I make a point of visiting San Diego Comic Con every year.
It’s one of the few things I enjoy about living on the West Coast. In fact, in the ten years I’ve been slugging it out in La La Land, I’ve only once missed it; the year Angelina Jolie showed up to promote Tomb Raider and the admission line led from the front of the convention center to the pier – probably all the way to the Maritime Museum as far as I know. I recall trying to find the end of the line with my wife and getting angrier and angrier as she grew more and more amused. I wound up at a Barnes and Noble purchasing a copy of Marvel’s Fantastic Firsts (which collected the first appearances of all their major league characters but for some reason included the first issue of the God-awful Wolverine: Origin instead of his first appearance in Incredible Hulk #180). That was the extent of my Comic Con that year….
Anyway, it’s grown exponentially since even then. I think the very next year might’ve been the first they began exclusively selling advance tickets and closing down those perpetual door lines. This did nothing to stem the crazy ballroom and Hall H lines, though. As a matter of fact, I missed all but one of the panels I tried to attend this year – my first as a professional with complimentary admission, thankyewverymuch. I did get to see the continuous video they were running of the new AMC series The Walking Dead, based on the very well done line of Image comics. I was not expecting much, but the trailer blew me away. It looks excellent. I think the use of ‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore’ was particularly inspired. Thank God they didn’t go with ‘Let The Bodies Hit The Floor’ or something. You can see it on Youtube here…
I had only one professional contact I wanted to make while there this year, and blew it, missing Dark Horse Books publisher Mike Richardson. I gave my novel Merkabah Rider: Tales of a High Planes Drifter to Marvel’s own Joe Quesada instead at the behest of my friends, but I don’t have very high hopes for a strict comic publisher being overly interested in a novel, despite the character’s comic book genre appeal. I think I actually saw Joe’s eyes glaze a little as I pitched the concept of a gunslinging Hasidic demon hunter to him, but God bless him he took it anyway. Maybe he’ll read it on the plane ride back to NYC.
I don’t get overly excited about most celebrities at Comic Con. They usually cause a big traffic jam. This year Anna Paquin and the True Blood crew gummed up the exhibit floor pretty good. Last year it was Keifer Sutherland’s entourage. But I did geek out a bit when I was hunting up Mike Richardson at the Dark Horse booth and wound up bumping into actor/director Bill Duke of Predator and Commando fame. The guy exuded so much cool I actually felt compelled to lower my voice when speaking to him.
Hollywood has pretty much taken over Comic Con from the comics, but I’m not overly bitter.
I guess movies do go somewhat hand in hand with the medium, but you certainly get better deals at say, WonderCon up in San Francisco, which is much more sane. I did manage to pick up a copy of Werewolf By Night #1, thus for the first time completing an entire run of a comic book series in my possession. Got it for a steal at fifteen bucks too! Doesn’t seem like much of an accomplishment, I know. Most people under the age of thirty blankly ask ‘what the hell is Werewolf By Night?’ when I mention it. It’s a seventies comic with a cool dude from California named Jack Russel (yes, like the terrier) who winds up inheriting the family curse and spends his time battling masked crazies from the late seventies Marvel universe and trying to find a cure both for himself and his younger sister, who is steadily coming of age. I try to sell it with ‘Oh it’s got the first appearance of Moon Knight in it.’ To which most reply ‘Who the hell is Moon Knight?’ C’mon! The Fist of Konshu? Marc Spector? West Coast Avengers?
Anyway, I lay the blame for my love of Werewolf By Night solely with my parents, who picked up a huge pile of them from some flea market they were antiquing at when I was in about fifth or sixth grade. My grades weren’t anything to write home about and my mother announced that she would let me have a new issue of WBN every week I showed initiative in school or at home. I’ve been a fan of lycanthropes probably since I saw ‘I Was A Teenage Werewolf’ with Michael Landon, and Lon Chaney Jr.’s various forays as Larry Talbot in ‘The Wolfman’ and ‘Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman,’ so these funky little comics hit me at the right time and age. The Mike Ploog art is still beautiful, and there are some pretty memorable characters.
There’s a great recurring villain called The Hangman, this poor guy who grew up idealizing his matinee heroes at the picture show but failed the psych exams for both the military and the police force. Majorly pissed off and not a little unbalanced, he puts on an executioner’s hood and goes hunting criminals with a scythe and a noose. Not so different from The Punisher right? Except he believes that nubile young women need to be ‘protected’ from the nasty old world at large, and kidnaps them off the streets, locking them up nice and safe in his own private dungeon with a bank of cells…
I remember looking forward to every Friday, particularly when Jack Russell encountered Dracula himself in a crossover with Marvel’s more popular horror mag ‘Tomb of Dracula’ (whose counterpart issue I had to go out and find, damn those Marvel-ous Marvel Sales Moguls). Blade showed up in that one. Later Russell had a brawl (I think with The Hangman) in his own apartment, smashing through the adjoining wall into his irritable neighbor Ray Coker’s pad, disrupting his New Age-y patchouli meditation. Imagine my surprise when Coker snaps out of his hippie trance and promptly changes into a black werewolf! Oh yes! Two werewolves battling it out with The Hangman. I was in heaven. Forty three issues later Iron Man makes an appearance in a last ditch effort to save the failing comic. Didn’t work though. Ah well, I digress.
I’ve become a huge Captain Marvel fan in recent years, and seeing Billy and Mary in their old school Whiz Comics costumes sold me even before I saw the Burt Ward and Adam West Batman and Robin and the slinky Lee Merriweather Catwoman (another favorite of mine from childhood).
Let’s see, what else happened this year? Ah yes! The tattooed girls. While resting our barking dogs against a pillar my friends and I were approached by two attractive girls (so we knew right away that something was up). They were of the black hair dye and ink school, and they very nicely informed us we could, if we wanted, go to a certain website (which they had thoughtfully printed the http addy for on some handy business cards) and chat with them in the nude (they would be in the nude, not us).
“Nothing perverted or anything,” one of the girls assured us. “Just ya know, for fun.”
Chivalry abounded in my companions and they accepted the business cards, but I bowed out, saying that I doubted my wife would approve (she wouldn’t).
One of the girls then replied,
“Well, that’s why you shouldn’t get a wife.”
Interesting, I thought.
Yes, Comic Con has surely changed over the years.
Well, not too much….