Comic-Con ’09 Roundup: The Good and the Bad, Part 1
San Diego Comic-Con is over, and as both fans and pros wend their way through the recovery process, ComicsAlliance talked with creators across the industry about their best and worst moments from the leviathan convention that annually eats the comics industry whole, spins up our bones, and uses them for toothpicks.
That may be a little bit of my own experience talking, though, but we'll get to that later. For now, I'll let pros like Warren Ellis, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Gail Simone do the talking about the highlights and lowlights of the event in the first installment of our Comic-Con roundup. (If you're a pro and want to add your thoughts to the next batch -- hit me up!)
Warren Ellis ("Marvel Anime"):
Best San Diego I've ever done. I was only there for an hour and a half. I hope to get this down to eighteen nanoseconds next year by appearing as a subliminal image in a Marvel video presentation, holding up a sign reading "KILL THE PIGGIES."
Jimmy Palmiotti ("Jonah Hex"):
THE GOOD: The footage of the "Jonah Hex" panel. THE BAD: Me not asked to be on the panel.
THE GOOD: Some great parties. THE BAD: Companies trying to pad them by inviting a million agents and celebrities outside comics so no one in comics can come in.
THE GOOD: The Eisners. THE BAD: The con feeling like a Hollywood TV and movie convention with some comics thrown in.
THE GOOD: The comic panels. THE BAD: The movie and TV people giving away so much crap that people were coming up to artists and asking for free stuff daily and not buying a thing from them.
THE GOOD: I got to see a lot of my friends. THE BAD: The only real comic party all weekend that felt like a comic book event was the Dead Dog party Sunday night.
THE GOOD: I managed to avoid the show and hit the pool a few times. THE BAD: It took me an hour to go from room to room, and I was double booked on a few things.
THE GOOD: Met with many Hollywood people about my properties. THE BAD: Almost half of them are full of s--t... lol.
THE GOOD: More comic work. THE BAD: Comic companies paying less than ever for your hard work.
THE GOOD: Going to sleep early. THE BAD: Didn't happen once.
Bob Burden had the best idea of the con when he mentioned to a group of us that they should line the middle aisle with the comic guests from end to end and put all the booths behind them to point out that without these comic creators, there is no show. I personally think they do a great job with this show, but special care has to be taken next year to keep the "comic" in Comic-Con. It can be done... I have been to comic shows overseas with attendance in the hundreds of thousands that managed to focus on the graphic medium first, so I have faith things will change.
Shannon Wheeler ("Too Much Coffee Man"):
I got roped into doing a panel on comics on the cell phone for UClick. At the last minute, completely unannounced, Stan Lee joined us. We sat reverently as Stan "the Man" dominated the panel. I managed to get in a couple little quips. One person asked how Stan planned on signing digital comics. I said that Stan would email him a PDF of his signature and I got a laugh.
Jim Shooter bought a "Phoenix" (vodka, orange and strawberry) for me. And I got to laugh with Dave Gibbons about a panel we were on together years back. It seemed like the show was less crowded and less frenetic than last year which I attribute to better crowd management by the staff. It was the first year that I haven't set up to sell my junk which made it a 'best year ever' for me.
Jamie S. Rich ("You Have Killed Me"):
I had an incredibly good show. The highlight for me would easily be having a hit book at the con. "You Have Killed Me" made an extraordinary debut, and Joëlle Jones and I more than once felt like we were caught up in a frenzy. Just as fun was watching her star continue its ascendancy, having Matt Wagner point her out as an upcoming "Madame Xanadu" artist at the Vertigo panel and signing with Joss Whedon, Zack Whedon, and Maurissa Tancharoen for the "Doctor Horrible" one-shot she's drawing for Dark Horse. I stood to the side of that one and sold her sketchbooks for her, and got to lean over and point out that she had just given Mario Hernandez an autograph. No one knew how Mario made it all the way through the raffle and into the autograph line without anyone stopping him and saying, "Dude, you co-created 'Love & Rockets,' you don't have to wait." What a guy!
I, for one, think the show was a little more chill this year. The big events upstairs meant less packed floors downstairs, and so I wandered a bit more than usual. Visiting Stan Sakai was a joy, as always, and I stumbled on Travis Charest's table by accident. Meeting Frazier Irving outside the Hyatt was also a highlight. Turns out I had corresponded with him when he was an up-and-comer and I was editing at Oni, and I had no idea.
