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The Collected Notes From The Floor Of San Diego's Comic-Con International, 2012 Version
posted July 22, 2012
 

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By Tom Spurgeon

The following are notes and observations gathered on the floor of Comic-Con International 2012 in San Diego, California. These were culled from individual posts made during the show, usually hopped up on caffeine between 6:30 and 7:00 AM trying not to wake my roommates while I got it done so I could go swimming. All of the photos are by Whit Spurgeon except for the one from the CBLDF party that I stole from Jacq Cohen's camera; I hope she doesn't mind.

*****

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WEDNESDAY, JULY 11

* there were a few pre-show publishing announcements that went out earlier this week that I think maybe properly belong in this column -- or at least they're the kind of thing I would have run as announcements on the site were they to come out today. One was First Second announcing the publication of something called The Ren without a link to a posting of the story on-line, even on their blog, which I always find a little weird this far along in the age of Internet. Anyway, that's by Joseph Illidge, Shawn Martinbrough and Grey Williamson. A second was the launching of Binary Publications (or maybe Binary Publishing, or even Binary Press), which is a Gary Reed line devoted to books about pop culture. On Tuesday, MAD announced its 60th anniversary volume from Time-Life. The new Neil Gaiman kids' book deal apparently includes a work with cartoonist Skottie Young.

* here's one from the afternoon before the show's Preview Night: comiXology and Bongo will launch a bunch of Simpsons comics on a related, targeted app to coincide with Bongo's Thursday morning panel. That's the first in-show announcement of what I'm guessing will be a metric ton of digital-related announcements.

* so I rode down on the train from Los Angeles. The line to board was very, very long, and even though I was about ten people back from the front I almost didn't get a seat -- I'm still now sure how that works, but it happens a lot. It was mostly a Comic-Con crowd, but of the younger-than-35 age group as opposed to families, or pros, or even, really, hardcore-identifiable fans.

* Union Station in LA has added a few shops, a couple more places to get coffee and has generally updated its front lobby from the year 1978. I'm glad. I can't tell you how convenient it is to be staying in North Hollywood and be able to wake up and make my way to a hotel room in San Diego and never get in a car.

* I was in line behind the BOOM! employees. I could tell they worked together because nothing else really connected all the members of the group, and I figured they were in publishing because they were bringing extra boxes of books. I guessed BOOM!, and they confirmed. Watching them I found myself awash in intense nostalgia over 15-18 years ago when I was a twentysomething headed off to Comic-Con with a bunch of my friends/co-workers, that sense of excitement but also wanting to stay cool about it.

* Ross Richie apparently won't be at the show for a significant length of time because he may be a daddy soon and wants to stay around home, which is the best reason to miss a comics convention.

* I met and saw and talked to a lot of young women working in comics today, really impressive young women. I don't know if that was by chance or what.

* downtown San Diego looks more developed than ever, and there will still whole blocks cordoned off for construction. I swear to God that ten years from now there will be streets stuffed with buildings shooting up into the sky, like in Inception.

* they changed the Westin Gaslamp lobby. I don't usually notice these kinds of things, but the look of the place was improved like 10,000 percent. The funniest thing I heard about the lobby was later that night while crossing it and someone says, "It'd be sad to spend every night of the con drinking in your hotel lobby." [Pause] "Although it'd sure be nice to be able to afford to spend every night of the con drinking in the hotel lobby."

* first person I saw that I knew but I'm not 100 percent sure it was them: Maggie Thompson. First person I know that's who it was: Chris Staros. First person I tried to talk to that blew me off: Craig Yoe. First person I know that I talked to: Denis Kitchen. Kitchen says he's completed the Al Capp biography he's been working on for a while now and that should be out next year. I look forward to reading it.

* I saw Anthony Bourdain saunter through the little Starbuck's lounge at the Marriott, unaccompanied, looking very tall and projecting a celebrity's "please don't approach me" forcefield. He's there to promote his comic. Well, of course he is.

* I thought the registration went as smoothly as I've ever experienced it. I was through the line in less than three minutes, although granted, this is the first time I remembered my bar code. Unlike past years, I even received decent directions from someone on the far western end as to which entrance had the registration area I needed.

* as organized as I thought the registration process was, I don't get what they do with people waiting to get into Preview Night and I'm not sure they do either. There were people being asked to line-up upstairs, people left to kind of cluster outside, people in the inner hallway anyway. I tested random site and security people as to what was going on and got different answers from all of them.

