SDCC’05 DAY ONE / Preview Night
Thunderstorms on the runway at JFK airport delayed my first flight by two hours as the airplane sat idle. If there are two things you should know about me: I abhor sitting idle [especially inside enclosed climate-controlled environs] and I get claustrophobic. My compromised legs and back never fair long distance travel very well. The woman sitting in the window seat next to me looked like a gaunt Cameron Diaz and wrapped herself up in the red American Airlines courtesy blanket like a burrito. She put on a pair of leopard skin sleep goggles. This disturbed me greatly. Cameron didn’t stir nor make a peep for 7-hours. In retrospect, I could’ve used two of what she was having. My body endures quite the brutal beating for sitting like a caged hen. To rally, I read 100-pages of Jonathan Ames incredibly witty novel, WAKE UP, SIR!, and studied the script to my next gig; a 16pp Harvey Pekar written ESCAPIST story. The annoying connection from Los Angeles to San Diego was uneventful if cramped and that’s the last time I have a complaint until the flight back home, five days later.
I taxi to the Hyatt hotel with cartoonist /illustrator Peter Kuper and we get psyched for the big show. After I drop off my bags, I high tail it to the convention center. The first person I bump into under the bright lights is himynameisjamie and his buddy, edbrisson, the publisher of the highly anticipated anthology, YOU AIN’T NO DANCER, which sports a brilliant Dave Cooper cover.
In true “rising star” form, I attend my very first DC/Vertigo signing…15-minutes late! I apologize to DC Comics coordinator, Fletch, and plop down next to Glenn Fabry and Bill Willingham. I tell Glenn how much I adore his art, especially on Marvel Comics’ THOR: VIKINGS. I turn to Bill and tell him how much I loved THE ELEMENTALS when I was a kid. He notices the white hairs in my beard and this compliment depresses him. His book, FABLES, is doing exceptionally well, so I figure he can take the jab. I sign THE QUITTER promo cards and sketch Batman, Wolverine, The Thing, and Harvey Pekar [who, I realize, looks curiously like Jack Kirby’s DARKSEID] for fans.
A fan from Spain rolls up with COSA, the Spanish edition of NIGHT FALLS ON YANCY STREET. I’m humbled by the full color collection yet frustrated that I don’t have copies of this nor will I ever see a red penny. They spell Evan Dorkin’s name wrong [“Darkin”] in the credits. I wish Marvel would release an American version. My favorite sketches are the ones when the fans let me freestyle. I itch to draw amphibian lava monsters. Perhaps this itch will be scratched if writer Joshua Dysart and I can sell our proposed “Solomon Grundy” story to SWAMP THING?
incogvito swings by the table with eeriemusic and Nick P. from Jim Hanley’s Universe, and he hands me a copy of THE MERCURY CHRONICLES preview. It looks great! I’m so proud of him. Previews night ends on a high note. DC marketing and sales reps Matt and Vince take me out to Royale Thai and we sate our starving stomachs. Jet-lagged and bedazzled by the special DC Comics treatment, I call it a night.
SDCC’05 DAY TWO
I wake up early and kick-start my new laptop, logging onto the Internet like a junkie. I realize this and go for a 10-lap swim in the pool, one floor below me, and steep in the Jacuzzi on my own recognizance, weaning myself from the tentacles of cyberspace. Back at the convention center, I sketch Batman, The Thing, Wildcat, Ra’s al Ghul, Harvey Pekar, and Wolverine. I learn real quickly that sitting on the DC Comics side of the table makes you an instant superhero artist, regardless what you’ve drawn in the past or what you’re hyping in the present. Kids want Batman and Wolverine. I convince myself that Pekar is a lot like The Thing and Wolverine, so maybe it’s okay to draw them? I steer fans towards illustrations of The Thing, since I enjoy drawing Ben Grimm, and true blue fans of my work request Billy Dogma.
I arrive late to my PROJECT SUPERIOR panel [what price stardom?] and moderator Tom Spurgeon does his best to rally the shy cartoonists sitting at the table. Most of the discussion is a savvy parlay between publisher Chris Pitzer and myself about the project origin and what it meant for us indie-oriented folks to play in the super-duper genre while ianbrill took extensive notes. I ask no permission nor give any apology for my love for genre and was curious to hear what my cohorts felt with little to no yield.
