I made my first appearance at the San Diego Comic-Con in six years last month, albeit a relatively low-key one due to the recent lack of new Strangehaven material. Still, it was tremendous fun to hook up various comics peoples that I haven’t seen for all those six years or more – including Eddie Campbell, James Kochalka, Alex Robinson, Bongo editor Terry Delegeane, Batton Lash and his wife Jackie Estrada, Terry Moore and his wife Robyn, Wayne Beamer, Scott McCloud and many more.
Now, I had heard a lot about how big San Diego Comic-Con had become since I last visited. Comic-Con is big, really big. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemists, but that’s just peanuts to Comic-Con…But no, actually, I didn’t note too much difference (it was already pretty damn big six years ago) except for the significantly increased number of punters crowding the aisles, especially on ‘Preview Night.’
Not surprising as the event was apparently sold-out; 125,000 attendees with a ceiling of 60,000 a day, plus an extraordinary number of comics professionals, exhibitors, celebrities and so on adding to the general chaos. I also bumped into some folks that I hadn’t seen for a while (but less than the six years in question), including my French publisher stablemates Ted Naifeh and Eric Shanower, and Josh Palmano (owner of London’s fabulous Gosh! store) who was also guesting at the Top Shelf booth. I also enjoyed a fortuitous meeting with Vertigo head-honcho Karen Berger on my way to eat at Buster’s in Seaport Village (macadamia-nut encrusted chicken with Hawaiian relish and garlic mash).
I also crossed paths with some people who I have seen much more recently than six years, fellow Brits Bryan Talbot and the Peckerwood contingent of Rob and Pete; in the Marriott’s English-style pub, some more English-style comic creators were to be found, namely David Hine, Eisner award-winner Nick Abadzis (who I note has completed his transformation from clean-cut boy-next look to greasy biker) and David Lloyd.
I also hung out with some new faces on the Top Shelf booth, like that salty Tim Sievert, the too cool Alex Robinson, awesome Andy Runton, sensational Christian Slade and also met the marvellous Matt Kindt for the first time. The Top Shelf crew were as always as hospitable as ever, Robert Venditti, Leigh Walton, Brett Warnock and of course the ubiquitous Mr. Staros.
I was also delighted to be able to introduce myself to Brian Wood and the exceedingly generous Richard Starkings and his Comicraft cohort John JG Roshell. It’s also obligatory that I mention that I rubbed metaphorical shoulders (as in, “ooh, look who’s over there”) with Lost’s Matthew Fox, Simon Pegg (of the Dead) and Stan Lee.
Undoubted highlight of the show was seeing, in no uncertain terms, yer actual Owl Ship from the forthcoming Watchmen movie (Dave Gibbons, by the way, was nowhere to be seen, having recently been promoted to ‘superduperstar’ status and thus now gets invited to all the superduper top secret parties).
I also attended the annual Panel2Panel after-show dinner for the first time at the Gaslamp District’s premier tapas bar Sevilla where Heidi MacDonald and future Mr. MacDonald, letterer extraordinaire Todd Klein and his missus, Steve Leialoha, Tony Lee and I among others drank Sangria, danced the flamenco, shouted a lot and fought over the bill.
Outside the intense comic environment, I found time to take in my first Major League baseball game at the wonderful Petco Park stadium (a stone’s throw from the convention centre), discovered Pinkberry frozen yogurt (the new Opium, mark my words), saw some polar bears eating carrots at San Diego’s wonderful zoo, saw the Star Trek Exhibition at Balboa Park and at the flicks enjoyed Dark Knight very much and didn’t enjoy The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor in the slightest.
So, would I recommend San Diego as a destination event? Absolutely yes. Apart from being one of those events any self-respecting (and financially solvent) comic fan simply must attend at least once in their lives (like Angoulême) it really is a beautiful, sunny and fun-packed city (not at all like Angoulême).
[PHOTOS TO COME]