Saturday, July 28, 2007

Separated at Birth, San Diego Comic-Con Extra: Don't Tread on Me

Batman #10 and Simpsons #13

L: Batman #10 (April-May 1942), art by Fred Ray and Jerry Robinson
R: Simpsons Comics #13 (October 1995), art by Bill Morrison and Nathan Kane
(Click picture to Milhouse-size)

San Diego Comic-Con Day 3: You have to believe we are magic

SDCC Sold Out logoGot yer tickets for San Diego Comic Con? No? Then yer outta luck buster! For the first time ever the show is sold out for all remaining days, even Sunday. Sunday sold out? Inconceivable! Tickets can't be had for love nor money! Well, maybe for love. But as we all know: no time for love, Doctor Jones!

It's a beautiful, bright sunny day as I wander down from Ralph's Pretty Good Grocery with a sack of snacks in my hoof, heading for the convention center. Already the crowds are gathering and buzzing with the rumor that the show floor will open to general attendees at 9 AM instead of 10. Since we, the exhibitors, weren't alerted of this before, it's causing a bit of a panic. The rush is on to get to the Con on time:
Getting there can be half the fun

Sometimes arriving to the convention center early involves some creative crashing before the doors open. Or, as I like to say, San Diego Comic-Con makes homeless all of us:
Comic Con makes homeless of us all

Once inside, I dash to the Norton booth to get set up, but not before noticing it's frigid-freezing cold in the hall. It's chilly. It's carbonite-cold. "How cold is it?":
More proof that it's chilly in the convention center

There's quite a bit of angry buzz that SDCC decided to open an hour earlier without making a major announcement the night before. After all, there is that announcer who won't shut up, why not have her proclaim it before closing last night? Many booths are unmanned at 9:15 when the general admission crowds start rushing in; others have a few personnel on hand but are missing staff with the cash box or vital equipment. It's a frustrating start to what will be a very hectic and long day, but luckily for me everything is running smoothly in the Norton booth, with thanks as always to our good friends down the aisle at Fantagraphics. But stop springing surprises on us, Comic-Con! We are sedate and easily startled people who enjoy ritual and organization, and shy like startled horses when the routine is changed. In the words of that guy who quickly turned into Lou Ferrigno, "Don't make us angry! You wouldn't like us when we're angry!"

Hey, and speaking of Lou Ferrigno...
Lou Ferrigno. You'd like him when he's nice.

Whatta nice guy. I chatted with him for a very brief few moments but he was friendly and open. Sure, he could probably rip my arms off by flexing his biceps slightly, but superhuman strength hasn't gone to his head.

Saturday is traditionally an incredibly busy day of the Con, and this was no different: the crowds never let up and the work never really stopped. I spent nearly most of the whole day bouncing about behind the tables at the Norton booth, selling many of our fine books to interested attendees. We sold out of several titles, so I made notes to bring more of those next year. So, if you wanted a copy of the Gladiator making of the movie book, you'll have to wait. Seriously; that one sold out the first of all our movie books. I believe it was the 300 fan following, or maybe Russell Crowe's entourage was on the premises, but either way it's a pretty good book. There's plenty of fine Norton and Fantagraphics books left for sale in the hectic 1700 aisle, of course, so if you're at the con on Sunday stop by and buy a few so we don't have to pack 'em in boxes at the end of the show, won'tcha?

Dr. John ZoidbergI was kept so busy that this blog entry is going to be a little shorter than my others; there was less time for adventures and people-watchin' than the past few days. I waited in an extraordinarily lengthy line (so long it snaked outside) to see the Futurama panel, which was absolutely brilliant. All the cast members were there talking about the upcoming Futurama movies, and they acted out (in character voices) the wonderful Bongo con-exclusive mini-comic that heralded the return of the series. After I returned to the booth and was telling my pal John all about it, a con attendee dressed up as Dr. Zoidberg rambled by, and John shouted in glee "Zoidberg!" He waved his papier-maché claws at us in response. Later I spotted the same costumed attendee being interviewed by TV Guide network, which allowed me to quip "At last Zoidberg is the hero!"

