Monday, February 07, 2005

Emerald City Comicon Report 2005

I'm absolutely exhausted, and yet pretty happy as well. I made it through seven hours of convention with very little pain. My convention reports are more for helping me to remember what happened than to share the fun with you all, but I post them because people do seem interested. My report of the first Emerald City Comicon is here and the second is here.

First off, as you all may have read, I didn't make it to the con yesterday because I had to work. This was the first year that the Emerald City Comicon was two days. It was apparently very busy on the first day of the convention, with "insane crowds" according to a few of the artists I talked with. Sunday, in addition to being dreary and rainy in Seattle, was Superbowl Sunday and thus the crowds were lighter. There was more downtime for most artists.

Hubby-Eric and I started to the con pretty early, leaving Bothell around 8:30 am. We set up the Superbowl to tape, but when we got home we discovered that there was yet another power outage (the third in the last two days) and the game didn't tape, so I won't be doing any coverage of ads this year.

Being on the road so early allowed us to head down 405 and cross the lake at 90, which is no longer a pleasant trip most days due to traffic. Crossing the lake on the floating bridge reminded me once again just how cool it is to have a floating bridge, something I didn't think about much when I crossed the lake twice a day while commuting. We got down to the stadium so early that we managed to get free parking pretty close to the exhibition center.

We sat reading in the car for awhile to pass the ample time until the con started. After reading awhile, I realized needed a trip to the restroom, and so we walked down to the exhibition center looking for one. Unfortunately, the only ones open were in the center, so I begged the convention staff to let me in just to use the restroom, and they agreed. After I returned, hubby and I waited in line in the very light rain with the rest of the friendly nerds. A staff member came by handing out Plastic Man mailbox heroclix, and some other folks came by with fliers for local comic stores.

Once in, officially this time, I headed for the freebies table. I picked up "The Atom" heroclix, which was just a base with no figure. I also started to pick up some Dorothy of Oz buttons and chatted with the guy putting them out. This led to Eric and I going to their table first.

For those few of you who haven't yet read Dorothy of Oz, this is one of my recommended series. The artwork is far different than most comics, as it incorporates photos within the art. Check out the gallery for an idea of the style. Two issues have come out so far, both of them are recommended by myself and a couple of other bloggers. Check them out, even if you aren't a big Oz fan. The whole team came out to Seattle for the con, and we got to meet the model who "plays" Dorothy. In fact, Hubby-Eric got to have his picture taken with her:

The crew of Dorothy recognized me once I identified my blog, and even claimed to have come out to Seattle just to see me. Flattery will get you everywhere... but Aquaman sketches will get you farther.

To my delight, Greg Mannino, the Director/Producer/Creator of Dorothy, was willing to give Aquaman a try. The result was a really impressive piece which I'll be sharing with you on a future Saturday Sketch™. I didn't really set a sketch goal for this con... I was thinking a couple of sketches and three permissions. Well, one down already. One truly fantastic one down...

After saying good-bye to the Oz folks, who will be attending a lot of cons so you have plenty of opportunities to see them, we headed over to the Mercury Studios booth, where I had planned on meeting The Comic Queen's Erin M. Schadt. Since we were a bit early, we stopped by Scott Kurtz at the Image Booth. As he was busy sketching in a large sketchbook, we started talking with the lovely lady next to him, who was delighted to look through our sketchbooks. After Scott finished with the sketch he was working on, he took Eric's sketchbook and drew Skull as Green Lantern. He then provided me with Skull as Aquaman, with a lovely Skull-ish twist. Yes, it'll be posted. All the sketches I got at the con will make it to this blog.

While we were at the PVP table, they gave us copies of Dork Storm's PVP #6, which has a PS238 story in it. I think I squealed a little in joy when I saw that, which made Scott tell me that I was going to talk with Aaron Williams. Lovely Lady dialed, and I realized he was serious. Well, I didn't get to talk to him, as he didn't answer, but I did leave a fangirl message on his voice mail. I don't recall leaving my name, so he probably has no idea who was talking to him. Oh well, I think the point was letting him know that Scott ran into a major PS238 fan in Seattle.

