CON REPORT
San Diego Comic Convention #24
August 19-22, 1993

The following document is compiled from a pair of long posts I made to the rec.arts.comics newsgroups on September 8, 1993, back when I would do a convention report for each of the conventions I went to (ConFurence, WonderCon, and San Diego, typically).  While the material in here is rather dated in many instances, I think it provides an interesting insight into what was going on in comics in the early 1990’s.

I have updated verbiage, corrected typos, and things like that throughout.  In several places, I have provides commentary to cast the information in the light of 1999 or otherwise explain unclear items.  Look for red text.

Special thanks to Jerry Stratton for having the original posts archived all these years.

There will be spoilers in here for all sorts of things, most of them minor.  As with previous years, I also learned things which, if widely spread around, could potentially damage reputations or deals.  [I think most of these are resolved by now!] 

Also, since I am openly gay, a lot of my focus at these conventions is on queer subjects or with queer people.  If this will offend you, just skip the whole thing.  There is nothing obscene in here, but neither do I whitewash anything; this report goes beyond just the convention itself, into my con-related nighttime activities.  The mention of a person should not be taken as an indication of their orientation, unless specifically stated.


In which arrival occurs amidst uncertainty; Jim meets Valentino, but it’s not what you think; WorldCon lines up for registration; The Black Ink Irregulars triumph (of course); Batman balloons; “Send the damn thing in!”; Trina Robbins speaks on women readers, and Dave Sim speaks on self-publishing.

[This con report was done shortly after Sandman: A Season of Mists had finished. The header apes Gaiman’s chapter introductions in that arc.]

Wednesday, August 18 (and a little bit before)

IN WHICH ARRIVAL OCCURS AMIDST UNCERTAINTY

My ’zine, Ciao!, has moved into its second volume, now dedicated to queer themes in comics.  I have redesigned it, and decided to relaunch it at San Diego.  As a result, I was scrambling around for weeks before the con, gathering everything together.  I was supposed to pick it up on Tuesday evening, and leave on Wednesday morning.  Then the machine doing the cover broke down; people worked on it all day Monday and Tuesday, and it wasn’t ready!  I made arrangements to have it sent to Kathy Li’s home (thanks Kathy), and left for the con.

Reno Air now flies from San Jose to San Diego; it’s cheap, and the miles are credited to my American Airlines account.  At the car rental place, I had reserved the smallest, cheapest thing they had.  It turned out to be an Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera; nice, but big (I was hoping for a small Honda).  I hadn’t registered for the con in advance, and I didn’t have a hotel room, either.  Sharon Cho ([then at] Star*Reach Productions) told me that everything in a 20-mile radius was probably booked.  Thus, I headed north from the airport (the convention center is south), toward Hotel Circle.  I ended up at the Old Town Comfort Inn; not as cheap as I would like, but it did the job.  [But their prices in 1998 were about 2.5 times as high as in 1993, and that was for a reservation made weeks in advance.  Ridiculous!]  (By Friday, they were full, and Sharon’s prediction was probably right on Friday and Saturday nights.)

After checking in, I headed to the convention center, hoping to register (but I couldn’t do that until Thursday), and to go to the Comic Art Studies Conference.  I couldn’t remember where it was being held, and the convention staff had no idea what I was talking about.  (Take note, Peter Coogan: make sure the convention folks know about it.)  So I decided to take the shuttle to the various hotels, and see if one rang a bell; the second one, the Horton Grand, did.  At the Horton Grand, I arrived in time to talk with Scott McCloud before the panel discussion on his Understanding Comics started.

The panel was Mike Friedrich (Star*Reach), Will Eisner (Comics and Sequential Art), and I don’t recall whom else.  I had the opportunity to present some of the thoughts on the single-panel cartoon (McCloud declared single-panels to not be comics in UC) that were developed on the comix list, including “virtual gutters,” “a sequence of one,” and “deliberate juxtaposition of a panel and caption.”

Following a break, Peter Coogan (an organizer of the conference) gave an excerpted reading of his paper on “The Novel, Jazz, and Comics.”  While I notice Jerry Stratton mentioned the end conclusion -- that there comes a point in the study of an art where “boring ceases to be a bad thing” -- he didn’t mention Peter’s midway conclusion.  When the novel came along, it was embraced by the common people but pooh-poohed by the literati as the lowest form of art; practitioners of the novel went so far as to call the form “historical romance” and the like to avoid use of the negative term.  When Jazz first came along, it was embraced by many of the common people, but pooh-poohed by serious music queens as the lowest form of art; eventually Rock’n’Roll came along and took the “lowest” slot, bumping Jazz into acceptance.  Comics are generally deemed a low form of art, and some practitioners tend to try and disassociate themselves from the form via terms like “graphic novel”; will it take another, “lower” art form to bump comics into respectability?  The third presentation of the afternoon was Arlen Schaumer’s (I butchered his name) slide show on the “Death of Superman and the Death of Schuster”.

JIM MEETS VALENTINO, BUT IT’S NOT WHAT YOU THINK

That night, I went square dancing with Finest City Squares, the local gay and lLesbian club.  Asking at the front desk to find Club West Coast, where they danced, I found that I had sure picked the right hotel: CWC was four blocks away (only one as the crow flies).

