THE HORRORS OF AMERICA WEST
The following explains why Tuesday's column was a fill-in. If you don't care, feel free to skip ahead to the next segment of this column.
(The following was written on Monday morning.)
Having rushed through dinner and raced through the streets of the Gaslamp District to get back to the hotel to race to the airport --
-- I find out my flight has been cancelled. Who saw that coming? Oh, I see. Everyone who's ever had the misfortune to fly America West.
My 9:45 p.m. flight home -- meaning I'd get home at 7:30 the next morning with a one hour layover on the way -- has now been pushed back to 12:35 Monday. No, not half past midnight. Half past noon.
So they put me up in a local hotel. The local hotel puts me up in a room that's covered in ants. I march back downstairs and the hotel, to their credit, sends a guy up to that room immediately, while shepherding me off to a new room in their other tower, with all due apologies. I can forgive the hotel. Crap happens and they made good on it. The hotel room was already free, so it's not like they could do much more for me.
All of a sudden I see why comedians talk about airplane flights so darn much. I just wonder how it is any of them stay in business at all. What kind of industry could routinely sell more product than they have? In the airline business, they refer to it as "overbooking" flights. Anywhere else it would be considered fraud to sell 500 copies of an item of which there only exists 300.
Now I have to go pillaging through my luggage to find clean clothes for tomorrow. Thankfully, I packed enough for an extra day, just in case. I just have to find out which bag it's in.
All of this is here just to let you know -- DO NOT FLY AMERICA WEST. They don't refer to it as America's Worst without good reason. Having managed to completely botch up both my flight out as well as my flight back, they won't EVER get my business again. I'd sooner drive.
And now the Monday morning irony: TBS has an episode of COSBY in which he's late for the flight and now is trapped on the airplane with William Shatner. I expect the gremlin reference will show up after the commercial break.
Let's go back to the convention, shall we?
SUNDAY AT THE CONVENTION
Sunday turned out to be sketch day. I nearly doubled my sketch total today from the whole convention, bringing it up to 15 in total. The first thing I have to do is thank all the artists who contributed. It's an amazing thing about the comics industry. These people draw all week as their job. What possesses them to then go around to conventions and spend the weekend giving free drawings to their fans is beyond me. Sure, it's a nice little thank-you for the fans and something that they can often do without much thinking, but it's still extremely generous and really unique to the comics industry. Also, very few actually do sketches without thinking. They enjoy the challenge of a theme book or they try to top the artist before them or they just work extra hard so as not to disappoint. It's an amazing thing and very much appreciated, in any case.
I finally caught up to Andi Watson at the Oni Press booth at around 2 p.m. The BREAKFAST AFTER NOON trade was nowhere to be found at the con center. Oni didn't have any more copies left nor did Comic Relief or the couple of other dealers I looked for it at. This is good news that the book has proven so popular.
Anyway, I talked to Andi, who was happy to report that he was just getting over his jetlag from the UK at last. He had some of his original art pages for sale from GEISHA. They are drawn at a smaller-than-usual size. They're just slightly larger than 8 x 11 inches, and he's kept that size in mind for BAN and SLOW NEWS DAY, as well. It certainly looks good, particularly when the book gets shrunk again, as the BAN trade did from the original comics size. He did up a wonderful little sketch of Rob and Louise from BAN.
Met Stan Sakai at his corner booth. I sampled my first USAGI YOJIMBO in Pittsburgh a couple of months back and really liked it. (A full review is coming up soon.) I took the opportunity to pick up the next USAGI trade from Sakai, who also happily worked up an amazing sketch of Usagi in the snow, dressed in full parka wear.
Sakai's one of the really nice people in the comics industry. He told stories while he sketched, answered questions easily, and had an infectious smile for everyone who stopped by the booth. Despite the growing fan club and success of the book, he's not egomaniacal. It hasn't gone to his head. He's still just a really nice guy who appreciates all the fans who follow his work. It's a nice thing to see and an ethic that I hope more of today's young artists would follow.
