The webcomics blog about webcomics

Werid Times On The Exhibit Floor

Welp, Saturday was Saturday, meaning it was the busiest day, but it was an odd kind of busy; the lulls were shorter and the rushes were longer (that’s normal), but the buying pace was definitely off from Thursday and Friday. I didn’t register seeing so many Saturday badges, so maybe it’s a case of four day attendees saving their money for Sunday?

In any event, I won’t try to draw any conclusions beyond the fact that two separate people came up to the Dumbrella booth cash register, waved a sticker in my general direction and threw a dollar bill at me before walking off without the minimum level of human interaction. For the crime of acting like Rich Uncle Pennybags (who I saw on the floor) tossing a hundo at somebody desperate to buy food, you people are banned from ever buying anything again. Have fun obtaining food and shelter.

  • My intentions to see the Steven Universe panel¹ were thwarted by the Hilton Bayfront Indigo Ballroom line management policy. I walked down around the far south end of the convention center (past the famed Hall H line, which was moving as people were let into the giant room) and followed the signs for Indigo. There was a very convenient grab-and-go food stall set up across the aisle, a few people lined up near the entrances, and a staffer who immediately intercepted me to instruct I go downstairs and out the building. If you’re going to stage a line outside, why direct people inside with the signage?

    Then I saw the line, which went that way for several hundred people, then back this way then kept going until this way became that way again; I’m going to guess there were maybe two thousand people in line, not moving, 20 minutes before the panel was due to start. As I decided that wasn’t happening and made my way back towards the convention center via the bay, I passed the end of line volunteer, who was being told by a protesting man But the panel doesn’t start until 1:00! So whatever tricks they’ve learned to keep people moving and crowds properly staged for Hall H apparently haven’t been applied to Indigo, and in future iterations will have to be.

  • So I went to talk to Matt Inman and his Eisner win the prior night. You may recall that Inman had two nominations, for Best Digital Comic and for Best Short Story, one of which was a good nomination and one of which was less so. The short story nomination was good — digital-only work was going head-to-head against printed work as if they were both comics because hey, they’re both comics. The digital nomination was the less good, because the Eisner committee is again applying its own criteria inconsistently. They’ve set up the category to indicate that only long-form works are allowed, but then they have repeatedly nominated works that don’t meet even the most generous interpretations of that criterion².

    Inman and I shared puzzlement that he if he was going to win, he won for Best Digital Comic (because The Oatmeal doesn’t feature long-form works, or characters, or plot; these days it’s mostly a variant on autobiography) and not for Best Short Story (unless voters took his short story — about having his house burn down when he was a kid — as representative of his general work, which is hilarious because by its nature a short story isn’t a long work, and thus wouldn’t qualify for the digital category).

    It’s kind of a mess, it’s going to continue to be kind of a mess until webcomics effectively cease to be considered a different type of comics (a change that can’t come too soon) and it’s frustrating, but Inman was genuinely happy and honored to have a little statue with a spinny globe on it, so that’s all right. Also, work continues apace for this September’s Blerch Runs, which project seems to be making him really happy. Speaking of which, I also ran into Pat Race, whose SDCC Saturday 5K fun run efforts netted five participants, or a 25% growth on last year. Well done, Pat! Keep on racing, Race!

  • About the same time I was also lucky enough to spend five minutes chatting with Raina Telgemeier, who is just about a month away from having three books simultaneously on the New York Times graphic novel bestseller list, as Sisters will likely take the top spot, Drama will return as interest in all things Raina peaks again, and Smile hasn’t left the list for more than two years. Everybody that’s ever said Comics is in trouble, comics needs new readers, comics is stagnating needs to shut the hell up. Week after week, new readers (who could become lifelong readers of comics if you would give them something to read) pick up a book by Kazu Kibuishi, or Gene Yang, or Mike Maihack, or Andy Runton, or Dave Roman, or Faith Erin Hicks, or Hope Larson, or Yuko and/or Ananth, or a dozen other names but especially Raina Telgemeier.

    These books are words and pictures; they’re comics and they make reluctant readers into enthusiastic readers and just like that one off panel voice at the beginning of Understanding Comics who protests But you didn’t say anything about Batman³, if you deny that this is where Comics needs to expand its horizons to meet the readers, you need to be frog-marched out of the discussion until you accept the terms of the discussion.

