Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
You know, Greg Hatcher’s post about the Emerald City Comic Con will probably be more interesting because he’ll write about his students and how awesome they are and everyone who reads it will suddenly realize they’re sitting in a dusty room. Sonia’s post about the con will probably be more interesting because everyone knows Sonia and she knows everyone and she can write really knowledgeably about the cool design shit at the convention. But this post will have a singular advantage: It will be posted first! Bwah-ha-ha-ha!!!!! Take that, Other Greg and Cool British Bird!
Yes, this past weekend was the ECCC, which sounds vaguely Soviet, doesn’t it? I had never been to the convention, but this year I made up my mind to go. I’m not sure why, but I had been hearing good things about it for a few years and as San Diego gets huger and huger and its Artists Alley gets smaller and smaller, a lot of comics people are starting to skip it, which is frustrating. It’s also been 11 years since I visited Seattle, and I miss the Northwest so very, very much, so I decided to go. Of course, I had to convince my lovely wife to allow me, because I know who wears the pants in the family, but she was willing to take care of the kids for two days so I could get a break. I mean, I sit on my ass and blog all day. That causes a lot of stress, man!
I flew in on Friday morning and was confronted by the weather. Thursday in Phoenix was in the mid-80s and sunny, and when I got to Seattle, it was in the high 40s/low 50s and drizzling. When I was packing, I was honestly having trouble conceiving of what that kind of weather would feel like, because it’s been so long since I had to deal with it. I didn’t have too bad a time – I didn’t use the umbrella I brought, for instance – but occasionally I got caught in the rain, which was rather bracing. I don’t mind the rain at all, so I didn’t care too much. I got downtown about 11 a.m. and headed to the Roosevelt Hotel, which is where I was staying with some friends. The room was ridiculously small, but it was clean, plus the lobby was really nice, and it’s not like I was going to spend a lot of time in the room anyway. It’s also right across the street from the convention center, which was very handy.
I decided to go over and see if I could pick up my badge early (the con started at 2 p.m.). I don’t know if any of you have ever been in the Washington State Convention Center, but it’s pretty danged cool. The main con area was on the fourth floor, so I headed up! I went past all the people waiting in line for tickets to the booths where exhibitors and special guests and press pick up their badges, and after some confusion, I got mine (the lady I was talking to didn’t get the press badges even though she was sitting at a booth labeled “press,” so I had to talk to some other dude). While I was there, John Layman moseyed up to get his badge. Layman decided to visit the con at the last minute, and he wasn’t sitting at a table or anything, just wandering around. Whenever I saw him, he seemed so happy that he didn’t have any responsibilities. It was only noon or so, but he wanted to go in, so I just followed him and got into the con a few hours early. I’ve been to enough conventions to act like I belong, so nobody really challenges me (on Saturday I skipped the line as well). I’m about as far from being a bad-ass as anyone you can name, so let me have this!!!! It’s pretty cool wandering around the hall with very few people there – I did it on Sunday too and got some pictures.
After I wandered a bit, I went to lunch and then back to the con in time for the official opening. First, of course, I had to visit Greg Hatcher’s booth, because part of the reason I went was to visit Greg Hatcher’s booth! He had not yet arrived because he’s a total slacker (actually, he was getting passes for his kids), but I met his lovely wife, Julie, and Katrina, one of the alumnae of his program, who edited a publication of other ex-students of his. Katrina and I hit it off famously, mostly because we both have extremely snarky senses of humor (Greg took this picture of us talking, in which you can see my predilection for waving my hands around a lot). Greg did eventually show up, and he allowed me to sit down behind the table so we could chat. It was quite a fun time, and I stopped back quite often over the course of the weekend. The kids were enjoying themselves and trying very hard to give copies of their collection to everyone who walked by. The ex-students, meanwhile, were doing commissions and actually making money, which was nice. I will soon review their anthology, and I hope they all like me as much after that as they do now!!!!
