SDCC logo San Diego Con '95 Report: It Ain't Rocket Science

My SDCC report begins on Friday a week before the con started, with my trip to Los Angeles on vacation. I did a lot of touristy stuff for a few days (Rodeo Drive, Griffiths Park, celebrity sighting number 1: Bob Seger at House of Blues, Venice Beach, boat cruise around Palos Verdes, scuba diving off Catalina, etc.) before meeting my first netizens: Joanna Sandsmark and Leah Adezio. We hit Universal Studios the Monday before the con started (at various times discussing Aquaman, the Teen Titans, Wonder Woman, and the Legion) and had a blast. Afterwards we descended upon the Citywalk, a mall-type thing next to the Studios. Celebrity sighting number 2: Richard Karns (Al on "Home Improvement"). Took off next day for San Diego, hung around Balboa Park and the Aerospace Museum (which I hit on the one day per month it's free!), and then Wednesday I went scuba diving off La Jolla.

Day 0: Wednesday July 26

I ran into Joanna Sandsmark while getting my pre-registered goody bag. Turned out she was rooming with Leah Adezio, Trisha Mulvihill, and Johanna Draper at the Hyatt. I was directed up to their room and finally met the ever-elusive Johanna. The two of us went out to dinner at the Kansas City BBQ restaurant, which proudly brags it was the location of "the sleazy bar scene in the movie Top Gun". Then we went to the Embassy Suites for the first Legion gathering of the weekend: Troy McNemar, Sidne Ward, Tom "tyg" Galloway, and David Goldfarb.

Shortly we found ourselves at the DC/Diamond party (aka "shmooze-fest"). Among the highlights of the party: seeing (in no particular order) Chris Claremont, Marv Wolfman, Jeff Smith, Steve Lieber, Jim Shooter, Bernie Wrightson (with Joy), Paul Levitz, Bob Overstreet, Greg Ross, Trisha Mulvihill, Roger Cruz, Mike Deodato Jr, and Mike Barr; thanking Heidi MacDonald for her suggestions about things to do in LA; talking with Jim Valentino (along with Sidne Ward and some Interlac-ers) about the Legion; talking with Neil Gaiman about Alan Moore's "Twilight"; getting free drink tickets from Mike Carlin; chatting with Legion artist Jeff Moy; watching Ted Slampyak and Johanna Draper scream at each other for some reason; hearing Steve Geppi announce Acclaim's exculsive contract with Diamond; and getting a DC/Diamond/Overstreet Fan drink bottle as a lovely parting gift. Dropped Sidne Ward off at her hotel and called it a night.

Day 1: Thursday July 27

Wow. That's all I can say. This thing is HUGE. Since I've got all four days, my plan is to crisscross the convention center end to end and then front to back, just to see what's there.

Met Cat Yronwode at the Claypool booth. Last time I saw her was in Houston in 1984, which she remembered as "Food Con". We talked about the Real Reason for the Ellison/Groth feud, among other things. Next I went to hear Golden Age artist Ramona Fradon talk about her work on Metamorpho, Aquaman, and Brenda Starr. Only about 30 people showed up. Finally met Cheryl Harris at the Compuserve booth. Stopped off at the DC booth and ran into Tony Isabella, Jack Curtin, Leah Adezio, Roger Price, Carl Pietrantonio, and Bob Rozakis. I mentioned to Bob that it was in his Answer Man column that my name first saw print: "Q: Is Roy (Speedy) Harper related to Jim (Guardian) Harper? A: Jim is an uncle of Roy's." Bob mentioned that at the time Nelson Bridwell was constructing this elaborate family tree showing how everyone in the DCU was related.

Passed by Dave Stevens' Bulldog Production booth, featuring the lovely and talented Jewell Sheperd. Saw two people in Legion shirts; turned out to be Liz and Ken Bartlett, here on their honeymoon (now THAT's dedication!). Discussed Starman with Wade von Grawbadger, who said that there'd be a Shade solo story in Showcase 96 #12. Talked to Greg Ross at the DC booth; he's their multimedia guy. He also told me that DC is no longer exclusive to AOL, but there's no plans to expand their presence right now due to lack of personnel.

Big event of the afternoon was the Legion chat, with Roger Stern, Mike Carlin, Mark Waid, Stuart Immomen, Ron Boyd, Cory Carini, and Jeff Moy. There was a large net presence there, as well as a number of apa people (Interlac, etc.). Got a few hints about the future. I introduced myself to Mark Waid as "Rob Schmidt"; this got the same deer-in-the-headlights reaction as I'm sure Mike Chary's introduction to Mark in Chicago got.