  • And then in the afternoon I met Bobak Ferdowsi, and thanked him for his work. He was gracious, and modest, and gave all credit for success to the thousands of people working in concert, but you will never convince me that there isn’t something special about the person in the Flight Director’s chair, the one who has to look at those controllers, with their back rooms of experts, distill down a lot of information and be the one voice to convey the decision: Go or No Go.

    He may be a little puzzled that he wound up as the public face of Mission Control, but he is, and like every controller and director in a line back to Bales, and Aaron, and Craft, and Kranz (look ‘em up, their names should be taught to every schoolchild), and thousands of others, he is a goddamn hero and embodies what can be accomplished by people that work hard, work smart, and work together. The timing didn’t work to see if I could have earned my spot in the Flight Operations Center, but I will never be bitter about that as long as the likes of Ferdowsi and his colleagues did make it there.

  • We drifted away from comics for a bit there, didn’t we? I did make it to one panel yesterday, as the comics journalists (Heidi Mac, Jill Patozzi, Joshua Yehl, Matt Meylikhov, Rich Johnston, and The Spurge, who I was pleased to finally meet in person) held forth on the news cycle, useless stories, unexpected things that blow up huge, having publishers or editors to run interference for you, and what’s changing about how comics get covered.

    Macdonald, Johnston, and Spurgeon fell into a familiar interaction (having done this panel with each other multiple times), as the various exemplars of old school approaches (Spurgeon especially doesn’t believe in chasing hits or writing for popularity), and Pantozzi, Yehl, and Meylikhov (all of whom are recently into senior or supervisory roles in their outlets) bringing fresh eyes to the discussion. Also, Spurgeon was curmudgeonly in a charming fashion, declaring his biggest desires for his journalistic endeavours were to do better and have a sandwich.

    Unfortunately, time ran out just as Macdonald and Johnston were about to get into it over Johnston’s assertion that he’s not a journalist, so be sure to catch the next time that panel comes around. As the group was clearing out, the next panel was coming in, meaning I got to congratulate Brigid Alverson for her contributions to CBR, which took the Eisner for comics news this weekend; it’s well deserved.

I didn’t personally catch sight of a lot of good cosplay, but here’s link to a Link.

Panels to watch for today:

  • Panels and Pictures at noon, 32AB; graphic novels for kids, with Sonny Liew, Emily Carroll, Mike Maihack, Kazu Kibuishi, and Raina Telgemeier
  • :01 Books at 3:30, 26AB; Faith Erin Hicks, Gene Luen Yang, Lucy Knisley, and Paul Pope

Spam of the day:

Why couldn’t I uncover this checklist months back when i was looking for it. In any case, I’m glad I have it now. Thanks for sharing.

I dunno, maybe because I wrote it six days ago?

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¹ Okay, and to ask Ian Jones-Quartey when RPG World is coming back; I’m evil.

² Example: Dylan Meconis’s excellent Family Man is an ongoing story with more than 300 pages, and hasn’t been nominated. Dylan Meconis’s Outfoxed is a 22 page one-off and was nominated in 2012. It’s “longform” in the sense that it’s got definite characters and isn’t gag-strip oriented, but that’s it.

And yes, I do talk about Dylan a lot in the context of incorrect decisions by awards voters because her work is awesome and should win everything.

³ McCloud: There’s always one….

The Warmth Was A Key Detail

As I recall it, Friday at San Diego Comic Con was bookended with Jim Zub: I got to see him almost first thing in the morning, and I sent somebody else to find him almost last thing of the day.

In the earlier case, we talked Samurai Jack and how its recurring extension, five issues at a time plays with story structure¹, the fact that he’s busy and booked months in advance², and drooled over some of the early art for Dungeons & Dragons: Legends of Baldur’s Gate. If you follow that link, the right-hand cover image looks great, but Zub showed me the original B&W art on a tablet and it is even better; I hope they release a variant of the series that’s all B&W because damn, even the best coloring over those inks is covering up some beautiful detail. Zub’s over the moon about getting to script this title, and talking with him about it you can see him reverting to Kid!Zub, playing D&D in a basement with his friends, having the time of his life, stretching his imagination, and having no inkling that some day he would be creating canon around these characters; it’s seeing that enthusiasm about all his projects that makes me conclude that nobody enjoys Comics! more than Zub.

