and he showed me a preview postcard for the next Phonogram series, which starts up in December. It's going to be seven issues, each focusing on one character on one night at a bitchin' party. McKelvie is drawing the main story, which will be 16 pages per issue, and there will be back-up stories in each issue drawn by a different artist. It's also in color, which means it will look even better than the original comic did. McKelvie also said he has plans for another mini-series of Suburban Glamour, which is also quite cool. The first trade is ten dollars - can you afford not to buy it????

I strolled through the DC and Marvel areas but didn't see anyone who wasn't surrounded by drooling fanboys (and fangirls), so I headed for the smaller press areas. At one booth, a Darwyn Cooke/Cameron Stewart sketchbook sale was going on, and the woman asked me if I was there to meet Grant Morrison. I said I wasn't, as I didn't know the God of All Comics was going to be there. I looked behind her, and there he was - sitting and chatting with a fan, with nobody really lined up clamoring for his attention. It was an odd moment that reminded me how small this industry really is - probably the best writer of comics working today and one of the few who seem to have achieved "rock star" status within the industry can sit quietly with a fan in the middle of a convention and not draw a crowd. When I mentioned this to Tim Callahan the next day, he said he had a 15-minute conversation with tGoAC in the middle of the convention floor and nobody batted an eye. It's rather odd. I thought about inquiring about how I might get to speak to Morrison, but decided against it. Frankly, he scares me a little bit.

(This is a good costume)

As I did last year, I stopped by the Elephantmen booth. Richard Starkings is a hell of a nice guy, and I wanted to say hello. He greeted me warmly and, as usual, gave me stuff. I swear I don't ask for it!!!! I haven't yet received issue #13 in the mail, but it's coming, so instead I got a handsome hardcover of Captain Stoneheart and the Truth Fairy, the story that originally appeared in a previous issue of Elephantmen (issue #7, if you must know). It's a charming story by Joe Kelly, with absolutely wonderful art by Chris Bachalo, and the hardcover looks really nice. It comes with a CD that Starkings insisted I must listen to as I'm reading, so I'm actually looking forward to that. It also has the full script and sketches by Bachalo. When I saw the hardcover, I was a bit perplexed that they would have a single-issue story come out in that format, but like everything else associated with this series, the production value is amazing and it's a fun read. You can get it for a good price, too. Starkings also gave me the hardcover of Strange Embrace and the trade of Elephantmen: War Toys (both of which I already have in single form, so I might have to give them away at some point, although the hardcover is a really nice package, so maybe I'll keep that). If you want to get started with your Elephantmen collection (and really, why wouldn't you want to?), War Toys is a good place to start. It's a gripping read.

(Yeah, I know)

From there, it was a few feet to the AiT/Planet Lar booth, so that's where I went next. I can't remember correctly and don't have a floor plan to check, but I think the Zenoscope booth was in between them. They had three or four scantily-clad chicks hawking product (whose pictures I did not take; sorry), and as I walked by one time, I heard the woman behind the table explaining to a potential customer what their books were all about. She actually used the word "boobs" more than once, as in, "Here's our Sinbad book - it has lots of adventure and, you know, boobs." They had the first issue of The Straw Men out, too, and it looked really out of place among the rest of their books. It's just a measure of how you can't judge a comics publisher simply by what they've put out in the past - you have to keep an eye on them, because they might surprise you and publish something very cool, like The Straw Men. But that's not what this paragraph is about! It's about Larry Young, who's always fun to talk to. Starkings had actually took over part of his booth, so John Roshell, Starkings' secret weapon, was sitting with Larry. I chatted with Larry for a while - he showed me pictures of his 13-month-old son, Walker, which was keen. He said you can always tell people who have kids, because they're actually interested in pictures of other people's kids, which is true, it seems. I do like looking at photographs of other kids, because it's fun see their development over the months. Starkings came over at one point and they all talked lettering for a while, with Larry explaining how he re-lettered Shatter (plus an amusing tale about how he came to publish it, which I won't repeat because I didn't hear all of it and Larry told it in sections, as he kept either being interrupted or interrupting himself, as he tends to do). Larry, however, let me down, as he had no copies of Codeflesh lying around, so I couldn't buy it! Would I be able to find it anywhere else at the con? Oh, the tension!