* they are still giving out giant bags, and those giant bags still cut in totally unflattering fashion across the bodies of some of the overweight people in attendance.

* I saw two people waiting for people to bring them con tickets they had apparently purchased (my standing around led them both to approach me). I hope that works out for them. I think I hope that. Maybe I don't hope that.

* at one point during the day, D+Q's Tom Devlin expressed total bafflement over some of the nearby, parking-lot exhibits and how they worked. I didn't have a good answer for him, but I assume they just attract spillover traffic and people walking back and forth.

* no one asked to look at my ID past the registration process.

* Preview Night is kind of a weird thing from the part of the convention in which I'm interested because a lot of focus is on exclusives being offered by various merchants, but it's also enjoyable because it's a way for publishers and professionals and press to kind of ease themselves into the weekend. A lot of relatively languorous conversations.

* a Fantagraphics representative told me they moved a lot of Love & Rockets material during Preview Night, which is always a great thing to hear. I hope they have a big weekend. There's a run of t-shirts on-hand, and two people volunteered in conversations on other parts of the floor about how they were excited to pick up some Los Bros stuff this con.

* speaking of Fantagraphics, I was surprised to see the Dal Tokyo book. It looks great. I also really liked the design on the second Buz Sawyer volume, a really atypical image being used.

* ran into Mark and Gina at First Second. They both seem to be doing well; Mark says the company has performed extremely well this year across the board. They have a ton of authors in attendance. Siegel's own Sailor Twain is out this Fall; it's one of two books I carried out of there yesterday evening.

* the other book I carried out was the new Eddie Campbell, who was anchoring the tail end of the Top Shelf table with a lot of enthusiasm. He described a bit the project in which he's involved that was part of the list of Alan Moore projects listed by Gosh! the other day at the Moore signing. It's not official-official, so I'll respect that by not naming it, but it sounds like Campbell should have a really interesting work about comics coming out this winter.

* ran into John Cunningham at the DC Comics booth. I hope at one point I can interview him about his work there at the company, which I think is some of the more important done in recent times industry-wise. We stood and looked at the new DC booth like a pair of dads at a Pop Warner game. It's big and airy and features a really boss-looking Frank Quitely Batman and Robin panel in the art it uses. It's been quite some time since DC changed their look; I think it will be a hit.

* long, enthusiastic line at the Darwyn Cooke Wednesday night signing at IDW. I'll later learn they sold a number of books -- 130, 150, 200? -- at a very fine price point during this signing.

* I'm starting to run into comics podcaster prime John Siuntres at shows the way I used to run into Tripwire's Joel Meadows. I love anyone with that cool radio-voice.

* had a long talk with the writer Joe Casey, who told me he's finished with the penultimate Godland issue, which will be bigger than usual and features color work with which he's extremely happy. Joe was my entry point into my current conception of creator's rights as a thousand-cuts issue rather than one featuring the occasional career decapitation, so it's always good to touch base.

* talked to Charles Brownstein briefly; he says the CBLDF is doing really well and that he really likes the current staff and board a lot in terms of implmenting some of his long-term plans for the charity. There's a state of the CBLDF article here.

* met the writer-about-comics Sonia Harris and liked her very much. Very profane and funny. Smart.

* in putting together yesterday's AdHouse announcement, I pumped Chris Pitzer for some specific news about his company's artists. One piece of good news is that Duncan The Wonder Dog's second installment is preceding slightly ahead of the announced schedule for it. One piece of unfortunate news is that the young and very talented cartoonist Josh Cotter isn't working on anything right now and has no plans to; he's following his artistic muse elsewhere for a while.

* the Pascal Girard color art pieces available through The Beguiling are really, really pretty.

* had dinner sitting next to John Pham, whose recent comics are hugely under-appreciated. He's still making time for comics, though, which was incredibly heartening to hear.

* speaking of dinner, not a lot of people are yet taking my advice about veering east from the Gaslamp in order to find dinner places with seats open; I had dinner with a group of eight or nine over in that part of town that was seated immediately just 20 minutes after Preview Night shut down. Although it is weird to have a nice sit-down in the part of town where just a decade and a half ago we were parking our cars for free and walking through sidewalks full of bums to get back to the more civilized neighborhoods.

* the one piece of publishing news I noticed when I got back to the room is J. Michael Straczynski reviving his creator-owned imprint at Image.

* since I'm old, I was asleep by 1 AM.

*****

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THURSDAY, JULY 12

* I'm thinking that the McDonald's just north of Horton Plaza becoming a Panera Bread is indicative of something, but I couldn't tell you what that is.

