Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Book Reviews: From political histories to bad comics, to bad comics of political histories. And the occasional rant about fiction and writing.

San Diego Saudade Con

Jerry Stratton, July 17, 2013

Comic-Con Exhibition Floor 2003

I don’t have much in the way of photos from the early years—I couldn’t afford a camera. This, I think, is from 2003, looking out over the exhibition floor from the midway eating area.

Sarah Hoyt had a nice blog post yesterday about saudade, “a near sick longing for days gone by/someone who is dead or far away/a condition you can’t be in again.”

I was feeling a little bit of it today as I biked into work on the opening day of the San Diego Comic-Con. The shuttle signs are up, the traffic’s building, and I’m going to work. I even had tickets, but decided a few months ago to sell them back, both to get a little extra money and because it’s become progressively less enjoyable.

In other words, it’s not as fun as it used to be.

I think one of the catalysts was going to ComicFest last year. My first comic-con was 1989; I was living in Hollywood going to guitar school, and had friends in San Diego. I’d visit them occasionally because it was easier to get to the beach by going to San Diego than it was to navigate traffic west to Los Angeles’s beaches. One summer weekend visit, I mentioned to one of my friends that there was this really big comic book convention in San Diego—he should find out when it is, and we should go.

This was before the Internet was big enough that you could just go online and find everything. You had to search it out. So I didn’t find out until I was back in Los Angeles on Monday, when I got a phone call from him that the convention was the very next weekend, do you want to go? This was one of the summers of Ninja Turtle Mania, and the Turtles themselves were showing up; one of my apartment-mates in Los Angeles was a huge fan, so we had to go. Walked up to the doors at the San Diego Concourse Convention and Performing Arts Center, bought our tickets, and went in. There were, according to Wikipedia, 11,000 people that year.

Within a couple of years I was meeting three groups of people: Usenet junkies, academics, and indie folks (due partly to having been to the much tinier Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland, in 1995 or so). I heard about the Comic Arts Conference in its second year, 1993, when it was still off-site at the Horton Grand.

I’m definitely going to miss the Comic Arts Conference. Even as Comic-Con became a sea of insanity, CAC remained an island of calm.

Death in Black

Death comes to the con!

I’m also going to miss the Pro/Fan Trivia Match, although I’m not going to miss it being from 3:45 to 5:00 on Sunday, the last day of the Con. Back in my day, kids, the con barely went into the afternoon on Sundays. And we loved it! Because by Sunday morning we were completely wasted and burned out and everyone wandered like zombies through Horton Plaza. It’ll be interesting to see who the timeslot helps most, the fans or the pros.

Through Comic-Con I got to meet Steve Gerber in person, was introduced to Donna Barr, and discovered Grant Morrison. And a thousand other experiences that aren’t coming to mind now. Loading what seemed like half of the indie crowd into my Mustang convertible, with the top down for more space, and driving to Ocean Beach. Getting Ivan Brunetti into trouble with my comic-con report the next morning. Ray Bradbury, his audience increasing every year. The first and only Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode I’ve ever seen was the musical episode on Sundays, a great way to wind down. The Mustang fifteen years later breaking down just outside the parking garage in heavy traffic. Meeting friends, some of whom actually live in San Diego, once a year, usually randomly despite the ever-growing size of the convention. Walking out of the convention hall at 1 AM when, even at present-day Comic-Con, no one is around except the true odds.

The photos alongside this post are from 2003—I think. That was the first year I had a camera. It was a video camera that took “stills” that were really a single video frame extended over six seconds. That’s why the quality is low for a digital photo, even for the time. Before 2003, the only memory aids I have for Comic-Con are the wonderful souvenir books. Except for the old Usenet comic-con reports, but I’m not going to read over them right now to refresh my memory, because I’m writing this over my lunch break at the office and I don’t have the time. And this, I suppose, really is my last comic-con report.

If you’re going to Comic-Con this year, remember: stay up late, get up early, shower every day, and eat after midnight.

And take photos.

In response to Welcome to Comic-Con 2012!: Everything changes, and Comic-Con is no exception. It’s Wednesday night and I’m down in Mission Valley at the Town & Country picking up my badge for 2012, rather than in The Field eating an Irish breakfast. But this year I don’t have a preview night badge and last year they stopped serving the breakfast during the con.

  1. <- Expanding Comic-Con