San Diego Comic Con 2000 and Me

San Diego was an unexpected bonus to my life this year. My husband, an avid Wizard of Oz fan, was headed to the big Centennial Wizard of Oz convention in Indiana over the same weekend that San Diego was happening, and I neither wanted to go to Oz nor stay home and work. When I found a low airfare to San Diego on Alaska Airlines in February, I sweet-talked my husband into letting me take the trip. I flew out Wednesday morning, came back Monday afternoon, and had the time of my life. These notes aren't going to tell you by any means how much fun I had. In fact, from these notes, you might think I had a boring con...

Getting To The Con

I didn't sleep a wink on Tuesday, I lay awake all night feeling an excitement I haven't felt since I learned the awful truth about Santa Claus, and tossed and turned trying to get some rest. Then the alarm went off and Eric and I were off to the races trying to get out the door in good time. I said good-bye to Eric at the airport, then waited for my own flight after picking up my rented DVD player and movie for the flight from InMotion Pictures. I sat at the gate watching my movie for about 45 minutes before I noticed something really odd.

Every time a plane pulled up to any of Alaska's gates (I could see two clearly) a bunch of guys in white shirts with clipboards would swarm over the plane checking EVERYTHING. This was in addition to the regular maintenance crews. Then I started listening to the announcements and realized that Alaska was having major problems. Planes were being delayed at the gate, and they were shifting gates for other flights, juggling the schedule and trying to make sure no other planes were delayed. It was not the finest start to a cool trip. I'm already nervous enough about flying as it is.

The flight down was mostly uneventful, thank goodness, and I made it to the hotel with only a little bit of problems. The Westin is in the heart of downtown, right next to Horton Plaza, a downtown shopping mall. There is an ugly blue obelisk in the Westin courtyard that towers nearly nine stories and has a pond surrounded by pelicans and seashells at its base. The pelicans spout water, and the seashells have lights in them that shine on the ugly obelisk at night, showing it in full tacky glory. I went in past the monstrosity and checked in, then up to my room (929) and into my room, where my roommate, Leah Adezio, was already waiting.

I went out with Leah and some of her friends to the WB Studio Store in Horton Plaza, then we went to watch X-Men (second time for me). When the movie ended, we went out to dinner in the food court (I had a wonderful little sourdough pizza, yum!), then we all retired to our hotels for the night. I hoped to sleep this night, since tomorrow was THE CON...

The First Day at the Con

I slept really really well, actually. Leah and I went swimming Thursday morning and ate a big breakfast (all-you-can-eat buffet) at the hotel, then took the shuttle bus to the convention center. We got there a little before opening time and the crowds were amazing! I was a little depressed by the sight, especially when I noticed that the pro line was as long as the regular line. But, as it turned out, since I already had my badge I only had to wait in a very short line of three people and registration for me was quick and painless. Leah wasn't so lucky, so she said she'd meet me at the Friends of Lulu booth and give me the grand tour.

After getting my badge holder and registration packet, I was whisked along with the crowds up to the third floor (where the panels would be). I was numbed, shocked by the large crowds. I didn't know what to do, so I found a bench and sat down and just watched people flowing by. Eventually, a person sat down next to me whose name was vaguely familiar, and I struck up a conversation. He explained that he owned Golden Age Collectibles in Vancouver, which was sort of affiliated with the one in Seattle, which might be where I had heard his name. He said that they had herded all the pros upstairs and would let us down onto the floor at exactly 10 am. We both went to the line and waited. They eventually let us in... but a little later than 10.

I went down with the rest and suddenly was there. At the San Diego Comic Con. On the main floor. Stunned. A white buzzing noise filled my head, and I felt a little weak in the knees. There was a blur of color and light and people, tons and tons of people, in front of me. I followed the crowd, let it push me along while I tried to wrap my head around what I was seeing.

Now, I've been to conventions before. I've been to dealer's-room type conventions, where the main floor is just one big dealer's room, and I've been to sci-fi conventions where the programming rules. And I've been to conventions that had an artists' alley, where artists and writers sit and sign autographs and do sketches. But I'd never seen a publisher's booth before, not like this, and never so many. And never, ever, had I seen all the elements wrapped up in one big package. It pretty much blew my mind. Just the sheer size of it, the action the movement, the people. Tons and tons of people. I was just not ready.

Luckily the crowd pushed me right to the Friends of Lulu booth, and I stood next to that for a minute while sorting out my poor head. Leah explained that she was going to watch the booth for awhile, but if I went that way I'd be in artists' alley and could find Ramona Fradon there. And so I took off alone. The initial shock had worn off, and it actually didn't take me long to remember why I like conventions and to start taking everything in stride.

Artists' Alley

Now, I'd been to conventions with small artists' alleys before, but this was not small. There were rows of tables, and at each table was one or two people signing. And they were ALL artists. I walked around the tables once, then spotted Ramona. I recognized her not from her looks, but from the many drawings of Aquaman and Aqualad that were at her table that a fan was going through. I went up and waited until her business was done with the fan that was there, then presented my sketchbook and asked if she would do an Aquaman sketch for me. She did, but she also recognized my name! Awhile ago I sent her a letter, trying to do an interview via snailmail. She said she'd been guilt-tripping over it for some time, and had just not gotten around to it.

I promised to come back, and I went "next door" to Marie Severin, who was talking with another fan. She also did a sketch for me, but she didn't hear me say "Aquaman" and did the Hulk instead (Leah said it's one of her standard convention sketches).

