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July 17, 2013


Notes From The 2013 Comic-Con International In San Diego Floor

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By Tom Spurgeon

The following are notes and observations gathered on the floor of Comic-Con International 2013 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.

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* first thing: a note riffing from an aide in yesterday's preview piece. There apparently won't be a Kazuo Koike panel at the show this year, and I'm told that can be the case for a lot of late-additions, particularly those that are sponsored relatively last-minute by publishers. I do know some people that have interviews, and I'm very jealous. I missed that opportunity.

* so: San Diego.

* I don't know that I have a whole lot of hardcore travel notes this time out. I'm going for the entire show this year. so that meant an early morning dash to the Tucson airport. There were two young ladies who took both flights with me that chatted excitedly of anime. On the LA to San Diego leg it was almost entirely adults and almost entirely folks who were con bound. The flight attendant was amused. There is something very cool about a show so big that you can start to encounter it in an airport parking lot shuttle 2000 miles away.

* there's one thing I always mention in the SD guide I wanted to underline because it's been a while. If you're coming in on a small plane and use the small-plane terminal at the San Diego airport, get out to the cab stand as soon as you can -- there are not a lot of cabs going to that terminal, so it can take a while. I was first, was there 11 minutes, and there were about nine groups behind me. Yikes. It's also a good place to combine rides, but no one was going my way.

* there is also about a five to seven dollar difference if you go deep into downtown, to the hotels near the convention center, as opposed to staying up around Broadway. So if you're a walker, or you need to buy something at Ralph's, you might consider an early dump-off. That's not a lot of money to save, though, now that I think of it. Still, if a move to over $20 spent is something you want to avoid, that's one way to avoid it.

* the San Diego downtown was relatively sleepy for the Wednesday before, I thought. I would not have guessed this a show day. There was a lot of last minute-construction on the outside displays in the various parking lots; those exhibits go up very quickly, as do a lot of hotel decorations. (The Hilton Bayfront was not decorated in this fashion, a sign of either the relative entertainment economy or the "cursed" nature of that particularly ad venue.) There were a lot of folks walking around generally. I saw two different carloads of con-goers finding parking in the street 2-3 blocks away from the show, which I hadn't seen in a dozen years. I don't know if you can even park there but I know that by 9 AM Thursday, there will be no such parting available.

* hadn't been down to Seaport Village (west of the Marriott and Hyatt) in years, but went to do some targeted shopping for a relative. It's a cute little shopping center, the kind of place my Mom would visit, and that walk down from the Marriott along the water is kind of pretty. Lot of joggers, I bet, early in the morning. There were a lot of non-con people down there, at least as far as I could tell, mulling around during lunchtime.

* the popular breakfast mainstay Buster's Beach House was packed. Everywhere else I saw looked pretty wide open for Wednesday lunch.

* the Hilton Gaslamp doesn't have refrigerators in their room, at least none that I can find. That's interesting. My room is much bigger than the room I had last time I was here, too. The nice lady at the front desk told me that it's a good weekend for them, and the biggest complaint is from people that thought they had a certain kind of bed arrangement reserved but did not.

* another line of con advice to stress: you really want to be up on the top floors if you plan on being in a hotel anywhere near the trolley line. Those bells are very loud. They don't go at all hours, but they certainly go at some sleeping hours.

* it seems like every downtown business is con-outreach oriented now. That was not the case even five years ago.

* my first sighting of a comics person I recognized: Terry Nantier. I don't know that there's anyone in comics I've seen more frequently over the last two decades at these things about whom I know less. I always enjoying seeing Nantier, though, an I've been enjoying a lot of NBM's kids' books recently, the translated material.

* the neighborhood grocery store Ralph's is loaded for bear: ton of discounts, extra deli food, outside vendors along the west side of the store. I think they have competition downtown now, which would make some outreach understandable.

