Friday, July 31, 2009

Comic-con: signings

This is my third (and final) blog post regarding our trip to Comic-con last weekend. In the past, I was not too interested in having my favorite books signed by my favorite artists. It can be a little awkward and disappointing to meet the people I look up to. Easier, sometimes, to keep some things a mystery. But recently, maybe after the last ALA we did a few weeks ago, I felt like, "What the heck?" and it's been pretty fun. I also like to get a photo of Julie and Romy with the person whenever possible.

The first signing we went to was for Seth's new book, GEORGE SPROTT. It's a BIG, beautiful book. He was doing a little something different for each person in line. But every drawing was drawn first with a brush pen, and then shaded with a non-photo blue pencil. Thanks, Seth!

Next, we got Richard Thompson to sign his first CUL-DE-SAC collection. He'd been asking us how Romy was handling the bustle of the con. We told him she had one or two meltdowns but she was really doing well. We got an awesome drawing of the wonderfully hilarious Alice Otterloop doing her thing.

Last, but not least, is the drawing we got from Lewis Trondheim, after stopping him on the convention floor. I explained to him we'd missed his signing and he was very nice to sign our copy of LITTLE NOTHINGS: THE PRISONER SYNDROME, right there on the fly. Julie was wearing a PEANUTS shirt that day with a Snoopy and Woodstock pattern. He noticed...

A final note, also regarding Trondheim. I just read a crazy bit about his signings, particularly the one at the First Second booth. By Brian Heater at The Daily Cross Hatch, from a very interesting, in depth con report here. to meet Trondheim at the Fantagraphics booth. “He’s already gone,” Eric Reynolds breaks the news. The French artist, it seems, couldn’t get out of there quickly enough. When, during his signing, someone asked Trondheim if he was enjoying the show, he answered, simply, “no,” without a smile. No one can tell when Lewis Trondheim is kidding. When I first met him earlier in the day at the First-Second booth, a fan mentioned casually that her favorite character from the Joann Sfar collaboration Dungeon was Marvin the Dragon. She loved the way he burped fire. Trondheim quickly pulled out a disposable lighter from his pocket and proceeded to torch the title page of the book he had just signed. Again, not even the slightest hint of a smile.

Here's two photos of that going down, courtesy of the Hatch...

Wow. Wish I could've been there for that. Very awesome. Very creative. Wacky Frenchmen.

And Tom Spurgeon's (The Comics Reporter) take...

By the way, I'm told that Trondheim has done the burned sketch thing before, and in fact have seen photo evidence. He only does it once a show for obvious reasons -- he has to be asked for a Marvin, and you just don't set things on fire in a crowded place in blithe fashion. Man, what a great gimmick.

Thus, closing my report on another Comic-con. Good times had by all.

Except for, maybe, Trondheim?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Comic-con: photos

Behold! 35 photos from our trip, last weekend, to San Diego's Comic-Con. Complete with annoying captions. Excelsior!

One of the first sights we saw, Thursday, just after we picked up our badges. Retro Trekkers wait for the escalator.

At the bottom of the escalator, they pose for a nice group photo. People gather.

Romy is mesmerized by the many encapsulated G.I. Joe figures. Yo Joe!

HUGE Pikachu in the background. Hard to tell here.

Even bigger. Think Julie's seen one too many smelly Jango Fetts by this photo.

What is this sick creature? He can't scare Romy.

Romy, apparently, sleeps in its presence.

One supercool thing about Comic-con is they provide free bottled water throughout the convention center (see the water cooler in the corner there).

The great syndicated cartoonist, Richard Thompson, discusses his illustration work and CUL-DE-SAC!!

One of the sweet drawings of Richard Thompson during his slide show.

This is one of his preliminary drawings for the CUL-DE-SAC strip.

I don't know what this is (manga? or anime, I presume...), but it looked awesome crossing the lawn of our hotel.

Julie got to rub elbows with one of her schoolgirl crushes, Alex Winter! That's right... Bill and Ted (among other excellent obscure weirdo/funny/artsy films, e.g. FREAKED).

Alvin (of "The Chipmunks") with hat and light saber. (?)

The inimitable Ralph's.

By the power of Grayskull!

Awesome costume. What it is? More manga? Anime?

Old, paunchy Han Solo texts against the wall.

