My name is Eric, and I'm a recovering Comicon attendee.
Okay, that's a loaded opener and implies that I had an unhappy experience this year. I didn't; I just couldn't resist. But my way of navigating the show and finding ways to make it more enjoyable have definitely evolved over the years. I've been to every Comic-Con but one since sometime in the early-to-mid-1980s (and I'm only 39 -- you do the math), long before the current convention center was built. I've gone as a child, an adult, a fan, a retailer representative, a journalist, a publicist, and a publisher. I know my way around the show. And the way that I've found I can make the best of it anymore is, frankly, by making the least of it. I've given up on trying to soak in as much as I can and find I'm happier if I let go and try to soak in as little as I can. Work the booth, talk to fans, enjoy a few quiet dinners, go to the Eisners. That's about the extent of it. Forget walking the floor, forget hitting the best parties, forget cramming as much into as little time as possible. It's madness, and my body can't take it anymore.
So, Mike Baehr has already chronicled the Fanta goings on at Comicon far better than I ever could -- I still can't figure out how Mike had time to take pictures and tweet all day, every day, while he was also constantly helping customers and our authors and barely had any breaks for about six days straight. Mike rules.
But here's what I can tell you: On behalf of all of the Fantagraphics staff, I really want to thank everyone who came all the way down to our end of the hall with a little bit of money left in their wallets and bought some books from us. When you think about it, what with all of the hundreds of thousands if not millions of items that are for sale at Comic-Con, to know that enough people find what you're doing worthwhile enough to cover our significant expense of exhibiting is really kind of incredible. I say that as someone who knows our books are great; I just don't necessarily expect anyone else to agree with me. So when you do, well, it makes us feel good, and I know I can speak for everyone we had down there that we honestly enjoy talking to the people that read our books. We have a lot of really nice customers. My biggest fear about Comic-Con is that it is getting so big that casual comics readers unwilling to make plans a year in advance are getting squeezed out by hardcore fans who only want to see Twilight panels or whatever. That's not to sound anti-Hollywood; it's just the reality of the logistics of Comic-Con anymore.
That said, I kept telling folks all weekend that even though it's in my nature to complain, I had almost nothing to complain about in regard to this year's show (which I realize makes for a boring con postmortem). Yes, I find it weirdly condescending and annoying that every retail worker in downtown San Diego now seems to wear some generic comics-related t-shirts or capes for five days straight (especially when you know they're being forced to do it and probably resent it every bit as much). But so be it. When I go to a nice restaurant downtown, I can promise you that I'm not so hungry to relive my day on the floor that I need Green Lantern-themed cocktails or steaks named after the wild creatures of Pandora. But I will be famished enough to forgive it.
Oh, sure, I could complain about "Hollywood," I suppose. At the Eisner Awards, I was sitting with two nominees in one of the categories that the cast of Scott Pilgrim presented. Given that one of the other nominees actually was a Scott Pilgrim book, I guess I could complain that the presenters effectively eliminated any element of surprise over who was going to win. But really, we just thought it was funny. If you can't laugh during the Eisners, you're in for a long night.
So, I can dig it. My 13-year-old con-going self would have stabbed somebody in the eye to see a panel about an Avengers movie. Nowadays, I'm fairly ignorant to the pervasiveness of the cult of celebrity of Comic-Con. I'm good at tuning things out. This year, I noticed the creeping influence of tinseltown less within the show than I did outside. As soon as I stepped outside the convention, that's where I felt the constant, sensory assault of shameless hucksterism, with sidewalk salesmen shoving video game and movie-related hype left-and-right into my face and hands whether I wanted it or not (I didn't). The con itself is a breeze compared to walking up First Ave. on Saturday night at 7PM.
Within the con, I keep to the comics end of the floor and rarely set foot more than a row or two past our own aisle towards the "popular" end of the show. It's civil and peaceful; everybody likes each other. And if you get bored, there's a lot of good books to read, and a ton of really great cartoonists who will do free drawings for you. If you come next year, see for yourself. And if you came this year, thank you.
Carol Tyler brought some amazing collectibles to sell, including copies of You'll Never Know Book 1 signed by her dad (the "Good and Decent Man" himself) and a copy of the Twisted Sisters compilation signed by every contributor:
• Interview: The Minneapolis City Pages talks to Zak Sally about the "2nd Annual Report," a big old hootenanny celebrating and benefitting his small press imprint La Mano which took place at Eclipse Records in Minneapolis last week (which we found out about too late to Flog, dang it): "La Mano is what it is, the stuff I love. A celebration of stuff that people make and create by hand. Last year was great, and if every year there could be a sort of one spot where all that stuff is able to happen in, I'm happy as a pig in shit!"
Brother Mario made a surprise appearance with the rest of the Hernandez clan for their Love and Rockets signing on Friday morning, which I only managed to capture with my crummy, crummy cameraphone.
Moto Hagio was joined for the second half of her signing by Carol Tyler, who brought flowers swiped from outside the convention hall.
Andrei Molotiu and Stephen DeStefano made their first Comic-Con signing appearances with us. Andrei, though best known for his work with abstract comics, is also a whiz with the representational sketch, as he proved in my sketchbook. Stephen obliged another fan with a 'Mazing Man sketch.
I missed getting any actual photos of Johnny Ryan & Esther Pearl Watson during their Friday signing, but here's their whiteboard sign-in. Esther's is particularly funny if you know the secret symbolic code from Unlovable.
