Thursday, July 16, 2015

Geek Speaking of Booze Hound Conventions

Geek Speak: Booze Hound

Sometimes I struggle with what to call a strip when it's posted. In this case the name kind of suggested itself. I suppose I could also have called this "Dog Breath vs. Morning Breath: Dawn of Halitosis," but DC Comics has a lock on the rights to shitty titles.

In a way this strip explains how I feel about drinking to forget your problems. When you wake up in the morning the problems are still going to be there. You still have to deal with them, only now you get to do it with a hangover and feeling like you might puke if someone so much as says the word...well...puke. Sometimes having a drink after a hard day is ok, but hard drinking at the end of the day is a problem.

You might wake up to find a talking dog in your house.

Comic Con 2015

It's not possible after last weekend for me to sit at my keyboard to write a post and not talk about the San Diego Comic Con. Every year, and every convention I go to, whether it's Wonder Con or Comic Con I think, "this is it. This is the year I become jaded, and the feeling of belonging goes away and this stops making me happy." I'm happy to report that so far I've been disappointed in that regard. The feeling of being able to shed the person that I present to others in my day-to-day life and really get to be authentically myself has changed somewhat. It has diminished to a degree, but at the end of each day of convention I went back to the hotel tired, happy, and little lighter in the general region of my wallet. 

This year I drove down with a friend of Tea Leaf who we'll call Master Turtle. I'd met him a few times before, and we generally get along. We killed the time in the car by talking about everything from what he does for a living, which is way, way more interesting than what I do for a living, to marriage, to kids, to what he does for a living which is way, WAY more interesting than my job. 

We arrived in San Diego around 8:30, which means we made pretty good time. Pro-tip: if you only make use of them occasionally, you can use toll roads in California without an electronic pass. After using the toll road you have a week or so to pay the toll on the website It's worth it to knock twenty to thirty minutes off of the trip. To be honest, though, I might try taking the train to San Diego the next time I go to the convention. 

Through the magic of Tea Leaf and the arcane influence he exerts on the world we were able to find parking at PetCo Park, and we made our way into the convention. I would like to pause (or "paws") for a moment here to say that a sports arena called "PetCo Park" should have puppies on-site at all times, and you should be able to spend five bucks to get fifteen minutes of play time with them. 

At some point Master Turtle let me in on a secret, or not so much a secret as something that Comic Con makes available, but doesn't generally advertise. On the second floor of the convention center they have a room set aside as a "Pro Lounge" for professional badge holders. The lounge is set up with chairs and tables, it has outlets for charging devices, it has wi-fi, they offer a coffee and tea service, and it's even staffed with people to help you out. It's magical, and whenever I needed a break and to get off of my feet (or a free cup of coffee) I went to the lounge. Tea Leaf and Celluloid Girl, both hardcore con-goers, were also unaware of the lounge. This became the high point of my time at Comic Con as I had some great conversations, with some neat people. 

Master Turtle and I picked up our passes. One of the nice things about having a professional pass is there is almost never a line to pick up your pass, and you fly right through check in. From there we headed up to get in line with everyone else waiting to get into the convention. 

Here is an area where I think Comic-Con International fell a little short. The line to get into the convention was on the second floor and funneled everyone onto a single escalator. That's right, tens of thousands of people getting to the con floor by one escalator. I can understand why they did it. It means there isn't a crowd of people waiting at the doors to get in, so it eliminates that Black Friday crush of humanity surging toward a door and stomping anything, or anyone, in its path. It is a deliberate bottleneck. Still, the convention center is a huge place. It has a lot of ways to get down to the convention floor, and I feel like splitting things up would make for a smoother opening, better crowd control, and a safer situation overall. Lesson learned, next time I go to comic con I am getting my badge, then going out into the Gaslamp Quarter to find something to eat instead of waiting in line.

