Comics, Conventions, Events

My San Diego Con Report

I nearly did not make it to San Diego Comic Con this year. Blame it on jet-lag, middle age and a perilous meeting-packed week. I knew I would not make it on Wednesday and Thursday, and by the time Friday came around, I had half a mind not to go at all. But there were promises to keep.

I believe I am coming down with Convention Fatigue. I say this out loud despite knowing that fifteen-year-old version of me would punch me in the face. 2005-version of me would get all passive-aggressive, especially at how I was somewhat behind in replacing all my shelved books with signed copies.

This is specially true of San Diego, where walking from one end of the exhibition floor to the other requires serious stamina, a willingness to not mind being buffeted by the occasional 200-pound metaphorical gorilla. I am not making fun of the Comic-Book Fan here, I swear, it’s just that there is never a straight line. There are always aisles blocked by a signing, or impromptu photography sessions when an exceptionally-beautiful Elektra poses for pictures, or a kid wants to pet a cute R2D2 robot. Occasionally you notice that specific creator signing at a booth, and you have to weigh the probability of missing the event you are running to if you choose to queue for this particular guy, who is only around for 30 minutes more and does not stay the next day.

San Diego Comic-Con is a logistical nightmare if you are not prepared. I was not prepared at all this year.

I missed Benoit Peeters and Francois Schuiten signing the new English language reprints of their award-winning graphic novel, Leaning Girl. I could not get to Joe Hill at the Harper Collins booth because he signed until noon on Saturday, and I got there at 12:10. I could not get to Joe Hill at the IDW booth because you needed wristbands (groan!) to stand in line, and all the wristbands got over in the morning. I missed Bryan Lee O’Malley signing at his booth because I wasn’t there on Thursday and he cancelled his Saturday signing. Missed Matt Kindt and Kazu Kibuishi; did not even get to say hello to Mike Mignola at his booth, wanted to get a ticket for the Sin City 2 signing at the Dark Horse booth but could not.


“So what did you do in the one and a half days you were there?”, they asked.

My favorite moment in the show was meeting artist Kevin O’Neill, who was signing and sketching over at the Top Shelf Booth. I was in line on both days, and got a Mina sketch and a Hyde sketch in my Absolute League of Extraordinary Gentlemen editions. Got my Marshal Law and Nemesis The Warlock volumes signed, and even bought a limited edition copy of League: Century, signed by both Alan Moore and Kevin. While waiting in line, it turned out that pal Micah was right behind me, and we spent a pleasant half-hour talking about con experiences and comics. With a special emphasis on the phrase “Hyde fucking the Invisible Man to death.” What have you wrought, Alan Moore?



Right next to Top Shelf was the Fantagraphics booth, and I met Don Rosa, the man behind The Life and Times of Uncle Scrooge. I had met Don in 2007, at my first US convention – Super Con San Jose, which has since been rebranded as Big Wow Comic Con, and I mentioned to him how he had signed my copy of Life and Times, but when I went to buy the companion (which is sort of a collection of out-takes from the book), it was all sold out. This time I had a copy of the Companion with me, and he signed it “For Satya, again!” He also sketched a very cool Kid Scrooge for me, with his lucky dime. Very very cool indeed. The Hernandez bros were also signing right next to him, and I got my copy of the Love and Rockets sketchbook signed by both Beto and Xaime.

Saturday started off pretty badly, with a parking ticket from the officialdom of San Diego, because half my car was in a yellow line as I was getting money out of an ATM. Mood soured, I went in to try catch Joe Hill. Missed ‘im. Headed to Zander Cannon’s booth, got myself a copy of his audio commentary and he drew me a sketch inside my copy of Heck. Most of the day then went by in a blur, meeting old friends, talking to art dealers, admiring the cosplayers. Made my first payment for my Next Big Art Deal. Ended the day and my con meeting Jeff Smith, who signed copies of Bone for a pal. At this point, I am not sure how many copies of Bone I have asked Jeff to sign, but it’s always a pleasure to say hello to him and Vijaya.

A couple of take-aways for me, from SDCC this year.

  • I need to be better prepared. Comic-con is a test of one’s physical and mental reserves, and if I am not into it, I will not enjoy it, period.
  • No more lugging hardcovers around. They put a serious damper on my enjoyment of the convention. I plan to make myself some book-plates next time. Getting those signed and sticking them into the actual copies of the books.
  • I hate the fact that I did not make it to any panels this time. Not even the one where one of my friends was up on stage!
  • While hotels were sold out, I noticed lots of AirBnb postings in the downtown area. So far, I have stayed at a hotel away from the convention center, at a hotel right next to the convention center, at a friend’s place in San Diego, and this time, at a friend’s place in the OC. AirBnb next time, maybe?
Comic Art, Comics, Conventions

San Diego post #2 – Getting to SDCC

This is one of the best-known words of advice about Comicon, especially comic art collectors: Preview Night is where the action happens. Allow me to explain: The con officially begins on Thursday morning at 9 AM. It ends on Sunday at 5 PM. Preview night is on Wednesday evening, when the convention floor opens up for a few hours just so that you can look around for the good stuff before the crowds hit. Some of my friends take it a step higher and head inside the convention center (using Exhibitor badges) around noon on Saturday. I did that in 2011, too. That’s when you have random brain-freezes when you see Robert Kirkman walking around, or Dave Gibbons passing by.

(However, the best Retail deals happen in the last few hours of Sunday, when booths, eager to load as less inventory back to their trucks as possible, go for insane discounts. There’s a tip right there for you.)

This year, I was eager to get in early on preview night, mostly to check out Adam Hughes and Mike Mignola’s booths. They bring original art to the show at very decent prices, and which is plucked clean in the first few hours.


Tuesday evening, I find out that my rear left tire is running low. This after I had filled it up 2 days ago. I headed over to the service center and asked them to look at it, plus there were some other small things wrong with the dashboard console. Wednesday morning, they call me to say that my tires need to be replace – the front tires, because there was an air bubble. Damnation and hellfire. I was supposed to leave at 10 AM, so that I could get to the convention by 1 PM. It was 2 by the time I got the car back, and by the time I navigated through bumper-to-bumper traffic on 5 South to Downtown San Diego, it was 6 PM. But to balance this cosmic injustice, I got a free parking spot opposite the convention center – the chances of that happening are astronomically low and everybody I met told me the exact same thing.

By the time I got inside, Mignola and Hughes were picked clean. There was a single Hellboy in Hell page remaining and I thought it wasn’t good enough for the price. Adam Hughes had a Fables Encyclopaedia cover for $8000, and a few Fairest covers that made my heart stop. I spent thirty minutes hanging out and talking with art dealer Scott Eder and the various people who flocked to his booth, old collectors I knew by name, others I had met before. I was in “view” mode, Scott and I have a deal for something major and I could not afford to jump in with something else. Then I walked over to some other booths. A James Jean Fables cover sold in front of my eyes, one of two that a consigner had brought for sale the minute before it sold, for a little less than a quarter of my annual salary. Two pages from Frank Miller’s 300 – those were the only pages from that series that had ever been available on the market – had sold an hour ago. There was the Robert McGinnis painted cover from Stephen King’s Joyland, and a Charles Addams unpublished cartoon, a few Kelley Jones Sandman pages that made my toes curl. One dealer, remembering how I had asked for a good Spirit page a few days ago, pointed me to an excellent example of a 1940s strip that had P’Gell in it. Since $8000 was a little too much for my immediate budget, I bid it a fond farewell.

There was, on one gallery wall, the greatest Prince Valiant strip I remember seeing, with Val and his wife Aletha in all panels, and one in which Val spanked Aletha on his lap. Already sold for $15,000 and a little of my tears. A Preacher page with the Saint of Killers, the cover to Bruce Timm’s Naughty And Nice pocket book, one of the best Dave Johnson 100 Bullets covers, featuring Dizzy. San Diego, on preview night, had me feel like Aladdin inside the cave for the first time, except of course, there was no lamp, because this ain’t no stinkin’ fairytale. The surprise of the evening was realizing that Juanjo Guarnido’s commission list was not full yet, and after a few minutes of vacillating, I decided to go for a full-figure drawing of Alma. I love Blacksad, and getting a piece of artwork from Guarnido without having to pay through my nose appealed to me.

