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From Sequentialtart.com

Joss Whedon

San Diego Comic Con 2003

By Rebecca Salek

Monday 1 September 2003, by Webmaster

Traditionally, my Con reports have consisted of a lenthy, hour-by-hour account of everything I did and everyone I met. Well, I decided to try something a little different this year: highlight the best and the worst of my four day Con experience.

So, in nonpreferential order, the most amusing, draining, exciting and memorable experiences of SDCC 2003.

1) All Those Tarts! By far, the best part of the Con was being able to meet so many of my sister Tarts. I knew Lee and Karon and Marcia and Barb and Kate and Denise and Margaret and Izzy from previous Cons, but this was the first year I had met Mia and Susannah and Kelly Sue and Kim and Carrie and Nicole. We were an army!

2) The Tart Booth. Our first booth at SDCC - and, boy was that a lot of work! But it was so much fun! Boxes and boxes and boxes of free comics to hand out to anyone who expressed an interest; everything from Thieves and Kings to Kabuki to A Distant Soil and everything in between. Pages and pages of recommended reading lists, all compiled by the Tarts. Pink lights! We took turns working the booth, coaxing over passersby, handing out the comics and lists and telling them about Tart. (Poor Lee took the brunt of the shifts.) And all the creators who came to sign ... ! Tom Beland and Jai Sen and Myatt Murphy and Scott Dalrymple and Sean McKeever and Jeff Smith and Mark Smiley, plus a dozen more at least. The Fade From Blue guys even stayed and helped pass out comics in the aisles. David Mack offered to sign any free comics brought to his booth. By Saturday morning, we were running seriously low on fliers and were down to only a few titles. It was exhausting work, but very rewarding. I think the only people were annoyed were next door at Bowen Designs; everytime I shouted "Free Comics!" to get attention, I earned a dirty look. Oh, well. *shrug*

3) All Those Lines! Last year’s attendence is estimated to have been some 63,000 people. This year, the number shot up to 70,000. The difference was immediately noticeable - in the tremendously long, ungainly, how-long-have-I-been-standing-here? lines. The food lines (oddly) were among the shortest. The lines for some panels were insane. Take Smallville, as an example. Last year, the Con organizers stuck the Smallville panel in a small corner room; some three or four hundred people crammed themselves inside. This year, Smallville earned a much much bigger room - but only about twenty percent of the people waiting got in. I was not one of the twenty percent. Slight miscalculation there, folks. The other truly insane line was for the Spider-Man 2/Hellboy/Underworld panel. I heard later that the wait was like an hour-and-a-half, and not everyone got in. The Spider-Man 2/Hellboy/Underworld panel was held in the same room as the Eisner Ceremony. Guess which attracted more attendees?

4) Why Whedon and Straczynski Lead the Best Panels. I’ll tell you why: because they’re charming, intelligent, not afraid to laugh at themselves, will answer every question - and actually like their fanbase. I swear, some creators, editors and producers treat a Con panel like a trip to the dentist without anaesthetic. Not Joss Whedon and J. Michael Straczynski. They sincerely had a good time, which made it an even more enjoyable experience for the attendees.

5) Hollywood - Feh! Speaking of panels and long lines, I went nowhere near Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Robert Englund, Kate Beckinsale or Angelina Jolie. Their appearances garnered more media coverage than the Con on its own would ever have earned (Entertainment Weekly’s coverage, for example, consisted of a page about Halle Berry, which a few sentences here and there about everything else that was going on). But, you know what? I would much rather spend my time chatting with Michel Gagne or Carla Speed McNeil than being crammed into a room full of hormonal, squealing movie freaks. Yes, I am a comic book snob, and I make no apologies.

6) People! I Got to Meet People! And I don’t just mean the creators who signed at the Tart Booth. When I wasn’t working the booth or attending panels, I was on the floor, wandering, discovering, staring, chatting and shaking hands. Courtney Huddleston and the rest of the crew at Summertine Comics. Michel Gagne, Joshua Middleton, Scott Morse (who’s married, bah!), and Jim Mahfood. Calvin Reid of Publisher’s Weekly, who’s one of the minds behind that magazine’s graphic novel section (yeah, Calvin!). Sean Wang, the guy behind the sci-fi comic, Runners. People from Crucial Comics, Manga Graphix, Hollywood Comics, Gemstone and Showbiz Comics. I stopped by the Shiver In the Dark booth and Powerful Press and Duirwaigh Publishing (who were selling Kinyuko Y. Craft artwork, woot!). I finally got to meet Mike Kunkel and got a sneak peek at Astonish’s next project. I spent an hour chatting with creators and drooling over new and old comics at both the Oni Press and SLG boothes. I met sci-fi and fantasy authors like Thomas Harlan (the Throneworld series) and Gregory Urbach (Waters of the Moon). I got to stop and talk with more small press creators than I can possibly remember. Everyone I met was polite and so enthusiastic.

