Despite the fantastic selection that Lone Star, Time Machine and Joe Koch's place has to offer, there's still a couple of comics that I've always got an eye out for. It isn't a physical list that gets adjusted, just a mental one consisting of the various back issues I've long told myself I'd buy on sight if they happen to cross my path. One is the "Joke Book" issues of the Acme Novelty Library, either of the first two Rubber Blankets, and then there's Panter: Panter, Panter, Panter. As witnessed in the picture above, I was able to track some of those down--lazier still, it was all from one guy, who it turns out I had already dealt with once before: at the last New York Comic Con, when he sold me some a Rocco Vargas hardcover and some magazine called "Voyager". Schizo was just something of accidental interest that I'd wanted to pick up mostly to see the infamous letter's column, which totally lived up to the hype. Fast Forward is an old Pirahna (DC) comic, an anthology issue featuring a stellar zombie story by Kyle Baker. There's also a short piece by Stephen DeStefano and Bob Rozakis in there that I really liked. Take a look at this, it's the very beginning:
I love the way the picture's appearance changes in that third panel, and I love the way the changes work in relation to the one in the middle, making the pictures themselves comics as well, but only to us, the reader. Neat stuff.
Wonder Woman came up right before the con, a preview issue kind of thing. I feel the same way about Wonder Woman as my wife did, actually. The only other Wonder Woman comic I've ever bought was when the series crossed over with Superman during that Sacrifice story, and I thought those were terrible comics. (Because they are terrible comics.) This current thing that Azzarello and Cliff are doing is, in fact, pretty great. I like reading the book not because it's better than DC's other books by comparison (although it is) but because it's just a smartly written and extremely well drawn comic book, regardless of what surrounds it. Both of these guys deserve a win, too--Azzarello got completely fucked by whatever Rags and DC did to the First Wave stuff, and Cliff's been out there in the covers only hinterland for too long now. As long as the comic stays this good, I'm sure the pangs of what should have been will pass before long.
Right after I saw those Rubber Blankets I was soon to buy, I saw Jared Lewis. I knew that meant Sean and Katie Witzke were not far behind, and I was thusly treated to a fine conversation with one of comic's most valuable squadrons of influence. We departed outside to talk shit, which we do better than most. It was a glorious, glorious collection of moments, interspersed with public proclamations of support for Brandon Graham and Simon Roy, who had by then announced the greatest announcement this Comic Con was to deliver. (The Prophet thing.) I also had the latest in a multi-year stretch of pleasant con conversations with Tim Callahan. He's smart, funny and capable of having a disagreement about Scalped's level of quality (still sticking up for the "it's not a complete piece of shit" camp) without turning into a big red faced crybaby, and that's so rare a feat that I might petition the Harveys to start a category for it.
I bumped into Tim right after my first failed attempt to use the convention for a few of the primary things I would expect it to be explicitly for, which is to find out A) what a publisher is publishing and B) how to get those things so they can be sold in a store or at the very least C) get some contact information for the magical geniuses who can answer those super difficult questions. Because why have that? Why have a catalog, or a release list, or even a business card? Why do any of that shit? What are you, some kind of pedophile?
Anyway, that first experience was, hopefully, just a freak occurrence. The rest of the time, the smaller pubs seemed pretty excited to extol their various wares. (Abrams especially. I like those people a lot.) Still. In an environment where kid's comics are less of a priority to almost everyone concerned, who doesn't have their shit together enough to have a schedule of releases, a business card, a catalog, or at least somebody with a basic understanding of what their company does (or how their products are distributed) manning their booth? More and more, the supremacy of Graphix comics seems to not only rest on their aesthetic quality, but also on the simple fact that they hired actual grown ups to man the phones.
Last year, there was this one comic that got canceled and it's cancellation turned into this ridiculous Tea Party event where everybody and their mother chimed in to pretend that they'd secretly preferred gushy romantic comedies over action films all along, when in reality this was just the latest opportunity in the 900th episode of "I'm going to tell you how fucking much I hate you personally for not liking the things I like, because that's how I exorcise my personal sense of shame over the amount of my fiscal solvency I have dedicated to things that I have only a base emotional connection towards, things which are for some reason still continually failing to fill the gaping void in my black, black heart, i mean holy shit i even got some bitch pregnant and it didn't slow the pain down even one bit". Everybody wrote blog posts about the comic, it stayed canceled, a bunch of made up "new readers" (some of whom were fictionally female as well as fictionally existent) all died in a big omg-who-will-buy-the-comics-now fictional bonfire, and then we all moved on. And so hey, it turns out that the sales on the fucking thing were just fine, and it got canceled just because the publisher wanted to move the artist onto a different book, and the artist wouldn't budge until he was reminded that, hey, this is fucking comics, and artists are allowed to have one vote and that vote is always YES SIR. The only choice you get is how loud you want to yell it.
My favorite story out of the con is the one that may not even be true, so devoid as it is of any corroboration outside of everybody who got tanked on Saturday night and then said that yes, it was totally true. But yes, IF Ron Marz really did grab Rich Johnston in a headlock and then proceed to punch his head and face multiple times on the con floor, I believe that might even be the best convention story of the decade. It's the kind of fight that everybody wins, especially America. (Rich Johnston is not American.) Awesome.
I used to think it was some kind of latent sexism, but every time i've ever seen an attractive woman dressed up in some kind of fantasy/super-hero costume, I've always immediately thought to myself: "You don't need to do that. You're pretty." (I've never had the reaction to a picture of a woman playing dress up, just when I see them in real life.) I just assumed it was some ingrained bit of white male hookum, not the sort of thing I would explore, just a thought I didn't need to worry about as long as I didn't act on it. It's just a barnacle. But then, on Saturday, I saw a good looking man...in a costume! It was some kind of Jedi/cyberpunk thing where you could see his abs. And I had the thought! I looked right at him and immediately thought: "Come on, buddy! There's no need for you to do that!" So I guess I'm not sexist after all. I just think cosplaying should be left to people who are plain and/or unattractive. Who knew!
-Tucker Stone, 2011