* I had a really ridiculous-looking short-rib hash at the Marina Kitchen in the Marriott in the company of Scott Dunbier yesterday morning. It was like a Frank Quitely drawing of a delicious breakfast.

* I really enjoy Scott Dunbier's company, and I think he's done a great job with IDW on their Berke Breathed initiative and on their Artist's Edition books. Dunbier was quick to deflect the success of those Artist's Editions onto to the artists, and while on one level he's right about that, on another level it's hard for me to imagine that project coming to fruition under someone who didn't have Dunbier's connection in the creative community and the original art world.

* I have to admit I don't remember which projects he told me about for that line are in play as news or not, and my panel about bookstores was scheduled directly opposite of his so I didn't get to see. I'll catch up on that by weekend's end, though. I want them all, basically. I saw someone's Groo edition at the show, and while I wondered after a Groo book because it's hard for me to imagine there's much fun in watching Sergio Aragones be perfect every panel, I was engrossed in reading that one, too.

* what I'm saying is, if comics projects had Q ratings, that Artist's Edition line would be the Olsen Twins circa 1991. It breaks people, pushing them into buying strategies they didn't know they had.

* Thursday at SDCC is "find out exactly who you've angered and why" day. Friday is "find the people and hopefully they'll accept your apology" day. Saturday is "start to make good on that apology day." Sunday is your day off.

* Comic-Con is the place where you're equally confused over maybe walking by Eric Roberts at 10 AM and maybe walking by Roger Fletcher at 10 PM.

* met up with Charles Hatfield in the Marriott lobby. I always like seeing Charles, one of the nicer and more talented writers I published back in the TCJ days. I liked his Jack Kirby book Hand Of Fire. We talked a bit about fantasy books, and how the kids are, and the panels he's doing at the show. I also got to meet his lovely missus. It was a nice, calm, rational, adult 25 minutes.

* and then I went to the show floor.

* oh, I'm just kidding. You know, I don't know if it's just me being less of a lumbering super-mammal or just the places I tend to explore, but I thought the con floor was very, very negotiable on Thursday for a Thursday.

* always nice to see Gary Groth, even if it's just standing about 50 yards away talking to Eddie Campbell.

* saw Alex Chun at the Go Comics booth (I think that's where I saw him), but when I turned around he was gone!

* went over to talk to Charlie Kochman at Abrams. He said they're having a solid year -- he doesn't count Wimpy Kid in that estimation, because the Wimpy Kid books always have a good year. The Clowes and the Dahmer books have done well for them. The Dahmer book is, as I suspect, continuing to garner a lot of interest because it's an affecting work that people are catching up to on a subject that might not be automatically attractive when you first hear about it.

* the main reason I went to Abrams was to maybe look at anything they have for Frank Young and Dave Lasky's forthcoming Carter Family book, and I was NOT disappointed. They brought out an unbound version of the final book, and I got to look through it. It's handsomely mounted -- there will be a CD of radio performances -- and at first look this may be the Dave Lasky book we've been waiting for him to do for years and years now. I hope it is, anyway. No better guy than that David Lasky. At any rate, I really appreciate them making that book available to me, and I look forward to talking to Dave for CR close to its release this Fall.

* stopped by the Becky Cloonan panel. She talked about using her burst of self-published material as little writing showcases and training opportunities, which seems to me eminently smart. Very attentive, enthusiastic crowd in a not-small room.

* it was my great honor to meet Gilbert Shelton and talk to him for a CBLDF panel. I really enjoyed watching him interact in absolutely gracious terms with his fans. He said some interesting things in our conversation while he drew -- two nice marker drawings, one of his oldest character, one of one of his newer ones. I thought him talking about how censorship informed the undergrounds was intriguing, how it gave them something to push back against, and how he endorsed this with other cartoonists even though it might not have been a big part of the work he was doing. Anyway, what an honor.

* my new idea is that they need to snake the long lines for movie stuff through the backs of rooms with comics panels that fewer people are attending, like a line for a Disney World ride.

* did a bookstores panel with Alison Bechdel, Matthew & Jennifer Holm, Kate Beaton, Nate Powell, Jason Shiga and Brecht Evens. I think that's everybody. I thought it went well considering the number of people up on stage and how that sometimes makes it hard to make sure everyone speaks. All of those panelists could do three hours on anything they'd want to talk about and I watch that panel. I liked best the acerbic answers to the question of how bookstores communicate legitimacy to certain audiences.