Flush with my success, and not ready to tackle any more of artists' alley, I started back to the Lulu booth, remembering that I had passed the DC booth on the way to artists' alley, and thinking that maybe I could catch some of my friends at DC there. I was there pretty quick, and got in line for Rick Burchett and Walter Simonson without even knowing who they were, just that they were doing sketches. Both did sketches for me, both were impressed by Ramona's Aquaman.

Things get a little blurry in my mind after that. I asked around to see if Mike Carlin was at the DC Booth yet, but he wasn't, so I promised to come back. I also looked at the DC Direct action figures on display and was VERY happy to see an Aquaman and Aqualad set that will come out in March. I wandered back to the Lulu booth, and Leah and I headed out to see Aquaman and Aqualad and to see Marty and Nick.

Aquaman and Aqualad Action Figure Pictures:
Front --- Front Again --- Top View --- Side

Marty Nodell, the creator of Green Lantern, was at his own table. He was delighted with the attention he was getting. He doesn't do sketches anymore, he's too old and draws too slow, but he drew a lantern for Eric (my husband is a big Green Lantern fan) and signed his autograph.

Ramona Fradon, Nick Cardy, and Laura Gjovaag

Nick Cardy was easy to find, sitting against the wall. I don't know how I missed the booth on the first walk-through, unless John hadn't set it up yet. I met John Coates, the publisher of the book "The Art of Nick Cardy" which was nominated for an Eisner award. He introduced me to Nick, who did a very quick little sketch for me.

I was pretty happy, and I wandered back to Ramona, who had put out some laminated prints of Aquaman and Aqualad. I bought one. At that point I was so happy I think I was floating around the con. I can't remember where Leah got to, I lost her somehow.

It's Sergio Time!

I floated toward the other end of the room, I talked with some dealers on the way and asked about More Fun comics. Nobody had any in my price range. I floated off toward the art auction (which was on the exact opposite end of the floor from the alley) and suddenly spotted somebody I'd always wanted to meet: Sergio Aragones! Sergio is well-known among comic book fans as well as readers of many magazines for his cute drawings. Since no one was talking with him, and he didn't look busy, I walked up and asked for a sketch.

Sergio answered, dead serious, that he didn't do sketches anymore, but he would do a "leetle drawing". Well, my book is very little, so a little drawing was more than enough. I didn't even try to explain that it was an Aquaman sketchbook, I just let him draw Groo, holding out a flower and thinking "LAURA". I was reminded a little later that Sergio had been at a con and had done a nice detailed sketch for free for a guy, and watched the guy turn around and sell it for $$$. Yes, he doesn't do sketches anymore, and when he does, he makes sure the name of the person is in the sketch. I was very happy with it.

Sergio saw my Ramona Fradon print, which was laminated, and suggested using it for a placemat. He got the attention of a gentleman standing nearby, Mark Evanier, and asked if that was a good idea. Mark and I never properly met, but he was standing right next to me discussing Ramona Fradon placemats with Sergio...

Indy Island

I wandered a little more, visiting some more dealer tables and learning that if I maxed out the credit card I *might* get some of those Golden Age books I wanted. I decided it didn't matter, and went to find Indy Island.

I had passed Indy Island on the way back to the Lulu booth from the DC booth. It had my favorite independent books, like Xeno's Arrow, Castle Waiting, and Thieves & Kings. I wanted to see if I could get some sketches there, and I was getting very tired, too. So when I ended up in front of Greg Beettam, the artist on Xeno's Arrow, I just stood and watched him sketch, glad that a breeze was working its way past this part of the floor.

The sketch he was doing for another fan was a very detailed version of one of his characters. He was WORKING on this thing, making it perfect in every detail. Then he wrote "I hope this inspires M'Oak to draw something even better" on it. He explained to us fans standing there watching that it seemed like every time he would do a sketch M'Oak would respond with something even better and he'd want to go back and redo his sketch to match Mark Oakley's showing off.

I asked him if he wanted to try Aquaman, and at first he was a little hesitant. But after flipping through the book, he wanted to try it, and I must've stood there for fifteen minutes while he drew it. First he drew a small swimming Aquaman. Then he drew some fish. The writer of Xeno's Arrow, Stephen Gieger-Miller appeared and said "It's done Greg!" but Greg was not done, no. Greg added a sea floor, and a starfish (inspired by the Ramona print I was carrying). "It's done Greg!" Then he added a trail of bubbles and some seaweed. "It's done Greg!" Then a bigger fish and more detail on the small fish. "It's done Greg!" Then some coral. And more detail. Finally, he declared it done and signed it. Everyone around clapped.

I was truly, truly exhausted, and ready to fall over. But I wanted a sketch from M'Oak (Mark Oakley, writer/artist of Thieves & Kings) and so I went to his table (right next to Greg's, actually). He started something complicated, but eventually gave up and ripped out the page he'd been working on and drew a standard Thieves & Kings style Aquaman. It was cool.

The DC Booth and the Great Carlini

Utterly exhausted, I should have started back to the shuttle bus and gone to the hotel and relaxed right then and there, but I wanted to meet Mike Carlin, so I went to the DC booth. Before anything else, though, I heard Phil Jimenez was doing sketches, and so I went to his table and got a sketch after standing in line for awhile. I almost fainted. I was so tired.

Then I saw Mr. Carlin. I stood to one side and listened to him telling a wannabe writer that there was no time for a review of writers' works at a con like this, and that it is much harder for a writer to break in than an artist. While he's talking, he notices me and sneaks a look at my nametag. When he's finished with the poor guy who wanted to be a writer, he almost turns toward me, but not quite, and says "I know who YOU are." I was tired, but I grinned and responded, "Good!" At which point he launches into an obviously well-rehearsed explanation of the Aquaman cancellation.

