san diego comic con 2018

Although this was my seventh year at SDCC, it still felt new. Perhaps partly because it is now my only ComicCon of the year, so my body is not ready for the full marathon. But mostly because every year, although the event itself remains the same, the experiences change.

Fortunately my friends Rachael and Alyssa were there to help with my table once again (this time with the addition of Alyssa’s boyfriend and dad!). My neighbors, both old and new, made the long haul from Wednesday to Sunday feel more like a marathon run with friends rather than a long slog done alone.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by, and to the people who worked tirelessly to make SDCC such a successful place for indie cartoonists like myself. I hope to see you all again next year.

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SDCC 2013

My second year exhibiting at the Greatest Show on Earth was a raging success. I did my best sales ever, beating last year’s record. I saw lots of old friends and met a few new ones. I wasn’t devoured by zombies. I’ve already applied to next year’s show, so with luck you can find me back in Small Press, row O, same time next July.

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Are You There Thor? It's Me, Margaret #sdcc

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Frequent table-mate Reid decided to take a year off, so I had a whole table to fill.

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Are we ready? Yes we are. #sdcc

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Although I was technically tabling alone, I had plenty of help. My friend Rachael, a San Diegan and a biology student, was my official assistant for the show. She gave me lunch breaks and allowed me to get away to see cartoonists and illustrators I’ve long admired. William Stout was back – I think he’s been attending every ComicCon since the beginning – and he drew me a stegosaurus and told me of the new discoveries regarding its famous plates. Rachael rode her motorcycle to the convention center, which was bar none the coolest thing anyone did that whole week.

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Trek Otter #sdcc

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Portrait of #grumpycat #sdcc

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Once again my neighbors made the show for me. Four full days plus one evening is a marathon. You’re handing out cards, shouting greetings to strangers, rattling off the same pithy phrases about your books over and over again until you lose your voice. Without the good humor and support of those tabling around me, I’d never make it.

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Neighbors #sdcc

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Jeff was my neighbor for the second year in a row. Although we didn’t get into a heated Twitter battle like we did in ’12, we joked around plenty. I also got to meet Jeff’s mom and sister. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Jeff’s mom, who stood behind my table when I needed to take bathroom breaks. She became as good, if not better, at selling my books than me.

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Neighbors #sdcc

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Corey and Yomi were new to ComicCon but you’d never know. They are naturally friendly; every time I looked over they were surrounded by a new and exciting mix of people. I can’t wait to read the books I traded them for.

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Homemade #beemo #sdcc

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Sweeping out the mouth. #sdcc

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Ben was once again on my right. Unfortunately I forgot to get a picture of Ben, but trust me, no photograph would do that man justice. He came with the second volume of his mighty work Pang: The Wandering Shaolin Monk. If you are unfamiliar with Ben’s work, I would highly suggest tracking down his zine about a boy who grows a cloaca when he hits puberty.

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#tmnt #sdcc

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Occasionally the river of people running in front of my table yielded a familiar face. Palle Schmidt, my friend from a country where the government supports the arts, was back in San Diego. This time he was plugging his latest graphic novel for the English-speaking market. Palle interviewed me for his podcast. He grouped me with Nate Powell, which is as huge a compliment for me as it must be a dubious distinction for Nate. Listen if you want to hear me expound on self-publishing for three minutes.

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The night I tried to steal Neil from @amandapalmer

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Henry Barajas. This guy. We first met at last year’s Con, but he’s from Tucson. We tabled next to each other at last year’s Tucson ComicCon, where I realized that he is the most outgoing, networkingist cartoonist I’ve met. He is quite literally a Renaissance Man. He does stand-up, writes for the daily paper in Tucson, writes comics, and knows just about everyone in the business. For some reason, he took time out of hanging with Neil Gaiman to help me sell books at my table. Henry gave me the energy boost I badly needed on Friday afternoon. I was in a bit of a rut, caffeine loosing its effectiveness, and he shook off my cobwebs and got me back in the game. Can I throw any more metaphors in there? He was my con coach.

