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Our Two-Convention Weekend

That was actually the most fun at a show-- sorry, shows, plural-- we've had in a while.

This was kind of a first for us, tabling with the students at one show-- Hometown Heroes-- while also being on panels at another much larger show, the Emerald City Comic-Con four blocks up. Thankfully, I did not have to do these things simultaneously.

Emerald City started on Thursday afternoon, and that was the day of my first panel, "Comics in the Schools." I'd proposed it to ECCC a few months before and to my mild surprise, the new owners had gone for it despite having no idea who we were. There was a certain amount of grousing about how since ReedPop has bought the con it's "gone Hollywood," and I admit that I thought it was bush league for the show not to let me have a pass for Julie as well as for me (even San Diego lets pros have a plus-one, and ECCC was sold out both for attendees and exhibitors. It's not like they couldn't afford it.) But on the whole it seemed like a pretty well-run event, considering how large it's gotten.

No, frankly, it was me that was a mess. Getting the panel together that day felt like careening from one crisis to the next, starting with getting my people their badges. The show had sent all the badges to me and explained that getting them out to everyone was my problem. I had recruited, in addition to my former TAs Lindon and Katrina, local comics legends David Lasky and Linda Medley as panelists (because I knew each of them a little bit from various local comics things, and also because they both teach comics.) I was anxious about making sure that everything went okay for them-- after all, they were the 'names,' not me and the kids. Both The Carter Family and Castle Waiting are award winners, and though I know David and Linda enough not to be completely tongue-tied and starstruck, I don't know them well, and I was worrying that if I screwed this up that they might end up thinking of me as a feckless amateur who'd dragged them into an embarrassing quagmire of a panel. And despite my mailing the things out over a week in advance, they hadn't gotten the badges until the day before, Wednesday. So I already was nervous... Katrina hadn't gotten her badge until that morning.

But what was really bothering me was the room. My initial assumption was that we couldn't be assigned a very large space, we don't have a TV show or anything and this was education talk to boot, certainly nothing to compete with the cast of Supernatural or DC's rollout of Rebirth or anything like that. So I'd figured, small room, no need to over-engineer it, we would just go down the line and have everyone talk about their experiences teaching comics, and then take questions. Loose. That should fill an hour, easy.

But the more I considered it, the more I worried. What if the room was too big? I had brought some different examples of student zines from my pile at home, and David had volunteered some more slides of things his students had done and was willing to set up a PowerPoint of those on his laptop as well. The convention center was letting us use their projection system but we had to bring our own laptop to hook to it, and this was really making me anxious because there was no opportunity, other than the five minutes after the last group left the room and before we started, to set all this up and test it. It took some fast talking just to persuade them to let us in the building at all before the doors officially opened. Despite being 'professionals' and actual panelists.

When I did get a look at the room my heart quailed, because it was even larger than I feared... it was in fact HUGE. So we would have to project everything up on the screen in order for the attendees to see anything. David was okay, but I only had the actual zines. I might as well be holding up a postage stamp. On top of that, Linda was texting me that her bus was stalled and she might be late.

Fortunately, Katrina and Lindon had arrived by then, and they are each infinitely better with computers than me. Lindon had her camera, and she had an inspired brainwave: she would take pictures of my student zines, load those photos on to David's laptop, and crop them and insert them into the slideshow he'd already set up. She and David put their heads together and in about three minutes it was done. I was awed.

David was in fact the MVP of the panel as far as I was concerned, and not just because he had volunteered his own electronics. Now, as it happens, David Lasky is probably the most soft-spoken, self-effacing guy ever to work in comics. But here is the great secret-- when he's talking about his students, he really lights up: his voice gathers power and projection and he is a delight to listen to. He just talked his way through the different slides of the student examples and told the story of the assignment he had given for each and showed us the different ways kids had attacked the idea, and then the girls reminisced a little bit about their time as my students, and by then Linda had joined us and she told a couple of stories of her own time teaching. After that I talked my way through the newly-created slideshow Lindon and David had put together, and Katrina and Lindon each chimed in here and there to footnote the things I was saying. Then we did a Q&A and we were out.