I got asked by several people if I had come down for their fly-in in April, and I quickly resurrected my square dancing opening line: “No, I’m not Chuck Yeo.”  (He’s a square dancer from San Francisco whom a lot of people used to mistake me for.)  For the record, I’m not John MacDonald (two-stepper and choral member, moved from Los Angeles to San Jose), I’m not an air traffic controller from New Jersey, and I’m not artist Brent Anderson; I’ve been mistaken for all these people.  (To my knowledge, Brent isn’t gay, but all the others are; maybe I just have a “common” face, but I think that most people just think that slender men with curly brown hair, beard, moustache, and glasses all look alike).

I met a guy at the square dance named Val (short for Valentino), who actually thought I was me, rather than Chuck.  It seems I had met him in San Francisco several months before.  “Jim” and “Valentino”.  “Oh, I know of an artist named Jim Valentino,” I had said.  (Told you it wasn’t what you thought.)

PEOPLE ENCOUNTERED ON AUGUST 18:

Heidi MacDonald (Disney Comics), Steve Leialoha (Spider-Man 2099), Dusty Rhoads (Hyway Man, furry artist), Jim Groat (Red Shetland), Scott McCloud, Mike Friedrich, Jerry Stratton (the net), Carl Potts (Epic Comics), Will Eisner, Dave McKean (Cages), Peter Coogan, Clayton Moore (artist)

QUOTES:


Thursday, August 19:

WORLDCON LINES UP FOR REGISTRATION

The next morning, I set off to register.  I saw a line.  A big line.  Was this to get into the convention?  Maybe it was for the Image Table?  Or was the Pope making a surprise visit?  Maybe it was the line for “Pirates of the Caribbean” at Disneyland?  No, it was the line for preregistered folks.  The line for on-site registration was at the other end.  And it was longer...

I later heard someone say there had been over 8000 people lined up to register at 10:00 am; that probably included the preregistered folks, but it’s still a lot.  The average WorldCon (science fiction con; 1993’s was in San Francisco over Labor Day; I moved to a new apartment rather than attending) only gets about 8000 people, I’m told.  Rumor has it that this year’s San Diego Comic Con topped 30,000 (which is 50% more than the previous year).  As I stood in line, up came Sharon Cho.

“What are you doing out here, Jim?!”
“I’m waiting to register.”
“I thought you were a pro!”
“Yeah, but the con doesn’t know that yet!”

After getting the runaround from people who didn’t know where to send me, I did get to register as a pro (which saved me $50; I spent about $800 over the weekend anyway, including airfare, hotel, and car).  How did I qualify?  While some people weasel their way in (I’ll refrain from mentioning names), I am a paid editorial cartoonist and sometime comics reviewer for a Silicon Valley gay and lesbian newspaper [OutNOW!; I started in January 1993 and continued through June 1998, when the owner closed it down and sold the rights to someone else].

After a lengthy pass through the dealers’ room, I hit the first panel: “Small Publishers: Finding Alternatives to the Direct Market,” featuring Batton Lash (“Wolff & Byrd” [only a strip then, before he released the comic book]), Edd Vick (MU Press), Kim Thompson (Fantagraphics), and Daryl Mallett (wrote the Star Trek: The Next Generation two-parter “Birthright”).  The only really interesting bit that came out of that was that Fantagraphics is doing an ever-increasing percentage of their business via mail order (like, more than 1/3).

The next panel visited was “The Black Age of Comics.”  As the person who started the Ania/“anti-racism” flap [in Comics Buyer’s Guide.  The initial ads for the Ania group of black publishers were incredibly anti-white; a run of several response and counter-response letetrs continued for several months.  I still have the letters I wrote online, in case anyone is curious.], I felt I needed to attend.  The panel featured Roosevelt Pitt (Purge), Cassandra Washington (Sistah Girl), Alonzo Washington, and Turtel Onli (NOG [which standas for “Nigger of Grace, as I recall]; his name is pronunced: tur-TELL).  (I don’t recall Alonzo and Turtel’s then-current projects, sorry.) I didn’t introduce myself, and didn’t ask any questions; I just wanted to listen. It was an interesting but sparsely attended panel. Michael Davis (Milestone) showed up at the panel, and we got to hear a little bit about the Milestone/DC relationship. According to Davis, DC owns no stock in Milestone. They just have a one-year licensing deal with Milestone to publish the characters. The company can make deals with other people for other things, which is why Eclipse was selling Milestone shirts and caps.

Immediately after (in fact, before it was over), I went to the “APAs and Fanzines: A Roundtable Discussion” panel.  I don’t really recall who was there, beyond the publisher of Modern Mythology.  Oh, yeah: and Tom and Mary Bierbaum (Legionnaires).  Dani Zwieg and Tom Galloway were also present.  One guy from Interlac decried the fact that the article-fanzine has largely died in the past couple decades, replaced by the photocopied comic book, essentially.  (Ciao! is still out there, but it now has a limited focus.  [Er, was still there. I haven’t done a new issue since the 1993 con.])

