Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
So let’s get to it! Who needs all those other convention stories? Do those reports have jumping killer whales? DO THEY????? Is there an account of puking in other convention tales? (Okay, maybe.) Do those other reports have the dark secret of what makes Jamie McKelvie happy? I THINK NOT!!!! Read on … if you dare!!!!!
So there I was, heading off to San Diego for the third consecutive year. This time, however, I was taking along the entire family and driving there, meaning this would be a whole different kind of experience. We left on Wednesday, meaning I had to suffer without my weekly comics fix for the entire weekend. Yes, I gnashed my teeth and rent my garments like an Old Testament Patriarch, but there was nothing I could do! We drove away from the 110-degree heat in Phoenix and headed, first south to Interstate-8, then west to the ocean. We had made a similar voyage in May when we drove to Disneyland, so we didn’t anticipate too much trouble beyond the usual whinging about being bored. Little did we know a bug lurked in the car … or, more accurately, in my four-year-old daughter’s stomach!!!!
The drive to San Diego took about seven hours. If you think that’s inordinately long to cover approximately 375 miles, well, you’re not wrong. Usually we factor in about an hour because of the kids, but this time, my daughter Norah kept claiming she had to pee but she would not use any restroom at which we stopped (this is not terribly unusual, but if she has to go, she usually goes, despite her distaste of public bathrooms). So we kept stopping, but she never sealed the deal. Then, on a lonely stretch of highway somewhere between the Imperial Sand Dunes and the mountains east of San Diego (I believe they’re the In-Ko-Pah mountains, but I’m not sure), it all came out. Norah was taken by surprise, so she puked pretty much all over herself. She doesn’t often throw up, so it was even more surprising. We actually had to pull over on the side of highway, with the traffic zipping by, so my lovely wife could clean her up. Luckily, we could put her dress way in the back of the van, so it didn’t stink too bad. We gave her a cup to puke into if she felt like it and moved on. Norah was still whiny, and Mia was picking up on that and starting to be annoyed with life, so somewhere around Alpine (which, I’m sorry to say, does not look alpine at all), Krys climbed in the back with them. This was to calm Norah down and to keep Mia from grabbing at her, as that’s often Mia’s most pleasurable form of entertainment. Norah was very happy about this, and when she puked again (and, unfortunately, she did), Krys was able to hold the cup up for her, so there was no mess. We made it to San Diego successfully, but it did take a lot longer than we thought it would. Plus, there were random border patrol stops along the way. What the hell? I know we were close to the border (you can see the wall running through the sand dunes), but the Border Patrol wasn’t exactly trying that hard – if they did ask me anything, it was where we lived or of what country we were citizens. So we stopped for no real reason. Really, Border Patrol? Do you ever catch illegal aliens this way?
We got to Paradise Point Resort, where we were staying. It was fun coming down the mountain and watching the temperature drop (we have a gauge in our van). It was still 108 at the summit, and by the time we got to our hotel, it was 78 degrees or so. Good times! Paradise Point is in the middle of Mission Bay, so it was a bit far away from downtown, but who cares, right? It was right north of Sea World, right across the water from Mission Beach, and it was a very nice place to stay. It was also very quick to get downtown on the freeways, which was nice. Of course, driving downtown was a nightmare, which is why it’s always good to get a hotel near the convention center so you can walk, but this was all about the family vacation, man! Plus, staying up there saved us about $600, plus we got tickets to Sea World and the zoo included. Whee!
I had a standing invitation to head down to the CBR yacht, so I figured I’d drive on down and see what was what. I figured I’d never get to see the mythical yacht unless I went there on Wednesday night, before the craziness really began. I spent about two hours on the actual YACHT. Yes, it does exist! Yay! Jonah gave me some shit (ever since the Tom Beland thing, Jonah always gives me shit) and we had a grand time. I didn’t get a photograph that evening, but the yacht does exist, and I can prove it:
Yes, there’s a boat blocking the actual yacht, but there it is!