On Friday night I went out with an old friend of mine who I hadn’t seen in 18 years. I met her in Melbourne in 1992, and I visited her once in Seattle before we fell out of touch. Now she’s an immigration lawyer (it’s true!) and she still lives in town, so I got in touch with her recently and told her I would be up there this weekend. We went out with her boyfriend to the Tin Table up on Capitol Hill, which was nice. One of the reasons why I love interesting cities (and believe me, Phoenix is not an interesting city) is because of restaurants like this – it was in an old building, you had to walk up a wide flight of stairs to get to it, and across the hall was a ballroom where some event was occurring when we left. It just felt more vibrant than going to a single-building restaurant or even one in a strip mall (where many in Phoenix are located). Anyway, it was fun catching up and trying to explain the phenomenon of comics to them (she knew I was into comics because I bought them in Melbourne, but she still asked a lot of questions about it). A good time was had by all (well, I had a good time – I can’t really speak for them, can I?).
Saturday was the longest day of the convention for me, because I had to leave early on Sunday to catch my flight. The main hall really isn’t that big, and it’s fairly easy to visit every booth in a day. The con has its usual vast assortment of panels, but since I don’t go to any panels, that meant nothing to me (Greg went to one on Sunday morning that sounded fun, but maybe he’ll write all about it when he writes about his experiences). I still missed seeing some people – Richard Starkings was around, but I’m not even sure if he went to the convention until Sunday afternoon, and Joe Casey was always off doing something, although I hear tell that he’s trying to bring back the mullet these days – but I did get to talk to quite a few professionals, which is always fun. I decided that I was going to try to limit my purchases … which didn’t work out too well. I’m weak!!!! I did manage to fit everything I bought into one bag, which was handy as I didn’t have a way to transport too much more home, but I still bought a good amount of books. I know some people think I hate comics, but that’s just silly, because there’s so much cool stuff out there! I thought about leaving the con a little early and walking around the city for a while, but I kept getting caught up in talking to people. That’s just the way it is!
I did manage to leave a little early so I could explore a bit. I was meeting Greg for dinner at 7 o’clock, but I had some time before that, and as the weather was actually cooperating (it rained quite a bit, but on Saturday evening the sun broke through quite nicely), I was able to walk. I strolled straight down Pike Street to the market, which was closing up at that time of night but which is still a cool place. I thought briefly of doing the hike down to the lower section of town, but then I realized I’d have to hike back up, and that’s no fun! I walked north and then back east to get to the Hurricane Café, which is where we were eating. It’s in kind of a sketchy neighborhood and it’s a total dive, but the food is pretty darned good. Greg, Julie, some of his students, and two of his old friends were there, and a bit later the divine Ms. Harris and her friend, “CBR Contributing Writer” Jefferson Robbins, showed up. Sonia is, of course, quite awesome, and Jefferson is very cool, and the four of us had a grand old time. Greg and Sonia kept pointing out that I’m the mean one on the blog, which I take exception to. I’m a sweetheart! Ask anyone! The reason they’re so nice on the blog is because they’re positively evil in real life. They take it all out on real people so they can be friendly on the Internet! We had fun swapping stories about various behind-the-scenes stuff, and of course we plotted our takeover of the blog from those snotty East Coasters, who think they’re sooooo cool living three hours ahead of us poor Left Coasters. It’s always neat getting to meet people who work for Jonah’s Vast Empire, so dinner was very groovy.
(Greg’s version of this picture is here. Sonia is blurry in all of them. Coincidence, or perhaps she doesn’t actually exist and is only a hologram? You be the judge!)
