The Comic-Con 2001 Report

Browse Through the Comic-Con / KeenCon Slide Show!

Comic-Con International, I'd have to say, has been an experience and a half. Of all the cons I've attended (okay, I'll admit I've only been to three now), this has been the largest and loudest. About twice the size of Dragon*Con in Atlanta last year, C-C was full of excitement and surprises. I'll have to say, the time and money we spent to come was well invested.

This trip was full of firsts for me. It was my first time to California, my first trip west of Illinois, and my first flight cross-country. Although I've flown before, all my previous flights have been under two hours (on a single plane). I think I've learned that if you're going to fly longer than four hours, fly first class. Coach for extended periods is definitely not for those with long legs like mine.

[San Diego Convention Center]

We arrived around 11am Pacific time (so it felt like 2pm my time), picked up the rental car, and took off for downtown San Diego. Of course, we decided to ignore the directions given to us by the rental car guy and follow the directions we printed off Expedia.Com. Ignore the native and trust the computer. Smart move. What followed next was a harrowing hour of driving in circles through less reputable parts of San Diego, with my wife desperately trying to make sense of the map while I fumed and grumbled and continued driving, making us even more lost. Eventually, though, we figured out that many streets in downtown San Diego are one-way, and we finally found the hotel. We found an excellent parking spot in the top lot, and since the hotel had a shuttle bus straight to the convention center, we didn't have to budge the car the entire time. Joy!

Now, off to the con!

[Keenspot Booth Banner]

The convention center was huge. Not that I expected something tiny, but it was bigger than I expected. We headed straight for the Keenspot booth, along the back wall. While it wasn't the busiest of walkways, it was still full of people. Our booth was small and modest, but it still received a lot of traffic.

Of course, this brings me to the parts of the con I enjoy most: meeting the fans and meeting other Keenspotters! Although there are many folks I've met online and have even gotten to know quite well, it's always a thrill to meet these folks in person. I spent a lot of time talking to new faces who were really old acquaintances, putting names and faces together. And as the slide show proves, I also spent a lot of time taking pictures. Lots and lots of pictures. :)

True to my word, I tried to spend as much time as I could in or around the Keen booth. Since there were over twenty Keenspotters in attendance (not counting Keenspacers, who were not permitted behind the booth solely for the reason of Keen's sheer numbers), we had to schedule time to be there. However, not that many Keenspotters took advantage of the booth schedule, so I tried to help out as best I could. We all chipped in, handing out flyers, greeting passers-by, and drawing sketches. (Of course, when a bunch of artists get together, sketchbook swapping is highly expected. :)

[The Keenspot Panel: Full House!]

The big event of Thursday evening, of course, was the Keenspot panel. Seven Keenspotters were grilled for an hour and a half by an audience of over a hundred people (including some who were not Keenspacers or other 'Spotters!). Howard Tayler filled in for Chris Crosby (who unfortunately hurt his back loading stuff up for the booth and couldn't attend the Con at all), while Darren "Gav" Bleuel, Yours Truly, Greg Dean, Paul Southworth, and Steve Troop sat behind our not-so-cushy table while Aric McKeown fielded questions from the floor. Some questions were very challenging and thought-provoking, while others were just pure fun. According to rumor, Jeff Rowland roamed between the other panels scheduled opposite us--including such notables as Stan "The Man" Lee, Elvira, Brent "Data" Spiner, Will Eisner, and an Image Comics panel--to find Keenspot appeared to have the largest audience. Huzzah!

[The Con Shirt of Doom]

Friday was a very busy day for me, as I was scheduled to be behind the booth virtually all day. I met several fans and sketched in many sketch books. My wife had the brilliant idea to take a Fred "Get Cultured" shirt and have as many Keenspotters as possible sign the back of it. We've called it the "GPF Con Shirt of Doom!" and plan to hold on to this little souvenir for a while. (I imagine, once Keenspot finally gets its due and becomes obscenely popular, this little item will be worth a small fortune on eBay. ;)

I did get a chance to wander around and take in some of the sights. We discovered a store wholly devoted to Doctor Who, as well as lots of most kewl comics and what-nots. Several movie companies had booths with props and such, including DreamWorks' forthcoming The Time Machine remake. Of course, the "big guns" were in full force, as DC, Marvel, Image, and other comic companies sprawled with massive displays and big-name stars. Friday was also the premiere of Cartoon Network's upcoming new action series, Samurai Jack. Very different and very bizarre....

[Keenspot Dinner]

Of course, for the Keenspot crew, the big event for Friday was the first official Keenspot dinner! We met at Kansas City Barbecue, famous from the "sleazy bar scene" in the movie Top Gun. It was a challenge seating and feeding thirty hungry cartoonists, family, and friends, but somehow we managed to pull it off. (Our waitress deserved an extra hefty tip to put up with this crew!) We enjoyed a nice long dinner under the cool San Diego night sky, just a quick jaunt from both the convention center and the harbor. I spent a long time talking to the likes of Brad Guigar and his wife, Clint Hollingsworth and his wife, Keenspacer Albert Temple, Thomas Dye, and David Simpson.

Saturday was, of course, the busiest day at the Con. It's the first day of the weekend, when all the people who work or go to school during the week can finally make it to the floor. A literal sea of people swarmed through the convention center, and untold numbers of potential new Keenspot fans were ripe for the greeting. The vast majority of Saturday I spent behind or around the booth, trying to help out as hundreds of people who had never heard of out little site passed. At the same time, many who had heard of us were seeking us out, and more pens scribbled signatures and doodles as far as the eye could see. We were so busy, I actually missed the Lord of the Rings panel, as well as the Star Wars: Connections one. Hey, somebody's got to sell those books!

Around 1pm, David Allen of Plan Nine Publishing and I stepped up to the autograph area "under the sails," where the official unofficial User Friendly fan meet (UFie meet) was held. Unfortunately, it was very small (only five of us), but we still talked for 45 minutes or so on lots of interesting topics. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring my camera, so I don't have any pictures. :\ (However, "!pitr" from the message boards did have his camera, and I'll try to link to his pictures as soon as he posts them (if he doesn't mind).)

[Weird Al Gets Too Close to My Wife]

Another thing to watch out for at cons: You never know who might show up. You might sit on the bus next to one of your favorite comic book artists, bump elbows with the writer of the most popular sci-fi show on TV, or even run into the leading comedy musical artist in the US just roaming the floor. When the rumor began to spread that "Weird Al" Yankovic was walking around, just enjoying the Con, my wife--arguably one of Al's biggest fans--immediately grabbed the camera and tracked him down. Al's wife was kind enough to take their picture, so we have (not-so-)living proof of the encounter. While she failed to plug GPF or Keenspot to Mr. Yankovic (she even had my business card ready but forgot to give it to him), I'm glad to see one of my wife's dreams finally come true.

What's that? We're stopping here?!? Not hardly! There's lots more to tell you about, but only so many hours in the day to write it all down! Check back in the next few days to see the rest of the Comic-Con 2001 Report! I'll finish it eventually, I promise!

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