Which is why I saw Minsc and Boo come to life from the inks Zub had shown me, I had to make sure they would find each other; I gave the gentleman and gentlehamster directions to Zub’s Artist Alley table, but they reported back he wasn’t there; undeterred, I dug out the time and location of Zub’s first panel today (see below), so hopefully they’ll catch up with each other and get a picture or two.

Most of the rest of the day was a blur, but there was one memorable exchange, and I did catch some good cosplay photos; let’s take them in order.

I’m not sure I would have recognized Chip Zdarsky when he dropped by the Dumbrella booth in the afternoon, but for the fact that he looks exactly like his Twitter avatar. I thanked him profusely for Sex Criminals (noting that I love everything about the book), then realized he was standing next to Matt Fraction and repeated everything I just told Zdarsky. I found out that in the trade collection, they didn’t get clearance to use the lyrics of Fat Bottomed Girls, but they told me that they did come up with new Post-It captions over the lyrics from the original issue which means I have to buy the damn thing again. Alas, the reason that they dropped by the booth was out on a burrito run, which led to this exchange which I wrote down verbatim:

Zdarksy: Please tell Rich [Stevens] we stopped by.
Fraction: And we hate him.
Zdarksy: We only stopped by to throw a cup of warm vomit in his face.

Congrats to both men for their Eisner win last night, especially in light of the fact it means there will be one less ritual slaughter today.

Cosplay!

  • This gentleman assures me that he has a HENCH 4 LYFE tattoo, but for me the best part was the angry eyebrows on the mask.
  • I saw many Mothers of Dragons, but this young lady was the one that really caught my eye — not tall and regal, small and likely to be underestimated, a bit grubby, and utterly ready to cut out your heart and snack on it.
  • This pairing of Carl Fredricksen and Kevin got so very much right, from the eyebrows to the pack of dogs and baby Kevins. For the record, the walker had all four tennis balls on it, and that is a grape soda bottlecap pinned to his shirt.
  • The return of Sailor Bacon, may heaven have mercy on our souls. Today, he’ll be getting in the ball pit. The Lar deSouza quote that accompanied the picture was Hey, I paid for these bloomers, and everybody’s gonna see ‘em!
  • Not cosplay, but I thought Maki Naro might want to see: a Sufficiently Remarkable shirt in the wild, all the way from Australia.

Busy day for the panels today:

  • Steven Universe at 10:00 in the Hilton Bayfront; I’m going to that one as a civilian since I enjoy SU too much to pay attention in a detached, reporterly fashion
  • Pitching Comic Stories with Jim Zub at 10:00, 25ABC; watch out for Minsc and Boo
  • Berke Breathed at noon, 9; just 9, no A or anything like that
  • We Are BOOM! at 12:30, 24ABC; I got to take a moment yesterday to thank Shannon Watters for her work on the KaBOOM line, which gives work to so many of my friends
  • Lucy Knisley Spotlight at 2:00, 28DE
  • Usagi Yojimbo 30 year retrospective at 3:00, 28DE; that room should probably be larger
  • Comics Journalism at 6:00, 23ABC; aka Bitter, Haggard Wordbeasts, aka My Tribe

Spam of the day:

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I would actually pay good money to see fedora paper hats; they could go with paper neckbeards and paper fanatical devotion to Bitcoin.

_______________
¹ Originally slated for a five issue run, there’s a single five-issue story that’s grand in scope. Extended to ten issues (the last of which we’re about to see in print), it gets smaller stories, leading off with fan-favorite The Scotsman.

Extended again to fifteen issues, Zub was asked for another long story, so there will be another five-parter, the title of which I am sworn to secrecy because it constitutes a massive spoiler, but which will lead off with a scene of Aku engaged in domestic hobbies in a very, very funny fashion.

Extended yet again to twenty issues, we’re back to shorter stories (including one that will be written and drawn by series artist Andy Suriano), but ending on a two-parter. Zub’s never quite sure when (if?) the series will end, so he’s trying to put a satisfying conclusion in every fifth issue in case it has to serve as a series finale.

² We counted six books that he’s presently writing: SamJack, the final arc of Skullkickers, the newly announced Dungeons and Dragons, the Gail Simone pair-up on Conan/Red Sonja, Wayward, and an unnamed (at this time) Marvel title; he’s already wrapped up the writing on Figment, which comes to a definite story end on issue five.