Back at the Vertigo table, Karen Berger giggles to me and points out two hot chicks that have mistaken me for Keanu Reeves. Flattered, I blurt out “Unless Fred Flintstone played CONSTANTINE in the movie, I don’t think so.” Wigged out, I chat with FLAMING CARROT creator Bob Burden about working together on new MYSTERY MEN comix before the con shuts down for the day.
I meet up with my mother who has finally arrived at The Hyatt after a near 5-hour drive from her trip to Las Vegas. A rendezvous with niggerkojak and his pal, Dave, has us eating “authentic” Mexican food on Market Street as the streets crawl with convention goers. Mom and niggerkojak wax crime novels while Dave and I dream about making a LUKE CAGE movie.
Mom hops a bicycle powered rickshaw back to the Hyatt, and niggerkojak finagles Dave and I into an industry party at a local bar that’s not comix related. I recognize the Aussie actor from SAW in the front of the bar and bump my way through a slew of Ken and Barbie dolls. In the back I see Stan Lee with his arms around two blonde chicks, laughing it up like “the man” he purports to be, and I reel. How does he do it? I order a whiskey to douse the query.
Back at the Hyatt hotel lobby and bar, I get a surprise text message and I meet smoky hot SMOKE writer alexdecampi, a very tall, smart, savvy, and beautiful woman, brandishing a mountain of talent. It's rare to encounter someone with such laser focus reaching high and mighty for his or her brass ring. I wanted to slap and tickle her but she'd wallop me. Actually, she does! alexdecampi introduces me to KLARION, THE WITCH artist Frazer Irving, and a few animators from Austin, TX who are working on the new Philip K. Dick movie adaptation, A SCANNER DARKLY. A spitfire of righteousness, alexdecampi weighs in on her deep passion for Asian cinema and crime noir. sneakymonkey and dangoldman [aka The Goldman Bros.] appear and drinks are clinked and consumed with incogvito and eeriemusic. I end the night catching up with HAWAIIN DICK writer, bclaymoore, and we talk about our proposed franchise collaborations, closing the bar with our greatest ideas surrounded by a cavalcade of empty glasses.
SDCC’05 DAY THREE
More sketches of Batman, The Thing, Wildcat, Harvey Pekar, Wolverine, and a very Jewish Magneto I call “Magnoso.” I meet my latest hero, Darwyn Cooke, who digs my QUITTER cover [a rumor I’d heard the night before] and gush. I walk around the con for the first time and help budding comix scribe, Porter MacDonald, pitch his series DEAD MEAT to Oni Press, Image, Speakeasy, etc.
When I get back to the Vertigo table to sign & sketch some more, I overhear a fan pitch a SHAZAM “Year One” type proposal to a DC editor with the hook that it would be called LIEUTENANT MARVEL. I flipped backwards a whole light-year and cracked the biggest smile. The kid was stupid inspired. I’d read the first issue.
I attend the very big, largely attended Vertigo: Looking Over the Edge panel. Almost everybody from talent to editorial represented Vertigo proper as slides were shown and discussed. I got my two-minutes and rifled off a few bits about THE QUITTER while the rest of the gang did their do. Filmmaker Darren Aronofsky showed up late [he must be a “rising star,” too] and screened a trailer for his new movie, THE FOUNTAIN, and discussed the graphic novel interpretation of the same title. Impressed by my brethren, I look forward to more Y – THE LAST MAN, SWAMP THING, and BITE CLUB, and the new stuff, including: Bruce Jones’ DEADMAN, Brian Azzarello and Marcelo Frusin’s spaghetti western, LOVELESS, brianwood and Riccardo Burchielli’s DMZ, and Steven T. Seagle and Becky Cloonan’s AMERICAN VIRGIN. My mother sits in the front row and takes pictures. I spot izzytart and beergeek and blow them a kiss.
Here’s a link to Newsarama’s report:
I meet the incredibly charming marieoroumania, who schooled me to the San Diego mayoral conundrum, that being – THERE IS NO MAYOR! We walked around the con with niggerkojak and Dave, as marieoroumania interviewed costumed geeks like a modern day Lois Lane for her radio station. I bought a trio of DVDS: DEAD & BURIED, 2046, and Bruce Campbell’s ‘80s cult movie, INSIDER.
