Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
This has to be the year that I really got the most out of Comic-Con International. For many reasons, this years Comic-Con in San Diego was incredibly busy, mind-bogglingly diverse, and startlingly friendly. Five days of convention seems like just enough to forget that I ever lived any other way. Coming home last night to my own bed in my own apartment was simultaneously confusing and delightful. What is this thing called “rest”, are you sure I’m not meant to be at a party, or a panel, or meeting people on the convention floor? Surely there are things I’m meant to be doing now? But no, I’m meant to be here, telling you about the incredible comic book convention that just happened.
My experience this year was pretty different from last year, as I had suspected it would be, if only because I was in good health (relatively speaking, I mean, I read comic books or science fiction, and work at a desk, so you can imagine that I’m not exactly Supergirl.) I managed to do almost everything that I wanted to do, and quite a few things that I didn’t know I wanted to, but was happy that I did. Chief among the latter was getting to chat with three of my favorite artists who work in (what I consider to be) a highly developed evolution of a true comic book art style; Cory Walker, Jaime Hernandez, and Jamie McKelvie. Completely unintentionally to, this was the convention where I got to absolutely wallow in the work of artists with a powerful ability to draw with a clean, contemporary (yet classic) comic book art style.
Towards midday on Sunday, thinking that my convention experience was probably pretty much over, I walked to the Fantagraphics booth on a whim, thinking that I’d see what books they had to sell. I was absolutely dumbstruck to find Jaime Hernandez at a table, with only 3 people in front of him. I suspect that Jaime Hernandez is a quite used to women telling him how influential “Love & Rockets” was on their youth, so I did my best not to ramble on for too long at him. However, since it isn’t every day that I get to meet people who have shaped me, and I had to thank him. While I did that I perused the sketches he had for sale, and (amazingly) he had a beautiful portrait of his character Maggie in her present day incarnation. Of course I had to have it and bought it immediately, only upon purchase did I discover that it had a half a page of rejected art from “Love & Rockets” on the back! I wandered off in a daze, clutching my new found treasure.
Once I had this treasure in my sweaty little hands, I stumbled happily to Cory Walker’s table. At least, that is where I ended up, it hadn’t actually been my intention to go there, because I didn’t even know he was at Comic-Con. My destination was Ben Templesmith’s table, where a friend was table-sitting while Templesmith was off at a panel. As I said hello to my friends, I noticed a young man at the table next to him, diligently bent over a drawing board. Imagine my delight and shock when I noticed his name tag. “Are you Cory Walker who drew ‘Destroyer’!?” I asked, with hope and awe in my voice. He responded in the affirmative, and even seemed quite pleased that this was the book I knew him best for. It turned out that he had three full books of pages from “Destroyer” original art for sale. I was surprised to find that he doesn’t work on pages as large as most other artists, so that means that his art has to be as detailed and clean as it will be in the final printing (since it won’t be reduced much.) I was even more impressed at his skill than before. I showed him my recent purchase and we agreed that Jaime Hernandez is an incredible artist.
This bounty of “Destroyer” pages had me transfixed for a ridiculous amount of time, and I finally decided on a page with our hero, sans mask, lost in the fury of destruction. I explained to Walker that I loved the quiet family moments in the comic book as well, that I found the book to be an amazing combination of deeply touching, loving moments, and stunningly gruesome violence. In the end I walked away with my furious destruction page, and a page where the elderly couple kiss each other good night, each of them showing the love they have on their faces, as well as their fears and concerns for the future… This is the kind of page where, even without dialogue, the intimacy and warmth of each moment brings tears to my eyes because it communicates so very much, and it is moments like these that make “Destroyer” the rich book it was. If only it would continue, I know a lot of people who would love to read it.
Then it was time to amble over to Templesmith’s other neighboring table which was inhabited by yet another artist who’s clean lines and emotionally communicative art I love; Jamie McKelvie. We talked about the emotional nature of some of those select pages from “Destroyer” and McKelvie explained that nearly all of his work is like that, because of the nature of “Phonogram.” I had to admit that, although I love “Phonogram”, it is despite the fact that there is no action, not because of it. With that, he recommended his book “Suburban Glamor” for it’s mixture of action and human interaction. I would have picked it up then and there, but had left it too late and he had sold out, but I’m definitely buying it next, McKelvie’s talk of writing his own work and how much he enjoys it definitely piqued my interest for more.
I’m going to tell one final anecdote about the convention. As a kid, reading “Love & Rockets”, I always identified most with Maggie. I mean, we all thought Hopey was cool as hell, but it was Maggie that I saw myself in; She wasn’t quite bad enough for the punk crowd, and not quite good enough for the nice crowd, somehow she sort of floated on the edge of it all. Then as she got older, and gained weight, I remember people at comic book conventions complaining that she was “fat”, and again, with the changes my body was going through as I grew up, I identified with her. I told this to Walker who was drawing while we spoke, and he looked me in the eye at that and said “I know exactly what you mean” and suddenly it hit me; That’s how most of us felt growing up. We all felt like we didn’t quite fit in, liking comic books was a kind of outsider thing to be into, it was confusing and strange for us in the world, but here in comic books was a world that made sense, filled with adventure and color. Now e can all come together at Comic-Con, and see that we were never alone. For me, that is the most intensely wonderful part of Comic-Con, this meeting of people who felt a little separated from the world by our love of comic books, all getting together and understanding that we are part of something, we do share something, and we do fit together. It’s a truly great experience.
Next week I’ll talk about the rest of my convention including discussing humor with “The Muppet Show” writer Roger Langridge, playing packhorse for Superman, and trying to hit three parties in one night with fellow CSBG writer Greg Burgas. I’ll also include my list of ten do’s & don’t’s, (partly for your own edification, and partly to remind myself.) In the meantime you can get the full pictorial experience of my Comic-Con here.
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