Comic-Con International: San Diego 2007 July 24-30
Sharon and I left home later than we hoped. Hannah and Matthew were in summer school, so would not be able to get down until Friday. Traffic was flowing easily, that is until we reached Oceanside where it slowed down to about 35 mph. Still, we got to Pacific Beach in about two and a half hours. We usually lunch at Da Kine’s, a Hawaiian plate lunch restaurant. However, Da Kine’s is no longer there. In its place is Island Kitchen, another Hawaiian plate lunch place almost as good. I had the pan fried ahi poke and kalua pork. Sharon had the poke and kal bi combination.
We got to the Convention Center at about 3:00, and found a parking spot near the elevator at Hall C. It is the closest one to Hall G, where we are usually located, so it would be quite a walk. There was no line at Dealer Registration, so it only took a minute. We had our usual corner booth--4906. It took three trips and about an hour to cart all our boxes from the car to our area.
We drove over to the Hyatt and checked in. Again, everything was going smoothly. We rested a couple of hours, and got a call from Ray and Julie Feighery. The five of us (including Julie’s mother, Isabelle), went to dinner at The Strip Club, a steak house where you grill your own meat at communal barbecues. There is an age requirement because of the Alberto Vargas prints that decorate the walls. The food was delicious, but the atmosphere a bit too loud. I had two beef and a shrimp kabob. The sides are brought in bowls which we all shared: garlic mashed potatoes, truffles and herb mashed potatoes, asparagus, and mushrooms with onions. After dinner, Sharon and I walked to Ralph’s Supermarket for some fruit and other supplies.
Holders of a four-day pass are allowed into Preview Night on Wednesday 6-9pm. It is usually less hectic and less crowded. Not this year,though. Preview Night was as busy as any typical day.
My newest trade paperback, Usagi Yojimbo Book 21: Mother of Mountains had been released two weeks prior, and the latest comic, UY 104, hit the stands today. Dark Horse had a box of the comics sent directly to the con for me. I also had the fourth volume in my sketchbook series, all the past trades, and some original art.
One of the great joys of Comic-con is the friends you make over the years, not just with other pros and dealers, but with the fans as well. Todd and Kari Shogun were there with their new son, Anthony. I first met Todd about twenty years ago, when his parents had to drive him down to the annual event. He kept his love of Usagi and is now the web-master of the Usagi website, or The Dojo as we call it (www.usagiyojimbo.com). To start off his art collection, I gave Anthony a double page spread from Usagi 100 in which his parents made cameo appearances.
Anthony Shogun and me
Writer Tristan Jones flew out from Australia. His new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles story had just been published, and he would be traveling on to Massachusetts and Mirage Studios after the con. It was good to see David McNeil from security again, and Thomas Oliver of the masquerade. The Comic-con is run by volunteers, who pretty much give up vacations to keep this annual event going.
Tristan Jones and me
Sharon, Sergio Aragones and I breakfasted at the Marriott with Denis Kitchen and his lovely wife. Their 10 year old daughter, Alexa, is an aspiring cartoonist. Well, she is more than “aspiring”. She is already published, and was, in fact, nominated for an Eisner Award this year for Drawing Comics is Easy (Except When It’s Hard), a hardcover book done when she was 7! It has great tips and insights for the real aspiring cartoonists out there.
Sergio and me
I buy a couple of paintings from Lark Pien every year. Preview Night was so busy, I never got the chance to make it to her table. She was my first stop in the Dealers’ Room. When a painting is sold, she holds on to them until after the show to display at her table. I could see that she had already sold a few prime pieces, but I got a couple of very nice paintings. Debbie Huey was at her usual table. She had a new mini-comic--Bumper Boy Learns How to Ride a Bike. Sharon did not learn how to ride until an adult, so she could relate to this. PMBQ Studios, creator of Tea Club, had a new stuffie pandas. Frank Cho and Brandon Peterson had new sketchbooks, as did Adam Hughes. Scott Morse was just around the corner from me doing some wonderful paintings.
Photographer Greg Preston came by. The Artist Within, a coffee table book of photos of cartoonists, mostly at their drawing tables had just been published by Dark Horse. It is a beautiful books, capturing the personalities of every person perfectly. I am honored to be included in this. We would be going around getting this book signed like high schoolers with their yearbooks.