(They were more casual a few minutes earlier, but this is still a decent photo)

Hanging out at the AiT booth was Daniel Merlin Goodbrey, so I spoke to him briefly. Goodbrey, in case you didn't know, is the creator of The Last Sane Cowboy and Other Stories, one of last year's best graphic novels. He also had the best story in last year's Giant-Size Avengers (with Brian Denham on art), even though it wasn't enough to make the book worth the 5-dollar price tag (I reviewed it here, in case you're interested). Goodbrey, who writes stories that make you feel like you've ingested something hallucinogenic, seems like a fairly normal fellow, although that might have been a front he was putting up! He has a new project, Necessary Monsters, which looks absolutely amazing. He had a mini-comic at the con, but you can check out pages at the web site. I'm looking forward to it. He also mentioned he's writing an Iron Man story for Marvel Comics Presents. You may recall that Marvel has yet to solicit an issue #13 of MCP, which led me to believe that it had been cancelled. Well, according to Goodbrey, it's going on hiatus and Marvel is trying it again, in kind of a "season 2" thing. He doesn't know the details yet, but they've got him doing a story for it, so I guess they think it'll show up eventually!

Time waits for no man, so I moved on. My next stop was at the Man of Action booth, which was also a fun stop. When I stopped by, Joe Kelly, Joe Casey, Steven Seagle, and Duncan Rouleau were all hanging out. I felt kind of bad, because I own pretty much everything they were selling, so I couldn't really support them too much. However, they had Codeflesh, so I picked that up. Whoo-hoo! They had a short pre-comic of Four Eyes by Kelly and Max Fiumara, and although I said this when it was solicited, I'll say it again: it looks stunning. I'm really looking forward to it. I talked to Seagle for quite a while. I mentioned how freakin' brilliant It's a Bird ... and Solstice are (because, you know, they are; and it seems like the former is dangerously close to being out of print, which would be a crime, as it deserves to be read by anyone who has ever liked Superman) and I also mentioned how he seems to not do as well on superhero books. He said that's because he doesn't like them all that much, and it also led into a wonderfully vitriolic rant about his time on X-Men (he wasn't too bitter, as it's been over a decade, but you could tell he was a bit vexed by what happened). He said that he and Kelly gave Marvel a year's worth of outlined stories, and Marvel said fine, and then, after one issue had been published, told him to change things radically. He said they reworked things, gave Marvel more outlines, and got screwed again. They made him rewrite a few issues (#350, 351, and 353, I believe, although I could be mistaken), and he told me that #352 was written and drawn in 24 hours. He also said it's the worst comic book ever published. Those mid- to late-Nineties X-Men were a mess, weren't they? I also said I wasn't impressed with Alpha Flight, but he defended that mightily. He said that once Rouleau came on board (with issue #12), the book got much better. I told him I might have to check it out!

(Okay, it's not all that good, but worst ever? That's pushing it)

Then I spoke to Joe Casey, which was fun. Whenever I saw Casey at the con, he was wearing sunglasses, which makes me think he had unholy fire in his eye sockets. You can't say I'm wrong! I told him how geeked I was when he quoted my contention that his book was the best comic of 2006 on the back of the 60-cent issue of Gødland - that was the first time I got a quote on a comic, and it's still a thrill. We talked about his work and how he's one of the few writers whose books I will try no matter what - I mentioned that even though I haven't been completely jazzed with the first two issues of Charlatan Ball, I'm giving it a chance because it's Casey. I also wanted to find out what happened on Wildcats 3.0, which started really well but didn't end particularly well. I kind of liked the Coda war, especially because Rouleau drew it, but it did feel a bit weird, especially considering how good the first part of the title was. He said he was working on issue #25 when the word came down that the book was cancelled with issue #24, so he changed just a little at the end of the final issue and washed his hands of it. It's a shame the final issues haven't been collected in trade. That's a damned fine series. Casey also said he has a lot on his plate, including an all-ages book that he described in one word: "Sex." Can't wait to see that! He was one of the guys I was really glad I got to meet, because I missed him last year (I actually don't know if he was there; I just assume he was).