Well, I responded in kind, my fighting spirit awoken, and we had a good talk. After that, though, I headed for the shuttle bus and back to the hotel, where I took in a swim and relaxed for a time. I figured the day was over. And what a day! I'd met two classic Aquaman artists and a few other artists, I'd talked with dozens of people. I'd gotten a number of sketches, all of them very cool.

But that wasn't the end of my day.

Dinner with Friends

As I settled down in the hotel room in pain, trying to decide if I could get the strength up to go to the GCD dinner, Leah burst into the room. "Guess who YOU are going to dinner with tonight?!?" she said jubilantly. Turns out I was invited to dine with Nick Cardy!

And so, I went to dinner with Nick Cardy on Thursday night. I had brought my three-of-a-kind Nick Cardy shirt that John Coates made (he made three, one for me, one for Leah, and one for himself), and in a sudden fit of inspiration I threw that on. And so, I went to dinner with Nick Cardy wearing a shirt that he had done the sketch for. Leah and John hadn't brought theirs for a number of reasons. They were envious.

The four of us (Nick, Leah, John, and myself) went to the Panda Inn, a nice Chinese place. We were settling in at a table when the person at the next table realized who Nick was and struck up a conversation. When the rest of their party didn't arrive, we joined them at their table and so we "shared" Nick with Batton Lash and Jackie Estrada and three of their guests.

And thank goodness for them! If I had been left alone with Nick I doubt I could've kept him entertained. As it was, I simply sat next to him and basked. Batton asked most of the questions, and Nick loved to talk. He told tale after tale (some of which I'd heard from here or there). He's a very interesting man. He got two purple hearts in WWII, did tons of art for comic books and movies, and had a long career. And Nick really got a kick out of my T-shirt, making me turn my back to people so they could see his sketch.

Leah Adezio, John Coates, Laura Gjovaag, and Nick Cardy

When we finally said good-bye I was walking on air. I hated for the evening to end. When I got back to the hotel I set up Leah's laptop and logged in and told the world (well, the poor GCD guys that I had stood up, and Eric at least). After that I went to sleep. And so went the first day of the San Diego Comic Con. I could hardly believe that there were three more days. It couldn't possibly get better than this.

Day Two in San Diego

Friday morning came way too early. Leah and I went swimming again, and down at the pool we ran into another artist, Jim Calafiore. He promised to add a little to my sketchbook if I caught up with him at the con.

Once I got to the con, my first order of business was finding Mark Crilley. I wanted to commission a couple of sketches from him, but to do so meant I had to find him first. I figured the guys at Indy Island would know so I headed out that way to start.

Once I reached Indy Island (which was a large booth actually run by Cold Cut distributors) I met Jim Ottaviani, the writer/publisher of a book I really liked called Dignifying Science (which was also nominated for an Eisner). He and I chatted a bit about Linda Medley (Castle Waiting) and I asked where I might find Mark Crilley. He pointed me in the direction of the Sirius booth, and I headed out that way after meeting Linda Medley very briefly.

When I got to the booth, Mark was not there. A worker for Sirius said he'd be back in a bit, and that I shouldn't wait, but there was some neat art sitting there to look at, and Jill Thompson (Scary Godmother) arrived so I listened to tales and looked at art. Linda Medley suddenly showed up, and waited with me for a bit before leaving a package for Mark. Literally seconds after she put the package on his chair, Mark showed up and looked very upset that he'd missed her, so stupid me says to Mark "Linda JUST left, you could catch her if I knew which way she went." and off he went to look for her. Leaving me standing.

I stood there until he got back, and made my commissions. I wanted a picture that had a sign somewhere that said "To Paraguay" or something to that effect, and had Akiko and Poog, for my sister who is currently living in Paraguay. I also wanted a picture of Gax and Spuckler for my Mom. He said to come by in the afternoon to pick the pieces up. Then I headed off to take care of another piece of business.

A Little Piece of Oz

Eric Shanower was skipping the Oz convention to attend San Diego, and I was under instructions to find him and say hi. First I went to the Image booth, which was actually a series of tables for each Image team. I asked at the first booth, since I didn't want to get too far in and accidentally run into Erik Larsen and ruin both our cons. The woman there was extremely nice and helped me figure out that Shanower should be in the small press area (next to artists' alley). I wandered over that way, and Shanower's table wasn't hard to find. He was all alone, looking kind of bored, so I popped over and said hello. Then I showed him my sketchbook, which he gleefully added to.

Finally, he asked me to take some copies of Age of Bronze over to Ramona Fradon, which I did. There was a pile of sketches at her table, which I looked through, then I bought one. I couldn't resist! I felt a little guilty, but it was Ramona! While I was down there, I stopped by at Nick's booth to thank him for dinner and chat a bit with John Coates.

Well, I was a little tired (I really did a lot more walking than these notes imply), and so I headed over to the Lulu booth again. Leah was there, as was her friend Jamal Igle, an artist that Leah had told me about some time ago. He was willing to do a sketch for me too, and so added another Aquaman to my pages. I actually met Jamal on the first day, when Leah and I went to the DC booth to see the Aquaman and Aqualad action figures.

