Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Like a Kidd at Comic-Con

I didn't attend this year's New York Comic-Con (NYCC), held last weekend at Manhattan's Javits Center, but writer, editor, and book designer Chip Kidd did, and recorded the report below. If you've never attended a big comics convention and are curious about the experience, I think Chip's short piece captures it well. You can find all the freaks and basement dwellers you want, who'll readily reinforce all your "comic book guy" stereotypes, but you'll also find smart and talented (and completely sane) people passionate about a legitimate art form. Just depends on what you're looking for.

The NYCC holds a special place in my heart because it's where we debuted Mom's Cancer three years ago. Abrams hosted a launch party for my book and a few others coming out at the same time, and my wife Karen and I flew out for a very action-packed and heady couple of days. The party was held at the Society of Illustrators building, a three-story clubhouse crammed with original art by the best commercial artists of the past century. My sisters, always ready to travel and party, also flew out and had the fun but odd experience of meeting people who only knew them as characters in a book. On top of all that, it was Karen's first trip to New York City, so we had a great time playing tourists.

That 2006 NYCC was also where Editor Charlie discovered Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which has since produced three books that fight each other to claim the top of the bestseller lists, with something like 11 million sold to date. That's huuuuge. I don't think I met Jeff that day, but I remember Charlie excitedly shoving Jeff's thick packet of photocopied pages into my hands. He knew he'd found something really good, while I honestly didn't quite get it, a fact that Charlie never lets me forget. Despite my grave misjudgment, I can still proudly claim to have witnessed the moment of Wimpy Kid's publishing Genesis.

Chip Kidd holds a special place in my heart as well, because he was responsible for one of the coolest evenings of my life. In 2006, Mom's Cancer was nominated for a Quill Award as best graphic novel. The Quills were an attempt to create a high-profile, glamorous, star-studded, televised EVENT for the world of books, with winners determined by votes from the reading public. I think they were aiming for something like the People's Choice Awards. They missed. The Quills lasted three years before lack of funds, interest, or respect did them in. But for one night in October 2006, I flew to New York, put on a tuxedo, and walked with Editor Charlie up the red carpet and past the television cameras into the American Museum of Natural History, and it was thrilling.

Mom's Cancer lost (to Naruto; stupid popular vote...). However, any disappointment I might've felt was completely ameliorated by Chip, a friend of Charlie's who was at the Quills to present an award, and who invited us over to his Upper East Side apartment afterward. We were met by Charlie's girlfriend Rachel and Chip's partner Sandy, and sat on Chip's balcony sipping rum (Charlie and I still in our tuxes, Chip stripped down to t-shirt and boxers) and bitching cattily about the Quills, comics, publishing, opera, and everything else. Every once in a while I'd look out at Manhattan's lights blazing around me and remind myself to remember what this was like--which got harder as the rum bottle got emptier. It was much more than fair compensation for not receiving a lucite trophy that night.


Mike Lynch said...

I liked Chip Kidd's vid I completely cut & paste it onto my blog. He saw a lot of the same stuff I saw.

Here's hoping that you'll make it back east at some point in the future!

Kidsis said...

Have you seen this?

Brian Fies said...

Mike, we might be coming to New York in June. Problem is, you moved out of Brooklyn to the distant backwoods! I may need to join the NCS just to meet up with you again (if I ever qualify).

Sis, hadn't seen it until now, thanks!