(I actually wrote about 95% of this report on July 22nd, but hadn’t had a chance to go through photos until now and finish it… I’m sorry for the lateness.)

Tired, sore but I’ve got a big grin on my face. San Diego Comic-Con is over and I had a blast. More people have been added to the ol’ Newsletter list and I made more valuable contacts in the comic industry.

I stayed across the street from the convention center at the Hilton hotel with Howard Tayler (who does a web comic called Schlock Mercenary) and his friend Richard Bliss who used to work with Howard at Novell and now is in independent marketing consultation. They were both a riot to room with and the Hilton was wonderful. Each night of the con, it was euphoria to crash out on the comfy beds and relax in our room.

I arrived Wednesday morning and lucked out with a ride from the airport from Aeire (another web comic artist). After checking in, Richard took Howard and I out for sushi and we talked (what else) comics. Going to Preview Night at the con, we realized that this was going to be a mad, mad year at Comic-Con. Preview night, unlike last year, was jammed with people and even though it was only 3 hours long, it felt like a full day. Even the pro registration line was long. The Udon booth got swamped with people wanting the Street Fighter preview book. Afterwards, Howard, Rich and I played some “Grave Robbers From Outer Space” and then hit the hotel’s hot tub. I used the preview night to break in my new set of shoes, so my feet were extremely sore. I decided to use my sandals for most of the weekend after that.

Friday was even more insane. The Udon booth worked up the crowd really well and we had tons of people gathering to get sketches from Alvin Lee and Long Vo at our booth. In the midst of that, I saw some creators I knew and a couple RPG companies stopped by to follow up on contact I’d made with them at Origins. It was so crazy that Jamie (one of the Udon colorists) and I had to go get pizza for the rest of the Udon crew so we could all wolf down lunch while still manning the booth.

After the day was over, my friend Dav and I hit the Diamond distributors party. It was really slow, with obnoxious lineups for food and drink and barely even scraps at the buffet by the time we got to it. Realizing that this was just going to get more tedious, we took off and hit the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Party at a pub called Dublin Square. When we got there, we saw that Neil Gaiman, Frank Miller and Will Eisner were up on a raised section of the pub near the back, but that people were being turned away when they tried to get up there to speak to them. It was understandable given the horde of comic fans, but I really wanted to have a conversation with any of them. Figuring we’d have to give up, I bought Dav and I a round of drinks and we chilled out.

Soon after, I saw Scott McCloud and we chatted up a storm. Scott and I set up The Makeshift Miracle on that micropayment system I mentioned in my last Newsletter, so we happily talked about that and other comic stuff. Eventually, he headed up to the raised platform and just as I was going to tell him that he wouldn’t be able to get up there, he walked right up and I could see that he’d been having dinner there! One of the bar bouncers stopped me, but when I told him I was with McCloud and Scott waved me over, Dav and I were let by! Amazingly, we were just feet away from some of my favorite creators, but not really feeling courageous enough to talk to them. After a few more minutes chatting with Scott, Neil came over and started chatting with him too! I was pretty overwhelmed… Gaiman’s one of my absolute favorite writers. From Sandman to his latest novels I’ve been blown away by the man’s imagination and skill and here he was talking about a foot away from me. He stopped after a bit, and looked right at us:

“Oh hi… that was quite rude of me. I should have introduced myself. I’m Neil.” He said as he extended his hand.

My brain was boiling… I wanted to tell him “I know! You’re fucking amazing and I love your work!”

But instead my mouth said. “Oh?”

“I’m a writer.”

And with that, he left and mingled with the other people in the area. It was a total fan boy moment and I’d fallen for it lock, stock and barrel. Eventually getting up the gumption, I reintroduced myself to him and explained how incredible I thought his stuff was. It was a great little casual conversation and after it was done, Dav snapped a quick photo.

Before the night was done, I’d blabbed with Frank Miller, Jim Valentino (head of Image Comics) and a couple of the people who work at Strange Adventures, the best damn comic shop in the world. Heading out, I was amazed that this was only Day 1 of the con, and I was pumped for more. I met up with Howard, Richard and a pile of web comic artists, including the infamous 4 Toon Tellers, at which point I realized that I was decently drunk from having 3 pints on an empty stomach. Wolfing down the leftovers that they had from Mexican food right out of the doggie bag, we dubbed my filling meal “Street Mex”.

The next day was even more chaos. Tons of people came by our booth and lunchtime came up super fast as the morning was just a blur of sales and promoting at the Udon booth. I went with Howard, Richard, Scott Kurtz (PVP) and Brandon Peterson (Crossgen) out for sushi and talked all about the industry and marketing methods to increase the reading audience.

By the time the day had ended, everyone at the booth was exhausted. We’d pushed the book hard and we sold hundreds of copies to people. Alvin and Long had been sketching almost constantly, so we decided that on Saturday we’d need a more compact schedule for them.

That night, I went to the Marvel party at a hospitality suite they’d set up at the Mariott hotel right beside the convention center. It was large for a hotel room, but small for a party spot. Packed in with people, the booze flowed and I talked with writers, editors and about industry gossip and the industry in general.

Walking back to the hotel after the party, it was a still night and the air was warm. I looked up at the palm trees reflecting light from the moon and got a huge grin. The whole trip and everything I’ve been doing for the last month felt like a dream.

Saturday is the big day at Comic-Con. While the local Californians aren’t usually flooding the con on Thursday and Friday (they have jobs), Saturday they all come out along with the rest. As expected, it was the biggest day. Afterwards, we heard that over 40,000 people attended the con on Saturday, and the hordes didn’t disappoint. The booth was abuzz with sales and I promoted and encouraged passerby’s to check out the book until my voice was almost completely gone.

Scott Kurtz and I attended the Keenspot and Modern Tales web comic panels and although they were okay, I just wasn’t up for sitting still for over two hours. I barely attended any panels last year and this year was the same. I find that a lot of people who are talking at these things don’t have strong public speaking flare and the whole thing comes off as too dry. Both Howard and Joey (who MC-ed their respective panels) did their best to liven things up, but in the end I just wasn’t in to it. That may sound harsh, but it’s the truth. Other people seemed totally engrossed by the whole thing, so it was probably a matter of me being antsy, I don’t really know.

Saturday dinner was at a cool place called the “Strip Club”. It’s not full of strippers, but full of striploin steaks instead. You actually grill your own meat and lunge around in a swanky lounge-like atmosphere. Very fun.

Saturday night I attended a huge party put on by a company called IDW. They had fancy plastic badges as invitations and the whole thing took place in a beautiful yacht club. I met more creative types along with editors and other people who were loosely related to comics, movies or video games. From there, a few of us headed back up to the Marvel hospitality suite and continued partying. It was cool talking with artists I really admire like Josh Middleton and Ale Garza.

Sunday was totally draining. I did some shopping to grab some stuff for Gal and I, gave the floor a big tour and tried to take it all in before the big convention floor closed. After saying good-byes and wrapping things up, I went for dinner with Brian Glass, the art director from Exalted and talked all about RPGs and the industry in general.

This year was such a different experience from the one before. I didn’t get the one-on-one time with web artists or other people that I had then, but I did get deeper into the industry and see a lot of the social side that takes place in the evenings. I was supposed to hang out with my friends, Mike, Eric and Michelle at some point, but that got washed away in the crazy schedule I found myself in. Things seemed to whiz by and I know that I’m going to be even more sore after I return from Gen Con, which I leave for in just a day and a half.

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