Attack of the Aquaman Artists

I wandered off to artists' alley in the hopes of getting a few more sketches. Right on the corner that I usually entered the alley at was Jim Calafiore, looking a little more dressed than he had in the pool. He gladly took my sketchbook and started sketching, and I flipped through the pile of comic book pages he had for sale and picked out an Aquaman one.

Jim was very bitter about it, because he'd basically been fired from the book before Peter David left. In fact, one of the reasons Peter David quit was because Jim was fired. So Jim said he was happy it was being canceled, as it felt like vindication to him. Moving on to a safer topic, we discussed the reasons for the hook. Jim described it as a symbol of the limitations Aquaman had set upon himself. Then Jim told me about how he had been accidentally making the hook shorter and shorter, until Peter and an editor pointed it out to him.

After getting the sketch from Jim, I really wanted to ask Mark McKenna, but he was drawing another sketch, and talking, and I didn't feel like interrupting or just standing there. I remembered that I wanted to get a sketch for Paige (my comic shop owner) of Rogue, and had been told to try Jeff Moy. I went to his table, and chatted with him for awhile. He said that he got booked up on sketches very early, so if I wanted a sketch, I should pop in first thing in the morning and get on the list. I promised to do so, and headed off toward a table I had noticed while talking to Jim.

When I went up to Michael Wm Kaluta's table, he had a pile of his Books of Magic covers, but *not one* from the most recent series he has been doing: Aquaman. Argh. Anyway, some kids were at the table saying "Where's the lightning bolt?" and "Hey, Harry doesn't have his scar!" Kaluta calmly explained that the covers weren't from Harry Potter, and the kids lost interest and went away. He did a sketch for me and we talked about children being at the con, and other stuff. He's a nice guy, willing to chat.

Side Trip to Smoo

Then I went to Mark Crilley's table to see if my sketches were ready. Mark was sitting at his table when I came up, and not busy. He recognized me right away, and pulled out two beautiful pieces. While I stood admiring them I realized that I wanted to get an Aquaman from Mark, so I pulled out my sketchbook and asked.

Well, he was one of the few that didn't want to do Aquaman, but he was cool with doing AquAkiko, which he did. I was really pleased and started off when I suddenly realized that I wanted to get an Oz-related drawing for Eric. That didn't take long, and Mark took the award for most sketches I got at the con. He did a scarecrow for Eric, by the way.

I was at loose ends. I was very tired again, since this all had taken hours. But I wanted to go to the DC booth again. When I got there, the JSA team was signing. I didn't really know who I was talking to, but when I got home and Eric and I looked at a copy of JSA, I found out. David Goyer, who is a writer, wanted to try an Aquaman sketch and did a very wavy one. John Kalisz, the colorist on the book, drew a happy Aquaman. And Stephen Sadowski, the artist, drew one kind of based on Kaluta's version.

I ended up at Indy Island after another hour or two of wandering. There I saw Jim Ottaviani again, and Linda Medley. I finally worked up enough nerve to ask Linda if she'd do a sketch for me, and she took my sketchbook and looked through it. I had decided at that point that I needed to go back to the hotel, and told her that she didn't have to sketch today. Since she was somewhat busy, she gratefully promised that she would do a sketch tomorrow, and she would think of something different than all the other sketches.

The Eisner Awards

I headed back to the hotel to rest before the Eisner awards. Leah arrived back at the hotel while I was getting ready. I went over to the Hyatt alone and went up to the banquet hall where the awards ceremony was being held. Leah said I could find food there if I was hungry. I was, and I noticed a group of people headed over to a table at the side, and figured that was where the food was, so I started over that way.

Ok, there were tables up front where the nominees and professionals and their guests would sit. Behind them were rows and rows of chairs. Behind that, way in the back, was the dance floor and more tables where the post-awards ceremony party would be held. There were a lot of people at the tables up front, about half the seats in the middle were filled, and nobody in the back. As I walked over to the table that appeared to have food on it, I peered at the tables in front to see if I could see Nick.

I must have looked really really befuddled, because one of the attendants came up to me and asked if I needed something. Trying to explain that I was only looking for Nick Cardy and that I just wanted to look and I would go sit down, she misinterpreted me to mean that I was one of Nick's guests, and ran off to find Nick. So I stood there, very embarrassed.

Nick came over and said hello and gave me a big hug, then decided to introduce me to one of his friends. Carmine Infantino. Here I was being introduced to Carmine Infantino by Nick Cardy.

Both Carmine and myself had no idea what was happening, but we shook hands gravely, said a few words to each other, then I wandered off with Nick to his table. John Coates was surprised to see me, since only pros and their invited guests were allowed up front. John decided to see if he could get me a seat up front, which made me extremely nervous, since I knew the kind of planning that went into this sort of thing, and didn't want to disrupt anything. On the other hand, sitting with Nick Cardy during the Eisner Awards would be incredible, especially since Will Eisner was sitting at Nick's table!

As expected, there was no place for me, and Jackie Estrada didn't look pleased that Nick and John had asked. I felt a profound disappointment along with extreme relief, and rushed back to get to the back of the floor into one of those seats in the middle before they all filled up. I sat in the last row of the middle seats and waited until Leah came in and sat next to me. I told her what happened, then we watched the beginning of the ceremony. I started to nod off, but Leah told me to stay until the "Best Publication About Comics" award was presented, since that was the one that John's book "The Art of Nick Cardy" was up for. When I saw the list of nominees, I knew John wouldn't win, but I stayed anyway. I was right, Neil Gaiman won that award.

