Friday, July 25, 2008

Live from San Diego!

UPDATE (07/27/08):
I've just returned from this year's San Diego Comic-Con International, and it was another crowded and frenzied affair! I met plenty of fans both old and new, and sold a lot of back issues and copies of my newest issue, Rob Hanes Adventures #11.
I plan to post my usual report and photogallery of the show shortly. In the meantime, below are some photos and comments posted live from the show...

I have little time to report anything substantive, other than to say that this show will no doubt be seen as another huge monster success, in terms of the number of attendees and the frenzied coverage it will receive. As always, many comic-book companies and entertainment companies have waited for the Comic-Con to make many major announcements. It's only Friday and I already feel tapped—and tomorrow is Saturday, traditionally the busiest and craziest day of the convention!

Anticipation for the Watchmen movie seems to be the main buzz of the show. On Friday (July 25), a packed audience was treated to the preview and a panel discussion with the director and the movie's stars. Cartoonist and new director Frank Miller was also on hand to present a extended clips from his upcoming Spirit film. (All this was just reported to me, of course, since I worked at my booth most of the day!)

Actors/celebs I spotted on the floor include Simon Pegg, Robert Culp, William Katt, Lou Ferrigno, Breckin Meyer, and, from The Office television show, stars Mindy Kaling, B.J Novak, and Melora Hardin. (Kevin Spacey, Keanu Reeves and Paris Hilton also have made appearances here.)

The other big news—though peripherally related to the convention—was the closure of the Interstate 5 freeway into San Diego on the first day of the show (Thursday, July 25), due to a car accident that occurred at 5 a.m. People I spoke with who drove in to the show from various points in L.A. got stuck in their cars for 5 to 7 hours, compared to the 2 it took me to drive down early Wednesay morning. My wife and children usually come down Thursday—a day after me—but this year they fortunately came down Wednesday afternoon and saved themselves a lot of grief and frustration.

Anyway, below are some preliminary pics from the show (you can click on them to see them full-size and in more detail).

With this head of thick curls, my wife could not resist dressing up our little boy as a hobbit...

Beam me up, Scotty!

Imperial stormtroopers

People dressed as Indiana Jones are a dime a dozen at the convention,
 but I just had to take a pic of this pair who came as Indy Jr. and Sr.

The batcycle...

Striking a pose...
Traffic at the convention center at 8 in the morning, hours before the doors officially open!

Ready for another busy day!

Monday, July 21, 2008


WCG Comics: Booth S14 in the Small Press Pavilion
(off of Aisle 1400, Exhibition Hall B1/B2)

Geekdom's biggest party begins July 24 and WCG Comics will be there for its 11th appearance as an official exhibitor (and something like the 25th+ time as a member of the hoi polloi).

In cased you've missed my stab at a stealth campaign about my appearance, you'll find the WCG Comics booth among the sea of exhibitors in Booth S14 in the Small Press Pavilion on the main convention floor (off of Aisle 1400, Exhibition Hall B1/B2, against the west wall).

Come by and say hi, hang out, meet my family, pick up the latest issue of Rob Hanes Adventures, and find out what's up next for the House of WCG.

If you can't make it, check back, I may be able to post a blog or two from the convention. I'll definitely have my usual report with photos after the show!

Otherwise, see you there!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Countdown to San Diego 2008 (Part 5): Program Art

Every year the organizers of the San Diego Comic-Con International invite people to submit art and articles for the show’s program focused on any of the various theme’s of that year’s show. The themes are usually connected to the anniversary of some character or series.

I’ve always enjoyed submitting these contributions which, in the best comics tradition, I have used as an opportunity to crossover my own character, Rob Hanes, with other features. I like to think the Comic-Con people enjoy them too since my art often gets nicely featured in the final program.

Below is my contribution to this year’s program honoring the 25th anniversary of Howard Chaykin’s American Flagg. Flagg was a real watershed series for me in that its appearance helped reinvigorate my interest in comics again. It debuted when I was in college and it helped make First Comics one of the first successful comic-book companies that provided a viable alternative to the mainstream “Big Two” publishers. It gave me real hope that a series like my own had a chance to find an audience. (American Flagg will be the subject at a later date in my occasional posts entitled “A Look Back” that examine some of the comics that influenced me when I was growing up.)

