Spam Diego, by John Ostrander
So – today is the first official day of the 2008 San Diego Comic Con International Clam Bake and Fish Fry Harvest Moon Festival. Or, as I like to call it, Spam Diego. Where different unspecified cuts of meat are jammed together into one can until it becomes a single mass wrapped in a gelatinous type goo.
I suppose I should get right down to my first Con report.
I woke up this morning, got my newspaper, fed the cats, fed myself while I read the comics, came in here and turned on my computer. That’s right; I’m here at home, not there amidst the teeming multitudes lined up to gain entry. Wished I could say I wished I was there, but I really don’t. The last time I was there, my hotel was about a twenty minute trolley car ride north of the Convention Center. If it had been as far south, my hotel would have been in Tijuana. This year, I think I heard that people are having to commute in from Chicago.
When I go to a Con, I have certain criteria. I want to meet the fans and, if they want, sign their books. Fans are the ones who have enabled me to make my living at what I love doing for about twenty-five years. I want to say thank you, give back some of the love. I want to get new fans, if I can. I want those who have read and are reading my books to have a good experience of me.
At Spam Diego, unless you have a table of your own – too expensive for a writer type like me – or you’re being sponsored by one of the publishing houses, it’s hard for the fans to know where you are and when. Plus there’s a lot of competition. Lots of stuff going on. I mean. Brian Michael Bendis could get lost in this shuffle.
I want to meet some friends in the business that I haven’t seen for awhile; maybe make one or two new ones as well. Get to meet some who I’ve only known via e-mail. There are people I have worked with whom I have never met face to face. It used to be I’d run into people I hadn’t met in a while at SDCC and that’s always been a big draw for me. Now? I don’t know if I’d accidentally run into anyone unless I was driving the Batmobile.
I’d like to experience something of the place where the Convention is located. Something more than a room and a room. San Diego has one of the bigger and better run zoos in the world; this year, the SDCC itself promises to be the bigger zoo – a media one and that’s the only one most Con goers (and guests) will see. Some parts of it are a petting zoo; others – well, watch your fingers.
All conventions are, for me, a working weekend. There is at least one day traveling time and, usually, with Spam Diego, a second one going home. Since SDCC is a four-day Con instead of a three-day one, I’d have to leave on Wednesday and probably go home on Monday. For me to go to Spam Diego is a cross country trip. Unless I’m going on someone else’s dime, any Con is going to drain me financially and SD more so. To get a room somewhere reasonably near the Con, I should start booking now for next year’s Con. Every Con also can drain energy; I don’t bounce back as fast these days as I used to do. Figure a day or two to recover. San Diego – even more so. Because SDCC is so big, everything is even more so.
That means that when I go to SDCC, I’m going to lose a week of work. Yes, I know there are people who bring laptop computers and can write on the plane or at the hotel or whatever; I’m not one of them. Losing a week’s worth of work is substantial. I’m not certain if the return I get for myself by investing my time in SDCC is worth it anymore.
Every San Diego Con I’ve attended has been big but there was always the chance to meet friends, maybe get a little business done. I don’t want to misrepresent the Con; I’ve had some good times there. I’ve had a chance to meet with some of my heroes – Jack Kirby, John Broome, Will Eisner.
At another SDCC, I met this wonderful mad Australian, a damn good writer, Dave DeVries. I don’t know when I laughed quite so hard as with him and he’s become a good friend.
There was a sort of English tea party one year – only with beer – that Kim and I had at the Karl Strauss Brewhouse that included my GJ collaborator Steve Pugh and, if my fuzzy memory serves, Bryan Talbot and Garth Ennis among others. We were just going to have a few brews and Garth was going to go off to see a movie but we were all having such a good time that dinner was ordered and we all wound up staying until it was time to head towards one of the numerous parties that always accompanies San Diego.
There was the Con where I ran into Anina Bennet and Paul Guinan, friends from Chicago and from our days together at First Comics. It’s been a while since we’d even talked but I remember just sitting on some steps, drinks in hands, under a gentle San Diego night sky, and simply talking. I never need much more than that.
So I don’t hate SDCC. And I will probably go back again eventually. I just don’t know if I have a place there any more. Our own Queen of All Media, Martha Thomases, cited in her column last week (her column is required reading every week) that Paris Hilton is going to be at Spam Diego this year on a panel for Lionsgate. Extra credit essay points for anyone who can explain what Paris Hilton has to do with comics. Or with ANYTHING.
Comics have conquered pop culture; pop culture has conquered the SDCC. I don’t know if comics has really won or lost that exchange. More people probably watched the Batman movie last weekend than will read a Batman comic for the whole decade. For the majority of people, the real Batman, the real Iron Man, will be the one on the screen, not the one sold in comic book stores. It feels like “media” has taken over SDCC – and that comics are just a small part of that. Maybe it’s just me.
I’m not giving up Comic book Conventions altogether. There’s one in Minneapolis, Minnesota – the MCBA FallCon on October 4 and 5 – which I’m scheduled to attend. More my size. I’ll probably do the NY Con next year as well; it’s close by. So I’m not opposed to big cons. I hope all of you who are out there at Spam Diego have a good time. As Miracle Max in The Princess Bride would have put it, “Have fun storming the Convention Center!”
I’ll be here thinking of you.
John Ostrander writes lots of good stuff, including an upcoming Munden’s Bar story with his ol’ collaborator, Stuart Gordon.