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The Indisputable Matt Maxwell Presents:






I was on the road to disappointment, no doubt about it. My biggest hope for the San Jose Super-Con this year was twofold. One: that I’d get a chance to meet Jordi Bernet and chat with him a bit, maybe get a commission sketch from him. Jordi Bernet was a no-show. To be fair, he hadn’t been on the guest list for several weeks, and I was just hoping that was a mistake, that somehow he’d still make it and make the trip down more worthwhile.

That was a false hope.

Two, I’d been praying long and hard that the show wasn’t in the same venue that it had been in last year. That venue being the “South Hall” of the San Jose Convention center. It gets “the quotes” because the “South Hall” isn’t a fixed structure with niceties like air conditioning or masonry walls or carpets or walls that don’t echo like a typical gymnasium. See, the “South Hall” is a big fumigator’s tent made of stickily glossy vinyl. And like vinyl, it doesn’t breathe worth a good goddamn. The air that you’re breathing? That’s the same air that everyone has been breathing for the last nine hours. Enjoy.

People used to (rightly) complain about the San Diego Convention Center being too damn hot and muggy for anyone’s (short of Killer Croc or perhaps The Lizard’s) comfort. The atmosphere at SDCC used to get assertive, threaten you for your lunch money and then give you a swirly in the men’s bathroom. People were afraid of it and not without reason. It was Bad Air. It had an attitude.

Well, I’ve met that Bad Air’s Big Bad Brother, and swam in it last year. Not all that much fun. Particularly when you consider that the weather last year for the show was cool, enough so that I’d wished I’d brought a sweater while trundling around in shorts and a Hawaiian shirt. This year? It’s hot, even in SF it’s hot. Which means that landlocked San Jose would be even worse. Which means that we’re looking at Perfect Storm conditions for a sweat monsoon inside the “South Hall.”

So imagine my heard rolling around my throat before dropping down through the soles of my shoes as I saw the neatly printed signs at the San Jose Convention Center saying “San Jose Super-Con ----> South Hall”.

Yeah, it was gonna be a good couple of days.

And of course, I’ve been spoiled at shows recently. Portland and Seattle were both filled with friends of mine, as well as being thriving shows with a growing base of support and plenty of interesting guests from all parts of the comics spectrum: from tinier than tiny minicomics to The Guy What Kilt Captain America and his permanent electron cloud of fans.

San Jose, by contrast, isn’t a big show. I know only a handful of folks in the area (including The Most Hated Man In Comics), the venue has all the appeal and atmosphere of a minimum security penitentiary, and it’s just far enough away that I can’t really drive back home to sleep in my own bed for the night.

It is, as James Sime is so fond of quoting, good to be a gangsta.

At least I had some interesting company. Right next to my humble table at the front of the “South Hall” were the Gumby folks. You know, the Eisner-winning comic for younger audiences, Gumby. The brain-melting and shyly subversive oneiric claymation journey into the depths of Art Clokey’s fevered imagination. The comic itself is created by Bob Burden and Rick Geary (with wonderfully airy coloring by Steve Oliff), and one of the more delightful reads I’ve had in the last few years. So yeah, I got the trade of the first three issues, and you should too, if not for the cameo by the ghost of Johnny Cash alone. Maybe the giant porkchop would convince you, then?

As for me? I moved some books. Some. About half of what I did in Seattle, which given the size of the show is better than I expected, really. I noticed that people were either sold on the book as soon as they saw “Cowboys and Werewolves” or they weren’t really interested. I’m not entirely sure what that means, other than perhaps the quality of the story and art doesn’t really matter to the majority of my readers (which isn’t entirely comforting) or I’m a master of the quick pitch (which is only a touch better.) I know. I probably worry too much.

The rest of the show is actually a pretty decent one-day show. Let’s be honest. There’s not two days of content here, but enough to fill up a leisurely day of shopping and browsing and chatting. Though I could easily lose a day by flipping through the copious bargain bins (both ratty singles and cheap trades – dropped some money at Ryan Higgins’ Comics Conspiracy booth, and may head back today).

Okay, doors open. Time to go to work. More later (as the previous was written on Sunday Morning before the show opened up, and everything you’re reading now is through the lens of the drive back and on a blessedly quiet Monday morning).

So yes, we’re back in the fumigation tent. You know you’ve arrived when the badge lanyards are sponsored by BAD BOYS BAIL BONDS. I don’t know if that’s frightening or awesome. Like comics, it’s probably a blend of both, at some moments inspiring and others an abomination. I set up my humble table, stood up the banner (I got it at Kinko’s for an entirely too reasonable price), put out the books and bookplates and postcards, took a long pull of the three-dollar bottle of Diet Coke, cold and sparkling bitter on the back of my already parched throat, and put on my game face.

That lasted for about ten minutes.