I'm annoyed we didn't get any pictures, but I'm afraid that was a casualty of our various last-minute panics; I had a camera, but I forgot to ask someone to be the designated photographer. So that's why there aren't any shots to accompany this. It all came off okay in the end, we got good questions, and since no one seemed to notice or care how nervous we all were, I decided to just take the win. Afterward when I admitted to feeling stark terror off and on throughout the afternoon, Linda laughed and said that was a way to keep it fresh. She wasn't wrong, and it was exhilarating to realize that despite everything, we'd pulled it off, but honestly I think I'd try to be more organized about it if we were to do it again. Note to self-- learn PowerPoint.

We spent a little time chatting with Greg Burgas, as he recounted in his own con report, but didn't hang around the show after that, since Burgas had a dinner date and the girls had to get home. So we said our goodbyes and when Julie pulled up -- she was just getting off work herself-- she and I drove Lindon out to west Seattle. She had to work the rest of the weekend so she graciously gave her panelist's badge to Julie, assuring my bride would be able to attend ECCC after all.

Friday was given over to Hometown Heroes. This was a local event that was made up of exhibitors who hadn't been able to get into Artist's Alley at ECCC this year, even though many had been there previous years. Casey Silver of 80% Studios put it all together and he did a great job and really made us feel like royalty.

I did remember to take some pictures this time and here they are. This is Casey setting up.

Multi-tasking like mad, it was tiring just to watch him. It was relatively easy for us to get our table together, on the other hand-- simple small-press setup like we do for Olympia. I'd just humped it downtown on the bus, one backpack and one bag's worth.

Casey then gave us another table -- really, he was great-- and so we spread out a little. it ended up with the high school kids at one table, and the middle-school kids at the other. All girls. We had Dimpal and Symphony from the high school Young Authors group...

...and as you can see, Dimpal was not pleased about having her picture taken. Nevertheless, they were having fun. Over at the middle-school table, Willoweve was tearing it up. She is only twelve but she is already an old pro.

We didn't actually have that many kids, because I had decided that I wasn't even going to try and get a school bus for a show that was downtown for one evening. The high school girls had just taken Metro, and they were old enough that I could drive them home when we were done without it being a consent-form nightmare. As for Willow, she loves this kind of thing and will table anywhere any time, and her mother is a novelist herself so she's always on board.

This is probably my favorite picture of the night. Me and Willoweve, just two writers gossiping about writing and signing and tabling.

It amuses me no end that we both now have stories about working a Barnes and Noble signing. And then Sophia and her mother joined us as well, and it was at that point that it really started to get fun.

Because Sophia was a rock star. Her Trump comic strip was the hit of the show, lots of attendees had seen it from the CBR preview I'd run in this space-- Casey had shared that column across the entire internet-- and she was a little overwhelmed at first that people knew her work. But then she leaned right into it, and her mother got to see it all. Sophia was signing and sketching all over the place and also really geeking out over the alumni books... so when Katrina showed up with her new husband in tow about halfway through the evening, it was just hilarious. Sophia was as starstruck meeting Katrina as Katrina had been a decade ago when, as my student, she'd discovered Nadine's strip Mermaid's Touch. (If I'd been able to persuade Nadine to join us that evening as well it would have been epic, but she hadn't been able to make it.) As it was, it was pretty cool, and I'm annoyed I didn't get a shot of the girls trading sketches.

The show itself was fun but it was LOUD. There was a DJ with house music pounding away, flashing red and green lights, and really the event felt a bit like Alternative Press Expo crossed with a rave. Here are our neighbors-- I'm embarrassed I can't tell you who they are, I literally could not hear a word they said when they introduced themselves, but they were very nice.