I stumbled back to the Westin alone, since Leah intended to party at the Hyatt, and getting off the bus ran into some internet fans who recognized my name and asked me how everything was going. By this time I was dying, and starving for that matter, and I answered them as well as I could. I didn't eat, I went back to the room and logged on-line quickly, then crashed, dreaming of award ceremonies and all the bizarre things that had happened. As I drifted off, my last thought was: day two over, half the con is still left!

Over Halfway There

As morning dawned on day three, I realized that I had decided that I was going to fill my sketchbook at this con, and I was falling behind. I had set too lofty a goal, and it was unfair of me to expect anything from any artist, but I was in danger of becoming demanding if I pushed it. I decided to set a more reasonable goal for today. Five sketches. That's all. If I could get five sketches today, I would be happy. I had two already in the bag, since Linda Medley had promised one, and so had Leah. So I wasn't going to stress, just get five Aquaman sketches and enjoy myself.

As for the con itself, I was thinking about Jeff Moy, and his warning to get there early to get a commission in, so I was rushing a bit. We did the buffet again (I was starved from not eating anything since breakfast the day before) and got to the convention before the doors opened.

Leah snuck in to talk with a kid. She has a Pokemon backpack, a Pikachu, that the children love. She was making the backpack dance on the other side of the glass doors, and the child was so excited that Leah slipped in to entertain the kid some more. The guard wouldn't let me in, but when the guard went away for a bit I went in and hung with Leah, too. We waited 5 or 10 minutes in the lobby before the main doors to the exhibition hall opened and we were let in.

I shot off, away from Leah, to Jeff Moy's table in artists' alley, after promising to get up to the DC Slide Show at 10:30. I got there in record time, but he wasn't there. There was a sign-up sheet on his table for sketches, and I was the second name on the list. I wrote the character and the size of the sketch. But I completely forgot that there are several versions of Rogue and so I didn't really give him enough information. But I didn't learn that until later.

I wanted to stick around in artists' alley, but I wanted to make the slide show, so I went upstairs to the panel rooms. I don't know why I bothered. The show was boring, with only a couple of new pieces of information. The room was packed, and the pictures were less than inspiring. Although there were tidbits of good information, for the most part it was nothing. I went back down to the floor before the question and answer session started and back to artists' alley.

Five Sketches

The first person my eyes wandered to was Steve Lieber. He had won an Eisner the night before, and I went up to his table and said hi. We talked a little, and I got him to do Aquaman in my sketchbook. He showed me some pages from an Oz story he had just done for Eric Shanower's Oz anthology, and I told him how much my husband was going to like those. They also happened to be about a mermaid, so it all went along with the Aqua-theme for me.

Michael T Gilbert was a name I'd heard of, and one I associated with horror comics and a book called Mr Monster. He wasn't busy (even looked a little bored) but I didn't really think he'd do a sketch. I asked anyway, and he obliged. Wow, only three more to go!

Flush with success, I looked around and saw Philip Moy, Jeff Moy's brother. He currently works on the Powerpuff Girls comic book, but does a lot of other stuff. So I went up to him and asked for a sketch. He was sitting there with a friend, and he drew Aquaman, then handed the sketchbook to his friend, Tom Fremgren, who contributed his own sketch of Aquaman. I thanked them both and went to find another artist.

William Hodge was sitting alone, and when I asked if he could do a sketch he was glad of the company. I looked through his work while he sketched, then took a card so I would remember his name. Later that night, I spent hours trying to remember his name until I suddenly remembered that I had picked up the card and everything fell into place. Hodge was my fifth sketch of the day, so everything from this point on was gravy. But I wasn't close to being done with artists' alley yet.

The Redemption of Matt Haley

Next victim, er, sketch was from Matt Haley. I already had a sketch from Matt Haley. It's on the 6th page of my sketchbook, and it's a quick convention sketch of Batman. When I saw Matt Haley sitting alone an evil thought came to me and I went up to his table with an evil grin. "Hi!" I said, "I have something you need to see!" and I handed him my sketchbook. He flipped through it from the end, looking at all the neat Aquaman sketches... then he got to page 6. He said "Oh crap," then turned to the next blank page and quickly sketched out an Aquaman drawing that was really neat (I have always liked his art).

And so, Matt Haley redeemed himself for the Batman sketch. And I had an extra sketch, even, from my goal. And Linda's sketch was still promised. One of the artists I'd talked with earlier, maybe Philip Moy, suggested that I try Jeff Parker. Jeff would do an Aquaman sketch for sure. And so right after getting my sketch from Matt I headed over to the wall where Jeff was set up.

Jeff Parker is a cool artist who is into gorillas. Anyway, Jeff loved my sketchbook and couldn't wait to add to it. The problem was doing something original. Eventually he decided to do a classic Aquaman in silhouette, with a shark. It's really cool, and very different. What amazes me is how well he caught the spirit of Aquaman in a simple silhouette.

Sitting next to Jeff and listening to every word was Al Bigley, an artist who has done some stuff for DC's animated line, among others. He was interested in adding to my book, and did a strong classic Aquaman in the animated style. He also had some pages of art from a Tiny Toons story that had been part of a proposal. I wanted to buy one page from him. When I pulled it out, he offered me all the pages at $40. Since there were five pages, marked at $20 each, and these were definitely one of a kind, I said sure. He signed all five pages to Eric (my husband). I told him about Eric's fanfic crossover story "Quantoon Leap", and he seemed interested (Eric's fanfic has apparently been translated into several other languages and is considered the grandaddy of Tiny Toon fanfic, go figure).

