Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Okay, well, maybe not everything. I’m only one dude!!!!
Yes, it was time for ECCC this past weekend, and just like last year, I decided to venture into the wilds of the Pacific Northwest to see what was what. After I returned from it last year, I told my lovely bride, “Next year you’re going with me,” because we hadn’t been to Seattle since 2001 and I knew she would love to go back. So we conscripted (pressganged?) my parents into babysitting the kids, and last Wednesday, we flew to Jet City!
We had a pretty groovy time, although I’m still tired from it all. We checked in at the Roosevelt, which is where I stayed last year – it’s right across the street from the convention center, and the rates were decent. We relaxed for a while before we went out to the first of many dinners with friends. This time it was with my friend Lisa, whom I wrote about last year – we met in Australia in 1992, and I hadn’t seen her since 1994 until last year, when I checked to see if she was still living in Seattle. She was, and so we had dinner. This year, we had dinner again! We ate at Etta’s, which is just north of the Market, and it was quite good. The good food and too much alcohol carousel had begun!
As we had been in Seattle several times from 1993-2001, we didn’t need to do too much tourist stuff – we’ve done the Underground Tour, we went up in the Space Needle, we took a boat tour from Lake Washington to Elliott Bay, we saw them throw fish at the Market – so we could relax a bit. One thing we hadn’t seen – because it didn’t exist a decade ago – was the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum, so on Thursday we hopped on the monorail (who doesn’t love the monorail?), zipped up to Seattle Center, and checked it out. It was pretty keen, I’ll tell you what. Apparently the Northwest is quite the glass-blowing mecca. It’s not surprising – it seems like a typical high-end hippie job. Damned hippies!
That night we ate dinner with my cousin and her husband at Machiavelli. I hadn’t seen my cousin in 15 years, since my sister got married, and I had never met her husband, so it was pretty cool to catch up. I rarely get to see my cousins – I’ve seen the one who lives in New York a few times in the past few years, but I haven’t seen the other five since my sister’s wedding – and it’s too bad, because we’ve all gotten far less obnoxious than we used to be. We saw them again on Sunday, when we met her three children and went to Alki Beach in West Seattle. We walked around a tidepool at low tide and saw all sorts of starfish, which was pretty neat. Then we went to Talarico’s for pizza – the largest pizza slices I’ve ever seen. Holy crap, those things were huge (see below). But tasty. It was a nice afternoon – I left the convention a bit early, but that wasn’t too big a deal – I missed a few people, but I was pretty much ready to leave!
We had eaten breakfast on Thursday at Lola, where I ate “Tom’s Big Breakfast” – Mediterranean octopus, florina peppers, onions, bacon, cilantro, and scallions, all on top of a spread of garlic yogurt, and topped with an egg, sunnyside up. Man, was that good. We went back on Saturday and I had their Eggs Benedict, which was also superb. On the other days we got doughnuts at Top Pot. Because they’re doughnuts!
The con didn’t open until 2 p.m. on Friday (more on that later), so we still had that day to wander. We decided to zip down to Uwajimaya in Chinatown, just to check it out. We had been to the one in Beaverton years before, but we figured it would still be fun to see this one. After we left there, we hiked up to Pioneer Square for a bit and then returned to the market, because the Hawaiian place was selling loco moco, and I had to have it! Loco moco, in case you’re unfamiliar with it, is a bed of rice topped with a hamburger patty, a fried egg, and brown gravy. It might be the world’s most perfect food. The Hawaiian place near our house in Mesa does not sell it, which is a crime against humanity, if you ask me. So of course I had to get some! And all was right in the world! I also found a key chain of the letter “G” which turns into a robot. IT TURNS INTO A ROBOT!!! Then, on Friday night we went out to dinner alone at Blueacre, which was also quite good. My wife said she was going to eat a lot of seafood while she was in town, and by God, she did!
Finally, I saw a friend from college on Sunday night whom I hadn’t seen in a while. He’s a birdwatcher – he writes for this blog – and he’s always been a bit odd. Who isn’t, right? I still love him. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough people to play hearts, because we used to do that like fiends back in school. I met him at the Tap House Grill, which has 160 beers of tap, so I had a good time tasting a few of them. It was nice to see all these people I don’t see that often, and it made the weekend fly by even faster.