[Dave, NiggerKojak, and me]
Later on, I hop a Rickshaw with my mother to LOU & MICKEY’S for dinner with BWI purchasing manager, Keith Srutowski, and DC Sales Rep, Jenna, who lets me invite niggerkojak & Dave for $35 steaks and drinks. We munch on “cowboy” rib eyes, scalloped potatoes, asparagus, caramelized onions, and whiskey, coupled with lively conversation about Hollywood story development and the impact of the trendy graphic novel in the modern library system. My mother weighs in about her days when she bought SUPERMAN for a dime and, after she read her comics, would haul them around the neighborhood in her red wagon and sell them for 8-cents apiece.
The Hyatt bar seemed to be the place to end each night as more drinks and banter were shared with the previous nights party people, including: Chris Oarr, Lauren McCubbin, Kelly Sue DeConnick, and the Sequential Tart crew. We closed down the bar and Heidi MacDonald helped encourage a late night skinny dip in the Marriot Hotel pool where I met THE QUITTER greytone artist Lee Loughridge, a randy cat that makes me look positively Republican. An hour after Lee and I shake mitts we’re bumping helmets in our skivvies, poolside. Too much homo-erotica has me huddling in the corner talking to John Cassaday about the hardships of managing freelance with romance. This sobers us up and I walk back to the Hyatt dripping wet with CRACKED magazine’s managing editor, Zena Tsarfin.
SDCC’05 DAY FOUR
A morning Jacuzzi and early lunch with mom at BUSTER’S gets me fueled for another round of signings & sketches at the Vertigo table. alexdecampi swings by and I make introductions with Karen Berger. They talk smack and I remind Alex she’s supposed to attend the IDW panel – post haste. I catch up with Alex a half-hour into the panel and learn that IDW plans to publish a GRIMJACK spin-off called MUNDEN’S BAR, which I loved when it was a back-up feature in the original GRIMJACK series. Munden’s Bar was very much like the bar in STAR WARS. alexdecampi looks starved so I feed her half a chicken wrap and some sugar. Then we roam artist’s alley together and swing by the Asian DVD retailer. Alex recommends SURVIVE STYLE FIVE, which, to my dismay, was sold out. Instead, I purchase, GAME. I seem to be more interested in movies than comix. Hmmm. Later on, I talk to IDW editor-in-chief Chris Ryall about the possibility of Alex and I doing a Munden’s Bar story together and he’s receptive.
Mom drives to The Hotel Del Corando where most of Marilyn Monroe’s SOME LIKE IT HOT was filmed and spends two hours on the beach while I slave away at the Vertigo table for a second round of signing & sketching. starsixtynine, gandydancer, larrondo, and pivovision, stop by for one entire minute for a slap and kiss and I never see them again! The fuck?
The Vertigo dinner at Chive was an elegant affair that lasts a hearty three hours. Bar none the tastiest steak au poive and potato au gratin with spinach my olfactory has ever had the pleasure to indulge along with various creative appetizers and salad. I take my mother as my date [naturally] and the evening gets a little teary eyed when, after a talk about family and careers, I reveal that I dedicated THE QUITTER “to my brother, Mike, who is no quitter.” Joshua Dysart and Karen Berger talk to my mother about her pioneering days as the Deputy Director of the New York State Council of the Arts. Berger proposes we do a graphic novel on my mom! The dinner included Richard Brunning, the Breccia Family, Liam Sharpe, David Lloyd, John Watkiss, Philip Bond, and a few others whose names escape me.
We hike back to the Hyatt bar and, stuffed to the gills, mom heads to bed. I enter the wrong elevator bank and fly out the closing doors only to bump into mickasso. We have words with a skinny drunk giving us shit while looking for the can. Something about mickasso and I must’ve given the poor chump pause. A misunderstanding turns tense and we send him packing. I spend the rest of the evening with the usual gang and meet the lovely caramiaculpa. A few drinks later, my eyes retire and my body turns into a ghost.
SDCC’05 DAY FIVE
I’m fried. A quick bagel and yogurt & granola with mom in the Hyatt Hotel and I convince her to take in the afternoon Padres vs. Diamondback’s baseball game at the stadium across the street from the convention center. Just because I’m burnt out doesn’t me she should, too. Besides, I really appreciate her coming and supporting me and I want her to take advantage of what San Diego has to offer. With that in mind, I rush to the Vertigo table for more sketches and signatures when sweetandlow pops outta nowhere for a quick hug and holler.
A short while later, I wander the convention hall with niggerkojak and Dave in search of a vintage Wonder Woman t-shirt for SBX while the art auction in the very back featuring airbrushed light saber battles and a charcoaled Chewbacca, froze us into a standstill, nearly melting our challenged appreciation for fan folk art.