* saw Scott McCloud's work in progress on a tablet he let me use. It looks really sharp. He's about 200 pages in, and the pages I saw look to make considerable use of bleeding images all the way out to the edge of pages. He's working directly with Mark Siegel on that one, and was highly complimentary on how Siegel would praise, then constructively criticize. I had a football coach tell me once that's the only way anyone learns anything.

* a ton of people I know where extremely complimentary of Heidi MacDonald's panel with Kate Beaton and Lynn Johnston.

* hung out with Gus Norman at the Image table, and met a few of those writers and their events coordinator. The morale over there seems really high right now, which is understandable.

* Margaret Atwood is here.

* the blogging panel I was on went fine, I think. I was totally baffled by the number of people there, although more than half were apparently squatting that panel to get to a gaming one afterwards. I didn't know they did panels after 7 PM. I thought it was weird there was a panel at 7 PM. It was nice to see all of my peers in one place, folks like Michael Dooley, Brigid Alverson and Deb Aoki. I got to meet David Uzumeri.

* Douglas Wolk is apparently no longer writing much of anything for ComicsAlliance.

* my brother was the best journalist in the room, as he got booted for taking photos and not sitting in a chair to do so. Fight the power!

* someone needs to vote "the fire marshal" the most powerful person at Comic-Con. I saw fire regulations cited for not letting my brother take photos from weird angles, the way a line was being formed outside of Room 32, and, oddly, someone not being able to seal the deal date-wise at the Trickster thing later that night.

* it may be my imagination, but I've never seen so many empty tables at such a significant number of the more expensive restaurants.

* went to the CBLDF party, and enjoyed myself despite not knowing barely anyone. Got to meet Eric Stephenson. Met Joseph Remnant, who did the Cleveland book with Harvey Pekar. He's cooking up a comics web site project with Noah Van Sciver. You should go buy his book at the Top Shelf table; it's very entertaining, very accessible to non-comics readers, too.

* confronted by the "do you like any of the younger artists" question, Gary Groth was highly complimentary of Joseph Lambert's new Helen Keller/Anne Sullivan book. I concur.

* Jen Vaughn seems like she's been at Fantagraphics for ten years, she fits in so well. She and Jacq Cohen divulged their secret formula for a cocktail that looks like booze and has no alcohol content. I'm not saying this gave them an advantage, but I think CR may be doing a full week devoted to Mr. Twee Deedle in September. Not sure how that happened.

* it's nice to be back in San Diego, although I apparently only know about 1.5 percent of the people who work in comics.

*****

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FRIDAY, JULY 13

* the projects that IDW announced Thursday for its Artist's Editions were a Gil Kane Amazing Spider-Man, an assortment of comic-book era MAD stories and a Xenozoic Tales.

* mark the time at 6:45 AM Friday and mark the place as a coffee shop on Market when and where I heard the first downtown San Diego resident express bafflement and frustration over having so many people roaming around their neighborhood.

* someone suggested that the way that the city of San Diego has endorsed the convention, with all the window displays and employees wearing wacky superhero t-shirts, is a weird thing to experience if you're not soaked in the superhero/junk culture side of the medium. Like it's weird to be sitting in a steakhouse and have your server wearing a superhero t-shirt. It's almost like you feel bad for bullying this person into wearing clothes they might not like.

* the mainstream publishing momentum side of the convention is just dangling there for Image to seize with a strong panel today.

* watching Michael Davis moderate a panel made me feel like [a much less talented] Nat King Cole slipping into the back of a James Brown concert to watch someone else perform -- Davis does things at the podium that are just totally beyond my skill set. Davis made a good point at that panel that working with experienced comics people as opposed to trying to insinuate yourself into the comics industry as a total outsider seems to be a pretty good strategy.

* it's still not crowded in the comic-book half of the convention floor. It's also kind of mellow, like everyone knows what they're doing now and how they want to do it. It's a ripened crowd: not old, but experienced. People even seem better at the kind of stop and photograph thing that used to clog lanes for hours and hours.

* saw Eric Reynolds at the show, and then talked to James Kochalka. The gang's all here. To me, my various old-person comics friends!

* it was interesting to talk to James, because I think he's at one of those moments in his career where his work is kind of being taken for granted, a couple of years before there's a resurgent of interest in what he's doing. Maybe the Superfuckers cartoon will change that. Anyway, I told James my favorite memory of him was at this weird comics show somewhere meeting him and asking him if he was working on a comic book and he told me that he'd keep doing stories for the comic book but got impatient not being able to see them done and would just make minis out of what he had and then had to start over.

