Posted by : Wendy B Sunday, 7 August 2016
It's been about 18 years since first I set foot on the sparkling streets of San Diego to attend Comic-Con. Needless to say, a lot has changed since then. The first time, I attended on business as part of my work with Fan Expo Canada. This time, I attended as press along with several other members of the Women Write About Comics team. The trip also signified the first time in a long time that I'd been on a real destination vacation, and one on my own, without the family. This meant I could go wild with my girlfriends, and by that I mean heading to Target to shop clearance racks and cast judgmental eyes upon jugged milk and aisles of alcohol and sugary things, wrestling with air mattresses (I lost) and ordering fancy on brand drinks at the Cheesecake Factory. That's right folks, we were all kinds of crazy!
But back to the convention itself. One of the things that impressed me the most was the way the massive event is embraced by the community. The local businesses are going to profit off of us no matter what, but I appreciated that they didn't make us feel like that was our only purpose. When we walked into our hotel, we were greeted by a bat signal shining on the floor and staff dressed in superhero t-shirts (and warm cookies ... love the Double Tree Hilton). Nerd culture is more mainstream now, but there is still that level of ignorance and even disdain that we have to deal with from outsiders. We weren't made to feel like a tolerated inconvenience of weirdness. Instead, even those who don't quite get our ways showed a level of endearment and appreciation that made us feel so welcome.
My trio went our separate ways after grabbing the precious press passes that made this entire trip possible. I headed to the Stone Brewing to try their latest w00tstout at Hop-Con 4.0. Aisha Tyler seemed to be the only famous face present of the promised guest list that was to include Wil and Anne Wheaton, Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Connor. Not that I was really interested in celebrity sightings, nor could I hear Tyler over the constant roar of airplanes overhead. I’m also not really a beer drinker, but the food, company, and music by Megaran and Bitforce were great. I also caught a Pikachu and several other rare Pokemon, so all in all, a great start to SDCC for me.
Thursday was the busiest day for all of us. I started my day with some vampirism at the Robert E. Heinlein Blood Drive. In retrospect, I maybe should not have scheduled blood donation on my busiest day at the convention, but I am very proud of my body for surviving almost the entire day before almost passing out. Many thanks to my roomies, Megan and Kate, and artist Johnnie Christmas for the save and support.
I got to do some normal convention stuff in between my schedules interviews and meet-ups. Namely, I attended a few panels, which I have never done at any of the major conventions I attend. Either I'm working and am just too busy, or I just haven't made a point of caring. This time, prior to the event, I spent an hour going through the program to find panels of interest. Unfortunately, scheduling conflicts meant I missed several ones that interested me, including a few covering library conventions and Free Comic Book Day, something I plan to bring to my local library), but I did get to attend the Adapting Octavia Butler's Kindred panel, featuring writer, Dr. Damian Duffy, who explained the process that has gone into bringing this incredible author's work to a new format and a new audience.
the first of which was with David Mack, a creator whose work I have admired for a long time. The opportunity to sit with him and pick his brain about his writing and artistic process was fascinating, especially after having recently read the third volume of his Kabuki collection.
Thereafter, I met with Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá, authors and illustrators of Two Brothers. I jumped at the chance to interview them because their Daytripper had been such an incredible and memorable read for me. Two Brothers is no less powerful and the brothers provided wonderful insight about how this adaptation came to be. A highlight of our interview was having Margaret Atwood interrupt us (how rude!) to introduce a fellow Brazilian to the brothers. I managed to make eye contact and smile with Ms. Atwood as we stood awkwardly across from each other while the three gentlemen conversed. Later I arranged for my fellow editor to interview Ms. Atwood, so that was pretty sweet.
Another panel after that, this time featuring comic journalists including my very own WWAC Editor-in-Chief, Megan Purdy, speaking on New Comics Journalism. Not a particularly well organized panel, thanks to an ill-prepared moderator, but the panelists held their own well enough.
SDCC after hours is all about the parties, but first we needed food so we hit the Gaslamp district with our new found posse of fellow industry peeps. We decided to skip our plans to attend the Scholastic party and attend the Comic Book Legal Defense event instead. Turns out the Scholastic party was full of wild librarians and had impressive lootbags. Alas, our loss.
Day two involved the realization that industry acquaintances I'd made over the years were probably at this event too, which resulted in several meet ups and more interview opportunities. I had a great chat with an old friend and his new business colleagues about the state of the kids comics market and where we need to go from here. Working with my local school board, I'm thrilled to see comics not just on the library shelves, but being introduced into the curriculum, but gone are the days when kids could easily pick up a comic at the convenience store. There's also the misconception surrounding what a graphic novel is, versus comic books.
Thanks to arrangements with Nickolodeon, I got to sneak past security at the Hard Rock Hotel where Entertainment Weekly was hosting all of their events to speak with Marge Dean, co-president of Women in Animation and general manager of Stoopid Buddy Stoodios. After our interview, we traded comic book recommendations, then, with my work done I was off to enjoy the rest of the convention. In retrospect, I should have borrowed one of my daughter's Chromebooks and made better use of the press room to actually write up all my interviews on site, but mostly, we just used the interview to giggle and be silly. We're such professionals.
Saturday was my first official free day and I started it with a leisurely trip to the mall to hang out with my friends from Fan Expo. We shopped, I caught more Pokemon, we sipped Nordstrom ice teas, and discussed ideas for the Toronto show. Then I wandered over to the convention to meet Megan so that we could leisurely stroll the outdoor sights. This proved dire for my poor vampiric friend, who suffered a sunburn that later required a quest for aloe, but mostly, the day was enjoyable, ending in drinking geeky drinks and cooking our own dinner at the Strip Club, and attending the Black Comix panel where Ron Wimberly ordered the deconstruction of racism (you had to be there).
Finally, I ended the convention with more actual convention stuffs. I learned that when friends find out you are attending SDCC, they require exclusives, which is an entire process. I was worried about line ups, which would have been an issue on Wednesday and Thursday, but surprisingly, and despite the impossible to move crowd on Sunday, the exclusive lines were small or non-existent and the items that my friends wanted were still in stock. The FedEx process was a whole other business. I refuse to stand in line, so we ended up hunting for a FedEx store off site.
By Monday morning, the Double Tree Hilton was back to its secret identity of a mild mannered hotel (they also took away the waffle maker *sad face*) and we were ready to go home--but already making plans to return.