San Diego Comic-Con 2003 (July 16-20)

Nancy and I left our home in Bellingham, Washington on July 11th around 9:00am with a car full of books. The drive went smoothly (except for a speeding ticket) and we were in L.A. by July 13th. There, we hung out at a friend's cottage in Venice Beach and had a good time enjoying the L.A. beach life for a couple of days. At some point, I went running into the ocean and lost my glasses in the turbulent water. That really sucked because I knew I'd be sketching for the upcoming 5 days. Oh well... at least now I'd have a good excuse if a sketch turned out crappy!

We arrived in San Diego around 9:00am on Wednesday, July 16th. Installing the booth was relatively painless and by 5:30pm we were ready to greet the first bunch of attendees.

Our neighbor to the left was Summertime Comics headed by Ryan Woodward and his lovely wife Tiff. Ryan and I worked on several projects together at Warner Brothers Animation. He's a very talented and ambitious fellow. It was good to see him having such success with his own enterprise. Their booth displayed an impressive line of high quality comics.

Straight across the aisle from us was six time Eisner Award nominee Jeff Nicholson. Jeff has a great attitude and wonderful sense of humor. His work is very cool and unique. I picked up Ultra Klutz: Volume One from him and I can't wait to read it.

On our right was ONI press with a cool line-up of creators signing over the 5-day period. It was good to see Steve Rolston (and his girlfriend Sabina) signing next to us again (we signed together on July 6 at Olympic Comics in Lacey, Washington).

On Thursday July 17th, the convention really kicked off and people started flooding in. The exhibit floor was enormous. I'm told it actually measured 1 mile from end to end. Some of the booths were gigantic. The Sideshow Collectibles / Lord of the Rings area was certainly among the most impressive display on the floor. Attendance reports vary somewhere between 68 000 and 100 000 attendees. I'm not sure what the exact number was but one thing is for sure, there was a lot of people.

The first night we were in San Diego, we had dinner with Amid Amidi from Amid is an animation historian, editor, book and magazine publisher, writer and artist (he had his own sketchbook for sale at the comicon). We chatted over beer, salad and pizza at a nice restaurant. I always enjoy Amid's company and radical opinions. He's one cool guy!

During the convention, several artists came by and dropped sketchbooks at our booth. I was amazed at how talented some of these guys and gals are. Here are some of the sketchbooks that impressed me the most:

The Sketchbook Session 2003: Filled with wonderful drawings of girls, superheroes, anthropomorphic animals, monsters and more. The seven artists featured include: Ed Reynolds, Keith Holven, Paul Davies, Shane Corn, Rick Cortes, Sue Katowich and Kir Bolstic. All are very accomplished illustrators / animators who are regular posters on the Shane Glines Message Board (Shane wrote the introduction).

Peanut Butter and Monster Sandwich: Shane Corn's sketchbook demonstrates a wide range of styles and abilities. Great stuff! I'm glad to have one of my drawings in this cool book.

Toon's Gone Wild!: Keith Holven's sketchbook is a knockout! Appealing drawings of girls. Wild renditions of superheroes. The sketches are fluid and dynamic!

Royal Froinlaven: Justin Ridge has put together a fantastic sketchbook with a color cover to boot! Very accomplished draftsmanship is on display on every single page.

Amid Amidi's Bullriding in America: Probably the strangest sketchbook I saw in San Diego.

Me Am Cartonist: Bob Harper cartoony sketchbook is a nice sampler of animation type designs and clever one-panel gags. Very fun.

There are a few more books that were given to me that deserve mentions: The excellent Max Hamm Fairy Tale Detective by Frank Cammuso, A Monk's Tale #3 by the talented duo of Laurie Breitkreuz and Kandrix Foong, the strange "A.M." from the enigmatic Vezum, Runners by Sean Wang (sci-fi featuring cool aliens), an impressive Ashcan by Johane Matte called Horus, a sketchbook called Bags of Knuckle by Mike Williams (love the cars on the last page), and the very nicely drawn Johnny Dollar, illustrated by fellow Québecois Eric Thériault. There were quite a few more but these are the ones that made the biggest impression.

Another highlight of the convention was talking to John Morrow, editor of The Jack Kirby Collector. A few weeks ago, John asked me in an e-mail if I'd like to write a piece for his magazine. I told him a few ideas I had and John responded very positively (I'll keep you posted on this one). While at John's booth I picked up a copy of Kirby's Captain Victory: The Graphite Edition.

I was happy to say hi to my pal Bud Plant, who runs the most incredible store at the Con. Bud is great and his staff is pure class. While I was at the Bud Plant booth, I picked up the massive (794 pages) second edition of The Slings and Arrows Comic Guide: A Critical Assessment (fresh from the publisher). I looked under "Z" and found an entry for my comic series ZED. I was happy to see a nice review. My Detective Comics back-up, Batman: Spore, was also favorably reviewed. That put a big grin on my pulsating face.

After inquiring for a couple of days, I finally found Alex Pardee's obscure table in the small press area. I was very much looking forward to getting my shaky little hands on Alex's latest masterpiece Bunnywith.... Unfortunately by Saturday, all the inventory at the Comic-Con was sold out! Apologetically, he handed me a copy of MyBook of Shapes. Wow! No doubt about it, Alex is a master of the grotesque, the surreal and the absurd.

Seeing Dave Cooper is always cool. I was able to show him a mock-up of my upcoming book Parables: An Anthology for which he is doing the introduction. Dave is one of my artistic heroes. I just love his stuff. His new graphic novel, Ripple, is sheer genius!

Other talented folks we met and chatted with include: Thom Trainor and his lovely wife Rhonda, Mike Kunkel, Snakebite and Team Red Star, Genndy Tartakovsky, RandyLander and Don MacPherson from, Terry Moore, Paul Linsley, Courtney Huddleston, Scott Sava, Stephen Silver and many more.

As far as GAGNÉ International goes, we did excellent. Sales were good and consistent. I sketched for 5 days - hundreds of drawings without my glasses. My new book The Towers of Numar was our biggest seller at the convention. The Demon Dog - Insanely Twisted Rabbit sculpture was a sell-out.

We're starting to recognize a lot of familiar faces. I am very lucky to have wonderful fans that support my work. Thanks to everyone who stopped by!

The convention doors closed at 5:00pm on Sunday July 20th and not a moment too soon. We had a truly great time but by the end of it, we were exhausted!

Michel Gagné, August 1, 2003