Afterwards, I got to talk with Tom and Mary (Mary, mostly), and they gave me a copy of their Sky Zero ashcan (from Sky Comics).  (Ashcan, feh!  The thing had a goddamn glossy cover!  [It was supposed to have foil logo instead.]  I saw somebody else with a different glossy-covered ashcan for sale at the con, too.)  Having read the ashcan, I’d say give all the included series a miss, although the ones with art by Brad Gorby and Quentin Hoover may be worth a look; Tom and Mary’s strip is “Dead Boy,” about a zombie skateboarder, or something (Jamm-in’, huh dude?  [Sorry, Legion of Super-Heroes/“Bloodlines” reference.]).  [Needless to say, late 1993 is when the sh*t hit the fan with the comics industry, and Sky Zero never appeared.]

Mary laughed when I suggested it, but said they had no intention of blowing up the Sun come Legion of Super-Heroes #100, had they stayed on the title.  Sales on Legionnaires apparently aren’t all that hot, so they’re going to be futzing with it some, making the stories a little more complicated (that’s what she said!).  She had never seen the reprint of the net.famous letter by Tom Galloway and Paul Estin when I showed her Ciao! #6, and didn’t seem to really remember the original letter.  Mary did say, though, that they received a lot of mail on the moon explosion, so it sounded like we were “lucky” to have seen even the tidbit of the letter in the Legion Outpost that we did.  [This was the letter where Tom and Paul spit vigorously on the depictions of the moon’s explosion, both in terms of the damage caused and the longer term effects that would happen if that damage occurred.  The letter column response to the heavily shortened letter was “Scientific opinions differ,” or something like that.]

THE BLACK INK IRREGULARS TRIUMPH (OF COURSE)

And then there was the Trivia Contest.  After a momentary shake-up where we didn’t know if we would get to participate as a team, the Black Ink Irregulars (Dani Zwieg, Tom Galloway, Jim Drew, and a warm body [was it Jim Harkins?]) tromped all over our first opponents (about 200 to 20 for the final score).  Our second opponents also fell, at about 160 to 50.  We completely blew the Enigma question, but got all the Sandman and Legion of Super-Heroes ones, of course (including the “city in a bottle question” as audience members, when both the then-playing teams failed).  All four of us contributed correct answers.  Next year, we may have to become the Black Ink Regulars.

BATMAN BALLOONS

The Net.Dinner immediately followed, at Horton Plaza’s “Fast Food of All Nations”  (I had a vegetarian burrito and guava soda.)  Dani, Tom, me, Bill Sherman, and a couple other people whose names I don’t recall attended.  We saw Batman balloons in a bookstore window.  On the way back to the Convention Center, we ran into Paul Grant (“Zeus” on Compu$erve and COMICS-L [a now long defunt comics mailing list run by Bill Hayes]), and posited one of the Sandman trivia questions to Neil:

“How did Death get her Ankh back?”
“She didn’t,” he replied, which is what we had answered in the contest; not quite the answer the moderator has wanted (“She bought a new one.”)
“Well, that’s true, too,” Neil said.

The post-Eisner award entertainment was a bust, so we went our separate ways. I headed out to Wolf’s, found it dead, went to Kickers for a little dancing, and then went to bed.

PEOPLE ENCOUNTERED ON AUGUST 19:

Sharon Cho, Reuben Avila (furry sculptor), James Pruett (stuff for Caliber), Gene Colan (Tomb of Dracula), Phil Foglio (Buck Godot), Kaja Murphy (artist, Phil’s other half), Edd Vick, Doug Murray (The ’Nam), Marco Lumio (editor at Edizone-*, an Italian magazine; I probably butchered the spelling of his surname), Dan Chicester (Daredevil), Todd Johnson (Tribe), Colin Upton (Colin Upton’s Big Thing), Barbara Kesel (Dark Horse; name pronounced: KEE-suhl), Randy Stradley (Dark Horse), Tim Sale (Billi 99), Scott Benefiel (Freex [I think]), Abby Janifer (Star*Reach), Leo Durañona (Race of Scorpions), Barb Kaalberg (Elfquest), Lia Graf (Tigerwing Press, furry artist), Christina Hanson (furry artist), Larry Marder (Tales of the Beanworld), Don Simpson (Megaton Man), Mark Wheatley (Tarzan), Roberta Gregory (Naughty Bits), Mart Nodell (Golden Age Green Lantern), Ron Randall (JLE, Trekker), Mercy Van Vlack (Evolution Comics), Jeff Smith (Bone), Chuck Wojtkiewicz (Southern Knights, Jaguar), Batton Lash, Kim Thompson, cat yronwode (Eclipse), Ernie Chan (Conan), Barb Rausch (Barbie), Roosevelt Pitt, Cassandra Washington, Alonzo Washington, Turtel Onli, Michael Davis, Dani Zwieg, Tom Galloway, Mark Lucas (letterhack), Tom Bierbaum, Mary Bierbaum, Mick Collins, Bill Sherman, Kathy Li, Neil Gaiman, Paul “Zeus” Grant

NEAT THINGS BOUGHT OR ACQUIRED:

NEWS AND SUCH:

QUOTES:


Friday, August 20:

“SEND THE DAMN THING IN!”

