The first full day of Comic Con is always weird. The super-hardcore came on Preview Night, to see everything on the floor first, snag exclusives and limited edition stuff they want, and to free up their days for in-demand panels. The regular hardcore get added in on Thursday, but they’re spread out over hours of show, making it seem less concentrated. The vast crowds start to show up on Friday (having called in sick to work) and the weekend. Lots of people said it was the quietest Thursday on record and the lines for enormous panel rooms were lacking, but I found it somewhat busier than last year on Thursday (which was utterly dead) and the panels I went to involved filled rooms, so who knows?
The tentpole of the day for me was in the afternoon hours, when I got to see some masters of the comics form; earlier in the day, a pair of stellar BONE cosplayers — Thorn Harvestar and a Stick-Eater came by the Dumbrella booth, and I was lucky enough to be there when Jeff Smith saw them. Jeff is one of the nicest people in comics, not to mention one of the most skilled visual storytellers of this or any other generation. I congratulated him on his Eisner nomination, and his NCS Division Award, which he said he was surprised to get. I confessed that I thought that Dylan Meconis would win it for Family Man and Smith exclaimed That’s who should have won it! If Jeff Smith weren’t already one of my favorite people, he would have become one of my favorite people right there.
I previously wrote about Gene Luen Yang’s spotlight panel, but I hadn’t yet written about the fun times after; Scott McCloud and I walked from Room 28DE to room 7AB — just about as far as two rooms can be in the San Diego Convention Center — as he waited for his own panel (on storytelling in general and The Sculptor in particular) and just talked along the way. We talked about his next book, the second in the two-book deal with :01 Books, the one that going to be a collaboration with :01’s Mark Siegel and which McCloud described as The Elements of Style for visual storytelling.
We talked about STRIPPED and the fact that he was the first person to have a complete interview released as a bonus for Kickstarter backers, and somewhere waaaay down the line, as all 300 hours of that movie’s footage get used up, the world may be subjected to the 10 or 15 minutes featuring a hack webcomics pseudojournalist. We talked about emotional revelation as story beats, we talked about the value of having a stick in your classroom, and we talked about how Macs seem to be getting slower; talking with Scott McCloud means you’re going to be talking about a lot of different things.
McCloud’s panel (featuring the other members of Clan McCloud, as there were readings from The Sculptor and that required female voices) started rough thanks to laptop problems, which are not problems when McCloud is onstage; he eats interruptions and turns them into amusing asides, and for a presentation that was brand new (his usual talk has been refined and tweaked continuously since the 50 state roadtrip) and — he claims — thrown together at the last minute, it was smooth, polished, and a treat to watch. I found particularly interesting his mention of how long he’s been working on The Sculptor in at least in the back of his mind; Making Comics was a means to put together ideas that he felt he would need to do the story properly.
And beyond the acknowledgement that the female lead (Meg, who looks ever so slightly like ZOT!’s Jenny, which makes me happy) is essentially his wife, Ivy, I found myself wondering how much of the plot is even more autobiographical than he’s let on. Okay, the main character is a failed artist who makes a deal with capital-D Death, and I don’t think that either of those things are particularly autobio; but I get the distinct feeling that McCloud’s drawn more into the relationship between the leads from his own relationship with Ivy. I could definitely see one exchange actually happening between the two of them in real life as John (the titular sculptor) puts his foot firmly in his mouth, leading to a beat panel, then this exchange:
Meg: You’re not very good at talking to girls, are you?
John: … no.
That little bit of conversation is not only funny, and not only possibly took place when Lil’ Scott and Lil’ Ivy were first dating, it’s a masterclass in everything McCloud’s taught us about how to construct a story with the tools of comics — the quiet panel, the design of the gutters, the changes in body posture all control the sense of timing in the scene and make it sing. And that’s before you get to the tricks that McCloud took from Cintiq toolbox, with ability to zoom in on backgrounds (and background characters) to draw them in all the detail he wanted; they may be a quarter-inch high and across the street and away from the main characters, but those two little figures have their own backstory and existence are clearly having a lover’s spat. The Manhattan of The Sculptor is teeming with life happening in spite of what the main story is doing.
The only unfortunate thing about the McCloud panel was having to leave early to try to catch the back half of the Bee & Puppycat panel, which was worth it for the opportunity to see the rough cut of the first episode of the ongoing Bee & Puppycat series. I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that Puppycat is a jerk (in the best, most amusing way) and that the real strength of the series is the voice acting; Allyn Rachel’s use of volume, as Bee ramps up her voice to semi-panicked screaming and back down to normal conversational levels (sometimes over a sentence, sometimes just for one word) is not only hilarious, it tells us a lot about her character. Her work on the show is blowing me away with the force of F5 winds full of sharks.
Panels to watch for today:
- Dean Trippe and Something Terrible at 10:30, 26AB
- STRIPPED screening at 6:10, Marriott Marina Hall 2
Spam of the day:
All of the weed are usually able to always attained conveniently.
Well, it is California. If you can’t get a weed card, you aren’t really trying.