August 2005

Karin Kross and Liz Miller

features

San Diego Comic-Con 2005: Tag Team Edition

Bookslut writers Liz Miller and Karin Kross both attended Comic-Con this year, and learned just how easy it is to miss someone completely amid 100,000 comics, movie, and television fans.

WEDNESDAY
Liz got there first, on Wednesday. This section is all her.

3:13 p.m.: It's a lazy, hot afternoon when my ride picks me up, and we sweat through an hour and a half of rush-hour traffic in order to accumulate the other three people who will be riding with us to San Diego.

4:45 p.m.: When we reach our last stop in Venice, we give Quin a few minutes heads-up so he can get outside and film us driving up to his apartment. He's doing a documentary about Comic-Con, and will thus be following us around all weekend with a camera. Fortunately, I remembered to wash my hair this morning.

6:30 p.m.: Still in car. Have been discussing comics nonstop into Quin's camera, along with my own goals for the trip. What are my goals for the
trip? "To meet interesting people."

8:03 p.m.: We arrive in San Diego under cover of darkness -- approximately two hours later than initially planned. Stupid 405. However, we breeze through the registration process as a result, and have nearly 20 minutes of actual convention time before things shut down -- most of which is spent looking at action figures.

The floor is typically comic-lite; DC dominates the center of the floor, but the large murals of Vertigo properties are dwarfed by the mammoth Pikachu hanging from the ceiling. I later hear Joe Queseda refer to the Activision booth as the Marvel/Activision booth; this is because Activision is promoting a new X-Men game, not because Marvel actually has any content over there.

(Well, except for a House of M sketchbook sampler I pick up and peruse. The sketches look great -- I'd be more excited, though, if I could make any sense of House of M. Multi-title series confuse the hell out of me, and the expense of buying them all just makes me even less inclined to read. I'm growing more and more convinced that Brian Michael Bendis was put on this Earth to destroy single-issue storytelling. If Bendis's multi-arcs don't convert us all to trade paperbacks, I don't know what will.)

8:59 p.m.: We leave in search of food, and the Gaslamp District is already hopping. I'm alarmed to imagine what this place will be like by Friday; I'm sad, because I won't be there to enjoy it (family obligations).

10:15 p.m.: We begin the slow limp toward our housing for the night -- a generous local puts the five of us up in various rooms of her parents'
house. I sleep on the floor, in a sleeping bag. It's a very comfortable floor.

THURSDAY
Karin arrived Thursday afternoon, and the less said about the flight from Austin to San Diego, the better. Liz continues in blue text, Karin in black.

Liz, 10:45 am: We're later than planned (a running theme for the weekend) and arrive just in time to swipe shiny Transformers pins from the Dreamworks booth. There is a massive Transformers big rig parked in the middle of the hall; while draped with black, my friends are convinced that it'll just be painted to look like Optimus Prime underneath. I can't help but wish that it were Optimus Prime, though -- especially if, confused by his surroundings, Prime immediately laid waste to the giant Pikachu. You have to admit, it'd be awesome.

Liz, 1:00 p.m.: And the first actually comics-related panel I attend! Spotlight on Pia Guerra is fun, intimate and begins another pattern for me at this Comic-Con -- hearing random mentions of Heidi MacDonald and realizing how very, very cool she is. (MacDonald was one of the initial editors on Y: The Last Man to fruition, thus giving her mythic status in my eyes.) Pia herself is funny, talking wistfully of things like time off and sleep -- I like going to artist panels, because their habits are always irregular and they seem to squint in the bright light of day.

Karin, 1:00 p.m.: Bruce and I now pulling into the parking garage down the street from the convention center. We are slightly shaky with hunger, starting to regret the fact that we rented a car, and the entire morning has been shot by the seven-hour flight (which should have only been about half that long). But that's all behind us now -- onward.

Liz, 1:30 p.m.: I do like some of the Ultimate Marvel books -- the younger bent and lack of heavy continuity makes them easy to pick up, and the caliber of writers and artists involved is often great -- but it's not why I show up on time for the Ultimate Marvel panel: Orson Scott Card (Ultimate Iron Man) and Brian K. Vaughn (Ultimate X-Men) are why. Seeing one of my childhood idols (despite his more alarmingly homophobic views) and one of my current favorites (no qualifiers necessary) sharing a stage provides the exact sort of giddy joy for which I come to Comic-Con. Brian K. Vaughn agrees, turning to his co-panelist to gush, "Speaker for the Dead made me want to be a writer."

Few questions asked by the crowd actually revolve around upcoming develop.m.ents in the Ultimate universe (maybe because when people try to ask about the recently announced Ultimate Extinction, written by Warren Ellis and shrouded in mystery, Joe Queseda refuses to spill the beans). So instead, Vaughn and Card are asked about the pending adaptations of their work. For those curious, Ender's Game is still in the works, but Wolfgang Peterson has to finish remaking Poseidon Adventure first. "I wrote a script for it, but they'd never film the author's script, not even if it were brilliant," Card admitted. "Which, of course, it was." And totally homophobic, I wonder? In all honesty, I make a lot of jokes about Card and the gay marriage issue, but it is nice to sit in a room and be reminded of how great his writing can be, separate from politics.

Karin, 1:30 p.m.: After picking up our badges, Bruce and I stop long enough to split a $3.25 pretzel. Here we learn our second lesson: bring your own snacks. Which we did, in fact, but the Kind bars aren't doing much good in the suitcase in the trunk of the car, are they?

Karin, 1:40 p.m.: We've got some time to kill before the Scott McCloud panel at 2:30, so we wander down to the exhibition hall. We walk in right next to the Lucasfilm booth, which gives the immediate impression of having walked into a Star Wars convention. There's got to be comics around here somewhere -- ah, right, there's Dark Horse, and somewhere over there is DC. And all we have time for now is a quick wander to get the lay of the land.

Karin, 2:20 p.m.: In line for the McCloud talk. Spike is in line behind us. We file in after the Marvel Ultimate panel crowd leaves.

