San Diego Comic-Con 2015

San Diego Comic-Con 2015! I’m back again, for the third time, after skipping last year’s. I haven’t written a con report since the Livejournal days, so I’ve been looking forward to this. This is a purely personal, journal-type post, so forgive me for being very self-indulgent!

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Pandemonium.

We had an exceptionally great flight into San Diego this year. Direct from Tokyo to San Diego, decent movies (I watched Chappie and The Secret Service, both of which I enjoyed quite a bit), fricking MOS burgers for breakfast! SAN was so much more convenient than LAX too, no line, no nothing. Smooth.

We got into San Diego just around noon, so we had some extra time to walk around San Diego and get some sightseeing done! Funny thing, I never got around to doing that before. Comic-Con is always such a frantic blur, I never go outside the convention center/gaslamp/seaport area. This year, we took that first afternoon and walked to the Midway museum!

 

Maaan... This stuff just really gets me starry eyed.

Maaan… This stuff just really gets me starry eyed.

We spent about an hour and a half on the Midway, which felt much more like a building than a ship, because it’s so massive and solid. I distinctly remember gushing about how beautiful the rectangular jet intakes of that F-14 were.

Sexay.

Sexay.

After a quick stop by the Cheesecake Factory, and some scrambling to get our badges from the person that had arranged for them, we were finally ready for the main event. Well, technically Preview Night, but even that’s not nearly the quaint, quiet time it used to be. It was pandemonium right from the get go, and I chose to start slow by just strolling through artists’ alley (the quietest part of the exhibitor floor… which is awful if you think about it).

I said hi to a whole bunch of artists, including Laura Martin, Dustin Nguyen, and Richard Friend (whose Youtube Channel I’ve been enjoying). I used to be really conscious about browsing at tables where I know I wouldn’t be purchasing anything, but recent conversations with artists have led me to change that — nowadays I’ll at least say hi and tell someone when I’m enjoying their work.
The absolute highlight of preview night was when I was at David Mack’s booth, confessing that I had never read any of his work, and we talked a little about the books on his table — he had these amazing art books of his work on Kabuki — when Todd McFarlane walked up and just randomly joined the conversation. Viva Comic-Con (or viva Preview Night?)!

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Whoa, look at that weird shit a swing panorama does to moving cars…

On Thursday, I filled nearly the whole day with Panels. Meeting and talking to creators is one of my favourite part of comic conventions, but unfortunately oh so many of the creators that I would’ve loved to hang out with (Becky Cloonan, Faith Erin Hicks, Brandon Graham, Karl Kerschl, Chris Bachalo, Amy Reeder, etc etc) were skipping San Diego. So I made sure to study the panel list extra closely, and made a pretty tight schedule to fill:
11:00-12:00 Behind the Pages with David Aja
12:00-13:00 Editing Comics with the Oni Press Editorial
13:00-14:00 Breaking into Comics the Marvel Way
(14:00-15:00 Image Comics: Where Creators Own the Mainstream)
15:00-16:00 Powers: Ordinary Heroes, Extraordinary Possibilities: A Deeper Look at the Hit PlayStation Series
17:00-18:00 Making a Living in Manga: Japan Creators, Editors Talk

I actually ended up walking out halfway through the Marvel panel and skipping the Image one, because I absolutely wanted to be in the Powers one — I’d read the first few arcs right when they came out, and really enjoyed the show — and I knew how crazy the lines for anything movie- or TV related were. I ended up comfortably reaching the room in time for the panel before Powers, which turned out to be The Last Ship, a post-apocalyptic Navy show I hadn’t heard of. They name-dropped the Navy at every chance and dealt out a few “Thank you for your service” es, so the crowd was pleased. (the clip they showed was unfortunately rather bland)

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Susan Heyward was totally checking me out.

Anyway, Powers was fun. I’d met Bendis once at SDCC 2001, which I believe is when the series had just started, so it was cool to see him again (even if I didn’t get a chance to say hi). they didn’t have Sharlto Copley on stage, but honestly Susan Heyward is way cooler anyway, and they announced that one of my favourite characters from the comics — Supershock — was going to be in season 2. I’d lined up to ask a question (and get some free swag), but unfortunately too late to make the cut.