Read the GUMBY trade with one eye and scanned the aisles with the other, keeping watch for potential customers. There were a few. Some takers, even. But there were a lot of people who stuck to the middle of the aisle, arms in as if they were walking between two rows of lepers and the slightest touch would infect them. There were the dazed and confused folks who looked like they didn’t know where they were or why they were there. Then there were the determined folks, comics in hand, on the way to get them slabbed I bet.

Yeah, there was a slabbing service at the show. And that’s more than a little sad. Once slabbed, a comic is never read. Ever again. It suffers a lonely Phantom-Zone like existence, where it can look out on the world it once knew and only remember the past. Don’t do this to your comics. Put them in mylars if you must, but be sure to give them some air. Be sure to read them from time to time and remember why you treasured them in the first place. And if they’re an investment…well, there’s not much I can do for you, is there? Best of luck with that. Be sure to let me know how that works out. I’ll just be over here writing or re-reading my MICRONAUTS collection.

Talked with the folks at the Emonic booth next to me. I sure hope I got that name right, or I’m going to feel real bad. They put out some very nice contemporary art that certainly runs right with the JUXTAPOZ crowd, but has a softer line and more a feeling of youthful innocence, as opposed to the willful irony that often seems to be at work amongst their contemporaries. Apparently they’re working on a comic story, which I’d like to see. The fine art pieces are all well and good, but stories are where it’s at.

I marveled at the HARDWARE WARS display just across the aisle from me, having loved that when I was a kid. Yes, it’s a STAR WARS parody, and it’s very broad as we say in the business. But it’s a slice of my childhood. Seeing the real stuff in the flesh gave me kind of a twinge that I didn’t expect. Next to the HARDWARE WARES (see what I did there?) was local horror host Mr. Lobo and his sometimes partner in crime The Queen of Trash, who is less a woman and more an elemental force of nature. Apparently they’re local to me. Who knew? I’d investigate further, if I, y’know, actually watched TV. Mr. Lobo himself was natty in suit and tie, resplendent behind the ranks of DVDs on sale, cellophane-sheathed and waiting for a good home.

Sold some more books, passed out more postcards, but didn’t make too much of an effort to flag down passers-by. If you’re not lingering long enough to make eye contact, then I’m probably not going to sell you one way or another. Does that make me a bad person?

Saw the Most Hated Man In Comics briefly. I wonder when he’s going to get tired of me calling him that. It’s probably not even true, but the title just so fits him. But like a true operator, he didn’t stick around long. He’s got hate to generate, see.

Nearly fell asleep from the combination of body-temperature air and CO2 intoxication. I decided to brave the heat (and near-total lack of local knowledge) to find something to eat and just breathe air that hadn’t been breathed a million times before. I swore a lot before I ended up finding a place that did takeaway (a salad; it’s good for you!), ordered and drank some more soda. That’s gonna catch up with me, I know. I’ll have to learn to carry stuff around, like the GUMBY crew who fueled up on chocolate don-ettes and Mountain Dew. Gives them the strength of ten men, I hear.

Walked back through the crowd on the floor, marveling at the sweatstains on shirts, like continents of discomfort and perspiration on a sea of bodies. Only had to interrupt my lunch twice to take care of business, but that’s better than no interruptions, I suppose.

The afternoon dragged on, just a bit. Like a detention in a stuffy classroom and in the WRATH OF KHAN, hours would seem like days. I bobbed, heat-punchy and half-drunk, feeling like a prisoner in my own skin before things were over.

Finally made my way to the hotel (‘cause two hours is just too far to drive back), dodged the Prom crowd that had apparently descended on the place, who were mixed in with the new age vibing convention crowd who were simultaneously housed there. It made for an interesting half an hour, weaving in-between cheap tuxedoes, exposed adolescent flesh and well-to-do folks who were being asked, most earnestly, “Now what are you willing to do to get there?” I didn’t want to know, so I ran for the elevator.

Shower. Three glasses of water. Better. Time for some dinner. Sushi. Sake, maguro, tekka maki, miso soup, spicy chicken teriyaki, green tea. Oh yes, and dropping some salmon right into the soy sauce, obliterating my shirt and pants. Even the Czech judge gave that swan dive a 10. Rinse. Back to the room. Write. Try to sleep.


Awoke, lay in bed a moment or two until the guy in the room next to me decided to very loudly announce that he’d had entirely too much of a good time the night before. I could literally hear the color and viscosity of the vomitus as it launched forcefully from Mr. Life of the Party and hurled into the porcelain that must have been but a foot away on the other side of the wall. At least I hope it was that close. If it was any further away, I didn’t want to know about it.

Breakfast. Check out. Enjoy the beautiful morning that was neither too hot nor too cold but perfectly enticing. You know, I really didn’t have to be there. I could find a nice park and get a book and just…not go to the show. That would be okay, right? Yeah, well, we all know the answer to that.