Liz, 2:30 p.m.: Having missed the chance to go to the A Scanner Darkly panel and see the promised interactive Philip K. Dick android (my friends and I agree that the only question worth asking the Dick-bot would be "Describe in single words only the good things that come into your mind about... your mother"). I wander around the convention hall, looking through the indie comics booths in search of information about where tonight's Friends of Lulu party is -- or where the Friends of Lulu booth is, for that matter. The girls at Girlamatic don't know, but one of them shepherds me over to Raina Telgemeier's booth, where I see, hands-down, the most amazing thing I'll see at Comic-Con this year...

"You're adapting The Baby-Sitters Club into a graphic novel? How did you get the rights?" I squeal to Raina.

"Well, Scholastic wanted me to work on something for them, and I..."

"Seriously, The Baby-Sitters Club?"

I used to read a lot of Ann M. Martin's Baby-Sitters Club novels. I would lull myself to sleep by reciting the book titles in numerical order, along with their A stories and B stories; I had some of them nearly memorized. Raina's sample artwork is adorable, living up perfectly to my own images of the characters, and we both admit to feeling like Kristy, Claudia, Mary Anne, and Stacy will always be a few years older than us. When she tells me that the first hundred people to show up at the Scholastic booth at 2 p.m. Friday will get a free copy of the first volume, Oh my god I am so there.

The Baby-Sitters Club does strange things to me. I resolve to stop making fun of my dude friends when they ogle Optimus.

Karin, 2:30 p.m.: Scott McCloud takes the stage, having apparently drunk three pots of coffee. His broad-ranging talk is far too long for an
hour (or rather 55 minutes), and he has barely enough time to get through it and take about six questions -- two for each segment of the talk.

The first segment covers his new book, coming out early next year: Making Comics. It's a guide for applying the theories set forth in Understanding Comics; less a matter of how to draw comics than how to construct them, and to make the conventions work for your story.

Karin, 2:50 p.m.: Having blitzed through a summary of the book, McCloud moves on to what he calls his "evil theory": The Four Tribes. What's so
evil about it? Well, it's a matter of categorizing people, an activity that tends to bug those who find themselves categorized. But in the end it doesn't seem so controversial after all. The "tribes" are essentially artistic approaches: the storytellers, or animists, whose interests lie primarily in creating interesting stories and characters; the craftspeople, or classicists, who hone their skills in developing the artistry and design of the work; the iconoclasts, who give primacy to raw, honest, self-expression; and the formalists (among whom McCloud counts himself), whose work tests the boundaries and idioms of the comics form itself.

The categories are, of course, fluid -- people will usually move between two over the course of their careers; and they also aren't specific only to comics. It occurs to me to ask how he applies these categories to those who only write comics, as opposed to writer/artists or artists, but we're already moving on.

Karin, 3:05 p.m.: In "The Infinite Canvas," McCloud tackles a subject on which he feels he's been occasionally misunderstood: Web comics. If
you've read Reinventing Comics you're probably familiar with some of his ideas of the subject. Since that book was written, more people have broadband connections, and the transmission of large graphics files is much more plausible than it used to be; nonetheless, McCloud still feels that the potential of comics has yet to be fully exploited online.

Karin, 3:25 p.m.: Just as McCloud is showing us Jason Turner's "Bright Morning Blue", the END signal is given. We file out of the conference room feeling vaguely as if we've tried to drink from a firehose.

Karin, 3:30 p.m.: Another attempt to review the exhibition hall. The general impression is not so much of comics as of movies and toys. The DC booth is impressive enough, with enormous banners advertising their flagship titles... but wait, where's Marvel? We're not entirely sure, and it takes a little while to locate them; their booth is listed as "Activision" on the floor map.

Liz, 4:00 p.m.: I stop by the "Seducing Hollywood" panel because, according to the description, "This group of Hollywood insiders eat chocolate while telling you that there is no way you can get as sweet a deal as they have for their own properties." Sadly, there is no chocolate and little gloating, which would at least be interesting. Though Dan Evans's dashiki, and his fellow panelists' fighting over wearing it, is decent entertainment. All of the
information I hear is repeated, an hour later, at the "How to Pitch an Animated Series to Adult Swim" panel. And they have Powerpoint!

Karin, 4:00 p.m.: We decide to go ahead and get in line for the David Cronenberg panel, and it's a damn good thing we do; it's already gone down the hallway and wrapped around the corner by the time we get there. They're not letting anyone in early, either; Hall 6CDEF is filled to bursting with Bruce Campbell fans.

Karin, 4:05 p.m.: Someone sitting next to me is griping about the "fanboy smell." If he's already complaining about it, just wait until Sunday.

Karin, 4:25 p.m.: 6CDEF opens and in we go. The sheer number of people is a little bewildering; The Fly notwithstanding, one doesn't really think of Cronenberg as a particularly popular director. Did this many people see Spider? (If they had, maybe Cronenberg wouldn't have to constantly fight to get his films made.)

Karin, 4:30 p.m.: The moderator's name escapes me, but I do catch that he's a writer/editor for a movie website. He introduces Cronenberg
with a fanboy's glee, gloating at his good fortune at having seen A History of Violence -- based on the comic by John Wagner and Vince Locke of the same name -- calling it Cronenberg's "best film ever."

David Cronenberg himself is more or less as you'd imagine: phlegmatic, Canadian, well-spoken and clad in tidy black: "I'm dressed as a director. ...When I peel the face off, they're going to be very excited." Josh Olson, the scriptwriter for History (brought on by New Line), is as ebullient and enthusiastic as Cronenberg is sardonic and restrained.

We're treated first to the trailer, and then a lengthy excerpt from the beginning of the film: the scene in which a pair of thieves attempt to hold up the hero's diner. You get some of it in the trailer, but one thing definitely not in the trailer is a moment of rather appalling gore, which is greeted by an oddly enthusiastic mix of groans and nervous laughter (leading Cronenberg to comment later that "we have a very special audience here").

Karin, 5:00 p.m.: The Q&A gets off to a somewhat unpromising start with a question about Cronenberg's role in Nightbreed (although he has some interesting comments about acting as a result), but soon further information about the film emerges when a questioner asks Cronenberg how he handles the extremely grisly fate of one of the characters (not thinking, apparently, that this is more or less inviting the director to blow the end of the movie, which it's clear he very much does not want to do).