* went to see Charles Brownstein's basic presentation on comics and first amendment issues. I really enjoyed that talk, and I think Charles has worked hard on it. I most enjoyed the way he treats William Gaines' testimony at the congressional committee hearings, that he touches on the Paul Mavrides case, and the disdain with which he describes projecting the sex acts of drawings of fictional creatures onto something that may have an impact on real children.

* I attended the Kate Beaton panel and holy crap, she is really, really good at that. She read a bunch of her cartoons, showed some work-product historical pictures and took questions. That's the first alt-comics panel I've ever been to where people held up "I love you"-style signs. Her ceiling is way, way out there. She's also super-nice and is very accommodating to folks given the level of crazy attention she gets.

* had an interview that will go up tomorrow. I hadn't done that in San Diego since 1996, but I wanted to get a certain industry figure on the record at this moment in time.

* I really, really, really enjoyed moderating the anniversary Prince Valiant panel. RC Harvey, Gary Gianni, Mark Schultz and Thomas Yeates are all super-nice, articulate, talented comics-makers and they were pretty straight-forward and honest about the joys of doing that particular strip -- THE comic strip, in a sense -- and the frustrations of things like newspapers' falling fortunes and the physical space afforded Prince Valiant on the Sunday page.

* the questions were pretty amazing from the audience at that panel, including a gentleman in charge of Hal Foster's library, who read out loud a dedication from Ray Bradbury to Foster -- stupendous to hear that.

* Gary Gianni is apparently doing the Game Of Thrones calendar for next year, which should be pretty great-looking.

* 75 years young, Harvey has moved from Champaign, Illinois to Denver -- he grew up in Denver.

* my moments of direct pleasure are outpacing my cringe-worthy moments almost 2 to 1, which if it holds up would be a record for a convention. My recurring faux pas this time seems to be in asking people to do things that are sort of rude to ask but not realizing that aspect of my request until like ten minutes later.

* walked a bit with Tom Neely, who described Comic-Con as the place his film and television industry composer brother has four panels and two press junkets and he himself isn't all the way sure he fits in.

* tried to find the Monkeybrain party but failed. I don't know what any of those folks look like, and none of the potential balcony gatherings looked like what I thought a Monkeybrain party would look like. Sorry, guys. I also thought it would be good to leave before the amazingly pleasant-seeming Michael Emerson standing at the nearby bar burst into song or something (he just looked happy to be interacting with folks).

* the ladies of Drawn and Quarterly gave my brother/photographer a lesson on how to shoot people in the most flattering way. I think this may help end the super-unflattering-photo era of this site, aka the entire history of this site.

* ran into John Siuntres again outside the Hilton on my way back from not finding a cocktail party and bumped into Chip Kidd as well. Kidd is promoting a few books, and giving out a really cool strip mini of Building Stories work. It was nice to pay him a compliment on that TED talk that all my friends liked to death.

* went to the D+Q / Fantagraphics publishing season panels. It was sparsely attended, but a good chunk of people were reporting on the content of what was discussed. I talked to Calvin Reid later, and we agreed it was super-nice to sit in a room at SDCC and see awesome-looking covers and hear people talk about great comics. Also, with Julia Pohl-Miranda, Jacq Cohen, Eric Reynolds and Tom Devlin, that might be the most generally attractive-looking person panel to ever represent alt-comics at any anything.

* D+Q is doing one more John Stanley Library book, and that looks like it.

* the Lilli Carré book that Fantagraphics is doing looks immense and beautifully designed.

* to a question-asker, Eric Reynolds says the plans right now for Castle Waiting are to publish the rest of the comics Linda Medley wants to do in the present storyline and then to re-publish Volume 2 with those books included. What happens after that is anyone's guess.

* had a nice dinner about 20 feet away from Guillermo Del Toro over at the Omni. Not sure why more people don't eat at that little chain steakhouse they have in there seeing as it's so close to the Eisners. It could be that most people skipped dinner altogether. That's too bad. I don't like the way the comics part of the weekend felt so crowded.

* wait, now I see why no one ate dinner over there: a train blocked the street and we had to take the footbridge after waiting a bit and we were late. Then we got lost looking for the event itself, because I am stupid and tired.

* the Eisners were a lot of fun for me. They were super-short this year by Eisner standards. Jonathan Ross was very funny; the Battlestar Galactica people were Hollywood-pretty. I think everyone at the show who could be there to accept awards was there. I wish there had been a ramp for Bob Clampett winner Morrie Turner, although it was great to see him win that award and the part of the speech where he said we should applaud what he had just said about being a speaker at the first Comic-Con was very sweet and funny.

