By Beau Smith
San Diego Comic Convention. I’m not there. Do I miss it? Does it miss me?
I attended my first San Diego Comic Con in 1987 while working as VP of Sales and Marketing for Eclipse Comics. It was in a small convention hall and the booths were basically card tables with some backdrops. It took me all of a minute or two to get from one end of the show to the other. It was all about comics and the only toy/movie stuff was vintage stuff that comic book dealers were selling.
The show had a family feel to it. By that, I mean everyone there felt like family. You knew almost everyone and in most cases everyone liked each other. You didn’t have hotel problems unless you want to count dodging street drunks, hookers and other shifty characters a problem. There wasn’t a Gas Lamp area. Instead the streets were lined with porn shops, tattoo parlors and “Sports” Bars where the main sport was seeing how many rubes you could bust in the head with a beer bottle.
As the years passed by, things changed, slowly but surely. The convention moved to the huge fancy home it has now, even thought it only took up a very small part of it. Newer and nicer hotels were built and they cleaned up the streets and made downtown San Diego a great and semi-safe place to be.
I noticed the subtle changes when I found I had less and less time after hours to hang out with friends for beers and dinner. More and more events and activities were planned that were con related and you were “on the clock” most every day. We still had fun, but you could feel the changes.
Through the years I rarely missed a San Diego Con. As I mentioned, I was representing Eclipse Comics after that, Image Comics, Todd McFarlane, McFarlane Toys and IDW Publishing. The last time I attended SDCC was the only time I was there as a freelance writer and not doing marketing business for a company. Most of the time my trip and expenses were paid for by the company I worked for; that can tend to spoil a fella. I never abused that privilege, but it was nice to know that I could take a party of retailers out for dinner, drinks and entertainment and not have to worry about if I could pay for it or not.
In later years, as the con got bigger and bigger, the show could become a bit of a grind. I found myself having to make sure I was in shape before I went out there. I had to plan my “boy’s night out” and limit it to one night. After all, I was there to work and I was raised to do my best for those that employed me. ‘Sides, when you have meetings early in the morning that could make or lose your company a lot of serious money, you want to be the most alert guy in the room. It pays off.
My time working for Todd McFarlane was the best of times and the weirdest of times. In the 1990s Todd could do little wrong in comics and toys and at times I felt like Laird Hamilton surfing a 60 foot wave. Rooming with Todd was like being in the eye of a funny talking hurricane. We were up at the crack of dawn and ran until, well, the crack of dawn. I don’t mean partying. Todd doesn’t drink or embrace the bar life. His energy levels are on the same level as fellow comic creator Billy Tucci Shi, Sgt. Rock.)
You should have tried to move across a jammed packed convention floor with Todd in tow during the height of his comic book career. Todd always took time to talk to folks and unlike some of his other Image partners ? though not all – he was always nice to everyone. Todd rarely carried a wallet or money or wore a watch. That meant I had to be ready to whup out the company American Express card and haul him to the next meeting we had and make sure he was on time. Most of the time we had meetings from the start of the day until….well, like this one time, we had been going hard at it since 6 am. Something very important had come up and we needed to have a meeting with Steve Geppi and Bill Schanes of Diamond Distribution. This was during the days when there was more than one distributor and everyone was trying to sign publishers on exclusive.
Todd and I had meetings and functions all evening long, as did Steve and Bill. It was well into the wee hours of the morning. Todd and I looked at the schedule and saw that we had 4 A.M. open. That’s right, 4 A.M., as IN THE MORNING.
I called Bill Schanes up and he said that he and Steve could meet with us…at 4 in the morning. Todd was the only one that thought this was normal and fun. I think I can speak for myself, Bill and Steve, fun was NOT the first word that came into our heads. The meeting was important and that was what really mattered. The relationship between Diamond and Image was important and if 4 AM was the time, then so be it.
It was a good meeting that went on until 6 AM. It changed the way Image and Diamond would do business from there on out. Even in my sleep-deprived state, I have to say it was entertaining. Rarely was a meeting with Todd anything but boring. Todd and I caught about an hour of sleep, or in my case a coma like state, and then we set out for another day of the same.
My early SDCC days with Eclipse Comics were innocent and a lot of fun. It was the last of the era of multiple distributors, large per capita retailers, close relationships between publishing rivals and what I like to refer to as “The Closing Of The Old West”.