Turns out that the character in question doesn't even exist in the film; while the film starts from the same premise as the Wagner and Locke comic (a decent, small-town family man and how his past catches up with him), it's concerned less with the book's Mafia-thriller plot than with the characters, their actions and how they cope with the consequences. This is fairly good news, to my mind; most of my problems with the book had to do with the way some reactions seemed to have been compressed or avoided in the interest of moving forward in the plot.

Karin, 5:20 p.m.: People are already filing into the hall for the "Pitching an Animated Series" panel, and others are leaving to get in line for the autograph signing. Meanwhile Cronenberg is discussing his rehearsal process, and talking about how he won't use storyboards: "too control-freakish."

Karin, 5:30 p.m.: The panel wraps up, and we try to get in line for the autograph signing in the big upstairs hall. There's some confusion as to exactly how the line works, and it's a while before we realize that we are way at the back.

Liz, 5:30 p.m.: "Pitching to Adult Swim" just sounds like it'd be fun, as Adult Swim has the best Powerpoint presentation I've ever seen, not to mention a hilarious lineup for fall. Moral Oral and Lucy, The Daughter of the Devil look to be standouts. Not very book-related, but we do get totally sweet Adult Swim sketchbooks at the end. They have little cartoon faces at the top of each page!

Karin, 6:00 p.m.: A staffer informs us that Cronenberg's signing will be ending right at 6:30, and those of us in our part of the line don't really have a chance of being included. I have a brief flashback to this year's South by Southwest music festival: "If you're standing here, you have no chance of getting in!" We decide to take their word for it, and anyway we still need to check into the hotel.

Liz, 6:30 p.m.: When we arrived that morning, we parked in the lot adjacent to our hotel, so after a nice long walk and some careful strategy to prevent our hotel staff from noticing that six people (we added a party member that afternoon) will be sharing a double, we're comfortably ensconced in our "European-style" hotel room. European-style, in this instance, means common bathrooms and a room approximately the size of a minivan. Only $80-a-night! Gotta love convention rates.

Karin, 6:40 p.m.: Finally at the hotel. The traffic outside the convention center is atrocious (not helped by the baseball game taking place across the way), and I also manage to get slightly lost. We check in, wash up, and in what will become a more or less regular occurence during the weekend, realize that we have no time for dinner before we have to be at our next event. ...

Karin, 7:50 p.m.: ...which is the Comic Book Legal Defence Fund party for the film Mirrormask. It's reasonably well-attended, although as
a person standing in line near us comments, it's not as packed as it would have been had, say, Neil Gaiman himself been there.

Karin, 8:10 p.m.: The doors open; the affair itself is modest, and pleasantly low-key. There are costumes and props to admire, as well as the items that the CBLDF is auctioning off later in the convention. We get drinks from the cash bar and food from the free buffet, and watch the crowd. Projectors are set up, displaying stills from the film; they're gorgeous, although a bit hard to see.

Liz, 8:30 p.m.: Time to figure out plans for the evening. I want to go to the Friends of Lulu party, no one knows where the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund party is, and a plan is born. "C'mon guys, desserts! Loose women!"

Karin, 9:00 p.m.: Shortly after the first raffle, we're talking with an outgoing guest (who we will later see the next day during one of the Warner Bros. panel Q&A), and we're approached by Paul, an old friend of mine from college. He's there to work his company's booth,
where, he says, "we sell crap."

Liz, 9:00 p.m.: The Friends of Lulu awards ceremony is small and well-hidden, small tables clumped together, everyone knowing everyone else. I feel bad for promising loose women. I do not feel bad for promising desserts, as those served are delicious. Some of our party split off, realizing they want actual dinner rather than pastries. Fools. They miss seeing Lea Hernandez talk, and Heidi MacDonald, in a very cute ensemble, receive the Woman of Distinction award. Everyone is funny and smart, and the speeches speak to real issues; this is a group of people who love comics.

Afterwards, it's clear that this is my opportunity to meet interesting people; however, struck by a terrifying attack of shyness, I concede to exiting the hotel in search of the CBLDF party.

Liz, 9:35 p.m.: We still have no idea where the CBLDF party is, have no idea who to ask, and it's getting later by the moment. In a move that would make Warren Ellis and the Global Frequency proud, I call my roommate back in LA, who's at home and online. "Google the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund…any mention of a party?" By the time we've walked a few blocks, the roommate has the address, describing to me the approximate location, and I'm calling the other folks we separated from, agreeing to meet ASAP. Cell phones! Marvelous devices!

I realize later that I could have used my cell phone to call Karin, who was already at the party. Poor planning, indeed.

Karin, 9:45 p.m.: We were hoping somewhat that the trailer announced for the party would be new, but it turned out to be the one that's been online for some months now (and now available on Apple's website). It's a tease, really, as lovely as it is. The real meat on this film is clearly being saved for the upcoming panel.

Karin, 10:00 p.m.: We're sinking fast; we've been up since 4:30 am central time -- which means it's been nearly a 20-hour day for Bruce and me. People are still drifting into the party, but we're exhausted, so we grab a taxi back to the hotel, and promptly collapse.

Liz, 10:00 p.m.: We arrive at the CBLDF party, like the late, party-drifting people we are. Having never met Karin, I don't see her; I do, however, see the bar. I acquaint myself with it as my friends discuss strategy in regards to sleeping arrangements -- in our room there are six of us, two twin beds and two sleeping bags. No one is particularly eager to spoon with anyone else, so the theory is that if one or two of us could find a hot Comic-Con one-night stand, then everyone's lives would be improved. I have no idea how this segues into me being encouraged to mouth-kiss writer Peter David (in attendance, having a lovely evening and hopefully completely oblivious to our intentions), but it's best not to ask these questions.

