Wednesday, September 13, 2006
A Tale of Two Cities
I still can't believe how fuckin' beautiful the city of Toronto really is. It reminded me of NYC, a smaller and kinder NYC, mind you.
You know, Diary, you are my only confidant and bestest of friends, only you know all my deepest and darkest secrets, you alone are aware of how much of an extremist I am and how self-destructive that can be, I trust you won't tell anyone. Remember the time I had sex with that nun inside the chapel?, yeah, good times, but wrong, oh so wrong, although God did punish me for that one, or that other episode where I grabbed onto a fast-moving truck while riding my skateboard and smashed my head against the side of an in-coming vehicle? I was spitting blood for a couple of weeks, good thing the bus behind me stopped 3 inches of my legs, phew! that was a close shave. Or the time I was playing with fire and melted my toy soldiers, dripping the scorching liquid plastic all over my knuckles? Ouch! the smell of burning vinyl and human flesh still haunts me to this day and let's not even talk about the 'do-it-yourself' genital piercing kit incident, my hat off to whoever invented penicillin, it is a wonder of nature I was still able to have kids after that nightmare! ...Those ARE my kids, right?
Yeah, poor judgment and sheer stupidity, I must agree. How about the time I visited Calgary and for a while I contemplated moving up there? crazy, huh? I'm glad I didn't act upon that last one.No, no, don't get me wrong, Calgary is a fine town but I can't move across the continent on a whim just like that, that's fuckin' nuts!
Well, my loyal friend, I want to move to Toronto now. Yes, I know, it's sudden and insane, considering I was there for a mere few days, I know. But before you say anything, let me tell you: Toronto has a huge art community and the subways are cleaner too. California is OK, I guess but too many natural disasters there; if the earthquakes don't get you, the mud slides will, or the riots, or the floods, or the forest fires, besides, LA is way too fake and phoney, you need to hop on your car just to buy a loaf of bread. