Five Things about SDCC 2010

We are back from SDCC. The run-up to the con was challenging; I came down with episodic vertigo about two weeks before the show, and Chad’s had a crazy work schedule. We weren’t able to come hang out with you guys on the blog, but we’re here now, I have some vacation time, and I’m starting the SDCC recap posts with five things about the first day of the con.

1. The con is better if you’re hydrated.

I know, everyone says this in all the con survival guides. They’re really not joking.

Ten days or so prior to the con, my ENT gave me some new medication and noted that I would have to drink a LOT of water and Gatorade every day to stave off annoying side effects. This was the last thing I wanted to hear, but Chad and I sucked it up, hit REI, and brought home this sexy engine of hydration:

The 2010 Camelbak Lobo

Not quite a Fremen stillsuit, but it'll do.

That’s a Camelbak Lobo, 2010 edition. Three-liter capacity, slim form factor. Best $75 I’ve ever dropped on con prep, no joke.

And yes, I named it “Rescue.” You were expecting something else?

Once you’ve sunk the initial cash on a hydration pack that will last you for several con seasons, it’s easier, cheaper, and better for the environment than it is to keep getting overpriced bottles of water at Mrs. Fields or Starbucks inside the hall. You won’t have to interrupt your con experience to go on a quest for fluids. If you’re close with your friends, they’ll appreciate the occasional hit off the supply.

Plus, Jeff Bridges wants you to stop using disposable plastic bottles. You so don’t want to upset the Dude. Or Obadiah Stane.

2. That Jeff Bridges seems like a nice guy, really.

We ran into him for five seconds outside the Flynn’s Arcade replica in the Gaslamp on Thursday morning. He said hi; he seemed fantastically happy to be at the con hanging out.

3. We really like Cliff Chiang; we especially like paying his rent, it seems.

Thursday morning’s other two big scores were a signed copy of Joshua Dysart and Cliff Chiang’s adaptation of Neil Young’s album “Greendale,” and, for my supervisor at work, one of Cliff’s awesome Every Night I Have the Same Dream, Issue 3 shirts from the new Threadless comics collection.

Cliff’s not only a fantastic artist, he is the nicest guy you’ll ever meet on the con floor. You should check out his work and give him money. We can’t meet all his expenses alone, no matter how hard Chad’s been trying the last couple years.

4. You should go to w00tstock.

The Department’s main obligation to the con and related events was Thursday night’s w00tstock 2.4 performance at the 4th and B; we had arranged with w00tstock Dungeon Master Liz Smith to work the merch table and assist with anything else that came up. (Thanks again, Liz! We’re glad we could help.)

Adam Savage sang “I Will Survive” in Gollum’s voice, accompanied by a Wookiee on a guitar (video by k8greenisageek on YouTube). There was a Parry Gripp video, that, well, here:

Marian Call accompanied herself on a manual typewriter (and was incredibly great to me while I worked her end of the merch table). Molly Lewis had to be escorted into and out of the venue for her performance by security because she’s not yet 21– and graciously performed an awesome all-request ninja gig outside the venue for all the other under-21 folks who were screwed by the local liquor laws. Behold these videos from Kevin Savino-Riker, who was reporting for GeekyPleasures:

Len Peralta of Geek a Week fame drew an entire concert poster in four hours from the stage:

Official w00tstock San Diego Poster

(If you have mad geek art lust, Len’s taking orders on the poster until Friday. Details are on his Flickr page; he’s also on Twitter as jawboneradio. Len and his wife Nora are completely awesome people, and they were a real pleasure to work with at the show– support them!)

Bad Astronomer Phil Plait showed us every single schlong-shaped celestial object he could think of, and then dropped a bombshell of a trailer for his new Discovery Channel show, “Phil Plait’s Bad Universe:”

That? That there is some high-end science porn, kids. You want that. Three episodes, coming this fall.

And that was, uh, about a quarter of the awesome things that went on all night. Paul and Storm, Adam Savage, and Wil Wheaton serve as the w00tstock ringleaders and assemble a crew of performers for every concert; this one was particularly epic owing to everyone having shown up for SDCC in the first place. We were on our feet and on the move from 2pm until 3:30am, and we’d do it again in a heartbeat.

“But,” you say, “that’s not much comics content, for an ensemble performance at a comics convention. Aren’t you guys comics bloggers?”

Well…

5. Matt Fraction speaks for the comics tribe at w00tstock.

Matt Fraction thinks about process and inspiration a great deal. He presented his spoken-word piece “The Batman Dreams of Hieronymus Machines” at the Portland w00tstock earlier this year, and he did it at SDCC twice– once at w00tstock, and once as a spotlight panel at the con proper.

