I would love to tell you about my amazing adventures at this year's Comic-Con International in San Diego. However, to do that, I would have to make up all those adventures because I didn't go to Comic-Con this year.
Comic-Con is both curse and grail for me. Months before the convention, usually when I know there's little to no chance of my going to it, I feel good about that. It's a chaotic place, I tell myself, where comic books play second or third or fourth fiddle to Hollywood and toys and video games. It's an expensive trip that I can't justify on my comics income, especially since I won't be able to get any meetings with the people who might be able to increase my comics income. I'm better off without it.
The closer we get to Comic-Con each year, the more distant I feel from the art form and industry I love. This usually becomes acute depression when the convention actually starts and my friends start posting about it. Even with the chaos, the disrespect, the expense, and the lack of opportunity, I wish I were there.
I've attended at least a half-dozen Comic-Cons, dating back to before it went "international." Some were great, some not so much. But I usually came back with pretty good memories of both the show itself and my post-convention time in Los Angeles. Which seems a good enough cue to indulge in a bit of personal therapy by sharing some of those memories, good and bad.
I attended my first San Diego Comic-Con in 1971 or 1972. I'm using my not-in-San-Diego depression as an excuse to avoid trying to remember specific years, though I will narrow them down as much as possible.
Like so many good things in my life, my first trip to the West Coast owes much to my dear friend Mark Evanier. We planned my trip around the convention, I stayed with him and his parents while in Los Angeles, and he was my guide to that alien land. He even took me to meet Jack and Roz Kirby at their home and, for a comics fan, that's the equivalent of visiting the White House and having the First Lady personally make you a sandwich. Anyone who met Jack and Roz and didn't love them ain't right.
The convention itself was held at a college campus and we all stayed in dorm rooms. I met lots of great people, including Edmond Hamilton and Leigh Brackett.
One night, still fighting the jet lag that affected me during that entire trip, I awoke to find myself surrounded by a group of chanting fans clad only in their underwear. Mark was the prank's ringleader, but the only one fully dressed. I threw out some sort of one-liner - which, naturally, I can't remember - then went back to sleep. Good times.
The highpoint of the convention was when Roz Kirby asked me to sit with her and Jack behind their table. Though I had written a prose story for a magazine Jack wanted to do for DC, I felt like an intruder. Roz assured me otherwise. While I was sitting there, a fan asked me for my autograph, which had never happened before on account of I hadn't had anything published professionally. When I tried to correct what I was sure was the fan's mistaken notion that I was a comics professional, his response was:
"Yeah, but you're with the Kirbys."
Roz smiled at me knowingly.
In 1987, I attended Comic-Con as a trustee of Cleveland's Neverending Battle, Inc., a non-profit organization which hoped to honor Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in the Man of Steel's real hometown. That sad tale of NEB has been told in part elsewhere and, frankly, I'm already too not-in-San-Diego depressed to recount any of it here. But there were good moments that year, both during and after the convention.
I was on good terms with DC Comics at that time. I may even have still been writing Hawkman for them. Barb and I were invited on the company cruise around the bay. We had a great time and my wife, who was not an easy sell when it came to the comics industry and its members, took an immediate liking to legendary DC editor Julie Schwartz. Whenever I would go to a con after that, she would ask if Julie was there and how he was doing.
My memory is uncertain on this next bit, but I think 1987 was also when Mark Evanier and a bunch of Jack and Roz Kirby's friends - and if you knew them and didn't think of them as friends, well, we talked about the whole "ain't right" thing - threw a wonderful surprise party for them. Whatever year it happened, it was one of the most magical convention moments ever.
After the convention, Barb and I spent a few days vacationing in Los Angeles. One of the highlights of that visit was when Mark Evanier took us and several other comics people - Bob Kane, Julius Schwartz, Marv Wolfman, Len Wein, and Steve Rude - to the amazing Magic Castle for food and prestidigitation. We had a great time, despite Bob Kane badgering me about why Cleveland was trying to put up a Superman statue instead of a Batman statue and saying various unkind things about Siegel and Shuster. Had I been looking for a fight, I might have asked him about Bill Finger, the guy recognized by everyone other than DC Comics, as Batman's co-creator. Back in our hotel room later that evening, Barb had the last word on Kane. She asked me:
"How does it feel to know the creator of one of your favorite characters is such an asshole?"
Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more Comic-Con memories.
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.
ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.
TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?
THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.
FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?
FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.
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