Liz, 11:15 p.m.: Still in search of room-clearing one-night stands, we shift to the bar scene, finding ourselves in one of the ubiquitous Gaslamp Irish pubs. No one seems particularly motivated toward even talking to anyone else, and after sitting around awkwardly for half an hour or so, I finally toss up my hands and stride towards the bar. I figure that if I stand around and look helpless, someone will at least offer to buy me a drink. Perhaps he will be a white knight. A white knight with a cushy hotel room and no expectations or demands beyond the pleasure of my company. Ooh, and a
free breakfast buffet. With an omelette bar and fresh squeezed OJ…

Liz, 12:00 am: Within five minutes of my head-bobbing , a very nice gentlemen, who's very much 30 years my senior, asks me if I'm looking for a drink. I hesitate, but start talking with him. He and his similarly aged friends seem to be drawing bar-napkin portraits -- and the quality of the cartooning is great. He introduces me to his friends -- a lovely English man and the younger son of a very famous cartoonist who, along with the rest of his family, was prominently featured in a very popular strip. More like a circle, actually…

Anyway, we get to talking. Son of Cartoonist buys me a drink. I introduce the gents to my friend Laurel. Laurel also gets a drink. Turns out, the other two fellows are former and current presidents of the National Cartoonists Society. They're very confused as to why Laurel and I are in San Diego. "I like comics!" I chirp. "I write for Bookslut!" They don't believe me when I say I'll write about meeting them. Hah!

The gents are lovely, but the small corners of the hotel room floor that wait for us are starting to seem very appealing. We say our fond goodbyes and promise to visit them tomorrow at their booth.

Liz, 2:00 am: I nestle into my Liz-sized spot on the floor, knowing that while the sleep I get that night won't be very restful, at least it won't last for very long.

FRIDAY

Karin, 10:00 am: When we arrive at the convention center (via shuttle bus), the line for the 6,500-seat Hall H is already measurable in city blocks. We're reasonably sure that not all of these people are there for Darren Aronofsky's new movie; nor can they all be readers of V for Vendetta. Judging from the various patterns of Hogwarts scarves in the line, one must conclude that there are an awful lot of people dying to see the sneak preview of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Of course, as we realize later, there are probably an awful lot of people there just to see the V star Natalie Portman.

Karin, 10:30 am: The crowd starts filing in, much more quickly than we might have expected. Bruce observes that this is probably the longest line he has ever stood in for anything, anywhere, in his life.

Karin, 10:50 am: We're in -- and somewhat astonished to see that despite all the people in front of us, the hall's not even half full yet.

Karin, 11:22 am: It takes a long time to pack 6,500 people into a room; as a result, the panels start 20 minutes late. Things get off to a bang with the trailer for V for Vendetta. And I am pleasantly surprised. Apart from some slightly silly bits with thrown daggers flying through the air in slow motion, it actually looks like something. It looks like it might actually be good.

Liz, 11:30 am: After a long wait for breakfast, we make it to the convention center. I wander over towards Hall H, figuring I can just stand in the back for a few minutes. When I see that the line to get in stretches out of the convention hall and nearly around the block, I find Laurel so that we can go say hello to the National Cartoonist Society fellows. They give us posters!

Karin, 11:25 am: Natalie Portman is introduced to shrieks and applause. Producers Joel Silver and Grant Hill are welcomed somewhat less enthusiastically, and David Lloyd with politeness. They decide to dive right into the Q&A portion of the panel, which starts off with a young man sking Natalie Portman for "a completely and utterly original moment." Surprised and at a loss, she waves her hands and squeals, which seems to satisfy everyone.

Karin, 11:26 am: Bruce: "How long do you think it's going to be before someone asks about Alan Moore?" Me: "I give them about three questions." Meanwhile, a producer from New Line is asking Natalie Portman if she'd ever be interested in playing Audrey Hepburn.

Karin, 11:35 am: Third question: "Why didn't Alan Moore sign off on this project?" David Lloyd responds in a fine exhibition of diplomacy, noting that "Alan has his own view of things" and would "only be happy with a complete book-to-screen adaptation." Lloyd, on the other hand, is pleased with it, and is happy to say so.

Karin, 11:40 am: Natalie Portman begs the audience to please ask questions of the other interesting people on the panel. Of course, the next question is for her.

Karin, 11:45 am: David Lloyd is asked about his feelings on the London bombings, terrorism, and the surveillance camera culture of today. "It's important that we try and understand terrorists," he says. "...In terms of what's happening in London over the last week, I think it's going to be healthy to try and understand what leads people to terrorism. ...If we transcend [the cliché 'one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter'], we might be able to solve problems of terrorism more easily." His comments are greeted with applause.

Karin, 11:47 am: A moment of dire humiliation for a Natalie Portman fan who asks her about her develop.m.ent as an actress, starting with "her
role in The Mighty Ducks." Portman looks puzzled; he repeats his question; but the derisive howling from the audience soon makes it very
clear that the poor guy has got her confused with someone else. Never screw up in front of a Comic-Con crowd. These people are brutal.

Karin, 11:50 am: The V for Vendetta panel wraps up... with one more question for Natalie Portman. As we're planning to go to the David
Lloyd panel later in the day, we briefly entertain the prospect of asking him "Mr. Lloyd, what's it like to be on a panel with Natalie Portman?"

Karin, 11:55 am: Moving on quickly here; it's onto the panel for The Corpse Bride. A taped greeting from Tim Burton is played, and producers Alison Abate and Mike Jones are introduced. From their introductory discussion, we learn that the film is based on an old Ukrainian fairy tale. It also represents a big step forward for stop motion animation; as it's a romance, the character models needed to be designed in such a way that you could believe their emotions and see them on their faces. And CGI was not wanted at all.

Karin, 12:05 p.m.: A lengthy clip from the movie follows, in which the hero meets the titular Corpse Bride, and in which her story is told in a song-and-dance number performed by Danny Elfman, doing his best Tom Waits impersonation. Fans of The Nightmare Before Christmas will have some idea of what to expect, but The Corpse Bride is even more subtle and lovely in its characterizations. The audience loves it.

Karin, 12:15 p.m.: Q&A time. Among the highlights: a story about Ray Harryhausen's visits to the studio -- "I think we needed smelling salts for the animators after that," says Abate -- and a question about whether Jack Skellington will put in an appearance: "No, his agent wouldn't let him out of his contract."

Karin, 12:25 p.m.: Finally, the moment a number of people in the room have been waiting for -- a specially cut, exclusive preview for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It's so new that some effects aren't even finished yet. The crowd goes wild.