The next day I took Mia to the con (see the picture above). We had been talking about it all week, and Norah was quite keen to get rid of us. She’s very much a mommy’s girl (mostly because Mommy is the working parent, and by the time she gets home, Norah is sick of me), so whenever she gets to spend time with Mommy alone, she’s all for it. She kept asking me, “Are you going to see the nerds, Daddy?” We had told her many times that Daddy and Mia were going to see the nerds, warning her that Daddy and Mommy are nerds and that she’s probably going to be one too. Krys drove us down to the con, dropped us off, and we were off! I thought Mia would have a good time, because she loves checking people out. I figured Norah was a year or two away from really enjoying herself – she would probably have freaked out if I had taken her. If you’ve never seen the convention center in San Diego, it’s a fairly cool building:
It actually looks like a spaceship, which is fitting for this convention, if not for any other one. I had to get my press pass, which meant I had to stand in line. Confound it! This was puzzling, because the area for the press passes had three separate windows and at least five people behind the counter. Yet only one person was checking people in, and one other person was … well, doing something. The others were just wandering around, and those of us in line – I waited at least thirty minutes – were wondering what in the name of all that’s good and holy was going on. I finally got my pass, and we went in. I wasn’t planning on spending too much time there on Thursday because of the kid, so we zipped around a lot. It’s somewhat difficult navigating the convention floor, and I was pushing a wheelchair around, so it was even harder. But we managed. Mia likes sticking her hand out and grabbing people, and there were plenty of people to grab, I’ll tell you that much! Of course, she’s so cute and friendly that people don’t mind getting grabbed by her. We browsed Artists’ Alley, checked in on some creators at their booths, and I bought some books. Well, of course I did! Mia seemed to have a grand time – it’s tough to tell with her, because she doesn’t use a lot of words and often uses “yes” and “no” rather randomly. I stayed there only until about two in the afternoon (one good thing about going to San Diego for more than one day – there’s no rush), then my lovely wife picked me up and we were off!
We headed to Sea World later that afternoon and checked out some of it, saving the rest for the next day. Norah had a grand time jumping around in the Sesame Street play area, until she fell hard on the air mattress thing and cut her forehead open. We’re not sure what she was doing so close to the side of the enclosure, but that’s where it’s a bit harder than the rest, and all it took was one ill-timed leap as a bunch of other kids were bouncing and she lost her balance completely and face-planted. It looked awful for a day (and this is what it looks like right now), but she didn’t act any differently, so we think she’s fine and that it’s just a normal childhood injury. We went up in the tower and got a bird’s-eye view of the area, saw some rays and eels, and generally had a good old time. The next morning we went early to see more stuff, but mostly to see the Shamu show. That was quite fun. We sat right behind the “soak zone,” so we were safe (we couldn’t have sat in the soak zone even if we wanted to; the handicapped seating was behind it), and it was impressive seeing the whales (there are seven of them) do their thing. Mia and Norah were quite astonished, which was nice. When the show was over, we were going to spend some more time at Sea World, but Norah had remembered that we were going to the beach afterward, and she was set on going right then! So we left at drove over to Mission Beach, where we managed to find parking relatively close to the beach (I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – there are hardly any benefits to having a handicapped child, but one of them is parking – it’s not even close to being a fair trade-off, but you have to take the good things when you can). Ever since we went to Anaheim and Norah spent a few minutes in the surf at Newport Beach, she’s been keen to go back to the ocean. I hadn’t been in the ocean since 1999, so it was fun for me, too. Norah ran away from the surf a few times, got knocked over by a wave, ran out crying, calmed down, and then went back in. She and Krys started jumping over waves, and Norah thought that was the greatest thing ever. I hung out with Mia for a while as she chowed down on Doritos, then went in the surf when Krys came out. After a while, Norah wanted to play in the sand, so I took her out, then went way out in the surf to jump waves. The water was pretty danged cold, but it was much better once you got into the water. We spent a few hours at the beach, and then I figured I should probably make use of my free admission to the convention, so I headed back downtown.