I actually went out after I got back to the hotel, because the guys I was staying with were getting ready to go to an art auction at the Crocodile, a bar down on 2nd. Artists were setting up their easels on stage and painting/drawing stuff, which they would then auction off. In the middle of the stage stood a hipster girl, almost completely naked (she was wearing panties and had black tape over her nipples), and a few artists were painting directly on her body. I’m not sure what the point was – was she getting auctioned as well? Meanwhile, a DJ was playing your standard mix of hipper-than-thou music at decibels louder than is healthy. I suppose I’m too old, because it just wasn’t very fun. I saw Jason McNamara (more on him later) and he agreed that it wasn’t his scene – I guess we’re both too old! It was interesting for a few minutes, but I didn’t stay long. I do wish I had taken my camera, because then I could post a picture of an almost-naked hipster woman with paint all over her. Travis Pelkie may have had a heart attack, though.
I had to catch a flight on Sunday, so I didn’t stay too long at the con. There were some people I still needed to see, and a few things I wanted to buy, but I had to leave after about 90 minutes so I could get down to the airport. I didn’t get a chance to see Greg before I left because he was at the aforementioned panel, but I did say goodbye to his minions, because they were still busily working. I wished I could have stayed longer, but the next flight back to Phoenix didn’t get in until midnight, and I did want my beautiful bride to pick me up, which she couldn’t have done if I was coming in at that time. C’est la vie, I believe those Frenchies say.
As for people I met, well, I didn’t keep track of when during the weekend I talked to them, so I left them until the end. I hope I don’t forget to mention anyone, because I always enjoy and appreciate chatting with the creators.
One of my first stops was at the booth of Erika Moen and Dylan Meconis, who are two of my absolute favoritest people in comics right now (presumably they wish the creepy guy would keep away from them, but we won’t go there). Meconis is still working away on Family Man, her fascinating comic about an 18th-century theologian, but since she doesn’t have a second print volume out yet, I couldn’t buy it. I did get The Fifth Musketeer, a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure graphic novel that she drew and which either wasn’t in Previews or I just missed it, because there’s no way I wouldn’t have bought something this awesome. I bought a pamphlet from Moen called “Girl Fuck,” “an introduction to girl-on-girl lovin’,” not because I really need to know how lesbians have sex (the old-fashioned way, I would imagine), but because I already own Moen’s other comics and I figured if this is half as entertaining as her other stuff, it’s worth it. She had a nice announcement at the con – Dark Horse is publishing her and Jeff Parker’s web comic, Bucko, in September. I’ve already read it, but there’s going to be a lot of extra stuff, and I’m looking forward to the print version. Bucko is a hilarious and fairly filthy comic, so if you’re in the mood, go read it. I stopped by to say hello to Moen and Meconis a few times, because, as I mentioned, I’m totally smitten with them. You should be too!
Speaking of Jeff Parker, I finally got to meet him at the con. He and Tom Fowler were at the same table, having a groovy time (they were sitting next to Gabriel Hardman, who was never there when I walked by). Parker told me that when Thunderbolts changes to Dark Avengers, he’s still going to be using the same team, and more importantly, no Norman Osborn! That is welcome news and increases the odds that I will keep buying the book after the name change. Parker is a very cool dude, and I was glad I finally got to speak to him face-to-face. (Inexplicably, I didn’t take his picture. Oh well!)