Karin, 12:30 p.m.: The strangest part of the Warner Bros. dog-and-pony show begins: a rough-cut trailer and the first 10 minutes of Darren Aronofsky's new movie, The Fountain. Hugh Jackman introduces the trailer in a taped clip (obviously meant to be shown with Aronofsky and
costar Rachel Weisz standing below; as they're not, the effect is somewhat blunted) in which we learn that one of Aronofsky's nicknames among his friends is "Darrenoia," for his absolute dread of letting too much information escape.

What we seem to have here is a very odd sort of romantic epic: a conquistador in 16th-century Spain, a modern doctor, and a 26th-century monk (?), all laced together through a search for the fountain of eternal youth. More than that I can't really say, and not just because there was a lot of talk about keeping it secret; the glimpse we got was of a very strange, and very compelling, movie.

Karin, 12:45 p.m.: On the comics front, we learn that there's going to be a Fountain graphic novel, written by Aronofsky and drawn by Kent
Williams. Aronofsky promises us that it won't be one of "those cheesy comics with a little Rachel Weisz and Hugh Jackman running around in the jungles of New Spain," although exactly what it will be is not entirely clear.

Karin, 12:55 p.m.: Another audience questioner tries to nose out more information on the movie. Is this film a philosophical discussion about love? Aronofsky: "Yeah, it's... it's a love story... can you talk about that, Rachel?" Weisz tries gamely to pick up the ball without giving too much away: "It does address questions about love but it's not an intellectual... you saw the trailer, it's action-packed." Aronofsky chips in with a joke: "It's not dry like Pi was."

Karin, 1:30 p.m.: Our next panel is "Bringing Comics Back to Kids." Moderated by Steve Miller, a VP for buisness develop.m.ent and strategic
planning for Disney, the panel includes creators J. M. DeMatteis, Landry Walker, Eric Jones and Eric Shanower; United Media managing editor Steve Behling; Booklist columnist Michael Cart; and art teacher Jeff Sharp.

That kids aren't reading comics like they used to is unsurprising to anyone who's been into a comics store recently, and the panel identifies a number of distribution-related reasons. Comics aren't on the shelves in newsstands and supermarkets like they used to be; specialty shops don't always carry kid-friendly comics; when they do, the kids' sections are often a disaster area. (This is by no means the first or last time that decline in comics leadership will be blamed on the direct market-specialty shop system.)

Karin, 1:45 p.m.: A valuable point is made by Landry Walker: the classic complaint is that girls don't read comics, but that's no longer true. Girls these days are devouring manga; it's the boys' market that isn't growing at all. But do girls read anything other than manga? Is their manga readership leading to other comics? No one seems to have an answer.

Karin, 1:50 p.m.: A mother asks about what kinds of comics would be appropriate for her small child; someone suggests Owly. The conversation digresses into the illicit appeal of comics; how part of the appeal for most readers growing up was that their parents didn't approve.

Karin, 1:55 p.m.: The issue of price is brought up. When comics are going for $3.25 a copy, and a kid gets a $20 allowance, how can he or she possibly buy them? Web comics are mentioned, as is the price of paper, and also the concept of perceived value: a $3 color comic is going to
be perceived as "better" than a $1 black-and-white on inexpensive paper. Economies of scale also come into play; when you're only printing a few thousand copies, it ends up costing more.

Karin, 2:00 p.m.: The conversation takes a frustrating turn with the introduction of education. Jeff Sharp is pioneering a "comics in the classroom" program, using Disney materials for grades three through five. They're working in conjunction with the University of Maryland to determine the program's effect on reading comprehension skills and test scores. I can't help being a little annoyed with this. It's almost as if they have to prove that comics are "good for you," which is probably all well and good as far as certain parents and teachers are concerned, but channeling the medium through the educational system doesn't seem like a way to get kids to love comics in general. They'll become literate in reading and interpreting the form, but is that really going to get them reading more? I'm not so sure.

(And the Disney sponsorship rubs me the wrong way; but of course this entire panel is essentially sponsored by Disney.)

Liz, 2:10 p.m.: After getting my signed Baby-Sitters Club poster, and fangirling out in front of Raina just a little bit more (I swear, if I'd kept it up, she'd have gotten a restraining order), I head upstairs for the Veronica Mars panel, as I love my mystery fiction when it's complicated, adult and
stretched out deliciously over the course of a season. Some interesting casting announcements for the new season are made, including Charisma
Carpenter and Steve Guttenberg, and the cast members present (most of whom are very attractive young men) seem to be genuinely cool people.
The most bizarre moment of the convention, by far, is when a fangirl asks the very attractive young men if they feel uncomfortable when the people on the Internet Photoshop their images into homoerotic situations. The boys laugh it off, but seriously, if you have to ask…

Karin, 2:25 p.m.: After a smattering of questions about the actual writing of comics for children (during which it is noted that Marvel and DC are not the places to go for children's comics publishing), the panel closes with yet one more question about standardized testing. I leave with a bad taste in my mouth.

Karin, 2:30 p.m.: We're ravenous; we head down to the exhibition hall floor to try and scare up something to eat. We end up standing in line for nearly half an hour for rather iffy ham sandwiches, and decide to take a lunch break and enjoy the weather outside.

Liz, 3:00 p.m.: This year's Battlestar Galactica panel takes place in massive Ballroom 20, second only to Hall H in size, totally packed with giddy fans. It's a striking contrast to the previous Battlestar panel I attended, which was two years ago, sparsely populated, and dominated by questions that essentially boiled down to "How dare you fuck with my childhood favorite?" Today, people cheer every five minutes, the clips shown are met with thunderous applause, and producer David Eick thanks us heartily for "bringing our minds" and allowing the show to form a dialogue with the audience. It's dizzy, this sort of crowd. Intense. I can't stop smiling.

Karin, 3:10 p.m.: We're sitting on the harbor side terrace stairs when we see a guy in full Stormtrooper gear come up the stairs with his friends/handlers. Not an unusual sight, of course, but he's an enormous hit with a little boy who happens to be passing by with his father. Then a group of teenagers talk the Stormtrooper into posing with them, with three of the teens lying on the ground as if the trooper is arresting them. Just another day, really.

Karin, 3:45 p.m.: The weather is so pleasant that it's almost a shame to go back inside. But we've got the David Lloyd panel to go to, so it's back through the exhibition hall throngs, which seem to get thicker every hour. We stop by the Gentle Giant booth to get a look at the maquette and figures on display for The Corpse Bride.