This time I drove and parked, because I figured I would spend the evening down there. I spent more time chatting with various creators, which was nice. I always like to catch up with the usual suspects who occasionally read the blog. On Thursday I met Anina Bennett and Paul Guinan, creators of Heartbreakers and Boilerplate, the latter of which is the subject of a alternate-history book that will be out this fall. It looks awesome, and I’ll have to mention it again when it shows up in Previews. I also stopped by Zander Cannon’s table and instead of talking to him (he was chatting with someone else), I ended up talking for a time with Brian Hurtt. He’s working on a Western with the writer of The Damned, Cullen Bunn, and then he hopes to go right into another series of The Damned. He showed me some of the pages from the Western, and dang, it looks good. Just one of those things I can eagerly look forward to! He also drew one of those crime graphic novels that Vertigo is publishing, so look for that, too. I had also wandered by Mike Huddleston’s table, and he told me he’s working on a book with Robert Venditti, the writer of The Surrogates (more on that below). That will be very cool to see, I predict. I didn’t take too many pictures on Thursday because of Mia and her impatience at, you know, standing still, but I tried to make up for it on Friday and Saturday. I also didn’t take too many pictures of the costumed people, because I try to get them when they’re not posing, but if they spot you, they pose. I like them “out of character,” so to speak. I wandered around looking for cool stuff. I spoke to Brian Wood for a bit, looked at the entire first issue of Beasts of Burden (sans words) by Jill Thompson (she was at the same booth as Wood), which, if I didn’t emphasize it enough when it was offered in last month’s Previews, you really should get, as the first issue looks freakin’ brilliant (Evan Dorkin might drop the ball on the script, of course, but I doubt he will). I always like wandering through the small press area, because it’s keen to see what people are coming up with on the tiniest of budgets (not all of it’s good, of course, but it’s still nice to see people going nuts and creating comics). I stopped by the Law Dog Comics table and spoke to Steve Bryant, creator of Athena Voltaire. Steve is a very cool guy, and we spoke about his creation and how hard it is to make it work in today’s market, even though it’s, you know, awesome. Steve has come by the blog and explained why Athena Voltaire hasn’t been coming out, and even though he was under no obligation to do so, I still appreciated it. He was running around the con talking with publishers, which would be nice if it gets us new stories starring everyone’s favorite 1930s aviatrix/adventurer! He was at the table with James Heffron, who gave me a copy of his latest graphic novel, Bring Out Your Dead, which takes place in plague-ridden Cyprus in A.D. 1208. I’m not sure how I missed it in Previews when it was offered, because it sounds right up my alley! It becomes just another fun thing I’ll have to review when I get the chance.
I had to stop by the Oni Press booth to see what was going on. On Thursday I went by to purchase, finally, issue #25 of Wasteland, which came out a few weeks ago but which my comics shoppe never got. It’s 6 bucks but worth it just for the fully painted art (I haven’t read it yet). I went back on Friday to see who was there, because there’s always someone interesting. Hope Larson was giving away uncorrected proofs of her latest graphic novel, Mercury, so I took one (it was free, and I’m not proud). Jamie S. Rich and Joëlle Jones were signing stuff, mainly their latest collaboration, You Have Killed Me, which I didn’t get because it came out last Wednesday and was sitting in my subscription box in Mesa. I did, however, pick up 12 Reasons Why I Love Her and got that signed. While I was standing there, Antony Johnston walked by, and I chatted with him for a few minutes. He told me that Wasteland‘s tardiness was completely his fault, as he didn’t anticipate that Christopher Mitten might, just might, need a bit more time not only to draw twice as many pages as usual, but then color them all. I don’t care, because it’s not tying into Secret Invasion or anything, so as long as it comes out, I’m happy. I’m just jonesing for the next issues, which have been delayed a bit, but Johnston said everything seems to be back on track. Whoo-hoo! I also stopped by Steve Earnhart’s booth, because Steve is a cool dude. He gave me his latest stuff, which I will sit down and review soon enough. I always like talking to Steve, because he finds great artists to work with and even with a bunch of setbacks (not the least of which is the fact that he had to change the name of his comic because Frank Miller was grumpy about it), he keeps putting out comics. You should check out the first volume of Hard-Bullied Comics, because they’re totally insane comics – and why would you want it any other way?