* the mic needed adjusting every time out, and made a comical Warner Brothers cartoon creak every time this was done.

* I can't remember an Eisner where Will Eisner was tweaked, even affectionately. That was fascinating to me.

* I can't tell you how glad I am that Charles Hatfield won an Eisner for that Kirby book he did, Hand Of Fire. I got to publish Charles years ago at The Comics Journal. Plus his family was there and one of his mentors/role-models, Rusty Witek. Good on him. He needs to tell me how to get one of those Hand Of Fire t-shirts, though.

* James Kochalka gave one of the more amusing speeches in recent memory, and it was his first win. First win -- wins -- for Mark Waid, too. Diana Schutz pointed out that the Mighty Kim Thompson was the translator behind three of the translated book nominees, in three different languages. That is sort of amazing, really.

* Ed Brubaker laughs very loud. The Jim Henson comics project people seemed the most fired up. Presenter George RR Martin was adorable. Gilbert Shelton seemed genuinely touched. There were a lot of sweet moments, generally. Dylan Williams was rightfully and respectfully included in the memorials, which went to a video package over a fully narrated slideshow package. So good awards, I think. Nice to talk to Diana Schutz, Craig Thompson, Stan Sakai, Roger Langridge (who looks fantastic) and a bunch of other people after that show.

* the best moment of the Eisners for me was Bill Blackbeard's entry into the Hall Of Fame, which is something I really wanted to see happen and wrote about a bit here as I could during the voting period.

* people still go to the Hyatt, apparently, although except for a brief chat with a few of my peers I felt way too old to tough that one out for more than a quarter hour. (I dropped someone off.)

* like most comics-related evenings of my youth, this one ended eating ice cream across from Gary Groth, talking about Bob Burden.

*****

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SATURDAY, JULY 14

* breakfast of a bagel with cream cheese and coffee in my hotel room while I type... I think it's an insult to actual hard work to call writing about funnybooks hard work, but con coverage for everyone is a bit more labor-intensive than it used to be, for sure.

* one thing that intrigues about Comic-Con this year is how adaptable the participants have been in terms of what they can expect out of the show -- for instance how publishers constantly adjust the stock they have on hand from year to year as the profile of the consumers change. It's been weirder for press to do this because of the emergence of so many organs, the changes in the kinds of news provided, and the sweeping technological issues.

* speaking of adaptations, one of my favorite moments in con history took place on this day when a longtime retailer/publisher showed me the support hose he wears at long shows like this one, declaring that the hose and the arch supports he has in makes all the difference. For some reason this seemed like a fish-has-feet moment.

* I have a half-baked theory based on mostly empty restaurants of the over $15 entree kind and the kinds of customers certain folks said were visiting or not visiting their booths that we may have a slow bleed-off on a kind of customer a bit more devoted than the old, now long-gone "I think I'll go to Comicon today" person with tons of random cash and "I have to be there" devoted fan of a specific genre or movie. I've had no surprise encounters with folks I know down here, which is really, really odd.

* another thing I heard from a few publishers is how important having creators on hand can be to a booth entire, how it drives traffic to backstock for those creators and makes people linger over books offered more generally

* I went to the panel for the 30th anniversary of Los Bros Hernandez. I made fun of Gary later on for covering the hell out of 1982-1984, and he laughed, so I guess he won't mind if I say the panel didn't get too deeply into the L&R run but mostly concentrated on the early material. Fantagraphics made their comiXology announcement at the end of the panel. It was a good panel generally, though. The questions from devoted fans ranging from Mike Allred to a girl named Maggie seemed to embody something I've heard all weekend: that the Hernandez Brothers have made art the last three decades that has made any number of lives better.

* I'd say well over 250 people at that Los Bros panel, in one of the rooms in the boonies.

* I never knew that Rand Race was based a tiny bit visually on Johnny Comet. Makes sense, though.

* it was nice to see Mario Hernandez win an inkpot. That's a fun award because I can't imagine another opportunity exists for many comics folks to share an honor with Osamu Tezuka.

* I was completely unable to say "Osamu Tezuka" in the bar at 1 AM this morning.

* I did a spotlight panel with Brecht Evens. He's very articulate and funny. The new book is due in August, and I'll hopefully run that interview then. I liked hearing about how some of his artistic leaps came from getting practical advice from mentors and peers.