I headed over to the “South Hall” to see if I could get in a little early. Doors locked, but saw a small queue of folks at the side door. Man, those fans must be hard-up to be here an hour before the show opens. Oh, it’s more retailers, restocking after what must have been a good day. And to be fair, not everyone was having the sorta meh kind of day I’d had on Saturday. But you gotta put in the time anyways.

They announced very loudly when the show was going to open so that we all could brace ourselves for the stampede. It was coming. Any second now. Wait for it. Right…now.

Yeah. No stampede. Sunday morning is a dog. You just deal with it. I got myself a cup of coffee from the hotel across the way, who promised that they sold Peet’s coffee. Nice. Only when I got to the urn, it said “We proudly serve Starbuck’s coffee.” Now I’m not a Starbuck’s snob. Sometimes you just want a cup of coffee and not to fuss. But when I’m promised Peet’s and get Starbuck’s, I get a little shirty. Where I come from, we call that a bait and switch.

Was asked a couple times “Do you work here? I want to know where this obscure thing is.” Yeah, forgot to take off my freak flag. You know, the one with the BAD BOYS BAIL BONDS lanyard.

Sat down, saw a young woman who I’d sold a book to yesterday. She came over and asked for a SECOND copy, this one for her dad. Now that’s how it works. You hook one then you get them to hook the rest of the family for you. That sort of thing can’t happen enough.

Right after that, two guys sorta wandered up to the table and both of them got copies of STRANGEWAYS. Wow. What a great start to the day. Simply awesome.

Of course, those sales happened in the first 90 minutes and made up most of my total sales for the day. Moved a couple more copies in the afternoon, but there weren’t all that many folks to move them to. Talked with some of the costume folk who filtered through. Yesterday the Alien had been there (you’ve seen him if you’ve been to Wonder-Con (you can see him without the mask here but don’t click if you don’t like surprises being ruined) and apparently he had gotten so overheated that he’d nearly passed out the day before. He was seen later in a much more sensible Predator costume. At least I think it was more sensible. You know, black costumes just suck up all that sunlight and heat. There was one guy who’d been Rorschach on Saturday, but was Captain Kirk today. There’s some kind of commentary there, I’m sure, but I’m too tired to make it.

In spite of my “sell at all costs” attitude, I spent a lot of Sunday afternoon in an ambulatory fashion, talking to artists mostly: Darick Robertson (just shooting the breeze), Jimmie Robinson (why BOMB QUEEN is so terribly, terribly wrong; process stuff and What Next?) and Michael Golden (why AVENGERS ANNUAL #10 is indeed one of the best single issues of the 80s; why coloring on all those omnibus editions of old material is uniformly terrible). And really, I don’t feel bad at all for it. By mid-afternoon, the show had begun to break down to vendors chatting with one another (or @!*$#ing swearing into their cell phones, like one guy who did so for three minutes while I waited to make a purchase that didn’t happen because he’d rather curse a blue streak in to his mouthpiece than sell me an Anguiras figure for my son) and folks socializing more than actual Convention Type Business.

I did overhear that some folks were pretty unhappy with the prices asked for by the celebrities in attendance. Thirty bucks for your own snapshot with a guy? Twenty for an 8x10 and more if you want it signed? I dunno, but that sort of thing seems pretty egregious from where I stand. But then I can’t think of anyone I’d pay to take my picture with, other than perhaps Frank Lloyd Wright or maybe Gustav Klimt. Okay, maybe Lauren Bacall around the time of THE BIG SLEEP. Maybe. Otherwise? Forget it. I suppose it’s little to ask for some people, but not for me.

And more or less like that, it was over. Time to get the hell out of Dodge. Said my farewells to the GUMBY guys, Mel and Clark (even got a nice sketch from Mel the day before – a Blockhead, natch) and promised to look ‘em up in San Diego. They got some stories, man.

Dropped my things off at the car and hoped to get dinner at the Peruvian place I’d seen not far from the hotel. I really needed just to sit down and get some food and more caffeine. As it was, the place was closed on Sunday, so I was going to settle for Subway right next door. Talk about betrayed expectations.

Inside the restaurant, there’s nobody but the two people behind the counter, me and someone who could have passed for a bald Walter Kovacs. It all comes back to Rorschach, see. He said something about “You know all those people who disappeared? That’ll be us one day. Just do us up like that.” Of course, it really takes some of the sting out of your crazy guy monologue when you throw in an aside to say that you didn’t want mayonnaise on that sandwich. But then he turned the crazy back on and told the poor woman at the counter to throw out the sandwich she’d just made and start all over again. Yeah, this was gonna end well. You just can’t please crazy. Don’t even try.

Settled for just the caffeine and found the way back home. Cranked up the iPod (Joy Division first at bat) and drove home through the golden rolling hills of the northern California evening. Golden, golden, golden.

Matt Maxwell

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