SUNDAY IN SAN DIEGO - PANELS
At 11 a.m., I hosted the first ever Comic Book Idol panel, which included both CBI winners, Carlos Rodriguez and Patrick Scherberger. I can't say enough about either of them. Besides being fabulously talented, they're both really nice and humble guys. Seated on the dais with them were J Torres, Jonah Weiland, Brandon Hanvey, Ron Marz, Micah Gunnel, Larry Chy, Billy Penn, and Joe Infurniari.
(John Rubio was in town but, given what I witnessed at the CBI drink-up on Friday night, was probably hungover in his hotel room by Sunday morning. Still, I bet he got more networking done in that bar the night before than the rest of us did all weekend.)
I can't remember a single thing anyone said at the panel, since I was too worried about keeping the questions flowing and trying to order the entire presentation. Thankfully, Jonah and J had some questions of their own, and we managed to pick a few up from the audience by the end. Things went rather well, all in all. If I'm ever asked to host a panel again, I'll have a much more rigorous outline for questions and such.
Thanks to all of you who came to listen to us blather, and thanks to the blatherers who shared the stage for an hour. You helped give a face to the competition.
I shot over to the 3000-seat Room 20 for the 1 p.m. presentation of "Serenity," hosted by Joss Whedon. I got in a little early, so I sat in on the end to the previous panel, which showed a trailer for SPACED, a Brit-com written by geeks for geeks. The main character is a comic book artist, and many of the things that happen in the show are punctuated with video game, Hong Kong cinema, and comic book references. It's not available on cable here in the States, nor DVD. It's criminal.
The "Serenity" panel started on time, with Joss Whedon walking out to a thunderous standing ovation. While I gave up on BUFFY about halfway through, I was obviously in the minority there. Whedon inspires a cult-like following for his vampire-infested universe. But "Serenity" was the order of the day, and Whedon quickly introduced the trailer, which was created from scraps of footage completed thus far. Half of it couldn't be heard over the applause and laughter, so he showed it again at the end of the panel. It was, indeed, very cool.
The real surprise came, though, when he introduced the cast. All of them. All nine actors from the television series were there. I was mightily impressed by this. On a Sunday afternoon, in the middle of filming a movie, the cast all came to San Diego to chat a bit. They all got their chance to talk, too, without the entire thing being focused on just one actor. It really is an ensemble cast, though
Ron Glass seemed the most content to be quiet. Summer Glau seemed a little uncomfortable, but that might also have been the steady stream of camera flashes going off at the panel for nearly the entire hour. There was a digital camera on stage that the actors were passing around. They took a couple of pictures of each other, and a couple of the crowd that I noticed. Everyone's a fan in San Diego.
After that panel -- which very well may have been the highlight of the convention for me, ironically enough -- I began the three hour dash to the the close.
THE BEGINNING OF THE END
It always happens. The con runs four whole days (with an extra hour on Saturday morning) plus a preview night, and it's still not enough. On Sunday, I started the day with two panels I wanted to attend, and nearly a dozen booths or tables I wanted to stop in. While my last two hours of the day were things of legend in my con-going history, it still left holes.
I made it to Stan Sakai's table to pick up the next couple of trades of USAGI YOJIMBO in my reading list, but I never got to talk to the man, himself. His wife is really nice, though, so feel free to buy books from her in San Diego anytime.
I visited the Oni booth and picked up a copy of QUEEN AND COUNTRY #25, but never caught site of Greg Rucka. I think I saw him in my hotel's lobby one morning, but that's about it. Didn't want to bother him at that point, though.
Jeff Parker's table was right next to Steve Lieber. Although I had a nice conversation with Steve on Saturday morning, I never got to say hello to Jeff. In atonement, I link you now to Jeff's blog, complete with San Diego audioblogging. His full con report will be must reading as soon as it appears there, also.
Humberto Ramos was camped out in Artists Alley and had decent prices for original art, but I never got near him. Whenever he was there, a crowd would form. There's just too much to do at the convention without waiting on long lines for things.
Rich Henn had a booth right next to the Image Pavillion, which I scattered into and out of all weekend long. Never stopped to say hello, though. Sorry, Rich. Next time, I promise to make it over there.