Next, since I was so close, I went over to Nick Cardy's table and said hello to John and Nick. And, since I'd spent the weekend so far visiting Nick, I asked the artist at the next table, Scott Sava, if he wanted to contribute to "The Sketchbook". He drew someone that looked very much like Namor (Marvel's underwater character). I am still amused.

After visiting Ramona really quickly, I went off to rest. I passed lots of crowds, indeed, the crowds were MUCH worse today. My agoraphobia was pinging off the scale. There were moments that I felt extremely shaky. At one booth I caught a glimpse of tons of guys with cameras and a woman wearing practically nothing posing for them. I averted my eyes and walked on. That's not why *I*'m into comic books.

Indy Island, A Place to Rest

I went out to Indy Island, looking for Linda Medley and my promised sketch. When I got there, I was really not doing well. I was sweating buckets, and I felt very shaky from the crowds. When I had checked my e-mail the night before, Lionel of the GCD had suggested I go to the Cold Cut booth to find Tim Stroup, another GCDer. Well, Cold Cut was Indy Island, one and the same, so I looked around and saw Tim and said hello. After one look at me he insisted that I come into the booth and sit down for a bit.

I sat. Tim and I talked, and some of the other indy comics people in the booth talked. Linda wasn't there. In fact, she hadn't shown up to one of her panels that morning. People were a little concerned about her. I forgot about my sketch and worried along with them. After I'd recovered, I decided that I wanted to go back to the hotel and drop off the art I'd bought for Eric. I said good-bye to everyone and sent my best wished to Linda, and went out and caught the shuttle bus, which ran every ten minutes.

I went to the hotel and dropped things off to lighten my load, then pretty much turned right around and went back to the con. I think I rested for all of two minutes. I had made my sketch goal, and then some, so I was just going to go back and enjoy my time. When I got back, I decided to hit the DC Booth first.

Back to the DC Booth

At the DC Booth, the "Legion Lost" team was signing. I don't buy the book, but the writers had worked on Aquaman, and one was an artist. So I got in line for Andy Lanning and got a sketch from him and Olivier Coipel, the artist on the Legion book. I also pulled out my green notebook and got autographs from the Legion team. I'm not sure why I hadn't pulled out my autograph book yet, but now that I had, I decided to visit some more people.

Not a Guppy

Mike Carlin was my next autograph, and to my surprise he drew a little guy handing a glass of water to me. I also got Dan Raspler's autograph. Then I got in line for an artist that somebody told me did really good Aquaman sketches. He was sitting next to John McCrea, and the line went around the table and outside the booth.

The DC booth was an interesting space. They had sort of benches set up around the area, where people who were tired would sit. I noticed a guy sitting there, right next to the line I was in, drawing in a large sketchbook. He was drawing Wonder Girl from Young Justice. I complimented him on the quality, then realized I was looking at Todd Nauck, the artist on YJ.

When Young Justice first came out, I didn't like the art at all. It had a cartoony Manga style that bothered me. However, the more I looked at it, and the more issues that I read, the better I liked it. In fact, I went from not liking it to thinking it's some of the best work I've seen in ages. The detail in some of the stories enhances the book so much that YJ has jumped to the top of my reading list. Great stories, great art, what more could you ask for?

Anyway, I watched him finish the sketch he was working on, and he told me that he would be signing at 5pm. I told him I'd try to make it, but I wasn't sure I'd last that long. He frowned, then added the last details on his Wonder Girl sketch. He looked up after he'd let the drawing dry out and closed the sketchbook, and asked very nicely if he could look at my sketchbook. I love showing it off, so I handed it to him without hesitation. The people around me in line oooh'ed and aaaah'ed along with him, and when he got to the last page, he started to work on an Aquaman sketch for me.

I was both delighted and concerned. I really doubted that the line would move fast enough for it to be a problem, but I felt kind of bad that he was drawing for me and no one else (though nobody in line seemed to have a problem, they were all watching him draw intently). Mike Carlin peeked around the corner and tsk'ed Todd for doing a sketch for me out of the booth. Todd ignored him. The sketch he turned out was FANTASTIC. It was just so cool! I was already a big Nauck fan, now I'll never read YJ without thinking about the cool artist who did a sketch for me out of turn.

By the time I got around the corner, the artist I had originally gotten in line for was gone. John McCrea willingly did an Aquaman sketch for me, and accidentally got some water on his sketch as he was finishing it, ironically enough.

Finishing Up

Next I went back to Indy Island to see if Linda was ok. Huzzah! She was not only OK, she was there and doing sketches. She knew exactly what she wanted to draw for me, and did a neat drawing of an older Aquaman looking at a fish. Very very cool.

What next? I suddenly realized I hadn't gone back for my Rogue sketch, and so I went to Jeff Moy's table. He was there, and when he saw my name he apologized profusely because he hadn't known which version of Rogue I'd wanted. So he'd drawn a modern version that he'd designed. He offered to draw the "right one" if I preferred, but I liked his version and happily paid him for the sketch. Then I asked if he wanted to add to my Aquaman sketchbook, which he did.

After that, I wandered a bit, talked to people. I went back to the hotel earlyish and stayed at the hotel for dinner that night instead of going out. I ordered room service, even, and had a nice pizza and cheesecake. When Leah came back to the room to prepare for the night out, she took my sketchbook and did her version of Aquaman, in full color, in it. She was my last sketch of the day. A lot more than five sketches, eh? Goes to show what a little relaxing can do.

