This is my twenty-first San Diego Comic Con, and I have got it somewhat down to a science: Schedule myself silly, including setting aside time to walk from one appointment to the next, to make sure no time is wasted during this very expensive weekend. So far I’ve only discovered one incident of double booking, so I’m doing quite well.
You could say that there’s nothing more grueling in the year of a comics professional than San Diego Comic Con, even though the show is about so many things other than comics.
No amount of good judgment can get you to bed before two in the morning—often far later. You find yourself talking nonstop, pitching or being pitched to. Adrenalin keeps you going throughout the show, and if you’re lucky Con Crud, the standard illness of the convention goer, only hits you after you’ve gotten home. Hopefully during the show you find time to connect with old friends, beyond just shouting over drinks in any of the increasingly widespread watering holes. Once upon a time, it seemed the entire industry congregated around the same couple of bars, but now things are spread throughout the hotels, the Gaslamp District, and beyond.
You spend the day walking the show floor, so large a space that you can see the curvature of the earth when inside the main room. At night, rubbery legs carry you for miles on a trek from one hosted bar to the next. I just got back from another somewhat draining convention—not so bad a show, really, except the eighteen-hour flight back and forth from Australia—and am not yet recovered enough to be excited enough to get on that plane to San Diego today.
Prep for San Diego Comic Con started many months ago, and the actual experience itself starts earlier and earlier. At Dark Horse, we’ve realized that with the competition from movie studios and video-game companies, it’s hard for too many comics announcements to really rise above the din of the show. Entertainment Weekly‘s detailed pre-coverage of the show barely mentioned comic books, even leaving out Walking Dead‘s #100th issue, an event you’d think they’d care about, what with the TV show. So our PR department starts scheduling announcements to roll out the week or so before any of us arrive in San Diego. One of our biggest, the 30 Days of Night/Criminal Macabre crossover, which promises to bring an end to one of these two long-running creator-owned series from Steve Niles, got great pickup beyond the initial announcement on Comic Book Resources.
I myself plan to spend much of my time at the show down the street, at Trickster (729 J Street), a happening launched last year by Scott Morse, award-winning cartoonist and Pixar story artist, to focus on creator-owned comics and the art and passion of comics, which is sometimes hard to find on the show floor proper, with the crowds and the stars and the cacophony from video-game booths. Ironic that it’s Scott, an employee of one of the best movie studios out there, creating this space for comics, but the symbiotic nature of the two industries is undeniable, and Scott made a name for himself in comics before he was at Pixar. Trickster features opportunities to hobnob with great creators, but it also provides unusual educational opportunities for the many aspiring writers and artists who come to Comic Con. For aspiring animators, the Pixar gang have a booth in the convention hall itself, reviewing portfolios from young story artists.
Another big part of the comic-book professional’s duties at Comic Con is appearing on panels. I have a few of those, though fortunately none I’m moderating, which relieves a lot of pressure. The one I’m looking forward to the most is “Drawing on Your Nightmares,” where I’ll join Steve Niles, Eric Powell, Tim Seeley, and a few others in talking about our upcoming end-of-year flurry of horror comics, including the aforementioned crossover, Powell’s return to a monthly schedule for The Goon, and a hardhitting occult mystery from Hack/Slash creator Seeley, which we’ve hyped, pretty accurately, as Buffy & Angel as Natural Born Killers. The thing I’ve been most excited about the last six months is the ramp up to the releases this fall, working closely with our Marketing department to create a unique push for these books, which also includes Mike Mignola’s Hellboy in Hell, and a new Edgar Allan Poe adaptation by living legend Richard Corben—Conqueror Worm, one of the strangest comics you’re ever likely to read.
Saturday is always the busiest day of the show, when it becomes almost impossible to walk the floor, the crowd is so thick. I don’t normally like crowds, makes the skin crawl. I seldom go to concerts or opening nights of films because of crowds. And Saturday is the day I’ll be stuck on the floor the most, including pressing through the main hall with Dark Horse’s most popular Hollywood partner, the director of the most successful superhero film of all time. I’ve walked the floor with Joss Whedon, who created Buffy the Vampire long before directing The Avengers, but I suspect this year it’ll be a slightly more hectic experience. Wish us luck.
I’ve almost certainly forgotten to pack my business cards; I always do. I’m staying in a new hotel for the first time in ten years, after our old hotel, the Hilton Gaslamp, was booked up months ago by movie studios—and I’ve once again echoed the groan of comics folks everywhere, frustrated to see our industry co-opted by Hollywood, but still eager to reap the benefits of the relationship. You gotta have a sense of humor about it