Then there was the convention. It was HUGE. It was at least twice as big as it was last year, and I don’t know what they’re going to do next year if it keeps growing. If you go check out the floor map, you’ll see how big it’s become: Last year, everything on Level 4 was on the north side of Pike Street, across the sky bridge from the entrance. This year, the entire south side was taken up as well, plus part of Level 3. It was gigantic. At times on Saturday, it felt almost San Diego-esque, which was strange. I don’t think they can really move it anywhere, but I’m not sure space is the real problem as much as time limits are. I wonder if they opened earlier on Friday and maybe had a Thursday preview night, it might be better. I know I spend a lot of time talking to creators, but even if you don’t do that, there’s a lot of ground to cover, and that doesn’t include seeing panels, if you really want to do that. I went to two panels and didn’t have to wait in line for either, and I still felt like it took up a ton of time. I like the con a lot, and I don’t think it’s going to go the way of San Diego anytime soon, as the “pop culture” component is still not terribly strong and it really is predominantly comics-related, but I do hope the organizers do something about the crowd. If they could manage a bit more time for the con, that might help. Who knows?
I picked up my badge and went immediately to Greg Hatcher’s table. It was, unfortunately, almost as far from the main entrance (if you didn’t have a badge; once I got mine I could go in a different entrance) as it could be, so it took me a lot of slogging through a bunch of people to get there, and I arrived only about 30 minutes after the doors had opened. I greeted Greg’s excellent wife, Julie, put my stuff down, and caught my breath. This year I decided to plan my convention tour a bit, so I had written down a bunch of people I really wanted to talk to, even though I couldn’t print out the map from the web site. (For some reason, when I printed it, it would only give me the first couple pages, which didn’t actually have the floor map on it. I tried it in landscape format and portrait format, and I tried printing the specific pages, but it wouldn’t do anything for me. Oh well. I ended up using the map in the convention program.) I still missed a few people, but I was able to track down most of them. Obviously, some of the more popular people were harder to talk to, and since I don’t usually bring things to conventions to get signed, I didn’t have an excuse to stand in a line. This is why I rarely talk to the “superstars” of comics – well, that and the fact that nobody really wants to talk to me!
These days, the first people I seek out are Erika Moen and Dylan Meconis, my two favorite people in comics. They’re always awesome to talk to, and I always try to buy something from them I don’t already own. This year, I picked up Outfoxed and Danse Macabre 2.0 from Dylan and Smut Peddlar from Erika (which is sold out at that link, but has some info about the book). I told my wife that I’d probably buy some porn at the con. She just gave me that look and said, “Oh, really?” I told her I had to – I have to support Erika’s work! Trust me – it’s wall-to-wall porn. I was even tempted to buy some original art from Erika, but I resisted. Once I go down the rabbit hole of buying original art, who knows where it will lead! On Sunday, I made sure to introduce my wife to Dylan and Erika, so she has a sense of who I’m gushing about next time. I also got to talk to Erika’s husband, Matt, who’s a cool dude as well. The con was off to a good start!
I’m certainly not going to write so much about everyone I spoke to, because that way lies madness. My problem is that I enjoy talking to so many people, and I don’t want to leave anyone out. I did stop by Natalie Nourigat’s table to say hello because I felt bad for not liking Between Gears more. She’s doing some issues of It Girl and the Atomics pretty soon (the first issue is in Previews this month), plus A Boy & A Girl with Jamie Rich that’s coming out soon. I also had to say hello to Jeff Parker, but more on him later. I made sure to say hello to Jason Copland and buy a copy of Kill All Monsters from him – I’ve read a bit on-line, and it looks pretty darned fun. I’ve been a fan of Copland’s art for a while now, and I met him very briefly last year (as I was leaving the con, in fact), so it was good to talk to him for a longer period this year. I also spoke to Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt for a while, and I learned that their Sixth Gun spin-off series is indeed a mini-series (that’s some hot news, innit?). Bunn’s Helheim is out this week, and it looks freakin’ excellent. You should buy it! I also spoke to Terry Moore and told him I enjoyed the podcast he did with Kelly and Sue – listen to it here! – and how I’m a bad person because I’m waiting until Rachel Rising is collected in one book. Luckily for me, he has plans to collect it all in one book! If you’ll recall, he also plans to publish two giant collections of Strangers in Paradise, so I figure it’s about time I read that danged thing.
Friday night I went to the first panel of the weekend. I think I’ve only been to one other panel, ever, so of course this one had to be special! Well, it was pretty cool, but not because of any reason you might think of. No, this was the famed “Parker/Brothers” panel (see what they did there?) in which David Brothers, famed blogger at 4thLetter!, interviewed Jeff Parker, famed raconteur, for an hour. Check out this picture, in which Parker drinks the whiskey he himself brought to the panel with him (he let me have some, too, which was awfully jake of him). It was a pretty cool panel – Parker said some very interesting things about writing characters and the way fans react to writers writing characters. He also mentioned that it helps a lot to incorporate random elements into the story, because life is so random and it adds some nice punch to the tales. If everything is plot-driven, things become boring. It was a good interview, punctuated by Gabriel Hardman walking in, taking the cup of alcohol that Parker gave him, and walking out immediately without saying a word. A few minutes after that, Steve Lieber called Parker on the phone, and when Parker told him he was in a panel and he was putting him on speaker phone, Lieber hung up. Those wacky comics creators! I was glad I attended the panel, not only because it was interesting, but because I got to meet Brothers. He’s a fascinating writer, far more erudite than I am, and I always like meeting other bloggers whom I admire. Plus, he’s wickedly funny.