The projection behind them was a constant slideshow of one of every exhibitor's pages rotating through on a loop. They even had one of ours circulating up there.

And here is Deadpool, apparently stopping by on his way home from the big show.

That guy was seriously committed to it, because it was way too damn hot in there to dress like that.

The setup was kind of cool, really more of a gallery-type floor plan. Exhibitors were along the walls, and then tables were set up here and there displaying work.

Overall it was a good night for us and I'm glad we went, but the noise and the heat got to us after a while. As you can see, even the youngsters were feeling it.

So I called an audible about ten-fifteen and we wrapped up a little early. Great night though, and I can't say enough good things about Casey and his crew for putting it together and letting us be a part of it. If he decides he's up for doing it again next year, we're in.

*

Saturday, honestly, we wasted a great deal of time waiting for the CenturyLink guy to show up and fix our DSL line. I was okay with that because I was still wiped out from Hometown Heroes, but Julie and I had hoped to at least look around the Emerald City show floor before joining the gang for the CBR dinner. The guy did get here and take care of things and we got downtown with an hour or so to kill before dinner.

That was plenty for us. All I cared about was getting to Randy's Readers.

I had a shopping budget of twenty dollars. That doesn't sound like a lot but it's more than enough for an armload of the good stuff at Randy's. He was pleased to see us as always, and waved a hello as he argued the merits of different Superman film adaptations with a couple of his other customers. (This was, as you may imagine, THE topic of conversation throughout the entire weekend. I already said my piece about this here so there's no need to re-litigate the whole thing again.)

But writing about bronze-age Superman so much over the last month or so, I'd got a hanker on for some of those comics. I scored some Action 100-pagers I'd been wanting....

Some groovy Supergirl (the San Francisco era)...

And some Superman Family.

I picked up a couple of Flash 100-pagers as well.

All of these were new to me except Action #443 and Superman Family #165, so it was almost like getting new comics. But the real score was Captain Action #1 and #3.

I had read ABOUT these comics but never seen them. I'd actually owned a Captain Action back when I was a kid, but none of the suits.

Which is kind of like not really having a Captain Action at all, since his whole schtick is transforming into other heroes. (Am I still bitter about that? Maybe a little... dammit Mom....) But anyway, I'd always been curious about his comics. There were only five of them and here were two.

All of this for under twenty dollars. I love going to Randy's.

Julie mostly just likes looking at the displays. She was quite taken with this Iron Man.

But she really wanted to find "the sock lady." Apparently, last year she'd bought a pair of what she discovered to be the greatest socks anywhere ever. I was dubious about this, but what the hell, I'd done my shopping.

The sock lady turned out to actually be a couple of sock ladies, from Sock Dreams down in Portland.

They were doing a lot of business too. Anyway, we got Julie hooked up and then it was off to the CBR dinner.

Which was a lot of fun as always, though we missed a lot of our regulars. Sonia's still recovering from her medical stuff, and Jeff Robbins had other commitments, and we still haven't persuaded anyone from the Mothership to join us. Kurt from TwoMorrows was there, of course, and Rob from the GCD. But except for Lindon and Katrina, none of our girls were there either. Rachel was still at the show working as a volunteer, and Brianna and her now-husband Brandon hadn't been able to make it down this year. And Tiffany and Amanda were both teaching in Asia. Katrina and Lindon had brought their fellas, though, so we still had a fair-sized group. But we were a little subdued.