(Hey - my kids love that movie, and she's ruining it!)

I wandered over to the Archaia Studios Press booth, where I met Brian Churilla, the writer/artist of The Engineer and Tom Pinchuk, the writer of Hybrid Bastards. I hadn't bought Hybrid Bastards yet, so I picked up the two issues that are out. I've never read an Archaia book I haven't liked, so I'm looking forward to it. Later on, I went back past the ASP booth (it was well-placed) and met Nick Tapalansky and A. David Lewis. Tapalansky writes Awakening, and Lewis wrote The Lone and Level Sands and is currently working on Some New Kind of Slaughter. They were cool to chat with as well. I wondered about Archaia's restructuring, and Nick was nice enough to tell me what he knew, which is that it's almost resolved and the books should be out soon. It has been frustrating waiting for the books to come out, especially, as they told me, Some New Kind of Slaughter is completely done and Awakening is well ahead of the game. It will be nice to see the books out, because ASP comics are very high quality.

(I assume this is some kind of manga thing)

I moseyed on to the Top Shelf booth, where Eddie Campbell and Dan Best were talking people into buying The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard, which comes out in a few weeks. I felt bad about skipping a lot of these books, as I've already ordered them from Previews. But hey, a sale's a sale, right? And it's cheaper to get it from my comic book store. I also stopped by Eric Shanower's booth and picked up the existing three trades of Age of Bronze. I have always felt vaguely guilty about not buying this, especially in single issues, so I assuaged my guilt by buying the trades. Of course, I've heard nothing but excellent things about this series, so it's not like I was just sucking it up and buying something that sucks, and I'm happy I finally got around to it. Just another thing to read!

(Because, you know, men won't read comics unless scantily-clad chicks are handing them out for free!)

As I wandered on, I came across Steve Earnhardt, the creative madman behind Hard-Bullied Comics. I met Steve last year at the con, and it was great to see him again. I had wondered what he was up to with the next story about Billy Blackburn, P. I., and he handed me the "Exclusive Edition" of the next issue, which starts a new crazy mystery for our hero to solve. It features really snazzy artwork by Federico Dalocchio. This is another book that got better as it went along, as Earnhardt got more confident in his writing skills, so I'm interested to see what happens next. I'll have to keep an eye out for the new series. After I left Steve, I kind of stumbled across Lauren Weinstein's booth. As astute readers will recall, our own Alex Cox asked (and answered in the sort-of affirmative) if The Goddess of War is the most important book of the year. I went to her site and checked it out, and those two things convinced me to buy it. Before I could order it somewhere, there she was, with copies! I couldn't pass it up, could I? This comic, by the way, is huge. It is - I shit you not - 15 inches from top to bottom, and 10 inches wide. It dominates all other comics! Like most of the stuff I bought, I'm really looking forward to reading this. Someday I'll have time to properly review all the keen stuff I picked up over the weekend!

(Too big even to fit on my scanner!)

Earlier in the day, Bryan Lee O'Malley was signing at the Oni Press booth, so it was a bit crowded. When I went back around, he was gone, so I could get a bit closer. Plus, Antony Johnston and Christopher Mitten were there this time, so I could talk to them for a while. Johnston is always entertaining, and Mitten plays his straight man, making wry comments at key times. Johnston mentioned that Wasteland sales on the singles have plateaued, but the trade sales are climbing, and that's good to hear. I can understand why people aren't jumping on the single issues, but at least people aren't leaving the book. Plus, it's nice to hear that at least people are buying the trades. Johnston talked about some of the problems he's had writing the book and making sure it's accessible, and it's interesting to check out how both he and Mitten have gotten stronger on the book as it's moved along. Check out the trades!

(This was pretty damned cool)

Finally, I made it back to the Image booth and met Kieron Gillen. Gillen sent me an e-mail last year asking why I didn't stop by and say hello, so I wanted to be sure I saw him this year. When I had spoke to Jamie McKelvie, Gillen was off at a panel, so I circled back around. Gillen is an extremely excitable guy, and it was kind of breathtaking speaking to him. He's very keen on the latest Phonogram series, and he mentioned he's putting together a series for Avatar. His newuniversal one-shot is also coming out this week, so if you're in the mood to check out Gillen's work, that's probably a place to start. Much like Johnston and Mitten, Gillen and McKelvie have a nice dynamic going on - Gillen is 100 miles a second, while McKelvie seems much more laid back. They were another duo I was very happy to meet. By the way, you can buy the first Phonogram series here. Don't you trust me when I say it's very good?