I went over to the Image area, which I had done the day before as well. I always enjoy chatting with Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, even though issue #4 of Phonogram was sitting at their table and I couldn’t look at it because it was waiting for me back in Mesa. Man, I wanted to check it out, but I could not! I dared not! They also told me the story of the T-shirts they were going to sell at the con, which had become, well, a clusterfuck. But hearing it in Gillen’s accent makes it entertaining. I went by their table a few times, because they’re groovy cats. They do well selling their books at the con, too, which makes me happy, as throughout the year they don’t make any money doing Phonogram because you all suck and don’t buy it. Yes, I blame you! Around the corner from Gillen and McKelvie were John Layman and Rob Guillory, creators of the smash hit Chew. Yes, the inexplicable smash hit Chew. Seriously. I asked Layman if he had any idea what was going on with Chew, which is a nice little comic but certainly doesn’t seem to be one that people would be going gaga over. They had third and second printings of issue #1 on sale, and when I went back on Friday, they had first printings on sale … for 35 dollars. Of course, over in the retailer section, they were selling issue #1 for $120 or so, so $35 is a bargain! While I was standing there, some dude actually bought both issues #1 and 2. I wonder how long before those showed up on eBay …
On Friday night I met up noted blogger and bon vivant Tim Callahan, who was in town hobnobbing with all the glitterati of the comics world (not that I’m jealous or anything!). Tim was hanging out with several people including Dean Trippe, who posts here very, very occasionally. After dinner we went over to the Hilton where the Eisners were being held. Dean was up for an Eisner, along with a few of the people he was hanging out with, so we figured we’d give him some support. Well, the Eisners are really boring, in case you’re wondering. I mean, the presenters do their best, and some of the award winners did their best (Jill Thompson was fabulous in accepting her award), but it was still pretty dull. I was surprised that Blair Butler, who presented the award to the Comic Book Resources Mothership, made a point of mentioning that Jonah’s site was nominated despite my presence in its darker corners, but I was too giddy because OMGWTFBBQ Blair Butler knows my name!!!!!* Before the ceremony ended, however, I bailed on it, because I am old and tired. Tim mentioned that he had been up the previous night until three-goddamned-thirty in the morning, and I just can’t handle that anymore. My kids get up before 7 every day, and Norah enjoys waking me up, so there’s no way I can handle staying out too late anymore. Yes, I’m boring. None of my con stories are like Tim’s, which I’m sure begin with “Jason Aaron and I were drinking 190-proof Balinese vodka” and end with matching dragon tattoos on their shaved heads and big gaps in their memories. Sorry!
* Note: the anecdote may not be true.
And then it was Saturday, and we went to the zoo. I will say this about the San Diego Zoo: It’s vastly overrated. I don’t like zoos as a matter of principle, but I’ve heard all the grand things about the San Diego Zoo and its greatness, but I didn’t see it. Oh, sure, the animals are fine, and the landscape is nice enough, but I’ll tell you this much: Dang it’s hilly. So? you say. Well, we’ll get back to that. We took a guided bus tour so we could scope out the scene, and then it was time feed the giraffes, which the kids wanted to do. They both did quite a good job feeding the giraffes, even though neither of them are particularly tall and Norah tends to be nervous around new things. But she was very jazzed about feeding the giraffes, so even though the giraffe’s long tongue freaked her out a bit, she stuck in there like a trooper. Then we wanted to go see the pandas, so we did. Here’s where things get annoying. The pandas are pretty much at the lowest point in the park, and to get there, we had to walk down a long road. However, on the other side of this road were the monkeys, and we thought the kids would like to see them. The monkey section is higher than the panda canyon, though, and, inexplicably, there is no easy way to get a wheelchair from the monkey section to the panda section. There’s a people mover from the panda area up to the monkeys, but not one going down. So we’d need to go through the monkey section, then come back to the beginning and go a long way around to the road down to the pandas. As we entered the monkey trail, however, Norah got all cranky and didn’t want to walk anymore, so we ditched the monkey trail. We walked down the steep hill to the pandas, and then headed to one of the bus stops that people can use so they don’t have to walk everywhere. A bus came by … but was not wheelchair-accessible. Fuck the heck? A zoo employee said he could call a shuttle to come pick us up, so he did. We waited. And waited. And waited. After about 30 minutes, the shuttle finally came to take us to the exit. Seriously, San Diego Zoo. Krys pointed out that Target probably has more handicapped parking than the zoo did, and then, when we got in there, they weren’t all that well equipped to deal with a wheelchair. I mean, if you have that many people coming into your park, you have to assume a good percentage of them will be in wheelchairs, right? And not everyone has fancy motorized ones, you know!