A bunch of us met for our annual Secret Art List dinner, where we talked comics, art and the films of Julie Delpy. I found out that a collector lived a few miles away from my place, and we promised to get together. I put plans in place for a Miller Daredevil page, and probably another Sandman page, but obviously, time will tell.

That was the first day. I slept happy, and very very tired.

Conventions, Manga

San Diego post #1

(first in a series of posts about the SDCC experience this year, with random digressions)

Did not attend too many panels at San Diego this year, except for two back to back on Saturday evening. One with Jeff Smith and Terry Moore talking about comics and the indie scene in the 90s. It started slow, when both creators made jokes about not really understanding the point of the panel, but once it got going, there were great anecdotes about jumping into the comics business, how the comics market changed over the last few decades, and great memories of previous conventions.

And this is when my camera died.

And this is when my camera batterydied.

The second panel I attended was a Best of/Worst of Manga 2013, where some of my favorite manga correspondents talked about series they liked and disliked. (It was great to be able to put faces to familiar names, like Shaennon Gaerrity, David Brothers, Brigid Alverson and Chris Butcher, and saying hello to Deb Aoki) Knew (and cheered) most of the series mentioned, and made note of the ones I did not. Funny moments included Attack on Titan and Heart of Thomas appearing in both “Best of” and “Worst of” sections. Deb made a compelling case for why Attack works and does not. Brigid was unafraid to knock on Moto Hagio a bit, even as Shannon vehemently disagreed. Much fun. You can read details here.

When the panel ended, I asked some of the panelists a question that had been bothering me the last day. Aditya Gadre had asked me on Twitter about what  title he should start reading if he wants to get into manga. My standard response to that is to figure out what kind of books and movies the person likes, instead of thrusting whatever is the core “best-of” list. He said he was a Neil Gaiman/Alan Moore fan, which got me really worked up about suggestions. And since San Diego was on, why not go to the Recommendation Mothership?

Chris took about 5 seconds to recommend Pluto, which I had thought about but dismissed because I felt it was kind of like giving Watchmen to someone who has not read superheroes. A lot of the charm of Watchmen comes from recognizing how Moore subverts familiar superhero tropes, and similarly, you enjoy the beats in Pluto much more if you have a working knowledge of the original Astro Boy stories on which it was based, and a decent knowledge of the characters in that universe. I stopped reading Pluto myself around volume 2, made sure I reread ‘The Greatest Robot on Earth’, and enjoyed the story much much more. But Naoki Urasawa is a fantastic writer/artist, and Pluto is really one of those series that is a perfect combination of art and story, without any of the manga tropes that pisses off non-manga readers.


It’s more fun when you know who the kid is

Deb took some time to come up with two choices – Black Lagoon, which I agreed with but was a little skeptical about the bad-girl violence, and Dorohedoro, which I heartily agreed with. Black Lagoon is about a band of mercenaries called the Lagoon company, operating somewhere in South-East Asia. The story begins with them kidnapping a young Japanese salaryman who ends up joining them, and the series is an excellent mixture of no-holds-barred, stylish action mixed with moments of quiet contemplation about the nature of crime, killing and existence. Dorohedoro is a series I read a few months ago, about a man with a reptile head who fights wizards from another dimension, and this has to be the most underwhelming explanation of one of the most fascinating manga I have read in recent times. It has laugh-out-loud humor and strange secrets-behind-secrets, even as Q Hayashida, the lady who writes and draws this series, slowly draws back the curtains on both the wizard and human worlds. It is also a series where you would be hard-pressed to take sides.

Two of the bad-ass ladies of Black Lagoon

Two of the bad-ass ladies of Black Lagoon


The zany cast of Dorohedoro


Brigid suggested Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service (to which Deb and I both agreed). It’s about a bunch of graduates who start their business – of talking to the recently-dead and carrying out their last wishes. Each of them has a special power, like talking to the dead, or embalming, or mad computer skills. Which sounds kind of cliche, I know, but it is very very entertaining and also really creepy at times.


I love the cover design for the series.