* the Fantagraphics set-up trio of Jen Vaughn, Jacq Cohen and Kristy Valenti wasted no time in blowing me off for lunch. Thanks, ladies.

* the press registration line was really long, but I got through it in about 40 minutes. I just texted the whole time, mostly to press people not in the line yet about how doomed they were if they didn't get down there immediately. I also saw Charles Hatfield and met his kid. That was nice. The con volunteers and registration people work really quickly inside and this kind of amorphous shape they have in terms of the final set of tables that prints out the badges really keeps the line jams to a minimum. I'm not sure how that it is, but I think the shape of it may keep a linear jam by encouraging people to kind of settling across an array of tables. Once I was inside it was literally like 25 seconds to get my badge.

* but yeah, a lot of press people. I'm of two minds about the number of press people. I love the con's commitment to non-traditional media, but I never get the sense that the coverage out there really reflects this enormous number of people supposedly working the show.

* I saw some folks linking to this essay by Mike Gold about Comic-Con. I guess that piece unpacks a certain mindset people have about the show. I don't know. I went to those Chicago shows back in the day; I really liked them. I think the comics part of this show kicks the crap out of those shows in terms of scale, breadth and depth. It also always seems weird to me when articles like that appear on sites that seem to routinely cover a lot of that stuff.

* so: Preview Night.

* I have to admit that I'm one of those that doesn't all the way get Preview Night. I think it's popular, I think it has its uses, and I think if they didn't have it there would be a hole in the week. I also get opening a show at night rather than at 10 AM. That said, I suspect -- suspect -- that it's one of those things, if not the major thing, that kind of wears people down over an already-long weekend. They're stuck with it now, of course.

* it was nice enough: there wasn't a ton of heat in the small-press, indy and alternative sections where I spent the bulk of my time, but there was a reasonably solid flow of people. I spoke to Jeffrey Brown, who seems to be enjoying the success of those Star Wars books he's been doing. He told me that while he doesn't know if any of his books will ever be as appropriate to the moment as Clumsy was, the new book is awfully good and he's proud of it.

* Jackie Estrada has a line-up of presenters and a way of doing the Eisners in structural terms (no proper host except for a voice speaking over the proceedings; video-only memorial section) with which she seems really, really happy. Here's an Eisners note that may interest only me. The three biggest North American comic book publishers are apparently holding parties at the same time as the awards, which has never happened before that I can remember.' I would imagine Friday has become a popular day for such parties because Saturday may fall to entities with more money to spend on such things...? There's also that Friday you don't have people bailing on the weekend quite yet the way you might Saturday. Anyway, I thought that worth noting.

* First Second's Mark Siegel and I talked about the forthcoming softcover for his Sailor Twain and the limitations that adult-themed comics fiction seem to enjoy in the book market. Kids fiction and adult non-fiction has a firmer hold, that seems like a reasonable argument for sure.

* saw Bob Harvey and Steven Grant at a distance. Grant was talking to Steve Leialoha. I'm happy for Grant that something he wrote will be a late-summer movie with something of a high profile -- the Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg vehicle Two Guns -- and hope it provided a payday and leads to more work. He's been a comics lifer.

* a bunch of different talked to me about what a loss not having an anchor retailer for that whole section of the floor in the way that Comic Relief and the larger Bud Plant presence used to play that role. There are very few places to send someone to find a book if the publisher isn't somehow on hand. I saw two different publishers unable to direct a customer to a place to buy a book by one of their cartoonists published by a company not at the show, which has to be frustrating. I can't even imagine the commitment necessary in terms of skill-set and flat-out cash to have that kind of retail presence, so maybe this is like hoping the skies would rain $20 bills for a couple of hours every morning.