Friday's final signing was a special treat as Blake Bell was joined by Wendy Everett, daughter of Bill Everett, subject of Blake's new book (and an almost-immediate con sell-out) Fire & Water.
I thought I could keep up with Online Commentary & Diversions while at Comic-Con. Ha ha ha ha ha.
• Coming Attractions: At Robot 6, Chris Mautner takes a look through the 46 (!!!) upcoming books listed in our Fall/Winter catalog (note: listed release dates may no longer be accurate and are all subject to change)
• History/Profile/Review: "What A Drunken Dream reveals is an author whose childhood passion for Frances Hodgson Burnett, L.M. Montgomery, and Isaac Asimov profoundly influenced the kind of stories she chose to tell as an adult. ... For those new to Hagio’s work, Fantagraphics has prefaced A Drunken Dream with two indispensable articles by noted manga scholar Matt Thorn. ... Taken together with the stories in A Drunken Dream, these essays make an excellent introduction to one of the most literary and original voices working in comics today. Highly recommended." – Katherine Dacey, The Manga Critic
• Review: "Anyone interested in the historical development of manga and the women who’ve contributed to the art form should read this book. I hope A Drunken Dream sells well enough for Fantagraphics or other publishers to consider putting out some of Hagio’s longer works. Her short stories are great, but I’d love to see what she does with a longer storyline." – Anna Neatrour, TangognaT
• Plug: "What Osamu Tezuka is to shonen and seinen manga, Moto Hagio is to shojo manga -- a true innovator who challenged and stretched the conventions of the medium by created touching, memorable and truly artistic comics stories. ... Fantagraphics had copies of the absolutely gorgeous hardcover edition of A Drunken Dream available for sale at their [Comic-Con] booth..." – Deb Aoki, About.com: Manga
• Interview:The Comics Journal's Shaenon Garrity sat down with Moto Hagio & translator Matt Thorn for a conversation at Comic-Con International: "I find it very embarrassing to read my very early work, but when you see the stories arranged chronologically it gives a good overall impression of my career. In Japanese, too, it’s common to present an author’s works in a sample spanning his or her whole career, so it’s turned out very much like that."
• Review: "Deadpan dialogue, drawings that move from panel to panel with the strange and deliberate force of kung fu performance art, and a subtle interweaving of humor and angst come together to make [Werewolves of Montpellier] a brief knockout of a book." – Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
• Review: "...[T]his cartwheeling shaggy-dog story begins, like a lot of metafiction, with the semblance of reality... But by the time a frog demon reanimates a 19th-century French peasant whose brains it has eaten, it’s fairly clear that Deitch is making stuff up. The fun of [The Search for Smilin' Ed] is the way it constantly darts back and forth across the line between genuine show-business lore (a favorite Deitch theme) and delirious whole-cloth invention. There are stories within stories, unreliable explainers, secret passageways that lead from one part of the tale to another." – Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
• Review: "Wally Gropius is a book that’s constantly lying to the reader, with a terrifying chaos roiling just immediately below its surface. The book is a flood of visual and textual information, but the information itself is near constantly false. ... For me, it’s a book that lies constantly, that lies at its very core, but that nevertheless ends up getting at a greater truth of things. And so, yeah: I thought that was pretty neat." – Abhay Kholsa, The Savage Critics
• Review: "There’s more derring-do [in Prince Valiant Vol. 2: 1939-1940] than you can shake a sword at! Foster’s stories are filled with vivid, colorful characters, none more engaging than the aptly named Valiant and his never-ending quest for adventure. The artwork is breathtaking. Foster’s figures are handsome and graceful whether eating a sumptuous feast or fighting on a crowded battlefield. ... Even if the age of chivalry is not your flask of ale, Foster’s art and storytelling will win you over." — Rich Clabaugh, The Christian Science Monitor
• Review: "This book is why Fantagraphics is one of the best and most important comic publishers in the business today. [Blazing Combat] is a series that could have easily been forgotten to the ages but Fantagraphics always is at the forefront of making sure important works of sequential art are remembered. ... This is a brilliant collection of stories that should be required reading. Intelligent, gripping stories and fantastic art! Grade A +" – Tim Janson, Mania and Newsarama
• Review: "Formally inventive and emotionally acute, Bottomless Belly Button indeed proves to be all those things: as fascinating and affecting a depiction of family ties as Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections or Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums." – Ed Park, Los Angeles Times
• Plugs: Alex Carr of Amazon's Omnivoracious blog has Weathercraft by Jim Woodring ("I am woefully ignorant when it comes to Woodring’s Frank comics, and this looks like the weirdest place to start") and Dungeon Quest Book 1 ("After The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book, I will read anything Joe Daly produces") on his summer vacation reading list
• History: For the Los Angeles Times, Ben Schwartz compiles an oral history of the 1980s heyday of L.A. alternative comics with Matt Groening, Gilbert & Jaime Hernandez, David Lynch (!), and Gary Panter
We had a flurry of exciting celebrity shoppers toward the end of the day:
Above, Fire & Water author Blake Bell meets the television & movie actress of the oddly similar name Lake Bell and the world does not implode, possibly due to Lake's boyfriend, comedian Nick Kroll, executing the perfect photobomb.
Here, Nick strikes a perfect mirror-image pose with one of two Drew Friedman books he picked up while Tom Spurgeon botches his photobomb.