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Ask me about my involvement in #DearMrWatterson #sdcc

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Joel Schroeder, director of the documentary Dear Mr. Watterson. If you asked me what sort of movie I most wanted to be a part of, I would have said, duh, a movie about Bill Watterson. Well kids, I’m here to tell you that dreams really do come true. Joel emailed me last fall, requesting permission to use a Falling Rock strip in his documentary. I held off responding for a good ten minutes before mashing all the keys on my keyboard until I typed YES OF COURSE. Now the film is complete and Joel is preparing for a nationwide theatrical release in November. He sent me a poster for my table and stopped by on Saturday to deliver a stack of postcards. Turns out, everybody at ComicCon loves Calvin and Hobbes. People walking quickly by my table would stop in their tracks when I handed them a card to ask about Dear Mr. Watterson.

Mr. Watterson, if you happen upon this blog, I want you to know that people dressed as zombies, people in capes, women, men, young, old…every single person who goes to ComicCon loves Calvin and Hobbes dearly. There is no other single comic (or movie, or TV show, or viral video) as universally loved as that strip. If you ever want to come to ComicCon, even in disguise so nobody will bug you for a snowman drawing or whatever, I think you will have a great time.

Also, I think you should make a Spaceman Spiff graphic novel. Think about it, get back to me later.

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Hello old friend #sdcc

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I figured out that people on panels had a special badge, so I began asking everyone with a Panel Badge what they did. It always yielded interesting answers. I met a scientist who works at Jet Propulsion Labs. He is a consultant on an upcoming film about a mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa. I hadn’t heard of Europa Report before, but based on his description I am 100% going to see this movie – especially given my longstanding dream that NASA will devote a mission to the ocean moon.

I also saw Lawrence from Office Space! I had no idea what to say to him as he walked by. I just said “Heyyyy!” He turned, smiled, and said “Hello!”

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There was, inevitably, talk among cartoonists about the watering-down of ComicCon. I’ve only been attending for the past five years so the crazy crowds are all I know. With the movie and television and video game and toy companies comes a much broader audience. The people who are there to see Game of Thrones or Hunger Games are not necessarily going to spend any time at Small Press or Artist Alley looking at self-published minicomics. I understand the need to sell well at this show. It is expensive to stay for five days, it is difficult to stand up all day shouting the same pitch to passerby. It can get tiring even if you do well. I come back exhausted. If you don’t do as well as you’d like, it can be disheartening. That’s true for any show. But I disagree that ComicCon is less good because of all the hoopla. If anything, people can get exposed to more pop culture than they ever would have anticipated. I have personally sold comics to people who say they don’t read comics. At ComicCon, it’s all about discovery.

For me, ComicCon is more than just another show. The jarring cocktail of pop culture produces something bigger than any of us. Fans, cartoonists, Stormtroopers, publishers, butchers, bakers, candlestick makers all share space in the sprawling convention center. I’m certainly glad I’ve done we’ll the two years I’ve exhibited; it has made it worth coming back. But more importantly, it exposes me to a phenomenon. ComicCon is the epicenter of popular culture. We come out knowing what the trends will be for the next year. We are part of the zeitgeist, a moving target that perches in the Gaslamp Quarter for a week before heading for parts unknown. It feels good to know that my work can fit into that huge swirling mass.

Until next year, ComicCon.

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#lego Iron-Man #sdcc

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san diego comic-con in pictures

More to come in writing, but here is a visual log of my five days in San Diego. As it was my first time as exhibitor, I took some pictures of the booths without the huge crowds surrounding them. It is an unadvertised treat to be able to wander the convention hall with only my fellow exhibitors around.

For a minute-by-minute recap of Comic-Con, I highly recommend reading my Twitter feed, as well as those of my friends and neighbors Reid Psaltis, Jeff Schuetze, Victoria Ying, Mike Yamada, Tammy Stellanova, Chet Phillips, and Dave Kellett.

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comic con 2010 in words

san diego convention center [Blogger’s Note: Although there were many superstars at Comic Con, one actor was notably missing.  Alan Rickman did not, to my knowledge, attend Comic Con.  Sadly, my meeting with Sir Rickman has yet to occur.]

