I had a life before last week’s San Diego Comic Con International, and I’m finally getting re-acclimated to it after my four-day journey as an attendee of SDCCI 2006. It’s now Tuesday morning at work, the day of my return to the daily grind after an almost week-long absence, and I’m sifting through the mounds of paperwork that have been piling up since I was away, none of it at all exciting. I’ve been in a different world, where the piles consisted of colorful posters, postcards, comics, books, buttons, tattoos, pogs and small toys. I’ve been in a land of varied yet concentrated pop culture where the vast, compressed crowds of people veered me to areas I would never have gone to on my own. It was an amazing experience, but more than anything it was a lot of fun. For the first time ever I don’t feel as if I’m recovering from the Comic Con, this time around the entire adventure has joyously settled into memory, with key events ripe for mental plucking and reliving.

If it wasn’t for my girlfriend’s eleven-year-old grandson I never would have visited the Tokyopop booth. I’m not into manga, sorry. But?I’m more into manga now than I was a week ago because we had a great time at Tokyopop!

The little guy wanted to enter as many contests as he could, and at Tokyopop they had a daily raffle that went like this: You first had to locate the six ladies dressed in costume around the Tokyopop booth. From each of them you got a trading card. Once you collected all the trading cards you took them to the front counter and exchanged them for a single trading card. Then you returned at 5:45 to exchange the card for a raffle ticket, and then at 6:00 the drawing was held (earlier on Sunday, of course). There were six prizes given away each day, the grand prize being a Nintendo PS on one day, and an iPod the next, and other electronic games. I don’t follow electronic games at all so a lot of the crowd enthusiasm went over my head, but we sure had a great time hanging out at Tokyopop (even though we didn’t win) and on the last day I got to keep all my trading cards, which are promos for various Tokyopop graphic novels. I’m even going to check out a couple of the books. I’m not sure how good the photo will turn out, but there should be a picture of the ladies somewhere around this paragraph. Thank you, Tokyopop (and the keyboardist was great, too)!

Every year you’re going to hear complaints about the crowds in the Exhibition Hall. And well you should. But sometimes those crowds work in your favor, because they can easily veer you, as I noted earlier, off the beaten path and in front of a booth that you would not have considered visiting. Friday’s crowd unknowingly steered me over to Paige Braddock’s corner and she was kind enough to let me check out a complimentary copy of Jane’s World. I’m going to be honest: I’m not the kind of guy who buys gay comics; I’m pretty much a superhero/adventure dude through and through, with a deep appreciation of comics as an art form. Still, I found Jane’s World a pleasant surprise, a thoughtful character study starring a gay protagonist that is a far, far cry from the “Hey, look! Batwoman’s a lesbian!” mentality currently in vogue.

I met Frank Espinosa, creator of Rocketo. What a nice guy. I had a $3.75 jalapeno pretzel. What horrible nacho cheese to dip it in (but I felt fine). I was interviewed by some cable station, Fuel-something-or-other. The little guy had his picture taken with Lou Ferrigno. What a treat. I was able to locate some back issues in the Golden Age/Silver Age Pavilion: Hot Wheels, Sinister House of Secret Love/Secrets of Sinister House, The Mighty Thor, Doom Patrol and Challengers of the Unknown. I bought the complete run of the intriguing and Silver Age-indebted Silver Comics in the Small Press section. I bought my first manga comics: The complete run of Oz, The Manga. I met Lara Parker, Angelique of Dark Shadows. I unintentionally bumped into several small children (and I had my foot stepped on six times, and my right hand once while sitting down!). I had a nice chat with Dennis Mallonee, writer of Liberty Girl (he was one of the first people I spoke with at the Con, and that was last Thursday, which now seems like ages ago). One day I easily found parking, the next day took me an hour to find a spot. The sunsets on the way back up Interstate 15 in the early evenings were beautiful, and the thunderstorm coming home on Saturday night was awesome and terrifying. And, no, I will not see Snakes On a Plane. But I’ll always treasure my signed copy of Batman Illustrated by Neal Adams. I had so much fun I even had to take a picture of a portion of my loot. Note the Elongated Man. I even scored an action figure of one of my favorite Justice Leaguers!

Finally, I purchased a copy of Gilbert Hernandez’s new graphic novel Sloth and was thrilled to have the writer/artist sign it for me at the convention. I read the book Sunday night and as much as I want to discuss it, I feel like I can’t without giving away too much of the story, which takes some complicated twists.

This much I can safely reveal: Sloth is about Miguel Serra, a teenager who puts himself into a self-induced coma and awakens exactly a year later. After intensive therapy — in which Miguel is given a clean bill of health, with the exception that he moves at a much slower pace — he returns to school, his rock band, and his girlfriend. They set out to investigate the urban legend of a goatman who supposedly lives in the local lemon orchards and has the ability to change bodies with anyone he encounters. And that’s all I can really say about Sloth. You have to read it to understand and experience why I’m holding back. I didn’t “get” the book the first time around, and I think you’ll understand why once you read it, but when I read it again all the jostling and compelling components fell into place. Oh, yes, it is indeed about teenage angst, and I know there’s a lot of that being written about in the comics world, but don’t let that deter you from Sloth. Gilbert Hernandez is a master storyteller and he’s at the top of his form in this fine book.

About The Author

Jim Kingman

Jim Kingman is a writer for Comics Bulletin