Missed Richard Starkings at his booth, usually because I only passed it on my way rushing somewhere else, and never made it a point to stop by. Plus, I already pre-ordered a copy of the Tim Sale artbook. I didn't need to pick one up at his Active Images booth.
Never stopped at the Fantagraphics table, because I kept telling myself that if I wanted to break down and buy the Bernie Krigstein books, I should order them back at home. That way I'd get the discount and not worry about carrying them home. Only when I got home did I realize that I had thus missed my chance to meet THE COMICS JOURNAL editor, Dirk Deppey. Whoops. Sorry, Dirk.
As I write this, it's a full week after the con has closed. In reading through various accounts, I'm still coming across names of people I didn't know were there. So I'm cutting myself off here, with apologies to everyone else I missed. Instead, I'll focus on the last three hours of Sunday, where I made my final run of the con floor and talked to more people than I thought possible in such a short time frame.
THE THREE HOUR RUN
Mike Royer did lots of design work for Disney in their licensing department. He had a set-up in Hall G selling original art he did in that service. Most of it was Winnie The Pooh related, and it was all beautiful stuff. Prices ranged from $15 to $35 for single character pages. I picked up a couple for myself, and one for a friend who had to leave the con early. Whenever I showed someone the Pooh pages, though, you could see their eyes light up. I hope Royer made a killing at the show. He deserves it.
Stopped in the Devil's Due booth and caught up briefly with Dan Jolley and Marie Croall. Marie's excited about the Mark Waid backup stories in upcoming issues of VOLTRON, while Dan is happy with early reception on his new series BLOODHOUND, while also plotting out the future of FIRESTORM. (Scoring Jamal Igle as new artist is a real coup for the book.)
While I was there, Josh Blaylock gave me the spiel on the upcoming line of Devil's Due superhero books. The preview art for the books is beautiful, and he promised non-decompressed storytelling for all of them. There are a couple in there I'm definitely looking forward to. The first, BREAKDOWN by Chuck Dixon, is scheduled in the latest PREVIEWS catalog. (Plug time: Pipeline Previews returns this Friday!)
On the way out of the booth, I said hello to Mike Norton, whose CLOSER graphic novel from Oni I recently reviewed. Time was tight, though, so we agreed to catch up on things in Chicago in a couple of weeks.
As if that wasn't enough activity for one booth, official Pipeline Mascot and Sunday afternoon Con Dash Partner Tracie Mauk introduced me to her friendly acquaintance, Joe Abraham, artist of Keith Giffen's upcoming HERO SQUARED. (Wow, that's a sentence of nearly infinite clauses.) He's a really nice guy, despite having moved from Hawaii to New Jersey of his own free will. Hey, I was born and raised in New Jersey and can't imagine living anyplace else, but -- leaving Hawaii for this? That's a big leap. I suppose the grass is always greener on the other side, though. I'd probably hate the Hawaiian heat after a couple of days.
While Tracie picked up Billy West's CD, I picked up the latest edition of MAYBERRY MELONPOOL at Steve Troop's booth. He's put the strip to rest for now, having published five collections, and is working on web animation with his puppet characters.
This would be a good time to show you the sight I ran across on Saturday, where his Melonpool characters sang "We are the members of the Lollipop Guild" behind a cardboard standup of Hobbits. Have I mentioned how much I love Comicon yet?
Spent whatever money I had left in the Image area, as I liberated a few pages of last week's Freak Force backup story of SAVAGE DRAGON #115 from Mark Englert, and picked up another pair of YOUNG JUSTICE pages from Todd Nauck.
Hit the AiT/PlanetLar booth for one last good-bye. We'll always have Pittsburgh, Larry!
Dropped Tracie off with her posse at the DC booth, then chatted with ace colorist Alex Sinclair and ace editor Scott Dunbier.
Just when I thought I was leaving the con floor, I caught Jimmy Jay idle in his booth, behind a stack of YOUNGBLOOD comics. We caught up there, where I also had the chance to chat with Rob Liefeld for a few minutes when he showed up. We traded war stories from the weekend, and I picked up the latest YOUNGBLOOD #1, this time written by Robert Kirkman.
