NOTE: This report was written during the convention. Certain parts were written retroactively. Thursday, July 20 I’m on the Amtrak train, dubbed “Surfliner South”, going down to San Diego. It feels really strange to me. This is the first big trip I’ve taken alone (before any of you assume anything, I’m only 18 years old. I’ve been a reviewer for two and a half years now.) and it feels like a brand new experience. I type this out on my old 1999 Visor Platinum, which I named Scar (after the antagonist in Lion King, but it also goes by the name “Scar-San” after a character in Full Metal Alchemist.), complete with a foldable keyboard. I have a headache already, which is pissing the living shit out of me. Might be a migraine, too. I already took some extra strength Tylenol, but it hasn’t helped much. I’ll stop by the snack bar and get some caffeine. My plans for the con are rather lacking, to tell the truth. I didn’t make a schedule beforehand, which I’m starting to regret. But I’ll be staying with a friend, Aaron “Laemkral” Freed, the artist and writer behind “I’m Always Right.” So I guess I’ll go along with his plans. I do want to meet different webcomic artists along the way, and I know there’s going to be a lot of them. Hopefully, I can spread my reputation a bit further by meeting some of these people face to face.
First of all, just to say, the San Diego convention center is freakishly huge. I haven’t been to a con this fucking big. I caught up with Aaron and had the chance to meet some real big people in the webcomics world, touring around from place to place with no real point other than to meet webcomic artists. First big guy I got to see today was none other than Scott Kurtz with his wife. Yeah, the things you hear about him are about right. He is pretty self absorbed, and he is pretty damn smarmy at times, but he can get pretty damn humble at times. We spoke about his upcoming Eisner award, in which he commented pretty damn sarcastically, “If I win the Eisner, I’ll take a picture of myself in a gangsta pose, and I’ll announce I will no longer answer fan mail.” We spoke to him about World of Warcraft, in which he talked about how Kurtz and his spouse would get takeout often in order to save the hassle to cook food while they played world of warcraft [note: Kurtz never did the gangsta pose on the site. I am saddened.] Who else to move on to than Sam and Fuzzy. It was something of a proud moment of mine to hear the artist (Sam Logan), say enthusiastically, “Hey, I know this site!” which practically blew me away. I expected to get puzzled looks throughout the con (Kurtz threw my business card under the table) but to have someone already know the site was amazing. We haven’t reviewed Sam and Fuzzy at all at Korsil.net, so I guess I’ll have to get that on the top of my list. Penny Arcade. Tycho and Gabe were both there, with the biggest booth out of all of the webcomics there. Jerry “Tycho” Holkins was especially amusing to talk to, and Mike “Gabe” Krahulik was pretty quiet, but still did signatures and sketches for everyone. Tycho did drop an interesting little tidbit for me- Penny Arcade was asked by PETA to do some artwork or something. I laughed when Tycho shrugged his shoulders and said, “I guess they really don’t know us all that well.” Other smaller comics were there, and I was actually surprised to meet some of them. Mystic Revolution’s Jennifer Brazas was there beside Flipside’s Brion Foulke. Both offered plenty of merchandising and whatnot, as well as little pins. It was rather interesting to talk to some of the smaller comic artists, some that have a small fan following. Jennifer wanted to see a review of MR, so I guess I have some work to do once I get home. And crap, I totally forgot to buy something from her. Damn. As the day almost came to a close, I quickly ran off to see the webcomics 101 panel. Standing in line, it was pretty damn funny to realize that Gav from Keenspot was standing right behind me, with a shock of blue hair. He looked like a result of a wild night between a hippie and weird al Yankovich. We spoke for a while waiting in the back of the line, and eventually, never got into the panel. I did try to grill Gav into telling me who was Keenspotted (ie invited onto keenspot) but he forgot completely. He did offer a good bit of advice when it came to submitting comics to Keenspot- try and have some form of stats (like webalizer) available, to back up any claims to large amount of hits. The day ended rather strangely. I hung out with Matt, Aaron’s younger brother, and we went to a local arcade. He had his bag stolen while we played Time Crisis 3. And my badge was stolen. Crap on a stick. On the way back to Aaron’s place, I argued that the comic that was brought onto Keenspot was Kate Ashwin’s Darken, but nobody believed me. DAY 2 Got in early, got a new badge, and ran to the Blank Label Comics panel, where it was about 3/4 th filled with people who woke up early in the morning. Hosted by Kristopher Straub & David Kellett, the panel had some of the biggest names on the Blank Label name, including David Willis (standing out in a orange shirt that even a California native like myself couldn’t look at for more than ten seconds) from It’s Walky and Shortpacked. Paul Taylor of Wapsi Square was there, a head taller than most and staying relatively quiet, save for nods and smiles that he gave out every couple of minutes. Howard Tayler of Shlock Mercenary was probably the driving force of the panel, answering most of the questions given to the panel, in a shirt that was bright yellow, but not enough to burn your eyes, like David Willis’ shirt. The panel started out with a video with