Speaking of relaxing, that was by far the most relaxing night of the con. My feet hurt so bad I refused to budge from the hotel, even though I was invited to the Legion fans' dinner. I didn't see much reason to go anyway, since I'm not a Legion fan and know almost nothing about the book. But the end result was that I relaxed, watched a little TV (caught up on the M's) and had a nice quiet meal alone.

Sunday Morning At The Con

Sunday morning at the con is the toughest time of all. For San Diego, Saturday had felt like a Sunday morning. Four days is just about one too many to be doing a con this big. And yet, it wouldn't be a con this big if it weren't for the four days. Before starting the day, I counted the remaining pages in my sketchbook, and told Leah that there were only nine pages left. She said that it would be easy for me to get nine sketches in seven hours. I wasn't so sure, and I decided I wouldn't push it.

We got a bit of a slow start, which wasn't good because the Friends of Lulu general meeting was supposed to start at 10:30, and Leah had to be there since she was up for election on the board of directors. And I sort of, kind of, wanted to go to my first official Lulu meeting. However, I hadn't met all my goals for the con (though I managed most of them). The big one I hadn't done was meet any of the writers. I'd completely missed Shaun McLaughlin thanks to forgetting his schedule at home, and I had no idea where to start looking for Peter David.

When I mentioned that to Leah on the bus, she suggested I stop by the Claypool booth right away when we got to the con. She seemed to recall that Peter was signing from 10-11. So while Leah went up to the panel room the Lulus were meeting in, I went to the Claypool booth and, sure enough, found Peter David.

I don't know if you know the signifigance of Peter David to my comic book fandom. Sometimes I don't even realize it. Peter David was the writer of the first comic book I bought as an adult: Spider-Man 2099. He was also a Star Trek writer at the time (still is, in fact) and I had read some of his work in Star Trek so I knew he was a decent writer. After I'd read a lot of Aquaman, Peter David took over that title and my favorite character and favorite writer were united for four blissful years. Once he stopped writing Aquaman, I kept reading other books by him. In fact, not a month of my comic book reading life has gone by that I haven't read at least one comic book by Peter David.

Did I think to say any of that? No. I babbled about the Aquaman cancellation, and he went off on a rant about Aquaman and how he'd quit when he learned they were firing Jim and this and that and the other thing. I felt both mildly disappointed and severely guilty, because a journalist wanted to do an interview with him and I was in the way, and a line had formed while he looked at my collected Aquaman sketches.

On the other hand, he was really fun and interesting to listen to, and the journalist took notes during his Aquaman rant.

Slipping away while his attention turned to other fans, I went to the Lulu booth and talked with the two people there. One of them asked me with desperation if I could ***PLEASE*** watch the booth for the next hour, since nobody was signed up and she had to go back to her hotel to check out. I was hesitant, since I was supposed to be up in the general meeting, but I agreed after only a few more seconds pleading, because I hated the idea of anyone being in the lurch.

Booth Sitting

Do you know what Friends of Lulu is? That was the question I was asking folks. I had Friends of Lulu stickers, and would call to passersby "Would you like a sticker?" at which point 80% of them would stop and come over to the booth to find out what I was saying. I would hand them a sticker, which was usually applied to clothing or badge-holder, then ask them if they were familiar with Friends of Lulu. Then I had a bit of a script: "Friends of Lulu is an organization devoted to getting more women into comics, as readers, writers and artists." At that point, though, my knowledge really ended. Luckily, another member came down from the general meeting and helped me.

And so I sat there for an hour, thinking about only having five hours left once I was done with sitting here. I talked with a lot of people, and had a decent time despite being stuck in the booth.

Once my hour ended, I bolted. I was in artists' alley before you could say "The crowds are too thick!" and wandering along the rows I hadn't quite saturated yet. I noticed a guy with lots of funny drawings on his table, and got intrigued. One of the things on his table was a cut-out of the Titanic - well, part of the Titanic. It was a cut out of the sinking Titanic, and was really funny.

This was the table of Rick Geary, and he drew my first sketch of the last day. Then I just went down the line, to Donna Barr and Roberta Gregory, then back to the end of the row to Dave Garcia (who did some art for The Tick comic books) and then down to Michael Bair who was sitting next to Ramona Fradon. Then I bought another sketch from Ramona. *sigh*

Suddenly, I only had four pages to fill. I first went over to Mark McKenna's table, where Jim Calafiore had sat all weekend, and asked him. Unfortunately, he was leaving to catch his plane, so I was out of luck. He gave me his e-mail address so I could write and commission a sketch later on.

Sitting next to him, though, was Mike McKone, who wanted to add to the book. Three pages left. I was at a complete loss at this point. I wandered around and saw more of the booths. I stopped by at the Lulu booth for a bit. I visited some dealers, but didn't even bother to ask about More Fun Comics. I somehow ended up in front of the Claypool booth again. And artist by the name of Amanda Connor was doing sketches, and I managed to get in and ask for one.

Wild Sketch

Right after she started my sketch, a camera crew came along. The reporter was a tall skinny woman with a microphone and an over-the-top attitude, and her crew was a poor guy lugging around a huge video camera and a guy with the sound equipment. The guy with the camera got behind Amanda and taped her doing my sketch, then the reporter and Amanda did a quick interview (during which I learned she was engaged to be married, among other things) and then the crew whisked off as fast as they had come, and Amanda suddenly realized she'd made me wait for ten minutes, and quickly finished my sketch.

I thanked her, and asked about a trip to Seattle she'd mentioned. She said she was going to the Seattle Com-Card show in September, so I said I might see her there. Then I went to the Lulu booth to recover from the craziness.

