The webcomics blog about webcomics

Contrasts Abound

If there’s one thing you’ll never run out of at SDCC, it’s the range of human experiences that go from extreme to extreme. I listened to the replay of Armstrong stepping off the lander pad last night while preparing for drinks with friends. The moon hung bright and inviting as it must have 50 years ago and I swear I could taste the Tang that I drank back then¹, a sense memory that couldn’t be further from the rather sublime single cocktail I enjoyed in a dark room with a taxidermied ostrich over the door and a wall made out of 3D-printed skulls salvaged from an old Rob Zombie video.

Tang vs fine Italian bitters. Buttoned-down serious men with pocket protectors in their own dark room half a century ago, fussing over a computer being overwhelmed by a handful of extra bytes every few seconds vs some goofball in a t-shirt and jeans holding a supercomputer in his right hand, scrolling through pictures of his even goofierball greyhound.

Or, to provide an even greater contrast:

On Friday while waiting to interview Jim Ottaviani, I had the great pleasure to make the acquaintance of Phil Plait², who couldn’t have been nicer. It was only for a few minutes, but it was a genuine honor to talk to a person that spends all their time trying to spread knowledge about how the world works.

On Saturday while walking my way through the Gaslamp towards the convention center (also while on a lunch run, several hours later), I had the great misfortune to encounter a slient parade of utter wankers in Guy Fawkes mask/hat/cape combos, some lining a section of street, some silently processing between, some silently handing out literature, all holding giant placards decrying (in the most vilely truthless manner possible) the dangers of vaccines.

One tried to hand me a flyer and I said out loud Do not touch me, you pathogen-ridden vector. You’re a very, very lazy child killer. It was suggested to me later that they may have been doing some kind of bit — although I do think it was sincere — but I don’t care. On the literal anniversary of the day we, as a species, first landed on the gosh-darned moon, which I count as the second greatest thing we, as a species, have ever accomplished, these assholes are out critiquing an achievement that contains within it the only greater achievement humanity has managed³.

So, yeah. Within a period of 24 hours I experienced the sheer joy of scientific literacy and willful ignorance with almost unlimited potential for harm. Don’t be anti-vaxxers, kids; vaccines cause adults.

I only got to one panel yesterday, but it was a humdinger — a collection of publishers, creators, and teachers had an Ask Me Anything session about using comics in the classroom. I love hearing teachers and librarians on this topic, I just can’t get enough of it. I talk about it more once the notes are pounded into shape, but one thing that stuck with me is for all the discussion about how comics are helping students develop visual literacy, there’s no real agreement on what visual literacy is or how to define its boundaries.

Fortuitous, then, that shortly before closing Scott McCloud came by to talk4 and I asked him how his next book — on visual literacy! — was coming along. It’s going to be a while yet, but I mentioned the discussion from the panel and told him, Hey, no pressure, but the world is kind of waiting on you to give us a point of reference to discuss this stuff so we can figure out what it all means. Good thing you’ve done that before. He laughed, but also may have muttered Oh God in there. But I made up for it by sharing the story Tillie Walden told in Alaska about how she’s making comics because he encouraged her, so he’s got that going for him.

There was also a quick talk with Gene Yang at a signing, where I was one person too late to get a galley copy of Dragon Hoops. One of the things that I really appreciate about Yang is his prodigious memory for people; he has no reason to remember me, we’ve done one interview three years ago and maybe three times since then a quick handshake and two minutes chat, but he always does. This time, we spoke about how much I’m looking forward to his Raina Telgemeier turn (This book is about me he said, sounding a little surprised himself) and he asked if I’m a basketball fan. I told him I’m not, and then the fervor he brought to challenging kids to read outside their comfort zone came into his voice: Neither was I, but it’s great!

Like pretty much everybody associated with :01 Books, he’s a treasure. Mark Siegel and the people he’s worked with have done tremendous things for comics, and with their alumni moving into other publishers, they’re an incubator for the industry (I suggested metastasizing, which did make Siegel laugh, but we decided it was maybe not quite the word you want associated with your brand).

I lost a couple of photos in getting them synced from phone to laptop — thanks, technology! — but that’s the way things crumble. It’s not quite cosplay, but Peter Porker made some notable appearances. I think this may be the same group as earlier in the week, but with Porker instead of a bagel. This puppet was magnificent — she made it! — and I particularly like the posing she did in the photo up top, rearranging the fingers into the proper thwip! position.

You can’t see it because one of the photos I lost was the front of this pair, but Russell is holding a stuffed Dug in the Cone Of Shame.

But the best of the day had to be a three-way tie between Gizmoduck (the wheel was cleverly done), Gwenpool (when I told her I was going to send a copy of this photo to Christopher Hastings, she squeed a little), and The Landlady from Kung Fu Hustle, who had the most genuine and pleasant smile when not in character. Kudos, all around!

Panels to watch for:
I haven’t yet decided if I’m going to the panel on introducing younger readers to comics (noon, Room 28DE), the roundtable on combining tech and magic in your stories (1:00pm, Room 25ABC), or the short form comics discussion (also 1:00pm, Room 28DE). But I will be scouring the NPR website, because my wife texted me to say that Dylan Meconis was on Weekend Edition Sunday and she sounded great. Audio will be up here later today.

¹ There are only two things from my childhood that I’ve lost and truly regret — one being the Linotype slug that I’ve mentioned. The other is tied to what I believe is my earliest concrete memory; Tang for a period of time sold their powder in a plastic jar that, when placed on a cookie sheet in the oven at a particular temperature, would deform and reform itself into a fair simulacrum of the Apollo Lunar Module.

I remember seeing the commercial and dutifully drinking the goo every morning until the jar was empty, I remember thinking it couldn’t possibly work, I remember watching it twist itself like magic, I remember being told No, I couldn’t play with it because it was still blisteringly hot plastic, you silly child.

² Thanks to Zach Weinersmith for the assist; after telling Plait that I enjoy his work, I mentioned that we had you as a friend in common, which prompted a handshake and a pleasant conversation.

³ I speak of the eradication of smallpox. It is an unalloyed good, and something that every person alive can be glad and proud of. Third greatest achievement of humans is dogs, and I think we have to share that one with the dogs, who were and are our willing partners in a monumental act not of domestication, but cross-species friendship and mutualism.

4 Speaking of contrasts, I was probably standing about 3 meters from where I first met McCloud, when his very kind words about this page sent me over the moon (callback!). If you’d told me that day that not only would I meet McCloud, but achieve the kind of familiarity where I would see him and say Oh, hey Scott instead of OMG OMG OMG that’s Scott McCloud!!!, I never would have believed you.

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