(I'm not sure who this dude is supposed to be)

So that was Friday. Yes, I'm only through one day! No splitting up my posts like other con attendees! Let's forge on! My skeletal and muscular systems were screaming in pain, as I had filled my bag with goodies and then had to pick up my other bag that I checked earlier in the day. There's a trolley system in San Diego, and there are bike taxis, but I decided to walk from the convention center to the Embassy Suites, where my hotel room was. Yeah, that was kind of stupid. Anyway, I dragged myself there, had some dinner and a drink, and went back to the room and collapsed. As I was crashing for one night and there were four guys already in the room, I slept on the floor. It wasn't that big a deal - I didn't expect to sleep well anyway - but my wife pointed out that I should have used the cushions from the sofa bed, as the guys wouldn't be using them. As I have no common sense, this never occurred to me until she mentioned it late on Sunday. Yes, I'm stupid. No, you're not the first to notice this.

I should point out that we had a nice view of San Diego from the hotel room. If you've never been to the city, here are some views:

That fourth one shows the Hyatt in the foreground and the convention center pretty much right in the center. You can see the blue banner announcing the con on the side of the building. I keep telling my wife we need to move to San Diego. Anyone want to pony up a couple million dollars so we can? I'd do it for you, I swear!

I went back to the con on Saturday at about 8 in the morning. The con doesn't open until 9.30, but I figured I could check things out around the convention center. If you already have a pass, you can get into the building, just not onto the floor. Here are some people waiting for their passes:

So I went upstairs and wandered around for a while. There were plenty of people already inside, and some places were allowing people to line up for signings or sketches or whatnot. At one point, I walked past what looked like the floor of the stock market - a bunch of red-shirted people were raising their hands and shouting as attendees moved toward them. The red-shirted people were con employees (probably volunteers, as well) and they were, I presume, getting people their passes and checking to make sure they didn't bring anything dangerous or non-nerdy into the premises. It was quite the scene:

I sat for a while, taking pictures of the various attendees, before I decided to stroll around the center. I went outside behind the convention center just for the hell of it. Down below, more people were streaming toward their mecca:

I also stumbled across a photo op of the Stormtrooper Legions that were at the con:

Fascism is alive and well in nerdland! If any politician wants to stomp all over our civil liberties (not that I know any like that!), he should just dress the cops in stormtrooper uniforms. All the nerds would think it's so cool they wouldn't even notice they're getting carted off to the camps!

As I was behind the center, I decided to look for Jonah's mythical "yacht." If you don't know, Comic Book Resources has a yacht (supposedly) on which they conduct interviews and basically lord it over everyone like the peons we are. The interesting thing about this is I've never actually met anyone who can tell me where the yacht is. I mean, I met a few people last year who claimed that they were on the yacht, but they couldn't tell me where it was. This year, I was sure famed blogger Tim Callahan (see below) would be able to tell me where it was, as he was diligently covering panels for the mothership. But even he couldn't tell me where it was! It is like Brigadoon, only appearing for interviews and then disappearing into the mists? I would have gone down to the marina to look more closely, but it appeared you couldn't back onto the grounds that way, so I didn't want to take the chance that I'd have to somehow get all the way back to the front of the convention center. The "Elite" staff (the con workers) were blocking the entrance to the marina, so who's to say I could have even gotten close? Jonah protects his privacy! I think it's because he's really a Skrull, making sure comicdom is ready for the inevitable takeover, and early in the morning he hasn't turned into "Jonah" yet. But that's just a theory!

