I didn’t attend very many panels at ComicCon, but when Rick Baker made a point about how differently creative people view the world, I sat up and listened. I listened because I had been noticing things that others were not—the traditional SDCC spectacles did not interest me—and Rick Baker’s panel made sense of my entire experience. [For those of you who don’t know, Rick Baker has won seven Oscars over the years for makeup and special effects. He is the ultimate creative person.]
What he said was that because he is creative, he observes different things. That on a family trip to Paris, his wife stood back taking pictures of the Eiffel Tower like a tourist, while he had his own camera focused intently on a small patch of rust at the bottom of the metal supports because it ‘had a cool pattern’.
Suddenly, it all made sense. I was viewing ComicCon through the lens of creativity.
I went to San Diego as a ride with Famous Monsters of Filmland. I never would have gone otherwise. I have issues with large crowds of people in small spaces. But I like to think that the magazine needed me.
I have never worked so hard in my entire life.
This wasn’t only due to all the heavy lifting, networking, and minimal sleep, but to the strain on my poor little brain trying to take everything in. Being a creative person, what I consider ‘newsworthy’, both as a journalist and human being, often seems mundane to the rest of the world. I was there to cover news.
What made the whole thing even more complicated was my general lack of imaging skills. I cannot wield a camera, a paintbrush, or a Photoshop tool. I have to make do with a pen.
I’ve often wished that I were a visual artist. Not only so I could complete a comic book on my own—as is, it would be a rather elaborate tale accompanied by stick figures—but because the appreciation for such art, especially at events like San Diego ComicCon, is so much more immediate. “Here,” an artist says, pointing to their portfolio. The work speaks for itself—it’s either good or it isn’t. Writing… “Well, let me get back to you on that.”
There is an Artist Alley. There is no Writer’s Backlot.
At the Famous Monsters booth, I was on the receiving end of many artists and writers attempting to convince me of their awesomeness. It may be a bias of the magazine, but as it seemed to me, artists were taken seriously. Writers… well, just try going up to a booth and saying, “Hey, I’m a writer.”
“Yeah, I write for [insert publication here].”
This is mainly because it takes most people about ten seconds to decide if they like a piece of artwork or not. Words take more time. Stories take digestion.
I am not, of course, belittling the awesomeness of visual art. I have nothing but the utmost respect for drawers, painters, filmographers… It’s downright ANNOYING, in fact, not being able to draw. I’m bursting with ideas and all I’ve got to show for them is a bit of chickenscratch on a page. My brain hurts and the best I can do is use a digital recorder or my photographic memory and recycle the experience into some semblance of savory verbage.
Of course, the best writers make up their own words, their own sentence structures, and their own styles, just like other artists, actors, performers, and creators. [I saw a painted billboard the other day that read ‘Art does not read like a sentence’ and I thought, what is this bullshit?] But try reconciling that while surrounded by live caricature drawings and buxom women in flashy outfits.
I was not dressed up. I wore jeans and walked the floor trying to find stories. I had to work very hard because most of these people were not interested in words, but in limited edition figurines, 3D game consoles, and giant balloons with brand names on them.
I nearly wrote a scathing letter to Entertainment Weekly this week complaining about their pathetic excuse for ComicCon ‘coverage’, which consisted of a couple of paragraphs about movies and a gallery of television and movie stars posed in front of a white paper backdrop. I was like, what? Who the fuck are these people? Were we actually in the same building? I saw no movie stars. The most famous people I talked to all week were comic book artists. [I did get a bit giddy when I glimpsed Gerard Way because he writes The Umbrella Academy. I think he’s also in a band or something.]
Entertainment Weekly reported on red carpets and parties. Websites like to report on extravagant costumes. I wanted to report on the googly eyes displayed by nerdy twentysomethings upon catching sight of Nathan Fillion. I wanted to tell stories about what the poor dude leading Pikachu around did when he got back home to his hotel room and had a cigarette. I wanted to focus on the regular people—those of us up at six and lucky to be in bed by midnight, attempting connections and ending up with piles of business cards; who waited in lines longer than usual but were told the hall was full because we hadn’t been obsessive enough to camp out overnight. The gorgeous desperation, the lined eyes, the drawing lines, the lines out the bathroom door. Most celebrities never even set foot in the Exhibit Hall, where overweight superheroes scramble for spots to sit down and eat pizza in the midst of publication pitches and obsessive t-shirt hoarding.
ComicCon was amazing, but I’ve never felt so unimpressive, or so irrelevant. This is precisely why my coverage—both for my blog and the magazine—has taken so long. My experience was verbal. Poetic, but relatively ordinary. Even the few panels I attended were memorable for linguistic reasons rather than any celebrity spectacle or film trailer.
I thought, intensely. I came away intellectually exhausted. The thought pockets I got from standing at the intersections were far more thrilling than a giant mecha sculpture or movie star.
These were my favourite moments at ComicCon:
- Witnessing my favourite person on the face of the planet, Yoshiki, turn into a shy [albeit still elegant] little Japanese man on a panel with eighty-year-old Stan Lee and the only slightly-involved Todd McFarlane. Questions had to be repeated several times. So many language barriers. So much awkwardness. So much love.
- Giggling with Kevin Eastman over my decades-old ‘Charter Force’ Ninja Turtle membership card—dug out of my mom’s office and taken cross-country to be signed in silver sharpie by this creator of my childhood. He also owns Heavy Metal. Talk about full circle.
- Watching fifteen year old goth kids turn into teenyboppers at the sight of Jhonen Vasquez. It was like those ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures on cheesy diet books. Before: angsty, cynical, and deadpanned. After: giddy, blissed out, and screechier than Justin Bieber fans. Fucking priceless.
- Listening to Joe Lynch make poop jokes at the ‘Chillerama’ screening. Tim Sullivan made gay jokes, Adam Green made Jewish jokes, and Adam Rifkin was just… amusing. It was offensive, anti-mainstream, and nearly as comforting as my own family dinner table.
- Trading pints of Guiness with Ben Templesmith in a small bar at the Gaslamp Hilton. We talked tentacles, cigars, and coffee-flavored tequila. We swapped barbs at mainstream monsters and indie failures alike. We talked for well over an hour, and I think I recorded the whole thing, although parts of the conversation were inappropriate for publication.
Spectacular? Celebrity-filled? Hardly. But inspiring enough to convince my creative self, as Rick Baker advised it, to ‘not ever get a real job’.
Okay, Rick. I listened. I’m still here, writing, whether people are reading it or not.