Saturday was the long day at the con, and boy, was I tired at the end of it. I once again saw a bunch of people, because that’s just what I do, man! I spoke to Dave Dwonch at the Action Lab booth, and it was nice to meet him (we’re friends on Facebook, but I had never met him). He gave me a bunch of comics that his company is rolling out soon, as they expand their line a bit. They made a nice splash with Princeless, but you gots to diversify, man! I also spoke to Matthew Southworth for a while, because Southworth is an awesome dude. He explained a bit more about his coloring process on the latest volume of Stumptown, as I had noted a few times how different it looked. I love hearing about process like that, because it is very interesting how artists change things and how they attempt to shift what they do. Southworth was trying to add more definition to the faces in the book without using harsh lines, and as the book went along, he became a lot better at it. Pick up the book if you don’t believe me! Later in the day, I spoke to Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener, the creative geniuses behind Atomic Robo, about the same kinds of issues. On the latest mini-series, they got a new colorist, Nick Filardi, and I wondered if he was doing something different that made Wegener’s crisp lines a bit softer. They talked about his process and how much better the book looks digitally, which is absolutely does – the difference is staggering. That seems to be happening more often, and I wish publishers would figure out a way to transfer the clarity of some digital images to print. If they can’t, what’s the point of printing it?
Later I finally got to meet Pj Perez, mastermind behind Pop! Goes the Icon comics. Perez’s company has been quiet recently, but he had a few teasers for upcoming projects, and he always manages to get some good talent to work on his books, so I’m looking forward to it. I said hello to a few other people, and then ended up at Sina Grace’s table. He gave me a copy of Not My Bag, his graphic novel (Sonia wrote about it here), and while I was talking to him, the delightful Ms. Harris herself joined us. Sonia, as you may have noticed from her latest post, is far busier than I ever am at conventions, because she’s, like, an actual good photographer, so this brief meeting was the only time I was able to see her over the weekend. Now, I’m sure Sonia herself will tell you that the less she sees of me, the better, but I do wish we could have hung out a little more. Que sera, sera, I suppose.
On Saturday, I also went to my second panel of the con. Holy crap, two panels! If I actually took good notes and posted about these panels, maybe I could justify my “press” badge a bit better, but I didn’t, so I can’t. Unlike a certain CBR stringer who had to cover a bunch of Walking Dead panels, I could go to ones where writers gave out whiskey and, on Saturday, one where Jim Zub and Katie Cook talked about convention horror stories. It was pretty entertaining, although Zub kept complaining that the stories somehow kept turning into horror stories about himself rather than weird things attendees have done. Still, they’re both very funny people, and because I am evil, I am going to tell everyone who will listen that there are two things you must do if Cook is at your convention: Ask her about the blind fiddler crab, and tell her “I know your husband isn’t at this con …” and let it trail off, just to see what she’ll say. Both are rather odd stories.
On Saturday night we went out with Greg, Julie, Jefferson Robbins (whom I met last year and who’s a cool dude) and his wife. Jefferson wrote up a con report, which is also better than mine, because he actually finds themes and shit. You know who likes themes and motifs? Commies, that’s who. But it was nice shooting the shit with everyone, because shooting the shit is fun. We were joined by some of Greg’s students, and after the Robbinses left, and Greg extolled the virtues of Road House to them. As old people, it is our duty to pass on the knowledge of pop culture crap to a younger generation, and the fact that his students had never heard of Road House made it more fun to explain it to them. The next day, one of his other students, Lindon, was wearing an eye patch (see above). I asked her if it was part of a costume, and she said that it was not – she had torn her cornea the day before. And she was still at the convention the next day, because she’s just that goddamned Airwolf.
