San Diego Comic-Con 2007
by Mike Baron
I hadn't been to San Diego in eight years. My Big Head Press editor Scott Bieser picked me up with his son Zeke on Tuesday morning. (We were flogging my new graphic novel, The Architect, which will be in stores in August. It is a horror story that will peel the flesh from your bones.) We drove all day, through Denver, west on 70 through the Rockies, up through Vail pass at 11,000 feet behind the straining semis, across Utah, the most beautiful state (but you can't get a drink), finally crashing in Mesquite, Nevada.
Next day drove through Vegas, across the Arizona strip into California. The desert. Nothing grows, nothing doing. Dropped Zeke off in Norco, made our hotel in Hotel Circle about five. After checking in we drove downtown to get our badges. The con was very busy Wednesday evening. Ran into Steven Grant with whom Scott has a project going. Got our badges with minimal hassle, attended the pre-opening preview with the pros.
They have extended the Convention Center since I last visited. The convention hall is enormous, yet, as we shall see, it is not big enough. All the movie companies were there. The Sci-Fi Channel had an installation that was, well, alien. A huge, free-form icon on which you could sit or watch on numerous monitors as the icon itself, resembling an enormous Swedish design kitchen utensil, changed colors. All the toy companies were there.
I ran into Axel Alonso, then headed for the Dark Horse booth where Sergio Aragones was signing Groo. It's Groo's 25th anniversary and one of this year's themes. Caught up with old pal Michael Martens, and met some editors. Had a chat with Mark Verheiden about the all-important subject of power pop. Mark patronizes NotLame.com, the motherlode of great music. Gratuitous plug.
Thursday we drive downtown. A nightmare. Too many people and they are only letting them in through one door. By the time I actually got into the exhibition hall it was plain that the facility was too damn small. The crowds were simply impossible, making everyone's experience something of a trial. If you fainted you wouldn't hit ground for a week. Complicated by the presence of many, many costumed characters strutting, posing, smiting, chatting. Some were excellent. Some were not. Everytime someone with a camera requested a photo op, traffic halted in both directions as a semi-circle of photographers quickly formed around the subject, refusing to yield. It was hot enough without dressing up like a wookie.
Made my way to the Rude Dude booth where the Almighty had indeed prepared well: postcards, shirts, limited edition prints, portfolios, and dog tags, all bearing the name of Nexus. Nexus 99 is out now. It is our finest achievement. Dude's wife Jaynelle did yeoman work pulling it all together on four hours of sleep a night. Gabe Eltaeb and Nick Runge came by, and the Fort Collins Comics Collective had a quorum. Maybe one of these days we'll have a booth.
At IDW finally met my editor, Chris Ryall. Always something happening at the IDW booth where over the weekend I had chats with Peter David, Bill Sienkewicz, and Steve Niles. Chris and I compared Badger notes. As you all know, IDW begins the new Badger series in December.
Meanwhile, at the Guardian booth, Michael Davis snagged passersby with bodacious wit. Mike's the guy behind the Guardian Line, for which I write Code. The Guardian books take place in the city of New Hope and have a Christian theme. In my issues of Code, Code monitored a college class. The professor dared God to strike him down. Code did the deed. "God was busy, so he sent me." The professor sues. The case hinges on whether or not God did indeed send Code. Therefore the case hinges on whether God exists. Code 3 was drawn by George Freeman. Code 4 will be drawn by David Ross.
Neal Adams sat behind his table throughout the con, affably greeting one and all and hawking an impressive line-up of hardbound books. Neal showed me the pages for the new Batman which he is plotting and illustrating and it was like I was twenty-five again. When I asked him if he were doing a new Batman, I said, "Neal, you realize this is exactly the same question I asked you twenty-five years ago?"
Friday was massive. A hundred thousand people through the turnstiles. There were enough Imperial Star Troopers on the floor to seize Guatemala. As it is the 25th anniversary of Star Wars, Star Wars was everywhere. George Lucas was there. Somewhere. Numerous Princess Leias held to a very high standard. Massive Star Wars toys marketing push.
Toys everywhere. Toys off the hook. Even I succumbed to a miniature brass raygun put out by Prof. Grordbort in anticipation of the movie. Went to Artists' Alley where I encountered Mitch O'Connell and William Reinhold, sitting next to each other. With the addition of Mike Gold of ComicMix.com, the deal was done. I'm writing a Munden's Bar story featuring the Badger which Bill will illustrate. Also ran into old pals Ron Lim and Whilce Portacio. Ron's under contract to Marvel, Whilce to DC.
Went to lunch at the Marriott with Mike Gold, Mike Grell, and a crazy actor guy named Mark Taylor who is the Voice of Bee in Transformers. Plus two gorgeous babes Mark hired to do publicity. Mel Keefer, a Guest of Honor, was seated at the next table. Mel Keefer is responsible for an astonishing amount of great comic art including Bob Hope, Li'l Abner, Rick O'Shea, Perry Mason, and Zorro. Stan Lee entered surrounded by an entourage.
Friday night I went to the Guardian dinner. All the people from United Ministries International and Michael Davis looked like they'd come from a photo shoot for Vanity Fair. All the comic book guys looked like shlubs. T-shirts and jeans. With the notable exception of Lovern Kindzierski, who had the presence of mind to wear a nice jacket. Milt arrived cool and collected and we sat together at dinner. For a thorough dissertation on what went on, with particular news about particular toys, check Milt's site, ICv2.com.
Saturday. The event they could not stop happened right before my eyes. I am referring, of course, to the Fanboy Slalom, in which yutes race from the southwest corner of the convention hall to the northeast corner without knocking anyone down or shoving. The convention hall is at least a quarter mile long and there were at least 100,000 people in that room. I'd heard that security was trying to squelch this traditional event, but they failed. At exactly two o'clock they came jukin' through the crowd like scalded cats, lithe young men in head-to-toe costumes so they can't be identified.
The record hovers around twelve minutes. It is doubtful that it will ever be broken, considering the constantly growing crowds.
Stan passes the Guardian Line and Davis calls out, "Stan Lee, what's the matter, you don't write, you don't call?" Stan makes a pistol of his hand and points at Michael grinning.
That night I went to the Pilgrim party. Pilgrim is a new series by Mark Taylor and Mike Grell. Retired early. I honestly don't know if I could handle those crowds again and a lot of people felt the same way.
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