I went back inside and saw a long line. I asked some dude what the line was for, and he told me it was to get into the convention. It was almost 9.30, so people were getting ready. Here's the line:

This worried me a bit, as I wasn't actually in the line. I wasn't in any hurry to get inside, but I did have to catch a flight, so I wanted to get in at some point. Instead of instantly getting in the line, I went back downstairs to see what was what. The instant I stepped off the escalator, the doors opened. The people outside made a mad rush to the doors, and I just casually stepped over the velvet rope that was herding us all outside and strolled in. So that was fun. It allowed me to get some pictures of the floor before it got crowded. This is the emptiest you will ever see the floor of the San Diego Comic-Con:

As I had skipped the retailers' section the day before, I cased that area before it got too crowded. I was looking for specific stuff, as usual, and as usual, I bought way too much. A complete list of the swag I picked up is below, but I did hunt down several issues of Seagle's Alpha Flight, just because he told me too! I saw him later and told him his impassioned defense of the comic led me to the back issue boxes to pick them up, which made him happy (except for the fact that he was looking for a few issues of it and I may have picked the retailers clean before he got there). I didn't have as much time, money, or space in my bags to do serious shopping, but I did all right.

(This is Snake Eyes and Destro, but I don't know who the woman is supposed to be)

I went back upstairs to check out the lines for some of the panels. I was thinking about going into one of the Watchmen panels, even though I figured there was no way I would, as it was about to start when I got there. And, yes, the line was out the door:

Below is another line for a different panel. "Hey, how did you spend your Comic-Con?" "Why, I spent it standing in line to see a panel I could have read about on-line! How about you?" I have been to one panel in my life, and I couldn't hear the questions and the answers to the unheard questions weren't terribly interesting - nobody is going to say anything controversial, after all, so they're rather bland affairs. But if that's your thing, knock yourself out!

I went back downstairs and found Javier Grillo-Marxuach and Les McClaine sitting at the Viper Comics booth. Before I could even introduce myself, Grillo-Marxuach saw my name tag and enthusiastically greeted me. I've been a huge fan of The Middleman since the first issue of the first mini-series, so I've been jazzed to see it become a television show (even if its future is in doubt). I spoke with the two of them for a while, and Grillo-Marxuach gave me a copy of the new trade, which collects every single issue of the two mini-series and the third trade in one handy volume. He gave me the groovy variant cover with Natalie Morales and Mark Keeslar on it, as I already ordered the regular volume from Previews. That means I will own three copies of each story of The Middleman. But who cares?!? It's a fantastic comic book. Grillo-Marxuach mentioned that in last week's episode, the galaxy from where the aliens hail is named after my e-mail address, which I thought was just about the coolest thing ever. Of course, I DVRed it, so I haven't watched it yet, but this makes me even keener to check it out! (Between typing this and publishing this, I watched the episode. Like the others, it's damned good. And surprisingly sweet. I should start playing "Name That Stanza.") He mentioned that they will finish the season (12 episodes), but the show's future after that is up in the air a bit. I encourage everyone to check the series out, because it's a ton of fun. He said that ABC Family let them do whatever they wanted, so although it's an odd marriage of show and network, if they were anyplace else, the series wouldn't be the same. Marc Mason of Comics Waiting Room was standing there as well, and he predicted that the show would do really well on DVD. I hope so, but I also hope that everyone watches it so more episodes will arrive in the future! Find ABC Family on your dial (do any televisions even have dials anymore?) and watch it tonight! And if you didn't order the new complete volume of The Middleman from Previews, why not order it today? It'll be out in a few weeks, if I remember correctly. It was quite awesome talking to McClaine and Grillo-Marxuach, as you can probably guess.

