2011 San Diego Comic Con

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The lovely Lizzy Borden appeared in our booth again today, this time with Evan Stone, who plays an impeccable Batman in The Justice League of Pornstar Superheroes. Evan also stars in another Extreme Comixxx superhero parody, Captain America XXX. Evan has a magnetic personality with a wicked sense of humor and was a joy to have in the booth. While working the booth in his Captain America costume, Evan was also interviewed by somebody with a pro video crew, but like with Chanel I have no clue who was doing the interview or why.

At least the interviewer knew that Evan was a porn star. On the other hand, several parents at the Con didn’t realize that the X on our Captain America’s cap and shield meant he was a porn star. They just assumed he was Captain America, the clean-cut superhero with a new mega-movie just hitting the theaters. So all day long, these parents hauled their little kids up to our booth to take photos with our Captain America XXX. Evan was very friendly to both kids and parents and performed flawlessly as a “mainstream” and wholesome Captain America. As far as I could tell, none of the parents noticed the porno DVDs that were displayed in our booth just a few feet away from their photo op. I wonder if any of the parents might discover the truth about our Captain America down the road, during daddy’s late-night internet surfing?

Today I avoided the red-eye glare from Lizzy Borden!

Mom, baseball, apple pie and Captain America XXX!

Around mid-day I bought three ham-and-cheese torpedo sandwiches from Ralph’s and augmented them with a pack of Genoa salami, then split them into six sandwiches, which provided lunch for Frank Stack, Fogel, Steve and myself. Frank has turned into our most frequent guest at the booth, which is a bit of a feather in our cap, IMO. For four straight days, I’ve hung around with Frank freakin’-Foolbert-Sturgeon Stack, talking comics, movies, history and going out for barbecue.

One of the huge revenue sources at the Con is toys, apparel and collectibles (especially the latter). As with thousands of comic art publications available at the Con, it’s tempting to pull out the plastic and start indulging in the toys and collectibles to be found in one booth after another. I’ve already bought a few things to take home to the kids, but have mostly resisted splurging on anything for myself. If money only grew on trees…

"I'll take one of each in XL, please!"

Now I'm glad I didn't bring my 12-year-old daughter to this thing...

Okay, this is something I would break out the wallet for. Coming in 2012.

When discussing future business, Fogel suggested that I might illustrate one of the porn comics we’ll be producing in the next year or so, which is exciting. He knows I can draw after reviewing the art on my Facebook page, but has no idea what kind of a cartoonist I am. So he’s basing his suggestion on faith. I’ll have to send him a few samples from my roughs of Maniac Matt and Naked Natalie when I get back to Memphis. If I do end up drawing a book, it will be interesting to see how my cartooning skills have evolved over the years.

On the last day of the Con, I went around all the small press tables and booths, taking shot after shot of creators and publishers fighting for success in today’s diminished comic book market. It is ironic that there is more quality comic book art than ever before, yet the opportunity to leverage that quality into financial success is more limited than ever before. I have too many photos of this type to post here, but my best wishes go out to everyone shooting for the stars in the comic-book industry.

Intriguing, though probably not "zombie" or "trampy" enough for me

Deepcut Productions models promote a company worth watching

As we were packing up for the day, Steve gave me a bunch of Demi Demoness comic books to review for my website. I forewarned him that the Alternative Comics seciton may not launch for a year or so, but he was undaunted. I’ve also given out about a dozen comixjoint.com business cards during the Con, which is just a drop in the bucket compared to the marketing and exposure I’m planning for the site in the future.

Seeing all the art at the Con and watching artists create artwork on the spot has inspired me (even more than I was already) to get back to creating more of my own artwork. I am convinced that this is what the rest of my life is going to be about; artwork and writing for projects that I’m interested in, not what others pay me for. It’s one of the many great epiphanies that I’ll take away from my first San Diego Comic Con.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

I awoke pretty early today, so I went ahead and built three big sandwiches with the grocery stuff I bought yesterday, packed them up in a ziplock bag and hauled them to the Con. They didn’t last long. Steve got one of them and I don’t remember who took the other, but I ate the third.

I was a bit awestruck later in the day when Fogel introduced me to Denis Kitchen as he dropped by our booth to check out the Snatch Comics Treasury. Kitchen is certainly one of many heroes I most admire in the industry. And the legend parade kept rolling when I introduced myself to Ron Turner at the Last Gasp booth, but I failed to grab a photo op with him.

