The Comic-Con 2005 Report

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Comic-Con International is, by far, the biggest, baddest, and most influential convention of its kind in America. Housed in the San Diego Convention Center in sunny San Diego, CA, USA, to con was held July 14-17, 2005. We've missed the past couple of years due to financial constraints, but we saved up to wing our way across an entire continent to meet, greet, and schmooze with fans and fellow creators. We joined our fellow Keenspotters, signing books, shirts, Fred dolls, and whatever else we can find.

Day One: Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Any trip to Comic-Con begins for us with a very early morning of rushing around, packing up luggage into the car, and driving to the airport. We caught an early flight from Greensboro to Atlanta, waited around for about an hour and half, then crammed into a 757 to San Diego. I actually used much of the flight to work on comics, which I drew and scanned the Saturday before. Unfortunately, the guy in front of me put his seat back even before we took off, preventing me from being able to open my laptop all the way. I was rather cramped, craning my neck to see my laptop screen at such an odd angle, but I managed to get three dailies done.

We landed in San Diego around noon, picked up our rental car, and drove to find our hotel. Since we were too early to check in, we piled everything back into the car and tried to find the nearest trolley stop. Unfortunately, we were rather late booking the hotel, so all the nearby ones (within walking distance or a short shuttle bus ride from the convention center) were full. Thus, we were at the mercy of San Diego's public transportation system. If I learned anything from this trip, it's that you should never rely on public transportation if time is a critical factor. The entire weekend, we struggled with missing trains and hopping on and off when a direct shuttle was unavailable. It was fairly late into the afternoon before we finally arrived at the convention center, and there was a lot to do to set things up.

[The Keen booth setup]

Fortunately, Alan Foreman (S.S.D.D.) was already there (although still suffering from severe jet lag) and Dan Shive (El Goonish Shive) wasn't far behind. The four of us (including my wife) managed to go through the massive pile of boxes, sort them as best as we could, and put the booth in a semblance of order before Preview Night opened at 5PM.

Other cartoonists weren't far behind. Some of the Modern Tales folks soon arrived to set up their booth beside us, and the Dumbrella team began organizing their island across the aisle. Jerry "Tycho" Holkin and his Penny Aracade minions had their island set up rather quickly. The Bag of Chips crew (which includes a number of Keenspotters) were constantly coming back and forth between their booth on the other side of the curtain and ours, moving merchandise back and forth. Whoever was in charge of placing booths this year was rather sharp, as many of the online comics groups and individuals were very close together, making it easy for fans to find us all and move back and forth easily.

[The Modern Tales crew]

Most of the rest of the Keenspotters showed up during Preview Night. Chris Daily (Striptease) and Mark Mekkes (Zortic) arrived to make an appearance, as did John Troutman (Andiewear!, among others) and Teague Tysseling (Mad About U.). The roster at Modern Tales and Dumbrella filled out, and plenty of fans began to pour in. The floor closed late at 9PM, and we took the long trolley ride back to the hotel to finally check in. Preview Night was a pretty good success, but the con was only just beginning.

Day Two: Thursday, July 14, 2005

[Bag of Chips]

After a continental breakfast and an early morning trolley ride, we were back at the convention center by the 10AM opening. Thursday saw the arrival of Keenspotter Aeire (Queen of Wands), KeenTOONer Matt Wilson (Bonus Stage), and Keen co-owner and co-founder Dr. Darren "Gav" Bleuel (Nukees).

One of the things many Faulties don't realize is that, while I intend to go to other panels and be a fan boy myself, I usually don't leave the booth all that much. I'm usually too busy concentrating on selling things and meeting other people to allow myself the luxury of aimless wandering. This year had me hopping even further, as I was partly in charge of managing the Keen booth. But fortunately my wife gets to roam around a lot more, so she took some really great pictures for the slideshow. (That, and she got to sneak away and take a quick nap here there. Lucky....)