Another fine day at the convention.  First up was a workshop with Daryl Mallett, “After You Finish Writing.”  The gist of this boils down to “be dedicated, and don’t get discouraged,” with a dose of “be a writer.”  In other words, be professional with your writing (be it prose or comics), keep at it, and don’t limit yourself to “just” science-fiction.  Pretty much the same stuff you’ll hear at any such con panel, albeit with a few anecdotes particular to Mallett, but there were a number of people there who had never heard it before (or never listened).  You know the type: “I’ve been working on my novel for eight years.  I put the 300-page manuscript through one last editing pass, and now I’ve only got 100 pages left.  What can I do?”  (One woman really said pretty much exactly this.)

In the dealers’ room, I ran into Jeff Lang and Katie Fritz (writer and editor [repectively] of Roadways; Katie’s on the net).  They offered some advice on how to get a publisher interested in a writing proposal, mainly in the form of “get art in the proposal; any relevant art will help.”

TRINA ROBBINS SPEAKS ON WOMEN READERS, AND DAVE SIM ON SELF-PUBLISHING

After lunch (roast beef and cheddar on rye, with grapefruit juice), the next panel was “Attracting Women Readers: Superstuds’ Buns Just Aren’t Doing It,” with Trina Robbins (Barbie), David Campiti (Beauty and the Beast), Don Simpson (Megaton Man, as mentioned earlier; also Wendy Whitebread, Undercover Slut, so I really wondered what he was doing there), and others whose names meant nothing to me.  You’ve undoubtedly seen a lot come from my account in recent months on this subject.  I’m strongly of the opinion that most of the “we want to attract women readers” talk you hear from the industry is just lip service.  Even books like Black Canary are only meant to pacify women while they attract male readers; Innovation was the only current publisher really putting out product intended to attract women readers [like the Anne Rice adaptations], especially from outside the current market, and even they only did minimal marketing.  Trina spoke of talking with a retailer in Central California who wanted to attract women readers but really had no idea how to go about doing it.  She gave him a lot of the standard ideas: make a shelf of women’s comics, put Barbie in the window rather than Wolverine, etc., but she felt that it probably just went in one ear and out the other.  Campiti said that there will be a two-page article on the Beauty and the Beast comic in an upcoming issue of TV Guide; even so, he looked rather blank when I suggested that directing people to a comic shop and offering subscriptions are insufficient to attract new readers.  [In other words, people will not go out of their way -- to a comics specialty store -- to buy something that they don’t already pursue. Now if you could offer it for sale with an 800 number, or on the Internet...]

[I note that this panel was before the founding of Friends of Lulu.]

After the panel, I got to meet Ted Slampyak (Jazz Age Chronicles, Roadways), and bought some stuff off him.  Nice guy.

The next panel was “Is Self-Publishing the Backdoor to the Comics Business,” with Dave Sim (Cerebus), Brad Foster (Jabberwocky Grafix), Randy Reynaldo (Rob Hanes), Shannon Wheeler (Too Much Coffee Man), and Martin Wagner (Hepcats).  Self-publishers of quality really were getting noticed [in 1993], thanks to the likes of Dave Sim, Neil Gaiman, and Don Thompson.  First it was Dave, then Dave and Martin, then Colleen Doran (A Distant Soil), then Jeff Smith (Bone), then James Owens (Starchild).  Expect to see Teri Wood (Wandering Star) join the clique in the next year, and maybe Jo Duffy and Maya Sakamoto (Nestrobber), if they get in gear.  [They didn’t.]  The essential bit from this panel was a reiteration that work-for-hire is not necessarily a bad thing.  You just have to realize that every hour you spend working on something like that is an hour that you don’t spend working on something that you own and you control and you profit from.  In addition, there was a question about copyrights and trademarks.  Dave indicated that he wasn’t particularly worried about someone trying to steal Cerebus, and even invited anybody who wanted to try it to self-publish their own Cerebus comic; just remember: Dave will still be there when your comic fails.

During another pass through the dealers’ room, I again happened on the Star*Reach booth, where Abby Janifer (Star*Reach) told me about Steve Howearth’s plans to have a charity booth at next year’s con: Comics Against AIDS.  He is looking for corporate sponsors to help underwrite the costs of the booth.  (Neal Pozner [DC submissions editor] has pledged DC Comics’ support and he apparently already has a pledge of support from Dark Horse; Marvel is expected to donate, too, as are Star*Reach and the Con itself.)  Volunteer artists will staff the booth, doing sketches for $15 apiece, with the proceeds all going to AIDS charities; Steven already has pledges of support from lots of people.  Other pros will also be contributing, as staff or with creative items for sale for the charity.  (I pledged Ciao!’s support in whatever ways I could, naturally.)  The chosen charities are the Pediatric Aids Foundation, AMFAR, and the Mercury Phoenix Trust.  If you are interested in contributing to or learning more about Comics Against AIDS, just send me e-mail, and I’ll put you in touch with Steven.  [So far as I know, this charity booth of Steve Howearth’s never occured, but I don’t know any further information.]

