Evidently, I'd make a better Vegas bookie than a cartoonist. My last post's predictions in the two Eisner Award categories for which I was nominated were 100% accurate. The people I expected to win did, and they weren't me. I nevertheless had a terrific time at the Con, which becomes a more over-the-top spectacle every year--did a little business (some secret!), saw old friends and made new ones. I've got a quick (ha!) overview for you today and more fun stuff I plan to share all next week.
I arrived Friday morning and had barely gotten in the door when I found my publisher Abrams' double-wide booth and got my first great surprise of the day. Editor Charlie Kochman and his wife, the Lovely Rachel, were there, along with some Abrams staff I've gotten to know. They make up an impressive traveling carnival. Charlie immediately introduced me to Todd Klein, a veteran comic book letterer. I'm always happy to meet any comics pro, but what made meeting Todd very special to me is that he writes a blog that saved my bacon when I was writing Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow.
If you've seen my book, you'll recall there are sections of it drawn and printed to look like old comic books. I wanted to get those right and was figuring out how to go about coloring them when Todd coincidentally posted a fantastically detailed history and explanation of old comic book coloring techniques--exactly when I needed it! Like, within two days! It was a special thrill to tell Todd how much he'd helped me and thank him, and Charlie and I made sure he walked away with a copy of the book to which he'd unknowingly but critically contributed.
The Con was the usual clash and blend of cultures: comics, TV, movies, gaming, science fiction, fantasy, art, costume play, nostalgia, light porn. I took fewer photos this year than in the past; after a while, you find Slave-Girl Princess Leia or an Army of Predators less charming than you used to and just wish they'd stop blocking the aisle. Still, some tableaus are particularly eye-catching. . .
I had a chance to spend some time with a few nice and talented people, among them editor, writer, and well-known graphic designer Chip Kidd, who's a friend of Editor Charlie's and has accepted me into his orbit as well. Chip can be very naughty. He can also be sincere and kind, and gave me a big hug as I headed to the bar to cash in my free drink coupon after I was skunked at the Eisners. Many people know that Chip is a good editor, writer, designer, etc., but not many people know that he is a good hugger.
I spent a little time talking with Jeannie Schulz, whom I met when I got to be cartoonist in residence at the Schulz Museum in January, and Eric Nash, a former New York Times writer who wrote a fascinating (and Eisner-nominated) book on Manga Kamishibai, the art of Japanese paper theater. Jeannie was at the Con to participate in a panel discussion on the 60th anniversary of "Peanuts" (I tried to get in but the room was too full! Nice to see that kind of interest) and accept the special Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award at the Eisners. Eric is an expert on architecture, photography and proto-manga, and one of the gentlest souls I've ever met.
I also had nice conversations with cartoonist Peter Kuper and agent Judy Hansen. Some people I spoke to for less than a minute but still enjoyed meeting or reacquainting included Tom Spurgeon (who won an Eisner Award for his work as the Comics Reporter), writer David Gerrold, cartoonist and TV writer (Seinfeld, the Simpsons) Tom Gammill, classic superhero artist Ramona Fradon, cartoonists Shaenon Garrity, Vanessa Davis, and Laurie Sandell, and publisher Peter Maresca.
I also entertained myself by videotaping interviews with six people, five of whom I haven't yet name-dropped in this post. To make it easy, quick and fun for everyone, I set myself the challenge of doing each interview in two minutes. So for the next six days, come back here to see a Two-Minute Interview with Somebody I Know™ (except for one guy I'd just met but who was a good sport). Fair warning: some of the interviews are better and more interesting than others. In any event, they're over fast.
Speaking of videos, here's what happens when you lose an Eisner Award, presented by cartoonists Jillian Tamaki and David Sturm:
(What's going on at the end there is that Chip Kidd, who was sitting at our table, thought he was supposed to accept the award on Mazzucchelli's behalf, but someone beat him to it when he was halfway to the stage. He got his revenge when Mazzucchelli won two more awards later.)
And here's what happens when you lose another Eisner Award 20 minutes later, presented by writer James Robinson:
I appreciated how he corrected himself on the pronunciation of my name. Just for the record, had I won I intended to keep my camera rolling as I went up and collected my trophy, just to show you that, too. Would've been fun.
Now let me tell you a story. It's after the Eisner Awards, about quarter past midnight, and I'm walking back to my hotel alone. The air is warm and a little humid, my jacket is slung over my arm. The downtown party spots around the Convention Center are still vibrating with raucous energy, but my hotel is about a mile away and as I walk the blocks the crowds thin until I have the dark, quiet streets pretty much to myself. And honestly, I'm feeling a little down. I had no hope of winning the Eisner for Lettering, but I really thought WHTTWOT was a contender for Best Publication Design. It would have been a nice acknowledgement of the hard work Editor Charlie, Designer Neil, I and a lot other others put into it.
So I'm moping along, absurdly feeling like I somehow let down my team, when coming up the street behind me I hear the squeaky rattle of a pedicab, one of the bicycle-powered rickshaws that swarm the Convention Center. I look over. And there, chatting quietly in the back of the pedicab while getting chauffeured to their hotel, sit Brent Spiner and LeVar Burton from "Star Trek: The Next Generation."
I can't explain why seeing the Enterprise's Commander Data and Chief Engineer Geordi LaForge--riding in a ridiculous rig infinitely slower than the starship they used to drive across my TV screen--immediately lifted my mood and put everything in perspective, but it did. Something in the moment perfectly captured both the glory and absurdity that is the San Diego Comic-Con. Me downtown after midnight sharing a lonely street with two actors in a pedicab: sure, why the hell not? Anything's possible. I went to bed that night with a smile on my lips that hasn't quite faded away. It was a good day.