Dan shows off the Snatch Comics Treasury to Denis Kitchen

Today the FDHCCC booth was graced by Lizzy Borden, the notorious porn movie actress, director and provocateur, who dressed up like a female Joker and lured weak-kneed young men into our lair. I did not know Lizzy before the Con, but subsequent research indicates she is my kinda gal! She worked the booth all day long with Steve and will be well remembered (by more than just me) for her gregarious and inviting personality.

I tried to take the "red eye" out of Lizzy but turns out it's her natural glow

Like the previous two days, I spent a little time wandering around the Con taking photos. Of course, there’s an enormous amount of stuff to see and it takes a lot of time just to walk the floor, much less participate in any activities or promotions, or attend any previews or presentations. There’s even stuff going on outside the convention hall that looks intriguing or fun, like the South Park carnival set up in a parking lot.  Next year I’ll try to do a little more homework about what I’d like to see, though I might have to spend more time working in the booth than I did this year. We’ll see what the comic book Gods bring to the table in 2012.

This photo shows about half of one of the major hallways at the SDCC

This inflatable from Konami was the biggest of its type at the Con

South Park found a new home in San Diego for a fun-filled weekend

The huge entertainment companies at the Con included several movie studios pimping upcoming flicks. I wasn’t so enamored with the hottest previews (The Adventures of Tintin, Haywire, Twixt, et al) as I was intrigued by interesting displays or movies that spark my interest.

This cool Hulk display towered over the masses at the Con

Everyone's fave, Men in Black, will have a third movie in 2012

After wrapping up another day at the booth (I haven’t been completely worthless during the Con, as I helped Fogel close the booth every evening), a small group headed out for dinner at Brian’s 24, a round-the-clock bar and grill on Sixth Avenue in the Gaslamp Quarter. Once again there was much merriment and good conversation. I ordered the chili spaghetti because I don’t often see it on a menu and I like it, but it was just okay (should’ve went with one of their famous breakfast dishes).

Dinner with Angelo, S.S. Crompton, Jack, Howard, Johnny Chambers and Fogel

Next up: Day Four with Captain America and More Lizzy Borden!

Friday, July 22, 2011

I slept much better the second night on the parking lot and woke up around 11, which got me to the Con around 1:00. Today Inari Vachs worked our booth, signing posters and posing for pictures with fans. Dan and Steve are working with Inari to produce an “Adult Star Stories” comic book featuring her in 2012. Besides being a beautiful porn star, Inari is an astute businesswoman with her own production company and TV appearances as a host on Playboy TV. We look forward to working with her on several projects in the coming years.

unpublished Inari Vachs fantasy poster / copyright 2011 C. Tirri

During the afternoon I wandered around the convention again, taking photos. I also ran out for lunch at Ralph’s supermarket for lunch, like we did the day before. This time, I went alone and I not only bought a sandwich, but also a two-foot sourdough baguette, half-a-pound of Monterey Jack cheese and Genoa salami, which I hauled back to the refrigerator in my van. I figured the grocery food would be good for late-night snacking or whatever.

When I got back to the con I visited the Last Gasp booth across the walkway from ours and bought a handful of books from their back stock boxes. Fantagraphics, Top Shelf, Slave Labor, Drawn & Quarterly, Heavy Metal and many other alternative and small press publishers were on hand at the Con. It was all I could do to resist going deep into debt buying up everything at their booths and tables.

Last Gasp's tempting treats were right next door to the FDHCCC booth

Drawn & Quarterly's booth featured Chester Brown (pictured far right)

Heavy Metal, one of my first loves, is still rockin' n' rollin'

Frank Stack sat in our booth in the late afternoon and we looked through his watercolor portfolio again, but we didn’t finalize a purchase. Frank talked with me about his favorite movies (from the ’30s and ’40s) and books. He’s quite familiar with all manner of American and international politics and history.

After Frank left, I talked to John Quinn about Frank’s artwork, which John had also paged through. I mentioned to John that I might ask Frank about a volume discount on his paintings, because I really wanted more than just one of his watercolors. John was also interested in buying more than one of Frank’s paintings and suggested we could pitch a volume purchase that would include all of our selections, which might be as many as eight pieces (I figured I would want three). So the next time we see Frank we’ll try to consummate that deal.

After the show ended for the day, a group of us went out to dinner at Dublin Square, an Irish Pub and Grill in the historic Gaslamp Quarter of downtown San Diego. The dinner party included myself, Dan, Howard, Angelo, Steven, and Jack, with Inari joining us a little later. Angelo bought me a couple shots, the first being part of a full round for everybody, with a shot of Bailey’s and whiskey dropped in a half-pint of stout beer, and the second being some fancy tequila. For dinner I had a pretty good shepherd’s pie.

