It took a while for me to recoup from my experience in light of catching up with errands and other adventures back in Chicago, but here’s my recounting of the beautiful insanity of the 40th SDCC (San Diego Comic Con).
Firstly, I have to say from my quasi-newbiesque vantage, I feel humbly privileged to have attended such a film.game.comic.art/geek.nerd.dork.dweeb.cosplayer extravaganza. Clydene Nee, Heather Lampron, Larry and Sebastian (I don’t recall their last names) were in charge of and assisted all the Artists in the Alley (a.k.a. Professionals). Without their help, the whole SDCC trip would’ve been a missed dream.
I’m aware that a very valid perspective exists which views SDCC as becoming too much of a corporate, bloated juggernaut, ousting the very vendors and spectators it initially inspired. I have to say that I would probably agree to this view had I not side-stepped my calling into the field of comics by secluding myself into the self-destructive hours and creative vacuum of video games for about 12 years of aching, business models and miserable, pre-production timetables. Aside from shining creative moments working at Studio Gigante on Tao Feng and meeting some talented artists & programmers, I can’t say it’s been a memorable time in my life. I do whatever it takes to replace those stressful memories with more pleasing ones. Although one can learn just as much from failure, if not more, than many do from success.
Since, the last time that I visited a much calmer San Diego Comic Con during the summer of ‘92 with creative companions Alex Ross (who at the time was shopping his idea for MARVELS), John Tobias (whose Mortal Kombat was just hitting the arcades), Tony Goskie, Tim Coman, and John Vogel (the other portions of the talented Mortal Kombat team), I’ve never witnessed such a frenzy of freaks and business hawks.
I missed the Sneak Preview Night on Wednesday (6/22/09) due to my poor flight managing skills, but managed to make it on opening night Thursday with the help of my flight attendant girlfriend, Martha and my sister, Cindy. They both thankfully put up with my BS and did what they could to help me on my journey.
My table was situated (at FF-07) next to and across from several people whose talent I deeply admire and respect. Hilary Barta sat to my left, Bill Reinhold sat to my right, Sergio Cariello sat across from me and Seth Estrada sat behind me. There were plenty of other extremely talented individuals 2 steps further from me including Mick Gray, Larry Marder, Sanford Greene, Dustin Nguyen, Paul Guinan, Anina Bennett, Fancesco Francavilla and many others I wish I had a moment to greet further. My time at SDCC was very constricted to the table I was assigned. For me, it was more a place to meet and greet (network) all the potential spectator souls to infect with my visions than it was to party and grok. My main objective was to simply connect with anyone interested in hearing/seeing a voice in a sea of millions.
It was almost effortless to have accidental brushes with talent and genius (as well as body checks from crowds of backpacks, odd smells and poster tubes). Here are just several unintentional encounters that I found intriguing and enjoyable:
• Someone (I seem to remember his name as Bryan) brought 2 copies of DC Showcase 93 for me to sign. My fist “official comic” that was edited by the late Neil Pozner at DC and inked by Kevin Nowlan – fun times.
• Rushing to get a Percy Lego Set for my son, Maximiliano, I ran across a somewhat inconspicuous booth with Brett Spiner and Leonard Nimoy about 4’ away from me. I tried to smuggle a quick snapshot on my slow-ass picture-taking cell phone, and was immediately yelled at to Shoot-and-Scoot™ by SDCC security who didn’t want a crowd creating traffic. Now, since my über Spock and Data-fan, girlfriend Martha couldn’t make it to SDCC, I wanted to lift up her spirits by purchasing signed photos for her from both stars. The line was incredibly short and I went through fast. I overheard the picture-taking rules while waiting my turn: Mr. Spiner charges for photos, but Mr. Nimoy will take a picture if you ask him nicely and if he’s compelled to do so. I took a chance and explained my situation to Mr. Nimoy about how Martha could not make it to SDCC due to packed flights even though she's a flight attendant. He quickly and happily agreed to be video-taped on my cell: “Hi Martha! This is Leonard Nimoy! Wish you were here!” with complete heart and conviction. It made her day and mine.