After they gave everybody the boot out of the dealers’ room at 7:00, I looked for someone, anyone, to have dinner with.  Who should walk up but Peter David (The Incredible Hulk) and Kathy Li!  Peter invited me to join them for an evening of television, room service, and Soulsearchers and Co. in his hotel room; sounded good to me!  (Peter and I had pizza; Kathy had filet mignon.)  Kathy and I got to read photocopies of Soulsearchers #3 (the Sandman issue, featuring Dweeb and his sister DEAF!).  We watched Fern Gully and part of Aliens, and got to kibitz on the name (and possibly the design) of the ship that the Hulk and the Pantheon will take into space [I don’t recall what this turned out to be, though].  At about 10:00, Kathy and I packed up our stuff, thanked Peter for an enjoyable evening, and took off.  I ended up heading to Wolf’s, where I ran into some of the gay pros, like Andy Mangels (Gay Comics).  Andy said Clive Barker (Tapping the Vein) and his boyfriend might show up, but they apparently didn’t.

PEOPLE ENCOUNTERED ON AUGUST 20:

Andy Mangels, Katie Fritz, Jeff Lang, Trina Robbins, David Campiti, Don Simpson, Ted Slampyak, Steve Englehart (The Strangers), Shannon Wheeler, Dave Sim, Martin Wagner, Steve Stadnicki (net), Neal Pozner, Teri Wood, Brad Foster, Joe Staton (E-Man), Steve Gerber (Freex), Liz Schiller (Angry Isis Press), Dave Garcia (Panda Khan), Christopher Taylor (Legion of Super-Heroes), Brian Sutton (Furrlough), Joe Rosales (Wildlife), Mel. White (Duncan & Mallory)

NEAT THINGS BOUGHT OR ACQUIRED:

NEWS AND SUCH:

QUOTES:


In which a hat gets lost; Ciao! arrives, at last!; “Breaking In Is Hard To Do” (everybody sing...); Dinner at 515 at 8:15; Kicking up the heels; A stolen parking validation ticket; Everything winds down; Judy Garland dances off into the Sunset; and Plans are made for next year.

Saturday, August 21:

IN WHICH A HAT GETS LOST

On Saturday, I wanted to get up for the “Electronic Publishing” panel at 10:30, but I didn’t make it.  So I aimed for Mark Evanier’s workshop on “Comic Book Writing” at noon.  Well, I made it to the convention center by noon, got out of the car, and realized, “My God, I left my cowboy hat in the room!  No one will recognize me!”  [Yeah, right.  Actually, my wearing a cowboy hat -- the same one since July 1991 -- at comic conventions has become a signature mark, and people will recognize me from across the dealer’s room because of it.]  Since I wasn’t going to go back to the room and miss the workshop, I headed for Room 12.  Alas and alack, these workshops are limited to 35 people each, and I got turned away.  Bummer, dude.  So I wandered down to the dealer’s room again.

After talking to Abby Janifer for a while again, I wandered past the Innovation booth, where Arvin Loudermilk (Vigil) and Mike Iversen (Vigil) were sitting.  I raved to them for a while about how much I love their comic -- and I do -- and I got to leaf through photocopies of the next issue (due in December), and I bought a Vigil t-shirt from them.  ($12 at the con; probably $15 from Innovation, if they have any left.)  I wore it on Sunday and got lots of favorable comments on it, including from Barb Rausch, who really liked the design sense.  [And Vigil continues to be published, approximately quarterly, through Duality Press.]

CIAO! ARRIVES, AT LAST!

The machine printing the cover for Ciao! never did work right, apparently, so the printer used a higher cost machine to do it instead, at no extra charge to me, and then had it shipped overnight by Federal Express to my hotel.  Returning to my hotel room, I picked up the box and found that they had printed 100 extra copies of the cover, rather than just the 50 I had requested.  I’ll be selling these (flat, unfolded, as mini-posters) along with copies of the ’zine.  Up in my hotel room, I discovered... no hat.  Oh, God!  I had lost it.  The hat itself wasn’t important; I could replace it.  The big loss was the $5 cloisonne pin of Lockheed the Dragon, now several years “out of print” and probably impossible to replace.  [I have since found a second of the pins -- darker in color and thus probably a “second printing”.]  I was bummed.

“BREAKING IN IS HARD TO DO” (EVERYBODY SING...)

Back at the convention center, I slipped into the “Breaking Into Comics” panel, which featured cat yronwode, Sharon Cho, Barb Kaalberg (Elfquest), David Campiti, and Scott McCloud.  In the past, I’ve found these panels to be a real downer, and of little use.  In particular, there was the “Breaking In At DC” panel at Wonder-Con, where they essentially said “Writers Need Not Apply.”  [That was also the panel where Brian Augustyn touted that DC had hired this brand new writer, Chuck Dixon.  I lost all point I could make with him when I pointed out that Dixon was hardly “new,” having been writing Eclipse’s Airboy for several years before hiring on at DC.]