My years at SDCC with Image and McFarlane started out simple and innocent, but quickly changed into serious business and a tsunami of industry change. As I said before, it was the best of times, it was the weirdest of times.
My years with IDW Publishing was a throwback to my Eclipse days in the fact that we were a small company made up of old Eclipse friends, Like IDW President and co-founder, Ted Adams and writer Steve Niles, as well as bright new creators like Ashley Wood and Ben Templesmith. We started out with one Ashley Wood book at SDCC and look where IDW is today. It’s a nice, full circle touch that Dean Mullaney, former Publisher and co-founder of Eclipse Comics is now doing a wonderful line of books through IDW. This is the kind of stuff I got into the comic book business for.
I left IDW about 4 years ago and became a freelance writer full-time. (Well, almost 100%. I still do some side marketing work for various companies in comics when the urge hits and the opportunity is interesting.) It’s also been about 4 years since I attended SDCC. Oh, I know of the crush that it’s become, and part of that I don’t miss, but there’s also a part of it that I do miss. It’s just like boxing. You don’t really enjoy feeling your ribs get sledge hammered or your nose getting busted up, but somehow it all becomes worth it when you’re in the middle of the fight, breathing through your mouth because your nose is caked with dry blood, one eye is swollen half shut and you think you want to hear that bell ring. Then you see the opening, give ’em one to the ribs and seal it with an uppercut that shakes their whole family tree. In reality you may be standing in the middle of a half taken down booth with the sound of forklifts running by, but in your head, you made it through the fight of your life and somebody is calling you champ.
So to answer my own question, Do I miss the San Diego Comic Convention? “Yeah, I do.” Does it miss me?
I sure as hell hope so.
Chuck Dixon-The Greatest Show On Earth!
Kinda sounds like I should be introducing King Kong, doesn’t it. Well, he’s almost as tall and he’s certainly as hairy. I’m talking about legendary comic book writer, Chuck Dixon. My good friend will be doing a very rare tour of comic stores and this could be your only chance to see “The Great Silver Wookie” live and in person. Chuck is one of the best when it comes to talking to his readers and hearing what they have to say. If you can, please click on this link below and see if you can attend one of these store signings and meet the one of the few people that I’ve ever shared writing credits with. It will be…an experience. Oh, and choose to be a Facebook friend with Chuck while you’re at it. He has nowhere near as many friends as I do. Take pity on him.
Busted Knuckles Manly Cover of the Week: Marvel Adventures Super Heroes Featuring Captain America #12
Finally, a modern day cover with a sense of old school adventure. Captain America tied up and sinking underwater, upside down with what looks to be little hope. But then you look at Cap’s face. You see the gritted teeth, the ropes starting to burst and you know, yes you know, there’s an ass whuppin’ waiting for some bad guy when Cap busts loose and gets to the surface. Oh, pity the poor fool from Hydra, A.I.M. or Sons of the Serpent that did this to Cap. They will soon regret it. By the way, the story in the issue is also a lot of fun.
Busted Knuckles Babe of the Week: Denise Boutte
You know Denise Boutte best from the TV sit-com Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns, but you may also know this actress and former high school homecoming queen from Boston Legal, Way of the Vampires and Death Valley: the Revenge of Bloody Bill. She’s smart, talented and ain’t too bad to cast a lustful eye on. Check her out and dream that she’s checking you out. It works for me.
The Round Up
I’d like to thank all of you that sent emails and letter with your thoughts and prayers in the recent passing of my mom, Shirley Smith. I appreciate it and it means a lot to me. Thank you.
The last few weeks I’ve had to take care of my mom’s estate and other such adult stuff that no one enjoys doing. One of the nice things in this black cloud of work, is going through old family photos. My dad loved gadgets and anything that was high tech, from his early “Hi-Fi” stereo, his first Polaroid camera, his Kodak movie camera and so on. He would’ve loved the internet.
Anyway, my dad took photos, a lot of photos. My siblings and I didn’t realize just how many photos until we had to go through them in a couple of sittings. I found some that I thought you’d find amusing and I will share with you this week. Your chance to see that I haven’t always been the womanizing, beer drinking, politically incorrect, busted knuckle brawler that you know and love today. ‘Sides, I figured you’d love the chance to poke fun at me.
I warned you there’d be a nude photo of me…
Prove your manhood by visiting Beau at the Flying Fists Forum!