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July 18, 2013

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


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.


* so, Thursday.

* ran into Craig Yoe at the Marriott on my way to breakfast. He's very happy with his recent run of books, and he's a new daddy again, which I'm not sure I knew.

* had breakfast with the cartoonist Jeff Smith. Our one discussion that might have some resonance here was about the nature of going to conventions itself, the familiarity it breeds, the sense you never left. Smith admitted to a surge of affection for the San Diego Con as he flew into the city and saw the convention center from the plane, and called the city the "capital of comics" during the five days or so of the show. He's been almost every year since he started in comics. There is a bit of gravitas to the San Diego show that doesn't quite yet exist for the others, although you're starting to see similar sentiments from people for places like TCAF, Heroes, Emerald City, NYCC and SPX. I don't know if it's the size and scope of the overall event kind of transferring some energy into the comics side of things or what; I couldn't say. But it's definitely there. I think the big-tent aspect to it may play a role. There is something extremely useful to a show where you can walk over and see all sorts of people from various aspects of comics as opposed to solely people in your camp.

* Smith also noted an under-reported regular hassle of the show: the sheer number of people working various limited-space walkways makes getting from one place to another a kind of hassle. Having the movie and games stuff in non-convention center locations only seems to increase the expand the area where you're likely to be blocked by people watching things. Those choke points are the only infrastructure let-down of the facility, it seems increasingly clear.

* a security person tried to tell me that everyone had to always enter the same door where they registered for the entirety of the show, but her supervisor was nice enough to walk over and correct the person working under her. Hey, it happens. Someone mentioned something I think may be true: the Boston Marathon bombing has to be a scary reference point for anyone throwing an event right now. I had people tell me they thought there were more security people because of that event, but I couldn't tell. The individual security staffers did seem more generally willing to engage with people around them, which I think is always a positive.

* the hall traffic was reportedly extremely heavy for folks on the eastern end of the convention center, and relatively modest from the first group of pure comics people all the way west to a new-ish gaming section. But solid all around, I thought.

* my favorite thing at the show so far, at least to gawk at: very pretty Farel Dalrymple Prophet original art. That stuff was super-attractive in a way that doesn't even come across in the final, printed version.

* programming started promptly 30 minutes after the show opened and wouldn't stop until well into the evening. I'm not a fan of the comics panels extending past 6 PM because I think that particular industry culture counts on some room to breathe at night if only for informal meetings and event attendance, but I'm in something of a cranky minority on this.

* ran into Don Rosa, who was buying comics. Don Rosa buying comics at comics conventions, specifically comic-con, is one of the great things in comics. I love that he came out of and remains a part of comics fandom in that way. Rosa talked about trying to find complete sets of a lot of comics, and that as he's an older man now he prefers sets that are made up of comics in fine condition or better. It was an amazing list, and in a small enough font that he can't be experiencing a down period in terms of his eyesight right now.

* went to the 25 Years Of The Eisners panel, and it was very old school: folks talking and sharing stores; then more people from the audience sharing stories. I enjoyed it, and the audience did as well, although in my case I'm a huge mark for panels about very focused elements of fan culture, of which a long-running awards show is one. Denis Kitchen reminded everyone to dress up if they could stand it, and he always has at that awards program, so he's more than allowed.

* I was once again reminded how amazingly Scottie Pippen-/Howard Schnellenberger-like Joe Ferrara's voice is.

* sat in on Mark Waid interviewing Chris Samnee at his spotlight panel. I've seen Waid do the moderation thing a few times: he's very good at it. Did not know that Samnee was not even of driving age when he started to get his first professional work. He doesn't seem too much older than that now. It's nice when an artist and a writer in that world of comics get along as well as Waid and Samnee seem too. He's one of the more interesting artists in mainstream comics; I think I own most of the work he's done there, and look forward to more. It's also nice when there are slight adjustments for allowable styles to let an artist who is not 100 percent settled into the commercial tradition of the moment to get work, although that seems like so little to ask it might make me more mad than grateful.

* I told the librarian and Columbia University comics point-person Karen Green that I thought there were fewer costumes this year, and she agreed with me. It could be that we're just not seeing them, but the last two of these shows I attended it felt like every third person was in some sort of get up and here it seemed like 1/15th of the folks. Like it was noticeable when someone was wearing a costume, and that had stopped being the case the last few years here. I'm not seeing any trends with the costumes themselves, except maybe for a few more young men in Doctor Who outfits than ever before.