Liz, 4:00 p.m.: After Battlestar, I slink into the "Spotlight on Brian K. Vaughan panel already in progress. The sudden shift from mob-hysteria to the intimacy of a small room is striking. In a very good way. Heidi MacDonald is moderating, and she and Brian have a very mellow conversation about Brian's writing habits -- he's a night owl, literally working all night and sleeping most of the day as "getting up in the morning is for jerks."

"Is that why you never answered the phone when I called you before noon?" MacDonald asks.

I've missed most of the good stuff, but it is lovely to hear Vaughan talk about the process of convincing Vertigo that Y wouldn't be the male fantasy they suspected at first, even as he echo one of my own sentiments: "I don't love to write, but I love to have written." It's my last panel at Comic-Con this year, and a very fitting one.

Karin, 4:15 p.m.: We slip into the meeting room in time to catch the last few minutes of Mike Mignola's Hellboy panel.

Karin, 4:30 p.m.: David Lloyd is running late. The interviewer, Bob Wayne, tries to kill some time in conversation with Scott Nyback; during which we learn that there's going to be a new hardcover edition of V for Vendetta published in September.

Karin, 4:40 p.m.: David Lloyd finally arrives, with a wry comment about the density of the crowds outside.

Karin, 4:45 p.m.: The first audience question gets straight to the point: what's Lloyd been up to, and is Alan Moore as crazy as everyone thinks?
Wayne tries to elide the second question altogether. As to the first, Lloyd has just published a new book, Kickback, in France, and it will be released soon by Dark Horse. On the second question, Lloyd is complimentary and diplomatic: "Whenever I'm answering questions that have been asked about Alan, this thing about being a practicing magician comes up. But I don't think he's crazy, I think he's very committed to what he believes. ...Very uncompromising person with very strong viewpoints, which he's entitled to have."

Karin, 4:55 p.m.: More questions about V for Vendetta. The extent of Lloyd's involvement in the film? Answering some questions the Wachowskis had about V's costume. What about a sequel to the original book? "A very bad idea." Do you feel the world you're living in now has caught up with some of the ideas of the original series? Lloyd reiterates some of the points he made during the WB Q&A, and adds some further contextual comments about the political climate during the book's creation -- the early Thatcher years -- and adds that he never expected a V movie to be made, especially after Sept. 11, 2001. Will the movie reveal V's face? No.

Karin, 5:00 p.m.: I manage to chip in a question about working with comic book writers, and what Lloyd as an artist prefers in a script. We learn
that he prefers being allowed greater flexibility in the scripts, and even enjoys the "Marvel method," where the writer creates a story outline, the artist draws the pencils and the writer fills in the dialogue from that -- it turns out that he used that method on the Jamie Delano-authored John Constantine story, The Horrorist. As to Alan Moore's infamously detailed scripts, it turns out that Moore had not developed that particular method of working when they started on V, which perhaps was just as well. Kickback, which he wrote and drew himself, was more of an organic process, which is
somewhat less amenable to the big U.S. companies, which prefer to have a completed script upfront. Hence the original release in France.

Karin, 5:15 p.m.: Additional questions on the origin of the V character, who was originally developed as a sort of conventional urban guerilla. The ideas of theatricality and anarchism eventually led to the Guy Fawkes mask, which used to be a lot more widely celebrated in Britain before Halloween took over as the fall holiday of choice. Bob Wayne observes that the Guy Fawkes Day traditional fireworks and bonfires are "a very odd way to celebrate someone not blowing something up."

Karin, 5:25 p.m.: As seems to be usual, the panel wraps up in a bit of a rush, in the middle of Lloyd talking about the change from publishing V in Warrior magazine to DC comics. Some of these things really need to be more of an hour and a half -- 55 minutes (or 50 or less if things are really running behind) just isn't enough.

Karin, 5:30 p.m.: We take the shuttle back to the hotel, which again takes longer than it should, but mostly because half the time is taken up sitting on Harbor Drive (the main street out in front of the convention center).

Karin, 6:00 p.m.: I finally remember to call Liz. It turns out she's leaving shortly, and there's not really any chance of us meeting up. This is some measure of how big and busy Comic-Con is: even over the course of two days, you can completely fail to meet someone.

Liz, 6:00 p.m.: Talking with Karin is lovely. Completely missing her over the course of this week is not. Leaving Comic-Con is not. Of all the weekends in all the year, my cousin chose this one to get married.

I hate to leave. But at least the trade paperbacks I've acquired from the half-off bins will keep me company on the plane.

The rest of the coverage is all Karin, all the time.

6:15 p.m.: Since we've got some time before the Eisners, we decide to take some advantage to the fact that we've got a car, and take a drive around San Diego. We make a note to try and spend more time here next year.

7:30 p.m.: We stop off at the Marriott pseudo-pub-bar-thing for drinks and a snack. Someone at a table nearby is talking about picking up guys at Comic-Con: "I love geeky guys!"

8:15 p.m.: We get seated for the Eisners. The vast room is more than half-empty; we end up sitting next to a couple of Joss Whedon fans who
seem to be there largely to try and meet their hero. They are successful: one even gets his Jayne Cobb hat autographed by the man himself (leading to hyperventilation on the part of the fan).

8:40 p.m.: After some milling about, the awards ceremony gets underway. Introductory remarks are made. A new award is being given this year:
the Bill Finger award for comics writing. The first winners are Jerry Siegel and Arnold Drake.

9:00 p.m.: Arnold Drake sings a little joke song he's written about Comic-Con, which includes a sardonic dig at Stan Lee. The Joss Whedon fans have long since left.

My notes are pretty sketchy from here on out. Acceptance speeches are usually short and to the point. Kyle Baker, on receiving one of his two
awards for the night, dashes on stage, all but yells "Thank you!" into the mike, and scurries offstage again.

It is, of course, the first Eisner awards at which the man himself is no longer present, and a heavy fog of nostalgia hangs over the room. Almost everyone has an Eisner story to share; you can't say the man is not missed.

11:20 p.m.: Er. Why is George Perez's friend posing with two pneumatic convention model-types to accept the Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award?