The Making a Living in Manga panel was a first for me: I was actually on stage for this one!

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Deb Aoki had asked me along with my friends Makoto Nishi, Philip Tan, Akihide Yanagi, and manga artist Kamome Shirahama (who brought an amazing fan art book) and agent/translator Yukari Shiina to talk about our experiences with the manga industry in Japan. I interpreted for Makoto, and chipped in some of my experiences with doujinshi events and some random publishing facts.
I feel we might’ve spent a little too much time on comiket and doujinshi, but apart from that I think it was a pretty balanced panel about the work of manga artists both Japanese and foreign, viewed from almost all possible angles. I’m hoping there will be a transcript or recording made available later on that I can share.

I started Friday with another panel: Marvel’s Secret Wars, where I ended up asking two questions, annoying the heck out of Tom Brevoort and John Hickman… Quoth CBR:

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I actually got applause from the audience for that one. Plenty of unhappy X-Men/FF fans there…

After the Marvel panel, DC took over the room with the big Geoff Johns/Dan Didio one-on-one talk. I don’t read a lot of DC these days, with exceptions such as Gotham Academy, but I did enjoy some of Johns’ stuff (Blackest Night), so I stuck around and watched it with my friend Sen (who should have a Shazam book at DC aaaaany day now).
It actually turned out to be a really good time. Both of them, and Didio in particular, seemed like pretty cool dudes who cared a lot about what they’re creating. I’m glad I watched this panel, as I actually ended up meeting both of them again when we got the DC office tour on Tuesday.

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Didio mentioned he had been looking forward to this panel for years.

And that was it with the panels for a bit, I spent the afternoon cruising the floor, but did manage to get a spot in line for a signing of the Batgirl team, who I think are all fantastic people, so it was great to meet them.
The day was rounded out by a fantastic deep-dish pizza dinner with Philip, his wife, and his agent, after which we completely collapsed.

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The next morning, I woke up to a tweet from Faith Erin Hicks, saying:

Hoo boy, would I have hated myself if I’d missed that. So that was my first order of the day! I got there half an hour early, there were already 10 people in line, but amazingly First Second was giving away 50 of the books. Which were actually properly bound, nice books, and given that this is one of my most looked-forward-to books of the year (2016!) I was suddenly extremely happy I’d attended SDCC!

I can die happily now.

A post shared by Phil Knall (@philknall) on

 

My main order of the day, however, was a signing by illustrator legend Akiman (who created a lot of the classic Street Fighter II characters) at Udon. It was sort of my reimbursal for Udon getting me into the show. I had no idea what to expect, how much conversation there would be with the fans, etc, so I was super nervous. Luckily, Akiman and I have some friends in common (such as cosplayer Iiniku Ushijima, who accompanied him), so at least he knew who I was.
It was an overwhelming experience — apparently 200 fans had lined up and purchased the $50+ limited edition book that served as the ticket to the signing. The line was so long we repeatedly got issues with security, and had to find ways to speed up the process. Hope the fans weren’t too inconvenienced, we did try to make as much time for everyone as possible. I think Akiman was thrilled to see the fans bringing vintage games or toys, and just the overall excitement about meeting him.

Weekly Famitsu had an article about the signing online, which was pretty cool!

Weekly Famitsu had an article about the signing online, which was pretty cool!

I had actually previously obtained a ticket for a signing of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s, which overlapped with this one, so I was super bummed… Thankfully, the Udon guys arranged for him to stop by the booth just before the Akiman signing, so I finally got to meet him! I forgot to take a picture together with the two of them, I am just sooo bad with selfie culture. Huge missed opportunity 🙁

Fortunately, I found some other creators to take pictures with that day: Adam Warren, who was signing at the Udon booth, and was super cool to talk to (He gave me the honor of taking home one of my TCOM books!), and Bengal, who was signing at the Magnetic Press booth. We’d been in contact about some unrelated stuff, so it was great to get to say hi!

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I got Bengal to draw me a Batgirl, so that was super cool. Also, I really regret not cutting my hair before the trip.