* caught a bit of Gene Deitch's animation panel. Deitch is very lively and funny and it's hard to believe he's the age he is. The practicalities of the various animation projects he's done and how low budgets and quick turnarounds have driven some of the most fruitful creative choices.

* ran into Miriam Libicki and her family set up in the small press area. She has a ton of t-shirts, and I don't think I've ever noticed her having a bunch of t-shirts before. She is one of my favorite comics exhibitors.

* it may be that I'm a bit chunky this year -- and people have been nice about that -- but this seemed like the healthiest overall crowd I've ever seen at Comic-Con, in the sense that the folks themselves seemed fitter and more frequently outright in shape than in past years. That's a relative term when you're talking Comic-Con folks vs. the rest of the world, but still. I've seen maybe two or three folks that just looked like physical wrecks, and I'm used to seeing about two dozen such folks by this time during the show. In the mid-1990s I would have seen more Klingons in bad shape than I have people entirely this time out.

* Tucker Stone is here, I guess subbing in a physical-presence way for a very pregnant Jennifer De Guzman at Image Comics. As much as his writing can be scabrous -- I almost enjoy reading them or listening to them on the various podcasts he's done -- Stone is really good on his feet on shows like that, and works hard to fulfill folks' needs when he's working a comics show or at the Bergen Street Comics store in which he's invested. We talked a bit about having higher expectations for non-comics makers working in the comics industry moving forward, that those of us in the other industry roles could be better at what we do as a general rule.

* two books I enjoyed seeing in the alt-comics realm were the Brian Ralph Reggie-12 collection at D+Q and the Willard Mullin baseball book at Fantagraphics. I hope the Mullin doesn't slip under the radar; that's a cartoonist where it's just nice to have a bunch of his work under one cover.

* saw a few more panels. Todd Klein noted that Dave McKean's panel let us all in on the secret of how much work -- even comics and related work -- that Dave McKean does, even though we might tend to think of him as a not particularly prolific artist. I loved a bunch of tableaux he showed from a restaurant for which he's done some artwork.

* Tom Gauld is awfully good on his feet, working his way through various samples of his work and the influences for and methods behind Goliath. It's always great to see cartoonists read their work like that; it's not the primary way I'd choose to experience someone's material, but there's usually an insight or two, even if it's just in the way they move from panel to panel, the speed and rhythms involved. Gauld read the initial sequence between the giant and his shieldbearer.

* at the Tom Gauld panel there was a father and daughter (I checked) two rows in front of me with two generations of comics t-shirt and I really liked that. It did seem like parent with 'tween/teen, both male and female, was enough of a attendance pairing that it was one of the standard units you'd see at panels and on the floor.

* Jeff Smith says RASL "rassle" like Dusty Rhodes. Okay, maybe not like Dusty Rhodes. But it's not a z-style s sound, is what I'm saying.

* watching Smith back in 1997 or 1998 do his panels was a revelation in terms of how good he was on his feet and how much the fans liked him, how generally professional the presentation was. Now it's much more standard to have people present in the manner Smith does, but it's still fun to watch him work. There was a lot of affection for Smith from the various crowd-members. He was slightly delayed in doing some Make-A-Wish related work right before the panel, and people applauded Smith getting his mic turned on and his presentation set up.

* there was a bit of noteworthy, by-surprise news at the panel, which I'm going to pull out into its own post, but I liked that he just slipped something in there like that.

* Smith later laughed that an involved scene he chose to read from RASL might not have been the best choice on his part. I thought it was a good scene, and the bounce and pacing that Smith intends with that comic is something to experience.

* Smith noted that both halves (RASL; Battling Boy) of a one-time anthology he and Paul Pope were going to do together will arrive in collected form in September under separate covers having enjoyed a much different path to publication than originally planned. Smith praised Pope and a bunch of other cartoonists he reads right now, a list that included Jim Rugg and Kate Beaton.

* one thing I didn't know: Smith based the face of the lead in RASL on Kamandi. Because, you know, Kamandi.