The lowlight was when I actually stood in line for an autograph, and it reminded me that as creators, we have to be mindful of our actions. I wasn't even buying for me, which is an added kicker. I stood in line and bought some merchandise for a friend, and decided the queue was moving fast enough that I could get it signed. I got to the front of the line just as the artist agreed to do an on-camera interview with some podcast or other. Which is totally fine, that's part of the show, but there I am, standing at the table, and no one even turns to say anything to me. No, "Hey, sorry about this, it will just take a couple of minutes." Even worse, when the artist was done, he turned back to me, did not apologize, did not ask my name or if I wanted my item personalized, did not speak at all. He just scribbled his signature and shuffled me along.
Now, I'm the first to come to a creator's defense and say shows can be places where our manners suffer and we get tired and that it's a two-way street, there is often bad behavior in the aisles, etc. I've also heard plenty of stories about myself that I can't believe I may have done and know that perceptions on either side of the table can be different, but even so...we all need to think about how well we keep our game face on. I certainly hoped that this unnamed person perked up for those who followed me.
Douglas Wolk ("Reading Comics"):
For me, enjoying Comic-Con is a matter of carefully managing my experiences in San Diego. I no longer automatically have a good time there, but I can make myself have a really good time. To whatever extent I can, I try to avoid standing in lines (and, when I do, I try to get to know the people next to me in the lines). I also try to spend as much time as I can with friends I only get to see at conventions, because there's not much more dispiriting than a Horton Plaza stir-fry wolfed down by oneself, and not much more fun than a Horton Plaza stir-fry lingered over with friends while chatting about "Cecil and Jordan in New York" or arguing about "All Star Superman." I enjoyed the panels I moderated and appeared on this year immensely, and I wish I'd gotten to attend a few other panels. I also always like shopping at the Con; this year, I was particularly happy to score a thrashed-to-hell "Amazing Adult Fantasy" #12 for six bucks.
Sometimes, at the show, I lose sight of that stuff (usually when it's taken me half an hour to bludgeon my way from the small press pavilion to Artists' Alley, or 45 minutes to cross the street after the floor closes), which is when the sheer scale of the thing starts to overwhelm me. I do think Con as we know it has maxed out the carrying capacity of San Diego as a city; the early sellout shuts out the casual con-goers who are essential to the long-term health of the stuff I like. I really miss the way that the lighter crowds and more open spaces of years past used to encourage social contact, instead of grudgingly permitting it. But I love that it's probably the biggest American comic book convention by actual-comics-content size, which is why I don't really mind that it's probably the smallest by actual-comics-content percentage.
When I get stressed out in the convention center, I try to step back and look at how many people around me are doing something they love at that moment: cosplayers, Twilighters, gamers, collectors, readers. Comic-Con is tens of thousands of people's Happy Place; with some effort, I can make it mine, too.
Gail Simone ("Wonder Woman"):
My best experience this year is easy. I spent all my free time this year collecting art donations from creators for an auction to benefit industry legend John Ostrander, who is suffering from a severe bout of glaucoma which has threatened his eyesight. He has insurance, but it's not covering all his surgeries and related expenses. The details are listed at comix4sight.com.
It was a little bit astonishing. Nearly every single person I spoke to donated something, everything from sketch cards and limited edition art books all the way up to double page spreads and covers. Some of these are people who don't even know John, some of them barely knew who I was, but they didn't hesitate. Many took time away from their busy con schedules to draw pieces exclusively for the auction. Jim Lee, after five exhausting days, stayed after the con was closed to add detail to an amazing Batman and Wolverine piece. Terry Moore donated an astounding "Echo" cover. Whole studios participated, like Udon, Boom, and Periscope. Stan Sakai, Sergio Aragones, Terry Dodson, Phillip Tan, Matt Wagner, Francis Manapul, Rob Liefeld, Scott Morse, Aaron Lopresit, Jamal Igle, Roger Langridge, Phil Noto, J. Scott Campbell, Nicola Scott, Neal Adams, Josh Adams, Bernard Chang, Billy Tucci, the list just goes on and on and on. This art will join pieces already donated by the Kubert family and Paul Chadwick and more, for an art auction at the Chicago Comicon August 8th, put on by the good people at Wizard Entertainment.
It's very moving. Not a single person asked for credit or thanks. They just wanted to help. At the end of the con I left with a portfolio nearly bursting with page after page of gorgeous art, art that is a big part of their yearly income that they all donated without a moment's hesitation.
Say what you like about SDCC and the industry, but the proof of how great it can all be is that this money is going to help a great writer, and anything donated above John's costs is going to the Hero Initiative. Bad experiences pale away to nothingness in comparison. The con treated me amazingly well and any niggling gripes seem sort of silly, all things considered.