Tuesday, July 25, 2006

SUPER REAL NOTES - San Diego Comic Con wrap up

How I Spent My Summer Vacation
This Con Wrap-Up's So Good, it's got 2 Shaun of the Deads!!

San Diego Comic Con is where I debuted Super Real, back in 2003. Yes, 2003. Back then I compiled a preview ash can, secured a small press table, and made the trip to sunny San Diego with dreams of comic book success in my head. To be honest, I don't recall how well I did that first year, but it was well under my expectations, of course looking back, it was my first step at comic book publishing, and I've come a long way since then, but the con has come a long way since then too. I think 2003 was the first year they expanded to the full size of the hall, and I don't remember, but attendance back then was somewhere between 60 to 80 thousand, with 2005 at over 100k, and this year, attendance was up again, with estimates as high as 125k. So although I was in my early stages of self publishing that first year, one thing was clear, San Diego Comic Con was the place to be, and simply a must every year, either as a publisher, creator, or simply a fan. Comic Con is like nothing else on earth for a comic book fan, it's truly amazing!

So in the time since that first con, I've developed Super Real, set up distribution into comic shops, and published two issues. It's been a long road, but one thing has been constant, the annual trek to southern California. The other constant is that I've exhibited in the small press area, and while the time is coming where I need more space and presence, it's been great being located in that area with other similar creators. I've made some great friends and had some cool neighbors among the many creators along the way, and you can't beat the opportunity the promoters of this event provide upcoming talent by making this space available at low cost, amidst the increasing Hollywood and media presence. To be able to exhibit in the industries largest, best attended, and highest profile event is a privlidge, and an exciting endeavor. 2006 was no different in that regard.

What was different for 2006 was the noticeably heavier crowds. Traditionally the Saturday of the show is the heaviest day, with crowds spreading wall to wall in all of the aisles, but this year things were busier from the get go, with Wednesday's preview night being heavily attended. The show runs 5 days, 9 hours most days, but it's never near enough time to take it all in. Especially when you consider the increasing number of panels and celebrity attendance among those. As I've seen others note, you really don't have a feel for the scope of all that's happening unless you read about it around the web. The announced appearances paled in comparison to the laundry list of stars and moguls that turned out. Who knew the director and ENTIRE cast of Spider-Man 3 would show up? Tarantino, Rodriguez, Superman's Brandon Routh, were among the many luminaries that I've heard appeared after the fact. The list goes on and on. It's an overload in every sense.

The con floor offers not just a selection of publisher's booths, but booths from ALL of them, each packed with high profile creators. Video game companies with demos. Manga publishers now bring in overseas creators. Tv studios, movie studios, the list goes on and on. I heard there were 3 major cable networks broadcasting live from the floor this year. Everything is bursting and growing, in every respect, every year.

Besides all of the panels and booths though, the coolest part about the con is that the majority of the industry is there. This year I had the pleasure of hanging out with issue 2 variant cover artist (and contributing artist on my upcoming Super Real Special), Edward Pun. Edward works for a video game publisher, and was lucky enough to be in attendance for work, so we put some of his new sketchbook (which is awesome) on the table and he sat in a little bit. (see side pic) Ed's a swell guy, and a really talented comic artist, so it was great seeing him.

Also at the show were the upcoming Super Real issue 3 variant artists, Felipe Smith (Tokyopop's MBQ - a real mad man on and off the page), and Hector Sevilla (Alias Comics LULLABY). Hector (see side pic) was a surprise because he came in from Mexico and just happened by my table (along with frequent collaborator/colorist Simon Bork) and we both slowly realized we knew each other. Issue 1 variant artist Josh Howard (DEAD@17, BLACK HARVEST) is also usually on hand at the VIPER booth, and we got to say hello, and he gave me a copy of his new sketchbook MOSH GIRLS & MONSTERS (it's really cool - thanks Josh!). Plus in the last year I've gotten set up on DeviantArt and MySpace, so there's always plenty of those friends to meet and see as well!