Leah was there, and I sat down next to her and we chatted for a bit. Then Mike Carlin came by and got an earful from the two biggest Aquafans at the con. Then I learned the nitty-gritty about running a booth, as people started coming up in droves to renew Lulu memberships and to ask about the organization.

One guy who came up to the booth to renew his membership was Rod Espinosa. I bought a book by him recently called "Courageous Princess" that was quite good. I went speechless. Here I am, able to talk with Ramona Fradon and Nick Cardy, and an artist whose work I hardly know is making me unable to talk. I made Leah buy his book, and got him to agree to fill one of my last two pages. He went over to his table (just across the aisle) with my sketchbook to go grab a couple of copies of his book and to do my sketch.

It suddenly ocurred to me that this was the first time since the con began that the sketchbook was not in my possession.

He brought it back, with a cool sketch, and we put his book on the table with a sign that pointed to his booth. And Leah bought her copy. And I was pretty durned happy. One page left. And no idea who to get to fill it.

The Last Page

Then Leah suggested Neal Adams. I hadn't even realized Neal Adams was at the con. She told me he was at a closer table, and I wandered off to find him. He wasn't in the alley, I decided, after walking around it a bit, and since I didn't want to deal with the maddening crowds right then, I sat down at Nick Cardy's table. Up came Mike Carlin (Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha!) who thought I was stalking him or something. He chatted with Nick, while I just smiled. Then, with one last amused glare at me, he headed back to the DC booth.

Then Leah ran up and asked if I'd found Neal. I said no, and she said to follow her. I walked with her up into the publishers' area, and right near an exit we found his booth, the Continuity Comics booth. Leah and I walked up, and Leah chatted with Neal since she knows his daughter. Then the moment of truth came. I explained that I had an Aquaman sketchbook, with only one page left to fill. . .

Neal looked genuinely sorry as he said he never did sketches for free. I understood, and asked the price. The price was on a placard on his table: Head sketches - $200, Full Body - $500. I didn't gasp, I didn't make a face, I guess I just looked as disappointed as I felt, as Leah said, "But Ramona and Nick are in here, and it's very cool. . ." and Neal looked at me.

Then a little miracle happened. He asked to look at the book. I said it was ok, I understood, as I handed the book over. He flipped through it and got a twinkle in his eyes as he saw what I had. Then a moment's pause over that last page. The con vanished. The sound stopped. There was me, Leah, and Neal holding the sketchbook, and nothing else.

"Oh, all right," he said, and pulled out a pen. A little magic on that last page. A little disbelief. A little joy. He handed it back, I shook his hand, then Leah was guiding me away, back to Nick's table. "I was sure that wasn't going to happen!" said Leah. I nodded, looking happily down at my sketch.

The Final Countdown

With a little over an hour left of congoing, I just wanted to rest. I hung out at Nick's table and helped John Coates sell books, while Nick wandered around having fun. Then we talked about having dinner. We decided to meet at a place up in Horton Plaza, and then we decided that Leah and I would take Nick up to Horton Plaza by shuttle bus.

Which, according to Nick, meant that he had an escort of two beautiful women. What a charmer.

As the con was coming to a close, and we were headed up to 5 pm, Leah and I led Nick toward the front doors out to the shuttle buses. I noticed that we were headed for the small press area, and a wicked little thought ocurred to me. I asked Nick if he'd ever met my friend, Eric Shanower? He couldn't recall it, so I introduced Nick Cardy to Eric Shanower. Eric was suitably impressed, and handed Nick a copy of Age of Bronze.

Because we were in the small press area, and because Nick is so well-known and respected, just about everybody jumped up from their tables to hand Nick a copy of their book and to tell him how much influence he'd had on their works. Nick was flattered, and a little overwhelmed. As we stood at Eric's table, surrounded by adoring professionals, the PA system crackled to life and someone said "THE SAN DIEGO COMIC CON IS OVER!" to which a cheer went up from the floor from the tired booth-bums.

Leah and I got Nick out to the shuttle bus, which was nearly full, but we all managed to find a seat. I sat a couple of seats behind Nick, and listened to the people around me whisper "That's Nick Cardy up there!" I was really basking in it, let me tell you.

When we got to the hotel, we met up with Nick's niece in the lobby and Nick pulled out Age of Bronze to look at while we waited for Leah to change. He was really impressed with it, and kept saying "that young man produced this comic?" thinking Eric Shanower was 17 instead of 30-something.

Then we went up to the restaurant, and I bought Nick his meal. He was a little taken aback, and wanted to pay me back, and wouldn't accept "Your presence is payment enough" or "that sketch you drew me is enough" so I finally got him to agree to buy my dessert. So Nick bought me a fudge-covered cheesecake for dessert, which I almost couldn't finish.

After dinner we walked down to the ugly obelisk, and said good-bye to Nick and John and Nick's niece, and Leah and I sat on the bench outside the hotel after they'd gone, just basking in the final moments of an incredible day.

Going Home

It was a mostly uneventful flight home, despite nasty cancellations by Alaska airlines. I was watching a movie in which the dialogue was crucial, and the pilot kept getting on the intercom and announcing where we were. At one point we were flying over Mount Shasta, and he droned on and on with statistics, then said, "And as you all know, Shasta is an ancient Indian word meaning diet cola!" at which point I could have gleefully bopped him over the head with my DVD player.

It was nice to be home, and poor Eric quickly got tired of me gushing about how wonderful the con had been. So, that was San Diego for me. Maybe next year?

-Laura Gjovaag, July 2000

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