[Warning: This entry contains more unexplained inside jokes for comic nerds than most of you 'norms' will be able to stomach. Apologies are in order.]
I attended a comics convention over the weekend. It was not one of those kinds of mage and magic conventions where one might trade a near-mint copy of SUBMARINER #2 for a couple of second-edition SGT. ROCK comics, or engage another conventioneer in a prolonged conversation spoken entirely in Elvish. (Sprinkled with Elvish swears like, "Alex is such a scoundrel. I paid him 30 elf-dollars for this 'genuine' silk coxcomb, which he assured me was hand-hewn, but one can tell clearly from its markings that it is factory-stitched. Why, he's lower than a Slargworm's Underbelly!") Instead, it was the kind of comics convention where one might encounter a boy in Chuck Taylors and a "Cheapsuit Serenaders" t-shirt, quietly sketching autobiographical cartoons in the corner. In other words, the most adorable kind of comic book convention in all the world.
I paid my admission, intending to visit some friends there, who were hawking their mini-comics and zines (Yes, blogger, I said zines. Live with it.) under the group-moniker, "Artists With Problemz." I bought a couple of their comics, as well as a precious comic called "Tales from the 4th Dimension," written and drawn by the (talented and aloof) 12 year-old son of Michel Gondry. (in the final panel, the main character accidentally shoots and murders God, a scenario ripped straight from the pages of Marvel's Secret Wars, issue #3.)
What I did not count on was seeing many other people I knew, milling about, manning booths, and dressed in chainmail. Running into the Allens of Connecticut was a nice surprise. (Related, but barely: Josh helped me with me broken-down RSS feed this morning so if you're reading this entry through RSS, thank him. If you're not, then Josh is DEAD TO ME.) As was running into some comedian friends, and a newly shaggy Evan Dorkin. I want to give a rundown on the show but, as I'm feeling inarticulate, I might have to eschew my patented meandering prose and resort to a punchy bullet-point style. Here goes:
Why be Normal?
While speaking with the Allens, I was trying to emphasize that it was a surprisingly normal crowd for a comics convention. I sincerely meant this. However, every time I attempted to get the word "normal" out of my fat mouth, someone would walk right by who challenged the very notion of normality. It kind of played out like this:
ME: "I'm surprised how nor – "
[cartoonist jason little walks by, dressed in straw boater hat, shorts, mid-calf red argyle socks and leather sock garters]
ME: "As I was saying, this crowd is actually pretty – "
[fat guy covered in fake military decorations dashes across my field of vision]
ME: "Well, it's maybe not the most average group of people but there are still plenty of – "
[even fatter guy walks by with a wide yellow necktie tucked into his dress slacks]
ME: "Oh forget it. I'm gonna go get my tits autographed by Charles Burns."
[two people walk by and greet each other with 'Have a Smurfy day!' and then someone flies past on the back of a dragon.]
I was happy to discover my favorite art-making couple, Esther Pearl Watson and Mark Todd, had a booth together. I've sort of tangentially followed their romance since the late-nineties, when I stumbled across some of Esther's illustrations online. Those led me to Mark's mini-comics, and that led me to their marriage, which I regard as heaven-scent and rainbow-unicorn-perfect from my safe, delusional distance.
My other art crush is Jeffrey Brown, who makes funny and heart-breaking and fragile little comics about relationships, mostly. I was drawn to a table of his books and then looked up to see I was staring Mr. Brown directly in the eyes. This did not last long, however, because as soon as we made eye contact he completely averted his gaze and I proceeded to have the most shy, awkward exchange of my adult life. Words were muttered, eyes were met with floor, and money was silently exchanged. That palpable sense of quiet discomfort is probably how people feel while they're being secretly courted by Jeffrey Brown, even though in this case I was merely not-so-secretly purchasing a comic book from him. sigh.
I purchased a tote bag and a t-shirt from a gay man. The tote has a drawing of a seahorse on it, and is for girls. (As are sea horses, really. And regular horses, except the one the Headless Horseman rode around on.) The t-shirt features a design consisting of a giant tangle of disembodied squid tentacles. This is all pretty uninteresting, until you realize the only reason I included this paragraph was to use the word SQUIDPLOSION, at which point this becomes manipulative and stupid in addition to being uninteresting. super sigh.
Asian Guy with Glasses
A couple nights prior to MOCCA, I attended a comic book release party for my friend, Vanessa. [BUY THAT BOOK.] Someone mentioned that the cartoonist Adrian Tomine was there. I had been hoping to run into him at some point in my life, only to tell him we've a friend in common, from his hometown of Sacramento. I don't know why I thought this was a fun thing to tell Adrian, but I did – possibly because our common friend is one of my favorites of all-time, and it would give me an excuse to talk about her.
I asked, "where's Adrian," and I was told, with a jerk of the thumb, "he's over there – the Asian guy in glasses." I then spent the next embarrassing five minutes trying to convince John Kuramoto that he has some good friends in Sacramento. (He joked, "All Asians look alike," and I laughed and laughed and insisted he was wrong. Then, when I did see the real Adrian Tomine, I didn't approach him because I was afraid John K. would see me and feel justified in any anger or hostility he harbored in reaction to latent racism. This paragraph, or something like it, was probably the subject of an early Optic Nerve comic.)