Stranger in a Strange Land, a 2005 Con Diary

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Part 1 - Strangers on a Train

Wednesday, July 13, 2005 - 5:30pm

The train leaving Union Station left a few minutes late and crowded. I was lucky enough to get a seat next to a young tattoo artist named Nate en route to San Clemente. He had plans to go to a tattoo convention on Sunday, but when I mentioned the Comic Con he considered changing his plans. He said he got a lot of artistic inspiration from Comic Conventions and that he loved tattooing because he gets to draw on people.

I asked him if he’d ever heard of people tattooing stories on themselves. He described Japanese tattoos, where the entire body is a story. He also mentioned the work of Nick Baxter. I handed Nate a stack of The Intimates and he was excited by the cover featuring Dead Kid Fred.

My luggage plan is either genius or idiotic. I’ve fit a smaller suitcase into a larger suitcase, and the smaller suitcase is filled with clothes. Usually, at the end of the Con weekend, I can’t make all my stuff fit into one case, so I thought I’d give this a shot.

When I get to San Diego, Jeremy (my host) is supposed to meet me, pass off his car keys and then rush off to the theater to see Macbeth with his wife Michelle. There’s a ten minute window for this to happen, so I guess we’ll have to mash all the details together on the way. When the train left five minutes late, it wasn’t a helpful thing.

For the trip down, I’ve got the Wonder Woman DVD set. I’m about three episodes away from finishing the first season, and then the commentaries. There won’t be much time to watch it after tonight, so I might as well get it out of the way now.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005 - 7:30pm

Next stop: San Diego. I always forget what a beautiful train ride it is from Los Angeles to San Diego. The sky is overcast, giving relief from the July heat wave melting Southern California sidewalks for the last week. Outside the window, the ocean opens westward into infinity. Surfers sit in the foam, waiting for the next wave.

My hosts left their car for me to find. I’ll be picking it up and getting some groceries. Wonder Woman is about to fight some cattle rustlers, while Roy Rogers takes care of his adopted war-orphans. After this, one episode left, and it features Wonder Girl!

Thursday, July 14, 2005 - 6:15am

I wasn’t planning to be awake quite so early, but I’m helpless against the morning sunlight. The sky is still somewhat overcast, over patches of blue, but it feels as if that may burn off. How hot is it gonna be? I’m looking forward to an air-conditioned convention center.

After my grocery binge last night, a whole 40 bucks, I’m going to have to be careful with my budget. I’ve set aside the cash I’ll need to get home. I have a short list of obscure back issues that need to be bought. If I don’t find everything on the list, then I’m not allowed to buy anything else. Today I’m looking for Dazzler, Spellbound, Fallen Angel and a few new releases. My host is gonna drive down to the Con today to pick up his passes and do a short run-and-gun.
I’ll be carrying the small suitcase and my backpack. They’ll start relatively empty.

Highlights from Today’s plan, in no particular order:

  • Journey into Misery, Small Press Expo N4 - Find Josh and Karakent from the Brian K Vaughan boards. We’re having a few meet-ups this weekend, and their booth is the hub for the Caballeros’ activities. Also, I’m gonna buy some copies of their mini-comic.
  • Shane McCarthy - wandering around the Convention Center is the young Australian writer behind LOTDK: Riddle Me That. I met him earlier this week, through completely unconnected circumstances (he was hanging out with a dance-friend of mine) and he said he’d be cool with an interview.
  • Jim Ottaviani - I’d been in touch with him earlier. I’d like to interview him about his long running catalog of comics, starting with Two-Fisted Science, continuing through his latest release Bonesharps, Cowboys and Thunder Lizards. Calling them Science Comics doesn’t really capture their humanity. Hopefully today I find out what makes them tick.
  • Adventures into Digital Comics, Room 3 - A discussion about a new documentary about webcomics. I know a couple guys who’ll be speaking.
  • The Firehouse, La Jolla - I’m DJing between sets of the Golden Hill Ramblers. Swing Dancing goodness!    

Time to make my first couple meals! Omelette for breakfast and veggie burger and bag of fruit for lunch.

Strangely enough, I don’t think it will take much time to do most of my list.

Friday, July 15, 2005 - 7:20am

Well, I carried my computer around all day yesterday and didn’t use it once, so I think I will leave it home today. I’ve been to Con many times, but yesterday was even more overwhelming than my first visit.

Most of the stuff I wanted, I was lucky to find in dollar bins. I couldn’t find two issues of Fallen Angel, and searched around for Kenny, a retailer who said he was driving home and would look for them. The search consisted of me circling the 700-900 area for a couple hours. I stopped looking and found him at his Nuclear booth 534. Kenny’s got a lot of cool comics, different stuff from most of the back-issue stands. He separates stuff by creator, and his stock is a bit more creator-hip. He caters to a fan who will want to find obscure Warren Ellis and Ed Brubaker books. It’s a small booth, but it always makes me feel good finding it. Especially after two hours of wandering in the wrong place.

Yesterday was the first time I bought a sketchbook at Con. I bought a lot of unplanned items, and I started early. There was a short stack of really huge sketchbooks for fifteen bucks, so I picked one up. The first purchase of the weekend, within a minute of entering the hall. The theme for my sketchbook will be “dancing” and I got anyone who had the time to sketch something in it.

Sketchbook highlights for Thursday:

  • I wondered while Chip Kidd drew a large Batman figure, and then saw the word-balloon “I’d rather be dancing.”
  • Perhaps my favorite of the day was by Seth Fisher. He drew with a brush, like Japanese calligraphy, and it was beautiful to watch. It wasn’t ‘til later, when someone was looking through my book that I noticed that the figure was bopping her head. Just beautiful.

End Part 1

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