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comic con 2011 in words

Every year I promise myself a succinct ComicCon post, and every year I break that promise.  San Diego might not be the biggest comics convention in the world, but it is certainly in the top two.  This year, my third attending ComicCon, I spent more time checking in with friends made in previous years than I did meeting new people.  That makes me happy – both that I have a community of cartoonists and that I still have the opportunity to make new friends.  It constantly surprises me that, amidst a sea of people (some dressed as Ghostbusters, Marios or zombies), there is the chance to make a meaningful new connection.

If you don’t want to read the post in its entirety, here are a few highlights of my Con:

Getting a hug from Patrick McDonnell.  I attended his panel and got him to sign a copy of Earl & Mooch and thought that would be it.  On Saturday morning I saw him eating breakfast and went over to say hello.  He did the whole going-for-a-handshake-then-thinking-better-of-it bit.  Patrick is one of my heroes: a great cartoonist and a great guy.

Attending a panel on superheroes and spirituality with Deepok Chopra and Grant Morrison.  This may be the only time at ComicCon where the audience takes part in a guided meditation.  “Superheroes as modern myth” may be standard fare by now, but it was refreshing to hear the theme discussed by two guys who really know what they’re talking about.  Best takeaway: superheroes are here to help us confront real problems in the world.  If we can imagine a fictional solution (Grant Morrison’s childhood fear was the atomic bomb), we are much closer to achieving a real-life solution.

My only celebrity sighting this year: Bruce Campbell walked right past me.  His tan was outrageous.

As a rule, cartoonists are nice people.  That is part of what makes ComicCon so great.  You stand in line to get Jeff Smith’s autograph and, regardless of how many fans he has greeted today, he takes the time to smile and say hello, even exchange a few words while he signs the book.  Perhaps it is the solitary nature of cartooning that makes the convention fun for fans and creators alike – for five days everybody finally gets to meet each other.  This of course is true of other conventions, but at ComicCon it happens on a grand scale.  Plus you get to see dudes dressed like this:

Actually, I don’t think this guy was even going to the convention.

WEDNESDAY

Flew into San Diego to find it just as beautiful as ever.  Preview Day, as it is known, has become a for-real day at the Con squeezed into three hours.  I made the rounds to a few booths where I knew I’d find a familiar face.

Keith Knight
Kevin McShane
Raina Telgemeier – she won an Eisner Award for her book Smile!  The Oscars are the Eisners of the movies.
Craig Thompson
Jeffrey Brown
Dave Kellet

Craig was back in San Diego after a seven year hiatus.  He’s finally completed his 700-page graphic novel Habibi, which drops in September.  He was signing a brand new edition of Blankets, which I bought for the first time.  I first heard of Craig upon moving to Portland, and checked a copy of Blankets out from the library.  That made a lifelong fan of me, one of the many eagerly anticipating his next opus.

THURSDAY

My most busy day.  I took advantage of the (slightly) smaller crowds to see as many cartoonists as possible.  Some, like Eric Powell, were mobbed Friday and Saturday due to his creation being turned into a movie.

I attended a panel on digital coloring using Photoshop.  It could have been called “how to make everything shiny.”  For some reason the style right now in mainstream comics (mostly superhero) is to make everything look like it’s made of metal.

In the evening I spent a relaxing dinner with Palle Schmidt at a gallery directly across from the convention hall.  Tr!ckster was put on as a creator-oriented alternative to the main show.

Also seen around the show:
Nate Powell
Stephen Notley
Miriam Libicki
Stephen McCranie – neither of us has a booth, and we never plan it, but we always see each other at the convention.  Serendipity!
Emi Lennox – another Portland cartoonist! She was helping out at the Boilerplate booth.  Boilerplate is a Victorian-era robot with a long and interesting history, as documented by Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett.
Katie Cook
Elise Fachon

FRIDAY

Wow, I thought I remembered the crowds at ComicCon, but Friday shocked me again.  I kept wandering over to the Hollywood side of the convention to see what was happening (something was always happening).  I witnessed Felicia Day hunched over a salad, so I  shouted and waved my hands trying to get her attention.  Just kidding!  I didn’t bother her.  I was also caught in a crowd going crazy for a True Blood signing.

I attended three panels.  Patrick McDonnell was first up.  He started talking about Jack Kirby and almost stopped himself.  “I guess this is the right place to ramble on about Jack Kirby,” he laughed.  Mutts is one of the most creative, best-drawn comic strips out there and I was lucky to finally hear the man himself.  One thing that struck me upon listening to him speak: he sounds a lot like Alan Alda.

Jeff Smith brought his wife and business partner, Vijaya, to his panel celebrating the 20th anniversary of the beginning of Bone.  Jeff’s panel is always entertaining and this time he talked about the 13-year history of working on Bone, which made it even more special.

The third panel I attended, The Boy Who Loved Batman, was unusual in that it was not in Hall H, but it well could have been.  Michael Uslan, who produced the Tim Burton/Christopher Nolan Batman movies, spoke about his lifelong love of comics and Batman in particular.  When he was a hippie in college, he taught the first course about comic books.  Later, he worked for DC Comics and eventually became a producer.  His greatest achievement is bringing The Dark Knight to theaters.  What’s next?  Maybe he’ll murder some kid’s parents so that kid grows up to be a real-life Batman.  Seriously, it was fascinating listening to this man, obviously so in love with Batman that he made it his mission to bring a suitable version of the character to the screen.

I was fortunate enough to sit next to Tom Gammill during the Patrick McDonnell panel.  Tom is a cartoonist; his day job is writing for a little show called The Simpsons.

Also seen:
Scott C
Katie Shanahan
Leland Myrick
James Kochalka – this was the first time I’ve met James in person, and I was surprised to find he doesn’t have large elf ears.  James’ diary comic American Elf has long been a favorite of mine.  His composition within the small daily-strip sized panels is something I aspire to.

SATURDAY

The day of the auspicious hug (see above) and Deepok Chopra/Grant Morrison panel.

I also went to a panel on graphic novels, where I heard from Craig Thompson, Jason Shiga, Joelle Jones, and many more.  I met Mark Tatulli and got a signed copy of a Lio collection.  Talked to some editors about my own graphic novella.  Got free stuff.  Started feeling overwhelmed.  Held it together.

SUNDAY

Gustavo Duarte
James Burks
Octavio Rodriguez

I attended Max Brooks’ panel, Zombie Survival 101.  Saw him for the first time at last year’s Con and had to come back to see him again.  He’s funny, witty and daring, just like his old man.

The other panel I attended was Full-Time Creator on a Part-Time Schedule.  Hosted by a slew of interesting freelancers, they gave us tips on how to manage your time, network, and work with clients.  Useful information.

At dinner I had a great conversation with the guys who do the Stumptown Trade Review podcast.  Then we got cupcakes.  It was delightful, a bunch of dudes standing around nibbling fancy pastries at the end of a five-day comic convention.  What can I say?  ComicCon is the best kind of surreal experience.

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