Monday, July 27, 2009

Comic-con: memories

Just got back from San Diego Comic-con last night. With tons o' stuff to report. To keep the bloggage on the lighter side (easier on the eyes, that), I'll try and break this down into three blog posts: 1) memories, written; 2) memories, photographed; and 3) drawings, or "stuff we got signed". Here go some of those memories, (with an occasional teaser pic to get the flavor going)...


First time plane trip with our 8 month old, Romy. Flight to SD was about 4 hours. All in all, Romy did a great job. Just a couple of crying jags, but Julie did an awesome job of keeping the babe happy. Whew.

2:00--Thursday is the official first day of the con (not including the preview night on Wednesday). We hit the ground running. First off, we found the best booths (Drawn and Quarterly, Fantagraphics, First Second, Peanuts...) and did some impulsive spending. After a short run-through of some of the main floor, we went upstairs to find our first panel...

4:00...Spotlight on Richard Thompson, illustrator and cartoonist of the best daily comic strip in America right now, Cul-de-sac. Mr. Thompson did a little Powerpoint click-thru of some of his more cornerstone images and talked about how he went from illustrator (New Yorker mag, etc) and on into the syndicated cartoon racket. A very sweet, soft-spoken, modest guy. Great show.


1:00pm--When we first went to Comic-con, in '03, the attendance was around 75,000. This year it topped out around 125,000. Nearly twice our original visit. Back then, we could get into most any panel offered. Even the big pop culture ones. Friday, we wanted to check out a panel for that TV show, The Big Bang Theory. Line was insanely long. Unreasonably long. The kind of line people stand in for hours. That long. No way. Had to skip it. It would be the first of several panels we skipped for this reason.

1:30--We used the early afternoon hours to eat lunch (bag lunches are best at this place--pull up a clean piece of floor wherever it can be found), people watch (pick any spot at comic-con and sit a while, and you'll see countless eye candies of costumed what-nots and the occasional "celeb". We saw Stan Lee and Gene Simmons this afternoon just hanging.), and catch a signing where we could find it. The great Canadian cartoonist, Seth, was signing at Drawn and Quarterly, so I lugged our huge copy of George Sprott over there and had him sign.

3:00--We spot Richard Thompson wandering the booths around this time. I stop him to say how much I enjoy his panel and his work--and to nab a pic with him, Julie and Romy. We chat for a bit and he turns out to be just a friendly as his work. Such a sweet, sweet dude.

4:00--The only panel we made it to on this day was a pretty good one. A graphic novels panel moderated by Tom Spurgeon (Comics Reporter!). On hand were Lewis Trondheim, Bryan Lee O'Malley, Seth, Gene Yang, Jason Lutes, and Derek Kirk Kim. Highlights included a bickering match about editing in comics between Jason Lutes and Seth (Lutes was ok with, Seth was very much not ok with anyone touching his comics), the always amiable Gene Yang, the sweet humor of Trondheim but near silence otherwise (language barrier), the surprisingly affable Jason Lutes, and this typically deadpanned joke from Seth:

Question from the audience to the panel: "How have your cultural backgrounds shaped your writing or drawing style in your comics?"

Seth: "I'm Canadian. So my comics are boring."


Our last full day at the con, and the busiest. People packed, packed, packed up in the joint. And with much to see on the sched.

10:00am--The panel I was most looking forward to. Lewis Trondheim. This is a cartoonist I have been reading for, maybe, 7-8 years now. He's relatively unknown in America, but is a massive celebrity in his native France. And through parts of Europe. This was a very fun, light little Q/A session with First Second's Mark Siegel. With the occasional bit of whispery translation. (Siegel speaks French. Trondheim's English, not super-sharp.) It was neat to hear the differences in what's happening in comics in Europe and in the U.S.. For example, in Angoulême, France, a comics convention is held each year with a similar size to comic-con (actually bigger--around 200,000 people!) But it's ALL books. ALL comics. Comic-con has become, somewhat controversially so, a bit too partial to movies, tv, toys, pop culture etc. In that, comic-con must have seemed kind of weird, I think, to Mr. Trondheim. When asked how he saw the difference, he said with a well-meaning chuckle, "I feel.... pssst-psst-psst (translation help from Seigel)... I feel... sorry for you."

10:30--Julie skipped the Trondheim panel to wait in line (a reasonable one) for a "10 years of Spongebob" panel. All the major voices and production peeps were in on this one. Since it was only half over by the time Trondheim ended, I was able to catch the last bit with Julie and Romy (well, Romy was asleep...). So cool! They did a couple of live read-throughs (in character, of course), took some cute questions from kids in the audience, and showed a never before seen ep of good ol' SB. This was one of my fave panels of the weekend. Classic good stuff.

12:45--We spotted Alex Winter coming out of a BEN 10 panel and gave him a FREAKED statue that Julie bought many years ago. He signed the thing and was nice enough to pose for a photo!

1:00--See the line for the Futurama panel and realize it's just not going to happen for us.

1:30--I realized I'd missed out on Trondheim's signing. Somebody gave me some bunk info on the time. Luckily, I spotted him on the con floor wandering around. Graciously, he agreed to draw in our book. More on that later...

2:30--Richard Thompson signed this afternoon. He remembered us and we had a nice little exchange again. I then shamelessly passed him one of my TROUBLE GUM postcards.

3:00--Spotlight on Seth. This was really cool. It was scripted, which was unexpected, but it was very well done. And I'm sure, being this guy, it was meticulously planned. He told a series of stories about his life and growth as a cartoonist. Each story was punctuated by a little bell (the kind you'd find at the front desk of an old timey hotel). A self-described "gimmick", the bell was a nice touch. A slideshow of his drawings played on a big screen off to the side for a little ambiance. Well played there Seth.

3:30--Julie skipped the Seth panel to sit in on a Ray Bradbury panel. After Seth, I found her in the back and we met up. In the end, it was kinda weird (lots of awkward product plugging from the other members of the panel), so we left early.

4:00--Consider going to a Hope Larson panel. Ducked in for the first few minutes. Then we left. Long day.

4:30--walked the con floor a bit longer, making sure there were no stones left unturned. Then that was it. Comic-con '09. Out.

Was a great time. Not sure when we'll be back though. It was ok with the little babe, but once she starts getting opinions on stuff, this probably won't be her bag.

To be determined. Angoulême, anyone? Anyone?

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