Krys dropped me off at the convention once more, because I decided I wasn’t going to spend the evening down there (I’m boring, remember). As sappy as it sounds, I miss my wife when I’m not with her. I wanted to find a couple of cool toys for friends of mine, maybe pick up a few more comics, and take off. I would certainly like to go out drinking with people at the con (for the second straight year, I didn’t get a chance to meet up with Tom Beland and have a drink with him – and honestly, I’m not sure he was even there), but when nobody goes out until 11 at night, my enthusiasm goes down. Seriously, comics pros – get some sleep occasionally! There’s nothing wrong with drinking at 9, you know! Sheesh. So I headed into the retailer section, where I got an Atom Ant bobblehead and a sculpture of Giant-Size X-Men #1 which is the comic cover in 3-D – the characters are bursting out of the cover. I thought it was freakin’ cool, and you can’t change my mind! I stopped by the Elephantmen booth to say goodbye to Richard Starkings and Moritat. As usual, Starkings gave me the latest issue of Elephantmen, which was very nice of him, and Moritat drew me a nice sketch. I always like talking to Starkings, because he’s a fun guy and he always has fun stories to tell. I had spoken briefly to Larry Young on Thursday (when he showed me pictures of his son and I showed him my real-life daughter), but I was able to spend some more time at the AiT/Planet Lar booth on Saturday, when I was kid-free. We chatted with Adam Beechen, who showed up about the same time and was trying to restore his comics collection, which was recently stolen. Damn, that sucks. As I continued to wander, I went by the Man of Action booth, where a few days earlier only Steven T. Seagle was hanging out (and he told me that he was not announcing anything with Mike Allred later that day), but now Joe Kelly, Duncan Rouleau, and Joe Casey were all in attendance. I talked to Kelly about I Kill Giants for a while and how freakin’ excellent it is, and he told me there are plans for a large-sized hardcover, as the artist, JM Ken Niimura, did it “European-style” (that sounds vaguely dirty) and therefore it would look fine in a bigger format. I own the individual issues, but damn, a big hardcover would be tempting. I bought Duncan Rouleau’s Metal Men because I enjoy being confused (he was joking about it being confusing) and heard about Joe Casey’s new project, Doc Bizarre, M. D., which sounds, well, awesome. Then I was off again! I walked by the Radical Comics area and saw Jimmy Palmiotti promoting a book he’s doing for them. I figured, since I wasn’t too kind to the first issue of Power Girl, I should at least introduce myself. He’s a very cool guy and said that I should really check out issues #4 and 5 of the book, because it goes a bit nuts then (I did buy issue #3, so I’ll keep going at least through issue #5). I told him I enjoyed The Last Resort, his parody/homage to 1970s disaster movies, much more than Power Girl, so I hope it sells well for him (obviously, it’s not going to outsell PG, but still). Of course, I had to gush about Amanda Conner’s art, and considering how intimately connected to Ms. Conner he is, he couldn’t disagree! Finally, I stopped by the Top Shelf booth, where Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele were selling and signing The Surrogates (and showing the trailer to the movie, which looks neat; I did tell them that Willis’s hair looks ridiculous, and Venditti told me that was the point, which mitigates it a bit, I suppose). I told them I already had the first series and was getting the new graphic novel when it comes out so I wasn’t going to buy the extremely handsome $75-hardcover collecting both stories, but they asked $40 for it, so I couldn’t pass that up, could I? Weldele also confirmed something I feared – he’s pretty sure that his series for Zenescope, The Straw Men, is dead. He hasn’t heard anything about it, and although he said he had drawn some of the issues that haven’t been released yet, it doesn’t look like it will see the light of day. Damn. It’s still listed on their web site, so maybe there’s a small glimmer of hope, but I guess I wouldn’t count on it.
I left the con and waited on a corner for Krys to pick me up. It was quite the busy place – I saw the guy who works at my comic book store stroll by, followed soon after by Adam Beechen. Then some dude congratulated me on the Eisner win, for which I could take no credit. Then I met Lou and Dawn, who also love the site. They sell nifty stuff at the con, like Dawn’s hand-made purses in the shape of Captain America’s shield. They were awfully swell. Krys finally made it downtown (traffic in San Diego on the Comic-Con weekend: awful) and got me, and we were off! The next day we drove home (a much nicer drive) and that was that!
