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This past weekend was the insanity that is the San Francisco comic book convention; WonderCon. Maybe it is because this is such a tiny little city, but unlike other comic book conventions that I’ve been to, the convention exists smack in the middle of everything. Since I live here that means I don’t always drop everything the way I do for other conventions, the proximity makes everything a lot more convenient and real life becomes a lot harder to ignore.
The first day of WonderCon was Friday, which meant I came straight from a morning meeting with a nearby design client. I don’t know about you, but I don’t usually hit a comic book convention dragging along a massive laptop and wearing heels. I had planned to wait and go on Saturday for my “real” day, with sensible shoes and big bag for carrying purchases, making Friday just a quick drive-by stop for fun… Yeah right. As if it is possible to walk into a full-blown comic book convention without committing to it fully. I got entirely swept up, wandering from one end to the other, checking out books and meeting people.
First stop was the Image Comics booth, mostly because I wanted to see how Butcher Baker The Righteous Maker was being received (a comic book on which I’m lucky enough to be doing design and layout.) There I said hello to Sina Grace, (artist on L’il Depressed Boy) who I met at Emerald City Comic Con a few weeks ago. I asked him about an intriguing drawing about branding which I’d seen on his blog. He explained that this was something that occurred to him when he used to work in the retail fashion industry and that this time would actually be the basis of his next project. Apparently it is deeply in-progress so I can’t tell you much more about it right now, but I was very intrigued by the concept. Many biographical comic books deal with mundane work environments (I particularly remember a sweet one called Through the Habitrails where the depressing cubical work space was compared to hamster habitrails), but I’ve never seen one that dissects the mind-numbing insanity of working in fashion retail. I’m excited about Grace’s work and I’ll keep bothering him for more information that I can share with you in the future.
Next up I made my way over to Artist’s Alley, because when you have a limited amount of time, I find this the best place to find the largest variety of comic life. The first thing that happened was that I ran into old friend Josh Ellingson. It seems that he is always the first person that I find in Artist’s Alley, and this time I realized why. His work is insanely colorful. I probably ought to have figured out it was this basic design tenet that grabs the eye, but this time I couldn’t avoid it, as a fellow artist was there asking him about being his colorist. I admired his Turf cover and threatened to buy a print (though since he’s local, I didn’t bother buying it at the convention where it could get creased – another benefit of a local convention.)
A quick visit to Josh Richardson at the Writer’s Old Fashioned booth and I’d purchased a copy of his gritty little mini-comic for Ellingson, (who hadn’t read it, but I thought it was right up his alley.) Richardson showed me how he was signing them; personally for friends and with bizarre game tips for strangers. So if you bought his comic at the convention, then there is probably a shortcut in there that you can use (if you know what the hell he’s talking about, because I looked at all of those arrows and letters and had no idea what he was on about.)
By this point my design work was calling, so I had to go and chain myself to my desk for the rest of the day. The sojourn at the convention meant that I had to work through the the Walking Dead pub crawl that many of my friends were trailing, but as a bit of a lightweight I knew that I wouldn’t have lasted long anyway (drinking is either something I’m terrible at or really good at, depending on your point of view.)
Although Saturday was meant to be my real day at the convention, you know that you can’t plan these things. As it turned out the place was insanely packed (more so than ever) and the design client really turned up the heat so that I could only spend an hours at the convention. Still, I was determined to make the most of it and take as many ridiculous, wonderful photos as I could and I did my best (I’ve used a few here and the rest will be going up on my flickr within the next few days or so.) Despite the crowds I loved it, felt like I could feel the comic book love in force and left more than ready for the two parties that I had selected to spend my evening at (as far as I know there were at least 4 excellent, open parties in town that night.)
After slipping in a few hours of work and a quick sushi dinner (I always make sure to try and eat healthy when attending comic conventions to fight off all the nasty cold germs that float around) I changed into a comfy little black dress and jumped into a taxi to the Image Comics party. Held in the subterranean bar of the ComicVine offices, the dark, cosy environs played host to a slew of comic professionals. I tasted a Liberty Belle cocktail, (named for the truck in Butcher Baker) and chatted with friends visiting from out of town. Then it was on to the Isotope party. Isotope Comics have been hosting their infamous WonderCon parties for years and this one was a rager to match all of their previous parties. Jam packed with comic creators and fans, my time was completely filled greeting all the good friends I saw there. People were loving the custom cocktails created in honor of the star guest Frank Quitely and I’ve heard talk that the party went until well after 3am (when Quitely set a new record for staying till the bitter end too!) With work looming, I had to leave well before the party calmed down to rest up for another full day of design work on Sunday.
As comic conventions go, I don’t love trying to fit my life in around one. I can’t decide if I prefer the vacation convention, where I’m able to devote every bit of my time to the convention and the people I meet there, or the home convention. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. I’ve been hearing stories of 5 solid days of non-stop partying, talking shop and introducing out-of-towners to all the best bars and restaurants, which all sounds amazing, but kind of impossible around the framework of grocery shopping, laundry and work. I’ve heard of people taking vacation time and staying in their own city for a “staycation” and maybe next year I need to create more of a “staycation-con” to really get the most out of WonderCon.
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