Something Kinda Wonderful

The best Batman cosplayer at San Diego Comic Con has a sight build, glasses, sandy hair, and a Nerdist hoodie; he spent an hour this morning sharing the story of his tragic origin, and how he rebuilt himself, trained himself, became somebody who would use that newfound strength to protect others. He suffered an unimaginably — if you’re lucky, all too imaginably if you’re not — trauma for no reason other than the conscious moral choice of another, and spent decades thinking it tainted him, doomed him to perpetuate the same horror on others, making him into a monster in waiting.

Screw that. Dean Trippe didn’t just have his life saved by Batman, he has become Batman, but not the one most people think of. Trippe is not Vengeance, he is not The Night, he is the Batman that finds others in the depths of tragedy and makes of them a confraternity to prevent harm from befalling others. He wants us all to be part of his Bat Family, and judging from the tension and body language of the attendees in his panel on Something Terrible a distressing number of the attendees have had their own origin stories and are the people that Trippe now sees it as his job to help. I knew I had to do it once I was on the other side of it he says, both about the comic and the role he’s taken on as sounding board for those touched by abuse. You feel like you’re a werewolf with all these misconceptions out there. I dedicated myself to being the best father I could be and breaking the chain [of absenteeism and irresponsibility] that my father and his father had set.

That driving mission in his life is maybe best expressed in a scene left out of the book (sometimes, the beats that a story has to take don’t allow for all the content you’d like): little Dean, rescued on what would have been the worst day of his life asks adult Dean in the TARDIS What do we do now? and Batman says Now we go save everybody else.” Trippe says, the comic really is me trying to do that. I did the book for everybody else, but I also did it to help me. I had this one thing eating up all the space I had for secrets and now that it’s not there, I’m kind of bulletproof.

Trippe’s conversation ranged far and wide, of course — favorite writers (Grant Morrison), the effects of coming into comics in the ’90s (right before the Death of Superman and Batman getting replaced — it was a weird time), the importance of Bill Finger (at the end of the panel, Athena Finger, Bill’s granddaughter and tireless crusader for her grandfather to receive acknowledgment invited Trippe to table with her). I can only include specific vignettes here.

  • On You’ll Be Safe Here, the splash image at the end of Something Terrible: There are 116 characters, who have had redesigned costumes to make them timeless. There’s also an Easter egg, inside the central column of the TARDIS, V from V for Vendetta is there, and The Iron Giant holds Grant Morrison in his hand because he’s basically a fictional character.
  • His son, “Field”, knows about the story, but not the details (he’s been told that Trippe was threatend with a gun). Having gotten past the fears that he would perpetuate a cycle of abuse, Trippe remarked, Have kids, man; you spend your whole life looking for someone to relate to, just make one. The next book from Trippe will be one that he’s been writing with “Field” since the latter was three; [A]bout a character called SuperBeast, from the sun, and he has all the animal powers. We made up about seven members for his superteam, and my old character Butterfly is on it.
  • On comics fans not wanting change: A lot of fans get knocked for wanting things to stay the same, but I think we want things to be good and move forward and get annoyed when they go backward, like Batgirl reverting or Spider-Man’s marriage getting erased.
  • Asked what the reaction to Something Terrible outside of geek circles has been, Trippe responded, What’s outside of geek circles? The president grew up drawing Batman and Superman for his friends. I get messages from dads in their 50s, and they tell me “I just put my invisible gun down.” The opportunity to help people, it’s really touching.
  • Asked what message he would have for the person that abused him: It’s tough, because Arkham Asylum isn’t real. I didn’t know my attacker’s name, I didn’t know all the details. I told my mom I was working on this book, and she’s been very supportive, and some of the biggest response I’ve gotten from people whose parents didn’t believe them. I told mom I was done, wanted to see if I got the details right. My mom gave me his name.

    I Googled him. He did horrible things to six kids when he was a teenager, I wasn’t going to judge him, maybe he got his shit together in prison and fixed what was wrong with him. He didn’t. But I am not vengeance. Batman is not vengeance. He doesn’t do what he does for revenge, he does it to protect other people. There are people who have made mistakes, one thing I admire about Batman is he uses violence (my son and I have a rule about hitting, who’s allowed to hit? Just Batman), but he doesn’t kill. What he does is he takes Joker, Two-Face, he takes them to get help. I still think if you need help, you should get help. I don’t want you die; maybe you want you die, but that’s not me.

