Comic-Con: Filled with yummy goodness

Last week I attended my first Comic -Con. In case anyone doesn’t already know how fantastic it is, I can confirm that it was one of the funnest experiences of my life (this is probably a surprise only to me – in retrospect I can’t think why I was nervous about it). As my brother said, it felt great to be in an environment where everyone knew what we were talking about, and was as excited as we were too. I wish the rest of the world were like that.

It occurred to me that in terms of travel, it is similar to my first trip to Burning Man. So I made a list of the similarities and then a list of the differences.

Black Cat13 ways in which Comic Con is like Burning Man:

  1. There are quite a lot of really dodgy-looking, half-naked people.
  2. There are a few half-naked beautiful women who people keep taking photos of.
  3. People who aren’t wearing outlandish costumes are the ones who feel out of place.
  4. A lot of participants forgo showering and brushing their teeth for the entire 5 days.
  5. There’s an entire subset of people who go in order to hug people a lot.
  6. There’s a lot of art. Some of it is good, some of it is bad.
  7. Despite drinking a lot of water, everyone is still dehydrated all the time.
  8. The food is terrible, but no one really wants to stop to eat.
  9. Strangers will just start talking to you, and you assume that they’re friends of friends. But they’re actually complete strangers.
  10. It’s completely impossible to get any sleep because there are always too many exciting things to do.
  11. It’s crowded and confusing and easy to get lost, but it doesn’t matter because pretty much everywhere is entertaining.
  12. Every day brings more mind-blowing conversations with incredible people.
  13. I came home exhausted, jubilant and feeling like I need a vacation.


green guy
13 ways in which Comic Con is better than Burning Man:

  1. There are hotels, with real beds.
  2. There is running water.
  3. There are real toilets.
  4. People are excited about comics, toys and science fiction. For me this is better than people being excited about drugs and rave culture.
  5. The place is jam-packed with some of the most talented genius’ working in comics today, and you can ask them all about their work.
  6. Unlike Burning Man, people are generally too geeky to try and have sex with you, so it’s a very low-pressure environment to be a woman in (even if people do stare a lot).
  7. Comparitively speaking, the psychedelic drug use is relatively minimal.
  8. People’s costumes are better.
  9. The art cars aren’t nearly as good as the Owlships and Batgirl bikes.
  10. No one’s costume involves being entirely naked, so there are no awkward revelations about genitalia over breakfast.
  11. There’s a far slimmer chance of accidental death.
  12. You don’t come home with dust everwhere.
  13. As a graphic designer, there are far more things that are tax deductible about a trip to Comic-Con.

Philip BondThere was a lot to do at Comic-Con, but one of the things that excited me most was getting to ask the questions that swim around in my mind while I read my favorite comics. Unfortunately I don’t have a photographic memory, so I’m going to have to paraphrase a here, but you’ll get the gist of it, and perhaps this will answer some of the things that you wonder about when you read comics.

I asked Philip Bond why he doesn’t do a lot more work, why his incredibly emotive and relatable drawings of very real-looking people aren’t everywhere. He said it’s a combination of things, and primarily it’s that he draws pretty slowly and so each comic takes a long time. He also explained that for the last 3 years he’s been bringing up his new baby boy, and he told me about the benefits of having a job he can do with his son around.

betoI asked Gilbert Hernandez a ton of questions, in the main, why more creators don’t age their characters as he does, as it’s deeply satisfying to watch them evolve. He pointed out that with a lot of comics this would effect their marketability. I also asked why he’d created Birdland, instead of incorporating those stories into Love & Rockets, since the characters were the same. He said that he’d become frustrated by the limitations and censorship involved, and Birdland was his way to work outside of that.

lunaI asked one of the Luna Brothers (sorry but I don’t know which one) why they like writing about women so much. He said that it was mostly down to trying to find a way to do something unexpected and different with stories. For example in The Sword; people are used to seeing a big guy waving a sword around, but drawing a small woman with a sword is going to stand out more and present more interesting problems in the story.

I asked John Cassaday how he inks. I’d been sure he used a fine point pen or rapidograph, and assumed that his style would change dramatically if he moved to a brush (as Frank Miller’s did). But no, it turns out he always inks with a brush, which implies insane amounts of control, and really impressed me. I asked him whether he prefers working on Astonishing X-Men or Planetary, because personally I prefer his work on Planetary. Like the professional he is, he diplomatically said they were both fun to work on in very different ways.

morrison batI asked Grant Morrison why it is that, while his work is of a very high quality, there is no single over-arching theme them? It’s incredibly eclectic and diverse, and I often have problems identitifying that he’s written a story, except that I like it a lot, and later check the byline to discover it’s one of his. He said that unlike a lot of writers, he’s got no axe to grind, it’s simply that he has all of these ideas rushing around in his head, and he has to get them out. He said that he’d known he’d be a writer ever since he was 9 years old reading Enid Blyton.