You may think I had nothing else to do, but you'd be wrong wrong wrong! There were still many costumed people to photograph, people to meet, and bloggers to lunch with! Over at the Marvel pavillion, people were lining up to get things signed by one hot artist after another. I skipped that and introduced myself to Brian Reed, Marc Guggenheim, and Greg Pak. I surprised Guggenheim a bit, I think, when I mentioned how much I like his "Vanguard" story in Marvel Comics Presents. Marvel, of course, was promoting him as a writer on Amazing Spider-Man, but as I don't read that, I couldn't really say anything about it, now could I? Anyway, "Vanguard" is a cool story, and I hope Marvel collects it in a nice trade. I introduced myself to Reed by saying, "Hey! You're Marvel Comics Superstar Brian Reed," as he's referred to in Punks the Comic: The Christacular Special (which I reviewed here and remains one of the funnest and oddest comics you're ever going to read). I also told him what a big fan I was of The Circle, his currently-defunct spy thriller comic. He told me that there's some potential for new stories, as people keep discovering the five issues in the back issue boxes or on-line and e-mailing him to tell him how great it is. Sigh. Nobody listened to me when I said that. He said that depending on the support, they might be able to put together more of the series, which would be quite awesome. I then talked to Pak for a few minutes, long enough to tell him how freakin' excellent The Incredible Hercules is. (Yes, I'm aware I was gushing a bit to these fellows. You know what? I don't care. All these comics are awesome. Screw you.) He said that the single issues are selling well, so Marvel is going to let him continue with the story, which is nice. He and Fred van Lente have some big things planned for the title, so I'm looking forward to the fun going on for a while. I was also curious about how one "co-writes" a book, so he explained that he and Van Lente both live in New York, so they can get together and thrash things out over copious amounts of alcohol (okay, he didn't say that, but I'd like to think it's like that). It's good to see something like this comic is doing well. Check it out, people! You know you like good comics!

(One of my favorite X-Men!)

I had seen that Joshua Hale Fialkov was signing stuff at the Top Cow booth, so I strolled on over there. It was quite funny - Marc Silvestri was sitting two spots over from him, so of course people were lined up for him. I simply squeezed through the line and stood next to Fialkov. He also recognized my name and thanked me for supporting his comics (which is easy to do, as he's a good writer). His Pilot Season book from last year, Cyblade, is going to be an ongoing, and while I'm a bit unsure how that's going to go (it's Cyblade, after all), he did give me the Pilot Season one-shot (which I haven't read yet, but I'll get to it!), and I'll certainly check the new series out. I'd rather his one-shot from this year, Alibi, became an ongoing, but we'll have to wait and see on that!

After I left the Top Cow booth, it was time for the absolute highlight of my life. Yes, my entire life! I met Tim Callahan, blogger extraordinaire. Not only is Tim fantastically intelligent, he's also devilishly handsome. Check him out!

Tim was covering the con for the mothership, so he had been going to panels all weekend. But we met up for lunch and talked comics. Ironically, the con isn't a great place to talk comics, especially critically, because creators don't talk smack about other creators (not that I want them to, of course, but it might be fun occasionally), to the point of not saying anything about current books. That's cool and all, but I like talking comics! Tim also told me that he got into a Vertigo panel ... because he looks like a Vertigo writer. Jesus. I mean, just because you shave your head, everyone thinks you're all edgy and write comics with the word "fuck" in them. If I ever wrote for Vertigo, people still wouldn't believe it, because I look like such a doofus. (Tim fiendishly posted a picture he took of me here. If you want to be scared by how ugly I am, be my guest and check it out. Damn, I'm ugly. How did I ever fool my wife into marrying me? I must have done something right once!) It was very cool to meet him and his entourage (yes, he had an entourage), and if I had had my copy of Back Issue #29, to which he contributed an article, I would have had him sign it.

It was getting late, so I bid farewell to Tim and his krewe and headed in the direction of Top Shelf (I stopped by the Vertigo table to say hello to G. Willow Wilson and tell her how much I enjoyed Cairo and that I'm looking forward to Air, her new series), as I remembered that the third volume of Jeff Lemire's Essex County Trilogy, The Country Nurse, was out. I haven't reviewed the first two volumes because I was waiting for the third, but the first two are very good and I'm looking forward to the final one. While I was checking it out, Alex Robinson was there pimping his comics. I told him one of my fellow bloggers loved Too Cool To Be Forgotten, so I was buying it based on that. He denied all responsibility if I didn't like it! Of course, he named it after a Lucinda Williams song, so he's started off pretty well!

Then it was time to go. (I should point out that I'm a bit disappointed I didn't see everyone I wanted to, most notably Joshua Hagler, who I just couldn't find. There just wasn't enough time!) I reached the airport at approximately ten minutes after 3 in the afternoon, and found out my 5.00 flight was delayed. Confound it! I went to the gate to ask the lady when it was leaving, and without asking, she got me onto the 3.55 flight. How cool. Flying sucks these days, but at least nice people can alleviate that a tiny bit.