There was actually some useful information that came out of this panel, especially for potential writers (of which there are more here than artists, I suspect).  As most interested proto-comics writers probably know, publishers really aren’t interested in talking to you unless you already have a body of work to show them.  Sounds like a Catch-22, doesn’t it?  Can’t get in without experience, can’t get experience unless you’re in.  The best way to get a job writing comics is to work for a publisher, probably as an assistant editor or an intern; Eclipse, for example, hires interns for the summer who have gone on to be editors and writers there and at other companies.  Many a writer has also come into the job by working in various capacities at Marvel or DC (Peter David comes to mind; in fact, nearly every Marvel writer was once either an artist or editor there).  Unfortunately, this means that you have to be able to move to New York or Portland (Dark Horse) or Sonoma County (Eclipse) or West Virginia (Innovation) or some other God forsaken place (just kidding); for those of us with lucrative bills-paying careers, that’s kind of rough.  A second option is to be British.  <grin>  The other option is to get yourself writing credits outside of comics, or at least outside of professional comics.  Organic Gardening, an IEEE journal, a local newspaper: any of these show that you can write, and can write under deadline.  Even better, get comics-related credits: publish a fanzine, write for a fanzine, write reviews for The Comics Journal (which started as a fanzine).  And then get copies of your writing to the editors. cat also recommended producing business cards and letterhead for yourself.  These things help your name stick in an editor’s mind.  (Personal plug: the comp list for my ’zine, Ciao!, which publishes both reviews and comics fiction, included Dave Sim, Neal Pozner at DC, Paul Curtis at Marvel, Philip Amara at Kitchen Sink, cat yronwode at Eclipse, Star*Reach Productions, Comics Buyer’s Guide, and so on.  The stuff I put out gets to the right people in the industry; yours can, too.)  [Another option is to sleep with someone. <grin>]

A key thing repeated by many editors is to cultivate a relationship with an editor, and with other creators.  Carefully read my con reports, and you’ll see names reoccur, and not just as “I saw them” names.  Whether this ever amounts to anything is another question.  Some of the information actively contradicted information gleaned about submissions via other sources.  In particular, cat yronwode said that multiple submissions are acceptable, something that is a big no-no in the fiction markets.  She said that the main reason for “no simultaneous submissions” had originally been because it was so hard to produce a single copy; today, with the copy machine, the author has the ability to make multiple manuscripts, and should take advantage of it.  Just play fair with any interested publishers.  Also mentioned in a favorable light by cat was using fasteners on your manuscript: paper clips, staples, clear plastic binders (a Calvin-approved sign of professionalism), and even sturdier binding for full scripts (which, incidentally, you should not send unless the publisher requests it; Dark Horse’s guidelines insist on full script adhering to a certain format if you are an unpublished comics writer).  Again, this is a no-no in other fields.  However, neither Sharon nor David (both of whom see submissions frequently) said anything negative on the subject (and did disagree with cat on other points), so this is evidently an okay process.

Next up, in the same room, was the “Gays in Comics: Dealing with Intimacy” panel, featuring Brad Rader (The Mark, assorted gay porn comics), Andy Mangels, Roberta Gregory, Tim Barela (“Leonard & Larry”), P. Craig Russell, and Nancy Collins (Swamp Thing) as the Beave.  No, sorry, as the token straight-writing-gay-characters.  (Scott Lobdell filled that role last year.)  What can I say about this panel?  It was very well attended, with about 150 people in the audience, including most of the gay pros, although they weren’t outed or anything.  (If you want names, and you know me well enough to ask, and you won’t spread them around indiscriminately, send me e-mail.)  There were no fireworks or big revelations, although I’ve picked out a few of the better quotes below.

One item that came out were some of the restrictions that Andy Mangels put on Gay Comics when he took over as editor.  In order to make it more accessible to mainstream audiences, he has been courting name professionals, both gay and supporting, such as: Donna Barr (#16), Eric Shanower (#17), Craig Hamilton (cover on #18), George Perez (cover on #20), Craig Russell and Roberta Gregory (#21; Roberta, of course, is a longtime contributor to Gay Comix/Comics), Neil Gaiman and Craig Hamilton (#22, probably).  [Well, that one never came to pass.]  Andy has also toned down the content of the book to something approaching PG-13; essentially nothing more objectionable than in a Vertigo title.  He has also set up the book to be an even 50/50 split between male and female creators in each issue, except for single-creator issue like #19’s focus on Alison Bechdel (which balances last year’s Tim Barela special).  Some people complain about this, and there are apparently some of the former contributors who don’t contribute anymore as a result.  (Which, as Andy says, is strange; even if they only have half the available space in each issue, four times as many issues are published per year, giving them twice as much potential space as before!)

Frankly, I think Andy is doing a great job; he has put out seven issues in about two years, while the book was previously yearly at best.  The book is also verging on making a profit again for the first time in many years.  Andy stated that there were five gay or lesbian editors in the industry (presumably excluding himself; I can name four of them), but that only two ever give work to gay and lesbian creators.  Unfortunately, no one (me included) took him to task to further explain whether this meant any work, or preferential treatment when two potential creators show equal ability.  I expect he meant the latter (as he has expressed desire for such “treat Family like family” behavior in the past), but it came off sounding somewhat like the former.