After hanging out with the PVP's for a bit, we wandered across the aisle to Jeff Parker's table where we were to meet Erin. We chatted with Jeff, and Kurt Busiek wandered up and talked about Conan with me, and con organizer Jim Demanakos stopped to say hello to me too. I felt a wee bit like a celebrity. Unfortunately, Erin didn't show, and after waiting about fifteen minutes we headed out to see some more folks.

The next stop was back at the Image Booth, where we met Ovi Nedelcu and asked him for sketches. He obliged with an Aquaman sketch for me and a traditional lantern for hubby-Eric. Ovi is best known for Pigtale. Ovi was also the first artist at this con to add a fish to his drawing.

After chatting with Roy Thomas at the ACTOR booth (donate if you can afford to), we headed out to artist alley! Note: hubby-Eric did the "I'm not worthy!" thing to poor Roy, who seemed flattered and embarrassed.

Artist Alley... the mere name brings chills to the spine... where the geekiness flows freely and everyone on the other side of the table is someone totally cool...

First up was Brian Joines, writer and creator of The 7 Guys of Justice, which I've heard about but never tried. When I mentioned that, Brian gave me issue #6, which he says is a standalone, to give it a shot. The website is apparently not working at the moment as their webhead flaked on them, but he gave me his e-mail so I could contact him to get more books if I'm interested. So far, I'm interested. The book looks quite funny.

Next up were Jay Faerber and James Francis, who we've talked with many times before. I chose to move on to the next table, at which was Andy Owens and Steve Sadowski. I waited for quite awhile, and asked Andy for a sketch. After he finished, his sketch jumped into my top ten. I'm really going to enjoy sharing this one.

I then asked Steve if I could post his sketch from San Diego 2000. He was pleased that I asked, and gave me permission. I then asked if he wanted to do another sketch. He did, and I'll be posting both sketches in back-to-back weeks like I did with the Jeff Johnson sketches.

After getting my fifth sketch of the con, well over what I expected, I moved up the line and talked with Cary Nord, best known for his current work on Conan. I told him how his work has pretty much inspired me to look up the original stories. He wasn't sketching, as he was working on Conan #14. I got a few looks at a couple of pages. Seeing the pencils is quite interesting, as the art on Conan is amazing.

After seeing Cary, I walked up the line and chatted a bit with Gail Simone. Then I went around the table to get in line for Tim Sale. It was quite a line, let me tell you. Tim was sketching. I got hubby to stand in for me for a moment while I stopped to say "Hi!" to Tom Peyer and ask permission to post his autograph on my blog. Yes, I'm going to treat his autograph as a sketch. You'll see why when I post it. He also pointed out to me that he now has a blog. Go check it out.

I got back in line for Tim Sale, and spent a great deal of time in the line. It was important to me to say hello to Tim though, as he was the one artist at San Diego 2000 who wasn't able to do an Aquaman sketch due to time constraints in the DC booth. I didn't expect him to do an Aquaman sketch at this con, but I hoped to get a sketch of some sort from him. I let folks who were just getting autographs ahead of me, which made the line ever so slightly longer for me. When I reached the front of the line, he was very gracious and willing to try Aquaman. I only hope you all will be as impressed by the sketch as I am. It's amazing. Tim is the first artist, that I can recall, who used watercolors in my sketchbook.

After that long wait, I needed to walk around a bit. I stopped by Sean Chen's table and asked permission to post his Iron Man sketch, which he gave. That made all three permissions I hoped to get at this con. Sean politely declined to try Aquaman, explaining that he charges for sketches now.

Moving on, I went to the Madison Middle School Cartoonists table. Every year of the con so far, kids from this school have been coming to the con and participating as professionals. I was on the hunt. I've been meaning to get a sketch from one of them since I first learned about them. Bryonne K Langlois was up to the challenge, and her sketch will get a place on honor on my blog along with all the other pros at the con.

At this point it was getting into the afternoon, and I'd spent most of my time in Artist Alley. So I went wandering into the rest of the con with hubby mostly at my side (during my sketch-getting time he wandered a little, and rested on the chairs that Jim thoughtfully provided for all the tired congoers).

