Two days in a row, I saw Medusa hiding out in the women’s room.
She was sitting on the floor, leaning against the mirrored wall with her wig off. The wig, with snakes in an especially fetching shade of electric blue, was next to her, like a well-cultivated houseplant or pet.
But aside from a few encounters like that, my Comic-Con was more like, you know, a comic convention, than it was for many of the rest of the 140,000 people who were there.
Friday: I sit at the table in Artist’s Alley, selling, signing. Then I go to a fancy lunch with lots of people, many of whom are trying to figure out whether they should be talking to each other or to someone else in the room. I mostly hide in the corner and talk to Holly and Theo Black. Back to the table, sell and sign redux.
When the floor closes, I am off to the Hyatt to meet a subset of this year’s Clarion class. Realize that the old Clarion vs. Clarion West distinction is no longer geographically valid. Boggle at the notion of a Clarion that includes both blogging and Comic-Con. (We had a GEnie forum and the Curious Book Shop.) Ponder the oddity of being an alumna of an sf/f writers workshop focused on short stories whose publications include two realistic YA novels and a bunch of comics, some of which are Xeroxed and stapled. Meeting everyone is wonderful and I can’t remember anyone’s names. Thank goodness for the group photo. (If any of y’all are reading, please say hello in the comments!)
Saturday: Table table table. A Slave Leia blocks the table to pose for pictures, ends up buying minis. The giant stack of Whiteout movie posters diminishes rapidly, with many comments about the similarity to the cover of the graphic novel. I meet Jason Williams, to our mutual surprise, and talk up potential Night Shade cover artists. Cecil Castellucci stops by and we panic briefly about tomorrow’s panel. We both think comics are literature, or at least worthy of the same consideration and respect as literature, but wait, how are we defining literature? Or comics? What the hell are we going to say? Cecil says she might look up literature in the dictionary. Because I have now worked myself up to the extent that I can’t really get any more nervous, I decide that it would be a great time to go over to Jaime Hernandez‘s table and hand him a copy of Flytrap #3, “Over the Wall,” which is more than usually inspired by his work. It’s only after I return to our table that it occurs to me that I could have also asked him for a sketch. Dinner is at one of those places designed for the pleasure of cartoonists where they have white paper over the tablecloths and so of course much drawing ensues. Dinner lasts a long time and after that we retreat to watch Meerkat Manor.
Sunday: is the Panel. Despite my utter terror going in, I end up really enjoying the discussion. Others seem to as well:
…one of the most fascinating panel discussions I’ve ever heard at Comic-Con. While occasionally getting into grad-school speak –- there was discussion about “the stranglehold of the 19th century novel” and “interpreting the narrative” –- the talk was both heated and heady, leading to lots of little clusters of animated chat afterward. —Advocate Insider
…Out of all the panels I attended during this past weekend’s Comic-Con International: San Diego, none intrigued me more than the captivating and intelligent group of comics professionals who took a crack at trying to explain why Comics Are Not Literature, an intentionally provocative title if there ever was one. —Comics Alliance
(I feel compelled to say that for me, at least, going highbrow and grad-schoolish was called for by the nature of the topic; and I think Douglas Wolk totally knew what he was doing, throwing down that gauntlet of a title.)
After the Panel, a restorative and fun lunch with Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman and January Mortimer, with more talk about genres and formats and different kinds of stories. Then to the table again, til the bitter end. I pull off the con miracle of a small dinner (with Colleen Coover and Paul Tobin and Jim Ottaviani) at a place where every so often the proprietor bursts into song. It’s okay, though. The food and company are excellent. Then there’s another party, and I talk to Pia Guerra and Bob Schreck, each for about two seconds (I tell them both they should come to Stumptown), and Steve and I chat a while with Charles Brownstein from the CBLDF, and by then I am burnt to a crisp with exhaustion and make us leave.
On the way back to where we were staying, I get a little melancholy, hyperaware of the passage of time and wondering what it all means. When I met Ellen Kushner, she was my teacher and I was a wildly naive nineteen year old who’d gotten into Clarion by what I still think was a fluke. When I met Jim Ottaviani, I was a grad student and he was my boss. For the first few years I knew Steve, my knowledge of Comic-Con was limited to its aftermath. I’d meet him at baggage claim, he’d be looking shell-shocked, and I’d try to find out how the show had been, only to realize that he wasn’t going to be immediately capable of telling me. (His voice would be totally shot, for one thing.) The first time I went to the show myself, back in 2000, I had none of my own work to show, so I didn’t spend much time at the table, and didn’t, as I think of it now, really experience the con at all.
This year I certainly did.
As we keep walking, I think about how very many individual Comic-Con experiences there are — like they always say during the pledge drive, now more than ever — and wonder what, if anything, unifies them, aside from the very Communist propaganda-looking Smallville bags, here repurposed to excellent effect. I don’t come up with any answers. Maybe I’ll figure it out next year.