Portland people were thick on the ground at the con. Parker, Moen, and Meconis are all part of Periscope Studios, who had a large booth at the con. I didn’t get to meet everyone, which is unfortunate, but I did get to meet some of them and talk to some those I already know. I always like chatting with Steve Lieber, because he’s a cool guy. He’s working (slowly) on a new Whiteout series, and he’s drawing Caitlín Kiernan’s “Alabaster: Wolves” story in Dark Horse Presents, which is frickin’ gorgeous (I also learned he’s using Ms. Meconis as his model, because that’s the kind of news I break at conventions!!!!!). He also had copies of his new graphic novel from Vertigo, Shooters, which I couldn’t buy because I pre-ordered it. Oh well. Next to him was David Hahn, who’s doing some top-secret work these days, and around the corner from him were the always-interesting Anina Bennett and Paul Guinan, whose work on Boilerplate has attracted the interest of J. J. Abrams, who hopes to make a movie about it. In the same booth as Moen and Meconis was Jonathan Case, who drew Green River Killer and whose solo book, Dear Creature, I picked up. The art is phenomenal, and I’m looking forward to reading it. I spoke for a bit to Ron Randall, whose creator-owned series, Trekker, is now on-line and who hopes to get it published with new material soon (I told him I’d look forward to that because my old eyes can’t read shit on the computer, man!). Finally, I said hello to Cat Farris, then went next door and said hi to Natalie Nourigat, from whom I bought Between Gears, her autobiographical comic about attending the University of Oregon. I warned her that autobiographical comics and I don’t get along, but I’ve heard some good things about it, so I wanted to check it out. Not all the Portland people were in that area, however. Jamie Rich and Joëlle Jones were at their own booth, and I stopped by to say hello. Rich has a book coming out in the fall, and Jones was being her usual awesome self (a book she drew is coming out this week, and I’m buying it!). Joe Keatinge was sitting in a different section of Artists Alley, and I bought the first issue of Hell Yeah from him. Next to him was Emi Lenox, and I hope she won’t be offended if I call her too adorable for words. Greg H. had read some of her autobiographical comic, Emitown, and he thought it was quite good, so I broke down and bought a volume. I might as well have sucker stamped on my forehead!!!!! Finally, of course, Mr. Greg Rucka and his lovely wife, Ms. Jen van Meter, were around. Van Meter told me that the newest series of Hopeless Savages is moving along. Meredith McClaren is drawing it, which will be cool. I told her I wasn’t sure last year when I bought the big omnibus version of the book whether I’d like it or not, because I didn’t know if it was my thing. But it’s really very good, and I encourage you to check it out if you haven’t already. I bugged Rucka to get a print version of Lady Sabre and the Pirates of the Ineffable Aether out, and he showed remarkable restraint by NOT punching me in the face, but said it’s coming in time. But I want it now!!!!!
I spoke to Nate Powell briefly on Friday, before the show opened. He has a new daughter, which is swell, and he has a four-year (!) plan for his next books. He’s working on some work-for-hire and some personal stuff, and he figures he’ll have it all out over the next few years. He’s also drawing an upcoming issue of Sweet Tooth, and it made me sad to think he’ll probably get paid more for that than for anything he’s done so far. Also on Friday, Tony Parker was already at his booth, and Layman and I said hello. Parker continues to raise his profile, and the prints he had at his table were excellent. I still think his pencil work is better without color, but maybe he just needs the right colorist. He also told me about his tiny role in what he described as the worst movie ever made, Bryan Loves You. It stars both George Wendt and Tony Todd, so how can it be bad? Parker assured me that it is, and IMDb reviewers agree with him!
I did finally get to meet Jay Faerber, which was cool. He continues to have success with Near Death, and as I know Travis is reading, I did tell him that you thought the latest episode of Ringer was really good. He still doesn’t know the status of the show for next season, though. It seems like networks are doing that more and more – holding off on definite announcements until the last possible minute. He hasn’t heard one way or the other! I did forget to ask him about Gemini and its delays, though. Confound it!
On Saturday I finally got to meet Sal Abbinanti, creator and artist of Atomika, one of the best comics you’ve never read. He told me what I long suspected – that the delays in Atomika‘s publication were due solely to lack of money on his part, which is a shame. I hold out hope that he will be able to put together a hardcover omnibus of all 12 issues, but who knows. Abbinanti is a good Chicago Italian guy, so we talked sports for a while. As much as it can suck being a Phillies fan, Abbinanti’s a Cubs fan – now that must really suck!
I stopped by for a bit to say hello to Chris Burnham, who’s working diligently on Batman, Inc. Burnham said that he did a lot of the design for issue #10 of the pre-DCnU series, which featured a lot of cool page layouts. He said Morrison’s scripts tend to be five-panel pages, and G-Mozz gives his artists freedom to interpret the page differently. Burnham was sitting next to Nathan Fairbairn, who, among other things, is the colorist for Scott Pilgrim. The pages look really nice – they almost make me want to buy the books!
