As I sit here looking at my iPad screen writing this, I think back on the past two days at the Rose City Comic Con and think “Damn, what experience in my life will ever top the fun I had this weekend?” This was the first Comic Convention I ever attended and damned if every other con to follow will have a lot to live up to.
What struck me first was the atmosphere. From the moment I stepped off the Max train (the often times unreliable form of public transportation we in Portland rely upon) and walked to the entrance of RCCC, you felt an aura, for lack of a better term, of acceptance and joy. Folks of all shapes, sizes, and ages were dressed in their favorite characters, ready to show them off to not only the other convention goers but hopefully to some of the creators who showed up to Artists Alley as well that inspired them.
The place was understandably packed from the outset. The various booths were set up in such a way as to not herd folks in like cattle. Despite the crowds, you felt a freedom to move around which was nice for me. Suffering from social anxiety like I do, being around this many people was a bit overwhelming but the freedom to move was nice.
I started off my journey at the Retro Gaming section. A company brought in some classic games for folks to enjoy and it was nice to show off to my daughter games like Ms. Pac Man and the original Street Fighter. Off to the side of the games were a bunch of tables. I initially thought they were set out for folks to relax but turns out, a local group that promotes board and card gaming had those tables reserved and I ended up playing Dungeons and Dragons for the first time. (It was the 5th edition of the game which according to some friends who are long time players is not the best. I’ll take their word for it.) The Dungeon Master for the game was sweet, walking a newbie like myself through the game, making it enjoyable.
I visited Artists Alley and noticed two things. One, getting in line for a major name like a Brian Bendis, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Matt Fraction, or others was hard unless you started right when the convention opened. As a bucket list item, a friend in India that assisted me when I ran a blog, she loves Matt Fraction’s work, dreamed of having his autograph and you know what, since I had the power to make that happen I did. I started early so the line was not terrible, but it was about a fifteen minute wait. Well worth the wait because Matt was quite kind and signed a copy of the graphic novel, HAWKEYE: LITTLE HITS for her.
One creator I ended up meeting near the end of the night was simply due to a case of great timing. I was waiting for a chance to get David Walker’s autograph when out of the corner of my eye, who do I spot? Kelly Sue DeConnick! I told my daughter to run over and ask if she could take a picture. Kelly Sue graciously accepted. After the photo, she had some very kind words for my daughter about empowerment and not accepting societies defined roles for women. I don’t know about you but after this encounter with her, fuck Captain Marvel! Kelly Sue DeConnick is my hero!
David Walker was great to talk to. One of my favorite movies growing up was SHAFT, a character that helped inspire the main character of my first book in a lot of ways. David is behind the SHAFT comic books from Dynamite Comics as well as the novel SHAFT’S REVENGE, which I ended up purchasing and getting autographed. The majority of our conversation however ended up being how much he dislikes Apple products. I don’t even recall how that conversation began but I loved it. I love Apple products personally but I’m not a fanboy to the extent that I feel Apple products are the ONLY products which can accomplish anything you need in the computing realm. Like Coke and Pepsi, sometimes folks just prefer the PC or Android device. To get a good PC or Android anyway, you’re paying just as much as you would for an Apple product anyway so hey, it evens out.
I attended a few panels which were great. One was hosted by the PDX Browncoats, a local group that are fans of Joss Whedon and Firefly. They talked about Whedon and how he addresses female characters. It was a nice chat which made me think about how I address female characters in my own stories. One term they used that I’d never heard before, Waif Fu, was used to describe the physical types of women that Whedon likes to use in his television shows and movies. Hollywood in general has a certain physical type of woman they look for which, despite folks saying otherwise, they continue to portray because the general public keeps throwing money at movies that support this one type.
Another panel I attended was a live taping of the podcast PANEL ON PANELS, available on iTunes. The show was discussing origin stories and comics and why folks tend to like them. I even made an unexpected appearance on the show when they asked if anyone was familiar with the original origin of Green Arrow. Thanks to a purchase of the GREEN ARROW: 75TH ANNIVERSARY COLLECTION from DC Comics, I could say yes!
I attended two Brian Bendis panels, both of which were pretty inspiring. Why, you may ask? It’s not that he pranced around the room sprinkling inspiration dust for everyone to consume. (If he had, I would have videotaped it!) The way he’s able to relate the nuts and bolts of writing comics makes it seem like anyone can do it. Because anyone can. Does that mean you will become famous and make lots of money like him? Of course not. But the only thing stopping you from getting the stories floating around your head onto the computer screen or a piece of paper…is you. If you want to be a storyteller, do it. Don’t worry about if it’s perfect, if you’ll make money, or all those other distractions. Do it! The only thing separating someone like Bendis to just an average person, frankly, is opportunity. Bendis’s work landed in the right hands and opportunities came his way. Nothing more.
The spirit of Rose City Comic Con to me is epitomized by one person. Gail Simone pointed out this woman on her Twitter who stopped by her booth for an autograph. She was dressed like Black Canary and frankly looked amazing. The photo showed a great strength and beauty that’s not easy to pull off. The next night on Twitter, Gail spoke some more about this woman, relating a story about how kind she was. You can head to Gail’s Twitter page for the full story but this story moved me because the kindness this woman showed was everything I feel makes my love for comics justified. The comics community, from the fans to the creators, at their best are one big family. We all have troubles in our life which kick us down. Sometimes just picking up that one issue of The Avengers or Spider-Man will be that one thing that turns your day around, even for just a moment. When you feel like an outsider with no one to relate to, you can find solace in the pages of a comic. To see the creators go out of their way to connect with their fans, to build them up and encourage them to show their creative sides, you never forget that. While some folks had shown up to get John Heder’s autograph, the real magic of RCCC was in Artists Alley.
Oh, and this happened!
Rose City Comic Con was going to be the last time Stan Lee appeared in Portland and I was not going to let this opportunity pass without talking with him. Being a cheap Dutch man, I wasn’t going to pay $100 for an autograph. Generally, I think autographs are silly though I’ve received a few on occasion. Paying that kind of money to me was just not worth it. Standing in line in front of hundreds of people to ask him a question however was a nice alternative, social anxiety be damned.
I prepared by drinking a beer. Just one beer. Being less than a week to age 40, I don’t handle alcohol as well as I used to. One beer is enough to relax me and make me more talkative. I imagined a ROCKY montage where I drink the beer and walked about the convention center, hyping myself up to ask the question. About fifteen minutes before his panel, I headed to Panel Room 1. Billy Boyd, Pippen from THE LORD OF THE RINGS, was finishing his talk. The moment it ended I bolted for the microphone up front where the questions were taking place. I was forth in line. My brain was screaming “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?!?!” But I had to do it. While I could not get the courage to ask a girl out and life goes on, Stan Lee was never coming to Portland again. I would regret this for the rest of my life if I didn’t do it. Suffice it to say, I can’t believe I did it but I’m glad it happened. Now I have to invest in a tombstone that will play this video on a repeated loop when I die.
I feel sorry for any other Comic Con I have to attend because after this, they have a lot to live up to. This was an amazing experience. The next time it happens you have to attend. Over the next couple weeks I’m going to be reviewing some great comics from some of the independent creators I met at the show. While it was great meeting some of the big time players in comics, the heart and soul to the industry for me are the independent creators. Their literal blood, sweat, and tears show up on every page and I want to do my part since I have an outlet to showcase some of the great talent out there.