And moi? Yours little stuffed truly was excited to dash upstairs to the "Meet the Press: Writing About Comics" panel featuring all my online favorites (L-R): Heidi MacDonald (The Beat, Publishers Weekly), Nisha Gopalan (Entertainment Weekly), Tom Spurgeon (The Comics Reporter), Tom McLean (Variety), Graeme McMillan (Savage Critics), and moderator Douglas Wolk (Reading Comics):
The "Meet the Press: Writing About Comics" panel

It was a fast-paced, entertaining and informative panel with a lotta love and some incisive criticism. They even intelligently answered my not-very-well-phrased question about the friendly give-and-take and reference to other blogs in the comics journalism world. I got so wrapped up in it that I forgot to Twitterblog much of the second half, but you can find several entries on it (and my entire con experience) on my Twitter Page, including this oddly self-referential post. I blushed tremendously when Heidi MacDonald mentioned me as a blogger she like to read, and I deeply regret that I had to dash out of the room as soon as the panel finished up in order to get back to the booth, so I didn't have a chance to meet the Divine Ms. M. in person. This li'l bull salutes you, tho', Heidi!

I'm humbled but very grateful every time sometime tells me they like my blog, and even more so in person. (If you've never seen a little stuffed bull blush, folks, that's when it happens. I try not to get a stuffed...well, over-stuffed head about it, of course. In moments of extreme fancy I have a pleasant little daydream fantasy that I have won an Eisner Award for "Best Comic Book Blogging by a Stuffed Animal":
I won an Eisner Award for "Best Stuffed Animal Blogger!"

...but, in the words of Cathy Dennis, it's only just a dream (aided by the kind lending of Jason's Eisner for his wonderful The Left Bank Gang...thanks, Jason!). Really, I just love writing and having people read it; a physical award isn't necessary. Well, maybe unless it is a yummy, scrumptious Toblerone bar:
Time for a mid-afternoon snack

A creamy chewy Toblerone helps make up for the only disappointment of the day, my complete failure in catching up with Jane Wiedlin as WiedlinWatch '07 continues. Today I spotted Jane at the Ralph's Groceries, buying a box of Quisp and some strawberry milk, but she climbed onto her grocery cart and scooted away before I could talk to her. I'm pretty certain I saw her in the crowd as the Iron Man armor was being unveiled, booing and hissing Mister Stark and demanding that justice be served in the murder of Captain America. And was that Jane who emerged triumphant in the Pokemon tournament play, firmly trouncing a seven year old boy who burst into tears following his defeat at the manicured hands of the cutest Go-Go? Why yes, it surely must have. But I couldn't get within more than a few steps of her before she whirled away like a dervish sprite, off to bring more magic to random corners of Comic-Con. I know I will catch up with her. Just like Mister Le Bon, I'm on the hunt, I'm after you.

Almost as good but not quite the same as finding Miss Wiedlin was meeting the equally-magical Zatanna Zatara, who always gets picked last in alphabetical grade-school activities but who always comes first in polls for "Favorite Fishnet-Wearing Character." Even that year that Green Arrow tried to stuff the ballot box in favor of Black Canary. Miss Zatanna smiled and posed for a photo for me, but when I asked her to do some magic for me she just smiled and winked and said something I couldn't quite understand. It sounded a little like "Yllub, ouy lliw teem enaj nildeiw erofeb ruoy yenruoj si hguorht." Or, maybe she just had a little cough.
Annataz si yrev ytterp.

But by far my favorite costumed encounter of the day was an entire family dressed up as the First Family of Superheroes: no, not The Fantastic Four, but The Incredibles:
My favorite costumes of the day: The Incredibles

Gosh, I love that people can do this and do it well. More power to you, I say.

I'm sitting in my hotel room now watching Princess Diaries 2: The One That Killed the Franchise, and a mid-movie ten o'clock news commercial just ran, with a chipper and cheery newcaster posing the teaser "Will Comic-Con return to San Diego next year?" Like all leading news teases there's probably no story here; I'm betting the answer is "yes." But the news report will probably be full of commentary about how big the show is that it's sold out, with leading questions posed to if it's outgrown San Diego, no doubt accompanied by nothing but shots of the 5% of attendees in costume. Ah well. As I mentioned last year, there are some San Diego media that don't quite seem to get our hobby and passion. Whatever. Enjoy the show, because I am!