* Evens has been a hit all weekend: fun guy to have around. Like most European cartoonists that visit the show, being at a show like this one holds its own fascinations -- Evens mentioned, for instance, this was the first time he'd ever been in a sizable convention facility of this type. I don't know why that comment stuck in my head, but it did.

* the crowds were insane. It was a typical Saturday that way.

* had a dinner with a large group of people and it actually worked out well. So don't always take my advice. Tom Devlin totally sucks at directions, though. He also gives directions he then chooses not to follow himself.

* I still don't understand the costumes thing, either the people wearing them or the desire to take photographs of them. I'm grateful for the Silver Surfer with the mini, five-year-old Silver Surfer I saw, though, as I could make my "his villain is Dr. Child Services" joke.

* Zander Cannon is the only guy I think may be here that I know into whom I haven't run yet. I think I missed Rob Goodin, too. I talked to Jeffrey Brown, which to my regret I almost never do. He expressed a lot of gratitude over some of the gigs he's been getting lately. I'm happy for him.

* ran into Eric Shanower and talked a bit. That guy is always super-nice to me. Ran into Darwyn Cooke as well.

* I guess the CBLDF auction went well; it did not get over until well after midnight. I think they're having a good show. I forgot that Ryan Matheson was at the con until typing "CBLDF" for the first time this morning. Crap.

* another thing I did today was stop by the Best Of/Worst Of Manga panel, which I adore because I know and like all the participants but mostly because it's people talking about comics while other people are eager to hear them talking about comics. Shaenon Garrity is quite good on panels like that one.

* I think I could spend a few hours talking to Conrad Groth and getting his impressions of various cartoonists. That just sort of sounds fascinating to me, given that he's literally grown up in that milieu. Plus he seems smart. Everyone I know likes seeing him interact with his dad at this show.

* ton of folks were nice enough to say something positive about this site's Eisner win. I appreciate the sentiment. I saw James Kochalka holding his on Saturday; he had a broken one replaced, apparently. I think there were a few broken ones. Most of the folks to whom I spoke greatly appreciated how quickly that show unfolded.

* in a brief conversation, Chris Schweizer strongly endorsed this year's Trixter site as an eating destination.

* got to talk to Mike Baehr a bit Saturday night, and noted that it's nice to have that weird, Fanta-shorthand for certain things that with other folks have to be explained.

* I think this round of Image-related announcements is strong enough you could argue they'll win the mainstream-comics momentum element of the show. Matt Fraction and Howard Chaykin on that kind of project is an interesting pairing.

* I'm not sure that comics people know all the way know what to do with Comic-Con and other shows like it, but I thinking they're sort of rounding in on it. With fewer comics people than ever, it almost seems like a smaller show than in previous years. Like you pay attention to fellow travelers with other groups because you don't have as big a group of your own. Does that make sense?

* embarrassing moments made a run at blissful ones today, but we're still ahead of the ledger on the latter.

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SUNDAY, JULY 15

* on Sunday my own time management foibles began to catch up with me, and I missed the first two hours of the show. I also had to split my Sunday interview into two parts. Live and learn. Sorry, Eric!

* two of the more important tips offered in the CR Preview Guide came into play this morning. The first was signing up for your hotel's points/rewards program, because doing so allowed me to check out far more quickly than I could have if I hadn't joined up. The second was allowing time for processing bags at the hotel desk if you're doing so. I'm going to change this next year to add a suggestion that you check your bags early in the morning if possible; my group ended up carrying around bags when our hotel failed to provide speedy processing of this task.

* yes, I will mention this in a follow-up letter to the hotel. One, I want the hotel to do better because I like staying there and I want other people not me to not have to negotiate this. Two, maybe I'll get some points in return for their temporary understaffing.

* loaded down and fired up, my brother Whit and I had one of the fancy hotel brunches -- the Marina Kitchen in the Marriott. The absolute dearth of con-goers in venues like these, places that used to be jam-packed, is really noticeable this year. I've sat in at least three only halfway full restaurants this weekend where I rezzo-ed up because in previous years they had been stuffed to the rafters.

* I know it was Sunday and I'm dead tired because one of those poor security guards asked me if I wanted to enter the convention center three doors down and I said, "No," and went in the door I selected. I mean, it seemed a totally stupid, arbitrary request, but I usually try to make those guys' job as easy as possible. That's got to be one suck-o gig.