I can hardly believe it’s been more than a week since Comic Con.  The yearly festival of comics and media geekdom was, my second time around, still just as vital as ever.  Comic Con excels at two things, mainly: facilitating fans’ meeting hundreds (possibly thousands) of famous and yet-to-be famous cartoonists, and providing a ground for the exchange of ideas and products related (sometimes tenuously) to sequential art.  Uh, and recently it’s become a place where Hollywood previews movies based on comics.  If you want to meet the cartoonist who created your favorite strip or book, or if you want to see the starlet who will be starring in the movie based upon your favorite strip or book, Comic Con is the place to be.

This year, as I mentioned before, I was joined by my wife Isis and my good friends Nate McGraw and Alex.  It was their first ever trip to California, which was totally crazy to me, but some people just grew up on the wrong side of the country (or continent).  The ladies took off almost immediately to stand in line for movie panels.  Nate was gracious enough to let me lead the way though pop culture wilderness. L1020100L1020149

I’m dividing this post up thematically, as giving a blow-by-blow chronological account would bore all of us.  As it is, only three readers have gotten this far in the post.  Thank you!  Read on for the exciting part.

If the convention floor is the meat of Comic Con, the panels are the vegetables.  It is the panels where you can hear cartoonists blather on for an hour about their favorite pen nib. True bliss.

Nate and I kicked off Comic Con with the Spotlight panel on Jeff Smith.  Jeff created Bone and Rasl, and is a genuinely nice and funny guy.  His slide show covered new projects he’s been working on, and in the question and answer section he mentioned the upcoming Bone movie(!).

We also sat in on the Keith Knight Spotlight panel, in which Keith spoke about his weekly comic strip and his new (-ish) daily strip.  Keith is a great speaker, a natural entrepreneur, and above all a very funny cartoonist.  He brought something up that I found intriguing; his weekly comic, The K Chronicles, was essentially a blog before blogs even existed.  When I read it that way, it makes complete sense.

Nicholas Gurewitch, the mad scientist who created Perry Bible Fellowship, is someone either destined to be a Hall of Famer or a delirious bum who dies in a gutter.  I’m not sure which.  His question and answer section sounded eerily like a Bob Dylan press conference from the 1960’s, in which he would answer the question with a riddle, or he’d answer the question he wanted to be asked.  My favorite answer was to the question, “Do you get your ideas directly from life?”  He responded, “If we can only write from what we experience, then yes, 100% of my ideas come directly from life.”

We saw about half of a Krazy Kat panel.  They showed some home movies of George Herriman with his (then) baby granddaughter.  It was pretty cool to see one of my cartoonist heroes come to life, since we are separated by almost a century.

Berkeley Breathed put on a freewheelin’ panel, documented by this post and photographed in this post.  I may be the only one, but based on the test footage he showed I’m glad Opus never got made into a movie.

Ray Bradbury is almost 90, but he spoke to hundreds of us and seems entirely lucid, if nearly deaf.  Honestly, if it was a choice between ears and brain to go first, I’d choose ears every time.  It was a real joy hearing the very first Comic Con guest speak at Comic Con 41.  His responses to to questions were in depth and often funny.  Not sure why he hates the internet and Obama.

On a panel called Writing Animated Feature Films, four screenwriters discussed the projects they’ve worked on and how they managed to get through them.  I say that because apparently, in Hollywood, the writer is almost as low on the totem pole as the caterer (actually, they probably receive less respect than the food dude).  Between them, I found both Dean DeBlois and the writer who worked in TV (whose name I could not find in the Programming book, sorry!) to be the most straightforward about their work and what it takes to be creative while working with a group.  In all, it was a very informative panel and something that you wouldn’t normally see outside of a writing seminar.

Nate and I found the Nerdiest Guy At Comic Con at the Avatar Press panel.  We were there to hear Max Brooks, author of World War Z, talk about how to survive the coming zombie apocalypse.  The NGACC asked a dozen questions, and even filmed himself asking one question, as well as Max’s response.  Max cut him off after that.  We were thrilled to find the NGACC and wanted to ask him out for a drink afterward, to hear him monologue, but thought he might misconstrue our affection as ironic, so we didn’t.