You can click on the image to see it full size.

I’ve had the fortune to interact with Flagg’s creator, Howard Chaykin, a few times. These include a time when some buddies of his brought him by my table, and he told me “Everybody’s been telling me your work looks like Toth and I should take a look!”

Tootin' My Own Horn...

Just thought I'd mention that Heidi MacDonald made a nice mention of my upcoming issue and carried an announcement about my forthcoming appearance at Comic-Con! You can find it here.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Countdown to San Diego (Part 4): Good Eats!

As the San Diego Comic-Con has gotten bigger, one of the big impacts has been the spillover into the local area. It is now notoriously difficult to get a hotel room in the area at convention time, and rooms are priced in line with demand. Similarly, since the San Diego convention center feeds into the trendy Gaslamp District, the local area restaurants are packed at dinnertime right after the show closes each evening. As such, over the years, I’ve discovered a few “tricks” of avoiding long lines at eateries.

(By the way, I'm not covering fast food here—as I've gotten older, fast food just doesn't have any appeal to me at dinnertime. Regardless, fast food restaurants during Comic-Con likewise get very crowded, particularly given the infamous penny-pinching ways of the fanboy crowd.)

First off, of course, avoid the Gaslamp’s main drag on 5th Street at all costs. For the unimaginative, the bars and upscale restaurants immediately draw the crowds and long waits. Yes, there are good restaurants and I guess it’s fun to “see and be seen,” but there are also plenty of terrific restaurants just one block over. Even better, take a short cab ride up to Little Italy where it's even less crowded and there are many great restaurants.

Since I go every year, I've compiled a list of restaurants and their addresses so that I can remember the locations of many of these small restaurants. Last year, I ate at Indian, Italian, Japanese, and Afghani restaurants! (Sorry, that restaurant list must remain a state secret!)

It’s well known that you should avoid buying food at the convention center due to the high cost, long lines and poor quality. It’s surprising that given the size of this show that the food selection is so limited and low quality, even by the standards of such facilities. Most people bring food in, go out for lunch, or use the Ralph’s supermarket across the street. But if you have no choice, there is a Greek cart there every year that is good and affordable. I noticed it occasionally changes locations each year (it used to be up in the open pavilion area), but the last few years it's been at the far north end of the center (i.e., around aisle 100). There's never the kind of line like you see at the regular concession stands. Better yet, plan ahead and order a takeout lunch at one of the local restaurants that are open in the morning (I know the Ralph's across the street is popular for this.)

Finally, if you're not in a rush to get home and want to avoid traffic going out of San Diego if you drove, I found it's worth it to grab some dinner before you hit the road on the Sunday evening after the show has ended. It gives you time to relax and decompress before the drive home, and the restaurants are less hectic and, in fact, pretty dead—that’s when I usually hit a restaurant on the Gaslamp! My friends and I used to have the tradition of meeting for dinner on the drive home at Anderson's Split Pea a little north of San Diego in Carlsbad, but unfortunately that closed years ago, to be replaced by a TGIFs. Which just isn’t the same I’m afraid.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Countdown to San Diego (Part 3): Planning Ahead

I have a confession to make: if I was not exhibiting at the San Diego Comic-Con International, I probably would skip it this year. Except for the year 2000 when I was married and on my honeymoon, I have attended every convention dating back to the mid-1980s—and since the early '90s I have attended as a professional and/or exhibitor. Attending the convention is exhausting enough as it is, imagine what it's like to work it. I could use the break!

As I've said many times at my Comic-Con reports of previous years, the show is an exercise in sensory overload. The main draw for many attendees nowadays seems to be simply to be able to say they were there, rather than for the comics—the spectacle of the event itself, rather than the content, seems to have become a major appeal of the show. In keeping with the rise of geek culture, the Comic-Con has transcended comics and become a pop culture show. It needs to be said, though, that while some traditionalists decry this shift, I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with that—there are still plenty of traditional "old school" comic-book conventions, so it's fine to have a show like Comic-Con that is a real raise-the-roof party for all things geek. But since this show happens to be the one in my own backyard, and the one where I have established myself as a regular, it's the one I must attend each year. But I do occasionally long for the days when it was a bit more laid back and less crazy.

