Friday, April 05, 2013

Pineapples for Jim Lee and the Conning of Wonder Part Three

Geek Speak: Enhanced Groping from the TSA
A long while back there was a lot of fuss and bother in the media about the TSA conducting what it called "enhanced patdowns." These were essentially full-body searches in which TSA agents put their hands in some very intimate places. The whole thing was touched off by some guy who recorded an argument with a TSA agent, and at one point you can hear him say, "if you touch my junk, I'm going to have you arrested." I thought the whole thing was pretty ridiculous. Anyway, something about the whole idea of an "enhanced patdown" tickled me so I picked up my pencil and this is what came out of it.

WonderCon Anaheim 2013 Day 2
I will try to keep this shorter than my last couple of posts (and fail miserably), but I can't make any guarantees. On Saturday, day two of WonderCon Weekend I wasn't going to be meeting anyone there, and checking the schedule didn't show any panels in the morning that I was dying to get to. The earliest panel I wanted to see was a spotlight on Jim Lee that somewhat later in the morning. I figured I could take my time a little bit, make breakfast, and be generally more leisurely about it. At one point I started to second guess myself but shook it off. As it turns out I should have followed that instinct.

By the time I hit the road I'm pretty sure it was already about 10:30. I figured I was giving myself an hour and I'd probably have plenty of time and no problem finding parking. Its difficult to write this when I have this overwhelming desire to either slap myself or stand up and kick my own ass. Somehow I'd managed to forget that I live in Southern California and getting to Anaheim meant driving through downtown Los Angeles on "The Five."

Those who live here will understand the egregious lapse in judgement, for those who don't let's try a little exercise. Close your eyes and imagine a friend who lives in the same city you do, but at the other end of it. Now imagine that you have to get there in a bumper car and there are ten-thousand other people trying to get to the same place (your buddy is a popular guy). Now imagine the roads are made of graham cracker and paved with peanut butter and you start to understand (how much I need a snack apparently) how slowly traffic can move on a weekend heading to the city where people go to visit Disneyland. Actually, the Magic Kingdom is just down the street from the convention center.

In the end I didn't make it in time for the spotlight on Jim Lee, and I had to park in the Disney lot and walk to the convention center. Anyone not living here will scoff and say, "so you had to walk a little, big effing deal." Scoff all you like, but live here for seven years and then talk to me about walking...anywhere. There's a reason that movies joke about people getting in their cars to go to the end of the driveway just to get the mail. People really do crazy shit like that out here.

I had also forgotten my good camera, so I was stuck with whatever I could get on my phone. That's not a terrible limitation because it has an eight megapixel camera, but the lens is tiny, and the shutter is slow, and the camera app eats my battery like honey badger in an ant colony. When I realized I'd forgotten it I had already passed the point where I felt like turning around was even feasible, much less a good idea. Who wants to drive a bumper car over roads like a toddler's snack more than once on a given morning?

Since I hadn't made it in time for the spotlight on Jim Lee I walked around the floor for a little bit, waiting until one-o-clock so I could go to the Live Art Jam. The Live Art Jam was what it sounds like, there's a panel of artists, each one is given a challenge, and they take turns drawing on an overhead projector and talking about their craft. For this panel the artists were Terry More, Philip Tan, Frank Cho, and freaking Jim Lee. Yes, that, Jim Lee. The heavens parted and the choirs sang hosannas. There was an extra twist on the event in the form of an auction where those attending the panel would have the chance to bid on the pieces created by the panelists. More on that in a minute.

All of the artists on this panel were amazing. I was only really familiar with the work of Frank and Jim because they are two of the best known creators in the industry. I was in for a treat.

Terry was given the challenge of drawing Wonder Woman on her day off. He drew here with the magic lasso holding her iPad from the ceiling so she could watch her stories. She was drinking a beer, eating chips, and still wearing the tiara and bracers. Meanwhile outside is chaos and people are screaming for help, but, fuck 'em, Diana's taking the day off.

Frank is currently writing and drawing Savage Wolverine for Marvel so he drew a picture of Wolverine fighting Venom. Which is great because I really only know his work drawing busty, curvaceous women and from the comic Liberty Meadows. Listening to him talk was fun in a way because he doesn't moderate his speech at all and has no qualms about calling something "gay" or "retarded." The shock in the room was palpable and adults were giggling like middle-schoolers, which I'm pretty sure was the reaction he wanted. When he wasn't being offensive he really had some good insights into the craft of creating comics and the process. The most interesting thing he said was, "don't go to art school, it's a waste of money. I went to school to be a nurse, but I was always drawing and now I do it for a living."

Philip Tan was clearly the new guy on the block relative to his fellow artists on the panel. What he may lack in celebrity, he more than makes up for in raw ability. More on that when I talk about the auction. Philip was given the task of drawing Batgirl inside somewhere, and he chose to draw her out in the city at night.