After dinner we went to the underground party at room 1003 in the Embassy Suites, hosted by comics retailing legend Dan Gutman. I wore my Mr. Natural t-shirt, which received some compliments. I spent a fair amount of time talking to Robert Gluckson, who is pimping a book called Cartooning for Fun, designed to help amateurs get into cartooning. I also talked with Aaron Caplan, who specializes in 1960 to 1972 fanzines related to underground and sci-fi fantasy. I mentioned a few of the titles I’ve collected, like Reality, Infinity and of course, Squa Tront, which are mostly pro-zines. I have a bunch of others that are more obscure, but I couldn’t remember their titles. Aaron was showing off a copy of Graphic Illusions that had a Johnny Chambers story in it. Johnny was at the party and delighted to re-engage with the world of fanzines, which he helped reinvigorate with a ton of contributions back in the early ’60s. Aaron and Johnny will both be useful as Fogel and I develop the Price Guide for 2012, which will begin covering fanzines.

The party grew quite a bit while we were there, to about 25 people or so, which Dan said was the most successful underground party in several years, especially considering the number of women in attendance. It ended at around 1:00 in the morning, after which Dan and I walked back to our hotel talking about the future.

Next up: Day Three with Denis Kitchen and Ron Turner!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Because I slept in the van all morning after not sleeping the night before, the first day of the Con didn’t start for me until the afternoon. But last night Fogel advised me to pace myself through this marathon convention anyway, so there’s no need for me to “rush off to work” every morning. Indeed, I don’t have a vital role to play in any official business or booth operations at the Con, so there was no reason to feel guilty from arriving late to the booth.

Chanel Preston worked in our booth today. Chanel is the smokin’ hot actress who co-stars in the porn movie The Justice League of Pornstar Heroes. The Extreme Comixxx-produced film is a parody of DC Comics’ legendary superhero team, The Justice League of America, and includes Superman, Batman and Robin, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern and Aquaman, along with a slew of villains. Chanel plays Wonder Woman in the movie and wore her superb costume while signing DVD boxes sold in the booth. You can pick up one an unsigned copy of one of these fast-selling DVDs by contacting me at msteven@comixjoint.com ($40 for two disks with over six hours of content, plus shipping, pay via PayPal).

While working the booth, Chanel was interviewed by somebody with a pro video crew, though I don’t have a clue what the interview was for. Still, it was fun to watch her perform on camera as a playful and sexy Wonder Woman.

Extreme Comixxx has a hit with The Justice League of Pornstar Heroes

Wonder Woman basks in the glow of the fawning media

"Can you explain again how your wardrobe is used as a diversionary tactic?"

Not long after arriving at the FDHCCC booth, Angelo, Steven and I left the convention center and walked to Ralph’s supermarket to buy lunch for ourselves and some of the guys. Ralph’s is located off First Avenue just a couple blocks from the center, and their deli offers a much better selection of sandwiches than any of the vendors at the con. We brought a bagful of deli sandwiches, throat lozenges and 5-hour energy drinks back to the Con.

In less than a day, Steve “S.S.” Crompton has impressed me with his expansive knowledge and achievements. While hanging out at the booth, he conveyed a few nuggets of wisdom about the comics business and lessons he has learned. Through the long convention, nobody worked the booth harder or made more new friends than Carnal Comics own S.S. Crompton.

S.S. Crompton tirelessly working the booth at SDCC

While Steve and Chanel worked the booth, Angelo and I went up to the second floor of the center and sat in for two presentations held in small meeting rooms; the first featured Frank Stack talking about his underground career and the second included a panel of several long-time, major contributors to Mad magazine. At the end of Frank’s presentation, which was primarily an interview with the moderator about his underground days, he was presented with an Inkpot Award, which is a lifetime achievement award given by the Con. Joyce Farmer (Tits ‘n Clits, Wimmen’s Comix) also received an Inkpot Award during the presentation that preceded Frank’s (damn, I missed that one!). Joyce and Frank later appeared together in the Fantagraphics booth.

Joyce Farmer and Frank Stack

Frank also dropped by the FDHCCC booth and hung out for quite a while, sitting in the back corner and signing an occasional copy of The New Adventures of Jesus (both the 1969 comic book and the 2007 “The Second Coming” TPB). Frank is 74 years young and still has the sparkle of devious genius in his eyes.

When the show ended at 7:00, we recruited several people to go out to dinner at Kansas City Barbecue on Market Street. Our dinner party included Frank Stack, Johnny Chambers (creator of The Little Green Dinosaur), Angelo and his son Steven, Jack, Howard, Steve Crompton, myself and Fogel. As we walked to the restaurant, Frank was trying to carry way too much stuff in his backpack, so I volunteered to take care of his Inkpot award and a few books and magazines he had picked up around the Con. He gratefully accepted my offer to mail all this stuff to him later, knowing I was with Dan and could be trusted.