Ran into Bill Sienkiewicz at the Kitchen Sink booth; I passed him a copy of my Anal Retentive list of his artwork appearances, and he was impressed with the thoroughness (mainly since he had no such list of his own). He said he'd get back to me with updates.

Talked to Denny O'Neil at the DC booth about Batman and the JLA; he said "Oh, no, you're from the Internet, right?" (For those who don't know, Christopher Priest recently said on the net that Denny's latest Batman retcon is that Batman was never in ANY Justice League, not even the Giffen/DeMatteis version). Denny said it was an off-hand comment, and didn't mean to offend anyone, but he felt that Batman works best when he's not with a group. It remains to be seen if this is official canon.

Headed over to the Batman panel with Archie Goodwin, O'Neil, Alan Grant, and Mark Chiarello. It was supposed to be what's leading up to Detective 700, but it was just a question and answer session. I left after a few minutes. They did give the "official" ages of Bruce, Dick, and Tim as 33, 22, and 15, respectively. Caught the Electronic Fandom panel, hosted by Tom Galloway, with panelists Joyce Kolb (local San Diego), Greg Ross (DC/AOL), Rod Underhill (Compuserve artist), and Tim Stroup (Grand Comics Database). Ran into Carl Pietrantonio, Craig "Mr. Silver Age" Shutt, and Tim Fitzpatrick at the CBG booth, then found Julie Schwartz talking with Mark Evanier and Gil Kane back at the DC booth.

For dinner, the LSH-L internet mailing list group took several of the LSH creators out to RJ's Riptide (RJ Brande?). Present were Cory Carini, Sidne Ward, Jim Drew, Eric Sturgeon, KC Carlson, Jeff Moy, Vernon Harmon, Troy McNemar, Liz and Ken Bartlett, David Goldfarb, Johanna Draper, Phil Moy, and Leman Yuan (who's a fantastic costumer). Mike Chary, Greg "Elmo" Morrow, Mike Kelly, and some other guy had signed up for the dinner, but ditched us. I never even saw them, but Sidne said they signed up with her. Jim Drew showed us his "Dune" action figures he's going to make into Bouncing Boy, Star Boy, and Livewire. KC started a round-robin "chat" on paper, while team "Legion" kicked butt on on-line trivia. Total bill was almost $200. Afterwards, we went back to the Marriott where we could hear ourselves, and we talked Legion stuff until midnight: sales, the Real Ending to the SW6 storyline, marketing dept. screwing up LSH promotional items, characters, history, internet, etc. Then we called it a night, and I dropped off Sidne and Vernon. Whew.

Day 2: Friday July 28

Picked up my first buy of the con: seven of the eight LSH Slurpee cups from 1973 for 3 bucks each (I'm only missing Mon-el). I beat Troy McNemar to the table by about 2 minutes, so he got the duplicates. Went to the "where do writers get their ideas?" panel, with Tony Isabella, Arthur Holcomb, Kurt Busiek, and Howard Chaykin. Attendance was about 60. Stood in line with Cory Carini getting Anthony Daniels (C-3PO)'s autograph; Cory said he's a fanboy too. Found a Legionnaires pin for five bucks; what a bargain! Hit the Jack Kirby panel, featuring Mark Evanier, Joe Sinnott, Mike Royer, and the guy who publishes the Kirby Collector. Interesting stories about The King. Went out to my car for something around lunchtime and ran into Giordano, Kane, Sinnott, and Schwartz, among others. The history behind this group!

Saw Len Wein talking to Dick Giordano on my way to the Neil Gaiman panel (attendance about 500). Tidbits from Gaiman: he likes the first draft of the Sandman script (written by the Aladdin writers), and about 95 pages of the 105 are his. The story follows issues 1, 2, 21, 3, 4, Corinthian stuff, 6, 8, Cats, 7, Vertigo Jam (?) story; the story "Three Septembers and a January" was inspired by his friend Richard Curtis, who was writing a screenplay at the time called "Four Weddings and a Funeral"; not enough time to write a Babylon 5 script; Alan Moore's Swamp Thing 26-28 got him re-hooked into comics; the Delirium mini will be out next year; more on the Miracleman rights mess; and a possible Sandman Zero issue. Saw Tony Isabella with Bob Ingersoll at the CBG booth, and Tony gave me a copy of the Black Lightning #9 script. Back at the DC booth, schmoozed with Mark Waid, Paul Kupperberg, and Kevin Dooley. I gave each one of my business cards in case they want any NASA information to put into a script.

