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 Comic-Con 2010

Jerry Stratton, July 26, 2010

Spotlight on Kurt Busiek

I also got a new camera a few weeks ago, and I’m still playing with the settings. This was at the Kurt Busiek spotlight, and some folks came dressed as Astro City characters.

I have a couple of traditions I try to follow every year at Comic-Con. On preview night, I go to Adventure Retail to see what cool stuff they have on sale. I picked up a whole bunch of GURPS historical references. I don’t play GURPS, but some of their historical books are phenomenal as general gaming resources. I didn’t buy as much from them as I normally do—they also have great toys, and I used to load up on them for gifts, but my nieces and nephews have all reached that awkward age where they’re too young to realize they’re not too old for toys.

Then I go to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund booth to see what books they have that I can buy without feeling guilty about spending money. I picked up Warren Ellis’s nextwave: agents of H.A.T.E. there, and a Joe Hill graphic novel about a haunted house, Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft. I had just finished browsing through it and was looking at something else when tyg1 came by; he mentioned the author a few minutes later independently of the book2; so of course I had to buy it. Not that I need much encouragement to buy books about horror houses.

Either before or after preview night, I eat at The Field, because they have an amazing Irish breakfast.

From then on I have no traditions other than the trivia contest until the end of the con. Sunday afternoon I drive back by way of Mona Lisa, pick up a nice sandwich, and sit in front of the television set, surrounded by unread comics, watching a DVD of old television shows. This year it was the first couple of episodes of the fifth season of Bewitched.

Then I go to sleep until I wake up.3 I slept thirteen hours last night. Another tradition happily upheld.

Representation as Resistance

The Comic Arts Conference continues to provide a venue for fascinating scholarly presentations.

I used to write these things every night. Saturday night’s was always the worst: I’d come back on Thursday at 11 or 12, and write until 1; then I’d come back on Friday at 12 or 1, and write until 2. Then on Saturday I wouldn’t get back until 2 and would try to write something coherent before I had to get up the next day at 7 again. I can’t do that any more. Even with the extra hour or two of sleep due to the new parking system that doesn’t require coming in at 6:30 and watching the sun come up over the convention center4 or, more recently, watching cardboard monsters rise in the park across the tracks.

The biggest comic-related disappointment this year was the lack of a Comic Relief booth. For the past few years I’ve picked up most of my new comics from them. They were the only retailer of new comics who displayed their books in an easily browsable manner. It made it easy for me to see if any new Astro City collections had come out in the last year, or any new Warren Ellis, or Grant Morrison, or new stuff I didn’t even know I wanted.

Because the Comic Relief booth was gone, however, I bought a whole lot more old comics than normal. I picked up a couple of strange Superman books by J.M. DeMatteis: The Kansas Sighting and JLA/Spectre: Soul War.5 Because I bought the latter, a Len Wein Superman/Spectre team-up also caught my eye: Superman flies so fast and so far that he breaks the barrier to eternity, and the Spectre needs to stop him from entering heaven.

One of the comics I picked up at the CBLDF was Warren Ellis’s nextwave: agents of H.A.T.E. I haven’t finished reading it yet6, but it involves Fin Fang Foom as one of the obscure, pointless Marvel characters that he brought back to life. So when I also ran across Steve Gerber’s The Legion of Night and discovered that it, also, involved that obscure dragon, I had to pick it up also. It looks like it was meant to start off a series. We are all dreams in the dragon, and the dragon awakes.

Ray Bradbury at Comic-Con 2010

Ray Bradbury’s answers come a little slower as he nears his 90th birthday, but he’s still sharper than most of the people asking questions.

I also picked up several missing issues from the silver and bronze ages. These are often so strange as to be even odder than comics by people trying to be odd. The Falcon rescues the President of the United States from a black street gang—and convinces the President to call the kidnapping a conference with advisors. Lois Lane lives for “24 hours as a black woman!

“The Flash has become a creature of living sound—and this is the day the music dies!

Ah, yes.