Last but not least, I caught up with Christopher Butcher, who for the first time was not with us in the Udon booth, but had a corner of the Drawn & Quarterly booth — which also gave me some hands-on time with the Eisner Award they’d won for Showa!

(I faintly recall making that same comment two years ago, after holding Faith’s Eisner… I’m horrible)
I also stopped by the BOOM! booth to pick up a The Spire variant cover (if you haven’t read it, you are seriously missing out. It is incredibly good), and congratulate one of the Lumberjanes creators (probably? I’d never met them before) on their many Eisners. I’ve only just started to read it (I always meant to! Also Nimona), but it’s bonkers and colorful and an absolute delight.

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Much like everyone else, I was getting a bit tired by Sunday. The crowds seemed even crazier than Saturday (last-minute shopping?), so I took it slow and just wandered about for the most part. I hadn’t managed to meet up with old internet acquaintances Jamie McKelvie and Kieron Gillen, creators of the fantastic The Wicked + The Divine, so I decided to try and get into their signing, but barely an hour in Image was all out of tickets. They told me there might be a chance if I came back half an hour after the signing started, so I did… and there was a huuuge line. They hadn’t capped it, but after a while an Image employee came back to tell us we would have to give up because Kieron was up for a panel. About 5 of us (I’d befriended a store owner and a girl who’d started reading comics because of Jamie and Kieron’s work) decided to wait it out, and lo and behold: we got in! Aaaand that is why Kieron was late for the Image panel afterward, sorry guys!

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Said Image panel was the last thing I really did at Comic-Con. It featured a good selection of writers and artists whose work I enjoy — Ivan Brandon (Drifter), Dustin Nguyen (Descender), Kurtis Weibe (Rat Queens), Jim Zub (Wayward), Tula Lotay (Supreme: Blue Rose), and Kieron Gillen. Apart from stuff about their current projects, they talked about what what got them their first comics jobs (Tula started out as a convention organizer, and attending pros noticed her art online; Jim worked in animation and did a net comic that got noticed; Kurtis pitched to folks at comic-con and got rejected 50-60 times before landing a gig; Dustin carried samples around cons until a Wildstorm editor noticed him; Ivan was friends with Michael Oeming, who asked him to write a script for an idea he’d had), and adapting to working with different artists (Kieron: “I analyze the artist’s previous work to see what kind of script works for them — so for Tula, I basically just ripped off what Warren did on Supreme: Blue Rose” (slightly paraphrased)). Kieron mentioned some fun “soft connections” between WicDiv and Phonogram, which I definitely need to go back and find now.

Some of the amazing cosplay!

Some of the amazing cosplay!

Finally, in the very last hour of the show, I found Bill Sienkiewicz’s booth and got a sketch from him! Of course it’s Warlock. What else would you ask Bill Sienkiewicz for 😉
Given his professional status and price his art commands, I was expecting a haughty, cold welcome, but he turned out to be the nicest guy! Comics just never fail to surprise me with how nice pros are.

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I managed to lose a different sketch that had been wedged into the same sketchbook at his table, and Bill was so kind as to put it up on his facebook and twitter to try and find me… Another testament to what a nice guy he is!

And that was it, Comic-con closed with the usual announcement and applause, and we made our way towards the exit. On the way, we saw the news that Nintendo President Satoru Iwata had passed away at 55, which was a definite down note to end the event…

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Fortunately, we still had the Udon “victory dinner” to look forward to, where we downed a metric tonne of Bucca di Beppo, and I had some more time to talk to Akiman and the other guys. A great time was had by all!

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And that was my San Diego Comic-Con 2015. Much has been said about Comic-Con’s shift in content, about it not being the same anymore, etc, but yet again, even as someone purely there for the comics, I had the best of times. I was able to meet up with a lot of people, acquaintances both old and new, had a great time watching (and talking at!) panels, and even did a little shopping. It’s just a fantastic, crazy place to be in.

I’m contemplating going to Emerald City Comic Con next year, which seems to get a super good rep from artists as well as fans.. But that’s all up in the air for now.
For now, I’m gearing up for next month’s Comiket and Comitia, where I will be selling my TCOM doujinshi! I have added some preview PDFs to my Making of post, make sure to check them out!