After the panel, I hung around to talk with people for a while, giving Andy copies of Ciao! and the latest issue of OutNOW!, in which I had reviewed Gay Comics #19 (the review was also posted to rec.arts.comics.misc).  I then headed downstairs with Craig Russell and David Sexton, where we made plans with Sharon to have dinner in the Gaslamp District.

DINNER AT 515 AT 8:15

We were supposed to meet under the arch at 8:00.  I was a couple minutes late, but Craig and David were 15 minutes late.  We razzed them.  It seems they got on the shuttle back to the convention center (which was close to the arch) and it took the loooooong way around.  The four of us, Sharon’s friend Ondean, and Michael, a lawyer/shop owner from South Philadelphia, ended up at a bistro/bar called 515 5th Street (or is it Avenue?  I don’t recall).  Pretty good food -- I had the smoked trout salad -- but it got cold outside after a while.

KICKING UP THE HEELS

We were supposed to meet people over at the convention center to go dancing between 9:00 and 9:30.  At 9:28, we realized the time, and beat a hasty retreat out of the bistro.  While I went to rescue my car, the others headed for the convention center.  Either no one showed up, of they figured we left without them, because nobody was waiting for us.  So we headed up to Hillcrest to a country bar called Kickers, where we ran into Steven Howearth (Comics Against AIDS), and a DC editor and artist whom I won’t name here [that’s changed; Neal Pozner and Phil Jiminez].  After a bit, we drifted our separate ways.  David Sexton went down the street to a disco-bunny club (ooo, ick).  Craig and Michael ended up talking to a gay small-press creator out on the patio [Jon Macy of Tropo and Nefarismo, as I recall].  Sharon and I tore up the dance floor a while.  I eventually gave Craig and Michael rides back to their hotels at about 1:00, and headed out to Wolf’s again, where Andy was still lurking.  I’ll spare you the horrible pun about the nights activities [not anymore I won’t: “What did you do last night?”  “Bob.”  “That’s a name.”  “It’s also an action.”  (Thank you, Roger Klorese, for being the straight man in that exchange!)]  [Bob was from St. Louis.  Curiously, I met him again in 1997 at the San Diego Gay Rodeo, and remembered him to boot.].

PEOPLE ENCOUNTERED ON AUGUST 21:

Daerick Gross (The Vampire Lestat), Nancy Collins, Joshua Quagmire (Cutey Bunny), Phil Jimenez (Team Titans), Arvin Loudermilk, Mike Iversen, Barb Kaalberg, Brad Rader, Tim Barela, P. Craig Russell, David Sexton (Gay Comics), Ivan Velez Jr. (Blood Syndicate, Tales of the Closet), Klaus Janson (Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, etc.), Terry Laban (Real Smut [I think]), John Macy (Tropo), Mark Lucas (letterhack), Richard Pini (Elfquest), Barry Kitson (LEGION ’93), Louise Simonson (Man of Steel), Denis Janke (is he on a Superman title?), Rod O’Reily (ConFurence), Steven Howearth (Comics Against AIDS)

NEAT THINGS BOUGHT OR ACQUIRED:

NEWS AND SUCH:

QUOTES (all of these are from the “Gays in Comics” panel):


Sunday, August 22:

A STOLEN PARKING VALIDATION TICKET

After a late night, I decided to park at Horton Plaza and get something to eat; three hours free parking with a validated parking ticket.  This was fine until I stuck the validated ticket in my back pocket and took off for the convention center, forgetting about it.  Sometime in the next couple hours, someone lifted it.  [I presume.  It could have simply fallen or been pulled out of my pocket accidentally, but that’s not especially likely.]  With no ticket, Horton Plaza charges you $12.00; thus, I let my car stay parked there all day (might as well get full value for my money, eh?).

At the convention, I visited the “Breaking the Barrier -- Can Genre Fiction Be Accepted?” panel.  Talk about boring!  I was hoping that this would be akin to last year’s “Lost Genres” panel: ways to find acceptance for or to resurrect romance, Western, and related “dead genres” for comics.  This was oriented towards prose fiction, though, and didn’t really seem to even address those sectors of prose concerns I was interested in (which is cross-genre work: to whom do you try to sell a fantasy action-adventure pseudo-detective humor story, for example?).

EVERYTHING WINDS DOWN

I spent most of the rest of the day tracking down a few people (or trying to), taking a few photos to eventually send to Comics Buyer’s Guide for possible publication, and just generally winding down myself.  The “Electronic Fandom” panel was staffed by Peter Glaskowsky, Peter Coogan (arriving late), and Paul Grant; Jerry Stratton and I (and Dani Zweig, I think?) were in the audience of about a dozen.  Maybe the panel didn’t have a good charter, but it wasn’t what I would call a rousing success.  It would have been better situated as a “Meetpoint” on Friday.