Burgas said I ranted, which I guess is true, but it's worth noting that the rant was over how incredibly badly women in comics get treated in general, and Sonia and Kelly in particular, by the 'neckbeard dudebro Sheldon Coopers' that infest comics fandom. It was brought on by the girls talking about doing a book together and how they missed being in comics, and when I warned them about some of the fandom they'd be dealing with they just shrugged it off as the cost of doing business. That's a sore spot with me because there's a difference between what Burgas or I get when we poke the nerdbear, and what Sonia and Kelly get. I've said many, many mean things about DC comics over the years, but none of those columns ever got me death threats or suggestions that what I really needed to straighten out my thinking about superhero comics was a night of being raped. But women in comics deal with that shit all the time. The thought of any of my former students-- and really, the girls are about as close to our own kids as Julie and I are going to get-- having to deal with that kind of thing makes me livid. They are poised, smart, lovely young ladies with spouses of their own now, yes, and perfectly capable of 'shutting down creepers,' as Brianna likes to say... but they're still our girls. They shouldn't have to deal with creeps like that because we should be running those pricks out of the hobby unless and until the dumbass bastards learn better. That was the rant.

It should also be noted for the record how much we talked about how good Kelly is and how much we dig her books. I'm more about her prose novels, but Burgas practically ordered Katrina and Lindon to go get Heart in a Box. (Seriously, Kelly, you GOTTA get up here next year. Once you're in Portland there's no excuse. You would love meeting the kids, and they would ADORE you.)

Anyway we laughed a lot and ate hugely and it was a good time as always.

Sunday I just had one panel, on pulp influences in comics... and I was just one of the guys on the thing as opposed to actually being responsible for it, so it was almost like having a day off. I was a last-minute draft pick because several of the original panelists had fallen out. Personal stuff, illness, something, no harm no foul and couldn't be helped, but it had left them short. It was something Rob Salkowitz from the University of Washington had put together. He was a friend of David Lasky and it was David that had suggested me. "I know a teacher that writes pulp fiction...."

What amused me was that another of the panelists was Chris Roberson, who, when he heard my name mentioned, apparently said, oh, of course. And I was certainly delighted to be on the same panel as Chris, I've admired his work for years and his Doc Savage is one of the few books I break my trades-only rule for and get monthly. What embarrassed me was that I'd also read Rob's book years ago and liked it; in fact, even written about it here, but never made the connection till he was doing introductions on Sunday.

Swear to God, the world of comics is about four feet square and that is IT.

Dan Schkade, our final panelist, I didn't know at all but I have grown to admire his work a great deal as well. He's drawing the current version of The Spirit but it was the sketches he was doing at the show that I fell in love with when I saw them posted online a few days ago.

Look at that awesome Lamont Cranson. I wish we'd had the money to commission something of our own. Oh well.

Anyway, the panel itself was great fun and we laughed a lot.

My favorite moment probably was when Rob mentioned a column I'd done on seventies paperback pulp series and asked me to name some, and Dan looked at me and said, "You name the one and I'll name the other."

That's when I KNOW I'm with My People.

Anyway, Comics Grinder did a nice writeup of it here. (But, curiously enough, NOTHING on our own site. Neither of the panels I was on made the news anywhere except ComicsGrinder, What's up with THAT, mothership? Where's the loyalty?)

After the panel, Julie and I followed Chris back to his table so we could get one of his daughter's zines.

And you know what? It's really GOOD. I gave her a couple of our student books as well, because I was certain that she would like what Teya and Megan and Kiera write. They all are living in that Anne McCaffrey, Andre Norton, high-fantasy swords-and-sorcery place.

And with that, our show was done. I really only had one regret. "Every time I know I'm going to see David," I told Julie, "I bring along my copy of his Carter book for him to sign, and I always get distracted and forget. And now I've done it again. Oh well. Anyway, I'll get the car and bring it around, there's no need for both of us to swim upstream through all these people. Just meet me out front."

So she went down the escalator and I turned towards the parking garage... and damned if David wasn't standing right there. I hollered and bless him, he blew this out in a couple of minutes.

That was a nice note to go out on.

Anyway, that was our show, and for once we're not still too achy to move. I could get used to this whole no-bus, table-for-a-night way of doing Emerald City. Thanks again to everyone and we'll see you all next year!

The rest of you reading this, well, I'll be back next week.

Electric Warriors #2

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