• Wesley Snipes (smooth cat and NOT in jail – get this man into a BLACK PANTHER movie ASAP) and his bodyguard Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lester (who many remember as Deebo from FRIDAY or the “President” from THE 5th ELEMENT) – yes, that guy is his fucking bodyguard -- walked past the aisles of Artists’ Alley tables checking out the wares. I tried to get a picture with both of them, but ‘Tiny’ shooed me away: “Not right now, man. We gotta keep movin’”. It would’ve been cool though, I told myself as I returned to my seat pwned.
• Scott McCloud (UNDERSTANDING COMICS, MAKING COMICS, and REINVENTING COMICS) chatting it up with Hil Barta. He called me over and I had a chance to thank him for doing his best to acknowledge the power of a medium many are still barely discovering.
• Thomas Lennon (THE STATE and RENO 911) surveying the tables. He didn’t seem too interested at what he was seeing.
• Ed Brubaker (CAPTAIN AMERICA, DAREDEVIL, CRIMINAL, etc…) also surveying the Artists. He also didn't seem too intrigued by the art.
• The G4 booth like cloud city hovered in front of packed crowds as Olivia Munn and Kevin Pereira did their thing. Each time I had a moment to use the restroom I got a glimpse of them interviewing Jon Favreau, Seth Green, or Elijah Wood, respectively.
• I was given a pass to see “THIRST” (director Park Chan-wook’s vampire flick) while walking the packed downtown area to find a pub to eat with my good friends Bob Argent and Gregor Bond; the theater was across the street from the pub and as my friends called it a night I went alone to witness the masterful horror. I saw massive lines for THE COLLECTOR and BOOKS OF BLOOD, but had more of a desire to witness the dementia of Park Chan-wook. Joe Lynch (Wrong Turn 2 and horror aficionado) hosted the preview of THIRST which also featured an unexpected live appearance by the director Park Chan-wook after the conclusion. The film was very poetic and showed the dangers of true freedom. It was a bit oddly edited, but it ranks up there as one of the better vampire movies you’ll see, especially in its subtle uses of the mythology as in LET THE RIGHT ONE IN. Park Chan-wook had some interesting things to say (with the help of a translator), but the main point I carried away and completely agreed with is the need to free films and oneself from the prison of genres. Korean films seem to have an incredible grasp of the fusion of many genres and I wholeheartedly want to see more films like THIRST (THE HOST, SAVE THE GREEN PLANET, etc…) invade our theaters and screens.
I also had a chance to meet some not as famous, but great new and old friends -- several from EA Chicago and Studio Gigante. In particular Josh Lange and his wife Tina, who made my stay there very hospitable. I’m grateful they both gave me the time and companionship to make it an even more pleasing visit to San Diego.
My intentions for the event was to make headway for myself as a presence in the world of comics/illustration, which I’ve been so missing from for many years. I didn’t sell much, but that wasn’t too surprising considering the high prices (due to the expected crowds/tourists), my relative obscurity and the tough economic times. The economy and corporate growth of SDCC seems to be the core of many of the complaints from veteran exhibitors. However, I have to say that unless people begin changing the dynamic of profitability somehow with innovative DIY currency and bartering, I don’t see the future of SDCC being immune from capitalistic bubbles plaguing our world. It’ll take people with time and effort to come up with creative solutions. I highly recommend Douglas Rushkoff (in his book LIFE, INC.) for a start.
In spite of the financial issues, I was happy that many of my business cards were swept away (about 300 of them). I also managed to give away many freebees including sketches and some tattoos. I loved seeing the look in the kids’ faces as they filled up their sketch books with all the cool drawings; even if they had no clue who the artists were that drew them. It was just a joy to see them glow.
It’s tough to fight in an ever increasingly cluttered market that has many people vying for the top spots of attention from the masses. In a self-imploding and increasingly dangerous society there’s still room for the bliss of creation and recognition.
Fame is a trap, but so is ignoring one’s creative catharsis.