I’m back home after a fun time at the 2017 San Diego Comic-Con, my fifteenth in seventeen years. I’ll hit some of the highlights here while it’s still fresh in my mind.
For the first time in several years, I arrived early (waaaaaay too early) on Wednesday morning so that I could attend Preview Night at the convention. As always, I was staffing the booth for the Cartoon Art Museum, and this was the eleventh year of our annual sketch-a-thon fundraising event where talented artists drew at our table in exchange for donations to the museum.
My hotel roommates this year were a who’s who of fun comics, including Debbie Huey (Bumperboy), Ben Seto (Skullbunnies), and Wahab Algarmi (The Society of Unordinary Young Ladies). We grabbed a late lunch after they set up their tables at the convention center, and had a fun afternoon talking comics before the convention floor opened up to attendees. Wahab and I were nearly trampled when the doors opened and we were caught halfway between our booths and Hasbro’s, but we lived to tell the tale.
I grabbed dinner that night with some new friends from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and Jody Houser, an incredible comics writer (which is a great thing) and a huge fan of my wife, Shaenon K. Garrity (which is even better). We had a fun night talking comics, and thanks to Lyft, we had dinner in a part of San Diego that I’d never visited before. Not surprisingly, it’s rare that I venture more than about six blocks away from the convention center when it’s time for dinner, since friends and I are always tired and on foot when the show wraps up each day.
Thursday, July 20
I spent almost the entire day manning the Cartoon Art Museum’s booth, so it was a “slow” day, for the most part, hanging out with artists and updating people on the museum’s relocation efforts. I got to attend the Scholastic Books annual party in the evening and caught up with a few friends there, but for the most part, it was an ease-into-Comic-Con kind of day.
Friday, July 21
I signed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History for my publisher, Insight Editions, at their booth on Friday morning. For a book that’s been out for three years already, we still managed to sell quite a few copies while I was there, and I think the rest sold out when Kevin Eastman signed books for Insight the next day. I got to catch up with my editors and their publicity team, and had a nice time catching up with everyone.
Later that afternoon, I moderated my first panel of the weekend, Condemned to Repeat?, a look at biographical and autobiographical comics featuring Sarah Glidden, Box Brown, Nathan Hale, John Holmstrom, Lewis Trondheim, and Brigitte Findakly. It was a fun discussion, although hampered somewhat by the need to go through an interpreter for Lewis and Brigitte. The panelists were sharp and talented, however, and it made for a fun discussion. I’d give the panel a “B,” if I were assigning a letter grade.
That night, I attended the Eisner Awards, and I scored a seat at the Valiant Comics table thanks to Jody Houser. The Eisners are always fun, especially since the organizers added live music and celebrity presenters to the festivities. Although Jody went home empty-handed, the award in her category went to Jeff Lemire’s comic Black Hammer, and this was his eleventh nomination and first win. This was Jody’s first nomination, and I’m sure she’ll be up on the stage getting her own trophy soon enough.
Several friends won awards, but the most memorable for me was Jason Shiga winning for Demon. His editor, Mark Siegel, called him from the stage, as Jason was in France at the time, and Jason delivered his acceptance speech over the phone from thousands of miles away. It was an incredible moment, especially since Shaenon and I had seen that comic during every stage of its development, including its pre-development, and I remembered all of the publishers and agents who warned Jason that the comic not only wouldn’t sell, but it would potentially damage his career, due to the graphic nature of the book. No one would have predicted an Eisner Award and a publishing contract with First Second a few years ago, and now I’m not going to be surprised when I see Jason onstage accepting an Oscar for the film adaptation.
The Eisners after-party is one of my favorite activities at the convention each year, as I get to catch up with more friends at one time than at any other event at the convention. I got to shake hands with award presenter Thomas Lennon after he bumped into me on his way out of the building, and I’ve been a fan of his since You Wrote It, You Watch it debuted on MTV 20-something years ago. I also got to shake hands with William Messner-Loebs, winner of this year’s Bill Finger Award, and to thank him for his contributions to some of my favorite comics in the nineties, including Flash and The Maxx.
Saturday, July 22
Saturday was all about the panels. First up was the Harley Quinn 25th Anniversary panel with Paul Dini, Amanda Conner, Chad Hardin, Alex Sinclair, Frank Cho, moderator Jimmy Palmiotti, voice actress Tara Strong, and me talking about Harley Quinn in front of 500 audience members. It was a blast, and being up on stage was the only way I was going to have a good seat for a panel like that. We revealed Amanda Conner’s incredible cover art to my forthcoming book The Art of Harley Quinn, and I’m sure we picked up at least a few sales thanks to the panel discussion.
As soon as that wrapped up, I had to wade through a sea of Harleys to go across the hall to moderate my next panel, Unconventional Comics, with R. Sikoryak, Melanie Gillman, Gemma Correll, and Simon Hanselmann. It was a fun group, and R. (jokingly) gave me a hard time about the title, since he didn’t think the panelists were producing anything that was truly unconventional. It’s always good to have some banter like that onstage, and it made for a fun conversation. The panelists were all very animated and entertaining, and I’ll give myself an A-minus for this one.
A couple of hours after that, I moderated a spotlight on Insight Editions new Insight Comics imprint, launched by my Harley Quinn editor Mark Irwin. I wasn’t able to do as much prep for this one as I’d have wanted, but it was mostly an opportunity for me to help the panelists talk about their forthcoming comics with the new imprint, and I did a pretty solid job as the emcee. I’ll give myself an A for this one, since it was a great conversation and everyone involved, plus the audience, seemed to have a fun time.
On Saturday night, I attended a pizza party hosted by Insight Editions celebrating the launch of their new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Pizza Cookbook with guest of honor Kevin Eastman. It was fun catching up with Kevin and trying some new pizza recipes (including my new favorite, pepperoni and pickles), and getting to see some of my friends geek out with the co-creator of the Turtles.
Sunday, July 23
Sunday was a pretty casual day by comparison. I ran the Cartoon Art Museum booth from first thing in the morning until early afternoon, then made one last loop around the convention floor to buy presents and catch up with a few people I’d missed earlier in the week, like Jeff Keane, Tom Richmond, and Stan Sakai. My current tradition for Comic-Con is to schedule my flight so that I’ve got to leave the convention center at least an hour before the show wraps up, which allows me to beat traffic and to not get caught up in the last-minute panic as everyone tries to do every last thing at the convention before the final bell sounds at 5pm.
Dragged myself to the airport and, not surprisingly, ran into even more comics people on my way back, including Justin Hall, who’d just wrapped up a whirlwind day-and-a-half visit to the convention. We both agreed that it had been a crazy, exhausting convention…and that we’re already making plans for next year.
Thanks, Comic-Con! See you soon!