[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.
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.
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.
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.