11:45 p.m.: You know you're tired when your bed at the hotel is more inviting than the bar.

SATURDAY
10:00 am: The shuttle to the convention center gets stuck in a mire of traffic on Harbor Drive that truly staggers the imagination. We end up getting out in front of the Park Hyatt and walking the rest of the way, which frankly leaves most of the cars on the street in the dust.

10:30 am to 12:55 p.m.: This is the time we've set aside to explore the exhibition hall in earnest. One of the first stops is at the Last Gasp booth, where I grab copies of Junko Mizuno's Pure Trance and Princess Mermaid, Michael Manning's Inamorata and a book about Japanese wagashi sweets. The last has nothing to do with comics.

The rest of the floor walk is a bit of a blur, but certain things stand out. Such as realizing that the tall, gray-haired Scotsman at the Top Shelf booth is in fact Eddie Campbell, and trying not to act like a total fangirl. I tried not to completely squeal at the chance to check out a proof of his forthcoming book, The Fate of the Artist, a sequel-of-sorts to How to Be an Artist. Only this time, instead of using the Alec McGarry persona (abandoned, anyway, in After the Snooter), the Fate Campbell is "played by an actor." He describes it as a murder mystery, where in fact he <i>has</i> been murdered (although obviously not really, seeing as how he's standing here describing it), although you'll just have to read the book to find out who and how. It looks like a big stylistic departure for Campbell as well: in addition to the watercolor illustrations, there's also collage, photographs and passages of prose. I buy a copy of How to Be an Artist just so I can get it signed, notwithstanding the copy sitting on my shelf at home.

A wander through the "Small Press Pavilion" turns up a comic bound to offend in all directions: Zombie Jesus. Roberta Gregory signs a copy of "Real Cat Tales" and draws a kitty on it. Donna Barr frightens my husband.

There's a feeling that the comics portion of the floor show has been shunted off to one side; the main activity seems to center around the movie and toy zones, at the heart of which is the Lucasfilm empire. Dark Horse, at least, has managed to attach itself to said empire thanks to the Clone Wars Adventures comics.

At one point, I find myself cleaning the recipts out of my pockets and wondering exactly how I just managed to drop all this money on comics in less than two hours. My arm hurts from carrying the bags.

At noon, we swing back to the Last Gasp booth, where Junko Mizuno is signing. She's barely 5-feet-tall and very subdued in appearance, and it is both deeply surreal and completely logical to recognize that she's the talent behind a book as weird and unsettling (and distressingly kawaii for all that) as Pure Trance.

1:00 p.m.: Danny Fingeroth is moderating "Comics Writers on Writing;" the rest of the panel includes Len Wein, Christy Marx, Steven Grant, Marv
Wolfman, Erik Larsen and J.M. DeMatteis.

It's hardly surprising, I suppose, that most of the questioners seem to want to find the magic bullet that will make them writing superstars (in comics, mostly, but also in TV, animation and film). Someone asks if there's a foolproof way to pitch a project, to which Steven Grant replies, sensibly, "If there were a surefire way everyone would do it." How do you become a comics writer? The consensus is that one of the best things you can do is find an artist and get started, even if it's just a hundred mini-comics you put together at Kinko's -- the point is to get something out there that you can send to a publisher. Len Wein chips in with good advice for any writer: "For god's sake, read. Read as much as you can." To which De Matteis adds, "When Len said read, he didn't just mean comics, he meant books."

1:45 p.m.: Someone asks if writing for comics is "particularly suited" to superhero stories. The panel responds emphatically in the negative, sounding a little offended.

2:00 p.m.: An audience member "from the Deep South" asks how you can find an artist to illustrate your work. Marv Wolfman suggests "a thing
called a convention; I hear there's one in San Diego." Erik Larsen also suggests the websites penciljack.com and digitalwebbing.com -- "Do you have Internet in the Deep South?"

2:10 p.m.: How do you get a self-produced comic into an editor's hands, anyway? Mailing is suggested; editors don't want to come home from a
convention with 400 pounds of minicomics. Also, Danny Fingeroth adds, "There's a fine line between interest and stalking."

2:15 p.m.: Some interesting tidbits on what to read to learn more about writing comics. Christy Marx is working on a book about writing for
comics, games, and animation; there is actually a Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing Graphic Novels (by Nat Gertler and Steve Lieber);
and of course Eisner's books Comics and Sequential Art and Graphic Storytelling.

2:25 p.m.: For once, a panel that seems to have gone for just about the right amount of time.

2:28 p.m.: As the "Minority Retort" panel is settling in, Keith Knight hands out photocopies of one of his comics.. Meanwhile, a guy in a
highly elaborate General Grievous costume is untangling himself from the rigging with the help of a couple of friends. When he emerges, the audience applauds. (I should note that this was one of the coolest costumes I saw all weekend.)

2:30 p.m.: Dan Evans introduces the panel: Jeremy Love, Laurenn McCubbin, Dan Evans, Travis Johnson, Keith Knight and J. Torres. Things get off to a bit of a slow start with everyone introducing themselves, but the pace picks up with Keith Knight's story of squatting in Artists' Alley at Comic-Con.

2:45 p.m.: In a discussion of writing minorities into comics, Dan Evans says, "I want to see black people doing other stuff." Laurenn McCubbin: "In spaaace!"

2:55 p.m.: What are the biggest misconceptions you've heard about creators of color, women creators and audiences? McCubbin: "Girls don't read comics.""Girls don't read comics because their brains don't work that way." "Chicks aren't funny." Evans: "Chicks can't blow stuff up." "Boys aren't interested in what girls have to say." Knight, on getting tapped to do the February strip for magazines: "I also draw comics the other 11 months of the year."

3:05 p.m.: Interesting point about the comics industry's awareness of diversity: unlike the film and music industries, there's just not the money to get out there and do market research.

3:15 p.m.: An audience member asks about characters who have clearly been "shoehorned" into a story to make it more diverse, a technique none of the panel likes very much. Evans alludes to his "hellacious rant about the Magic Negro" (the black character whose sole purpose is to help the white hero or heroine redeem themselves), and Knight jumps in summarizing an article he's read recently about exactly that phenomenon. The top Magic Negro of all time, according to the article, was Richard Pryor's film, The Toy, which gets extra points for the fact that the Pryor character gets bought and packed in a box as a kid's Christmas present. Knight: "This is like... slave stuff."

