Wow. 37 years ago, I went to my first San Diego Comic-Con. My brother Greg and I, along with our friends Mike and Brian and our moms who drove us, went to the U.S. Grant Hotel. Or was it the old Convention Center? It certainly wasn’t the El Cortez, which came back for one year.
It was a lot different then–mostly Comic Book Guy (like in The Simpsons) selling back issues on folding tables. Maybe some movie posters, big little books, lunch boxes, and action figures with some Star Trek and swords and sandals vendors as well. Certainly, nothing that warranted special sections in The L.A. Times or sponsorship by Entertainment Weekly.
Despite how commercial and difficult to attend the Con has become, I still love going and it’s even better that we can take our kids. As much as I’m guilty about talking about the good ol’ days, I think this is a golden age for cosplay culture.
It used to be barbarians and Trekkies, before the anime scene evolved. Now there are more superheroes, movie characters, obscure mascots… There are probably more strong women characters than ever, too.
But even better is introducing her to friends. After attending the Con so long–including 15 or 16 years as the editor of Giant Robot mag at the booth–I’ve made a lot of friends in the indie and underground comix scenes. How cool is it for Eloise to start reading comics and meet creators like Jeffrey Brown? I got to know him through Clumsy but she and all of her peers love his Jedi Academy books.
And now that Eloise has been reading my old Mad paperbacks, she appreciates meeting Sergio Aragones even though she doesn’t realize what a legend he is to fans of comics or regulars at the Comic-Con. As for Daniel Clowes, when Eloise reads his comics down the road, I’ll show this picture to her.
I still get excited about meeting artists, too. This was the first time Garfield creator Jim Davis has attended a Comic-Con, and I not only attended a panel about his art and career but waited in line for about 90 minutes to get his autograph. I used to think his comics were cheesy but have grown to appreciate his simplicity and sincerity. Garfield is like our generation’s Nancy. And how cool is it to stumble upon Stan Sakai’s booth? Usagi Yojimbo is as indie as it is O.G.
More badasses: Paul Gulacy of Master of Kung Fu fame and Lawrence “Raw Dog” Hubbard of Real Deal infamy were in attendance. These guys are lifers and their comics are timeless manifestations of ’70s spy and kung fu cinema and ’90s gangsta rap. Where else can you meet artists like that?
I read new stuff, too. I met Keenan Keller when we worked in the Giant Robot garage and now he makes indie and underground comix like The Humans, Galactic Breakdown, and Force Majeure. Eloise won’t be touching those issues again until she’s much older. Bongo Comics, on the other hand, are perfect for her. Thank you, Matt Groening. Let’s go see a kung fu movie together soon.
And thanks to Senator John Lewis for his work in civil rights, advocacy for gun sense, and great comics. We didn’t get in line early enough to attend the panel about March 3, the final installment of his autobiographical civil rights memoir co-authored by Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell, but crashed the children’s march to the floor. How cool was it for Eloise to be a part of that?
Also, I must have taken three or four different photos with different friends and Snoopy because who is cooler than Joe Cool? Maybe Brian Flynn at Super 7?
The latest addition to Super 7’s impeccably curated, manufactured, and packaged retro toy empire is a mini figure of Steve Caballero. I interviewed the Bones Brigade skater for Giant Robot decades ago and if he doesn’t remember it he sure did a great job faking it. What a nice guy.
And what about the people behind the scenes? John Pham from Epoxy or Peggy Devlin from Drawn & Quarterly. Artists like LP or Aaron Brown who attend not to sign autographs or talk on panels but check out the Con because its a blast.
And exposing Eloise to not only gigantic statues of Marvel heroes but indie artist friends like Susie Ghahremani, Martin Hsu, and Debbie Huey is empowering and cool.
I love Comic-Con for all the people and reasons that I’ve written about but the crazy thing is that the 150,000+ other attendees love it just as much for their own reasons. They may follow different comics, television shows, movies, and other forms of pop culture but are just as obsessed.
Although Eloise is into a lot of the same stuff that I am at the moment, she’ll develop her own tastes as she grows up and I think that’s great. I just want her to be interested in culture, critical about what she consumes, and see that she has an active role in growing it and sharing it, as well as building communities. Perhaps even at Comic-Con if we can keep getting tickets…
With luck and help from friends (you know who you are), we’ll see you there in 2017.