Friday, July 27, 2007

San Diego Comic-Con Day 2: Right now, get down/Right now, people getttin' busy

Day Two dawns bright and early and I am peering out of the window of the Radisson Harbour View (the harbor's there, but waaaaaay in the distance) looking forward to the bright new morning! What better reason to wake up than to zip down to Comic-Con and re-start the festivities? I am sure those of you who are not morning persons or have already come to loathe SDCC are now cursing my name. I can tell because my ears are burning.

Fantagraphics booth

It's an incredibly busy day: Friday day tickets are sold out so we're at full capacity here, but unlike BookExpo America at the Javits Center in New York this past June, the AC is cranked up to "Hoth" and it's pleasant to work and move about. "Here they come!" shouts someone down the aisle, and while my natural impulse is to cry back "Walkin' down the street, get the funniest looks from everyone they meet!" it's actually the cry to arms for dealers and exhibitors to batten down the hatches: the con attendees are on the floor.

The next several hours are a gay, mad, blur. It's a good thing: when you're working continuously, chatting with people, selling and restocking books from the table, time flies even though it's a long day. At times both the Norton and Fantagraphics booth are so packed they resemble a cattle stockade, but I handily avoid any scary connections by simply popping up to greet new guests with a cheery "Hi hi hi! I'm Bully!" as they wander in the booth.

Jane WiedlinMiss Jenn and I are a great team and together we manage to sell a lot of titles. We run out of stock on Will Eisner's The Contract with God Trilogy hardcover (the paperbacks and other Eisner books are still available), and we're down to three copies of Dr. Seuss Goes to War and only a handful of Killed Cartoons and Big Bento Box. Less books to pack up at the end of the show, always a plus! Down in the comic book region of the show floor, it's never as busy as down east with the big media stuff: Star Wars Land, or the big Heroes booth that has cheerleaders running in and out of it every minute on the minute. I do believe I spot Miss Jane Wiedlin in a cheerleader uniform. Or is that merely wishful thinking? I'm also pretty sure I saw her on the escalator heading up while I was moving downwards; she was sipping on a strawberry smoothie and reading her con program. That certainly had to be Jane I saw testing out a replica broadsword in one of the armory out, Jane! I do believe I also spotted Jane stopping a big guy from throttling a convention attendee in purple makeup and a yellow Sinestro uniform, which only goes to show: in the wild west of life, Jane Wiedlin is the Sheriff of these here parts. I shall keep my eyes wide open for Miss Jane as WiedlinWatch '07 continues, and with all the Wiedlin-sightings I've been thinking I'm seeing, there's no doubt in my mind that I'll get a moment alone with the Divine Miss J before the show opens. Fuzzy nose-kisses are certain to ensue, so stay tuned.

"Uh huh, Bully," I hear you all saying as you roll your eyes heavenward. "Sure, you saw Jane Wiedlin. Who else did you see today?" Well! I'm very glad you asked. Today was not only the day I met the Three Troopers (not to be confused with the Three Tenors, although startling enough these guys did have amazing singing voices):
I'm not the bull you're looking for well as the very special limited edition show exclusive Orange Juliustrooper, as refreshing as he is deadly:
Orange Juliustrooper

...but I also spotted their illustrious boss, the big D.V. himself, who took time to kindly strike a pose:
Darth strikes a pose. Vogue!

Mind you, all this terrorizing of the universe is thirsty work. Luckily even Sith Lords seem to enjoy a cold frosty lemonade:
Even Sith Lords enjoy a cold lemonade

Although this little stuffed bull prefers to brave a longer line is search of more caffeinated beverage refreshment. Mmmm, frappuccinos!
Waiting for frappuccinos

An important lesson I learned today at the Con: never get into a staring contest with Batman:
Never enter a staring contest with Batman

My pal Kal (aka Superman) prefers things a little less confrontational, so together we cooperate and stare into the distance:
I wish I could fly like Superman

In the afternoon, Miss Jenn kindly and expertly minds the booth and winds up selling a large stack of varied books in my absence. Hmmm, maybe I should keep my ugly mug out of the place more often! I do have a delightful time attending my first-ever panel at a SDCC, the wonderfully celebratory Will Eisner tribute panel. L-R: Deborah Del Prete and Michael Uslan (producers of the upcoming Spirit movie), Denis Kitchen (Will's agent and publisher at Kitchen Sink), Ann Eisner (Will's wife, with whom I had a very lovely chat earlier in the Norton booth), and Darwyn Cooke (The Spirit comic book, at least through issue #12.)
Will Eisner tribute panel