However, the real highlight of any con for me is meeting fans. I got a chance to meet quite a few Faulties this year. I wish I could have spent more time with each one of you, and I apologize to anyone who caught me while I was extremely busy managing things. I greatly enjoyed speaking with everyone, and I hope I didn't scare anyone off too badly. ;)

After the floor closed, my wife and I went out to dinner with Dan Shive over at the famous Kansas City Barbeque restaurant. (Although that's also the site of the first official Keenspot dinner, it's probably more famous as the site where the "sleazy bar scene" was filmed for the movie Top Gun.) Fans of either or both comics should note that there was quite a bit of discussion of secret details about GPF and EGS, so feel free to be fittingly jealous. ;)

Day Three: Friday, July 15, 2005

Friday finally gave me a chance to wander around. I did a lap around the floor, mostly to take in the sights. Comic-Con is not just for comics anymore; Hollywood sees it as a perfect launching points for exclusive premieres and sneak peeks, so it's not uncommon to see lots of movie tie-ins, especially when there's a large cross-over audience with comics. Dreamworks has a nice booth that included actually stop-motion models and sets from the upcoming Wallace & Gromit movie. The Sci-Fi Channel always has a large presence. There were several companies selling very detailed and well-crafted collectables tied to movies and comics. And video game companies are really starting to target Comic-Con's audience, as several companies were hawking their wares, but recent and upcoming.

[Keenspot dinner]

Friday ended with the (I suppose) annual Keenspot dinner, where we rounded up as many of the Keenspotters as we could to have a night out. About fourteen of us crammed into the trolley and rode to Old Town, where walked to the Zócalo restaurant. Plenty of strange things occurred there that should probably never be mentioned in polite company, but you can probably expect that to happen when you combine a bunch of cartoonists, their sketchbooks, and complimentary crayons. It's a volatile mix.

Day Four: Saturday, July 16, 2005

Saturday is always the busiest day. The con managers opened the exhibit hall floor early to accommodate the huge influx of people (and neglected to officially inform the exhibitors). The booth was constantly buzzing, with Keenspotters and fans constantly coming and going. Thomas K. Dye (Newshounds) was able to drop in for just one day, and Lanin Thomasma (the sculptor behind 'N'Toonz) stopped by to say hello. I managed to sneak out again for a little more wandering with my wife, and I finally got to see a few more of the sights.

[Keenspot panel]

Of course, the big event for Keenspot was the Keenspot panel. I was told by several fans that this was the best Keenspot panel ever, even though our attendance was a bit lower that we had hoped. (I believe we were scheduled against several other big events, which probably explained a few things.)

The panel started with the usual introductions, followed by a small PowerPoint presentation by Darren Bleuel on some of the new things coming up with Keenspot. (Those who couldn't attend can get the same announcements from this thread in the Keenspot Central forum.) However, the questions and answers portion (the largest part) was handled a bit differently. We threw in a random "Whose Line is it Anyway?" element, forcing the panelists to answer in different and unusual ways, such as singing as if in an opera or performing an interpretive dance. (Many of these unusual responses have been captured in our GPFConCam footage, exclusively for GPF Premium subscribers.) If an answer was not "acceptable" (a purely random designation, of course), the panelist was required to draw something ridiculous on the overhead screen using my laptop and Wacom tablet. (The results of these insane sketches can be found here in the slideshow.) The panelists were: Darren Bleuel, Alan Foreman, Matt Wilson, Mark Mekkes, John Troutman, Teague Tysseling, Aeire, Thomas K. Dye, Chris, Daily, Dan Shive, and myself.

The panel ended right as the exhibit hall closed. We rushed down to make sure everything was closed up at the booth, then went out with "mouse" from the GPF forum for a quick dinner. (Well, quick as in eating, since it took quite some time to ride the trolley to get there.) We tried to put together an semi-official Faultie dinner, but it never really congealed into a cohesive event. Still, we had a good time eating and talking with mouse. (Don't worry, she didn't learn anything secret that none of you have heard.)

Day Five: Sunday, July 17, 2005

Sunday, thankfully, is always somewhat shorter than the other days. That doesn't make it any less busy, however. Many people are stopping by to make their final purchases, so we raced to meet the demand. I got to wander a little bit more to consider my own final purchases. Finally, around 5PM, the exhibit hall closed, and it was time to close up shop. I'd like to especially thank Al Foreman, Dan Shive, and Chris Daily for all their hard work in breaking down the booth and helping pack everything up to ship back to Keenspot. These guys deserve a lot of extra kudos for making your KeenCon experience as pleasant as it was.

And that's about it, gang. My wife and I managed to stay an extra day in San Diego and spent most of that day relaxing in Balboa Park, taking in the sights and unwinding from the con before our long day of flying back on Tuesday. Unfortunately, Al Foreman gave me his blasted cold, which gave me the sniffles for the rest of the week. (Don't worry, I'll get him back eventually. ;) We definitely enjoyed our trip, and we can't wait to get back to California the next time we can!

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