Way back at the beginning of the con when we were visiting the Dorothy of Oz folks, I said hello to Batton Lash as he walked by. It suddenly occurred to me that he probably had no idea who I am, so now, after my sojourn in Artist Alley I headed back to explain myself. Jackie Estrada was there, but Batton was not, so I said hello. I swear Jackie is superhuman as she clearly remembered me. I only had to remind her of the dinner with Nick Cardy for her to remember exactly who I was. She suggested I return in a few minutes and get Batton to sketch Aquaman for me.

So I wandered a little more, met up with hubby-Eric again, and we returned to the Exhibit A table after a short chat with Roberta Gregory. Batton was back, and certainly willing to sketch for me. He drew "Prince Curry, The Aqua-Mariner?" You'll just have to see it when I post it in a couple of months.

We chatted a bit about the reaction of old comic book pros like Nick Cardy to being at a convention and being adored by tons of fans. I related my experience in leaving San Diego right after the convention closed, with Nick Cardy, walking through the small press area (story here). Jackie mentioned a number of other creators who were surprised at the warm reception they got at conventions. Some of whom seemed to be waiting for somebody to come up and say, "yes, this is a joke, you're on Candid Camera!" We were laughing about renting the entire San Diego Convention Center just to play a joke on an old-time artist... even so, I'm sure the adoration some of the artists get just amazes them. I know Nick was as humble as could be.

I figured at this point that I'd gotten all the sketches I was likely to get, but I really wanted to bug the guys at Penny Arcade, but hadn't really mustered up the nerve yet. So Eric and I wandered over their way and started listening in. Mike Krahulik, the artist also called "Gabe" by everyone, was sketching incessantly. In fact, I don't think he was capable of stopping. And they were discussing an ambulatory dresser, a seagull, and a lightning summoning fellow who they called by a term which I cannot remember but I know it seemed like a mistake the first couple of times I heard it until I realized they were saying it that way intentionally. Note: in their news section they identify the fellow as a "rogue elemenstor". The writer, Jerry Holkins (Tycho), was explaining the concepts while Gabe was drawing them out. I somehow got involved in the discussion and said that an ambulatory dresser is all well and good, as it takes the place of a servant or minion, but having a seagull as well is just too much. In any case, I managed to redirect Gabe's efforts into sketching Aquaman, which he was delighted to do, and I have a genuine Penny Arcade Aquaman sketch to post now.

At this point I realized I was completely wiped, and hubby-Eric and I wandered around to some of the tables I hadn't been to, mostly the dealer side of things. Eric had found one dealer with some old coverless Adventure comics, but he didn't have anything I wanted in a price range I could afford. After a short time, Eric convinced me to go up to the DC writers panel in progress upstairs. It was nice to sit, and the panel, which I think consisted of Gail Simone, Kurt Busiek, Greg Rucka, and Ed Brubaker, was very fun. They were taking audience questions while we were there. I think the first question answered after we arrived was "which Green Lantern is the best?"

I regret that I didn't get a picture of the panel, as that would have been a nice thing to insert here and break up the text.

After the panel, we took our dear sweet time going back downstairs, pausing to take pictures from the balcony of the con floor, which you can see in the text above. The con was already starting to break up by then, as most of the folks in the booths had been there since Saturday morning. I wanted to see a few more people, and Eric wanted to sit in on the last panel, so we split up and I wandered Artist Alley some more.

I got to talk with Alex Maleev, who did some great covers for Aquaman. He was willing to do an Aquaman sketch, but really didn't have time. I refused to add pressure to him and told him I'd catch him at another con or commission something sometime.

I also met Tony Harris, who did the lovely "fishtank" cover on Aquaman #11 of the current series. I did not ask for a sketch. A lot of folks I just wanted to talk to, a sketch is just an amazing little bonus.

I went around the tables and talked with quite a few other artists, including Steve McNiven and Travis Charest. I got close to Dexter Vines, but he was mobbed most of the time, and I never got to chat with him at all.