Went out to dinner at Horton Plaza, aka "Fast Food of All Nations", aka the "Escher Mall", where I met Compuservers Paul "Zeus" Grant and son, Lou Perez, Craig Shutt, Carl Pietrantonio, Barbara Jarvis, Tim Fitzpatrick, and Josh Macy. Got back in time for the Eisner Awards (see other posts for the winners), where I sat with Johanna Draper, Sidne Ward, David Goldfarb, Tom Galloway, Vernon Harmon, Troy McNemar, and Steve Lieber (who was up for, but lost, Best New Talent). Mike Chary, Elmo, and Mike Kelly ditched us again. Afterwards we hit the dance floor, which had a big crowd at first but who left due to the music selection (like Stairway to Heaven). We had fun anyway. Vernon and I went over to the hotel with the invite-only Image/Motown Animation party, since I had been given an extra, but by the time we got there it had ended. Missed the street to get back on the freeway, and drove around in what I later found out was the drive-by shooting area of downtown San Diego.

Day 3: Saturday July 29

Not as crowded as I had anticipated. Hit the Babylon 5 panel first thing; we got to see Joe Straczynski, the season 2 blooper reel, some promos, and "The Long Twilight Struggle", which is the second of the four unseen (in the USA) episodes. Q&A afterwards, not much of which I can reveal. Stopped in Artists Alley and picked up a five dollar page of a George Tuska/Karl Kesel Legion story, and listened to someone tell Karl Kesel about how Capt. Boomerang will die in "Underworld" and get put through the ringer in "Spectre" afterwards. Then I headed over to Colleen Doran's table with Aria Press. I bought a page from End of an Era in Valor from her. She also mentioned that she had negotiated with the Legion staff for her to do a Legion story, writing and art, when her schedule permits. She also said the Legionnaires book was singled out in the "Best Horror and Fantasy of 1994" paperback in the industry roundup section, along with her own "A Distant Soil".

Finally found Mike Grell's table at Image, and I gave him the second of my artist Anal Retentive Checklists. He was glad to see it, since like Sienkiewicz he didn't have one of his own. He also signed my Warriors portfolio, something he did in 1980 and hasn't seen in years.

Trivia contest: the Black Ink Irregulars (Galloway, Jim Drew, Goldfarb, Pete Bickford, and Eric Sturgeon) whipped the Purple Pros (Len Wein, Kurt Busiek, Roger Stern, and Ted Elliot) 280-125. A Silver-Age only challenge was given for next year: Showcase 4 (intro Flash) to Amazing Spider-Man 121/122 (death Gwen and Green Goblin). Mike Kelly, Elmo, and Mike Chary were supposed to show up, at least for moral support, but didn't. I've been looking for them all weekend just to say hi.

Showed up late to the 60 Years of DC Comics panel, which was promoting a coffee-table book like the recent Marvel book. Five people, including Johanna Draper, won free copies after answering Mark Waid's trivia questions. Afterwards, Craig Shutt and Mark Waid faced off in a trivia shootout, in which Mr. Silver Age actually caused Waid to have to think about an answer. Stopped back at the DC booth, where all weekend long they've had a open line to the AOL chat room. I noticed a number of Compuserve and Internet people (Ron Vazquez and Ed Douglas, to name a couple) on there and we all said hi.

For dinner, we went back to Riptides for another Legion dinner; this one was the first integrated print and electronic meeting. Representing electronic fandom were me, Sidne Ward, Jim Drew, Troy McNemar, Barbara Jarvis, and Val Beasley; representing print fandom were Harry Brojertes, Rick Morrissey, Tom and Mary Bierbaum (who had to leave due to their infant daughter), Kevin Gould, and a number of others (including some of the net people too). We had to stand and state our name, favorite Legionnaire, and food order. Element Lad won with 3 votes, out of 27 people; Matter-Eater Lad came in second with 2-1/2 votes. Fortunately, 2 of the 27 were only guests and not Legion fans, otherwise two would have had to resign for tax purposes (obscure Legion joke there, courtesy Jim Drew). Total food and drink bill was about $425. Troy picked up Superboy 89 (1st Mon-el) and the v4 Legion Sourcebook at the dinner for $38 total.