  • On hearing stories of what others have experienced and how he processes them: It’s really hard, I had a hard time after hearing a story at Heroes Con. I usually have to go and sit quietly a bit and rebuild my determination, but I want to be somebody people can come to and talk about. The first time I talked about it with my mother after the court case when I was six years old was last year. They hoped my sister had forgotten about it.

    At Heroes I met a girl who came up to me, only 13 years old, so cute, and she asked “Was Something Terrible about you?” And I said it was, and she started bawling and saying it happened to her. I mostly hear from adults and we have time to build ourselves and become somebody who takes care of others — you have a superhero origin story — but meeting somebody who’s in the middle of it, that threw me for a loop.

    These kids that I meet that are going through it now, it’s tough. But I’m glad it’s my job, and it seems crazy that the worst thing that ever happened to me has become something Kinda Wonderful.

And that’s where I came to the realization that when I think of Dean Trippe, when I think of what he’s taken on as his job, the image I get isn’t actually of Batman, although it was written by Grant Morrison. It’s the scene from All-Star Superman with the girl about to jump from the ledge of a building, and Superman tells her It’s never as bad as it seems. You’re stronger than you think. And if you think it is that bad, that you’re not strong enough, Dean Trippe is waiting to tell you different.

Also, and this is purely a personal observation, the Eisner Awards dropped the ball in a larger fashion than I can ever recall in not recognizing Something Terrible. It got 2,000,000 views, which I’m pretty sure swamped the reach of any nominated single issue of the last year./em

Forgot To Mention

The Scholastic/Graphix crowd might be the most polite at SDCC. They had their big party last night, which happened to be about ten floors below my hotel room, and the only time I noticed the noise was a big, happy roar after the mostly-inaudible introduction: mumble mumble Raina Telgemeier!

Classy folks, good neighbors, great books.

Abiding

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.

Fundamental Humanity

Scott McCloud and Gene Luen Yang spoke and there’s only one thing you need to know: It is imperative that you shelve Boxers & Saints in that order from left-to-right, or both McCloud and Yang will punch you.

It was an informal talk (McCloud’s prep notes covered one sheet of hotel notepad) between two creators that have very similar approaches to their work (outline, preparation, revision, revision, revision), one of whom directly credits the other for his career, and who have thought deeply about the creation if comics and their power as a medium. McCloud’s direction of the conversation returned time and again to Yang’s very humane approach to his work — in addressing the immigrant experience, he credit’s Yang’s willingness to engage all perspectives with “eyes unclouded with hate” (an idea McCloud returned to in discussing Yang’s objections to the racebent casting in the Avatar movie, which he called the Martin Luther King approach).

This was most apparent in the discussion of that most complete collection of lazy racist cliches, Cousin Chin-Kee from American Born Chinese; Yang found ways to make even Chin-Kee something resembling a sympathetic person. He also noted that Yang is an unpredictable writer, in that Chin-Kee came out of nowhere, and couldn’t have been been foreseen even a page before he intruded on the story. Yang pointed out that ABC was original a series of mini comics, and It had like twelve readers, and I knew eleven. If somebody didn’t understand, I could call them up and explain.

Counterpointing that unpredictability was Yang’s direct nature with words; reading an excerpt from The Shadow Hero he challenged any English teachers in the room to find a single word to remove, or one that needed to be added. The writerly discussion contrasted Yang’s approach to writing for himself versus writing for an artist; for example, Boxers & Saints required a singular focus¹ that required complete control, but The Shadow Hero that couldn’t have been done without the artistic contribution of Sonny Liew.

They also discussed the relationship that Yang has with mythology in his work, particularly in the opposing belief systems of the Boxer Rebellion, all of whom had their mythology made physical and real … they couldn’t all have been true, but they all were. It makes for an ambiguity in the story that perhaps makes it more real. The best uncertain stories invite you to find the story in your own life said Yang, primarily in relation to a discussion of the Book of Matthew — his favorite of the Gospels, and one that originally had a different, more ambiguous ending (McCloud: So, they ran it by a test audience and they didn’t like it?).