Many fun and fond anecdotes and memories of Will were told, including several "The dirtiest look Will ever gave me" stories, some hints and teases of the upcoming Spirit movie (plus news that there will be a Spirit animated series), an update on the comic book (there's no replacement team chosen after Darwyn leaves, but Gail Simone, Michael Golden and Jeff Smith are among those who will work on the second twice-yearly "anthology" issue, out this Christmas). Denis Kitchen very kindly mentioned the word Norton is doing reissuing Will's work, and everyone had a splendid time. I must go to more panels now; this was lots of fun!

Soon after I returned to the Norton booth I was delighted to see that Newsrama star Tom Bondurant had returned to talk today, and this time he brought two of his Newsarama colleagues, Carla Hewitt and JK Parkin. We had a dandy of a time discussing comics new and old, the blogosphere, introducing kids to comics, and the various merits of Silver St. Cloud and Gwen Stacy. Carla gave me a big hug too, which made me go all moo-shy inside. Golly, Miss Carla!:
Carla Hewitt from Newsarama give me a big hug

I must say that the delight of my day was meeting two of my very favorite comics creators, Colleen Coover and Paul Tobin over in the Oni Press booth. They created Banana Sunday, my "most fun comic of 2005" award-winning ultra-favorite, and I hope I was not too giggly and silly in expressing how wonderful I thought their work was. Colleen has in the past given me quite a nice namecheck and link in the past on her own LiveJournal, so to my surprise and giddiness she was as chuffed to meet me as I was her!
Colleen Coover and me!

As John explained to them, I'm not 'lowed to read Small Favors (I think girls kiss and do up each other's hair in that...y'know, mushy stuff), but Banana Sunday is indeed one of my very favorite recent comics, and I bought the trade paperback edition to go on my bookshelf of the comics I love to read again and again:
Banana Sunday, A Most Fun Comic

I got both Paul and Colleen to sign it for me. Colleen was lovely and kind enough not only to inscribe it for me for but to draw a sketch. Who did she draw? Well, see for yourself whose handsome mug she penned into my book:
Colleen Coover drew ME when she autographed my copy of Banana Sunday!

Thank you so very, very much, Paul and Colleen! Truly, meeting you meant a lot to me.

Then, Miss Jenn and John and I went to In-n-Out Burger! Yum!:
A double-double and fries, animal style

Oh, stop looking at me like that. You know I'm just stuffed with beans and fluff, so it's hardly cannibalism.

So now, full of fries and giddiness, I'm drifting off to sleep. And remember, tomorrow's Saturday, the busiest day of the in the words of Dr. Daniel Westin, you ain't seen nothin' yet!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

San Diego Comic-Con Day 1: Costumes, Toys, and a Bit of Sentiment

I 'spose we'll have to wait a few days to get the precise attendance figures, but depending on who you asked at what time of the day, the first full day of the San Diego Comic-Con either seemed busier or less busy than Thursday in 2006. Me? I'm gonna stick with "very very busy indeed," because there was a steady, steady flow of attendees, both of the costumed and uncostumed varieties, and I was kept very busy darting back and forth between the feet of convention goers, carting books pack and forth and making certain we had plenty of copies of everything to sell. We've done a brisk day of selling here at Norton. My surprise realization: I shoulda brought more copies of the Moulin Rouge movie bookto the show. (If you want one, better come by tomorrow!) We're getting a lot of interest from our Will Eisner reissues, but the surprise hit of the show so far has been the quirky and poppy Big Bento Box of Unuseless Japanese Inventions. It's not comics, but it sure is fun! All books in the W. W. Norton booth (booth #1714) are 33% off list price throughout the con, so c'mon by not merely for a chance to meet and greet yours little stuffed truly, but to pick up a great book!