Master Turtle and I did eventually make it to the floor, where we immediately went our separate ways so we could make it to our first panels of the convention. Most of the panels I attended were specifically geared for people who draw comics, so the first panel I attended was "Drawing with Ed McGuinness." He talked a lot about the craft of getting into comics, but not too much about actually drawing. I take that back, he talked a lot about how he didn't like how the drawing of Superman he was working on, which had been requested by people in the audience who, admittedly, knew his work better than me. It's understandable, he's used to working on an elevated, angled surface, and in order to draw and talk at the same time he had to perch awkwardly on the back of a chair and draw on a digital overhead projector whose lamp was directly in his field of vision. Even so, most of us looking at the illustration of Superman he was apologizing for even as he created had a single collective thought, "screw you dude. I draw maybe half that well on my best day."

From there it was off to a workshop with cover artist Michael Cho, and graphic designer Chip Kidd. At the start of that panel the moderator had the privilege of presenting Kidd with a Comic Con International Inkpot Award for his contributions to comics. This is the second time I've seen this award presented. The first was to Bruce Timm. In both cases it was nearly without ceremony and a complete surprise to the recipient, which gives the presentation of the award a kind of authenticity that is really charming.

After the workshop with Cho and Kidd it was off to lunch. I was straight starving and needed sustenance. I hit the food trucks where I met up with Tea Leaf and Celluloid Girl for the first time at the convention. They spotted me because of the bright green Green Lantern shirt I was wearing, I spotted Celluloid Girl because of her awesome stripey hat.

After lunch it was off to more art instruction in the form of a painting and illustration panel with Jeffrey Watts and Erik Gist of the Watts Atelier. It was like a sixty minute infomercial for attending the Watts Atelier, interspersed with some really sound advice for improving figure illustration. I listened with half an ear and a bit while I drew the models. I'm linking to it here because, honestly, I like their approach and their philosophy on teaching art. Both of the panelists are the real deal. What they were able to do with paints in an hour represents a lifetime of learning, practice, teaching, and application.

From there I was off to the Terry Moore Panel. I could fill an entire blog post talking about Terry Moore. Instead I will just say this, I have tremendous respect and admiration for Moore as a person and a creator. Every time I'm lucky enough to hear him talk, or even to talk with him in person I feel like I leave with a lot of things to think about. He's also a very talented writer and illustrator whose books are worth picking up.

After that I ran to a panel on marker rendering presented by Mark Books. He and his wife were co-hosting the panel, which was good because he was invested in illustrating and rendering a drawing of Catwoman and Batman as he was talking. On that one I bailed early because it was six in the evening and time to go to dinner because, once again, I was straight starving. I'd also agreed to meet up with Master Turtle, Celluloid Girl, and Tea Leaf at the Old Spaghetti Factory.

We arrived at the Old Spaghetti Factory and were informed there was no soup available. Which seemed like an odd thing to take off the menu. The waiter then doubled down on the odd choices by offering Master Turtle a side salad to go with the chicken salad he'd ordered for dinner. Food ordered I dove into drawing a goofy little cartoon sketch while my companions dove into their phones to follow a live blog of the Star Wars panel that was going on at the same time. When J.J. Abrams announced that everyone attending the panel was going to be treated to a surprise concert featuring music from the Star Wars movies Tea Leaf all but wept. There were tears and consolation. Then we went for ice cream.

It is becoming something of a convention tradition to go to the Old Spaghetti Factory, and then go to Ghiardelli to get ice cream for dessert. They make a hot fudge sundae that can deservedly be called legendary, and is the thing I order whenever we go. In some ways I look forward to those two things as much as walking the floor, or learning how to draw from icons in the field of comic book illustration.

After ice cream I drove to the hotel, which wasn't really notable except for one thing. We could see Mexico from our room. That is not a Sarah Palin "I can see Russia from my house" kind of exaggeration. We could literally see Tijuana from our hotel. What did it look like? Honestly? It looked like any other big city at night, just a bunch of lights in the darkness. I have to imagine there were probably people looking back in our direction and thinking, "I can see America from here."

On a final note. I was a lot more selective with the pictures I took this year, and used the camera on my phone almost exclusively. Still, I got some fun images. I'll share those and my doodles in the next post. 

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