I swing by the Boom Studio’s booth and meet artist Joe Abraham and 100 BULLETS cover artist Dave Johnson. Boom Studios publisher Ross Ritchie is kind enough to supply me with an armful of his line of books. I received this kind of special treatment from both Oni and Top Shelf, including Alex Robinson’s new graphic novel, TRICKED. I skip over to the Image Comics booth and I get to meet THE WALKING DEAD & INVINCIBLE creator/writer, Robert Kirkman, and told him how much I cherished his fresh take on the zombie and superhero genres. I’m a fan, too, ya know.
Despite the usual costumed clad Klingons, Stormtroopers, and Superheroes, gumming up the earth-curving floor at the “nerd prom,” there was only one suspicious bathroom encounter that had me cringe. The urinals packed with people, I entered a stall to relieve my spring water addled bladder when the stall next to mine received a large customer, as the shadow beneath the partition would betray. A few noisy bumps and shifts and the slap of a toilet seat could be heard mere seconds before bursts of magnesium white flashed through the cracks of the adjoining stalls, several times. My instinct was to look up and catch the culprit but there was no mischievous devil to be found. Instead, another digital picture was taken within the privacy of the four walls next to mine and I decided it best to make haste before the denouement of this nefarious act could reveal itself. Images of Klingon scatology battered my psyche as I sprinted to the sink to wash my hands and flee the fan fiction horror made incarnate.
My final 90-minute slot of signing & sketching was relatively painless as I sat lazily next to Brian Azzarello, Phil Jimenez, Pia Guerra, and Dave Gibbons. Oni Press editor-in-chief James Lucas Jones swung by and invited me to participate in a crime noir anthology Oni is putting together for 2006, which I told him I’d consider. John Cassaday rolled by and asked if I would spare a few minutes for a Podcast interview with the kind cats from Comic News Insider [http://cni.libsyn.com], where I talked about how I met Harvey Pekar and my relationship with him, which led to the creation of THE QUITTER.
When the show finally ended there was a loud applause. My mother and I made a slow dash back to the Hyatt for a sit in the hot tub where I surely would have passed out and drowned were it not for the gaggle of hyper toddlers splashing and squealing about like electric eels in the heat of the bubbles. An invite to the 19th annual infamous Bob’s Dead Dog Party had my mother hopping a rickshaw with DC Publicist David Hyde who tried to wrest secrets about my past from my mother to no avail. I walked over with some of the DC staff as Hyde and my mother staged a faux crisis via cell phones wherein Hyde had tragically fallen from the rickshaw, hurting his arm, and my mother was left stranded with no money to pay the driver. I hung up the phone in defiance, yelling that I would no longer enable their charade.
[Mom and Heidi MacDonald outside Bob's Dead Dog party]
Chuckles were shared as we entered the invite only soiree, grabbed our official Denis Kitchen illustrated Bob’s Dead Dog pins, and pigged out on BBQ ribs, chicken wings, pizza, and ravioli with free beer. I met Joss Whedon and told him I dug ASTONISHING X-MEN and introduced him to my mom who’s a BUFFY fan. I didn’t ask the “whose gonna play Wonder Woman” question. My mother sat next to a man who turned out to be highly recommended art rep, Allen Spiegel, and his nephew, Scott. We talked about the pros & cons of legal representation. Mom shared an early taxi back with Vinnie, the DC Comics events manager, and I mingled for a little while longer with Heidi MacDonald and Tara McPherson, before heading back to the Hyatt to ride the final fumes of Comicon 2005 with dangoldman and caramiaculpa in the hotel bar.
SDCC’05 DAY SIX
The next morning I kiss my mother farewell and we declare this trip “a week to remember.” She splits in a car rental for two more days of gambling in Las Vegas before heading back home to the Catskills.
My trip makes a full circle when it’s book-ended by sharing a taxi from the Hyatt back to the San Diego airport with artist Peter Kuper where I bump into EVERYMAN artist Joe Bucco. Matters are made more the same when I get to enjoy an equal flight delay due to thunderstorms in the northeast. I sit idle in my airplane seat and read alexdecampi’s riveting SMOKE #2 [which boasts a great homage to Sergio Leone’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST], and I read more of Ames’ hilarious WAKE UP, SIR!, until our pilot is given the thumbs up to fly away and take me home.