The zombie panel leads me to the next segment of this overly-long post:

Zombies and Vampires
Last year, Twilight brought the vampire lovers to Comic Con en masse.  Seriously, there were like 80,000 teenage girls there for one reason (hint: it wasn’t sex).  This year, despite the popularity of True Blood – which Isis described to me as softcore porn with vampires – zombies ruled the convention.  There was a zombie walk, zombie panels, and two (count ‘em) booths devoted to the comic series Walking Dead.  This made me feel good about my book-in-progress, as it is about zombies.  I can’t wait to be a millionaire.L1020156

Last year I was at Comic Con for two days, while this year I stayed for the whole bloody affair.  I got to see more celebrities wandering the convention floor this year, which was pretty cool.

Scott Adsit plays Pete Hornberger on one of my favorite TV shows of all time – OF ALL TIME – 30 Rock.  I saw him wandering the convention floor and ran over like a panting doofus.  I was smart enough to give him my new Falling Rock collection, but I wasn’t sure how best to convey how awesome I think he is.  This was the second time this year I’ve seen Scott – he made an unscheduled appearance at Stumptown.  Scott, the next time I see you I promise to be more eloquent.

I saw Seth Green two times: once signing autographs, and once wandering the convention floor with his wife.  He would have been swarmed if he got noticed, so I didn’t try to say hello.

Nate and I saw two mega-stars while eating lunch on Thursday.  David Hasselhoff was apparently promoting a new reality show.  He stood on the roof a double-decker bus, along with a group of dancing girls, shaking his tanned body and singing “Hooked on a Feeling.”  His bus was flanked by Knight Rider cars.  Kind of the definition of “publicity stunt.”  Soon after, our waitress shrieked and ran down the sidewalk.  She saw Emilio Estevez.  She got her picture taken with him, then came back and told us how bummed she was that she had to work the entire weekend.  Despite my description, she was a perfectly good waitress.

Although I didn’t see her personally, Isis and Alex told me that they saw Helen Mirren wearing a Harvey Pekar shirt.  Helen Mirren, if you read this blog know this: you are totally awesome.  Please visit Falling Rock National Park anytime.L1020221

I know.  You’re wondering what all this has to do with comics.  While Comic Con has become more about pop culture in general, it does manage to retain its comic-centeredness.  Most of the convention floor is devoted to booths about comics, either hosted by the creators or the publishers or retailers.  I ran into a number of cartoonists either by accident or by visiting their booths.  The number of serendipitous meetings leads me to believe there is a great positive energy generated by Comic Con.  I won’t try to explain it, but I know it is there.

A partial list, with links to guide you: Greg Means, Stephen Notley, James Sturm, Jeffrey Brown, Nate Powell, Bill Amend, Steve Lieber, Katie Cook, Paul Guinan & Anina Bennett, Raina Telgemeier, Stephen McCranie, Rudy Solis, Dylan Meconis, Dave Kellett.

Although long, this post feels like a snapshot of the full days and nights.  A complete write-up would probably feel more like Ulysses and less like a blog.  As an event, Comic Con is probably the biggest and best I’ve ever participated in.  As a place to meet and spend time with creative and smart people, Comic Con is probably second only to college.

Thanks for reading, and see you in San Diego next year.L1020228

Blog comic con

comic con 2010 in photos

How you know you found California:

Your hotel elevator has a mysterious button labeled “Seismic.”

How you know you found Comic Con:
Stormtroopers outnumber civilians by a 5:1 ratio.
Comic Con 2010 was, the second time around, just as dizzying and exciting as ever.

This time, I brought some friends to enjoy the trip.  

As I was the grizzled veteran, I gave handy tips which were summarily dismissed by the ladies.  The last I saw of our female companions, they were headed toward Hall H (the largest of the conference rooms) to see American royalty (movie stars, not cartoonists).  That left me and my partner blogger Nate McGraw alone to fend for ourselves in the pop culture jungle.

The real Gostmobile
Audrey Hepburn as Catwoman, with boobs
Bedazzled Stormtrooper

Comic Con is all about neat toys.  But it is also about people dressed like neat toys. 
(Among other things.)

