Thursday, April 7, 2011

Wondercon - Day Two

Day one of Wondercon was a total hoot.  We all had a blast and I was excited for day two, which might have had something to do with me waking at 2:00 AM...that and the allergy attack that was making me sneeze nonstop.  I ended up tossing and turning for about two or three hours until I finally slept for the final hours until Amy woke up at 7:00 AM and we began to pull ourselves together.

Once out the door and away from the air conditioned room, I started to feel better and we went to The Grove Yerba Buena for breakfast, where I ordered the monstrous, titanic-sized breakfast burrito that had been consuming my thoughts from the day before.  It was pretty damn good, but honestly could have stood to have some bacon or sausage in it, but that would have probably been too much of a good thing.  If you are thinking of going to Wondercon or any event at the Moscone Center, I highly recommend The Grove as a nearby place to get some good food at decent prices; plus the fresh-squeezed orange juice is amazing.  Whole Foods is also a great place for a healthy choice of pre-made sandwiches and drinks that you can smuggle into the event, sit in a corner and wolf it all down with out leaving the comfort of the event center.

From here, I pressured Amy to walk with me to Isotope Comics, probably the best comic book store I have EVER visited, but more on that in a moment.  The walk was...interesting... and the store was about two miles away, but I was dead set on going.  It is odd how one moment we were in the business section, which is fairly well maintained, and within a few blocks we found ourselves in total blight.  Far too many boarded up businesses, garbage and people acting less than appropriate.  Then with a quick turn to the right and up two blocks, we found ourselves at a small dog park, children playing, people talking and many cute locally owned cafes and restaurants.  What the hell?  Did we step into a transporter?  Totally weird.  Anyhow, we picked up sandwiches for the convention center and stopped at a Blue Bottle Coffee stand (heaven) to stall some time until Isotope opened at 11:00 AM.

I found this at Isotope!

When we found the fabled comic store, it was much more than the webpage, or the great iFanboy folks could ever convey.  First, go check out the website to get a view of what you see when you walk into the joint. They have a freaking Doctor Strange cloak for god's sake!  You don't get more magical than that.  The owner, James Sime--who you will never fail to recognize with his trademark suit, hair and moustache--was the kindest and most passionate of comic book store owners.  He loved what he did and his pride in his amazing store were evident.  He happily searched for some things that I was looking for, explained the deal with the toilet seats lining the vaulted ceilings (you have to see them) and talked with us about the Frank Quitely signing that was occurring at the store that evening between the hours of 8:00 PM and 2:00 AM.  Okay, you read that correctly.  Mr. Sime holds special events at a comic store that involves high-profile artists/writers, a staffer serves cocktails from the little bar and he has DJs spinning music into the wee hours of the morning.  Comics, booze, music and one can only assume hot girls...where the hell was this place when I was in my twenties?!?  Sime also let us have a sneak peak at some of the original art that would be on sale at the event and more than anything I wished to be rich so I could afford all of the artwork, but alas it was not meant to be.  Anyhow, Isotope Comics.  Go there.  Give Mr. Sime loads of business.  I very much wish this was my LCS.

Legion of Super-Heroes: The Great Darkness Saga (Deluxe Edition)
LoSH: The Great
Darkness Saga.  One of
the best.
Enough gushing about Isotope (so cool).  Amy and I then walked the long distance back to Wondercon where we split off so she could attend some panels and I could comb the floor until a few signings began.  Where Friday had been empty and manageable, Saturday was a zoo.  Mobs of people were everywhere and getting around the floor was more difficult.  What the hell happened?  Jeff arrived but was soon lost and surfing the waves of humanity, but it was 1:00 PM, which meant that Paul Levitz and Len Wein were signing at the DC booth.  First up was Mr. Levitz who signed my Legion of Superheroes: The Great Darkness Saga HC.  I told Levitz that my brother and I both worshiped this particular storyline and that we still love it to this day.  I also mentioned that I own whupped floppies of this run at home, but that I was embarrassed to have him sign such damaged copies.  He graciously told me that he actually prefered to sign books in that condition, because it showed love and appreciation in each damaged crease.  Huh.  Good point.  Next was Len Wein who signed my Roots of the Swamp Thing HC.  I started to tell him, "Hello, I"  He did not even look at me as he signed my book and only talked to the DC staffer that stood off to the side.  Okay...yeah, love your book and it was a huge inspiration to me as a child and as an aspiring writer.  Thank you I guess...bummer.

Wondercon Security photoOp
After having my books signed, I finally found Jeff again and we stalled some time until 2:00 PM when Jason Aaron was signing at the DC booth.  Mr. Aaron is a champion in my eyes as a huge success in a relatively small amount of time and as a highly accessible creator.  Over at Comics Experience (check it out), the Book Club met Jason Aaron and listened to him talk about his book Scalped and what it took for him to break into comics, which was probably the second most inspiring event for me as a writer; the first you can read about at The Brutal Circle.  When it was my turn to have Mr. Aaron sign my Scalped V.1, Scalped V.2 and The Otherside I thanked him for appearing at the Comics Experience and told him that it was a great experience.  He was surprised that I had been in attendance and that I was there to see him, but said that he had enjoyed chatting with everyone.  I also thanked him for critiquing a short script that I had written--also at the Comics Experience--and that his feedback on the use of silent panels had been immensely helpful to me.  This prompted another weird look but he recalled the story and he actually relayed some of it back to me.  He was genuinely happy that I had entered the story in the Eagles Initiative--which I have still not heard back on--and we shook hands; I was thrilled to have met him.