Near Emi Lenox and Joe Keatinge were Kurtis Wiebe, Brandon Seifert, Riley Rossmo, Joe Eisma, and Brandon Graham, and I said hello to all of them. Wiebe and Rossmo are working on a new series together that comes out in late summer/early fall, Seifert and Lucas Kettner are busy on another Witch Doctor mini-series, and Eisma told me he appreciated my post about his excellent work habits. I know some creators read the blog, but it’s always a bit weird to hear from them about it. I do like it, but it is a little weird!
I said hello to Steve Mannion and bought an advance copy of his new Fearless Dawn mini-series, which is an outer-space adventure. He doesn’t know when it’s coming out, but the first issue, at least, is gorgeous. I’ve said before that Mannion’s art looks better in black and white, and this is gloriously uncolored. Go buy some of his older stuff so he can bring out a new book! I also said hello to Thom Zahler, creator of Love and Capes, because he’s a swell guy. He was next to Ben Thompson, author of Badass, a book about history’s biggest, well, bad-asses. I bought his new book, which is about legendary bad-asses (as opposed to historical ones), even though I haven’t actually read the first one yet. I told him that the book must be awesome because I was buying the next one without even reading the first one!
I encountered some of the San Francisco circle at the con, as well. At one table were Emily Stackhouse and Nicholas Shahan, who are working on Miners Mutiny, a three-issue series about, well, a bunch of miners and a mutiny. Not too far from them were Jason McNamara and Greg Hinkle. I had never met Hinkle before, but he seems like a nice guy, and he’s a damned fine artist. McNamara is one of the funniest (and most evil) guys you’ll ever want to meet – far too quick-witted for me to keep up with, but very fun to talk to. He’s working on a new comic called Short Hand, a detective story that … well, I haven’t read it yet, but it looks fairly twisted. The art is by Rahsan Ekedal, who’s gotten better and better recently and whose black-and-white art is superb on this book. McNamara is looking for a publisher, and I hope he gets one, because we all need more McNamara comics in our lives!
Not too far from those two gentlemen was Brian Wood, and I had a nice chat with him. I pick on Wood a bit here at the blog, but he knows it’s all in fun, and we talked a bit about his rather sudden high profile at Marvel, plus a bit about his new indie stuff. Next to him was Matthew Southworth, who made up buttons that read “Matthew Southworth is almost finished,” poking a bit of fun at the long wait between story arcs of Stumptown. Southworth pointed out that he actually has to eat, so doing Stumptown is something of a luxury that he often can’t afford, but he’s working on it! I watched him do a sketch of the Cheshire Cat that was marvelous, and he gave me a short comic he’s working on that I’ll review this week.
Southworth told me to go say hello to Michael Cho, so I did. Cho is an incredible artist who doesn’t do a ton of comics work because he’s too busy elsewhere. Cho did new cover art for Don DeLillo’s White Noise (read about his process here), so I told him I’d have to get yet another version of the book (I own two already). It’s one of my five favorite fiction books, though, so I can deal with it.
I spoke briefly with Scott Wegener, artist of Atomic Robo (Brian Clevinger was supposed to be there as well, but he couldn’t make it). I also said hello to Anthony Del Col, co-writer of Kill Shakespeare, who’s crazy busy with the comic. He’s zipping all around doing theater stuff, movie stuff, and sequel stuff. I bought two T-shirts from him, because they were awesome. Francesco Francavilla was busy drawing a lot, so I only said hello to him, but I did talk to his wife for a bit, and they’re excited because his Swamp Thing work is finally seeing print, plus his webcomic is getting serialized in Dark Horse Presents staring next issue. So that’s cool. I also said hello to Ray Fawkes, Ben Templesmith, Marcus To, and Agnes Garbowska. Dang, there were a lot of people at the con!
