Axel-In-Charge: Navigating the "Civil War II" Landscape, Bringing DMC to Marvel
This was a banner year for me at Comic-Con International, a lot of really mellow, random meetings with all these nice people and great comic book creators, a large pile of nifty comic books I picked up, and so many fantastic things to see. With my brain all soft and mushy from five days of overstimulation this is a little unstructured, but I want to share as much as I can with you. After five years of this, I did my best to take different photos and do different things. I tried to get as much of the feel of really being there captured (and if you’re interested in the rest of my pics, they’re up here.)
Almost the first thing that happened to me when I walked into the convention on the Wednesday preview night was that I met Tom Spurgeon, the infamous comic book reporter. It turns out he’s incredibly personable and we commiserated about weird comments and hate mail. I explained that I avoid it by rarely writing any comic book “news” to which he glumly replied “That’s all I do!” All I could do was laughingly thank him for drawing all the flack. For someone who’s been doing this for so long, he was refreshingly excited about the convention, which made me feel a lot less embarrassed by my own continuing adoration of it.
Glamazonia comic book creator Justin Hall had a big year, speaking on panels about gay comic book characters and hosting a party on Friday night at the increasingly interesting Trickster event for the launch of No Straight Lines. I bumped into him at in the convention at one point and he was drawing a sketch for someone who is collecting only drawings of Animal from the Muppets (which is funny, because I saw this book last year, or maybe in Emerald City Comicon?… when someone else I know was drawing Animal in that book… wish I remembered who now.) He managed to distinguish his drawing from all of the others by creating Animal as a drag queen, complete with sequined gown and opera gloves. Easily the most put-together I’ve ever seen a Muppet, outside of Miss Piggy of course.
Speaking of good memories, on Thursday I happened upon all three of the Hernandez brothers signing autographs for Fantagraphics. It turns out that this wasn’t such a miraculous event, as they were scheduled for a grueling two sessions a day throughout f the convention in honor of this being the 30th anniversary of Love & Rockets. Luckily, I got them early and we were comparatively pretty wide awake, particularly Gilbert Hernandez, who told me that he remembered me from my first ever comic book convention in London, nearly 25 years ago (see, I told you this was about having a good memory.) I thought he had to be kidding, but he remembered my short, spiky hair, my dad’s old US army jacket, and my total confusion at what the hell was going on at this convention (you have to understand, it was the mid ’80’s and I was the only woman there, so it was a very strange first convention experience.)
Then we discussed Los Angeles architecture, as my recent move to LA has shown me that their sparse background buildings are actually pretty accurate (the architecture here is crazy in it’s generic-ness.) Gilbert says he sometimes steals rough skylines from New York, just to throw in something interesting. I told them that they should visit London or Prague if they really want to draw some elaborate buildings, but we all agreed that it’s much nicer in Los Angeles. Los Bros were charming and funny, joking with me about their upcoming panel and signing my copy of Love & Rockets # 5 (is it weird that I’m saving it? I don’t want to read it for another week, not until I’m completely healthy and I can devote all of my attention to it.) Since it is the 30th anniversary of Love & Rockets, I bought a couple of commemorative t-shirts and an original drawing of Luba and one of Izzy too. I explained to Jaime that after a misspent youth identifying with Hopey, then an awkward adolescence identifying with Maggie, I’ve now come to identify more with Izzy. We laughed about aging and how all of the characters contain some truth we can relate to. Then he explained to me that this new issue of Love & Rockets would be a bit of a new beginning for him, with 13 new characters, still in the same universe, but with new stories to explore. I wouldn’t let him tell me more though, because I hate spoilers, as I’m sure you do too. I’m so excited to read it.
On Saturday I attended the Image Comics panel. If I’m honest, it was mostly to see big projections of the four teaser ads I designed for upcoming books SEX and The Bounce. Because I’m a bit rubbish at time keeping, I managed to miss the first 10 minutes of the panel (so if you saw me sprinting across the street, shoving people out of my way, that’s why), so I didn’t get to see them. Luckily, Comic Book Resources were on the case and you can see the teasers in all their glory here. I think they turned out alright.