In talking to Kirkman earlier in the weekend about it, he confirmed my belief that we're of the same generation of comics readers. Our Golden Age is that period from about 1988 - 1994. The man is writing a JUBILEE series, MARVEL 2099, and YOUNGBLOOD (with the return of just about every Extreme character you can name). What more proof do you need?
Needless to say, anyone with a different Golden Age looks at people like us cross-eyed and wonder how long it'll take us to destroy the industry.
Of course, before I left the con floor, I made Yet Another Stop at Mark McKenna and Mike McKone's booth, where I had to pick up two more pages of art: a nice Doom page from the DOOMSDAY mini-series a few years back, and another SUPERMAN page that had a nice Superman/Jimmy Olsen panel, not to mention a Marx Brother reference.
McKenna got me started on collecting original art in San Diego back in 2000. I should have never picked up those dirt-cheap VEXT pages from him. I think it was the following year that I over-indulged in a string of SUPERMAN pages from McKone that are near the very top of my collection favorites list.
Finally, I left the con about five minutes after the con floor closed, and said good-bye to the not-quite-plushly carpeted floors of the seven magnificent halls of packed comic goodness.
ODDS AND ENDS
* Mark Evanier recently wrote about his inability to recognize people on-site at Comicon. I think I have something similar going on. I recognize most of the people, but need help jogging the name out. That means sneaking a peak at the con badge. The problem is that it quickly becomes a crutch to lean on. It's like how some singers don't like to have the words to their songs in front of them. They're afraid they'll come to rely on them, reading the song instead of singing it. It's a crutch I fell for once or twice this weekend.
By Sunday, my inability to form coherent sentences also kicked in and made it a double whammy. I get confused between names easily enough -- Dan and Don, Mike and Mark, for two real life examples -- that I've learned ways around using specific names.
Evanier also asks one of those questions that the Mythbusters people should look into: Why do badges on lanyards inevitably face the wrong way? No matter which way you put it on, your name will eventually be facing your stomach instead of out in a matter of minutes.
* HARRY JOHNSON was a big show sponsor, with their image on the bags handed out at the registration table. They had a small booth with lots of splashy graphics and t-shirts for sale. There were, however, no comics. ::sigh::
* Is the convention not large enough? Like a lot of people, I groused a lot while in San Diego about the sheer enormity of the convention. But then I looked back to the panel schedule. Only half the panel rooms were being used this year. The area reserved for panels is divided into two levels: the Mezzanine Level, and the Upper Level. The Upper Level has all the larger rooms. They fit anywhere from 100 to 1000 people. (The combined space of room 6CDEF is probably larger than that, even.) The Mezzanine Level has traditionally been the host of smaller panel presentations, usually focused on a given creator or group of creators. Those would max out at 100 people, or 200 if they combined rooms. The panels dedicated to internet topics would go in there, for example.
This year, none of them were in there. The panels either had to be large scale enough to fit in the larger room upstairs, or they didn't exist at all. I almost missed the intimacy of the Batman or Superman creative team panels in those smaller rooms, which would come close to filling up.
Is this a function of the larger scale of the convention meaning that there isn't a single panel left that wouldn't attract a larger crowd? Or is this a case of reserving the panel schedule for only the larger events?
Several new rooms on the Upper Level above Halls E - G or so, were used as anime screening rooms, by the looks of it, but those Mezannine Level rooms didn't deal in panels this year.
* One quick convention tip learned this year: Always have your camera ready. Carry it on your wrist, not in your back pack. I picked up a lot of great pictures this year on the spur of the moment as things happened around me. I couldn't have done that if I had to be constantly pulling the digital camera out of my backpack.
* The other lesson learned: You need a cell phone to coordinate anything and everything. However, please put them back into silent or vibrate mode during a panel. If it rings, don't answer inside the room. Walk out the door before starting a conversation. I know this stuff seems obvious, but comicon panels can be just as bad as movie theaters at times. Will people never learn?
Also, bring your recharger with you. You'll need it. As the con wears on, you'll find more and more reasons to use the phone.