This isn't to say that all young artists are punks today. Heck, just the opposite seems to be happening. In a shrinking marketplace, those who find work and find followings have grown to be more appreciative of them than ever before. It's another odd point in favor of the contracting comics marketplace. The few who are successful in it are all the more grateful for it.
The highlight of the sketchbook day was, no doubt, the Image Comics booth, where three of the artists on TELLOS were signing and sketching away.
Craig Rousseau fell a bit behind on his THE LAST HEIST issue when some paying work came in from DC. But the TELLOS pages he had displayed at the table were gorgeous and should be well worth the wait once they're colored and printed up. He also had pages from the upcoming JLA Animated series that he's one of the rotating artists on. He was happy to say that the pages have been kept pretty simplified for such a massive team book. He hasn't had any of the nightmarish 47 characters-on-one-page scripts yet. The pages he had at the con featured Martian Manhunter and Wonder Woman, and had some nice moments. Since they were unlettered and unlinked, it's tough to tell how the story is, but it was easy to follow the action.
Sitting next to him was Eric Wolfe Hanson, whose pages for the upcoming NIGHTS AND MOON book (originally due out next month) look amazing. I don't know where Todd Dezago is finding all of these people, but TELLOS sure is looking great for it. Eric is also a lunatic. When I asked for a character from TELLOS in the snow, he took a half hour to draw Serra in a fully inked full body shot, with detailed parka, sword handle and all. It's an amazing "sketch."
Sitting next to him is Tracie Mauk, who Dezago no doubt discovered while walking by the local high school. Easily the youngest artist I've ever seen working in comics, her artistic talents are much greater than you'd think. She's got a bit of a manga influence in her art, to be sure, but it works. TELLOS stories generally end up in a more cartoony art style. Check out Wieringo or Crisse or Rousseau for examples. She'll fit in nicely with all of that. She worked up a nice sketch of a duck creature named "Norman" who appears in the TELLOS sampler they had for sale at the table.
Thanks also go to POWERS' Michael Avon Oeming and ARMATURE's Steve Oliff for their sketches on Sunday. Oliff is currently working on an instructional manual on the art of coloring. It's something he thinks will have an appeal broader than just comics. I wish him a lot of luck on that. He was one of the first color artists whose work stuck out to my eye. In a day and age when computer colored wizardry is the norm, it's easy to forget how plain so many comics' colors could look no more than 10 years ago. Oliff's were never boring.
I talked to Jim Valentino at the booth about the upcoming IMAGE COMICS both some more. It struck me that 128 pages is a lot to fill for four artists. He told me that the book would be laid out as such that each section would have a proper title page, followed by a credits page. The story would come next, and then a five-page segment written by each founder. Marc Silvestri's would probably be a history of Top Cow. Todd McFarlane would probably come up with a history of his toy line or something. Erik Larsen would draw up a DRAGON timeline of some sort. Valentino, himself, would be writing the Image Comics timeline.
I'm a little skeptical about Todd's involvement in the book. He's promised to draw other things before. SPAWN #50 comes immediately to mind. He promised to draw that one and then got a ton of inkers to help him finish it. I fear that Capullo or three other inkers might be helping him draw this book, but Valentino swore that Todd was going to draw this himself.
We'll see in February, I suppose.
And, no, Valentino didn't draw in my sketchbook. He did that last year. ;-)
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
The west coast of America has this quaint thing called "Red Vines." They're an amusing attempt to create a generic form of TWIZZLERS. They fail miserably. They're tasteless and they snap like a twig, instead of pull and stretch like the real things. Stay away.
Of course, also stay away from America West.