At the end of the day on Saturday, I managed to find Ted McKeever at his booth. I’d gone looking for him last year, but hadn’t caught him (and instead got a fantastic drawing from his booth neighbor; Doug Sneyd.) This year I found McKeever there, but I had to ask if it was really him because he looked so different. I should explain that 25 years ago at that same London comic book convention where I met Los Bros, McKeever was the only other artist I spoke to, and he had changed immensely. Gone was the quiet, pale, thin man in a white shirt with thick black hair, replaced by an outgoing, tan, shorn, muscular man in a sleeveless t-shirt. He and his partner were friendly and funny, and best of all – he had all three issues of Mondo (which I’d managed to miss in the stores when it came out) as well as a compilation of Meta4, in which he drew a beautiful sketch for me. I explained about meeting him 25 years earlier, and he told me about all of his adventures over the last quarter of a century which had led to this transformation to such a healthy specimen today. He kept me entertained for ages as we swapped stories about conventions and colleagues, until I realized that the convention was about to close for the day and had to rush out. I’m very excited about my haul of his newest work, especially now that I know how much he is personally invested in it.
This year there was a rule that no strollers were allowed in the main exhibition hall. I think that actually led to a lot more positive attention from adults, since they weren’t below the sightline. This in turn meant that there were a lot more happy kids around, particularly on the traditional “children’s day” on Sunday, and that really helped the low energy dip that usually accompanies the last day of the convention.
Personally, I was pretty tired by Sunday, just a bit sleep deprived and incubating a nice strong dose of the usual convention-cold that I seem to pick up at least bi-annually. But every time I started to space out, a friend would happen by and those interactions energized me. At one point I found myself sort of lost in the convention, just staring into space and doing that weird “con-stare” you see, when people sort of lose momentum. Suddenly, David Server (co-author of last years Freakshow, and the upcoming SQUIDS comic from APE Entertainment) who I’d met at Comic-Con previously, walked past and animatedly greeted me. Before I knew it, we’d found comic book artist Darick Robertson and were having an in-depth discussion about cleavage wrinkle fear (as you do?) and I was wide awake.
Right before they threw us out at the very end of the convention, I sort of accidentally wound up buying Ed Piskor’s book Wizzywig because he caught me organizing his books on the Top Shelf table (weird, right? I have to admit, when I’m tired my slightly OCD tendencies seep out.) We agreed that you really can’t be a comic book creator or a graphic designer without being a little bit obsessive about organizing and categorizing things, and then went on to discuss the incredible potency and power of the medium. Obviously now I’m expecting great things from his graphic novel, but I’m not worried. It’s a Top Shelf book so I’m pretty confident It will deliver.
There were a few changes overall, (apart from the stroller thing) that I think helped make it an even better convention than usual. Or maybe it was always like this and I never noticed, or maybe it was because of the fight last year, or the road accident a couple of days earlier, but there was a very visible police presence, and even a weapons check. Again, I’m sure that these sort of things existed before, but they were very visible this year and it gave the whole thing a slightly different feel. Personally, I found the police and staff to be very friendly and jovial, so I actually appreciated them being around. It’s a lot of people in one place and things can get tense, so I’m okay with more organization if it helps.
Overall this year I noticed slightly less people in costume, which is understandable since I bet all that spandex gets uncomfortably hot. Instead I saw a lot more gender swapping costumes, (e.g. A few different female Captain America‘s, a man dressed as Catwoman, a couple of variations on female Thor, and even a female Marvin the Martian) which was highly entertaining. It gives the whole endeavor more humor and I got a kick out of taking their photos and giggling with them about it.
This year the layout also seemed a bit more chaotic, in a good way. I noticed that things were slightly less grouped together (i.e. like wasn’t always with like) on the exhibition floor this year, with more random things next to each other (i.e. super popular things weren’t all in one section), which led to less human traffic jams. Yes, they still happened (no one could take enough photos of the new Iron Man armor, which is weird because it really isn’t that different from the old armor) but it was generally a lot better. Just as crowded, but less of the pushing and shoving and more of the aimless wandering. A few people commented on it, so I don’t think I was imagining it. In general, I think the organizers are doing a great job of accommodating the increasing interest in the convention while still retaining all of the possibilities for those random encounters that make it all so entertaining. I’m already looking forward to next year.
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