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July 27, 2009

Notes From The CCI 2009 Floor


The following are notes and observations gathered on the floor of Comic-Con International 2009 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 I recommend Comic Book Resources and then Newsarama. -- Tom Spurgeon


* it used to be that Sunday was about discounts and, for comics publishers, about sub-distributors and big stores and catalog people coming to buy in bulk and at a discount. I'm told the latter happens a lot less than it used to, if it happens at all. I did see a number of happy shoppers licking their lips to descend upon the first 11 to 12 aisles of the convention floor and buy stuff. This was also the first day I saw people lined up at the ATMs.

* again, I heard any number of things about sales from various sources. I heard from about a half-dozen folks that sell books on the floor that Saturday was lighter than Saturdays in the past, and that this was the first time that a Saturday was lighter than a Friday. For whatever that's worth. It's obvious that with the heavy emphasis on television and film and related panels for many folks there was bound to be some fallout for how the exhibition floor behaved.

* talking to the Fanta-folk, I guess at least the new Fletcher Hanks and the new Johnny Ryan book sold out. That new Johnny Ryan book is fairly amazing.

* here is news of a publishing deal that brings the Gold Key characters to Dark Horse with Jim Shooter in charge of them. You don't string together that many well-known names without it resulting in a news story, but I couldn't find anyone on the floor with a lot of enthusiasm for what seems likely to result comics-wise. I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around any such excitement now, frankly. Shooter will be writing as many as he can handle, it seems.

* not comics: I talked to an extremely attractive woman waiting for the always-slow Westin elevator and then through the elevator ride and a lobby walk about the convention. She informed me her entire show was sitting in Hall H for three days in a row. She measured her ups and downs on the quality of what she saw placed in front of her and was most excited about getting to see multiple minutes of the forthcoming Avatar -- maybe as much for the idea of getting to see that much footage as for the footage itself. I asked her how she dealt with the line and she gave me a silent response to the effect of "are you aware of how incredibly attractive I am?" which makes me imagine some sort of special pneumatic tube system for beautiful people popping them straight from their hotel lobbies into the center of Hall H. The only other person I spoke to about the movie previews, Douglas Wolk, who was covering them for Rolling Stone, said that District 9 looked like a winner. So there you go.

* I had a nice, short conversation with Scott McCloud, who said that Wolk's recent piece on Asterios Polyp (that book being an item of discussion that weekend in my circle of acquaintances) in the Times may be both the best thing on that work so far and the best thing Wolk's ever written.

* Gilbert Hernandez had an amazing-looking pen and ink drawing of the Captain Marvel whose arms and legs shoot off. And a Golden Age-ish Batman.

* a want-to-see book from the future that came up twice in separate conversations is the Frank Young and David Lasky collaboration on the Carter Family. That could be a really, really good book.

* Stevie Weissman told me a horror story about he and Jordan Crane trying to drive over from the Embassy Suites (about three blocks away) to the other side of the convention center for ease in loading their prints and the like back up and then being redirected through traffic for about an hour before parking back at the Embassy Suites and walking over like usual.

* not comics: it may have been my imagination combined with the imagination of others, but I spoke to a lot of people that agreed with me the sheer number of costumes seemed to be down slightly, although there were still a ton and many were more elaborate than ever. I saw a number of costumes that changed the height of the wearer, mostly with gigantic boots of some sort. There also seemed to be more high-concept costumes, many of which made me laugh. I was hoping for more of a Klingon comeback given the recent Star Trek movie, but I didn't see as many as I thought I might.

* for the record, I will never, even given the opportunity to lead 10,000 lifetimes, truly understand the costume impulse.

* had a dream last night I was at the con doing PR for the Don Johnson/Heather Locklear remake of Sapphire and Steel. This is extra sad in that this is a recurring dream.

