This article originally appeared in Strangehaven issue #7, October 1997.
Above: Gary,Chris, Paul and Eddie at The Star House booth, ready and waiting for the screaming hordes. But which one of these men irons their trouser pocket linings? Answers on a postcard …
SAN DIEGO COMIC-CON INTERNATIONAL 1997
After my first ever trip to the US for last year’s San Diego Comic-Con International, I could hardly wait to return this year. I packed my teabags and kettle and arrived with time to spare. I nearly missed my connecting flight (as I did last year) this time at Chicago Airport after my plane had to abort landing and “go around” about thirty feet from touchdown. Jeepers.
San Diego was dry, sunny, warm with a cool sea breeze and with no rampaging dinosaurs. This year, I shared a booth with my American agent Chris Staros, Bacchus creator Eddie Campbell, Ragmop’s Rob Walton and fellow Brit Paul “Scary Bastard” Grist of Kane fame. Chris’ buddy Wayne Beamer (editor of that fine publication Manufactured Home Merchandiser) also helped out with sandwiches and batteries.
We were positioned in the front centre of the Convention Hall, right next to Diamond Distributors and Darth Vader. It was certainly a lot of fun sharing the booth with the guys, even if it was a little crowded when we were all present – it got even more cramped when Eddie invited a didgeridoo player in to accompany our sales pitch with the soft drone of the Aboriginal heartlands.
Eddie and his original From Hell pages were the star attraction, especially as the series has been optioned for a second time and due to go into production as a major film this autumn. Of course, the primary reason for doing these shows is to meet readers of Strangehaven and to gain new converts and I did plenty of that. But also, it’s interesting to judge your standing and reputation as a creator at these shows; a lot more of my peers apparently knew of my work compared to last year, and I certainly get a kick out of making new friends and acquaintances who also happen to be top comics creators. I even got to shake the hand of Mr Will Eisner!
Said “hi” to local Southend boy done good, Warren Ellis, summoned over by DC to promote his new Transmetropolitan title, and missing his baby daughter (altogether now; “aaaaah”). Odd to travel thousands of miles in order to greet someone who lives half a mile away, but that’s the nature of us hermitic comic creator types.
The parties were great too, although jet-lagged Eddie didn’t make Brenner Printing’s Baja Brewery Party as he passed out over dinner after one beer on the day of his arrival. Flaming Carrot creator Bob Burden entertained us all at the Friends Of Lulu Party with his traditional reading of a letter of complaint he received from a disgruntled fan. You really need to hear it to believe it.
Met some of the world’s most famous comics retailers at both the Expo and the Beer & Pizza Party (sponsored by those loveable Trilogy chaps Jeff Smith, Charles Vess and Linda Medley) including Rory Root and Mimi Cruz, and got interviewed by The Anti Gravity Room.
I felt a lot more relaxed at this year’s Eisner Awards Ceremony – somehow I knew I wasn’t going to win anything, so I kicked back and enjoyed watching slides of my Strangehaven covers on the big screen. Rob Walton was also nominated for two Awards, while Paul Grist was up for three. We all lost in fact, joining Chris and Eddie who were both unsuccessful nominees last year. Flying in the face of keynote speaker Frank Miller, it was the year of the retro-superhero.
Still, at least Eddie got to go the stage to collect the “Best Writer” Award on behalf of the ever-absent Alan Moore. We drowned our sorrows with some particularly awful micro brewed beers, met some more famous people and went back to the hotel and sobbed in our pillows.
Self-publishers can’t usually afford to eat out, but convention week is different, so the clan tried out various restaurants in San Diego’s Gaslamp District, my least favourite being Greek (spinach, olives and fish roe in particular of which I’m not too fond) although the retsina compensated. We enjoyed some Thai food as our final meal which is more my style and that let led to an increasingly bizarre evening in which Eddie ended up serenading a famous film director’s mum with a song about masturbation.
As a result Eddie was too ill to catch his plane the following morning (in fact he was too ill to take the taxi) and Chris rearranged everything so that Eddie, me and a life-size cardboard cut-out of Uma Thurman took the short flight to LA together. An exciting end to an exciting week, even though I had to share a plane with the Six Degrees boys and endure the in-flight movie Volcano twice on the return home.
Roll on next year.
[PHOTOS TO COME]
Bottom, left: The all powerful dark lord of the evil empire, controlling the final destiny of thousands. And behind Glen Folland is Darth Vader of Star Wars.
Bottom, centre: Masters of the Macabre: Eisner presenteress Jackie Estrada, Wolff & Byrd’s Batton Lash, some hairy guy, and another hairy guy called Stephen Bissette who does Tyrant. Which comes out even less often than Strangehaven, so I like him.
Bottom, right: Typical mad American couple. Oh no it’s not, it’s ex-pat writer extraordinaire James Robinson with Dark Horse editor Diana Schutz.
Below: Shannon Wheeler’s Too Much Coffee Man hugging Gary Spencer Millidge’s Not Enough Decent Tea In This Goddamn Country Man.