This led McCloud to observe that there is one project that perhaps only Yang could tackle.
McCloud: You know what you need to do? You know the Gnostic gospels with teenage superpower Jesus?
Yang: He’s a jerk.
McCloud: Somebody annoys Him and He zaps them? You could be the one person that could do that justice.
Yang: The Gospel of Thomas: the Comic!

Quick cuts:

  • Yang is no longer teaching computer science as a day job, as he did through most of his cartooning career; he went part time, primarily doing database work, but is going back to teaching because he’s found comics to be lonely work. He’ll be teaching one class come the start of the next school year.
  • Yang has been called “the Asian Scott McCloud” before, and I think I’ve tried to cultivate that.
  • The Anglo Gene Yang was unsurprised (delighted, even) to find out the Asian Scott McCloud is also the son of an engineer, given that their work methods and approaches to comics are so very similar. To be specific, Yang says I try to work by the seat of my pants, to harness my inner spontaneity, but I have no inner spontaneity. Asked if he ever feels out of place among the right-brained community of comics, Yang replied Sometimes I’m with other creators and they talk about things like their feelings and I’m like McCloud then exclaimed Feelings only get in the way!
  • Yang does not, in fact, have the ability to be in two places at one time. During the two panels that are scheduled at the same time, he will not be at the one led by Nick Abadizis. During the two that overlap, he will be leaving one early and arriving at the other late.

Gene Yang will be found many, many places during the rest of Comic Con. Find him and tell him how you like his work.

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¹ Although they later discussed Yang’s actual collaborator in the person of Lark Pien, his frequent colorist.

Sic Transit Gloria Webcomicia

It’s an odd vibe in Webcomicsland this year; no Scott Kurtz (given up on the exhibiting end of Comic Con), no Kris Straub (awaiting the imminent birth of his first child), likely no Penny Arcade next year (for reasons previously stated), no Jon Rosenberg (laid low by his three mobile disease vectors children) … it feels like the era of webcomics-cum-San Diego has hit an inflection point. Fortunately, there are always things happening to keep it weird.

  • Darren “Dern” Gendron is pissed. Righteously pissed, even. He spent (by his account) five months planning to have a ball pit form the bulk of his booth, and then DashCon went and blew up the novelty of the whole thing. Nevertheless, it’s there, he’s offering an extra hour to anybody that wants in the ball pit for US$100, and every time somebody pays it he’s upping the price until they stop buying. I’m not sure, but I think that he just wrote Zach Weinersmith’s next economics-themed strip. Things got off to a slow start, ball pit-wise, on Preview Night, but he still managed to have party times, woo! Thankfully, there are not quite enough balls in the pit to hide the fact that the inhabitants are wearing pants.
  • David Willis assured me he was joking about Monday’s Shortpacked being the last. If nothing else, he likes round numbers, and January will mark ten friggin’ years of that strip, with a total of eighteen in one continuity. I’m pretty sure that’s just about half his life. As well, his streak of Hawaiian shirt wearing remains unbroken.
  • Kel McDonald dropped by bearing a copy of the second Cautionary Fables anthology (that would be the Africa edition), as well as news that the next edition with be Asia¹, followed by North America, Australia/New Zealand/Pacific Islands, and then South America. Antarctica and the problems it presents will have to wait to see how the others do. There’s also plans for a massive, 2 x 700 pages (or so) comprehensive Sorcery 101 omnibus edition (asked about a slipcover, she intoned the magic words stretch goal), so keep your eyes for that.
  • Kate Beaton is not at the show, but she is there in spirit — a large avatar of her adorns the banner at the Drawn & Quarterly booth (where she is presently working on a second Hark! book), and she’s just finished the Fat Pony book for Scholastic, so all is well. Oh, and she’s presently driving across Canada with family, so look for awesome Beaton Family comics (seriously, they are the best) while that’s happening.

Pictures: Calm before the insanity hits at Dumbrella², TopatoCo, Sheldon/STRIPPED, and elsewhere. These photos were taken relatively early in the day, before other booths were fully built out, before even the blue-shirted convention center staff became very concerned that no exhibitor be beyond arm’s reach of their booth two hours before the doors opened.