* no idea why beyond a general bargain-shopping assumption, but the comics-dealers end of the floor was super jammed-up Sunday morning, to near-intolerable levels. I hope that in a year where a lot of comics pros have decided they're not getting out of San Diego Con what they need, various comics retailers that have stuck it out at the show do well.

* I found myself missing the Lee's Comics spinner rack.

* it's also worth mentioning that a lot of folks in other areas of the floor were reporting some lightness in sales, too. I'm not sure exactly what's going on there. My hunch is that a certain kind of consumer may have been greatly diminished this year, but I'm not certain.

* one thing I didn't see that I thought I might was a lot of physical-location targeted digital sales -- like if you stopped by the Fanta booth you'd have available for download right there or receive a code or whatever to download a specific comic related to their announcement that weekend. Or whatever. Maybe that was going on and I didn't notice.

* it was nice to talk to Matt Fraction, Ed Brubaker and Shelton Drum briefly at the Fantagraphics booth during a Los Bros signing. It's nice in general when pros come out for other pros, and I wish we saw more of it. It strikes me that rather than a focus on grousing over who's criticizing whom in what fashion that doing things like showing up for anniversary panels and key signings could become a bigger part of what industry folk do. I mean, it's mind-boggling to me that if you were a cartoonist and had a chance to meet and purchase something from Gilbert Shelton you wouldn't have done that this weekend, no matter how busy you were. I get that there are always going to those few that aren't interested and that everyone is a special, unique flower with passions and beliefs not my own, but you'd think it'd be more people than not that would want to meet one of the Rushmore underground cartoonists.

* Matt Fraction upon meeting Eric Reynolds for the first time: "You look just like Peter Bagge's drawings of you."

* my impression is that Jaime, Gilbert and Mario had a good show. I sure hope so. The t-shirts were a hit, too.

* "I gotta go pick up this one toy for my kid" is the new "I gotta go find this person I met last night."

* talked to a very confident Mark Siegel -- confidence in First Second, I mean. He wasn't challenging people to arm-wrestling contests or anything.

* I shared a cab with Eric Reynolds to the airport. He told me funny and slightly distressing stories of BEA. My usual strategy of jumping in the cab line at the Marriott was foiled by people just parking on that driveway in the most spectacularly self-indulgent and rude way, but there were plenty of cabs nearby. Try at the bottom of the Marriott hill. Whole cab line there.

* best geeky/funny story I heard all weekend was from Scott McCloud. He knows the one.

* saw Kiel Phegley at the airport, and we compared notes about on-line publishing. I hadn't known they'd had some beat reporter shake-ups at CBR recently. Phegley is apparently now engaged, so congratulations to him. He has less than a year in the writing program he's doing; I hope comics doesn't lose him.

* did "The Vegas" this year. This is where you go to Las Vegas on one end of CCI. I had originally planned to head to a townie casino like The Orleans or Terrible's and sleep and write and maybe go to a movie. My friend and co-publisher here at CR had different ideas, though, and we ended up staying at the condo-arm of the Palms, Palms Place. Always great to see friends, plus I didn't have to wait in the cab line at the airport.

* I liked Palms Place quite a bit, actually. The room was ridiculous. It was removed from the casino by a lengthy tunnel walk but still close enough to get over there and eat and put down a sports bet or two for family members. I did get some writing done, although post-con exhaustion hit me very, very, hard at about 9 AM on Monday.

* I mention this is because the reason you do The Vegas post-con is to get out of San Diego at a later Sunday afternoon time for not much more money than if you took a flight all the way home, and that worked spectacularly well this time. I was able to leave at 4 PM instead of 7:30 AM -- making almost everything described above possible. A flight to Las Vegas and then from Las Vegas to Tucson two days later was $35 cheaper than flying straight there on Sunday; my rooms were about $29 a night before we changed plans.

* one thing that was interesting about the Vegas part of it is that my friends wanted to talk Comic-Con, but they were talking about stuff I had no idea went on, because every single thing they read not on my site and maybe a couple of others was about movies and TV shows. Which is fine; I like movies and TV shows. But the media coverage of the other stuff dominates and I'm not sure that even if we know that intellectually we really know that in our guts.

* at any rate, that was a great trip for me; a lot of fun. I have some summary thoughts here. I'm grateful for all the people with whom I got to spend time, and the D+Q gang for their support from hotel reservation to keeping my bag behind the table on Sunday. They're swell.

* I am additionally and particularly grateful that my brother Whit was in attendance, with his friend Dawn Alden, even if he had to find out the hard way (below) that Comic-Con swag is never as fun the moment you get home.

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