San Diego Comic Con 2015. It was everything they say. It was exhilarating and exhausting. It was sensory overload and yet it could be intimate. It was one of the most remarkable experiences I’ve ever enjoyed and I did it on a press pass courtesy of your friend and mine, Jason Sacks, the driving force behind Comics Bulletin.
When the opportunity presented itself, I just couldn’t say no. So many of my interviewees have waxed rhapsodic about the experiences they’d had there. I can still hear Jim Mooney’s voice: “Wow, wow, wow! It’s the biggest and the best. The Silver Tuna!” That it is, Jim. That it is.
Day One, aka Preview Night, involved the logistics of everything. Finding Jason and some of the other members of the crew, getting to the motel from the airport and settling in and getting a nice bite to eat. I’d only been to San Diego once before, for work and the only memorable part of that trip was visiting Old Town, so for all intents and purposes, this was a whole new experience all the way around. It was as lovely and scenic as I remembered and I chuckled to myself as I looked at the weather forecast for the week, which might have varied by 2 degrees on any given day.
The accommodations were great and the location ideal. After getting our badges and a nice dinner it was off to preview night to see what there was to be seen. Daniel Elkin mentioned in his piece the importance of a wing man and I did my best, but since my day job keeps me on some early hours, I inevitably ended up forging my own way. In fact, on preview night I was tagging along with Daniel and Justin when they went to the end of a very, very long line. At about that point, Justin turned to me and said, “You’ve got your badge already, so you could, like, go in.” “Ah.”
Into the breach.
Since Jason had told us ahead of time to have fun and if we managed to do some material along the way, by all means do so, but no assignments, I spent a lot of my time feeling like Goober in the Big City: “Go-o-o-o-ll-ee.” First and foremost, I had some creators to look up. And at the top of my list was the one and only Bernie Wrightson. Bernie has been dealing with some health issues lately, so I nervously kept up with his Facebook feed and his lovely bride Liz said they were still coming, but he might need to reduce his table time to rest up. Fortunately he was there and I’d written him to say I’d likely be at San Diego, so he was forewarned. I eagerly stepped up to his table, stuck my hand out and he said, “Hi, Bryan.” “Uh…my voice isn’t all that distinctive…” “I read your badge.” “Ha! Of course.” So we talked for a bit, and I got an autographed print of Batman and Swamp Thing from him, but I was careful not to monopolize his time and then it was off to see whom else I could see.
I shook hands with Mike Mignola, who gave me a wonderful interview for my Gotham by Gaslight piece for BACK ISSUE, and had a great chat with Carl Potts and purchased his book. All too soon Preview Night was over, so I began preparations for the annual Comics Bulletin dinner.
I enjoyed it thoroughly and made my way back to the room as I’d been up since about 4 that morning and here it was already close to midnight. A new day will soon dawn…
And dawn it did…at about 5 a.m. These are the hours I keep, folks. Unfortunately I forgot I hadn’t reset my watch from Mountain Time, so I was there at the hall a little extra early. One of the first things I wanted to take in was the 75 year anniversary panel marking the Superman radio show. Anthony Tollin moderated and Paul Levitz and Len Wein along with Mark Waid were on the panel. It was interesting to learn the influence the radio show had on the comic stories of the day.
More exploring afterward and visits with Jim Steranko, David Spurlock, Ramona Fradon, who was as kind and wonderful as everyone says and sold me a nice little penciled sketch card of Metamorpho, Sapphire Stagg and Java and to my surprise and delight I turned one corner and there was Russ Heath. Only in San Diego! Soon it was time for an interview at the Dark Horse booth and I set up another with Len Wein to talk about his new runs on Swamp Thing and Metal Men. Watch this space! No sign of Sam Glanzman, but I further managed to chat with John Morrow and Jon B. Cooke at the TwoMorrows booth, since I’d done work for both of them.
At one point I had the misfortune to be strolling by the Walking Dead exhibit and as best I can tell the cast members suddenly appeared and the crowd lost_their_minds. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t see anything. It was a sea of shrieking humanity with their phones extended above them at the limits of their reach. It lasted about 10 minutes. Wow.
Friday was my last full day as I had to fly Saturday morning, but in some ways, it was the best, if most hectic day. The crowds were getting bigger. Security was professional, but getting a lot more assertive. “Move along, keep moving, let’s go, people.” Another panel covered the 75th anniversary of Will Eisner’s Spirit, moderated by Paul Levitz with panelists like Sergio Aragones and Danny Fingeroth and yet another 75th anniversary panel covered the Joker, Catwoman and Robin and included the wonderful Lee Meriwether as a panelist. At one point the moderator asked who created Robin and after an awkward silence, yours truly couldn’t help himself: “Jerry Robinson!” Greg Capullo suggested I should be on the panel. If only…
A couple of more interviews and a few more encounters with Eric Powell, Batton Lash and the wonderful Tony Puryear and Erika Alexander. I gotta tell you about that one. They were doing a signing at the Dark Horse booth and Erika looked at me and said, “We’ve met.” “Well sort of.” “How do we know each other?” “Do you remember giving me an interview a few months ago on Concrete Park for Comics Bulletin?” She looked at my badge and said, “Bryan! That was the best interview! Tony, guess who this is?” They were as warm and wonderful in person as on the phone and I *ahem* got a kiss on the cheek from Erika Alexander. Yeah. This guy. During the course of the conversation a shriek went up and Stan Lee and his entourage shuffled past. Again, only in San Diego.
And again, it was over all too soon. I bunked down for the night after getting a little Kansas City barbecue into my system and got on my way as quietly as I could. You couldn’t have asked for better comrades for the journey, even though I saw precious little of them. This event is HUGE folks.
They say you never forget your first time and I’ll never forget this experience.