They stepped from the wet sunny hell that is San Diego into the dry air-conditioned heaven of the convention center. A man dressed as a red, white, and blue Chia Pet carried two bags of comic books past a security guard. The security guard checked the man’s badge and let him go. He didn’t even look at Arthur’s badge. Arthur stepped into the exhibition hall. He was immediately mowed down by a woman running past the guard and yelling something unintelligible about L’il Abner and Darla, the Babe of the Backwoods.

Another woman helped him, Fisher, and Voniece get untangled.

“Hola,” she said. “Or halo. I’m not sure which. Como se llama?”

“I don’t like llamas,” said Arthur. “I fought against them in the last war.”

Which was true. Arthur had fought the llamas for the fate of the Earth in the Battle of the Planet of the Politicians just past the Interstellar House of Pancakes. His intrepid crew consisted of, not only Voniece, but one marine and a teddy bear named Raphael. Arthur is an equal opportunity warmonger.

She nodded.

“I must not have said that right. What’s your name?”

“Arthur,” he said. “And this is Voniece,” he pointed at Voniece, “and this is Fisher,” and he pointed to the plastic shopping cart.

She looked at Voniece, and then at the shopping cart, and nodded again.

“Come with me to my publisher,” she said, “and I’ll sign a comic for you.”

“I already have a comic,” he said. “Will you sign it?”

He pulled out his comic.

“That isn’t mine,” she said. “I can’t sign that.”

“Don’t feel bad,” he said. “I didn’t know how to write very long ago either. I can teach you, and then you can sign my comic book.”

He spent the rest of the morning teaching her how to write. Voniece helped. Fisher didn’t, and didn’t understand the importance of writing.

“It’s what makes us human,” said Arthur.

“Ah,” said Fisher. “Then I don’t need it.”

After Arthur taught her to write, he took some crayons and taught her to draw as well. They had lots of paper at the table they were signing at. He taught her to draw on a “hate” and on a “pussey”, and he didn’t think the Senator would have liked that, and on notebooks that people handed him as they went by. The Chicago newspaperman came by and Arthur, Voniece, and the new writer all signed the newspaperman’s comic.

Finally the new writer had to leave. She had to help someone build a panel. Arthur signed some more comics until he was kicked out and went in search of a panel of his own. He thought that maybe he could stand on it and get someone to sign his comic. He pushed Voniece out into the human traffic lane. Fisher followed behind discreetly.

He saw comics everywhere. There were big comics and small comics and comics that looked a lot like naked women. No one wanted to buy his Ronin #1. He stopped by a place called “D C”. He liked them because he could read their name and didn’t have to bother figuring out how to pronounce it. This was always the toughest part of reading. DC had previews of their upcoming comic books. The previews had the colors removed to keep them from being stolen. DC had different sections for “bad” comics and for “good” comics. The “bad” comics had over-developed women with weight problems fighting the evil dumpiness of the universe. Most people bought the “bad” comics. Arthur pulled down one of the “good” comics to see why. It had an overdeveloped woman with great legs fighting the evil dumpiness of the universe. “But it sells less, so it must be good,” said the DC representative.

They had to keep the “bad” and “good” comics separate or you couldn’t tell the difference. Then you might end up buying a “good” comic by mistake.

“Will you buy my comic?” asked Arthur. “I’d like a TV.”

“We can’t buy that one,” said the DC representative. “It wasn’t written by us.”

“Of course it wasn’t written by all of you,” said Arthur. “It was probably written by one of you.”

“No, we didn’t write it at all,” said the DC representative. “It was written by Marvel Comics.”

“By the whole company?” asked Arthur.

“I’m going to ignore that,” said the DC representative. “It shows a poor attitude. We wouldn’t mind buying that comic. We’re trying to be as much like Marvel as we can. They’re much better at comics than we are. They’re already at Chapter 11 and we’re only at Chapter 1. We’ve got a lot of catching up to do.”

Arthur sadly walked away with his comic book and found a panel. The panel turned out to be one guy standing on a stage talking about “censorship”. Arthur knew all about censorship. It was a game his dad played when he needed votes. It also went by the name “low-balling”. It usually involved ‘children’. The Senator would talk about how bad it was that five year old children could see certain parts of the real world. He would enact a law against children seeing that part of the world. And then he would point out that seventeen year olds were children, too, and needed to be arrested. His next step involved increasing the ‘scope’ of the law. He could make it illegal for adults to see this part of the real world on the grounds that children sometimes pretend to be adults; or he could make it illegal to even pretend that children might see this part of the real world, on the grounds that it was hard to enforce the law if they had to prove the abuse was real. Or he would simply raise the age of being a child for that item from 18 to 21 to 35 or 72.

His most recent success was tagging on the end of the ratings system. He convinced the movie raters to give an ‘R’ rating for “teenage lawlessness”. He wanted to make it illegal for teens to see other teens disobeying his laws.

Sure enough, one of the attendees was a politician-in-training. He said “I don’t believe in censorship, but I do believe in responsibility.” Arthur knew what that meant: Irresponsibility must be legislated against. Some people oppose censorship, but no one supports irresponsibility. The best part is, while most people ignore your request for responsibility, some don’t, and those that don’t become industry insiders begging for laws against the irresponsibility of their colleagues.

But still, no one wanted to buy his comic book.

Arthur’s Pal Jerry Stratton

Deadpool: Summer Lovin’ trampled beneath a thousand Gay Feet in America’s Finest City. I asked my hairdresser what it meant. He told me not to invest in “Blade”, then admitted he’s been wrong before.

“It’s the heat,” he said, “but I don’t care. The only comics I read are Calvin & Hobbes and Alison Bechdel. And I don’t like Calvin & Hobbes.”

Those of you from out of town may not realize it, but this is the worst weather San Diego has had since anyone important can remember it. Even the old farts aren’t weaving stories about the boiling rain in their youth. We’re willing to put up with a lot of crap in San Diego: double the rain (two days instead of one), dead seagulls in our desert, and Republicans running rampant downtown, but we will not tolerate humidity and heat in San Diego. Your sweat-hole town in Iowa or Michigan or perhaps two hours north may be worse, but we don’t care. That’s why we don’t live there.

The South may rise again under Chris Oarr’s “culture war” on behalf of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Part of the culture war is apparently against us complacent comics readers. “I don’t believe in censorship, but I do believe in responsibility,” said one audience member. What to do when creators shirk their responsibility not to offend was left unanswered: he left.

A store owner in an unpronounceable town in Minnesota hung a poster for Frank Miller’s “African Queen” and was asked by the city attorney to take it down. This has stirred up a bit of a debate on [c--m--x] at [] (which we will no doubt get back to after the convention is over, and probably belongs on [comix speech] at [] anyway). The store owner asked “politely” for it in writing, and the city attorney complied. The request was then faxed immediately to the CBLDF who fired off a similar polite—but strongly worded—lawyer-to-lawyer message pointing out that (a) there isn’t a law against it, and (b) if there were, it would be unconstitutional. That apparently ended the whole thing without any argument or choice words, at least between the two parties.

On the other hand, when you start quoting Oscar Wilde, you’ve already lost. Careful there, Chris.

Those of you who have been waiting for the news and missed it, Paul Mavrides has apparently won his case. The CBLDF will be paying for that one for another year or so.

Walking through the exhibition hall I see that Concrete is joining the erotica mainstream with Concrete: Bust.

According to the humor team at Dark Horse, “Dark Horse Comics will use drugs, but they won’t advocate them.” Apparently they haven’t been reading CUD.

Shannon Wheeler (Too Much Coffee Man) was jerked into humor comics by the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, and realized that perhaps the nice man on the television was just trying to sell him something through the educational comic known as MAD.

Internet Fandom received a nod and a shake. One pro was reported as saying “I feel like a wounded cow in a river of piranhas.” Strangers call her Honey Wumpus. And the Usenet Nod Syndrome explains why you only generate interesting discussion if you’re wrong. If you’re right, everyone nods their head instead of posting a redundant, annoying “me too” message.

The “Twilight of the Gods” proposal is a copyright issue, not a trademark one. DC has apparently figured this one out well after everyone else did.

And “if what you actually want to do is write instead of being rich and famous, the Internet is perfect.” So saged Sadie O McFarlane. I think I resemble that remark. (But what if you want to write and be rich?)

“The Field” is an Irish pub with a message: “Irishmen to the Field” was a revolutionary slogan. “Irishmen up, Arm and Strike Victory for democracy and liberty. The cotton lords and traitor allies of England can be put down.”

We ended the day with the Chicago/Austin contingent at Piccadilly’s a short block away from the romping Friends of Lulu fest. The horrors of smoking in California were made all too clear as the night wore on.

Culture wars? “Young America and Old Ireland: One and Inseparable.” Call Chris and let him know!