Big Ol' San Diego Writeup

Friday, August 1, 2008 - 08:26 PM

San Diego Comic-Con was so exceedingly awesome this year, that it's literally taken me a week to do the write-up on it. Let's get to it!

For the uninitiated, San Diego is the largest comics and pop culture convention in the English-speaking world: Five days of Klingons, Trons, Yodas, Iron Mans and Storm Troopers walking around a massive hall, holding onto their children's hands...who are similarly dressed. There is literally every type of nerdery represented: Everything from Dr. Who to Voltron, from Dragonball Z to Thunderbirds. Seriously. If a nerd likes it, it's at Comic-Con.

So I'm always in seventh-heaven.

I spent the greatest portion of my time, there, with my Halfpixel friends, "Webcomics Weekly" co-hosts and "How To Make Webcomics" co-authors, Scott, Brad, and Kris. We exhibited together, gave panel talks together, and even sang with Star Trek captains together. But more on all that later. Let's start with the near-and-dear.

1.) Meetin' Sheldonistas:

Moreso than any previous San Diego....the Sheldonistas came out in droves this year. It was awesome. I had so many great conversations with American, Canadian, English, and even two Australian Sheldonistas. And the high fives and free convention sketches were flowin'. I counted, on Sunday, how many sketcthes in Sheldon books I had done, and it was well over 300. That's not even including the sketches I did in copies of "How To Make Webcomics" or in people's own sketchbooks. So all-in-all, it probably came out to around 400 personalized sketches. Which could possibly explain why my right hand feels like an elephant sat on it.

As has been true in past conventions, I had a few Sheldon readers bring me "the best cookie in the world", the UK's "Hobnobs". Which, I'm sorry to report, I devoured within minutes of being given. (To be fair: I shared a few cookies from the first package with Brad and Kris...but after that, I hid future packages from them, and just woofed 'em down myself. A proud moment. Proud moment.)

2.) Meetin' Other Cartoonists:

One of the joys of Comic-Con, for me, is getting to meet up with other cartoonists whose work I like and respect. Cartoonists like Mer, Wes, Malk, Jerry, and Bill 'n "Gene". But it was pretty awesome gettin' to know a new gent this year: Smilin' Chris Hastings of Dr. McNinja. Chris is an all-around funny dude.

3.) Sheldon Stuff:

Sheldon Stuff: The new Sheldon theme-book, "Pugs: God's Little Weirdos," made it's con premiere in San Diego, and got a huge response. The book itself arrived *one day* before the convention began -- and the advance copies looked awesome. I'm really happy with how the book came out -- you're gonna dig yours. (Speaking of which: Don't forget the Pug Book-Launch Party on Aug. 10th in LA, 7-10 at The Crescent in Beverly Hills).

The "Manatee" t-shirts sold out of sizes faster than I ever would've guessed -- which pretty much assures we'll bring 'em into the Sheldon Store this summer.

The "Artist Decision Tree" poster got a similarly big response at the show. The poster won't be making its way to the store -- only because shipping posters is, in many ways, too much trouble for a small shop like ours. But because I got so many (ahem) energetic e-mails requesting that we bring them into the store, we may do it for a limited time. Say, a week or so, to give folks a limited time to snag one.

4.) Panels:

This year, the Halfpixel guys and I were invited to talk on two panels, and both exceeded any expectations we had for them. The first panel talk had people waiting in line for *two hours* to get in...and even then, I'm told many dozens didn't make it in. Thankfully, we had a second panel later in the afternoon in a bigger room, and folks who got turned away from the first made it into this one. The show also let us carry the panel's Q&A long by an additional 30 minutes or so, which was fun.

5.) Television Scouts and the Odd Power of Saying "No Thanks":

This is a funny story, but it'll take me a few paragraphs to tell it. You know the old saying "People want what they can't have"? I've found that to be very true when it comes to TV development people.

Case in point: At Wizard World LA a few months back, and again at San Diego Comic-Con, the exact same Paramount development scout came up to my booth and started flipping through the Sheldon books. And both times, the interaction worked out the same way: After a few minutes of semi-interested reading and subsequent introductions, he would say "Give me the pitch for your property." And I would say, "I'd rather not."

He'd then say, "No, I mean, as if you were pitching this for television." And I'd respond, "I know exactly what you meant. I have no desire to see this on TV."

And that's where it began to get weird: Because I think he thought I was playin' some sort of mind game with him, and got all strangely interested in Sheldon -- as though I were already in development talks with Warner Bros or somethin'. What age group did it appeal to? What style of animation did I see it in, etc., etc.? And I just kept saying "Look: For me, comics are the goal in and of itself. I don't want to option this for TV or film." Which is true: I don't. Never really have. I know that TV and film are the dominant, mass-audience mediums of our age -- and that every other comics creator under the sun seems to want to get their work there -- but I produce comics because I love comics. In and of themselves. With no ulterior goals or multi-media ambitions.

To me, comics are one of the last, singularly-created artforms that allow an artist to speak to millions -- uninterrupted by outside hands. Having seen my wife's TV and film work up close, I know that the average project involves 50-200 people tweaking and editing and reformatting and lengthening and snipping and changing it...and it's not the path I want.

I just want to make comics.

But back to the Paramount guy. The more I would tell him that I didn't want it on TV, the more he would pepper me with questions. And despite it all, despite repeatedly expressing that to the guy, he nevertheless took a few of the free Sheldon flyers and said "I'll bring these back to the Nickelodeon development people and see what they think." And all I could do was chuckle as he walked off.

So that's my lesson for those aspiring to a life in television: If you *do* want to get something on TV, just say you really don't want that. Because clearly that dude couldn't countenance that someone *wouldn't* want their stuff on TV.

6.) Singin' with Star Trek:

On Saturday night, about 30 cartoonists got together at a tiny hotel bar in downtown San Diego to share a beer and talk shop. To better set the scene for you, you have to know this: Cartoonists, by and large, are amazingly huge nerds. If we were popular in High School, we wouldn't have spent so much time drawing and watching Star Trek. We're geeks.

So imagine our surprise when the collected mass of cartoonists turned to notice that, in this same tiny hotel bar were sitting.... Commander Riker and Captain Sisko. And lo, by the end of the night, we were regaled by two former Star Trek actors takin' turns at the bar's piano, singing show tunes and slowwwwwwed-down jazz. An amazing night, by any measure.

7.) Battle of the Interns:

All weekend long, we had the pleasure of Kris' summer intern, Magnolia, who was helpful in all things, and quick with the wit. On Saturday, the Sheldon intern Stephanie also drove down for the show, and the two of them got to meet, which was pretty cool. I was excited for Steph to come to the show, as this was her first San Diego Comic-Con -- and that, in and of itself, is always a big deal.

I'm happy to say that Steph really had a blast at the show...and I'll see if we can't get her to write up her thoughts on it when she's next in the studio. It'd be fun to get her perspective on it for folks around the world who have never been.

In summary: Huge, HUGE thanks to everyone who came out to the show, said "hi", passed along a kind word, and shared how much Sheldon means to you. You don't know how much I hold onto those moments the rest of the year when I'm sittin' at my drawing desk. They literally are the moments that power me through the year. So thank you for making San Diego such a fantastic weekend!

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