Chicks, Beer, Comics...

Jeff and I then went to the Oni Press booth where Brian Hurtt was signing copies of The Sixth Gun (one of my favorite books on the shelf) and The Damned (another great book).  I convinced Jeff to buy one and we each had him to sign our The Sixth Gun TPBs.  We talked with Mr. Hurtt, who is a very down to earth and genuine person, for a while and I wish I had thought to ask if he was taking commissions for drawings...oh well, it was great to meet the guy.  Later on Amy and I would return to Oni Press to buy the Stumptown HC and were able to have Greg Rucka sign it for us and you know what?  He too is an incredibly cool guy.  Is everyone at Oni Press really that nice?  It kind of seems that way. 

Speaking of Comics Experience, I then found the founder (huh...sounds like the title of a fantasy novel) Andy Schmidt at the IDW booth, where he was looking a little shellshocked by the sheer volume of people crowding around.   I was lucky to have a couple minutes to introduce myself in person as opposed to a computer screen and relayed my thanks for all the inspiration and opportunities that his amazing courses and workshops had afforded me.  Before his classes I never even considered comic book creation a possibility, and now it is a goal of mine.  It was nice to put a non-computer generated face to the person.

After meeting Mr. Schmidt, I split from Jeff to check out the "Creator Rights" panel with Mike Friedrich, Marv Wolfman, Joe Field and Michael Lovitz, and moderated by Mark Evanier.  Another fine panel which needed twice the time alotted to get all of the information across, but you make due with what you are given.  The main point I took away from talk was that no matter what you do, someone out there is trying to screw you; I am only partially joking.    Here is a rundown of key points:

  • (Jack) Kirby had once told Mark Evanier, "I've done about as well as you can do in comics and it isn't that great."  Ouch.
  • Beware of vanity presses
  • Visit for stories of exploitive presses.  I have not yet had a chance to visit the site, but will sometime soon.
  • Publish your work for free on the internet before giving it away to someone for free (meaning the rights to the work).  Don't give away the rights out of an act of desperation.
  • Michael Lovitz has a comic book on copyright and trademarks from Sirius.
  • They mentioned that there is a group of volunteer lawyers for the arts in many big cities and to look them up for inexpensive consultations.
  • Also read Coleen Doran's weblog for some of the horrendous nonsense various assholes have put her through over the years.
  • Some of the bad small press companies will insist that in order to publish they will need 100% of the rights to your work...they do not.  Watch what you sign and KEEP YOUR RIGHTS.
  • If work for hire, go over your contract with a fine-toothed comb.  Work for hire can be a good living, but you give up some/most of the rights with the focus being on royalty payments.
  • "Nothing protects ideas other than silence"
  • Google is your friend.  Look up EVERYONE you intend to do business with.
  • Always have a lawyer go over your contracts and keep in mind that you can negotiate with your lawyer by giving them a percentage of royalties for their help...almost like an agent.
  • Mark Evanier said, "When you put your work into the world, someone will hate it and someone will steal it."  Good to know going into this business and something to prepare for mentally, emotionally and legally from the beginning.  
  • "Working for people can be great, but when working for a company the people within the company can change."  Make sure you have a solid contract in the event that your greatest champion at the company leaves and is replaced by a scumbag.

Okay, now I'm good and scared, but this was a highly informative panel with information that all creators should take to heart.

Martinis and love, the
cure for the common
allergy attack.
Right around this point, I began to fall apart.  I was sneezing, coughing, and dizzy becauase of what I could only assume were allergies.  Jeff, Amy and I looked at the throngs of people and realized that we were all in the poor house at that point, I was a mess, and happy hour at the Marriott Marquis SkyView Lounge was sounding better and better, so we said goodbye to Wondercon and split.

After a couple of drinks and a slight reprieve from the allergies, Amy and Jeff decided that we hop in Jeff's car and drive to Cha-Cha-Cha; I did not like this plan.  Here's the thing and a wee look into brain of the curmudgeon that is Donist.  I can tolerate any big city up until the point that I have to hop in a car, drive somewhere, then spend 20+ minutes driving around, praying to come across the holy grail...a parking space.  After eventually finding a spot way out in the middle of nowhere, we made our way to Cha-Cha-Cha, only to be told there was a wait of at least one hour.  I was sneezing uncontrollably, the Wal-Dryl (Walgreens's Benedryl knockoff), had not yet kicked in, we drove around for 20 minutes trying to find a parking space, I was hungry, then were told we had a one hour wait and I was not a happy camper.  We then went to a Mexican food place with a one hour thirty minute wait...Arrrggh.  Son of a bitch, I was becoming pissed.  Thankfully we lucked out when we found a place called Bissap Baobab that served Senegalese food that had three seats at the bar.  The food was outstanding and the ginger drink was heavenly.  I calmed significantly at that point, but we were soon back in the car.  Jeff dropped us off at the hotel and Amy and I were asleep in seconds, especially after a couple more Wal-Dryls.

Next, a brief rundown on the loot we brought home...

Let me know if you went to Wondercon and what your favorite moment was, I would love to hear.


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