It was weird and control-freaky, but did allow for a hilarious interaction when Matthew Inman to have an exchange with one of the blueshirts; he was constructing a banner in the aisle just outside his booth when he was asked if he intended for the banner to stay there. Not taking the question seriously, he replied Yes, I’m going to keep it here in the middle of the aisle, which response was taken seriously by the convention center official. She became very concerned about this, because apparently no exhibitor in the history of the San Diego Convention Center has ever used aisle space to construct something that would then be pulled into the booth space. Like I said, weird.

Panels to watch for today:

  • Gene Luen Yang and Scott McCloud at 3:00pm, 28DE
  • Scott McCloud solo at 5:00pm, 7AB
  • Bee & Puppycat at 5:30pm, 6A

Reminder to all creators at the show: check the programming guide for your name. Much like we noted earlier that Gene Luen Yang is double-booked at least twice, Frank Gibson mentioned to me that he found out he was on the Bee & Puppycat panel by reading your blog, Gary. You never know what the con organizers or your own publishers might have forgotten to mention or accidentally sent to your spam folder.


Spam of the day:

The parents have to method in a different way for a variety of sexes of youngsters especially when they mean to give the best of enchanting emotional add-ons. By having the right options to choose from a variety of sentimental charms, even the choices today have increased manifold.

You make the act of child-raising sound like equipping a character in a JRPG.

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¹ As well as the admirable admonition that Asia is broader than Japan, comics people! She’s doing a Turkish myth herself, and one contributor is planning on doing a Mongolian fable. There’s cultures from the Tigris to the Ganges to the Yangtze to the Mekong that fall into Asia and she’s looking to explore them broadly.

² The Ron Swanson Baffler! sold about 45 minutes into Preview Night; it may have also spawned a Tobias Fünke commission for Mr Yates, so that’s all right.

Preparations

Quick programming note: my plan right now is to post smaller, mostly-text pieces from the show throughout the day; I’ve got a new ultra-light, ultra-fast laptop with a keyboard action that lets me type fast, but it sucks down battery like a motherscratcher so we’ll have to see how it goes. In any event, photos will most likely have to wait until the plentiful hotel wifi becomes available at the end of the day.

There’s a certain calm — almost a rationality — that hangs over San Diego the day before Preview Night. It’s a time when you can touch down at the airport, hop a hotel shuttle, check in, drop your bags, walk ten blocks to the Convention Center and meet Rich Stevens who has your badge¹ in the space of 57 minutes. By this time tomorrow it will not be possible to cross the train tracks and get to the show floor in less than 57 minutes². It’s a time when you can unload a pallet of, say, Android toy four-packs and make a Jenga-style pyramid taller than a man. It’s a time when plans of pre-show donut runs seem plausible³ and not a cruel joke as exhaustion causes you to sleep as late as possible before dashing to the convention center.

And it was a day that, oddly, the management of San Diego Comic Con sent a very interesting email to at least registered members of the press; I don’t know if all attendees got it, but they probably should have. There’s the usual stuff about not allowing carts on the show floor, the fact that fixed recording equipment isn’t allowed, and that prior permission is needed for commercial filming. But a few things stood out that seem to apply to more than just the press crowd:

  • The general prohibition on recording during clips and footage in panels has expanded to mention Google Glass; if you have prescription Glass, you must swap them for another pair of glasses while footage is shown.
  • There’s a recommendation for interviewees (not interviewers; remember, this went to press, so I wonder if it was copy/pasted from an email that went out to everybody) to not sign interview releases until after the interview is done, which should give some leverage for people confronted by the sort of jerk “media” that seem to pop up at every show.
  • There’s an explicit communication of the anti-harassment policy; SDCC has come under criticism for not having made this policy available, so if this was (as I suspect) taken from a communication to all attendees, it represents a welcome (if late) improvement. For the record, the policy reads:

    Attendees must respect common sense rules for public behavior, personal interaction, common courtesy, and respect for private property. Harassing or offensive behavior will not be tolerated. Comic-Con reserves the right to revoke, without refund, the membership and badge of any attendee not in compliance with this policy.

    Persons finding themselves in a situation where they feel their safety is at risk or who become aware of an attendee not in compliance with this policy should immediately locate a member of security, or a Comic-Con staff member, so that the matter can be handled in an expeditious manner. If your safety is at risk and you need immediate assistance you may also use a white house phone and dial 5911.