I had many more celebrity sightings this year than last, because I am a star magnet.  Also, I stayed for all four days instead of two.
This first doesn’t really count, as I “spotted” Berkeley Breathed in the panel called Spotlight on Berkeley Breathed.  For years I had a totally incorrect conception of what the man looked like.  When I was a kid, I had a Bloom County collection in which the author photograph was of a Hell’s Angel on his Harley.  Had I been a discerning adult, I would have immediately gotten the joke.  As it was, for years I went around thinking this cartoonist looked like something out of a Hunter S. Thompson book.
This is what Berkeley Breathed really looks like, from about 50 rows back:

On my final day, I happened upon an unusual book signing: Frank “Dark Knight Returns” Miller and Dave Gibbons.  I centered this photo on Frank, but upon seeing it later I realized that dude on his left totally drew Watchmen.  Comic Con!

Nate and I chose to pose in front of our respective alter-egos.  Nate’s Iron Man to my Snoopy.

San Diego, as usual, brought perfect weather.  Not that it mattered much to those of us choosing to spend glorious summer days inside a crowded convention center.  Still, we got outside for meals.  Not pictured here: the bus on which David Hasselhoff was dancing and singing “Hooked on a Feeling.”  No joke.  Our waitress had bought a disposable camera just for this weekend, and asked us to snap a picture if he got close enough.

Before I go, I have an important announcement.  This blog is proud to be the first to publicly “out” The Man of Steel himself:

That’s it for now.  Tune in tomorrow, dear readers, for the text-heavy version, including my scintillating narrative about how I borrowed someone’s grocery store card to get 50 cents off my tube of toothpaste.
An essential Comic Con experience: being last in line for something and having to hold this sign.
Blog fiction

The Falling Rock Iron Man Workout

atlasLast week our partner blogger McBone outlined a miracle diet that would guarantee a physique rivaling that of a Greek God.

Countless scientific studies have proven that eating the right food can make you healthy, and even keep you alive. But scientists also know that food alone cannot make you fit.

Are you sick of being so rail thin that girls see right through you to better-looking men? Or so chubby that children mistake you for an inflated beach ball or a ripe peach? Don’t let your insecurities hold you back any longer!

Falling Rock presents the Military Preparedness Exercise Regime (FRMPER for short). You don’t actually have to enlist in the marines when you’re done with this regime, but you could.

It’s so simple, even a moron could follow these directions!

When you wake up, do thirty squats before leaving the bed. Change into comfortable clothing. It’s important to dress appropriately for exercise.

Now do a quick 2.4 mile swim in the ocean, a refreshing 112 mile bike ride, and finish off your set with a 26.2 mile run. You’ll feel like Robert Downey Jr. in that movie nobody can remember the name of.

Every day you’ll feel yourself getting stronger, with all the extra confidence that goes along with it. Falling Rock guarantees you’ll be a muscled man-wich by the end of the month. Girls will be flocking to you (or boys, if you swing that way). You’ll never get picked last for the softball team, that’s for sure!

Get on the FRMPER and get into shape!*

*Starting a new exercise routine can cause unwanted health effects such as heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, tinnitus, blood in stool, hypothermia, hallucinations, and even death. Consult your doctor before starting a new routine.

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A few days ago was the first 100+ degree day in Tucson. That is one sure way to know that summer has officially arrived. Similarly, the first 90+ degree day in Portland was last week. There’s no looking back, kids. Summer is here, so put on that Vivaldi piece of the same name, break out the sun block, stock up on “fun.” We’re pushing through ’til September.

Of course another way to tell for sure that summer is here is by the kinds of movies in the theater. We’ve been holed up all winter reading comics. Now we can go to the theater and watch those inert, hastily drawn figures come to life! No more wasting your time with your own thoughts. What used to cost the price of ink and paper now is done by computers at the rate of 14 million dollars per second of screen time. Progress!

I saw Iron Man yesterday and have to say, I was impressed. Robert Downey was funny and really made the film for me. Of course, having Jeff Bridges and Gwyneth Paltrow there didn’t hurt either. I kept waiting for Bridges to make some Dude-like comment, but it didn’t happen. And I did like the married-but-not-married relationship between Tony Stark and his long-suffering assistant, Pepper Potts (which is just a fantastic name). Yes, the action scenes were breathtaking. But the parts I remember liking most came from the characters. Once Downey puts on that suit, there is very little room for emoting.

I can hardly wait until Hollywood inevitably comes knocking on my door for the rights to Falling Rock. In the meantime, I plan on filling my comics with exactly the kind of action and humor that seems to be all the rage these days. James Joyce was first. You’re next, Stephen Crane.