I do have some regrets about the con. I never got to talk to Dan DeCarlo, nor get a sketch from him. I never found Mike McKone, although I'm told he was there. I never caught up with Todd Nauck, whose work I've followed since 1994 or so, and yet never met. I never found Bob Greenberger until after hours in line at the Mailboxes Etc. to ship stuff home that wouldn't fit in my luggage. I didn't bother him. The convention was over. I'll make my proper introduction next year. And I sort of wish I had braved the lines at the CrossGen booth to get some sketches and meet some more creators. I think that might be the first thing to do on my Chicago hit list.
This kind of thing happens every year, though. There's always someone you miss. You can't let that overshadow the dozens of people you found or who found you. I did get to meet Andi Watson. I got to introduce Scott Shaw! at the Oddball Comics slide show. I had a few spare chances to exchange words with the great one, Larry Young, and to pick up one of his spiffy beer bottles under glass. (Mailboxes Etc. refused to ship it due to its shoddy design, but that's a whole other story...) I saw the DVD panel, and although I didn't really get the chance to meet The Digital Bits' webmaster, Bill Hunt, it was still worth it. I stayed up late every night with Jonah and Beau putting everything together that you saw on the site. It was a lot of work, but also a ton of fun. Nothing better than the fraternity of comics.
Next year, the con runs from August 1-4. I dread word of which weekend Wizard World will take. I hope they move it back to the July 4th weekend, as the ChicagoCon used to be traditionally held. I fear they may have it a week or two after San Diego. If that's the case, they'll lose me.
AND WHAT'S NEXT?
There's more San Diego material yet to come. Besides an overview of the disappointing Tribute To Carl Barks panel, I have a couple dozen pictures I took at the con I want to show you all. Look for some sort of photo essay next Friday on that. I've got a couple of boxes of comics I brought back with me to read and review, as well. You'll see those slipped into future Pipeline columns in drips and drabs.
And, of course, the fun starts again in a couple of weeks when Wizard World pulls into Chicago.
This coming Tuesday, though, is catch up day. I have two weeks' worth of books to review from my comics shop. Hope to see you then.
Here's a bonus bit from last weekend. I wrote this review up last Thursday night. It was supposed to be in Saturday's column. Unfortunately, I ran the SLOW NEWS DAY review again instead. It's amazing what your mind can do when you're writing columns at two in the morning. UGH.
In any case, here's that review of Richard Moore's third issue of BONEYARD.
The first two issues of this NBM series were a wonderful introduction. While the story seemed to be a bit scattered, the characters kept your interest in their various amusing ways and the blossoming romance between Paris and Abbey.
With the third issue, the series kicks into high gear. All the plotlines from the past two issues come smashing together in this issue, complete with car chases, fight scenes, and revelations about Paris' past.
This issue is a laugh a minute. It's a nice slow build-up, as the town gets ready to demolish the cemetery. Paris is not amused, but the town completely ignores him and carries on, anyway. Eventually, Paris is forced into a more proactive role and the action begins.
The whole issue is wonderfully done, with a great sense of pacing and timing. Moore does a good job in keeping a light tone, despite the impending doom that hovers over the entire issue. Then, at the last minute, he comes up with one last crushing blow and the cliffhanger hits for the next issue to resolve.
Moore's art, as always, is smooth and graceful. The characters come in a wide variety -- not just the monsters, but also the townsfolk. They rely a lot on stereotypes and clichés (all the townsfolk seem to come out of New England small town), but it's all in service to the humor in the story. It's not meant to be a case of a lazy writer. It's more the case of a writer looking to get to the humor much more quickly.
I've seen many of the pages for the next issue. He's far ahead of schedule. The next issue should have no problem shipping on time. Moore was even working on more pages behind the table at the con. You all have my apologies if that issue is late because he took a few minutes to render a beautiful pencil sketch of Abbey in my sketchbook. =)
More than 225 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 are still available at the Original Pipeline page, a horrifically coded piece of HTML.
I'm also tentatively scheduled for a day at the Small Press Expo in Maryland this September.