Even though it seems that there are fewer comic retailers every year, we still have the spotlights and remembering program sessions. These are fascinating, whether the artist is alive—as with Kurt Busiek, Denny O’Neil, or Jerry Robinson—or dead, as with Jack Kirby, Will Eisner, and, this year, Dick Giordano. I knew that Giordano’s name was all over some of my favorite comics from the seventies and eighties, but I had no idea how well-loved he was within the industry.

One of the highlights of the convention every year is getting to hear Ray Bradbury. He’s been coming to these since the first one, and he’s always outspoken.

On turning 90: “It’s been ninety goddamned incredible years.”

Why is he still writing? “I have more work to do.”

If you love to do something, do it. Short stories, novels, screenplays, painting? “I’ve loved all these things, and I did them… I’m the world’s greatest lover.”

He doesn’t try to predict the future; he writes what his characters would do, and what they would make. And that ends up predicting the future. He recommended learning on your own time—and also thinks the Internet is a bore. And digital books the same. Digital books are “books with a computer screen.” I’ve been thinking the same thing lately: digital books are the equivalent of filmed plays. They need to do their own goddamned thing.7

And the author of Fahrenheit 451 isn’t a fan of government power. He got a big applause when he said that “Abraham Lincoln spoke of government of the people, by the people, and for the people. We don’t need more big government. We need more big people.” Anyone reading this blog regularly knows I agree with that. We need more leaders like Lincoln and we need more artists like Bradbury.

Stimulus overflow

Can’t get away from politics even at Comic-Con. But as Bradbury noted, when government gets bigger, it’s harder to escape.

And I picked up the third issue of the Ray Bradbury Chronicles. This four-volume set is (at least for the first three volumes) a very nice collection of adaptions of his shorter stories.

Places I like to avoid at Comic-Con include the Top Shelf booth. It’s very difficult to walk away from them without spending lots of money on new things to stuff my tiny apartment with. This year, that pile included the first three issues of Dodgem Logic8, a very strange magazine co-founded by Alan Moore. It’s in the same tradition that includes things like the Berkeley Barb and Common Sense. I know this because Moore wrote a history of “Going Underground” for the first issue.

Besides Alan Moore, it’s also got Steve Aylett, author of the incredibly odd Lint.

This is not your typical propaganda mag. It is filled with comedic conspiracy theories, instructions on growing plants in abandoned lots, calls to save energy by living off of your friends, and recipes for lemon pudding. The first issue also came with a CD of “50 years of Northampton music”, the second with a comic book written and drawn by Alan Moore, Astounding Weird Penises, and the third with an iron-on of some breasty female, courtesy Melinda Gebbie.

Am I going to buy them next year when there are twelve issues I haven’t read going for $60? Probably not. But this is a strange, weird, and lovable experiment for all of us who think the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers are high philosophy.

I may have more later, but I probably won’t. The fifth season of Bewitched is calling.

  1. I suppose nowadays I have to explain who tyg is; he’s a friend from the old rec.arts.comics Usenet newsgroups. We generally cross paths at least once at Comic-Con.

  2. I don’t remember the context; I think Hill won an award of some kind. Or it may have had something to do with tyg’s advice on trimming a mustache.

  3. I always take the Monday after the con off. It is a moral imperative.

  4. They used to let people wait on the water side of the convention center, which was very relaxing and a great place to sit back and read. Nowadays pre-open Comic-Con is locked down tighter than a presidential convoy.

  5. But only the first of each of those two-issue series. So I don’t know how they end. I’m not sure I can wait until Comic-Con 2011 to find out, and given the dwindling number of comic book retailers, I might not be able to find it by waiting anyway.

  6. Update: I just finished reading nextwave: agents of H.A.T.E. and it is awesome. This is what The Champions would have been if it contained refugees from Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol instead of from the old X-Men and Avengers. My life has taken on new meaning!

  7. That said, I still have Eucalyptus on my iPod Touch. I still use it to read things—but not nearly as much as when I first got it.

  8. In my defense, I bought the first issue on Thursday, and bought the other two on Friday or Saturday (memory fades with age) after reading part of the first one while waiting to see Penn and Teller.

  1. <- Wonder Benatar
  2. Know-it-all advice ->