THE PERSONALITIES OF SAN DIEGO
Day three started out with some laughs. It was the Image Central panel at 10:30 a.m. (Top Cow has its own presentations, Todd McFarlane Productions had nothing by way of panel presentations this year, and WildStorm flew the coop awhile ago. This leaves Erik Larsen and Jim Valentino to gather up the remaining troops to throw a party.) Valentino led the panel discussion. David Mack sat at the end and gave a few thoughtful answers. Joe Casey, Scott Lobdell, Brian Bendis, and Larsen rounded out the crew. Now put those four together in a room and you know there won't be much in the way of sanity. One quick example: A question was asked of the panel as to why some artists can't get more than a book done a year while others get books done every two weeks. Erik Larsen responded with, "My hands don't move any quicker than anyone else's." Casey and Lobdell immediately put up their hands and pushed away from Erik. Of course, Erik commented on "Cracking the whip" not too much later and nearly (inadvertently) brought the house down. Ah, nothing like a little self-gratification humor on a Saturday morning to get the blood flowing, eh?
What the heck - let's talk personalities. One of the things these con reports often don't give you is a sense of the personalities involved. In some cases that's done on purpose, just to keep private lives out of public view. I'm not going to tell you about which creators got drunk at the bar on the 40th floor of the Hyatt tonight and were hitting on which other creator's. That's not my thing. And I don't drink. (But how cool would it be to have a Page Six-type gossip column for comics professionals? ;-)
Here is a rough breakdown of the personalities on the Image panel:
Scott Lobdell comes off like a wild-maned madman, tempered only by the maturity of his 13 years of age. His hair has gotten longer since last year -- as well as more unruly -- and he seems to feed off of sarcasm, picking on people, and acting like an ass. Or, if that your sense of humor, he's a really bitingly funny man with some good quips to make at any time. Take your pick.
Joe Casey is a young southern California pretty boy who just about never takes his sunglasses off. No, it wasn't nearly that bright in meeting room 16A/B this morning that he needed sunglasses. He's also quick with a quip, but much better tamed than Lobdell. The two of them also seem to be the greatest of friends.
Erik Larsen is simply the most honest and down-to-earth fanboy-turned-pro guy you'll ever meet. He doesn't really care who he might tick off with what he says. He'll say what he feels, do it with a laugh, and not regret a thing. He launches quickly into impressions, and has a much better knowledge of comics characters and their history than I think many would give him credit for. He's also prone to long bar conversations with Bruce Timm about Kamandi. Doesn't make him a bad person.
Brian M. Bendis is The Bendis Head. You've read FORTUNE & GLORY? That's really him. Just a nice guy, with a ready smile, a friendly handshake, and a biting wit ready to leap out and pounce. He's a real world guy, not to be confused with BARRY WEEN's Judd Winick, who is a "Real World" guy. He's as amazed by the shenanigans of the average con fan as a comics industry outsider would be. I've grown jaded. I can see the overweight woman in the Vampirella costume - and I did today - and not blink more than twice. Bendis takes her picture, posts it on his website, and cries out for help.
Jim Valentino is now Image's official Wise Old Man. Given the relative ages of the Image Founding Fathers, he probably always has been. (The difference is that now he has the short haircut and the tie to match the position.) But he'll give you the truth, also, and hype up his latest hope for a diversified Image with as much fervor as he'd hype something he had done himself. He was like a proud papa showing off the early pages of some future horror projects Image has coming. The Alex Ross covers for them are some of the most stunning covers Ross has done in a long while.
David Mack was the serious one. Young, friendly, and eager to talk about his comics. I can't say much more, since I didn't really talk with him at all the rest of the show.
The only other panel I attended today was Scott Shaw!'s Oddball Comics slide show, which featured gorillas and dinosaurs this year. I've said it before on the message board, but it bears repeating here: If you think the daily installment on CBR is funny, you have got to see the presentation in person in San Diego. The covers build on one another, Scott is even funnier in person, and the group atmosphere leads to hysterics. What can be better than kooky purple gorillas in Nehru jackets? Well, yes -- dinosaurs fighting those gorillas. They're there, too.
For those in attendance this year, the ubiquitous CBR antenna balls were free giveaways at the conclusion of the panel. Dammit if those things aren't growing on me as the week goes by.
Oh, and don't worry about Scott Shaw!. I have nothing but nice things to say about him. Scott's a really nice guy. Much of the CBR gang got together to have dinner on Thursday night, and I was honored that he was amongst the group. He entertained us with stories of Jack Kirby and the old Marvel bullpen, as well as the classics of animation and his own fandom days.
