Sunday, July 25, 2010

Comic-Con 2010, Brian 0

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.

Comic-Con draws about 125,000 people. This shot from the Convention Center toward San Diego's historic Gaslamp District shows what every intersection within about a half mile radius looked like all weekend. This year's Con seemed to spill out into the streets more than I'd ever noticed before, with parties (for example, the guys from Jackass took over a large parking lot just down this block to throw their own bash late into the night) and jam-packed bars and restaurants everywhere.

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.

In the hall five minutes and already experiencing the highlight of meeting Todd Klein. That thing strapped over my shoulder is a ridiculously large bag the Con gave everyone when they walked in the door. In the close quarters of the Exhibit Hall, people were whacking each other with those things all weekend.

The Abrams booth, with the Lovely Rachel behind the counter.

My books at the Abrams table. Eisner Award winners get gold stickers, nominees get silver. Abrams does good work. We sold out of Mom's Cancer on Friday and only had three copies of WHTTWOT remaining when I left midday Saturday, which I think made everyone happy.

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. . .

On the steps of the Starfleet cafeteria. I sat to eat lunch a few steps below these lovely lieutenants who, to be fair, weren't there as fans but as staffers of the Roddenberry company booth. Not everyone can pull off this miniskirt, you know (perhaps I should rephrase that . . .). I did ask permission to take their photo but regret I didn't give the one in the middle time to wipe the mustard from her lips.

This photo of the National Cartoonists Society booth is for comics documentarian D.D. Degg, who I think has come to expect it from me. Don't take me for granted, D.D. I won't always be here for you. Everytime I walked past, I saw it manned by "Luann" cartoonist Greg Evans (sitting at the right) and "Family Circus" cartoonist Jeff Keane (in the green shirt with his back turned), as others came and went.

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.

A resplendent Chip Kidd and Editor Charlie doing a panel about a forthcoming book on Captain Marvel ("Shazam!") that Chip wrote and Charlie edited. I'm looking forward to it, it looks very good.
I first met cartoonist Carol Tyler, whose book You'll Never Know was nominated for two Eisners this year, at the Miami Book Fair last November. We'd had a very nice, long talk in Miami but I had no reason to expect she'd remember me when I saw her sit down at the table next to mine. But she did, and rushed over to give me a big hug (I guess I like hugs) and kiss, and pick up our conversation as if no time has passed. When I wrote about meeting her in Miami, I called her "a force of nature deposited on our planet just to create comics, inspire creativity, and make people happy." Still true. I find her a uniquely radiant person.

At the Eisner Awards with Carol Tyler, who also introduced me to her sister and niece. It was a treat to see her again.

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.
I don't know these people but we were headed the same direction for a while and I thought they epitomizied one facet of the Comic-Con experience it's important to remember: Dad with a steampunk musket slung over his shoulder, daughter beautifully costumed head to toe, joyfully immersed in a world they shared and, for one weekend, shared with thousands of others..


Mike said...

It's good to be nominated.

But, come on, man -- you didn't need to win.

I'm reminded of a story I heard about a US army base where, during WWII, some British troops were also stationed. The guests had left, but the US officer corps had been struck by the elegance of swagger sticks and adopted them. A new base commander arrived and found this situation, so composed a terse memo to the effect of "Those officers who need swagger sticks should carry them."

The little sticks disappeared at once.

You don't need an award. Your publisher already believes in you, and so do your readers.

Plaques are for haques.

Brian Fies said...

Geez, Mike! I don't get 24 hours to wallow? I think I've earned a wallow day.

Besides, it's a really cool award--the little globe spins and everything.

Sherwood Harrington said...

Wallow away, my friend, wallow away. That wizened Yankee's just envious, is all.

He's right, of course, but let's not allow that to deter us.

Real-world coincidence, which may or may not assuage the sting: Diane's lifelong buddy, Carla (now a social worker in inner San Jose) spent the weekend at Ft. Harrington. Last night, while settling in to sleep, she found Mom's Cancer and WHTTWOT on the table next to the guest bed, where I had left them a long time ago, and she picked them up for what she thought would be a light bedtime read.

This morning, her eyes were bleary -- she explained that she couldn't put either one down. "Astonishing," "moving," "beautiful," and "why do you have those things?" are among the most frequent things I remember her saying at breakfast this morning.

Not an Eisner, but not bad, either.

Brian Fies said...

Just about as good, Sherwood, thanks!

I tried to look up your old pal Stephen Collins a few times, but he never showed. Maybe poor timing on my part or a change of plans on his. Too bad, I looked forward to dropping your name.

Sherwood Harrington said...

We can make up for that, too!

Step 1: My name dropped.

Step 2: THUD!

Step 3: Collins: "OW! My TOE! Don't you know anybody with a shorter name?"

In all seriousness, I'm sorry you and he didn't cross paths. I think it would have been pleasant for both of you.

ronnie said...

First of all, awesome blog post with great photos and lots of juicy commentary.

Secondly, as we always say around Casa Ronniecat: it's an honour just to be indicted.

What - you guys don't say that?

(However I think you totally deserved Best Publication Design. But I may be biased because I loved WHTTWOT so much.)

Brian Fies said...

Thanks, Ronnie. We say it without the superfluous "u".

Walter Underwood said...

And Todd Klein has a photo of you on his blog: