Fear and Loathing in San José 1997


As I walk the streets of San Francisco in search of comic books I can hear the revolution starting. Two bombs in San Francisco, one yesterday in San Diego, now another as well. The various news shows, on the other hand, have nothing to say except “look at the lines outside of Star Wars opening night”. Me, I'm on my way to San José for a comic convention. I feel the need for a fiddle and toga.

On the way to the bus station I pass the still-smoking burned-out hulk of an Astro Van. Next to it is a sign for “Fetish Market & Ball”. The newsstand at the train station sells “60s LPs”, mostly Moody Blues. They also have “Vintage Authentic German Hummel Figurines—Inquire Within”.

The snack bar is out of food until Monday so they're selling donuts instead. There are a half dozen restaurants in the area all claiming to open at 6:30, 7:00, or 8:00, none of which are open now, at 9 AM. Probably half of them are out furthering the revolution. The other half are hindering it. On the other hand, empty stomachs always heat revolutions. Fortunately I had a cheese blintz and a half at David's Delicatessen at midnight. I should be fine until the ractogether tonight.

I hit upon the Cartoon Art Museum yesterday, completely by accident. Four bucks to get in, they currently have an exhibit set up of Enli Bikal, a French artist, and local creator Brian Biggs. The Bikal display includes The Cold Equator, City of the Immortals, cool stuff like that. He uses Egyptian gods and goddesses like they were potato chips. The books are written in French, but translations are available for those of you who don't read the language of diplomacy and love. Vive la revolution!

The museum is well worth it, but the low cover charge is misleading. They have a couple of shelves of books for sale. I ended up getting a “Marijuana Girl” t-shirt (isn't she part of the new Legion?) and a bunch of postcards for those friends of mine stuck in warm, sunny, bombed out San Diego. I also picked up the Animal Man trade paperback and finally read The Coyote Gospel. I still consider Red Mask the thetical statement on the series. On the other hand, I still haven't seen Morrison's Justice League, and I'm unlikely to find any at San José. If there are any big two comics at APE they'll probably be in brown paper wrappings. Only 18 and older allowed beyond this point.. This means you, kids!

A young revolutionary next to me here at the depot is playing Indian dirges on a bamboo flute. She's probably a comics fan also. War has finally broken out at Burger King. More important than “no shoes-no service” is “no pizza-thirty minute seating only”. I also picked up a copy of Ralph Steadman's America. Most Americans will be familiar with Steadman through his work with Hunter S. Thompson. America is his view of the colonies, twisted beyond repair by two successive political conventions—in Miami—and the booze hell we call Kentucky Derby. Steadman also has an illustrated Alice in Wonderland which is not to be missed.

CC Suburbia and the Cookies of Doom

The graffiti beneath the bridges is more appealing than most of the comics in the depot's newsstand. I was right about “mainstream” comics being barred at the APE door. Vertigo was represented, but they were forced to leave all their comics in the bonfire outside. They were allowed to keep their black and white previews.

There was a girls' club in the back who did not show up for Lulu. “Suburbia” was their biggest zine and their pineapple cookies were incredible. I don't think there were any drugs involved. Honest, it was just an overdose of darn good comics.

Waste LA seems to have wound up. You'll recall that I raved about this photo-comic at the 96 San Diego Con. The wrap-up is just as good, and you even get a free flip comic. What a deal!

The Desert Peach ends up in the Transylvanian Forest with a skull on his head. Expect Donna to join the bad boy craze soon? Blood Peach? Peach Strike? The new Barr Girls series should fit right in. First issue of the High Concept Even Worse Than Gay Nazis collects all the old stuff. Look for it from Antarctic's “Venus” imprint.


Girls with Guns, Suicidal computer programs, cool stuff. Issues 1 and 2 available for $1 each, postage paid, from Mike Solko, 4319 Milo Ave., Bakersfield, CA 93313.
Bosom Enemies
More horses from Donna Barr.

Net Info

With his nation losing a world war, the vampire lord of Dothenridge must make the ultimate sacrifice. Written by Sean Glumace, penciled by Eleazar Del Rosario, inked by Patrick Gagné.
BaGal Comic Connection
A Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Comic Arts Newsmagazine. Issue #1 in April '97. From Hubris Press, Kristen Enos, publisher and editor.
Nonsense on Stilts
Humor column. The Dominatrix Barbie Homepage.

Back to the Scene

The Revenge of Hothead Paisan, the second collection of Diane DiMassa's creation, shows that high concepts that have no place in civilized society do not have to mature to remain viable. Hothead continues as in the first set and yet remains fresh. Don't miss it with a ten-foot second amendment.

The Northwest Cartoon Cookery is still available. Roberta Gregory (whose Mexican Meatball Soup is inside) had copies for sale at her desk, stuffed, it seems, with ads for “Rude Girls and Dangerous Women”, “Cartoons for Dykes”, “Dripping With Bad Attitude”. Just remember to add a cup of milk to the Dutch Babies recipe.

The Staros Report 1996 includes tiny reviews of the 121 “Best Comics and Graphic Novels”, an interview with Eddie Campbell, a Love & Rockets character index, bibliographies for Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman, and lots of (other) stuff by Chris Staros.

Silly Daddy's “Death in the Family” winds up and moves on to parking valets. Stinz cuts a grim swath in “Old Man Out”, and revolution may be brewing in the Geiselthal.

Coven of Angels has an entirely misleading bikini warrior cover. Coven is published twice a year by Jitterbug Press. The feature is “clown story”, detective fiction worthy of Grant Morrison or beyond. Some good text stories as well, I recommend taking a look beyond the cover of this book (which may have something to do with the final text piece, Allysa the Untamed).

Storeyville is a Grit-sized comic following the hobo jungle out to sea. “He knew what he wanted, but he was scared. There's a thousand ways to gyp yourself.” $3.00 postpaid from Sirk Productions, PO Box 642896, San Francisco, CA 94164. I don't know who wrote it or drew it but it's definitely worth a look.

Tyg and I stopped by Rasputin's Music after the RACtogether. I ended up with a used copy of the Heavy Metal soundtrack on CD. Tyg, who lives in the area, volunteered to drop me off at Chad Ward's to crash for the night. Only—and of course—Chad is out partying with another group of APEs. So Tyg gave me a tour of the strip malls of San José before dropping me off at the pub. If you're a fan of old comics, Barnes & Noble is dumping “A Smithsonian Book of Comic-Book Comics”; I got mine for a ten-spot. Highlights include Captain Marvel 100, two great Little Lulu's, and three & a half Pogo stories. Three hundred and thirty three pages of comics, it's well worth it at that price. Careful, though, the reprints often seem doubled, making the text hard to read.

Strangers in Paradise is heading into Homage Comics with dreams of Image. Terry Moore tells us how the story ends before giving it to us, and it looks to be a four-hanky series. Finally, Eddie Campbell's Bacchus has been going on just fine without me. I had to pick up five issues to get caught up. “This Comic Encourages Bad Habits”. I haven't read it yet, but it seems to involve rubber chickens, so I'm going to give it a double-plus-good.

Book is a Four Letter Word

So's Lulu. The title was “Here to Save Comics”. The day started with major drugs. It had to. After a night of partying with APEs there was no way we'd get started at nine in the morning without heavy doses of coffee. I don't do drugs, so I didn't make it in until 10:15. You see what lack of drugs can do to a man? Especially when that man is trying to get women hooked on comix.

The topic at 10:15 when I walked in was “The Woman-Friendly Store,” with Rory Root, Ilia Carson, and Tasha Lowe. We pretty much all agreed that they weren't and since there were only two retailers at the entire con, we all volunteered them to clean up their act. The Retailers' Handbook is on track thanks to Deni Loubert, and should be distributed to Diamond retailers free of charge, thanks to Diamond.

Next up was “Staying Alive as a Comics Creator,” with Roberta Gregory, Jimmie Robinson, and Mary Fleener—who doesn't look anything like the people she draws. One word: diversify. Diversify your media and your market. If you're a writer, don't just write comic books. If you're an illustrator, don't just illustrate comic books.

Diversify your markets. Create for more markets than the comic book market. If you write about a topic, sell your work in all markets that discuss that topic. If you're willing to write more generally, well:

I make as much in four days for Hustler as in four months for a comic book. And I get paid on time.—Mary Fleener

Discussing syndication, Gail Machlis and Hilary Price noted that e-mail turns out to be a problem: e-mail flattens the world, but sometimes you want e-mail to go through channels. If a fan sends e-mail to the cartoonist praising their work, the praise bypasses the newspaper's editor and the syndicate. Hilary has taken to forwarding positive e-mail to her syndicate rep. Since this allows her to filter what does and doesn't get through, perhaps e-mail isn't such a bad thing after all...

The “How to Save Comics” panel pretty much covered the same ground as the San Diego meeting. We still complained about everybody else, and we still praised the Japanese. I'm a little worried about this. The system that Japan has is our system, thirty years ago. While the publishers would love to return to those numbers, I don't think the creators want to return to those conditions. American creators are a very independent group. They want to be authors, like book authors. Donna Barr would say that they are book authors. Her term is “drawn books”. Most of them aren't comic.

One of the most common complaints was “not enough kid's comics”. But no one volunteered to create one; perhaps we should volunteer one of the members who didn't show up, then chain them to a drawing table.

Not much to say about “Changing Our Images in the Book World”, except that I have to wonder whose idea it was to put Donna Barr and Trina Robbins on the same panel. Critical mass was almost achieved.

While the general consensus on saving the comic book involved volunteering others to change the distribution system, we did recognize that there are advantages to the current system. The capital required to start publishing comics today is so low that even creators can afford it. Businesses elsewhere have to plan on losing money for two years before they break even. Which means that only businessmen create art.

And, related, small sales numbers can still make money. Poets and eclectic jazz artists would love to be able to do what comics creators can do. The ability to sell in small numbers allows creators to, no matter how strange they are, identify a niche market just as strange. And it allows potential market busters to propel themselves into the spotlight without having to sell their soul to a larger corporation.

One last dinner in San José and I'm outta here. The Ethiopian restaurant I raved about two years ago seems to have become a minimart. But Zucco's Café on First near Santa Clara has an awesome panini and Greek salad.

Jerry Stratton