This is my roundabout way of providing this blog entry's main tip for attending the Comic-Con: Don't expect to attend the convention and see "everything"! Given the signings, celebrity appearances, panels, movies, movie previews, comics, etc.—and the crowds and the lines for many of these events—it's simply not possible.

There was a time (even after I started exhibiting) when I could methodically and casually go up and down each aisle over the course of a show to check out all the exhibitors and their wares. No more—the crowds in some areas are so thick that I sometimes don't even bother some areas, meaning that the crowd flow often tends to dictate foot traffic. As a result, I often lose track of where I've been on the floor.

The show has become an amalgamation of a wide range of discreet interests. While there's some overlap, for the most part it's easy to attend the show and stay safely esconced within that bubble. For example, there are some people who simply scope out a seat in the large presentation screening room that seats nearly 5000 people (which otherwise is very difficult to get into) and stay there all day sitting through one movie preview and celebrity appearance after another. There are the fans who are there just for the toys; or the videogames; the anime; the manga; to meet their artists and writers; to get autographs; to attend panels; to show their portfolio; to watch the round-the-clock sf and animated film screenings; to dress up; and to take photos of hot chicks and people in costumes. (Oh, yeah, there also are plenty of comics too.) I know people who take a day off to go to Seaworld, Legoland, or even Disneyland in order to take a break from the craziness!

So as soon as you arrive, look through your program guide—it's your bible—then plan your day accordingly. Sure, you can mix it up, but don't go in without a clear plan other than to see "everything"!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Countdown to San Diego 2008 (Part 2): Another Banner Year

As mentioned in my previous blog, I decided to create a new banner for my booth, which I had printed at Sugar House Banners (which I am happy to recommend).

The banner arrived a few days ago and, as a dry run prior to the show, I put it together in my living room this evening. It came out fairly nicely if I do say so myself—I'm very pleased with the final product. Compared with my previous booth displays (which I have included below for comparison), this was easy and quick to put together. Better yet, for the most part I was able to build the stand for the new banner using pieces from an earlier booth display! As you can see, the booth is not full length like the previous one. I realized no one could see it to the floor anyway. In addition to being the easiest to put together, it also has the smallest "footprint" of the booths I've used over the years. (By the way, you can glimpse my studio loft in the upper left hand corner of the photo.)

It looks like I'm good to go!


Booth from 2006 and earlier:

Monday, July 7, 2008

Countdown to San Diego 2008 (Part 1)

As stated earlier, I will be attending the San Diego Comic-Con International , July 24-27, for my 11th appearance as an exhibitor! (I have attended nearly every show as an exhibitor or an attendee since the mid 1980s or so, except for the year 2000—when I was on my honeymoon!) As I did last year, I thought I'd post some blogs in the run-up to the event....

Despite the minor snafus I faced trying to complete Rob Hanes Adventures #11 due to an expired scanner (as mentioned in previous posts here and here), I'm happy to report that I was able to finish the issue on time—it's currently at the printer. Thus, I can now state with a high degree of confidence that issue 11 will debut at the San Diego Comic-Con later this month.

Last year, I purchased a new banner for my booth display (as blogged about here). While I was fairly happy with the banner, it nevertheless was not very user-friendly. The banner stand did not seem very durable or sturdy, using a tension-bar system to remain upright, and it required quite a bit of jerry-rigging to get it to assemble correctly. I spent much of the convention in fear that it would collapse suddenly during the show. In addition, it consisted of two long panels that joined in the middle (effectively cutting the original image in half), and because of its odd construction, the banner never quite matched up in the middle as seamlessly as I would have liked.

Rather than attempt to try to erect the banner again, I decided to order a new more traditional banner, pictured above. The banner is 4 feet high by 5 feet long, and I hope to hang it from a traditional frame made of PVC piping. (In fact, I'll be able to construct most of the new stand from the same piping used for my booth for many years prior to last year.)

Here's hoping it will be a bit less high maintenance than the old one and last for many years!

Coming next: Tips for surviving the Comic-Con! A preview of my contribution to this year's program! A restaurant guide!