Oh course as always the Con is a great place to make new friends and re-meet the old. I was chuffed as cheese to shake hooves for the very first time with a man I've only "met" over the internet before now, Terrific Tom Bondurant, blogger extraordinaire for Newsarama and for his own site, Comics Ate My Brain. Tom is neither old nor grumpy, and I was delighted to make his acquaintance; we have a wonderful chat about the "funness" of comics and one of Tom's favorite Justice League of America stories. I also got to meet once again yet another of my favorite Toms—no, not Selleck, but the powerhouse Tom Spurgeon, king of internet daily news, reviews, and commentary with his unparalleled The Comics Reporter. Thanks, Toms!

Of course, it was a totally excellent day to spy some other folk on the Con floor, too: those illustrious, inventive attendees who come in costume! As I said last year, I'm filled with nothing but awe and admiration for these folks who are creative and bold enough to step out into the crowd in their cool and creative outfits. They do get a lot of attention with praise and compliments shouted or called to them, and plenty of requests for photo ops. Working out of the Norton booth for much of the day I wasn't able to follow around many of the costumed folk for best-angle images, but here's a few of the more inventive ones I spied:

Ready for a lightsaber battle
Jedis keep peace throughout the galaxy...

Scenes from the upcoming "Tatooine 911"
...but sometimes even they need the help of an officer from Reno.

Sam and Max, Freelance Police
Sam and Max, Freelance Police, on the lookout for obsolete cereals like Rice Krinkles....

Deadpool searches for chimichangas
...while Deadpool is on the hunt for chimichangas.

Justice League Assemble!
Justice League Assemble! A very talented group of fans portray the JLA...

Green Lantern's Butt Forever
...including the fantastic butt of Green Lantern!

Let's look at that again, shall we?:

There is no need to thank me, SallyP and Ragnell.

(Of course, moments later, Hal was incapacitated when the giant yellow Pikachu display toppled from the ceiling onto his head.)

Ah, but Bully, you ask me, what of WiedlinWatch '07? Have I given up my quest to find and meet the illustrious Jane Wiedlin, Queen o' My Heart? I answer you in words of one syllable (not silly-bull): Heck no! My little button eyes were peeled wide in careful and perpetual scanning for the sprite-like Go-Go, rider of dolphins and the only girl the Go-Gos trust to sit in the convertible while the rest of them are in the store. And you know, if you look hard enough, just like Elvis, Jane Wiedlin is everywhere. I'm pretty certain that was her in Jedi robes cartwheeling down the aisle this morning, lightsaber a-twirling. When I went to get lunch at the Convention Center snack bar was that Jane in front of me, quietly humming "Song of the Factory" and ordering a strawberry smoothie? I'm sure it was. And surely that Dalek wheeling furiously down the hallways, careening wildly, had to be pedaled by Jane...I'm just sure of it. She's always up to something and is perpetually busy, so I've not yet had a chance to meet her and confess my love for her, but there's still plenty of time yet. WiedlinWatch '07 continues unabated!

I am sure of that. I am also as sure that Miss Wiedlin would not at all mind me showing a bit of affection when I met at the Con another subject of my affection, the delightful Miss Gwen Stacy:
I Heart Gwen Stacy

Please note that while that cheap floozy Mary Jane Watson retails for $99.99, Gwen Stacy is priceless.

Ah ha! P'raps you've noticed..."Bully!" you exclaim. "You're out of the booth!" And so I was. That's one of the wonderful things about bringing the delightfully enthusiastic Miss Jenn along to help out this year: she's able to spell me while I make excursions of the convention floor. Jenn is having a great time and is filled with wonder and awe at the show. (I'll ask her again after she has done nine or ten of them and see if she feels the same). In the meantime she's having a ball exploring the show and going to panels (she was at the Torchwood one today and reports the show looks great, if you haven't already seen it on the BBC). And she very kindly lets me do the same, so I did have some wonderful moments to explore the floor and catch up on many of the wonders of Comic-Con. Join me, won't you, for some of them?:

Hey look! I'm a Legionnaire!
Hey look! I'm a Legionnaire!

We miss you, big guy.
We miss you, big guy.

Heroclix Galactus towers over all!
Wow, look, Bahlactus was right...Galactus towers over all!

It's easy to put Threepio back since he is made of Lego
After he gets blasted by Stormtroopers, it is very easy to put Threepio back together...because he's made of Lego!

It's not wise to anger a Wookiee, even one made of Lego
It's not wise to anger a Wookiee, even one made of Lego.