So that was my weekend. Here's a list of the swag I picked up:

Sixteen (16) issues of Alpha Flight by Steven Seagle and various artists, most notably Scott Clark and Duncan Rouleau.Three (3) volumes of Age of Bronze ("A Thousand Ships," Sacrifice," and "Betrayal") by Eric Shanower.Four (4) issues of Ambush Bug by Keith Giffen.One (1) issue of Back Issue magazine (#29), all about the Marvel Mutants!One (1) volume of Captain Stoneheart and the Truth Fairy by Joe Kelly and Chris Bachalo.One (1) issue of Chopper by Martin Shapiro, Martin Montiel, and Rodney Ramos, which features a headless motorcyclist. Shapiro came up to the AiT/Planet Lar booth and talked to me and John Roshell for a bit and ended up giving this to me. One (1) volume of Codeflesh by Joe Casey and Charlie Adlard.One (1) issue of Pilot Season: Cyblade by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Rick Mays (signed "You fucking rock!" by Fialkov, which I thought was a nice sentiment).One (1) issue of Deevee 2007, an anthology of Australian comics creators.Eighteen (18) issues of The Defenders by Steve Gerber and, I assume, a variety of artists.One (1) volume of Elephantmen: War Toys by Richard Starkings and Moritat.One (1) volume of Essex County Volume 3: The Country Nurse by Jeff Lemire.One (1) volume of Fallout: J. Robert Oppenheimer, Leo Szilard, and the Political Science of the Atomic Bomb by Jim Ottaviani and various artists.One (1) issue of Pilot Season: Genius by Marc Bernardin, Adam Freeman, and Afua Richardson.One (1) volume of The Goddess of War by Lauren Weinstein.One (1) issue of Hard-Bullied Comics by Steve Earnhardt and Federico Dalocchio.Two (2) issues of Hybrid Bastards by Tom Pinchuk and Kate Glasheen.One (1) volume of Kin: Descent of Man by Gary Frank, which unfortunately got bent in my bag. I don't mind if my comics are a bit shabby, but I hate folds in covers. They vex me.One (1) volume of Kinetic by Kelley Puckett and Warren Pleece.One (1) volume of Lucifer (vol. 2, "Children and Monsters") by Mike Carey, Peter Gross, Ryan Kelly, and Dean Ormston.One (1) volume of The Middleman: The Collected Series Indispensability! by Javier Grillo-Marxuach and Les McClaine.One (1) volume of Monster Attack Network by Marc Bernardin, Adam Freeman, and Nima Sorat.One (1) mini-comic of Necessary Monsters by Daniel Merlin Goodbrey and Sean Azzopardi.One (1) volume of Nobody by Alex Amado, Sharon Cho, and Charlie Adlard.One (1) volume of Strange Embrace by David Hine.Eight (8) issues of Strikeforce: Morituri. More than a few people have recommended this, and when I stopped by Brent Anderson's table in Artists' Alley, he had original pages from it for sale. Damn, they looked good. I'm eager to check this out.One (1) volume of Suspended in Language: Niels Bohr's Life, Discoveries, and the Century He Shaped by Jim Ottaviani and Leland Purvis.One (1) issue of Tales of a Hippy Kid by Jon Kroll and Dave Bohn, which features lots of nudity and which the creators gave to Larry Young while I was talking to him, so I got one too!One (1) volume of Too Cool To Be Forgotten by Alex Robinson.One (1) volume of the Top Shelf 2008 Seasonal Sampler by various creators.One (1) volume of White Death by Rob Morrison and Charlie Adlard.

Man! That's a lot of crap. When will I ever read it? I will, eventually!

Finally, I thought I'd have some fun with you. Below are pictures of a bunch of comics creators. Tell me who they are! Some of them are mentioned in the post above, and some are not! There are plenty of clues, so have at it!




(4, 5)



(8, 9)







(16, 17)










(27, 28)


Answer in the comments! I know you will!

So that was my two days at the con. I hope you enjoyed reading about it, despite the length, as much as I enjoyed attending it. And remember: We're all just riding on the Escalator of Life, shopping at the Human Mall. That's just the way it is!

How "Batman v Superman" and "Iron Man 2" Are the Same Movie. Wait - What?

More in Comics