* unlike last year, when there table seemed loaded with brand-new books, there is not a lot of new Fantagraphics material on hand. I wonder if that will make a difference in sales. I directed the writer Andy Burns -- who recently sold a pop-culture related property book so congratulations to him -- to the paperback Los Bros Hernandez. I hadn't seen the Gene Deitch, the Love & Rockets covers book or the Willard Mullin baseball book. The Fantagraphics staffers described the office mood as upbeat but admit that the summer has been a bit wearying with the passing of Kim Thompson and all that means for that company. The next big project up may be the just-sent-to-press color Sunday Peanuts volume, which I think should do very well for them.

* met Carol Burrell, who is now seven months into her comics-related gig at Abrams (she came over from Lerner, I believe). She seemed very nice, very settled into the new job.

* ran into Calvin Reid, who kindly stood in place and accepted peer-to-peer grief from me about particulars of his recent comics coverage. I always enjoy laughing with that guy, who is one of the fitness-forward folks of the last few years. He was one of a few to traverse to the far end of the hall where the pop-culture type stuff was, or he at least knew and feared that realm's existence.

* first secret-book-of-show mention: there's apparently something just out featuring work by Heinrich Kley at the Stuart Ng booth that two different people mentioned to me as something they hadn't seen before but enjoyed.

* a lot of folks on the show floor were still talking about Sean Howe's Marvel Comics: The Untold Story book, particularly when there was room to stretch the conversations out a bit.

* there seemed a general feeling about optimism in terms of using the relative stability of comics right now -- even if by stable what that means is simply certain folks settling into specific areas of struggle -- to find some long-term solutions for some longstanding structural issues facing the industry. People seem ready to work, which is nice.

* love the 2000AD-loaded Rebellion booth. What a great booth.

* briefly commiserated about my Indiana hometown with former one-time graduate student/local professor Steven T. Seagle.

* don't remember meeting Dirk Wood or Duncan Rouleau before yesterday evening. Or Shelly Bond. That also may be the longest I've spent in the convention center without accidentally running into Gus Norman.

* ate a nice dinner and went out for hotel bar conversation for an hour or so before bed. Talked movies and prose fiction with Gary Groth, who had dinner with Gene Deitch. Gene Deitch! Ran into the CBLDF's Alex Cox, who is scheduled to become a father right around New York Comic-Con. He said that he ran into a physically-rejuvenated-by-hip-surgery Sergio Aragones.

* ran into Denis Kitchen walking up the street right before heading back to the room; he was walking back to the Marriott with his daughter and seems genuinely excited to have an imprint at Dark Horse in a way that frees him up for the editorial direction and book-making that he enjoys.

* I talked to an inordinate number of people fussing with their permanent collections in terms of how many comics to keep, which ones, in what form and where to put them in terms of where they live. This makes sense with the enormous run of books available to everyone right now. The way that people are politically guarded now, and very conscious of how they appear, also came up a few times in different places.

* it was nice to see the writer Paul Tobin, on hand in support of Bandette's multiple Eisner nominations. It's nice to see people take that stuff reasonably seriously. I know how silly industry awards can be, and awards for art generally, but really the only value stuff like that has is the value that folks bring to it.

* I always enjoy seeing Kiel Phegley from CBR and think he does a good job generally. It was funny to see him recall to Gary Groth having interviewed him once upon a time for an article about Robert Crumb that appeared in Wizard.

* walked past the folks sleeping outside. I'm sort of deeply fascinated by that impulse -- it seems a strange mix of early twenty-somethings of the kind you'd expect to be there and folks into maybe even their fifties that you'd never think would do that kind of thing. I'm not even sure there's a specific thing that people are anticipating from the "show biz" side of the con, or if this was just sort of baseline attendance. God bless people and their enthusiasms.

* this Comic-Con seems like a nice show so far, with a very positive but not excessively wild mood. There's nothing content-wise that's driving anyone's excitement, but there seems a general acknowledgment that there are positive things in the field right now and some elements of deep potential in terms of working in this industry right at this moment. Or maybe everyone is simply settled into effective coping mechanism. Who knows?

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posted 5:45 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
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