Greg and Sharon Preston with me and Sharon
There were a lot of those artists just around my booth in the Illustrators and Comic Artists section--Mark Schultz, Gary Gianni, Mike Mignola, Jim Silke, Bill Stout, Matt Wagner, Joyce Chen, Art Adams, Bruce Timm, and Amanda Conner. Others, like Rick Detorie, dropped by during the con. I usually don’t bring books for others to sign, but this time I did. Besides The Artist Within, I had the new Mouse Guard hardcover, Jeff’s The Art of Bone, and a couple of Rick Geary’s Victorian Murder books. I got those signed.
Rick Detorie and me
Max Allan Collins and his son, Nate, came by. I had just finished Max’s A Killing in Comics a couple of weeks ago on my flight home from Paris. He gave me an advance reading copy of his new book, Deadly Beloved, the first ever Ms Tree novel. It goes on sale November 27, with a cover painted by Terry Beatty.
The annual Groo Panel began at 2:30, and I arrived just as they were introducing the panelists: Sergio, Mark Evanier, Tom Luth, Gordon Kent, and me. The Groo Fan Club (called The Groop) had made Groo masks which they raised in front of their faces the first few times that Sergio spoke. Very funny. We talked about the upcoming Silver Anniversary Special, the new mini-series Hell on Earth, and touched on the Groo movie. Of course, there were a lot of questions about our working relationships, our favorite issues, and non-Groo projects.
The Dealers’ Den closed at 7, and Sharon and I went for Greek food at The Greek Islands in Sea Port Village.
I had a 1:30 signing at Dark Horse. Editor Diana was there, watching out for me. The first person in line for autographs was a woman dressed as Usagi, with the make-up, tied rabbit ears, and everything. I should mention that there are a lot of costumers around, some extremely well made. After the signing, we took the annual Usagi Dojo photograph.
Dark Horse Editors Diana and Shawna with me
Usagi and me
Hannah and Matthew arrived at about 4:00. They had been driven down by Robin, one of Sharon’s staff who attends the con. They were soon off on their own. They pretty much grew up at the con. Hannah is 16, and this is already her 17th Comic-con.
The Eisner Awards ceremony was tonight, but Sharon and I were invited to the Lucas Films/Weta/Gentle Giant/Dark Horse cocktail party on the third floor terrace of the Executive Hotel. They had drinks and and finger food, including sushi. It made us appreciate how good the sushi chef at Ralph’s really is. We left with goodie bags loaded with some neat swag. On the walk back, we were stopped by a freight train that stood on the tracks for a good half hour. I remember years ago when Sergio, Mark Crilley, and I were stuck for almost an hour. Hannah and Matthew had had dinner with Scott Shaw and his family and friends, and had gotten back to the hotel just minutes before we did.
Kim "Leonardo" and me
I ran into Mouse Guard’s David Petersen who showed me the Russ Manning Newcomer Award he had received at the Eisners Ceremony. I can’t think of anyone who deserves it more. He is not only a very talented storyteller, but a nice guy as well.
David Petersen and his Russ Manning Award
We were able to score some VIP masquerade tickets for Hannah and her friends. Matthew, Sharon, and I stayed in, me to finish a few commissioned drawings. I don’t take many commissions during the con, and I usually do them overnight. The first one was a request for a bunch of my tokage lizards at a computer--not my typical drawing. The second was for Usagi charging into battle--not to difficult--on a bicycle. The Tour de France was on TV tonight, so I had some reference.
We broke down our booth pretty quickly. Between the four of us, we were able to transport everything to the Hyatt in one trip, with everyone carting light loads.
We went to the Graphitti “dead dog party”for food, fun, and post-con chatter. They had Hawaiian food this year. It was a nice way to unwind after the past frantic days.
The eastbound Pomona Freeway was closed because of an accident, so the ride back to LA took much longer than usual--about four hours. But we got back safe and sound. I wish I could go into hibernation for a couple of days, but I’m behind on Usagi 107.
The attendance numbers for this year’s con is not yet in. Last year’s was about 124,000. I have heard speculation that this year, with its three day pre-convention sell outs may be as high as 140,000. We’ll have to wait a few days to see.
Elaborate Usagi tattoo on one of the con attendees