Star Wars wall mosaic made entirely of Lego
A Star Wars wall mural made entirely out of Lego. I want to do this at home. I need more bricks.

Oooh! Let me get my change purse
Oooh! Let me get my change purse!

Empty Lego boxes. It's like the aftermath of THE BEST CHRISTMAS EVER!
Empty Lego boxes. It's like the aftermath of the best Christmas ever!

The hall of artistic Darths
The hall of Artsy Darths!

Carmen Mirandarth
Carmen Mirandarth.

Jabba has tapped me to be his new dancer!
Jabba says I can have a three week contract replacing Sny Snootles!.

Playing dice with the universe
This is my favorite photograph of the day. Sometimes things just work out nice 'n' artsy.

Tons of Totoros
Tons 'n' tons of Totoros. Totori?

Hi, Spidey!
Hi, Spidey! I liked your movie.

The DC Comics booth is so big, it requires its own map
The DC Comics Booth is so big, it requires its own map.

Do you have "Marvel Team-Up" #76?
Do you have Tales to Astonish #39?

Hey, *I* have a dollar!
Hey, I have a dollar!

This is what you SHOULD do with your action figures: play with 'em
This is what you should do with your action figures: open 'em up an' play with 'em.

Peering into the display case
Everybody is peering into display cases all over this show!

This guy promised to help me with any extermination problems I might have. Thanks, Bob the Dalek!

Ooh, neon-y Sci Fi Channel booth
The ultra-violet neony Sci-Fi Channel booth. I feel like I'm trippin'!

Funny, it looks bigger on TV
Funny, it looks bigger on TV.

Cases of Cody
Crates and cases of Commander Cody.

I am following the Yellow Brick Road
I even discovered the Yellow Brick Road! Oh wait, it's advertising something.

This one's for Eric
This one's for my pal Eric.

One of the most fun things of Comic-Con is splurging to buy yourself a wonderful souvenir...or two...or three. I am a little stuffed bull who is very careful with his money but every now and then I cannot resist splashing out on some cool stuff to bring me fun memories of my so-far-great time at the Con. So yes, like everyone else in the city of San Diego who is within ten yards of a stormtrooper today, I went shopping. And you know it's gonna be all right when we go shopping!:

EXTERMINATE boring play time with a Dalek toy!
Next time that pesky bunny tries to knock down my Lego city, I have the perfect weapon to set against him: a small version of my new pal Bob the Dalek! Ha! Take that, bunny!

I also finally picked up something I saw and drooled over in London and regretted not buying ever since: the Doctor Who TARDIS USB computer hub! The TARDIS light flashes and it makes that wonderful grinding whoosh...whoosh...whoosh sound as it works. Do not scribble "Bad Wolf" on the side of my USB hub, bunny!

The very pink R2-KT, for a very good cause.
But by far the item I was most excited and happy to buy at the Con was the special R2-KT action figure from Hasbro. R2-KT was created in and built in honor of young Star Wars fan Katie Johnson, who died of brain cancer at the age of 7 in 2005. Proceeds from sale of the figure help support the Make-a-Wish Foundation. It's a wonderful cause, a great figure, and it's ultra-pink but not just for girls only! I also got to meet the full-size R2-KT, and she put a little tear in my button eyes...

Me and R2-KT

In the end, it's things like this that make me love fandom most of all. Sure, we are dreamers and fantasists, and we do dearly love dressing up and watching our shows and playing games and reading our comics, but there's also a forward-looking, open-minded tolerance and care for our world and others, and in many ways I have never seen a more open and charitable group than fans of fantastic literature like those here all this weekend. There are charitable groups for literacy, anti-censorship, the famous Robert A. Heinlein blood drive, and much great openness and care for people and kids like Katie, contributing and working to make certain that we can all enjoy our fanciful hobby. Let the people outside our circles scoff at us and point at our costumes, because in my years of fandom, I've learned that there are many, many folks who are caring and giving and making our world a better place. As somebody once said: "'Let me help.' A hundred years or so from now, I believe, a famous novelist will write a classic using that theme. He'll recommend those three words even over 'I love you.'" In many ways, so many of you who adore and emulate aliens and mutants and robots and cartoons, are the most human of all. When I see things like that, I'm proud to be part of this hobby.