Reid and I have quite a history of collaboration. He turned in a memorable April Fools Day Falling Rock strip back in 2007. I was so taken with his idea I again enlisted his aid when Falling Rock made the transition from comic strip to comic book. The Uncanny Valley was the opening story for Falling Rock National Park #1.
Reid has gone on to create his masterful series Kingdom/Order. It seems that all of Reid’s minicomics and experiments have been leading to this surreal, ontological work of comic excellence.
A few weeks ago, Reid fell ill. “Fell” may be putting it a bit mildly: he was hospitalized for a week. In that time, he was unable to put brush to paper. Rather than chalk it up as a loss for the comics community, Reid put out a call for fan art to keep Kingdom/Order going in the interim. I decided it was time to return the favor as best I could. Thus, I came up with the following two-page story featuring the nameless man from Kingdom/Order and a few special guests. It won’t get mistaken for Reid’s work anytime soon, but hopefully it will serve as an appetizer for the next installment of his wonderful series.
There is no better feeling than setting up a table of comics within spitting distance of our nation’s capitol. Just think: President Obama could waltz into the Marriott Bethesda North Hotel & Conference Center and see my work! The chances of this happening were small (and in fact it did not happen) but were much greater than at any other show I have ever exhibited at.
I was able to stop by the Prez’ house on my way out of town. Barack was not in (I tried knocking) but I did get to see the Presidential Beehive, so nobody can say I went away empty handed. My hands were full of honey, which is okay because I paid for those bees.
This was my first SPX, and I could not have been happier with the outcome. Sure, I’d heard success stories from my friends. My tablemate Reid told me of the year he sold 40 foldy comics. Kenan, always the optimist, recalls how he had “a great show, which for anybody else would be considered a mediocre show.” Neil, never one to kiss and tell, considers SPX the best show that he doesn’t help organize. These stories aside, there is no better way to experience a good show than to actually be at a good show.
Everybody loves Twitter. Having already conquered the blogosphere and the myspacesphere, I decided that Comic-Con 2012 was the perfect opportunity to make myself known in the Twittersphere. I commenced Tweeting without reservation for five days.
Arriving Wednesday afternoon, I taxied from the airport to my hotel, washed the plane grime from my face, and strapped on my backpack, my new banner (pictured above), and wheeled three heavy boxes of books the half mile to the San Diego Convention Center. I was sweaty when I arrived. Sweaty, but ready for the next five days. There was no line for my badge, one of the many perks of being an exhibitor, and I was ushered into the convention center by the smiling Comic-Con staff.
Preview Night was only three hours long but I met nearly as many people as I would in a normal day of any other convention. It was merely a hint of the madness to come.
Eating breakfast the next morning, I was struck at how the local San Diegans attempted (with varying degrees of success) to live their daily lives in the midst of this massive event. Some eyed us interlopers with curiosity, others attempted to ignore us entirely. My hat is off to the waitresses of the Gaslamp Quarter, many of them dressing in old superhero t-shirts or donning fake glasses. They earned every penny that week.
Every single morning at 9, the convention hall opened to the public. Invariably the first people I saw running by were those intrepid souls attempting to purchase some exclusive toy that was made in limited quantities and only sold at certain booths at the convention. The announcement not to run was played for the first half hour of the show; nobody paid it any attention.
It only took me fifteen minutes to spot my first Wookie. The costume of the year this year seemed to be Adventure Time. So many people dressed as those characters.
This is true. A man approached my table and as we chatted my eyes wandered down to his badge. Badges listed not only a person’s name but where he came from, an interesting bit of information I enjoyed learning. This time, however, my attention was fixed on the man’s name: Charlie Brown. He had a sketchbook; he was asking cartoonists to draw Charlie Brown in their own style. I obliged, and here is the result:
Slave Leia, usually a Comic-Con favorite costume, was not as popular this year. Maybe I just missed all the Slave Leias. Maybe they all hung out by the LucasArts booth (UPDATE: they did). I was not disappointed to miss them. It’s awkward to see women dressed that way. Comics aren’t about that anymore – not the good ones anyway.
One costume I highly approved of was Girl Tintin. I saw two this year and they were both very cool. It’s kind of a Peter Pan thing, and not demeaning. I like to think of Tomb of the Zombies as my version of a Tintin adventure, with Kate Crane as a female Tintin.
My tablemate Reid and I saw him walk by, then turned to look at each other with the same awestruck expression. We equivocated for a while, but in our guts we knew immediately we had seen one of the most popular guys at Comic-Con.
A very drunk Abe Lincoln gave us quite a lot of money for a bit of double-sided tape.
Reid couldn’t stop laughing at the cover to the Events Guide, which featured not only a very healthy looking Tarzan but a zebra butt (hint: center right).
Ruben Bolling is one of my favorite cartoonists; I cannot recommend Tom the Dancing Bug enough. It was truly an honor to receive this book from him.