So that was my SDCC experience. No, it wasn’t as groovy as some people’s – I’m sure Mr. Callahan has piercings in strange places that he didn’t have before the weekend – but I had a good time. And, as usual, I bought a crapload of comics. Let’s look at the list:
12 Reasons Why I Love Her by Jamie S. Rich and Joëlle Jones.
Anna Arky #1 by James Heffron and Miguel Atencia.
The Annotated Northwest Passage by Scott Chantler.
Brian Wood Public/Domain, designbook 2009 by Brian Wood.
Bring Out Your Dead volume one: It Tolls For Thee by James Heffron and Manuel Martin Peniche.
Cakewalk by Rachel Bormann and Nate Powell.
Clever Tricks to Stave Off Death: A Bunch More Wondermark Comic Strips by David Malki!
Crogan’s Vengeance by Chris Schweizer.
Elephantmen: Damaged Goods by Richard Starkings and Marian Churchland.
Elephantmen War Toys: Yvette by Richard Starkings and Moritat.
Firebreather volumes one and two by Phil Hester and Andy Kuhn.
Hard-Bullied Comics #6-7 by Steve Earnhart and Federico Dallocchio.
Heartbreakers #1-4 by Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett.
Hench by Adam Beechen and Manny Bello.
Jar of Fools by Jason Lutes.
Kirby: King of Comics by Mark Evanier.
Magic Trixie by Jill Thompson (this is for Norah, but I’ll read it a lot, I’m sure).
Masterpiece Comics by Robert Sikoryak.
Mercury by Hope Larson.
Metal Men by Duncan Rouleau.
Naoki Urasawa’s Monster volumes one and two by Naoki Urasawa.
Pilgrimage: Two Weeks in G-d’s Country, a travel sketch journal by Neil Kleid.
Pluto volumes one and two by Naoki Urasawa, Osamu Tezuka, and Takashi Nagasaki.
Portland Noir, edited by Kevin Sampsell.
Pounded #1-3 by Brian Wood and Steve Rolston.
Secret Identities: The Asian American Superhero Anthology by lots o’ folk.
Sketches and Drawings volume one by Steve Bryant.
Stickleback: England’s Glory by Ian Edginton and D’Israeli.
The Surrogates “Owner’s Manual” by Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele.
Tripwire Annual 2009.
The Villain #1 by Steve Earnhart and Pat Loika.
Wasteland #25 by Antony Johnston and Christopher Mitten.
We Kill Monsters #1 (of 6) by Christopher Leone, Laura Harkcon, and Brian Churilla.
Well, that’s a bunch of books. Maybe someday I’ll get a chance to read them all!
Oh, and what makes Jamie McKelvie happy? Absolutely nothing! He was asked to do a sketch of whatever made him happy, and he was stymied. Seriously. Poor guy! I left before he actually figured out what he was going to sketch. Maybe he eventually decided that something in this bleak, bleak world made him joyful. Wouldn’t that be nice?
(Here’s a key to the photographs, in case you don’t recognize the people. 1. Some costumed dude chillaxin’. 2. Mia and Daddy ready to hit the convention floor! 3. Norah before her tragic injury. 4. The three lovely ladies in my life on the Sea World tower. 5. The YACHT. 6. The convention center. 7. Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett. 8. A jumping whale. 9. Norah and Mommy in the surf. 10. Brian Wood. 11. James Heffron and Steve Bryant. 12. Joëlle Jones and Jamie S. Rich. 13. Kieron Gillen. 14. Antony Johnston. 15. Steve Earnhart. 16. Rob Guillory. 17. Jimmy Palmiotti. 18. Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele. I also took a few other pictures of people I couldn’t fit into this post: Joe Casey, Becky Cloonan, Hope Larson, John Layman, Duncan Rouleau, Milo Ventimiglia and Marc Silvestri (and Ventimiglia may be short, but Silvestri is a freakin’ giant), and Richard Starkings.)
So now I’m back. How are you all doing?
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