I took my lovely wife to the con on Sunday, because she had never actually been inside a convention and I figured she ought to experience it once in her life. I introduced her to some of the people I have spoken about quite often in the past, and she also said hello to Francesco Francavilla, whom she met at San Diego in 2011. She didn’t stay long, because she was a bit overwhelmed – she doesn’t like crowds at the best of times, and throwing her in the deep end like that wiped her out. She did enjoy herself (I think – at least she claimed she did), but I think she was happy to leave. At least now she knows a bit of what I’m talking about when I talk about cons. After she left, I tried to see a few more people that I hadn’t seen yet, but I wasn’t able to get to everyone. I did meet Lucy Bellwood, another Periscope Studio member who also works on a replica tall sailing ship, because people in Portland are awesome. I also managed to say hello to Brian Wood, who was in the middle of a big-ass signing session at the Dark Horse booth. Unfortunately, I couldn’t talk to him and give him a chance to punch me right in the nose, but such is life, eh?
There are plenty of people I didn’t get around to seeing, plus a bunch of people I spoke to whom I didn’t write about in this post. There’s just too much going on! So I apologize, although I’m sure several people don’t mind not seeing their names so closely associated with mine. As usual, I had a great time – I haven’t been to too many conventions, but I’ve never had a bad time at one – and I bought way, WAAAAAY too many comics. I’m weak! I’m going to try to review a lot of them over the next few weeks (months?), but here’s a list:
Action Lab Comics: Ehmm Theory, The Final Plague, The Rabid, Night of the 80s Undead, Ghost Town
The Adventures of the 19XX volumes 1 and 2 by Paul Roman Martinez – I already reviewed volume 1, but Martinez added some stuff, so I figured I would pick up the new version!
Alabaster: Wolves by Caitlín R. Kiernan and Steve Lieber
American Terrorist by Tyler and Wendy Chin-Tanner and Andy MacDonald
Bean volume 3 by Travis Hanson
Butcher Baker hardcover by Joe Casey and Mike Huddleston – Casey ordered me to buy this, and you do what Casey tells you to do!
Captain America and Black Widow by Cullen Bunn and Francesco Francavilla
Chris Schweizer sketchbook – Schweizer gave this to me, which was awfully nice of him
Cura Te Ipsum volume 3 by Neal Bailey
Danse Macabre 2.0 and Outfoxed by Dylan Meconis
Eastsiders preview book by Pj Perez and António Brandão
Frederick the Great volume 1 by The Gentlemen-Scholars
The Grand Duke by Yann and Romain Hugault – this is the first of two books I got because Pedro Bouça told me to; yes, I’m that easily suggestible!
Gunnerkrigg Court volumes 1-3 by Tom Siddell
Heathentown by Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman
I, Vampire volume 2 by Joshua Hale Fialkov and others – Fialkov was nice enough to give this to me, because he’s aces
Kill All Monsters volume 1 by Michael May and Jason Copland
Knightstar: Knight of the Starborne by Shannon Denton and Aaron Rosenberg – Denton publishes a bunch of young adult novels through Actionopolis, and I thought my daughter would like this one
Last Days of an Immortal by Gwen de Bonneval and Fabien Vehlmann – this is the other book I got because Pedro told me to!
The Liberty Project by Kurt Busiek and James Fry – Busiek has been having some health problems, but he’s back on track with more Astro City, he said, before the end of the year
Love and Capes volume 3 by Thom Zahler
Mice Templar volume 3 by Bryan J. L. Glass and Michael Avon Oeming
Murder Book volumes 1 and 2 by Ed Brisson, Simon Roy, Vic Malhotra, and Michael Walsh
My Boyfriend is a Monster #6 by Dan Jolley and Natalie Nourigat
Not My Bag by Sina Grace
Other Worlds by Justin Zimmerman and several artists (it’s an anthology)
Partners with Zombies!! – this is one of the book Greg’s students put together, with a main story by Lindon Schaab, the aforementioned bad-ass student with the retinal tear
Pilgrim preview book by David Gaffney and Simon Roy
reMind volumes 1 and 2 by Jason Brubaker
Shame: Conception by Lovern Kindzierski and John Bolton
Shooters by Eric Trautmann, Brandon Jerwa, and Steve Lieber
Skullkickers volume 1 by Jim Zub and others
Smut Peddlar by many artists, but I got it for Erika Moen’s story
Strongman volume 2 by Charles Soule and Allen Gladfelter
Thunderbolts: Cage and Shadowland by Jeff Parker, Kev Walker, and others – I jumped on Parker’s T-Bolts run with issue #150, so these collect his earlier issues on the title
True Believer by Lucy Bellwood
Dang. I didn’t buy all of those, but I bought a lot of them! And now I have to read them!
So that was ECCC. Like last year, it was loads of fun, and while I’m not sure if I’m going to make it next year, you certainly should try to get up there. It’s too late to catch it before it blows up, but if you’re looking for a con that feels as big as San Diego but don’t like the excessive “other media” presence of San Diego, it’s a good place to go. Of course, next year it might have all kinds of movie and television stuff! Plus, of course, Seattle is an awesome city. You know it’s true!
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