Stan Lee and about 15 people shot out of a private meeting hall and he proceeded to sit on the floor talking to this woman. Everyone stood around him. I took this pic between their legs. I'd become a freak at this point.

Gene Simmons spotted walking around trying to look cool. Sunglasses inside. I think he was walking at the speed of a snail, pretending people like me weren't noticing him.

Many people had this ensemble. This trio was one of the better renditions.


On Friday, Romy wore a Princess Leia "wig" around the con. We couldn't resist.

Nabbed Richard Thompson as he was trolling the booths. Such a nice dude.

Seth signing our copy of GEORGE SPROTT.

He really goes to town.

Not just a quick sketch. A beautiful two-color drawing.

Seth was very cordial/friendly. I think, though, he does the distinguished thing when asked to pose for photographs.

The dude abides.

I caught the amazing French cartoonist, Lewis Trondheim, walking around the booths. He seemed overwhelmed. Since I missed his signing, he very graciously agreed to sign our copy of LITTLE NOTHINGS on the spot. Very friendly. And funny. Just like his books!

Richard Thompson signs.

A lovely drawing which I will show in my next blog post.

The final hours of our stay in San Diego. Ice cream outside!

Baby and Bjorn.

The view from our 19th floor room. Sweet view of the bay! A very fine stay.

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?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Top Ten (July 2009)

I'm starting a new "column" here on the blog. It will be called, not so cleverly, "top ten". Basically, the top then things I'm into at this particular moment. And I figure, it'll run just once a month. Cause once a week would just be annoying to anyone reading this blog, and once a day... I don't think I have ten tops for every day of living. Maybe?

So... Top Ten things for July, 2009! (in no particular order)

1. FOR JUST ONE DAY I saw an advance copy of this on the exhibits floor at ALA last week. Thanks to a tip from pal, Jeff Newman. Beautifully drawn and a good intro, for me, to illustrator, Marc Boutavant! Can't wait to see this and more.

2. Nutella I've been putting it on toasted bagels for breakfast. It's a good change from my usual bowl of cereal. Is it healthy? I'm guessing, maybe not?

3. Yo Gabba Gabba! I've heard about this, here and there, for a while. I guess it's THE kids show for kids with hipster parents. Checked out a dvd from the library (we ain't got the fancy cable tv) and it is actually cool! Looks like a throwback or homage to, like, those Kroft kid shows of the 70's. I think. With style coming out the nose. My favorite is Muno. Or Brobee.

4. Romy's new tricks. Nowadays, she's babbling (ma-ma-ma-ma-ma....) and popping her lips and sitting up all on her own. And she's pooping the light fantastic (solid foods!).

5. HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF BLOOD PRINCE. Saw this last week on opening day cause Julie's a superfan. It's awesome! To be fair, I only read the first book, so I'm not that equipped to talk in depth. But the flicks keep getting darker and darker with just the right amount of darkness. After leaving the theater (gloomy ending) it hit me that the Potter-verse to kids today is what the world of Star Wars was to me when I was a kid. The Dumbledore ending was my Han Solo frozen in carbonite ending. Snif. But actually, I think POTTER is a notch above STARS cause it's BOOKS and it's a friend to both boy and girl.

6. WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE trailer. This is nothing new to the internet. I'm not getting some kinda scoop with this. But we just saw it on the big screen (before POTTER) and it really kicks it up a notch. Awesome trailer. But I'm not completely sold. Still not convinced this sacred kid book needed to be cooled up by the likes of Eggers, Spike Jonze, or Arcade Fire. To be determined.

7. La Croix sparkling waters. A good sub for the sugary sodas at lunchtime.

8. Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. One of my fave kid book blogs. Great illustrator interviews and book reviews. Good taste in picture books, these gals!

9. Kalamata olives. I'm a fan (but not a connoisseur) of a salty olive snack. We even bought an olive tree this spring to try and do some homegrown. I have just recently honed in on the kalamata. Sodium lovers rejoice! It's like a freakin salt lick.

10. TONIGHT'S THE NIGHT by Neil Young. At this point in life, I tend to steer clear of the music of my time. Keeping fresh with new music is too much time and maintenance. Music gets younger, I get older, etc. And who needs it when there's so much good stuff to mine through of days long since past. I like "Mellow My Mind". Busted voice never sounded so good.

That's it. 10 for this month. Though I may have a special TOP TEN edition after we get back from comic-con next week. How could I not?