I asked Mark Waid if (in view of Kingdom Come) he agreed that deep down, only mature superheroes have the authority and stability to be truly trustworthy. He laughed at that, and agreed that somehow a 50 year old Superman had a lot more gravitas. He said that he’d always choose to write Superman over Batman, only because in order for Batman to really function as a character, he can never be a joyful character, whereas Superman is often in a state of joy. It made me like Superman a little more.

I asked J.H. Williams III about drawing Promethea, and particularly the Kaballa storyline. He talked about all of the early concept discussions with Alan Moore and how much he enjoyed working on the different art styles and ideas involved with the story. He even told me how he’d break up the book if he were going to make movies out of it (there’d be three), but he reckoned that just doing the special-effects on the Promethea character – with the stars, floaty robes and living caduceus – would be prohibitively expensive.

I asked Dave Gibbons about the Originals, which always seemed like a deeply personal story to me, particularly in view of it being the only book I know of that he wrote and drew himself. He said that it was indeed very personal to him, as it was based on his own life, that he had been a mod years ago. To him, scooters had always looked like something out of space, and so it was no great leap to make them hover, and create a futuristic version of the mods and rockers – which had the added benefit of setting it apart visually from Quadrophenia. Of course unlike Quadrophenia, this is a real story based on his life, and he’d shown the book to the friends featured in it, and they’s agreed that it was an accurate portrayal of the time.

mike royerIt still amazes me that my idols were so willing to talk about their work. Over the years, their creations have had such tremendous impact on my life, and I feel honoured to have been able to pick their brains.

Comic-Con is amazing, I can’t say it any clearer than that. It was a damn well organized meeting of the minds, like coming home to a place where everyone understands the things I love. On the flight home, my brother and I discussed our costume plans for next years Comic Con, because we’re definitely coming back.




Sonia is an occasionally red-headed, always comic-loving, graphic designer of British descent, who’s lived and worked in San Francisco for the last 12 years. She can be reached at sonia@ifanboy.com.

Comments

  1. Paul Montgomery PaulMontgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    I wonder if Morrison has been to Burning Man, or if he treats it any differently than an average writing session.  I certainly hope not.  

    Great stuff, Sonia.  You asked some really thoughtful questions of the creators.  You should do interviews! 

    Next year!  I’m going next year!  iFanboy writing staff represent! 

  2. CAM CAM says:

    San Diego (which I believe means a whale’s vagina):

    Come for the food, stay for the freaks.

    (posts don’t get much more pop-cultury than this one.)

    Some day I’ll go too!  It’ll be the future and I’ll ride a hover-scooter…Now I’m free to see the world…

     

  3. daccampo daccampo says:

    Awesome… love the comparison to Burning Man.

    I met Sonia briefly at the iFanboy meetup at Bar Basic, and I can confirm that she’s as cool in person as her column suggests. ;) Great meeting you, Sonia!

     

    @Paul – dude, i hope you’re saving up for next year already, ’cause you had BETTER be there! 

  4. soniaharris soniaharris says:

    Wow, you’re too kind. Really. Thank you. It was great to meet you too.

    But Bar Basic was LOUD, are you sure we talked? Maybe we just screamed at each other and stared a lot, like in the beginning scene of 2001. That’s how I remember the evening anyway…

  5. daccampo daccampo says:

    @Sonia — Um, well yeah, I use the term "talk" loosely. It was more the screaming. And occasional pointing. "Where’s the restroom?!" "I don’t know! Ask Conor!" "It’s an honor?!" "No, I said Conor!" That sorta thing. ;)

     

  6. BrianBaer BrianBaer says:

    I already can’t wait for next year. I have no experiences like Burning Man to compare it to, but any place where Stan Lee can say hi to me at a bus stop and I can wait in a Starbucks line behind Brian Azarello and J.G. Jones is alright with me.

    Great article.

  7. English says:

    Another great article Sonya. sounds like you had a whirlwind of a con. glad to hear how much fun you had it makes me kinda jealous that ive been going to con for years but only now have a started meeting people and you already have met so many. Any way it was great meeting you at Bar Basic last Friday and talking about Alan Davis’s love for bad 80′s clothes.

  8. Tad Tad says:

    Excellent mini-interviews.  I say that the next time an iFanboy takes a vacation, Sonia fills in on the videocasts.  But then Revision 3 would just steal her to feature on her own show.  Great writing, Sonia.

  9. Here is a secret about me.

     Im a sucker for lists ! Like a 13 yr old girl.

  10. ohcaroline ohcaroline says:

    Before this past week, I was pretty firm that I never wanted to go to a con as big as San Diego.  But you all make it sound so fun. . . .*resolve is weakening*

    I’m really impressed with the quality of questions you had for all those creators.  I’m just now getting to the point of being able to say something beyond, "Wow, I’m a big fan" (I regret to say, those words actually left my lips in that order when I met David Simon unexpectedly in DC).  I’d love to see you do some interviews for the site in the future, since you have such a great idea of what to ask. 

    Love your column.  (I guess I could say I’m a big fan). 