Which brings me to the fans new and old. It's truly an honor to have people who've picked up the book come by and get more, or bring in copies to sign, or request more sketches. Thank you so much to all of you! I also really appreciate the fans who spend their hard earned money on sketches, it's a lot of fun to see what themes and requests people come up with. Lately I've been doing lots of stylized portraits, and they usually turn out really nice. I'd have to say those are the most fun. But nothing beats getting a chance to look through a sketchbook you've been given and see all of the pages by other comic artists big and small! A couple stand outs would be an awesome Chris Bachalo in a bondage themed book, and Eric Larsen Thing! I also carry a sketchbook with me that I try and get a sketch from my friends and neighbors at cons that I'll have to share online someday...

I even had Shaun of the Dead drop by and pick up a copy of the book (well one of the Shaun's any ways)!

The biggest buzz of the con, and testament to it's growing media influence, was the upcoming movie SNAKES ON A PLANE. Tshirts and talk of it were everywhere. The display for the film featured a giant snake amidst the con floor, that people stood in line to walk through and see exclusive clips of the film! I even broke down and got one of the tshirts, as they had the con logo on them, and were, as my friend Scott Kinney put it, "The unofficial official shirt of the con!"
Regardless of how the movie is, you have to admire the marketing of Snakes, and frenzy it's stirring up over the simple, silly idea. Motherfuckin snakes on a plane indeed...

So outside the con, in the limited hours we exhibitors are given, there is networking, socializing, and sight seeing (and I suppose sleeping). The wife and I went down 2 days early and took in Seaport Village across from our hotel, and the San Diego Zoo, both firsts for us. There's no shortage of things to see and do in San Diego, and the city is small and accessible with plenty of restaurants and shops, plus the weather is usually sunny and mild (not this year though - yikes it was hot) a perfect destination. We stayed at a con sponsored hotel, The Embassy Suites (see side pic of atrium view from our floor), because not only are the rooms nice and spacious, but they offer free made to order breakfasts, and an open bar for 2 hours each evening. Yes, free breakfast - anything you want, and free booze! I repeat free booze... Can't beat that.

Wednesday night saw a quick trip to the Hyatt bar with Mario Gully (ANT) where we ran into Craig Taillefer (WAHOO MORRIS), whom I'd met last year at Wizard World Chicago. Mario was a nice guy even though I'd said something stupid to him on a message board once (and I never do that, no really, what was I thinking?). There wasn't much going on at the Hyatt that night, but we had a good talk over drinks and food.

Friday night the wife and I went out for dinner with a large group that included David Montoya (MOHO) my neighbor from the con last year, Clayton Hollifield (ALIEN BOY) a local Portland area webcomic creator, Ed Pun (Suckerpunch), Hector Sevilla (LULLABY), and Simon Bork (colorist). We ended up at the House of Blues, but that's a story for another entry... :)

Saturday was reserved for my good buddy Javier Hernandez (El Muerto) and his friends. Jav was just down as an attendee Saturday and Sunday, so we had him over in our suite on the spare bed, and had dinner. They'd picked out a Mexican restaurant in Old Town with good food and drinks that was just a train ride away. Of course it was like 108 that day, and the train picks up in front of the con so it was a capacity filled sauna of a train ride, but a train ride none the less. We all had a good time over margarita (but we skipped the $20 bucket-o-guacamole), and then Jav and I had a never ending journey back to the hotel that included an impromptu train exit at Little Italy, trek by foot across town, and a midnight freight train barring our access to the hotel a mere half block away... good times!

Sunday night was our last in town, for once not having to catch a flight directly following the show, so Tami and I headed back to the hotel for one last shot at the open bar and snacks. While there, we were sitting next to a larger group of Marvel artists and their friends. Mark McKenna (Banana Tails) and uber friendly Englander Malcom Bourne (occasional graphic novel writer and comic art collector) were nice enough to chat with us.

As it turned out, my friend Hector was not only at our hotel (along with half the other people I mentioned it seems), but he and Simon were only a couple doors down on the same floor with a large group of various other creators. So that night we got together in the room for some authentic Mexican tequila and talked con, comics, and anime till we all about passed out from exhaustion!
The final capper on the best Comic Con yet!

Thanks again to all my friends and fans that I met and saw at the con, it was great!

So there you have it!
My exploits in San Diego condensed into one handy blog entry with pics and details.
It's hard to believe it's only a memory now...
but my Comic Con content for you isn't over yet! I'll have some Con Swag entries, showing off goodies from the show, and the wrap up from the awesome dinner at House of Blues, complete with a sketches from all the artists at dinner!


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