He also wears really loud Hawaiian shirts. That just makes him easy to pick out in a crowd. =)
Most of the rest of the day I spent on the con floor itself. I was very disappointed that I spent most of Friday in panels and didn't get much of a chance to peruse the floor so I made up for that today by blowing off all the rest of the panels. I walked up and down all the aisles of the retailer portion of the floor with CBR Big Cheese Jonah Weiland. And I did my usual scattershot, willy nilly, all-diagonal dash through Artists Alley and the company booths. I collected a lot of new sketches for my sketchbook. I waited in line for a half-hour to get Mike Wieringo to draw a sketch in my sketchbook. It was very much worth it. My book has a theme of characters at the South Pole. Mike drew Rikk, from TELLOS, with only his head sticking out of the snow. Great stuff. Erik Larsen contributed a Superman in the snow, in honor of the forthcoming (we hope) Superman/Savage Dragon crossover. (I saw the photocopies for this, by the way. Larsen's pencil work is spectacular. Al Gordon hasn't inked it yet, and I can't vouch for the story, either, since there was no lettering.) Rick Geary became the first person to ever have appeared on Jeopardy! to draw in my book. Mark Crilley drew a really cute Akiko walking through the snow. (I picked up the first couple of Akiko books while I was there. Hopefully, I'll get to read and review those at a future time...)
I met Bill Plympton, whose animation I first came to know and love from a collection of his animated shorts on MTV back around the time THE MAXX first started airing there. A DVD collection of all his short works also recently came out. It's worth buying just for "The Face." He's the only animator I've ever seen to animate cross-hatching. I read through the first twenty pages or so of his new book and laughed really hard. It's adult-oriented, but it's insanely funny. Unfortunately, I left the book behind in the other hotel. I believe the title was "Mutant Aliens from Space," but don't quote me on that. I'll give it a full review in a future column and I'll give you the title then!
RANDOM BITS OF BUSINESS
Dark Horse's tagline for their Darth Maul four-part mini-series comes out this fall? "Sith Happens."
I have in my hands the black and white preview copy of STEAMPUNK #5. It's unlettered, which means it's the most comprehensible the series has ever been.
There were retailers at the San Diego Comic Con who didn't know that there was, indeed, a PLANETARY trade paperback already in print. Needless to say, they didn't get much business from the person seeking that item. ::sigh::
One hour for Oddball Comics is not enough. Why is it always constrained by the masquerade stuff? If the Superman panel can get an hour and a half, can't Scott Shaw!?!?! (It is left as an exercise for the readers to determine how much of the preceding punctuation is part of Scott's last name, and how much of it is done for emphasis.)
How is it that the Sergio (Aragones) and Mark (Evanier) Show, a.k.a. the Groo panel, continues to pack rooms to the point of overflow? They actually had to turn people away. Why doesn't the con give them a bigger room, fer chrissakes? It's not like they've never done this before?
Maybe this is leading to a bigger issue - the con has outgrown its current space. The convention center is in the midst of expanding. Let's hope that clears up some of these problems. The floor today was so far overcrowded that I thought I was going to choke walking from place to place. The DC and Marvel booths were absolutely pointless to try to get near. If you wanted to stop at a table and look at some previews and maybe talk to the editor, you couldn't. Those tables were all holding signings or blocked off by the monstrous lines for another signing at the booth.
The security guards at the convention have begun to usher people away who dare to have the tenacity to sit down against the wall in the hallways between the meeting rooms. They're told that there are benches around the corner they can use. (There are. Two of them -- in front of the bathrooms should you need to wait for someone.) I should ask them tomorrow what the reasoning for this is. Traffic management? That can't be it. These people are up against the wall, and there are more people just milling about on their feet mere inches away. What does that leave us with? Fire hazard? Smell? Boredom? Mad bombers?
AND THERE'S STILL MORE!
Tomorrow is Sunday. Day four of four. It's the day when the vendors don't want to leave with their hands full, and the day that the con-goers want to fill up their bags with bargains. Usually, the two have a pretty good way of finding each other. There's also a mad dash on to hit up the last of the artists before they hit their flights home. The key to tomorrow is in starting early and taking as few breaks as possible. It's wire to wire comic-con madness in San Diego. Come back here tomorrow to see how I managed.
Stop back again on Tuesday for your regular installment of Pipeline Commentary and Review. It's the edition that's got Todd Dezago and Mike Wieringo talking - the TELLOS article!
Future Pipelines will include more material from my travels in San Diego between two hotels, one movie theater, and a con center. I haven't told you anything about the Eisners yet. I'm fairly certain I haven't griped yet about the movie preview screening that got sold out. There are some other interesting panel discussions to go back over, too.
All of that, plus there's a ton of new books I picked up this weekend. I suspect I'll pick up some more, but so far they're been mostly independent and small press books. You should see a lot of reviews around here in the coming weeks that you might never have suspected I had in me. (For many of you, I suspect it might go a long way towards wiping out your memories of my previous reviews of such 'favorites' as ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY or MARVEL BOY. Hey - ya think MARVEL BOY will get any Eisner nominations next year?)
The era of Pipeline continues. See you tomorrow!