  11. Conor Kilpatrick conor (@cskilpatrick) says:

    Sonia was the iFanboy staffer who had the most fun at the con.  By far.

  12. Josh Flanagan josh (@jaflanagan) says:

    Unless I have a camera and a mic, I can only say, "I like your work."  That is, unless we’ve just done an interview, and the camera is off.  9 times out of 10, that results in the most interesting conversation never caught on tape.

    It’s happened a lot.

  13. SixGun SixGun says:

    Cons are great. My goal is SDCC next year. And maybe, if I’m really lucky, the iFanboys will let me carry their camera gear for them.

  14. soniaharris soniaharris says:

    @conor: That’s ’cause I wasn’t working.

    @josh: times when I _have_ had a camera and a mic are when I can only say "I like your work."

    I’m still in awe of the job the iFanboy’s do, and it’ll be a while before they’re desperate enough to throw me in front of a camera.

    Thanks for the props everyone, it’s helping me feel less like a total dork now that I’ve been rudely thrust back into the non-comic-obsessed "real world". So you know, most of the time that I was talking to these people, I was also pretty much on the edge of wetting myself with excitement. I’m not cool about this, by any means. 

  15. ohcaroline ohcaroline says:

    Obviously, Sonia and Josh should combine their powers (like the Wonder Twins?  Or is that Firestorm?  Or the dude from Doom Patrol?  I should stop trying to make DC references) and they can ask great questions all the time.

    But, seriously, the thing that finally gave me the incentive to not just stand there and try to smile and prove I’m harmless was when my friend pointed out that, if you’ve got something specific to say about the person’s work, they know you’re not just there to get something signed and try to sell it and (theoretically at least) it’s a more rewarding experience for both of you.  So at my last con, I tried to apply this idea and ended up having some cool conversations.  

  16. valo valo says:

    Great article, if I had ever gone to Burning Man I think I would agree… mostly because Burning Man isn’t my thing. The convention hall wasn’t the only place to have good conversations, I was constantly talking to people to and from the Con. A lot of them locals. Good times.

     @ohcaroline I did that this year, I let them know that I was there to see them and they open right up.

  17. Tad Tad says:

    SixGun: My goal is SDCC next year. And maybe, if I’m really lucky, the iFanboys will let me carry their camera gear for them.

     Believe me, you do not want to go to the expense and trouble of SDCC for the first time and not see the con.  When the guys are at the con, they are working. Maybe on Sunday there’s a little browsing time but that’s it. Hit a smaller con with them.

     Conor has a list, a couple of pages long, with lines of near microscopic print or scrawl or hieroglyhs, seriously it was too small to make out.  It’s a list of people they seek to interview.  And no matter how many years they’ve done it, or how many times they’ve taped there that day, when they enter the booth of one of the majors they have to go through the protocols and get cleared by the right people as if they’re brand new to the convention.  They make it look easy but I can say that it’s darn hard when you see them working.  After a brief lunch away from the con they had to race up to their room to record then it was back for more interviews.  What is awesome this year is that they took care of themselves and managed the huge number of interviews with no voices being lost and little evident floor fatigue.  They had a rough time at the relatively mellow Wondercon so I thought SD would kill them.  Quite the opposite.  

     

  18. Paul Montgomery PaulMontgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    @SixGun & Tad – Yeah, didn’t you see what i had to endure at NYCC this year?!

    ;)  

  19. Tad Tad says:

    I did play their handler for about 10 minutes, moving them along to the DC booth, keeping them from being distracted by bright, shiny objects.   That was kinda fun but to do it seriously means that it would confuse the celebrity and booth handlers, "Wait, they have a handler?  Are they more important than my guy?"

  20. Diabhol Diabhol says:

    Having been to SDCC last year and Burning Man twice previously (and again this year), I have to agree that those comparisons are accurate…except for the art cars. Those are freakin’ awesome.

    And never, ever, will you see a pirate ship *move* across the con floor, because people would be crushed undernearth. Not so at BM. :)

    Oh, and the secret to eating at Comic-Con is to walk to the mall and eat there. Seriously.

    Still, I may return next year. Lord knows I certainly intend to compare prices…

     

  21. SteveM SteveM says:

    That Black Cat costume is so accurate I thought it was a statue at first.  My guess is that she had MANY a fanboy asking to take her picture.

  22. soniaharris soniaharris says:

    Hah, funny you should say that SteveM. I actually asked her about her costume, (which she’d made) partly because I wanted to know about it, but partly ’cause I wanted to get closer and see how well it held up under scrutiny (it held up great).

    She said it was horribly hot, and her goggles were completely steamed up, but I assured her that she looked amazing.

  23. panoz51 panoz51 says:

    Hi Sonia……..We actually met on the shuttle ride to the airport. Just from that brief conversation in the shuttle, it sounded like you had an awesome time at Comic-Con.

    Oh, I do have to disagree on one thing, there is one good thing to eat; the yummy Hot dogs(god only knows what’s really in them). I think I had three of them one day! And with all the pictures I took, I just wanna know why I never saw that Catwoman??

    Great article!!