comic-con 2014

This year I almost didn’t make it to San Diego ComicCon. In December I received a letter informing me that I was waitlisted. It hit me hard. ComicCon has become a highlight of the year and I’d hate to miss it. Fortunately I am tenacious, and in late May a cancellation got me into the show. A few very busy weekends later, I finished Falling Rock National Park #4 in time for its San Diego debut, hopped on a plane, and found myself once again in the Happiest Place on Earth.

The convention did not disappoint. Massive crowds, interesting (and sometimes inexplicable) installations, a Paul Rudd sighting, and of course many good friends stopping by my table in Small Press to say hello.

My neighbors were Alec Longstreth and Greg Means, two friends from way back. They played a game created at WonderCon called Cosplay Alphabet. You have to spot people dressed as characters in alphabetical order. The game made us extra aware of the people passing by on all sides. Sadly, we got all the way to Z but didn’t see a zombie or Zorro in the final half hour of the show. Still, it was a great way to fill the slow times (in Small Press, that does happen occasionally).

What marked this year apart from the past two were my meetings with two television networks. I can’t say much about it as of yet, but it was the most exciting thing to happen to me at any ComicCon. You can be sure I’ll have more to say as soon as there is something to say. What I will say now is that this feels like the right progression for me. I’m living that legend the old-timers tell, about the indie cartoonist who gets scooped up at ComicCon by a benevolent massive corporation. The American Dream is alive at ComicCon.

I did my first-ever convention signing, at the Uclick booth. When I was drawing a comic strip, I sent in a submission to the comic syndicates every year. Universal Press Syndicate was my favorite, partly because they seemed the most approachable and partly because they syndicated Calvin & Hobbes. So it was something of a dream come true when they asked to run my graphic novel, Tomb of the Zombies, on their website this fall. As part of the huge promotional push for my masterwork, they asked me to sit at their booth for an hour and sign Tomb of the Zombies prints. It was totally awesome.

This show would not have been possible for me to do alone. That is why I am grateful for my wife, who not only designed the nifty book ribbons for my Falling Rock 4-book collection, but overnighted copies of Falling Rock #3 after I had completely forgotten to pack a single one.

I also have to acknowledge Rachael, who I met at ComicCon four years ago. She’s been at my table for the past two years, giving me all-important breaks for food, nature, and a chance to visit friends at tables all over the convention center. If not for her, I’d be one of the walking dead by the end of Thursday.

Some cool things I saw that are not Paul Rudd:
Tom Kenny exited an elevator I was about to enter. I smiled, recognizing him as both the voice of SpongeBob and a player on Mr. Show. He looked at my badge and said, “Oh, hi Josh! Sorry I didn’t recognize you.” We shook hands. I couldn’t do anything but grin. I met SpongeBob! He’s so nice! Why did he apologize to me?

Jim Lee was giving clues to fans as to the whereabouts of sketches he’d hidden all around the hotel next to the convention center. Although I didn’t find any, I spent a good ten minutes looking under tables and around ferns.

The original Bill Watterson/Stephan Pastis Pearls Before Swine comics. They are being auctioned to benefit Parkinson’s research. This was the second time in my life I’d been able to see original art by Mr. Watterson, and it was just as thrilling as the first. A woman beside me was nearly in tears. Standing there on the convention floor was more spiritually moving than being at a museum in front of a Picasso or Monet. (Those guys are fine, don’t get me wrong.)

Scott McCloud stopped to talk to Alec and Greg, and I waylaid him before he scurried off. He and I both were pretty frazzled on Sunday afternoon, but I was able to communicate how much I liked his interview for the documentary Stripped. He’s an incredibly nice guy, and I’m glad we got to chat for a few minutes.

Near the end of the day on Sunday, Matt Inman, creator of The Oatmeal, walked by my table. Not recognizing him (he’s actually much better looking than his comic suggests), I gave him a postcard. He looked at my books for a few minutes and asked what tools I use. He’s exclusively digital, so I don’t think my suggestions were much help to him. Then he asked me if I did sketches. I said, Sure, why not? He wanted me draw his lady friend as a zombie. We were all laughing pretty hard at the absurdity of this whole exchange. She was understandably embarrassed, not knowing what kind of hideous creature I’d turn her into. I think I did right by her, though, and he was suitably impressed with my on-the-spot sketch. This was the best-case scenario for convention sketches. I can now retire from them forever.

There was more, of course, but this post has gotten unwieldy enough. I hope it has given you a taste of ComicCon. Until next year, when I get to learn about pop culture all over again.


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