The only problem with all these titles mentioned above (except Pluto) is that they are all ongoing series. Lagoon has been on hiatus for sometime, Dorohedoro is seeing steady publication, while Kurosagi is published once a year.

Other books that I thought of, which are a little more stand-alone:

Domu by Katsuhiro Otomo. Best-known for the phenomenal Akira, this was the horror-fantasy title that got Otomo noticed. A creepy story about a telekinetic showdown between an old man and a young girl in an apartment complex.

Death Note. 11 volumes. One of the most well-known manga out there, and is delightfully over-the-top sometimes and yet so compelling.

Comics, Life

7 Things I did not do at Comicon

  1. Meet Bryan Lee O’Malley Out of all my ‘goals’ for Comicon this year, this was the only one that did not happen. I wanted to meet the creator of Scott Pilgrim, just say hi, and maybe buy some art. He did make an appearance at the con, he did bring art I wanted, and horrors, he was apparently the guy who picked up a Seth DPS that I was eyeing at the Beguiling art store. But I missed him by about an hour. Oh well, he stays in LA, so there’s a high likelihood I’ll bump into him some time. If all else fails, there’s always next year.
  2. Attend the Locke and Key screening Locke and Key – which as I’ve mentioned before as a series that rocked my world – was recently optioned as a TV series. But a few weeks before Comicon, it was announced that the series had not been picked up, unfortunately. (Which means it joins the likes of Global Frequency and David Goyer’s Wonder Woman as aborted shows I would have liked to see) The pilot was supposed to be screened at SDCC, and I was looking forward to watch it. Alas, it was all about the timing. People were queuing for it way before I reached the convention center, and I missed the evening show because I was attending the Eisners.  So, uh…. 
  3. Cosplay  A lot of people dressed up at Comicon. A LOT. I was not one of them. I could probably argue that no, I was dressed up like that fellow Raj from The Big Bang Theory, but I did not shut up in the presence of women, and I definitely did not have a dorky haircut. Also, comic art collectors probably would not take a cosplayer in their midst too seriously.
  4. Give in to temptation (No, really) So I bought some pages for a bargain. I got offered twice my cost price for them the same day. I swallowed hard, punched myself in the face (mentally, of course), and refused. I loved those pages and sometimes, money isn’t everything.
  5. Save on hotel bills Yes, I should have planned before, and would have saved a boatload of money on hotel bills, probably more than enough to cover the cost of another Preacher page. (Seriously, I am getting addicted to the idea of owning Preacher pages. Preacher is the new Hitman, y’all). But I did not, and I paid 225$ per night for my hotel, for 4 nights. My middle-class Indian upbringing wants to choke me to death and kick me in the head for good measure.
  6. Meet a TV cast I would have loved to meet the cast of Chuck, and I would have even settled for The Big Bang Theory. The closest I got to a TV cast was for Once Upon A Time, which I did not enjoy as much, even with Robert Carlyle in it. Ah well, filed under “next time”.
  7. Take More Pictures I took a lot of pictures, I swear I did, but sometimes you just gotta nut up, shut up and let your eyes do the recording. And that’s exactly what happened.
Comics, Life

The ‘hugs’ post

In which I flog my face, in the company of illustrious embellishers. Based on an idea submitted by Ganesh Natarajan, age 26, Chennai.


Adam Warren, the man behind Empowered and Dirty Pair, the master of the soft lead.

Meeting Adam Warren was high on my priority list for the con. His Empowered happens to be the one of the few comics that I wish had a speedier release schedule, and I have gone on record stating how much of a crush I have on the titular super-heroine. One of my fondest wishes is to own a complete Emp story – Adam does 2-3 page stories often in his books, and they are funny, sexy and perfect self-contained chunks of his artistry.

I spent the better part of a day looking for his booth, and following his tweets regarding his whereabouts. On the second day of the con, I landed up at Stuart Ng books because they had his sketchbooks, and as soon as I saw them on display, I grabbed at one and was flipping through it. This guy asks me if he can take a look, and I oblige. As he flipped through it, I was on full Emp-love mode, talking about how cool the series is and how great the sketchbook looks, because it had some short stories in it. After some time, I notice a bunch of people clustered around us, and steal a glance at the guy’s name tag. *Groan* It was Adam Warren himself, looking through his  sketchbook because they came straight to the con and he had not seen them before. Obviously, I met him again the next day, and bought some art, but I found it totally serendipitous to meet him this way.

