Monday, May 12, 2008

Emerald City Con Re-Cap

When I go to a new city, I like to do the most obnoxious, touristy thing possible, as revenge for having to take friends to the Walk of Fame in Hollywood and direct out-of-towners to Ground Zero when I lived in New York (disgusting how quickly that became a tourist destination). In Seattle, home of this past weekend's Emerald City Con, that meant visiting the world's first Starbucks. How can you tell this Starbucks is special? Check out the logo behind me. Unlike the traditional, ubiquitous mermaid, this one's nipples are exposed.

There were no exposed nipples on display in Seattle, despite the presence of Slave Leias (mandatory at any con) and The Suicide Girls (who I think are teases...have any of them actually killed themselves? Or even tried? They should be like Menudo, but instead of simply being kicked out of the band at age 16, there should be a Logan's Run like rule that they must off themselves as a career capper).

There was something even better on display, however. What's that shirt Marvel editor (and hottest girl in comics) Jen Grunwald is wearing next to Ed Brubaker's trademark Fedora at the Mondo Marvel Panel?

Why it's a HAZED t-shirt. All the cool kids are wearing them, and you should too.

Of course, you'll have to wait for San Diego if you want one of these suckers, as Emerald City will be my last con until then. In order to tide you over, I'm going to give you one of my trademark extra long con re-caps.

Emerald City was definitely one of the better cons I've been to. I'm starting to appreciate smaller cons (at least small relative to SDCC and NYCC) that are more focused on comics than other media, where you don't have to hear Spike TV blasting wrestling music or gamers mangling Rock Band covers.

What struck me most about ECCC were the fans. I did better than expected business-wise, but most of my interaction with fans was not trying to sell books, but rather readers who brought copies to sign, and more importantly, came to discuss the work. I think the strangest thing for me was how many people brought copies of the one issue of Supergirl that I co-wrote with Joe Kelly. Granted, that issue (which is collected in Supergirl: Identity trade if you want to contribute to my royalty fund) features a new origin for Kara Zor-El, but I didn't realize it had made anyone's radar. I don't know how much the increased recognition was a function of the show, or whether I'm slowly but surely building a fan base, but I've never seen a more engaged group of convention attendies.

What's cool was that it wasn't all "I love your work/what are you doing next". Not that I don't appreciate either of those sentiments, but oddly enough one of the best experiences I had was from someone who read Hazed, liked it, but was offended by my portrayal of fraternity and sorority life.

I give the guy a lot of credit for having the guts to come up to a creator and express their feelings in person, without the safe anonymity of the internet. That said, his argument essentially boiled down to two things. One, his fraternity (AEII) wasn't like the one I portrayed in HAZED. Ironically enough, when I was at Duke, I got in a bit of trouble for ridiculing that particular frat. I had a satirical weekly newspaper column, and I wrote, having attended the self-styled "Jewish fraternity's" lame "Disco Inferno" party, that I haven't felt this sorry for the Jewish people since Schindler's List. I'm a Jew, so I thought it was okay to say that, but evidently the letter-writers calling me a KKK hooded Nazi and the phone callers who threatened my life disagreed.

His other criticism was and that I should have shown the "good side" of fraternities. Which - if you are looking for a fair and balanced portrayal of the Greek system, Hazed isn't for you. I don't think it's my job as a satirist to be even handed. It's my job to make you laugh, and tell the truth, even if it's ugly.

The reaction to Hazed has been pretty much what I thought it would be - extremely polarizing. People seem to love it or hate it, identify with it or find it completely incompatible with their own experiences...and not much in between. As a writer, I think that means I was successful. I'd much rather readers have a negative reaction than no reaction at all. I felt proud that I was able to engender such a strong reaction from someone, and he walked away with a free copy of Grounded #1 (the least offensive thing I could think to give him).

The more intimate setting also allowed me much more quality time with fellow creators. Ed Brubaker was nice enough to play host to a bunch of pros visiting from out of town by showing us some of his hometown drinking establishments. Ed may be the last person in comics in need of a plug, but Criminal is without a doubt the best crime book out there, and it's a book that's worth getting in single issues because it's got some of the best backmatter in comics.

I was a bit nervous meeting Ed, because Two-Face: Year One features the first appearance of many of the characters he and Greg Rucka created for their classic series Gotham Central. In Two-Face, Jim Gordon and Harvey Dent assemble those characters as a team of the only honest cops in Gotham to bring down the - their version of "The Untouchables". I was afraid to mention to Ed that I was mucking around with their creations, so I didn't bring it up. I did get to speak to Greg Rucka, however, and he was extremely gracious, encouraging me to use his characters, essentially saying that's what they are there for.

Other pros I got to drink with Ivan Brandon, editor of the Eisner nominated anthology 24/7, and his girlfriend/my letterer and designer Kristyn Ferretti; and Jerry Duggan and Phil Noto, writer and artist respectively of the Einser nominated book Infinite Horizon (the Odyssey retold in modern day Iraq). So, I was the token non-Eisner nominated creator, which probably explains why I was not allowed to speak unless spoken to.

Dan DiDio and Ian Sattler of DC were nice enough to host a big DC dinner for all their creators in attendance. There to make me feel small were Kurt Busiek, Bill Willingham and Gail Simone. I got to sit at the kids table with Ian, Phil Noto and Rick Remender. There, Rick suggested that we share our most embarassing stories. Phil's involves a hurricane, Rick involves an enema. Sorry Rick, but I love the idea of people coming up to you at cons asking you about it. If it makes you feel better, everyone should check out his Crawlspace book XXX Zombies...a zombie story set in the porn industry - it's like a grindhouse film in comics form. And my story involved pushing a retarded girl in the subway.

Other pros I should mention - new Birds of Prey writer Tony Bedard and DC mainstay Tom Peyer were cool, and it was great hanging out with Dark Horse's Rachel Edinin, who invited me to participate in a feminists in comics lunch (yes, despite the fact I enjoy writing about sorority hazing rituals like circling the fat and group purging, I consider myself a feminist). Josh Williamson, who I met at Meltdown a few months ago, a comics newcomer who has a great book coming out from Image/Shadowline called "Dear Dracula" about a kid who writes to Dracula...I think it's going to be huge.

Coolest of all , however, was Bryan Lee O'Malley, creator of Scott Pilgrim. He did an amazing sketch (which, like my NYCC sketches, will have to wait until a new blog entry when my scanner is hooked up)...for free. He actually refused money, which I then spent on his tablemate Hope Larson's book Salamander Dream, which I highly recommend.

Hopefully you enjoyed this recap as much as I enjoyed the con. Sorry if this was overly name-droppy, but I feel like plugging others work balances that out karmically. Certainly, you've learned quite a bit about me: I think I have a free pass to make Holocaust jokes, I push retarded women on the subway, and if you come up to be at a con and tell me my work sucks, you can get a free book.

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