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July 14, 2012

Notes From The 2012 CCI Floor


By Tom Spurgeon

The following are notes and observations gathered on the floor of Comic-Con International 2012 in San Diego, California. For immediate reactions to what's going on from hundreds of people, I recommend an appropriate search or multiple such searches on Twitter. For mainstream comics and panel coverage in general -- this being a key event for publishing news announcements -- I recommend Comic Book Resources ComicsAlliance and The Beat.


* a couple of things from Thursday: the projects that IDW was announcing for its Artist's Editions were a Gil Kane Amazing Spider-Man, an assortment of comic-book era MAD stories and a Xenozoic Tales. Also, I spent an hour sitting at I think Joe Keatinge's Image Comics station shooting the shit with Gus Norman and meeting people like Nathan Edmundson. That was super-nice, a real highlight of the show for me. I met Norman at my first Comic-Con and he's one my favorite people in comics.

* mark the time at 6:45 AM in a coffee shop when 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 Nat King Cole slipping into the back of a James Brown concert to watch someone else perform in ways 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 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 think 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.

* 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 twenty 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.

* wait, now I see why: 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, this one ended with eating ice cream across from Gary Groth, talking about Bob Burden.


these reports will continue all weekend, unless you're reading the one that rolls out on Monday in which case it's the last one; maybe skip a close reading of these photos, as they're from a previous show

posted 5:00 am PST | Permalink

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