3:25 p.m.: The staffer at the back is waving the END card around wildly. Laurenn McCubbin is making a point about diversity: wondering where
black women comics creators are, where other minorities might be -- but the clock is winding down way too fast, and the staff practically kicks us out of the room. This panel needs a 90-minute block if they're going to do it again next year.

4:05 p.m.: Jeff Smith is running a little late and hurries in with his Apple Powerbook (the computer of the year, it seems; everyone who's got a laptop seems to have an Apple). He's here to present what amounts to a director's commentary on Bone, giving us a visual tour of the settings that inspired the book's locations.

The inspirations are as diverse as the Ohio countryside where Smith grew up; temples in Kathmandu; and ruined castles in the English countryside. Old Man's Cave is based on and named for a real location of remarkable beauty.

4:30 p.m.: A glimpse at Smith's Captain Marvel book, which begins with the hero as an 8-year-old boy living homeless. The artwork is, unsurprisingly, quite beautiful, and it's especially enjoyable to see Smith's work in color -- muted, gray tones for the street scenes, and vibrant bright colors for the fantastical elements. (It turns out as well that he's working on coloring Bone, so there's still yet another version of that to come.)

4:45 p.m.: Smith doesn't think he'll ever do anything as long as Bone again, although his friend Francoise Mouly pointed out to him, "You're the only cartoonist I know who thinks 200 pages is a short story."

4:55 p.m.: Last year, someone asked Smith what he was going to do when he finished Bone. His response at the time was "Buy an island." Someone follows up on that in this session. Smith: "Do you have one for sale?"

5:00 p.m.: We're not sure when we last had an actual meal, so we join the enormous herd wandering in the general direction of the Gaslamp District. We end up at a sushi bar where it transpires that they're not serving sushi (something to do with a big catered party); still, there's other stuff on the menu. But I end up getting what appears to be the last tofu in the place.

6:45 p.m.: As we're paying the bill, we notice that they're serving sushi again. Rats.

7:00 p.m.: Back to the convention center, which we've begun thinking of as a gigantic Habitrail. The masquerade-goers are gathering, which makes for good people-watching.

8:00 p.m.: We're skipping the masquerade, however, for The Mindscape of Alan Moore. I almost hate to use the word "psychedelic" to describe it, but that's more or less what the visuals are, or strive to be. It's interesting not so much for that as the fact that it's 80 or 90 minutes of Alan Moore essentially giving a monologue on his body of work, his philosophies of life and his views of magic. And the fact is, it's profoundly fascinating.

9:45 p.m.: In the Q&A, the directors speak highly of Moore and of his kindness and generosity of time. We also learn that Moore is, for all intents and purposes, retiring from writing comics, and moving on to novels and his magical studies. Which is a little disappointing at first blush, but then you can't help thinking that the man has wrung almost everything he can from the medium, and if he wants to move on, who's to stop him?

9:55 p.m.: We slip out of the Q&A a little early, and pause briefly to poke our heads in the room next door, where they're simulcasting the masquerade. A young woman is strutting her stuff in an Aeon Flux costume, to noisy approval. It has to be noted that she looks a lot more like the original animated character than does Charlize Theron in the pictures on the exhibition floor.

10:15 p.m.: There are people in clown makeup on the shuttle bus. It has something to do with the new Rob Zombie movie. The clown people are talking about Sandman.

SUNDAY
9:45 am: Last day -- check out of the hotel, load up the car and drive down to the convention center. The traffic is much lighter this morning, albeit still quite sticky by any normal standard. A group of cyclists, who are probably accustomed to having a pleasant Sunday morning ride down Harbor Drive, are appalled; one of them keeps yelling at the others that "it's Comic-Con! It's crazy down here!"

10:30 am: The first panel of the day is "Lost in Translation," a discussion among comics and games translators -- most of whom, unsurprisingly, work in Japanese-English manga, anime, and games. It's moderated by Bill Flanagan, and includes Yoshinobu "Nobi" Matsuo, Jake Tarbox, Charles McCarter and Dwight Decker (the last of whom is the only European-language translator on the panel, working for Disney).

10:45 am: Flanagan has an interesting story about dealing with a particular translation problem with the manga Fushigi Yugi. Presented with the problem of how to communicate the archaic language of a romance novel within the main story of the manga, he decided finally to use a style of English more akin to Jane Austen's -- clearly not contemporary, but not too obscure to the likely audience of American teenage girls at whom the translated manga was being aimed.

10:55 am: Most of the translators on the panel seem to prefer the methods used by companies like Viz, where "base translators" render the
Japanese into English, and English language writers revise it to good writing standards. Some disdain is reserved for an unnamed company (at least one person in the audience is pretty sure the name begins with "T") that has begun hiring people who will do both the base translation and the English rewrite; the panel's view is that the two are very separate skills, and it's unlikely that you're going to find someone equally skilled at both.

11:15 am: There are two themes that seem to recur in panels like this. 1) The work we do is really hard, and also really unappreciated on average. And, 2) There is no magic formula for any of this; do what calls you and pay attention to the publisher's requirements. Earlier in the panel, Flanagan quoted advice from an editor he'd heard in the 1980s, which I'd say is true no matter where you work: "If you want to make it in the comic industry, you have to have two out of three items. Either you're an absolute genius, or you're a very nice guy, or you're on time."

11:25 am: The panel rushes to a close with a handful of anecdotes about working in the translation business. Decker's is one of the funniest; he had started on a project translating children's graphic novels, but when that project was killed, he got moved to the publisher's adult line. "Frankly, I don't like to do porno, but the money was too good and there weren't that many words."

11:30 am: We decide to sit through the panel on Doom (yes, a Doom movie) to wait for the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe panel. Hall H is running late, and time is killed by a moderator walking through the audience and asking people questions. Someone speaks very favorably of the air conditioning (which has been so cold, in fact, that I've wished for a sweater most of the weekend); I learn later that last year the A.C. conked out one day, with the result of the Habitrail turning into a greenhouse.

11:45 am: Karl Urban is welcomed to the stage with a lot of female shrieking while I'm tra