* Smith should have a buy fall between the September releases of RASL and a Bone-related Artists Edition from IDW, followed by the launch of his webcomic in November. Smith is I think a little bit uncertain as to his specific on-line release strategy with the webcomic, but he's settling into a rough plan at this point.

* ran into Justin Norman, who laughed a lot when he kept mentioning a project he thought was something only he knew about only to have people say over and over "Oh, I knew about that." I think he's one of the most reliable artists in mainstream comics right now. He told me that Kim Thompson's passing was an additional shame in that no one else would likely ever give us more Gil Jordan in translated form.

* actually, a lot of folks kept telling Kim Thompson stories yesterday; it was a good day that way.

* it was good to see David Brothers working in the Image booth. He seems very much at home there.

* loved seeing the grab-bags and pogs (!) that New England Comics is apparently selling wherever they are. Tempted to buy one myself.

* the Rebellion folks said their Preview Night was crazy. I bought several volumes of 2000AD material for a friend that would rather not pay to have it shipped from Amazon UK.

* talked to Scott for a few minutes on a range of subjects from Habibi to Joshua Quagmire to his own forthcoming work. He says he's recently moved past page 400 in the forthcoming First Second work, which is pretty incredible. We talked about one thing that's kept coming up a lot this weekend: establishing a firmer beachhead for comics fiction for adults in the book market. Both of McCloud's girls are in college now, which is amazing to me, and both are in attendance at the show.

* Steven Seagle's shirt... not the quietest shirt.

* saw Ellen Forney, whom I always enjoy. She showed me a queer anthology in which she and some other artists I know took a part, noting that she liked its orientation towards bisexuals because apparently that is an expression of human sexuality perhaps under-served by the bulk of the work in that realm of comics. She seemed to be enjoying herself. It's been interesting to see folks that aren't at the show every year to get impressions from a slight remove.

* I was grateful for the dozen or so folks not there for the next hour's videogame panel who made it to the bloggers presentation I moderated during the dinner hour 7-8 PM. I thought the discussion, which ranged from various blogging issues (whether or not a failure to pay your bloggers makes you a weaker witness to comics' exploitative practices) to comics issues (the potential for entire generations lost to financial life-damage moving into their old age). I was impressed with Alexa Dickman, a person on stage with us for her Ladies Making Comics that I hadn't met before that panel.

* I saw an angry con-goer take out their frustrations on a piece of signage. So did some security folk, who are nice about setting the piece back up. It would have been nice to see that person confronted and thrown out, but that didn't happen.

* had a nice dinner with a bunch of folks, including Gilbert Hernandez (with his family), Lisa Hanawalt and Noel Murray. The brutal financial outlook for most avenues of comics-making and the difficulties in having a real dialogue about those things was an item of discussion, along with some flat gossip ranging over a couple of decades.

* with a big chunk of my evening already gone I missed the Scholastic cocktail party, which I heard was a huge success. I did make it to the CBLDF cocktail party. Saw Zander Cannon there, whom I like very much. Met a digital comics distributor I apparently misunderstood in an on-line exchange a while back. Saw Joseph Remnant, Steve Geppi, Jaime Hernandez, I think maybe Pia Guerra for a half-minute, Charles Brownstein, Kiel Phegley, Joseph Hughes, Ed Brubaker, Glenn Hauman, Sonia Harris, Peter Birkemoe, Rob Salkowitz and a bunch of other folks. It was fun talking about the early 'zine days with Gary Groth; it's amazing how all of those guys knew each other from such an early age when their only connection came via the post office.

* got a report on this year's HeroesCon from Shelton Drumm and his wife Linda: moving to the fuller-sized space was the big story this year, and he's grateful to have room to grow the show a bit moving forward. It was nice to introduce Drumm to a few folks who enthusiastically conveyed either how much they enjoy that show, or how much they want to attend.

* ran into the very busy Chris Butcher on the street about 1:50 AM. He seemed... well, somewhat less busy than he might have been had I seen him earlier in the day. He had fulfilled about a half-dozen social obligations. Thursday night is like that for comics folks in that it's the night most of the smaller cocktail parties take place.

* read the latest Optic Nerve to put myself to sleep. Comics are the best.



posted 5:30 pm PST | Permalink

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