San Diego Comic-Con 2005 (July 13-17)

Ok, as promised, here's my report of this year's big convention.

Nancy (my beloved wife) and I left Bellingham on Saturday July 9th, our SUV packed to the brim with books and collectibles. I was already suffering from sheer exhaustion before we left, having been on a constant 7-day weekly work schedule since the beginning of June. A couple of weeks earlier, the couple who were going to help us at the booth had to cancel the trip because of a medical issue. Without our anticipated help, we knew this would be an exhausting convention.

We drove to LA in record time and arrived at my niece's place by Sunday night. My niece was not well and had to go for surgery on Wednesday July 13th (the day of the Comic-Con setup and Preview Night). We were all very stressed out about that. Nancy decided that she needed to be in LA for the surgery and at that point I felt like I was going to burst into tears.

We left for San Diego to set up a day earlier than usual so Nancy could be back in LA on Wednesday. Setting up on Tuesday was actually quite nice and went without a glitch. Nancy went back to LA on Wednesday morning and I managed to recruit a couple of swell people to help me (thanks Maryann and Larry) with the booth on Wednesday's Preview Night. My niece's surgery went very well, to everyone's relief, and Nancy headed back to San Diego on Wednesday night.

We had the good fortune of staying with our friends Maryann and Nick who live in a high rise about 5-minute walk from the Convention Center. It was super nice of them to invite us. We met their grand kids who were really cute. Maryann and Nick are very pleasant people and staying with them was delightful.

Thursday, July 14th was the official opening. There was a nice flow of people all through the day and things went very smoothly.

During the afternoon, I went to a memorial for my friend Bill Liebowitz, owner of Golden Apple Comics in Los Angeles, who passed away earlier this year. It was a very moving event where several people related their personal stories about the Big Kahuna. Bill is clearly missed in the industry that he was such a huge part of. It was good to see Sharon (Bill's wife) looking well and hearing how his son Ryan is now carrying the torch.

Thursday night we went to the Scholastic Party. We enjoyed chatting up with industry friends Terry Moore, Kazu Kibuishi and a few others. We got a nice gift bag with lots of great books including a color version of the second tome of Jeff Smith masterful epic Bone. Bone looks great in color! Jeff looked like he was having a good time.

Next, we headed to the Baby Tattoo Books party which was fun as well. There we chatted with publisher Bob Self, Attaboy (who's publishing a really eye popping magazine called Hi-Fructose), Gris Grimly and Crab Scrambly.

From Friday onward, everything became sort of a blur. I had a constant line of people and my exhaustion kept mounting. Saturday was the busiest day. I signed and sketched for 8 hours straight and only took a 15-minute break for lunch. My hand was throbbing. By Sunday, I had a mounting fever, and was on medication. I just wanted to make it through the day.

Looking back, I can't say that this year was a lot of fun but it was certainly our most successful year in terms of sales.

Because we were short handed I virtually had no time to walk around the hall. Except for a few books I bought at Bud Plant Comic Art and Mile High Comics, I did virtually no shopping.

As with previous years, I got many gift and samples from so many talented artists. Way too many to list but here are some of the books that caught me eye:

A nice series by Otis Frampton called Oddly Normal. I haven't had the chance to read it yet but I'm impressed with the slick package and the fun cartoony art. Otis gave me his rendition of an "Insanely Twisted Rabbit" which I'll be posting in the fan art section in the coming days.

My pal Royden Lepp (who did a ZED pinup in issue #5) has a new series entitled David. He gave me the first issue at the Comic-Con and I was impressed. This is the story of David from the biblical text adapted in sequential form. Royden has lots of talent and he showcases it nicely here. I like his rough and animated drawings. The storytelling is clear and fluid. The coloring is nicely understated with an earthy palette. The whole package is top notch with cardstock cover and slick paper. Nice job.

Johane Matte came by my table and gave me a copy of Horus: Volume One which compiles her three mini-comics into one slick package. This is a wonderful little book, with illustrations in the vein of the great European BD artist René Goscinny, and the story is fun to boot! I really like it!

Kean Soo's Jellaby is another book that caught my attention. Kean's beautifully paced storytelling and cartoony yet subtle artwork is evident in every page. Kean is another talent to watch for.

The other little book I got which I really liked was Paper Biscuit "Frogg's Lament" from Ronnie Del Carmen. I haven't had time to read all the text yet but I love the drawings. They remind me of early 1900's black and white children's book illustrations. Gorgeous and expressive like the work of Ernest H. Shepard. Well done!

In closing, I'd like to add that it is always a pleasure to meet old friends and make new ones. Once again, it was nice chatting with industry friends Greg Anzalone and all our friends from Sideshow Collectibles, Bud Plant, Scott Shaw, Amid Amidi, Jerry Beck, Orson Scott Card, Bill Plympton, Chuck W. Rozanski, Jhonen Vasquez, SnakeBite, Bob Miller, Shane Zalvin, James Mansfield, Gabi Shephard, Nasos Vakalis, my friends from Animation Nation, my friends from Flight, and many many more. I guess we'll do it again next year!

Michel Gagné, July 28th, 2005