Which brings me to Jim Lee. What can I say about Jim Lee? In five words, "the man is a genius." He would be drawing and taking questions from the audience and would stop what he was doing to answer a question about the best way to approach drawing the human form foreshortened. The way he answered it was to explain how anatomy breaks down to basic shapes, and then he took a brush with ink on it and held a piece of paper in his hand and drew out the concept, with the brush, in paper he was holding in his other hand, while looking at it backwards and upside down. In explaining that concept and in touching on three-point perspective he broke the ideas down in such a way that novices who've never been exposed to it could grasp it, but more experienced people could still benefit. He actually reminded me a lot of my dad who was an artist and teacher and had the same kind of ability to break things down.

Jim was given the challenge of drawing Catwoman in a litter box. Hilarious right? I think he was third to the podium with its microphone and by the time he got there he was done except for finishing touches. In the time it had taken two other people to draw and talk, and even with taking the time to answer audience questions, he had finished a fabulous drawing of catwoman lying in kitty litter tracing an outline that looks like Batman. The expression on her face was knowing and seductive, and Jim Lee finished it so quickly that the moderator asked him to do another drawing. This one of the "new 52" Superman.

As I said, at the end of the panel the artists' work was auctioned to the audience. Here's how it broke down:

Terry Moore - Wonder Woman on her day off with the added bonus that Terry himself would add the snack food item of the winner's choice to the drawing - sold for $700. Respectable, right?

Philip Tan - Batgirl. This was the only piece that when the finished work was placed on the overhead projector caused the audience to gasp. There were oohs and aahs and people whispering. Philip's work was print-ready stuff. It was this moody, lustrous drawing of Batgirl in the city at night, swinging on a rope and looking serious, and easily the most gorgeous piece presented at the end of the Live Art Jam. It sold for a mere $800.

Frank Cho - Savage Wolverine fighting Venom - sold for $1,100. Wow, right?

Wait for it.

Jim Lee - Catwoman in kitty litter - sold for $1,600. Holy flaming balls!

Wait for it

Superman by Jim Lee - sold for $1,700, and it took him probably ten minutes to draw it.

After that the panel session was over and people started filing out. As he was leaving I managed to catch Jim Lee and get this picture on my phone.
If I look less than enthusiastic, it's because it was well after noon and I was absolutely starving. I must have sounded a little off kilter to Jim, too, because I tend to run at the mouth when I get really hungry. Sorry, Jim. Still, as odd, or as fan-boy-ish, as I must have sounded, he was incredibly cool. I didn't know what to expect when I got the chance to meet him. I just hoped he wasn't going to be a dick. He was the furthest thing from it. He was clearly trying to rush off to another event, or a meeting, or to the batcave, but he took the time to talk with fans, take pictures, and to seem like he was genuinely having a great time. I'm glad that I got to meet him for the little while I did, and recommend that anyone who can get the chance to hear him talk should go. It's worth it, especially if you're the least bit interested in comic books or the comic book industry or the art of comics.

This is going long so I'm going to wrap it up. The rest of the day I more or less spent wandering the exhibit floor, especially in artist's alley. I picked up four prints. Three for me and Mildly Sensational, and one for our daughter. I talked with some amazing artists and attended a the Spotlight on Jeff Smith panel, where he talked about creating Bone, his most recent project RASL, and announced his upcoming project Tuki which he is planning to do as a free webcomic. I'm reading Bone right now. If you haven't picked it up, do so. It's technically geared toward younger readers, but it's an amazing read and Jeff's artwork is worth the price of the big, one volume tome that collects all nine books of Bone.

Right near the end of the day I managed to track down Philip Tan at his booth in artist's alley. He was very cool when I asked him if he could do a quick drawing for me, and asked me to come back in an hour so he could finish up a commission he was working on. When I got back I asked him if he could do a quick drawing of my daughter from a photo reference. He was very humble and self-effacing and insisted that he really wasn't very good at portrait or caricature. I told him not to worry because I didn't want either of those things, I brought that image to him because I wanted Philip Tan's version. He was still very humble and said he would do the best he can. In minutes he threw down a drawing of my daughter that I wish I could do with careful planning and an afternoon. 

Here is the original.
Here's the Philip Tan
For all his hemming and hawing, and all his self deprecating talk, the man did an amazing job. I'm really glad to have this and it's going to be something that is always really special to me.

This concludes my entries on WonderCon. I'm sure there is much rejoicing in the lands (plural as it seems there are people in Turkey and the UK who are reading this, leave me a comment I'd like to hear from you).  

WonderCon left me with a feeling that can be described as "uplifting" if you're given to understatement. I told a friend today that I think I found myself at WonderCon. I'm going to try to run with that. 

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