    Security may be contacted by visiting our Show Office in Lobby C. A Comic-Con staff member will be in the office during public hours.

    It’s still pretty weak given its reliance on weasel words like common sense (Emerald City has been held up as a good example of what you want your harassment policy to be like, for both clearly identifying unacceptable behavior and describing their obligation to keep all attendees, staff, guests, and exhibitors feel safe), but it’s still the most publicized instance of the policy I can recall seeing in my years of attending and covering SDCC. So yay, I guess.

Shortly, the real work of show prep will begin; boxes that were pulled inside booth perimeters will be unpacked, banners will be unfurled, people that you see once a year4 will trade labor, and scissors, and duct tape. As I write this, it’s less than eleven hours until the full force of CON descends, and may glob have mercy on those empty spaces where our souls are supposed to be.

Spam of the day:

Rational picking firms(For example mister Spock in significantly music finest travel collections) Wish sound judgement to set the standard of their wl weighed choices such as. Individuals be placed remote this shock of their own behavior as well as, go on a heli idea of the problem.

Hey! Leave Spock out of your crap, all right?

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¹ Your mileage may vary; it’s unlikely that in your particular case Rich would have your badge, but then again the man is a goddamn miracle worker.

² I exaggerate but slightly; there are signs on the exterior of the convention center — which I did not notice in past years — that inform people from the opening of the doors it may take 20 minutes to clear the lobby area and enter the show floor or make it upstairs to panel rooms.

³ I am not in my usual hotel which is four blocks from the convention center and one block from my preferred breakfast place, with the to-go breakfast burritos. But I noticed last night that my usual hotel has three enormous construction cranes in the immediate vicinity — like on the same block — so maybe that’s not a problem. I am also at the further border of the Gaslamp, away from the loudest party spots; this has a certain appeal now that I am old and need my sleep.

4 Like Brian Sunter, merch-wrangler extraordinaire for the Penny Arcade Imperium. As the PA and Dumbrella booths face each other, Brian and I have spent years giving each other regular register-monkey nods during lulls in the crowd. I particularly associate Sunter with this show as I met him on the floor during prep some years back, about a week after he was hired in Robert Khoo’s first public cattle-call job announcement/decimation hiring process. If the tweet earlier this week about PA possibly abandoning SDCC for PAX South in future years comes true, I’ll miss seeing him.

Nearly Ready For San Diego. You?

Higher volumes of postings will kick in later this week; tomorrow will largely be taken up by travel, but expect at least some info regarding build-out and Preview Night on Wednesday, and then as many posts as make sense on Thursday through Sunday. Next Monday will also be a travel day, for what it’s worth.

In the meantime, if you could keep me from forgetting my phone charger/laptop power cord, and make sure I don’t miss the train to the airport tomorrow, that would be great. Travel safe, everybody that’s travelling, and have a good time everybody that’s not.

Personal goals this year:

  • Meet Gene Luen Yang and thank him for his work
  • At long last, meet Tom Spurgeon in person
  • Buy Jim Zub a drink
  • Find Chris Sims, give him five dollars

Spam of the day:

As tempting since it could be, it is financially irresponsible to borrow more cash than you’ll be able to afford to repay

This is surprisingly good advice; much like a broken clock being right twice a day (or Ross Douthat for once being merely inoffensive rather than his usual cranio-rectalized), spammers must have useful information once in a while.

No Time, Have To Get To The Airport

I just want to update my incomplete impressions of Seconds from yesterday, then I can start the mad dash of work and travel that will end sometime tomorrow morning when I fall exhausted into my bed.

  • Firstly, it was a deeply, deeply satisfying read. There was an obvious — almost trite — approach to a story about changing your own life that Bryan Lee O’Malley could have taken, and he didn’t. He produced a story that was genuine and moving but not maudlin, and he got there honestly. I will be reading it at least twice more in my immediate travels — and I suspect I will find more to like on each reading.
  • Secondsly, I neglected to fully mention O’Malley’s creative team, due to not having the book handy. Jason Fischer assisted on the art, Nathan Fairbairn handled colors, and the previously-mentioned Dustin Harbin lettered. They were all at the top of their respective games.

Okay, gotta bounce; irregular posting schedule for the next week-plus, as I navigate SDCC ’14.