I eventually ran into Andy Mangels again, who said he was heading over to the Elfquest booth; I promised to head back over before leaving.  I got to see a bit of the upcoming Lois and Clark: the New Adventures of Superman show on the big DC multi-screen.  It looked pretty good -- although not worth archiving -- and since it is on ABC, I’ll be able to watch it.  (In comparison, I only ever got to see one very fuzzy episode of The Flash, due to no cable and bad reception.)  I also got to see the Fantastic Four movie preview.  Well, uh, it doesn’t look as cheesy as I feared.  It will probably still go straight to video. [Actually, the rights got bought by someone else, and it went straight to the never-to-be-released shelves instead.]

I visited the art show, and was rather unimpressed.  Of course, I was set on the wrong foot when the first piece visible when I walked in was an H.R.Giger original; great, but it was one of his “close-up mechanical fuck” pieces.  Not the best piece to have as the star piece of your art show.  In fact, there were R and NC-17 pieces sprinkled throughout the art show, which was apparently accessible by all ages.  Any other con I’ve been to would have had a separate enclosed area for the “adult” pieces.  I would call this a very unprofessionally run show (but I’m spoiled by the high quality of ConFurence’s show in January; easiest the best all-around con art show I’ve ever seen).  There were a couple of nice P-Chan [Ryoga’s piglet form from Ranma 1/2] figurines, though.

JUDY GARLAND DANCES OFF INTO THE SUNSET

Just before 5:00 (like, at 4:58), when they would kick everyone out, I wandered back over to the Elfquest table.  Next to it was the Comics Buyer’s Guide table, and there was Peter David and Maggie Thompson... and a straw cowboy hat!  My straw cowboy hat!  (With pin intact!)  “There you are!” yelled Peter, and whocked it securely onto my head.  “You left this in my room, and I’ve been carrying this around for two days looking for you!  This is great!  Now we just need Judy Garland to dance off into the sunset.”

As they were trying to kick us out, Andy Mangels made sure to grab a second to have me meet Ivan Velez, Jr.  Then a big kiss in the middle of the convention floor, and the con was over.

AND PLANS ARE MADE FOR 1994.

Someone made the comment that there were no events for gays and lesbians set up at the con (besides Sharon’s impromptu dinner), and no place for us to gather (besides the one panel).  In 1992, at least Last Gasp had a Gay Comix signing, and a good selection of the title, which gave some sort of a central spot.  Next year, the Comics Against AIDS booth is sure to fill something of that role [or would have, had it happened], but it’s still maybe not the best place for the non-pros to get together and gab.  Ideal would be a table in the small-press area.  Well, come to think of it, I know a publisher of gay small-press stuff who will be there: me.  So, look for a table selling my ’zines and those of whomever else I can contact.  [And sure enough, in 1994, I had a table selling Ciao!, Hothead Paisan, liliane, and a few other titles.  Since then, I have had similar tables at APE II-VI (1995-99), Chicago Comic Con (1996), International Mr. Leather (1997), Firecracker Hoedown (Boston, 1997), International Ms. Leather (1997), San Diego LeatherFest (1998), SunDance hoedown (Ft. Lauderdale, 1998), San Francisco Pride (1998), and Folsom Street Fair (1998), with the last several branching out into gay slogan t-shirts as well as comics.]

PEOPLE ENCOUNTERED ON AUGUST 22:

Martin Wagner (Hepcats), Ted Nomura (Tigers of Terra), Dean Graf (Tigerwing Press), Colleen Doran (A Distant Soil), Tom DeFalco (Thor), Bob Greenberger (DC editor on Star Trek), Dean Motter (Sacred and the Profane, The Prisoner; currently a DC book designer), Amanda Conner (Soulsearchers & Co.), Jill Thompson (Black Orchid), Peter Milligan (Shade), Denis Kitchen (Kitchen Sink Press), Reed Waller (Omaha the Cat Dancer), Kate Worley (Omaha), David Quinn (Rebel Studios), Tim Vigil (Rebel Studios), Zjonni Perchalski (Steam Victorian, furry artist, net person), Jim Salicrup (Topps Comics), Peter Glaskowsky (net), Janine Johnston (Elfquest), Deni Loubert (Elfquest), Maggie Thompson

NEAT THINGS BOUGHT OR ACQUIRED:

NEWS AND SUCH:

QUOTES:


Jim Drew
jrd@frame.com
(Furry: Randy Puritan)
“Innocent, but not naive.”
B2h t c s k g+(p) rv p e
S8/5 g l+ y+ o+ a+ u++- j++
{opinions: mine != frame’s}

        In retrospect, a lot of little things fell into place once I knew that Greta was a vampire: the lack of garlic in her spice rack, the stainless steel formal silverware, even her award-winning nighttime photography of Eastern Europe.
       “I never had a problem with my finger covering the lens,” she told me.

-- Marc Lynx, “Broken Bokken”
(for Karl Anderson; d. June 27, 1993)

[The above is my “sig quote” from when the report was originally posted.  Included in the left hand column is my e-mail address at the time, my “furry name” (from when I still dealt in such circles ), my personal quote (less true every year!), and my “Bear” and “Smurf” codes.  The right hand column was the current sig quote that I used, then changing almost every week; you can see the current one by clicking here.)


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