puppets of the Melonpool characters, interviewing the various people at the panel. It was pretty funny, and almost went to a disturbing level once David Willis shared a very intimate kiss with one of the puppets. Really disturbing, as I thought I saw some tongue action between the inanimate object and the toy loving cartoonist. They did bring up some great ideas with the panel. They brought a certain love for their work that I have never seen in person when it comes to webcomic artists. Brad Guigar commented that his family calls the webcomic, “his therapy”. Others just had a love for their work that I can’t describe, it was pretty damn great. Tayler brought about the idea that people shouldn’t be called a webcomic artist, but a cartoonist that publishes online. It was an interesting point, something that I have to consider some more. The rest of the panel covered the concept of making money in webcomics, and a two tiered system was brought up to the panel (free comic + paid content), but wasn’t fully answered, especially when Willis himself does a two tiered system. I guess it’s some stuff for me to write about with those editorials I’ve been meaning to write. I spent the rest of the day meeting some of the other webcomic artists there. Liz from the awesome Stuff Sucks recognized me (or looked at my business card, I don’t know which one) and I got a free high-five from her (yay!) and I got around to talking to Frank Gibson from Combustible Orange. He is awesome. And from New Zealand. That’s the best combination ever. Anyways, the rest of the day went by rather quickly until Webcomics 102 Webcomics 102 had Bill Barnes (Unshelved) hosting a panel of some of the biggest names in webcomics, including Kristopher Straub (Starslip Crisis), Jerry “Tycho” Holkins and Mike “Gabe” Krahulik (Penny Arcade), and Scott Kurtz. The panel, although well moderated by Bill, provided no real information, other than really funny lines from Kurtz and the Penny arcade gang, especially when Kurtz threw shots out at Alt-Ctrl-Del, commenting, “I want to make a T-Shirt that says, “I stole this T-Shirt idea”” in reference to A-C-D. The Keenspot panel later on was filed with El Goonish Shive fans, a pity when considering when such Keenspot people as Jennie Breeden (The Devil’s Panties), R. Smith (Funny Farm), Gav (Nukees) while being hosted by Chris Daily (Striptease) and John Troutman (Flint Again) with a special appearance by Meredith Gran (Skirting Danger). Darken was announced to be new addition to Keenspot (I got loud by telling Aaron “I TOLD YOU SO!”) Honestly, the Keenspot panel wasn’t much. It was pretty amusing to hear R. Smith talking about his project Banished! with a webcomic artist I’m a good friend (and fellow Dreamcast lover) with, James “Jamie” Anderson. Smith totally forgot Jamie’s previous project (Jamie and Nick) and I had to yell it out. [note: Mr. Anderson totally found this hilarious once I told him that his writer had a bad memory] Did get to hang out with Aaron Freed (Laemkral) afterwards, as well as another two Comic Genesis artists, R.L. Peterson (Go For It!) and M. Neils (Pocket Kitten Comics). We had dinner, followed by a movie. I have to say, meeting some of these people are great, especially R.L. Peterson, he’s a complete trip. DAY 3 Yeah, didn’t do anything webcomics related today. Did get to see Grind House. And hang out with R.L. Peterson some more. DAY 4 Packing up, today was something for me to actually go around and see all the different artists that I had missed the last couple of days. Not before that, I visited the History of Webcomics, as hosted by the very humble and hilarious T. Campbell. He described the book in heavy detail, and now, I wish I had enough money to buy the book. Oh well. Maybe later. The last couple of artists I visited were Joseph GH from Alpha Shade. Meeting him once before, it was rather cool to have him recognize me and talk to him once more. What really surprised me is the news that he was self employed, working on Alpha Shade, while his brother, the writer, still had a job. He did comment how hard it was, but his optimism for the future was something awe inspiring to me. Josh Lesnik was tucked away in some far off corner of the convention. I only found him after I was running to the Keenspot panel only two days before, and it wasn’t until today that I went up and talked to him. With him was John Joseco of The Lounge, sketching out a picture of Yuna from Final Fantasy X. Josh seemed to be a very humble man, and once I brought up Slipshine, he simply shrugged his shoulders and laughed, commenting, “I only go to the site to pay myself and the artists, but some of them are still doing work, like this guy.” He said, motioning over to Joseco. He did have a comic about abusing Wonder Woman that was totally crude and awesome. Did get to talk to Aeire, and some other people before R.L. Peterson and I walked to the Amtrak station, and I left the humid city of San Diego. I am so coming back next year. SWAG A light for my computer, as well as a watch from the Adult Swim Panel Shirt from Sam and Fuzzy, for a friend of mine. Stuff Sucks comics, small enough to fit into CD case slips. Sweetness. Evil Inc t-shirt. Rawk. Questionable Content t-shirt. I love pintsize. Penny arcade book, as well as a flipside book and mints from Evil Inc. EVIL MINTS. SKETCHES this one is for the owner of Korsil.net, Barry. gotta send that to him later. Questionable Content’s Pintsize. Rawk. RAAAAAAAAWK. Liz from Stuff Sucks made this one. She commented it looks like Wolverine from X-Men, and now i can actually see it. RL Peterson makes a Persona 3 joke. Look it up if you don’t know what Persona 3 is.