NEARLY RANDOM PLANE THOUGHTS
* Why do airlines board First Class passengers first? If I paid extra money for my flight, I'd want it to be as short as possible. I want to be on the plane last, and leave first. I don't want to sit there for 20 minutes while they load everyone else on, each one in turn passing by me and giving me the jealous evil eye. I have enough frequent flier miles now that I think I'll be able to get the free upgrade to first class next year, so I'll report back on this.
* Easily three quarters of the passengers to San Deigo were headed to the convention. Many of them carried art portfolios as carry-on, giving themselves away.
* There was almost drama on the flight out. As she returned to her seat in the row in front of me, a woman complained to her traveling companion about a young boy who cut in line in front of her to use the bathroom. I'm guessing she called the kid's father a dirty name, but I didn't hear it. I did hear a man shortly after that say, "Excuse me. Did you just call me an *&^hole?!? I'm asking you a question." She didn't respond and nothing further happened. I just thought it was nice of the man to excuse himself before asking her, as well as clarifying his interrogative's nature.
* When the in flight movie was finished, I was disappointed to realize that the flight was still only halfway done. I didn't have a watch on me. I've grown to use my cell phone as a time piece, since it's always attached to my belt. Time moves even more slowly when you have no idea what time it is.
* I began reading Danny Fingeroth's SUPERMAN ON THE COUCH book while waiting for my flight out. Imagine my surprise when he said hello to me as I boarded the plane. He was already seated. That's part of the magic of comicon. I'm about halfway through the book now, so look for a review at the end of August or so. I'll probably finish reading it on the flight to Chicago in a couple of weeks.
* I took a red eye flight home, leaving at 9:45 p.m. San Diego time and landing at 5:45 a.m. East Coast time in Newark. Unlike last year, I managed to sleep on this one. The in-flight movie was 50 FIRST DATES, but I didn't see a minute of it. I slept through the whole thing. Some silly sit-com was on when I woke up, the exact same episode of which I had seen on the flight out. (Thanks to the glory that is the IMDB, I can report that the sit-com was "Good Morning, Miami.")
* The entire plane was dark and it seemed like nobody had decided to use their overhead light, so I wasn't about to be the one to destroy anyone's night vision. I didn't read a page of anything on that flight, just slept on and off, watched silent television, and scribbled some notes in the dark on my notepad as reminders for this column.
* I did notice one or two people who still had their con badges on a lanyard around their neck. They went through security with those things -- and their metal clasps -- around their neck. They slept on the plane with the badges just underneath their chins. Yet, they never thought to take them off. If three quarters of the plane on the way there was going to the con, then about 90% of the plane on the ride back was returning from it, including some WIZARD staffers.
* The line for security in San Diego snakes around a series of ropes. At one point, the gentleman behind me pointed to the ground and asked me if the bag on the ground was mine. I wasn't really annoyed that he thought I'd be carrying around a large obnoxious looking pink bag, so I politely answered in the negative. He asked the women in front of me. Nope, not theirs. In today's world, an unattended bag in a security line at an airport is cause for concern. Nobody was claiming the bag, until a women three places behind the guy said sternly and gruffly, "That's my bag. My bag."
It turns out that she couldn't be bothered to carry it around the outer curve of the snaking line, so she left the bag unattended under the rope while she walked around.
I should have had her arrested on the spot for stupidity.
* It's impossible to find a Diet Pepsi for sale at Newark Liberty International Airport at 6 a.m. on a Monday.
And that, my friends, was San Diego. I have some more pictures to put up here. We'll get to that in the coming weeks.
Pipeline Previews returns this Friday with a look at the comics debuting in a store near you in October.
Next Tuesday, I'll attempt to play catch-up on some reviews that have piled up over the past three weeks.
Pipeline rolls into Rosemont, Illinois next weekend for the big WizardWorld convention. Yes, there'll be Yet Another Con Report after that one.
Over at Various and Sundry this week: BIG BROTHER and AMAZING RACE change their game, and then gloss right over it. More hybrid car news. An analysis of what makes Ken Jennings such a great Jeopardy! Contestant. A little bit of politics. And lots more.
More than 500 columns are archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They're sorted chronologically. The first 100 columns or so are also still available at the Original Pipeline page.