* a lot of people for whatever reasons were holding up crude cardboard signs, like one kid near the lecture halls holding up a sign asking people to scream if "Twilight ruined Comic-Con." I'm not exactly sure how Twilight could ruin Comic-Con, but I guess if one is really caught up in the various kinds of fandom and how each one jostles for cultural space at such a show this could be energizing and fascinating. Except for seeing a bunch of that book's fans camping out very early in the week and briefly thinking this is somehow not a good trend, I didn't think of Twilight fans at all, and I think you'd have to be pretty churlish to let someone else's experience color your own. It's not like while I'm sitting watching Mike Mignola draw I was about to become enraged at the idea of some teenage vampire fans off in the distance somewhere.

* men were selling badges in the ad hoc promotional area just across the railroad tracks. It was exactly like seeing people selling tickets to a sporting event or a concert. I have no idea what that means but I'm guessing maybe they were getting people leaving the show to give them badges and/or buying them for a small price, maybe? It was fairly odd.

* I saw David Glanzer of CCI being interviewed, and thought it interesting he was in a coat and tie and the interviewer was in a t-shirt and jeans. Your mileage may vary.

* there has to be some difference made between booths that are so awesome they make people stop and stare and booths that are designed to attract a crowd to stop and stare at them, blocking the movement between rows.

* I'm afraid I never got my planned "Dharma and Greg" theme sketchbook going. Maybe next year.

* I saw Jackie Estrada briefly, who pointed out that George Herriman as per popular speculation may have been the first partly African-American comics creator in the Eisner Hall of Fame after I asked if I was correct in asserting that Matt Baker was the first to get in as he did last Friday night. Estrada works very hard on the awards, and I suspect feels every negative word about them as a body blow, although I think they've clearly settled in as comic book awards #1 in no small part due to her consistent and hard work.

* the writer Matt Maxwell showed me a really neat Ramona Fradon drawing he picked up during the show and we talked briefly about the nature of comics hype and news and what's important to talk about and what isn't. I tried to browbeat him into writing something on the con for his blog because his con reports crack me up. I saw Maxwell a bunch over the weekend, and realized why I took pleasure in his company was that he was representing a lot of bloggers and writers who made up a significant presence during my recent con visits. He was really the only one from that crowd I saw over the weekend.

* it's my understanding there may be a reconsideration of the direct market status of Tripwire magazine based in part on its performance in bookstore channels. I hope it gets another shot. Although I think I was correct in pointing out that Tripwire has been around for enough years to make a DM go of it, they've only in the past few years settled in on a format by which they might make a longtime stand. I can't imagine at its current price point and with the level of production that they can't eventually be a good DM citizen and pull their own weight.

* food report for the weekend: I got to enjoy meals at Cafe Chloe, the Red Pearl Kitchen chain location right next to Oceanaire and a couple of the big-hotel breakfast buffets. I also got to hit longtime favorite Las Cuatros Milpas right before the show Thursday, but it seemed only okay this time around rather than as good as I remember from past visits (still a line out the door, though, and I still recommend it). The bar food at J-Six looked great but I couldn't stay long enough to have any and it would have been wrong besides as I was only tangentially invited to the event there. Looking back, I ended up skipping a lot of meals just for time's sake, which I don't recommend unless you also weigh 1473 pounds.

* I attended the Stan Sakai spotlight, figuring that would put me in a good mood as I headed out the door. It did. It was a nice, very old-fashioned panel, Sakai taking questions about various characters and on matters such if Usagi would ever get the girl while drawing roughs of his principals in marker on the giant notebook placed next to him. His fans clearly adored him, and the majority stood up and bowed respectfully to the cartoonist after his presentation when directed to do so by hardcore fans in attendance. There was even a birthday cake. That stand-alone graphic novella Dark Horse is doing sounds like it will be fun.

* I saw newly-minted Eisner Award winner Jonah Weiland talking to super-retailer Chuck Rozanski, which was interesting to me in that it was my understanding that Jonah stays off of the convention floor for the most part.

* the last comics professional I saw on the floor was the first comics professional I saw on Wednesday: Milton Griepp. I think I may have also seen John Davis about 30 seconds before that. I had a capital time.


the show runs from July 23rd through July 26th
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