This article originally appeared in Strangehaven issue #5, November 1996.
SAN DIEGO COMIC-CON INTERNATIONAL 1996
It’s true what they say about America – you can’t get a decent cup of tea anywhere. I did have the forethought to take a small pack of teabags in my hand luggage, but I didn’t plan for the boiling water itself is a rarity in the USA. And you can’t make tea without boiling water. Hot is no good. Lukewarm is no good. Its got to be boiling. And you can forget those cardboard-flavoured Lipton’s teabags that come in little paper envelopes, too. Ugh.
Apart from the tea, America – or San Diego, California to be precise – was a wonderful experience. It’s a beautiful city; big, wide, and clear: hot but not humid; and yeah, the people are friendly. They say “How’re you doing” and “You’re welcome” and “cool” a lot, but never “Have a nice day”. The money’s weird though. Paper notes from $1 to $100 (and beyond for all I know) all the same size and same colour. Makes our European money look positively exotic.
The convention itself was simply mind-blowing. Large, it’s said, for even a stateside con. I arrived on the second day, completely unannounced and entirely unprepared (I was incredibly generously presented with an air ticket only two days before departure).
It was wonderful to meet my favourite American agent, Chris Staros (and his gorgeous wife Nina) and we rather predictably got on like a house on fire. Chris is representing me (and also Eddie Campbell) at many conventions across the US, and is doing a swell job. It was also great to meet some of my readers – two of which recognised me wandering aimlessly around the Con, and one of which actually stopped me on the street outside my hotel. Weird. Even more telling was to rub shoulders with my peers. You couldn’t swing a cat without hitting two or three comic pros. I wouldn’t even start dropping names as I’d never stop. All and all, it was just a fantastic experience.
My proudest moment of the trip had to be seeing the cover to Strangehaven #2 on the big screen the the Eisner Awards ceremony on July 5th (which also happened to be my birthday). Fortunately for my nerves, they announced the Russ Manning Award right at the beginning of the evening. Even at this stage, Chris and I were a little worse for wear after a few glasses of wine over dinner and a pint or two of Dutch courage. Combined with all the excitement of the evening and the jet lag which had apparently started to take effect, I’m not sure if I could have stood up, let alone given a acceptance speech. Fortunately for the audience, Alexander Maleev won the award, although poor Chris had to endure an eternity before he discovered that his excellent Staros Report had been pipped by The Comics Journal for the Eisner Award for Best Comics Related Publication.
The rest of the weekend simply flew by – I was so busy chatting to fans and professionals I hardly got time to look around the rest if the Con. And then there was the Fantagraphics party and a trolley ride to Mexico but they’re stories for another time. Hi to everyone I met there (was the sketch okay, Dan?) and I sincerely hope to see you all again next year.