Then Sidne, Troy, and I went to see Vernon Harmon and Leman Yuan at the Costume Contest as Wildfire and the Kingdom Come version of Superboy, respectively, but we got there just in time for the awards (they didn't win). Afterwards, we went back to the Doubletree so they could drop their stuff off; I recognized Lee Moder, Keith Giffen, Robert Loren Fleming, and Elaine Lee (among others) sitting in the lobby. By then it was getting late, and we went in search of food for Vernon and Leman. McDonald's had no "product" left, so we hit a pizza joint at midnight. Ask Vernon why he was in the bathroom with an Italian woman with wine all over her. Sidne left early, so after they ate dinner the four of us went back to the Doubletree where Evan Dorkin and Bill Sienkiewicz were in the lobby. I had finally learned enough of downtown to get back home without getting lost.

Day 4: Sunday July 29

Well, time to do some power shopping. I traded Dark Knight 1-4 (with an extra #1) and Batman 428 for 46 cents worth of cover-price books (Adventure 293, World's Finest 142, Jimmy Olsen 72, and Superman 147, all Legion books). Hit the DC panel, where Mike Carlin called Kevin Dooley "the most hated man in comics". Kevin encouraged the boos and hisses, saying to the effect of "if that's what it takes to increase sales..." After repeated questions for Dooley from some kid in front about Green Lantern and Aquaman, Mark Waid pulled a dollar out of his wallet and gave it to the kid to go buy a clue. Later, on the floor, I watched Frank Frazetta do a drawing in "The Art of Frank Frazetta" for Dave Stevens. Ate lunch with Troy at the deserted Image booth; people thought we worked there.

Picked up Adventure 290 (1st appearance of Sun Boy) for $20, and then noticed the dealer had a copy of Adventure 247 (1st Legion) for sale cheap: $150 for a Good copy (which normally goes for $320). I couldn't pass up a deal like that; besides, if I did, Jim Drew (who showed up as I was looking at it) said he'd snag it up. I hate pressure. So I went ahead and got it. That's my impulse buy of the con. Johanna Draper and Joanna Sandsmark watched, then I watched Joanna haggle over Brave and Bold 28 (1st JLA), which she eventually passed on. Later I traded a 1966 "Batman" wallet (cost me 50 cents), a copy of X-Men 120 (cost me $3), and ten bucks for the Super Powers "Tyr" action figure (his asking price: $65). Lesson for the con: don't try to sell comics on the last day.

Stopped off at the DC booth at the end of the day to meet everyone, saw Vernon Harmon in his Wildfire costume. I had already seen Leman as Cosmic Boy, Damage, and Mon-el, but missed him as Superboy, Dragonmage, and Captain Marvel Jr. Wound up debating Kevin Dooley about Hal Jordan. He wanted to do something to shake the character up, and I said it was not true to his character. Same old argument, and we agreed to disagree. But at least I was nice about it. Finally, the con was over, and there was applause from the exhibitors.

We gathered for dinner, and went back to the Escher Mall to the Galaxy Grill. Present were Joanna Sandsmark, Johanna Draper, Jim Drew, Alex Amado, Brian Bailey, Vernon Harmon, and me. Afterwards, Joanna and Jim left to catch their rides back home, and the five of us went up to the Top of the Hyatt bar for drinks. I took Vernon to the airport later, passing Kurt Busiek on the way to my car, and when I got back the group had been joined by Steve Lieber, Rich Faber, Howard Porter, and Trisha Mulvihill. Johanna and I did the Secret Legion Handshake (that's how Superboy knew it was a fake Sun Boy in ADV 290) and then did a tequila shot (note: Johanna can't properly say "L'chayim", so we said "prosit"). Shortly thereafter, Heidi MacDonald, KC Carlson, Shea Anton Pensa, Joe from Overstreet's Fan, and Stuart Immomen showed up as Rich and Howard left, but Shea and Stuart didn't stay with us long. I ordered five more tequila shots, for me, KC, Heidi, Alex, and Steve. Since it was my tab, the toast was "Long Live the Legion" which cracked everyone up, and I was called a geek. The party broke up about 1 a.m., as most of them had to leave Monday morning.

The whole weekend I never saw Elmo, Mike Kelly, or Mike Chary, though Sidne and Jim Drew did. At least I wasn't as pissed as Vernon Harmon, who was looking forward to meeting Elmo.

Whew! What a weekend! I was lucky; the blisters didn't show up until day 2 of the con. I'm going to have to seriously think about going back next year.

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