I was fortunate enough to sit next to Frank during dinner. We had an interesting evening as Frank discussed Shakespeare, Twain and medieval history as easily as he did Beavis and Butthead. He talked about his methodology of drawing and painting, emphasizing that knowledge of human anatomy is essential to great life drawing. Frank said he could always tell when an artist used photography as a reference and strongly recommended drawing from life whenever possible.

I swear I have a signed affidavit to escort Frank on a day trip from the asylum!

As we sat around the table I browsed through a stunning portfolio of Frank’s exquisite life painting watercolors and agreed to buy one for $150. There was no way to take it right away without risking damage to the artwork, so he said he’d come by the booth again tomorrow to sell it to me. Having dinner with Frank Stack will likely be the highlight of my first San Diego Comic Con.

Next up: Day Two and the Annual Underground Party!

After giving myself a week to recover, I’m finally ready to blog about my experience at the 2011 San Diego Comic Con. I couldn’t do any live blogging while I was there, but I did take copious notes and photos during all four days and five nights of the event. However, this is NOT the blog to find out about any of the hot movie previews or latest gaming software showcased at the Con, or if Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola were fascinating in their panels. This is Comixjoint and we are more fascinated by underground, alternative and small press comic books. Plus, I did have to spend quite a bit of time in the booth during the show, so I could not be a full-time roving reporter exploring every aspect of the convention.

That said, there were many memorable moments at the Con for me, including meeting Frank Stack, Denis Kitchen, Ron Turner, Johnny Chambers and several other luminaries from both underground and mainstream comics. Hanging out at the Fly Dragon / Hippy Comix / Carnal Comics booth (hereafter the “FDHCCC booth”) was a lot of fun and led to some interesting interactions with fellow booth members, guests, customers and media. I also enjoyed some awesome dinners, groovin’ parties, shopping bargains and noteworthy presentations over the long weekend. I’ll begin at the beginning and try to keep it concise, though brevity has never been my strong suit.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011: Preview Night Whets the Appetite

The first night of the SDCC used to be set aside for dealers only and a lot of veteran cronies wish it was still that way. Some dealers used to make the bulk of their revenue on Preview Night just selling their product to other exhibitors, but those days are over. Preview Night is now a public event, though the showrunners do limit attendance to prevent the overcrowding seen on every other day at the Con. Exhibitors spend the entire day setting up their displays before the Con opens its doors at 5:30 p.m. for three and a half hours.

While Dan Fogel and his various business partners were setting up the FDHCCC booth on Wednesday morning, I was still driving down from Los Angeles to join the party. I’d spent the past couple weeks visiting my family in L.A. (I currently live in Memphis), and drove my mother’s fancy RV van down to San Diego for the Con. The van would become my hotel room and refuge for the next five days.

I arrived at the Con around 1:00 in the afternoon and met Fogel for the first time in person outside the convention center. He gave me my all-event pass for the Con and I followed him to the FDHCCC booth, where I met my fellow conventioneers. This included the Fly Dragon team of John Quinn, Carmelo “Snow” Signona, and Nick Russomano, Angelo (Hippy’s money man) and his son Steven, and Steve Crompton of Carnal Comics.

The FDHCCC booth is manned and ready for Preview Night

I arrived at the booth about three hours before the show opened for Preview Night, so after snapping a few pics of our own booth I went around the center and took photos of other company displays. I also bought a few comics from Dan before anyone else had a chance to look at what he had for sale at the convention. Then Preview Night began and the crowd rushed in, many of them walking very fast (running is not allowed!) to their pre-planned destinations to grab whatever freebies or product they were keen on.

Marketing for many TV shows includes big budget promotions

Futurama's popularity has led to extensive merchandising

Monsterpocalypse is a collectible figurines game published by Privateer Press

After Preview Night ended, I had dinner with Dan in the hotel restaurant and then got my van set up in the hotel parking lot, where I will spend the next four nights. It wasn’t easy getting to sleep with all the street noise outside and feeling kind of isolated on the second floor of the parking garage, but it did get easier after the first night.

Next up: Day One with Frank Stack and Wonder Woman!

I’ve never been to the Con of all Cons, but this summer I will be attending the convention with Dan Fogel. I’ll be in and out of his booth as I wander around and drink it all in (and do a little shopping), but I am really looking forward to it. Hope to meet some long-time online friends at the Con and shoot the shit. Should be fun!

I’ll be sure to have more updates in this category as we get closer to the Con, as well as updates after the Con!