Robert Kirkman, creator of The Walking Dead

I met Kirkman on Wednesday evening, when everybody was setting up. I was still in the “I can’t believe I am standing here” mode when my friend Kwan introduced me to Kirkman, and I shook hands and said hi. Kwan took a picture of us. And then as we were walking away, it sort of registered who I had just met – the guy that wrote the best ongoing series in comics, bar none. So I took a deep breath, turned and explained to Robert why I thought he was awesome and his books were awesome and that he should continue the awesomeness and take my money forever. He did not freak out and run away, so I assume I was lucid when I said all that.


Jerry Robinson, the man who created The Joker

It was such an honor to meet one of the figures who shaped the Golden Age. Mr Robinson was signing at his own booth, and I happened to be there at the right time. Picked up one of his prints, had him sign it to me, and when I asked to take a photograph, he called me behind the booth so that I was in the picture as well.

Jeff Smith, of Bone fame, with Vijaya Iyer, his wife and publisher, Cartoon Books.

Picture taken at the end of the party. I had seven glasses of wine in me, and was very freaking happy with the evening’s proceedings. There was a Bone photo-booth, and the original plan was to go in there with Jeff and Vijaya and pose with Bone. But the booth was closed towards the end, so we just decided to take the picture on my camera.

Then I staggered to my hotel room (2 miles away!), collapsed on my bed, and felt the world heave and shudder all night. Seven glasses of wine, I hate you (like I love you).

Dave Gibbons. THE Dave Gibbons.

If Dave Gibbons looks a little flustered here, it’s because he was in a hurry. I sort of feel sorry about my friend Joe stopping him just so I could get a picture taken with him, but Dave was nice enough to oblige. Later on, Dave was on stage with Jonathan Ross, as part of the Eisner presenters and the duo killed everyone with their jokes.

Craig Thompson of Blankets and Goodbye Chunky Rice

In 2007, I nearly paid a European collector $350  to get a small sketch by Craig that he owned. Wise sense (and a nearly-empty wallet) prevailed, and I did not go ahead with the deal. It was therefore a happy moment at the Con when I got to meet Craig, chatted with him about his work – he mentioned that he almost made it to the Jaipur Lit festival this year, but had to pull out at the last moment. Even meeting him was fortuitous. I was looking for the Harper-Collins booth to see if Joe Hill was hanging out there, and when passingthe Pantheon booth, I nearly fainted (mostly because I could not believe that I had missed this crucial bit of information) on seeing a hardcover edition of Habibi, Thompson’s 700+ page work after Blankets. As it turned out, the book would be out in September, and all I could do at the moment was hold it, caress it and kiss it goodbye-till-we-meet-again. The lady at the booth informed us that Craig would be signing posters at the booth for an hour the next day. Of course I made sure I was there an hour before the designated time, saw that a line had already formed before me. I bought a Blankets hardcover, and when it was my turn, Craig graciously drew a sketch for me. It was, ladies and gentlemen, the cause of the shit-eating grin I had on me the rest of the day.

Joe Hill and Gabe Rodriguez, the team behind Locke and Key, probably my favorite series right now.

Ah, Joe Hill. The man who Made Me Believe. The first writer, after my childhood idol (who was his father) that I would buy anything by. It’s almost funny to think that I had postponed reading Locke And Key so long just because I thought it would not live up to his prose writing. I was wrong. Joe Hill is a genius, and lucky, because he teamed with artist Gabriel Rodriguez, whose work has to be seen to be believed. Do not read anything about Locke and Key on the web, just go and download it RIGHT NOW. Read it. If you are not compelled to pay these guys money once you’re done, maybe you should stop reading this blog, because seriously, I do not have anything in common with you. Yes, them’s fighting words, but you’ve got to understand, I’ve waited years to be this blown away by a comic-book series. To not be jaded by a writer’s work because I can predict what’s coming next. *

*with the exception of The Walking Dead.