SDCCI 2011 Thursday

What is usually the longest day of my year began when my alarm went off at 4 AM. I showered, shaved, dressed, had a bowl of cereal and orange juice, brushed my teeth, got my bags into the car, kissed Ellen goodbye, and drove to the airport in Philadelphia for my trip to San Diego Comic-Con International, getting to the gate around 7:40 for an 8:20 flight. I flew Southwest for the first time this year, and it was fine. Their egalitarian approach to seating was different, but worked well: no seat assignments, just a boarding order, then you choose your own seat. No first class, everyone’s equal. I connected through Phoenix where I had time for a pretty good sushi lunch, and arrived in San Diego around 1:30 PM. Took a taxi to my hotel, where they didn’t have a room ready for me yet (but I expected that), so checked my larger bag after putting the heavier stuff from my smaller bag into it, and headed to the shuttle bus to the convention center.

As usual that took a while, but worth it to save my feet, which I’ll be torturing over the next few days. As always, the weather in San Diego is gorgeous, especially in the afternoon when any morning fog has dissipated. Weather-wise, San Diego is as close to Paradise as I’ve ever been. But, of course, I’d be spending much of my time inside at the con, which I’m always a little regretful about.

After a bit of unnecessary extra walking (being too stubborn to check the map on my phone), I found the area to get my Pro badge and hit the convention floor around 2:30. As in most years, I’ll be wandering around taking in the entire con experience, meeting old friends and workmates to chat, attending a few panels and events, having dinner with friends, and generally enjoying myself, so that’s the con experience I’ll be reporting on here. Above, writer Len Wein signs a new SPEED RACER comic, which he told me he’s editing and doing some writing for. Len is also writing a few things for DC Comics again, which I was happy to hear. Most of them are sort of “retro,” and I asked him how he felt about that. Len said it’s kind of odd for him. He likes getting the work, but wonders why no one ever thinks of him for more contemporary properties.

One of the con guests I was hoping to meet is Patrick McDonnell, the writer/artist of the comic strip “Mutts,” a favorite at our house, and happily, I found him sketching his dog character at a table, and was able to tell him how much Ellen and I enjoy his strip. McDonnell lives in New Jersey, as we do, so many of his themes, like the summer beach trips, are very familiar to us, and Ellen even has an “Animal Friendly” license plate with his characters on it. He was great to talk to.

At the Heritage Auctions booth were some items on display that interested me. This is a first edition Lovecraft book from Arkham house with a beautiful dust jacket by artist Virgil Finlay that I’ve never seen before. It’s hard to imagine an artist less suited to illustrating Lovecraft, but that that aside, this is fine work. (Just the naked woman alone would have horrified the author, I’m sure.)

Next to it was this early issue of the Silver Age FLASH that I remember seeing when it was new in a drugstore when I was a kid, and I begged my mom to buy it for me, but she said no. Of course, if I had gotten it, it would not be in the nearly perfect condition of this one even if I still had it. I did get to read the story a few years later when it was reprinted in, I think, FLASH ANNUAL #1.

And to illustrate the diversity of the con, right across the aisle was a vendor selling piles of pretty nice reading copies of many great old comics for $5 or $10 each. Saw a few here I used to have as well. When I see things like this I’m tempted to buy a few to read, but usually resist the urge, as when I’ve tried rereading old comics from my childhood I’m usually disappointed.

I ran into Scott McCloud at the First Second booth, looking happy and healthy in great contrast to the last time I saw him in New Orleans, when he got quite ill. Scott reports his health is fine, with the help of some medication, and he’s doing well.

Last year at San Diego Mark Wheatley had a few of these digital paintings on display as prints, and I really liked them. He talked about how hard it was for him to get a foot in the door in this area. This year he’s got a very nice collection of them out in book form, which he was gracious enough to give me, and says he’s having much better luck getting this kind of work in comics and elsewhere. Good for him, it’s really fine stuff.

Here’s Steve Leialoha at his table in the Small Press area. Steve does publish small books of his own work, but is better known as the inker of FABLES, and sells his art for that as well. On many of the pages for sale, Steve has inked over blue-line prints of Mark Buckingham’s pencils. The art looks great, and that way both he and Mark have their original art to sell. We talked the pros and cons of this method. Some buyers want the original pencils inked, and I can certainly understand that, but these pages are nice, too.

The handsome lettering on this movie poster for early Walt Disney work caught my eye at one of the art booths.

Over in Artists’ Alley, Tom Yeates showed me some of his fine work on a western graphic novel he’s working on. It will be printed in black and white, and captures the feel of western films quite well.

I was very happy to see old friends Nick Cuti and Joe Staton signing copies of their newly reprinted E-MAN collection, marking the return of First Comics. This reprints the original E-Man run from Charlton Comics in 1973-74, a favorite of mine at the time, and I had to buy one and get it signed by them. I hope it’s as much fun to reread as it looks, I think it will be. And the reproduction and new coloring are excellent. Joe told me he still has nearly all the original art, so it was newly scanned for this edition.

I caught part of the First Comics panel, headed by company director Ken Levin. Also involved and present are designer Alex Wald, writer Max Allan Collins, and writer Bill Willingham, as well as Nick and Joe. I didn’t have time to hear more of their publishing plans, but I’ll be looking for their books.

After that I walked over to the Vertigo panel with Willingham and Collins, and listened to Karen Berger and many Vertigo creators talk about what’s going on at the imprint. I knew a lot of it, have worked on some of it, but still enjoyed the presentation and slide show.

There were plenty of other meetings and things seen on Thursday, but that’s enough for this report. After getting back to my hotel and finally checking in around 7 PM, I went to a dinner party hosted by editor Shelly Bond for the iZOMBIE team and had a great time chatting with writer Chris Roberson, artist Mike Allred, and others. The meal and conversation was great, but I was getting really really tired now, and a glass of wine didn’t help. I headed back to my room and hit the pillow around 10 PM, having been up and on the move for 19 hours, including the three extra hours from the time change. Now you know why it’s my longest day! I’ll report on Friday next.

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