I went to visit Suzanne Kaufman and Karin Yamagiwa. I wanted to tell Karin how other artists always stopped on her sketch to look at it more closely. She was delighted to hear it, and Suzanne gave her a bit of a hard time over it, "Will you still hang out with me when you're famous?" I think it's the expression on the fish that does it. Everyone has to pause and look at the fish, who is just a moment away from rolling his eyes. It's one of those, "Oh, NOW what does he want me to do??" moments.

I went down to the end of the table to chat with the other artists near the pair, and got to talking with Paul Whitehead, who liked my sketchbook and wanted to add to it. He did a small sketch. Next to him was Edward Pun who also did a sketch. This one a Manga-ish Aquaman.

I then waited for a bit until Dev Madan came back to his table, with an assist from Karin (who was sitting next to him and waved at him to bring him back over). Anyway, I had to show Dev both sketchbooks, as his sketch is the first one in my first sketchbook. So I had to show him what he'd started. He looked through my second sketchbook first, and was impressed with the number of Aquaman sketches, not to mention the quality. I then let him go through my first sketchbook, with his sketch right up front. He was impressed, especially as he got to the middle of the book with Art Adams, Ramona Fradon, Walter Simonson, and others. But the zinger for him was the last page. He couldn't believe I had a Neal Adams sketch, or that it was the last page of a sketchbook he had started. He described it as being a bookend with Neal Adams. He was also humbled when I explained how many artists had used his sketch as a reference, because he'd drawn the entire figure of Aquaman (minus feet).

After visiting with Dev, I wandered down the table to visit other artists. Walking down the table I met Kevin and Kendra Hanna. Their table said "free sketches" so I asked if they would like to do a sketch for me. They did a little jam session with Kevin drawing Aquaman and Kendra providing the fish that he's talking to. Kendra is 8 years old, and quite the accomplished artist, if this entry on their website is any indication: "3-12-04: Thanks to everyone who came out to the ECC, I had a ball even though my 7 year old daughter outsold me ten to one with her comic." Heh.

I also chatted with Siya Oum very briefly, then went out to the Committed Comics booth. I had no intention of getting a last sketch, but Siya ragged me on until I asked Kensuke Okabayashi for a sketch. I'd stopped by his table earlier to tell him how much I enjoyed Java, particularly Swizz Mizz, the villain. Ok, I admit it took me until the third issue to get the thing about the "braids" but the guy is a fantastic artist. And yes, he drew Aquaman. As he was drawing, hubby-Eric returned from the panel, and the announcement came down that the con was closed for 2005.

Holy Moley. I went seven hours without any significant rest and no food.

Eric and I left after Kensuke finished my sketch, taking it slow and easy since my heelspur was bothering me a lot. I'm still reeling from the intensity of the convention, but I wish I'd been able to do the first day of it as well.

Some final thoughts. I'll add more in future notes if I think of any... Tim Sale asked me to scan his sketch at 300 dpi and send it to him, once I asked permission to post it... There were plenty of chairs and places to rest this year... The exhibition center is a much nicer space than the concourse of the stadium itself, where the last two ECC's were held... This was the first year there was a nice Program Book, at least I don't recall one from previous years... I'm still amazed at how many comic book pros recognize me on sight, for the ones who don't I'm tempted to start wearing a name tag to cons: "Laura 'Tegan' Gjovaag of Bloggity-Blog-Blog-Blog"... The Dorothy of Oz folks gave Eric a boost of energy. I admit that their praise of my blog overwhelmed me, especially so early in the con. What a way to start the day! ... Erin e-mailed me this morning to let me know that she was delayed by the snow in the North, which is why she missed me. I didn't even know it had snowed up North... The final tally for this con was 13 sketches and three permissions. Wow... Bob Schreck of DC Comics was doing portfolio reviews, but he was in pain from a surgery. He was amazingly patient for a man in agony... I was wearing a special Girl Genius button, with the Trilobyte on it. I got asked what it was by a ton of folks, and I directed them to the Studio Foglio booth for more information... Having cell phones turned out to be handy for Eric and I as we could call each other to find out where we were on the con floor... On the way home, my sister called and asked if I had a recipe for sugar cookies handy. No, sorry, not in the car...

Oh wow, I'm looking forward to seeing how this con goes next year.