Unfortunately, his wife, Kelly Sue DeConnick (hey, she’s writing a new book about Norman Osborn! Buy that!), has never been able to make it to one of these presentations. She’s never seen Matt bust out a bunch of raunchy jokes about Stilt-Man’s taint in front of a screaming crowd.

We had to fix that. Fortunately for you guys, the Department acquired new iPhones prior to the con, and Chad shot the following video of Matt’s “The Batman Dreams of Hieronymus Machines.” The HD master went to Kelly Sue, and this one is up for everyone else’s delectation:

We know the angle is suboptimal– the rule at w00tstock is “record all you want, but don’t annoy other guests,” so we shot from the side. If you need a version of the talk that is slightly different in content and has a better view of the slide show, but not as much of a view of Matt himself, Laura Hudson at Comics Alliance recorded the SDCC spotlight panel.

Watch both recordings; they have different things to offer, but Matt is saying a lot of inspirational and important things about comics here. Can we get this man a speaking gig at TED?

Tomorrow, depending on how my morning goes: Isaiah Mustafa hits the con floor; a young man from Chad’s alma mater writes a book about historical badassery; Fraction and I get in trouble on the throne of Allfather Odin, and more.

The First Impression

Set the wayback machine for May 8th, 2010. Janice and I were in Portland, OR, bombing around the city after having had  a wonderful second show of w00tstock the night before. In a failed attempt to catch up with Brian Bendis as he biked around handing out early copies of Siege #4, we found ourselves at Excalibur Comics. The disappointment of missing him was rapidly quenched by being presented with what had to be the most well-stocked comic shop I’ve ever been in. I have never seen so many trades and back issues under one roof outside of a convention. It being late afternoon on a Sunday, we were the only people there, too. Heaven.

The night before, we’d seen Matt Fraction’s w00tstock presentation. It was a fun and inspirational piece of work, and one of the things that stuck out the most for me was hearing him talking about remembering the first comics he’d ever read by their covers. At the age when a lot of us discovered comics, a great cover was an easy sell, regardless of what was contained inside. One of those covers he flipped past on the screen mid-speech was of Transformers #2:

Transformers was one of the first comic series I ever bought, so to see him present it on stage like that was personally amusing. For completion’s sake, what was the other first series I ever bought, again based almost solely on its cover?

Art Adams was completely baffled by this admission when I related it to him at SDCC one year. And yet, somehow, I didn’t become a Marvel Zombie… although the years haven’t exactly been kind to my favorite Marvel character, so it’s probably for the best.

So, cut back to Sunday afternoon at Excalibur. Once I checked the walls of trades for a few things, I turned to the rows and rows of long boxes that filled the room. It was time to play a little “I wonder if they have this?” Think of an old title, scan to its location in the stacks, repeat. I forget almost everything else I looked for- well, except for the copy of Beta Ray Bill: Godhunter #3 that I actually bought- but it wasn’t long before I went looking for the original Transformers series. They didn’t have #1, sadly (else I might’ve walked out with 1-4) but they did have #2, and so I closed the circle a bit from the night before. There are a few covers from that early TF run, though, that are just as iconic. Transformers #9 comes to mind:

I was fond of Circuit Breaker when this issue was new. Obviously, my tastes ran towards B-list Marvel characters in 1986. All the more reason it’s probably best I didn’t follow them.

There was one specific book I was looking for, though: Transformers #5. The first four issues were presented as a miniseries that left things a bit open-ended in case of a continuing series. I remember there being a pause between those first four and the rest of the series; my childhood memories make it seem like much longer than it probably was in reality. Either way, I’m guessing they needed a hook to start things back up, and boy howdy, did this next issue make a good one. Excalibur *did* have a copy of this, and I was so excited I snapped a pic and sent it to Twitter:

Three friends of mine almost immediately tweeted back approval, so I guess I’m not the only one who feels this way. The cover art, drawn and inked by Mark Bright with colors by Nelson Yomtov, was compelling; it made you want to grab the book, tear into it, and find out what the hell had happened. It went a long way towards setting the benchmark in my young mind not only for great comic art, but for great sci-fi art in general.

I didn’t grab it, for some reason. We already had about $50 of books in hand, and it was getting late. Unlike my issues of Longshot, my collection of Transformers comics didn’t survive my ascent into adulthood. I’m sure I could find a copy somewhere here in LA, and I know I could find a copy at SDCC in July. It feels unsporting somehow, though. Like it would be more earned if I managed to find my way back to Excalibur and find that copy again. More like seeing it on the rack for the first time when I was 12. That might be worth the risk.