I did pick up some even smaller press books (meaning: self-published) than the ones I’ve already mentioned. Next to Jen van Meter was Neal Bailey, selling the first two volumes of his webcomic, Cura Te Ipsum. It’s the story of a dude who wants to kill himself but is stopped by an alternate reality version of himself, who convinces him to help him stop other versions of themselves from committing suicide. Yes, it sounds wacky, but also awesome, and the art is very cool. Neal told me he reads the blog, so I’ll say Hi Neal! I also bought the first two volumes of The Bean by Travis Hanson. Hanson is a good salesman (he sold me on his comic!) and Greg Hatcher tells me he is very good talking to his kids about the ugly business of self-publishing and how to make the product as attractive as possible. The dude knows what he’s talking about – his comics are very nicely put together. I also bought the first volume of Wyliman, Mario González’s webcomic. When I told him I review pretty much everything I read (I didn’t always, but I’m committed to it this year!), the woman sitting next to him cleared her throat several times (in jest) trying to get my attention. Her name was Christine Humiston, and she and her husband, Erin, are working on a comic called Band. It’s about, well, a band that loses one its members and its manager and tries to stay together. It’s a comedy, in case you’re wondering. Humsiton’s art is very nice – cartoony and light – and I look forward to digging into the first three issues.
Right before I left, Jason Copland said hello to me. I was very happy to see him, because we’ve never met and I knew he was going to be there, but I couldn’t find him. It turns out he wasn’t listed among the guests, so I couldn’t find him that way. I was very glad that he happened to be walking by as I was standing by Greg Hatcher’s table, and we spoke a bit about his work. He’s slowed down a bit on his webcomic, Kill All Monsters, because he’s kind of far ahead on it, and he’s doing some other stuff. He was nice enough to give me a copy of Murder Book #3, the crime comic he works on with Ed Brisson. As always, I look forward to reading that, too. Jason is a Marillion fan, so you know he’s okay in my book!
Of course, I always miss some people. In addition to missing Casey and Starkings, I didn’t get to see Bill Sienkiewicz, Matt Wagner, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, or Kelly Sue DeConnick. Some people – Bill Willingham and Gail Simone – were always too busy at their tables, and I didn’t feel like standing in line when I had nothing for them to sign. I only got to say hello to Justin Norman as I passed him by while he was chatting with some other people, which is too bad, as he’s a nice guy. Such is the way of conventions, though – sometimes you just don’t get to say hello to everyone!
So that’s the 2012 Emerald City Comic Convention, as seen through the eyes of your humble blogger (Tom Spurgeon’s is obviously much more interesting and insider-y, so you can read that too!). I had a wonderful time and I would love to go back. Maybe I can convince my parents to babysit the kids so I can take the wife, because she digs Seattle too. Who knows? I’m sure most of you skipped this because you’re waiting for Sonia and Greg to write about their experiences, but I hoped you liked the pictures! Greg has a bunch of pictures posted (including that picture I linked to above), and I’m sure Sonia will have a bunch up soon (this is an amazing one of the Hurricane). Photos are fun, aren’t they? It makes it so easy for those tl;dr people! I will have reviews of all the books I bought up over the next few weeks (I hope; I still have some other stuff to read), so if you’re interested in any of them, you can see what they’re all about. And thanks again to Greg, Sonia, and Jefferson for being awesome. It’s always fun to hang out with cool folk, because it makes me seem much more interesting even though I’m totally not!!!!
(The shirt that Norah is wearing right above is from Last Kiss, which is a pretty cool site. They didn’t have any kids’ sizes, so she’s using it as a night gown. Here’s what the print on the shirt looks like:
I got one for Krys, too; it shows a woman reclining and saying “Is it hot in here, or is it just me … being incredible?” I take care of the ladies in my life!)
Anyway, have a nice day, everyone! I hope everyone had a grand weekend, wherever they were!
Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.