7) The Eisners - didn’t last eight hours. Thank all the Goddesses of Comicdom. This year’s ceremony was markedly different from previous years. Separate awards, such as the Inkpot, were given out at special panels over the course of the Con, instead of in a lump at the Eisners. Neil Gaiman gave a short, but incisive, and even funny, keynote address. The tables seem to have been arranged a little better so that Eisner winners didn’t have to run quite as far to the stage. While fashions still ran the gamut, I noticed more people in fancy attire - and indication that the awards are being taken more seriously, perhaps? All in all, the Eisner ceremony this year was more tightly organized and much more entertaining. The only downside was the number of creators not in attendence - who won! Come on, guys! Your fellow creators and editors and publishers recognize your work as being excellent simply by nominating you. The least you can do is show up for the freakin’ ceremony!

8) Money! I Need Money! Too much cool stuff. Way, way, way too much cool stuff. And I don’t mean just the statues and original artwork and toys - which are nice, to be true. No, I mean all the small press comics and graphic novels that I can’t find anywhere else except at Cons like SDCC. Some of my best finds: the True Porn (Alternative) collection; samplers from Summertime Comics of L’il Red Stitch, The Invincible Ed, Schism and The Spackle King; The Gypsy Kids and the Mystical Seashell (Up From the Ashes); Poppie’s Adventures (Way Out Comics), which won a Xeric Grant; the Complex City (Better Comics) collection; new issues of Teen Boat (Cryptic Press); ashcans of Stonehaven (Stickman Graphics); the first issue of Joke Bank (Showbiz Comics); all three issues of Killer Princesses (Oni), which I somehow missed when they came out; and The Anomalies (Abnormal Fun) collection, a truly bizarre but very entertaining photographic super hero comic with people dressed up in funny costumes. Oh, yeah, and the very evil Oni Press and SLG catalogs, which remind me of all the things I still have to buy! Ugh! ;) Last year, I didn’t visit the ATM once. This year, I paid the automated teller three visits and almost wiped out my checking account. *sigh* What’s next year going to be like?

9) The Red Dress Run. I was riding the shuttle back to the hotel on Friday night when I noticed two men and woman, all in red dresses. Then I saw some more, and some more. All different dresses, but all red; a few had devil horns and tails. And then I saw hundreds of them gathered on the pier, a swarm of crimson and cherry and burgundy. As our driver explained, there’s an extremely enthusiastic running club in San Diego, who hold weird events like this all the time. Self-described "drinkers with a running problem," they jog from bar to bar all over San Diego. They were still at it when I got back from the Eisners at about 11:00 that night. Hey, there are worse things to see than a nicely-built man in a red evening gown. ;)

10) Oh My Gosh, Is That Shi Talking to Darth Maul?! Yes, I’m talking about the costumes. Lots and lots of costumes. I saw Jean Gray and Cyclops of the Ultimate X-Men, Klingons and Romulans, Sully from Monsters Inc., Captain America and Daredevil, Green Lantern and Harley Quinn, Tomb Raider and Cowboy Bebop. People in black trenchcoats and sunglasses were everywhere. A little boy and girl came as Ant Man and Wasp, while their Dad was Bruce Banner, complete with torn pants and shirt. The Ghostbusters made an appearance, as did Shi, Psyblade, lots of Boba Fetts, the Green Goblin, and the Silver Age Aquaman and Green Lantern. I even heard about a woman who appeared in nothing but black electrical tape, but never saw her myself. I don’t have the guts to wear a costume myself, let alone the time and dedication so many people put into their fantastic attire. It’s a testiment to how attached fans are to characters - and comics in general - that so many do spend the time, energy, money and imagination.

My last highlight of the Con? That would be the DC Direct Brainstorming session. It was four people from DC, sitting at the head of the room, listening to fans. Everyone had a suggestion as to what they wanted to see in the future: the Batcave, various people from the Legion of Super Heroes, Amalgam characters, Golden Age heroes, Elseworlds. There were complaints about the stands, suggestions for improvement, questions about pricing. And the folks from DC Direct took note of every suggestion, every complaint, answered questions directly, explained the whole process for creating statues, explained copyright and trademark issues - treated us like we had something valuable to contribute.

Now that’s the way to run a panel.