I bought only a few books this year. Baby’s in Black (by Arne Bellstorf) is a true tragic love story about Astrid Kirchherr and Stuart Sutcliffe. Stuart was in The Beatles before they hit the big time; he was a friend of John’s from art school. Sadly, he died from a brain aneurism in 1962. This book is one of the very best comics I have ever read. Beautiful black & white illustrations, understated and melancholy tone, Baby’s in Black is a rare and precious achievement. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Reid is a huge fan of dinosaur artist William Stout, with good reason. The man’s a genius. He’s also been at every Comic-Con since year one. Reid showed William his drawing of Bigfoot, at which William said, “I know the guy who made that suit.”
My neighbor Jeff Shuetze draws “a geeky comic about a nerd in Hollywood.” He did killer t-shirt and print business; I’m looking forward to diving into his online comic.
My second celebrity sighting. Staying in the convention hall all day long was inconceivable, so I’d take a lunch break to enjoy some of San Diego’s beautiful weather. On my way out I saw a crowd of hundreds of people, all of whom had their cameras raised high above their heads. When I turned to see what all the hulabaloo was about, I saw Robert Downey Jr. standing on the Marvel stage with a bunch of little kids all dressed as Iron Man.
Jeff took an unhealthy liking to my table mascot, Smokey Bear. At one point I looked down at my table to find Smokey conspicuously missing. Determined questioning of my neighbor revealed him to be the culprit. Jeff is a great guy, but he has a terrible poker face.
One of my proudest additions to the table was this custom-made cash box by Cody Acevedo. He took the old cigar box I was using and transformed it into this work of art. Not only does it look great, but it holds money. Maybe not Rmoney, but mini-comics money for sure.
Was this the funniest exchange of the convention? It was certainly close.
Comic-Con has always been an exciting adventure for me. This year, my first as an exhibitor, was a high-water mark for me as a cartoonist. Thanks to my friends and neighbors, both old and new, for making Comic-Con such an essential event for all cartoonists.
And lo, another comic convention has come to pass. The Chicago Alternative Comics Expo took place at the Columbia College campus in lovely (sunny, windy) downtown Chicago.
The man you see stoically trotting towards the entrance is none other than Greg Means, mastermind of Tugboat Press and all-around good guy. Greg is a fellow Portlander and it was good to see him in this far flung locale.
The Midwest! It has been a few years since I was last here. I had almost forgotten about the oppressive muggy heat and the friendly generous natives. I stayed with my college drinking buddy Charlotte, her husband Ed, and their two cats. Duck (pictured below) is the nice one. Squishy, the mean one, I only glimpsed once. I asked what would happen if I put my hand near him. I was told, there will be blood.
CAKE itself was a laugh and two halves. My tablemate Reid and I scored a totally sweet spot right next to the entrance. We were lucky enough to be standing beside my wonderwall Kenan and his tablemates, Betsey and Penina. Just around the corner you could find Chicagoland resident Tyrell Cannon (yes that is his real name), who next year will be sharing a table with me at [SPOILER ALERT] Emerald City Comicon in Seattle.
CAKE was my first comic convention not on a coast. This made it doubly special, since my first convention in the midst of the country was also my most successful since the first year I began going to conventions. It makes me giddy to think of all the folks who are now reading Falling Rock, Jack Ketch, and Tomb of the Zombies (not to mention my foldy comics). Thank you, Chicago, for making me feel so welcome. Thank you also to the tireless organizers, without whom CAKE would not have been the hit it was in its very first year.
If you’d like to see more CAKE next year, I suggest patronizing Quimby’s comic book shop either online or in person. I was finally able to visit that fine shop and found myself overwhelmed with the selection and presentation of low- and high-brow literature. I would also suggest checking out the impressive list of exhibitors CAKE brought to the (metaphorical and literal) table.
It was an excellent, but altogether too brief, excursion into the White City. I hope to be back next year.
Today continues a grand tradition of me taking the day off. I asked my friend Reid (known for his renderings of possibly fictitious animals) to lend his drawing hand for today’s strip. He took Falling Rock someplace it’s never been before: the Uncanny Valley. I’ve written about my distaste for this particular valley, so I was thrilled when Reid came up with this joke. He pulled it off better than I ever would have been able to do.
When he first showed me the strip he told me the difficulty was in determining what kind of lizard and what kind of owl are Ernesto and Carver. Ernesto, it turns out, is a cross between a horned lizard and a gila monster (one that wears a baseball jersey and walks on his hind legs, at that). Carver is a pygmy burrowing owl. Here you can see his process drawings:
I love Reid’s contribution. I want to ask him to draw all my animal characters in this realistic style. What will Pam and Melissa look like?
Why not take a trip down memory lane? Here are previous years’ April Fool strips: