Friday, February 17, 2006

What it was, was WonderCon

Previously on Comic Art Friday, I made note of the fact that I was spending last Friday at WonderCon, the comic book convention held annually in San Francisco. Here's a synopsis of my day in the big city.

Unlike last year, when it poured buckets, this year the weather was spectacular for WonderCon Weekend. The event moved this year to a different venue within San Francisco's sprawling convention complex, Moscone Center, and seemed a little cozier. (Translated: It felt more confined than last year.) One bonus was that the new building is immediately adjacent to the mammoth Fifth and Mission public parking garage, so finding a parking space was a breeze, and the stroll to the convention center was mercifully short for a middle-aged fat guy with chronically sore feet.

It was my perception that there were fewer exhibitors this year, though probably a few more ticket-buyers. Friday is always the day of least attendance, though, and I understand that the joint was packed to overflowing on Saturday. (In fact, the fire marshals closed the front doors for a time, because there were more people inside than the fire code allows.)

There were definitely fewer dealers selling art, and most of those seemed to be selling page art almost exclusively, as opposed to the pinup-style art I mostly collect. Anyway, I was on a strict budget this year, so I didn't browse too much.

I had only a few specific goals for Friday. There were three artists I wanted to get commissions from. (The list had actually been a couple of names longer, but two of the artists I planned to hit up scratched from the program.) I managed to connect with all three.

The artist known cryptically as Buzz asked if he could take the commission (a Ms. Marvel) and mail me the piece later, since he didn't want to do a rush job on it in the short time available. We struck an agreement for him to do that. Fortunately, I had in my portfolio the scrumptious Vixen piece Buzz did for me at WonderCon '05, and he obligingly posed for a photo with it.

I walked away with my other two wish list items, courtesy of the talented Alé Garza and personal favorite Ron Lim. Because it was the weekend before Valentine's Day, and because I'm looking eagerly forward to these heroes' costarring appearances in an upcoming Marvel Comics miniseries debuting next week, I decided to ask Alé to draw Storm of X-Men fame...

...and Ron to draw T'Challa, the Black Panther.

I had been looking forward to meeting the legendary Ernie Chan and thanking him in person for the four great commissions he completed for me during 2005. As soon as I walked up to Ernie's table and told him my name, he not only identified me, but remembered exactly how many commissions he'd done for me and what the subjects were. Here you see Ernie with two of his artworks -- that's Hawkeye and Lady Rawhide on the left, and Storm and Beta Ray Bill on the right.

The fellow in the background is Tony DeZuniga, another terrific artist originally from the Philippines, as is Ernie. I also picked up Ernie's new sketchbook, entitled Wench and Co., which is mostly pinup art in the sword-and-sorcery vein (no surprise, for the guy who did all those great Conan the Barbarian books).

I met and had a very enjoyable talk with a young writer named Raven Gregory, who is currently scripting a series for Image Comics entitled The Gift. As Raven explained the book's premise, it sounded a little like Marvel's New Universe or the Milestone Media universe -- what would happen if everyday, average people suddenly got superpowers? It sounded interesting, so I bought the trade paperback that incorporates the first three issues and asked Raven to autograph it.

I've since read issues one and two, and found the storyline quite compelling. Raven's writing style is literate and graceful, and the art by penciler Tyler Kirkham and inker Marco Galli packs a wallop.

I sat in on two excellent interview sessions. Cartoonist Scott Shaw! (yes, it's spelled with an exclamation point) interviewed Ramona Fradon, one of the relatively few well-known comic book artists of the feminine gender. In the 1960s and '70s, Ramona worked at various times as lead penciler on Aquaman, Metamorpho (whom she cocreated), and Plastic Man. Post-comic books, she spent a decade as the artist of the daily comic strip Brenda Starr, which was created and originally drawn by another outstanding woman artist, Dale Messick.

Interestingly, Ramona admitted that she hated drawing Aquaman — even though that's one of the characters for whom she's best known — because she disliked action comics in general and the superhero genre in particular. She enjoyed Metamorpho and Plastic Man because they were less action-oriented, more comedic and fun.

Ramona also wasn't thrilled about her brief stint working for Marvel Comics in the 1970s, because the so-called "Marvel Method" of comic creation (the writer gives the artist only a rough outline of the story, and the artist designs all of the pages him/herself instead of having a script to follow) didn't appeal to her. She did, however, concur with my observation that Metamorpho may have been the first DC Comics hero to incorporate the Marvel approach to more human characterization.

I was thrilled to hear Gerard Jones discussing his book Men of Tomorrow, about the origins of the comic book industry in general and of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's creation of Superman in particular. It was probably the best comics-related book I read last year, so I was looking forward to his session. Jones did not disappoint.

I also took my well-thumbed copies of Men of Tomorrow and The Comic Book Heroes (my favorite book on comics history, ever) for Gerard to autograph, which he did, most graciously and with a touch of humor.

There was a DC Comics panel in the late afternoon that I thought about sticking around for, but my dogs were barking and I had a rumbly in my tumbly. So, in the immortal words of Aquaman, I said, "Tadpole, let's head for home." Unfortunately, Aqualad — whom Aquaman often addressed as "Tadpole" — was nowhere to be seen, so I had to make the long trek to Sonoma County by my lonesome.

All in all, an enjoyable day. I'm already looking forward to next year's con.


2 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Blogger Janet offered these pearls of wisdom...

I would be lost in a place like this myself, but I kinda envy comic book fans. You must feel like a kid in a candy store.

4:20 PM  
Blogger SwanShadow offered these pearls of wisdom...

Yes, it was fun, though I'm really not a crowds-of-strangers kind of guy. I enjoy watching the other people more than anything else. And I liked coming home with a couple of nice new pieces of art.

11:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home