AISLE SEAT 2.0.66
By Marc Mason
It is Thursday early evening, and to say that I have had an eventful SDCC 2011 so far would be underselling it a bit.
I arrived Tuesday evening, albeit a bit late. For the first time in memory, I experience a flight delay in getting here. Get this- they had to install a new captain’s seat in the plane. Why this was important/necessary, as well as why they had to do it then instead of waiting until the plane was done for the night was the great mystery. So we wound up sitting on the scalding Phoenix tarmac for twenty-five minutes mentally urging the mechanic to speed the hell up. By the time we got into the air, we were a sweaty plane. Fortunately it didn’t turn out to be an omen.
After I checked in, I caught up with a couple of comics journo friends for dinner at Seaport Village. As we made our way downtown, the massive SDCC advertising campaigns came into full view. The hotels are serving up a heaping helping of love for movies, TV, and video games on their facades, and it’s pretty omnipresent. I’d get an even better sense of it the next day.
I’m a big believer in not just spending your time at places surrounding the convention center. Honestly, most comicons look pretty similar once you’re inside. Publishers, artist alleys, a place where you can meet a Star Trek actor… what makes a con special is the city surrounding it. San Diego is what it is because it has more to offer than most. Thus on Tuesday night, I headed away from Seaport and out to Mission Beach to hang with some other friends. We spent some time grabbing food at one friend’s beach house, then walked into town to a fantastic little dive bar call The Pennant. Cheap drinks, crooked pool table, stoners and hipsters… a damned good time.
Wednesday, though, was when things really kicked into gear. I discovered that my hotel has a wonderful little breakfast nook attached to it, and I got a hot, fresh waffle, then sat on their patio and stared across the road and out over the ocean as I ate it. It was so tranquil, so peaceful, I cannot even begin to tell you. Then, with some time in my schedule, I headed across the road and began wandering around and exploring the ships docked in the harbor. By the time my buddy Brandon (Jerwa) arrived, I found myself rather obsessed with the boats. As he wandered with me, I decided to pull the trigger on taking a harbor cruise, something I have never done down here.
The cruise went the southerly route, and for those considering doing this, I recommend it. That route takes you past all the cool military boats in the harbor, including a massive dry-dock setup. It was incredibly impressive. The path also takes you under the Coronado bridge and nears the Mexican border. Throw in the sunshine and amazing ocean breeze, and by the time it was over, neither of us had an ounce of tension working. It was as relaxed as I have felt since… shit, I don’t know how long.
Disembarking, we met up with Joe Dilworth, Jeremy Spurlock, and new friend Brian Winkeler. Keeping with the theme, we escaped downtown and went off to Old Town. Jeremy introduced us to Café Guadalupe, a terrific Mexican food restaurant, and we had a seriously tasty lunch. It was a pleasure to get over to that area of the city and check out what it had to offer.
I took the train back down to my hotel while the boys went off to different lands, because my day was really just getting started. I was fortunate enough to have been invited on a road trip with a bunch of guys, the destination an L.A. Galaxy game up in Carson, CA. Thus I took a quick jaunt over to The Field- the best Irish pub in town- met up with the crew, and we were off. To say this was a shitload of fun would be an understatement; even when we hit ugly traffic in Long Beach, laughs were still the order of the day. I had never seen an MLS soccer game before, so this was a real treat for me. Thanks to our incredible seats, in the second half I got to see the legendary David Beckham pretty well up close, and he is indeed as talented as advertised.
He is also very short. Just sayin’.
The journey brought new friends and spared me one ordeal that I am grateful for: Preview Night.
Over the past couple of SDCCs, Preview Night has just gotten crazier and crazier. With very little in the way of programming, the throng is focused solely on the floor. Crowding gets painful. I’ve wound up leaving early in recent years, just because I cannot handle it. From what my fellow journos told me today, that was pretty much how things were again last night. So I don’t feel like I missed anything, yet I do feel like I gained a whole lot.
Today brought a repeat of the breakfast adventure, then it was down to the show for real. I had to pick up my badge- which was a ridiculously smooth and easy affair. Rather than yesterday’s eternal line, I walked almost straight up to a counter this morning. Win! From there it was onto the floor.
The layout is pretty similar to recent years, though the publishers are grouped together slightly differently this year, and it’s a change for the better. I made stops at Image, IDW, Archaia, and Oni during my first go around, then popped back to Image to do a favor for a friend who couldn’t leave his table. Next came visits to a couple of the large book publishers and to see excellent artist Steve Bryant for catch up, then it was time to sit. Fortunately, I had a chair reserved.
Even though I departed my position at NBM Publishing when I returned to school, it was on friendly terms. Thus I happily raised my hand and volunteered to do some time at their booth again this year. Last year I was assigned to work the Eurotica area of the booth, and I discovered that I am a class-A smut peddler. In all seriousness, that arm of the company produces strong work, and it has a devoted fanbase. For those that aren’t already fans, it isn’t difficult to sell folks on it. The quality speaks for itself. Seeing no need to fix what wasn’t broken, I was once again assigned to the Eurotica material today, and I sold a ton of it. It was nice to know I hadn’t lost my touch.
Upon my shift’s completion, I once again walked the floor, bumping into good pal Joe Rybandt along the way. We wandered across the place, finally getting to Artists Alley and taking a look at what these folks had to offer this year. Joe introduced me to Sergio Cariello, who drew the recent LONE RANGER book for Dynamite, and his portfolio of work was really something to see. I also stopped and chatted with new friend Cruddie Torian before I ultimately realized I needed to take a break.
The evening still awaits- dinner and the potential of at least one party sits in the near future. Tomorrow: what I did today plus a whole lot more. Including, hopefully, some shopping down on the retail end.