Comic Con’s Not Dead pt. 2

It isn’t easy for the casual fan to acquire tickets to Comic-Con. Once you get in, it’s an ordeal to squeeze past the movie studio palaces with their big screens and giveaways. But if you are willing to put in the work, Comic-Con is still pretty awesome.

Preview Night. I don’t think I’ve ever seen preview night so crowded. Of course, the first place I went was the Giant Robot booth to see my great friend and conspirator, Eric Nakamura (top right). If you looking at the GR site, you know what I mean. Also there was ace cartoonist John Pham (top left) Why is it that I see certain L.A. friends only at San Diego? One more reason to go, I guess. On the bottom row are the two other places where I lurked. Not working the GR booth anymore, I can be that guy who hangs out at other people’s booths until it becomes uncomfortable. At Super 7, we talked with Brian and Scott more about hardcore shows than toys. And then there were Tom and Peggy of Drawn & Quarterly with Peter from The Beguiling. No bow-tie on Tom yet because the table was still a work in progress, without banners flaunting their world-class  roster of indie, international, and classic comic artists.

Day 1. Yes, there are many cool panels and I did not attend any of the big ones. Except for Jackie Chan (bottom right). We got in line for Hall H (where the Avengers, True Blood, Game of Thrones, and so on showed) about 45 minutes before his panel was scheduled to begin and were seated about 30 minutes after it started. In the Q&A format, I guess it really doesn’t matter. The thing about Jackie–and I noticed this when I interviewed him way back when–is that even though he’s been asked every possible question a million times, he still thinks about his answers and gives them with full appreciation and gusto. What an icon and what a cool guy. Speaking of icons, we also sat in on a chat with Gilbert Shelton (Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, Fat Freddy’s Cat, Wonder Warthog). After his panel, MAD legend Sergio Aragones introduced himself to the underground icon. Wow! Also cool was Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie exhibit, which was kind of a like a mini version of the Burton retrospective that was at LACMA full of puppets, props, and sets from the upcoming feature. Nice!

Yes, more friends. Since I wasn’t working, I got to go outside for lunch and met Alyasha Owerka-Moore at Neighborhood. Google him. Google the restaurant, too. It’s good. Fellow GR alum Michelle was at the Mimoco table, and we talked about how she used to obsess over cookies every afternoon. Or was that me? Outside the convention center at Petco Park, the baseball field was turned into a Walking Dead-themed zombie run. Sounded like fun, but I heard it cost like 75 bucks. It was free to lay down next to the fake car accident and take a picture, though.

Day 2. Not heeding Tom’s warning about how Kate Beaton was the hottest shit at Drawn & Quarterly, we arrived at her panel right on time only to get shut out. Damn. That was the only panel we were interested in that particular day. Luckily, there was a lot of other stuff that we wanted to check out, like the Frankenweenie garden and the annual Robert Heinlein Blood Drive. These were outside the Con and I think anyone could have participated in them. But back in the convention center, we caught up with Matt Groening while in line at the Drawn & Quarterly booth for the Brecht Evens signing (more on him later) and then artists Bwana Spoons and Kiyoshi Nakazawa walking around with MMA fighter Josh Barnett. (Did I mention that Kiyoshi was my ride down to San Diego? Thanks again to Lucky Nakazawa.)

Day 3. I was very excited to attend the Save The Date panel. I think it’s cool that one of my favorite artists and guys, Jeffrey Brown, chose to co-write a screenplay in the style of his comics rather than simply adapt an existing work. It was explained that his books are simply too personal, and it turns out that the concept and cast are awesome. It’s an awkward indie rock love triangle featuring actors from Freaks & Geeks, Mean Girls, 500 Days of Summer, Community… Not bad, right? The afternoon panel with Brecht Evens was amazing, too. Although there were no visuals to show off the Belgian artist’s amazing water-colored storytelling, everyone was captivated the crowd with his witty charm and unique outlook toward comics.

Even more friends, clockwise from top left: Justin “Scrappers” Morrison and Cap; the World Famous Super Beagle; Save the Date musician Hrishikesh “The One AM Radio” Hirway and director Michael Mohan, Boygirlparty artist Susie Gharemani holds down the fort at the Chorus karaoke bar; Drawn & Quarterly’s Tom Devlin recalls when his old Highwater and the old GR booths got placed next to a wrestling housewives (or something like that) VHS booth more than a decade ago; somehow we got into a high-powered Drawn & Quarterly/Fantagraphics summit at Valentine’s featuring Brecht Evens and Eisner Award winner James Kochalka. That place rules, and brought free margaritas for those without the straight edge.

Day 5. Attending the Jason Shiga panel first thing in the morning was like having an 8:00 calculus class, but a lot more fun. Derek Kirk Kim was there there to support the newlywed comics/math genius as well. Better late than never, but I finally crossed paths with Uglydolls co-creater David Horvath as well. The nicest guy ever with the ugliest product ever. That night, my comic book crew (including Mike Shah, who started going to Comic-Con with Greg and me in 1979 and has not missed one, and Jeff Friend who has crashed out at Greg’s house for the Con since at least the mid ’90s) went to Phuong Trang for dinner. For the first time in ages I saw O, who introduced me to Lagwagon leader Joey Cape. There is no San Diego without O. If you liked Olive Lawn and Fluf, you’ll love the Makeup Sex, too.

For me, the best part of Comic-Con is not that the best publishers, artists, filmmakers, toy makers, and vendors are under one gigantic roof. It isn’t the free stuff, people watching, or celebrity sighting, either. It’s getting to spend time with friends from all over the country. Yes, a lot of them happen to be very talented and interesting people (Jeffrey Brown and Ming Tran, above) but mostly they’re just nice and I never get to see them. On top of that, I spend five straight days with my brother, Greg, partaking in something that we’ve been doing since we were in grade school. Hopefully, I’ll see you next year as well.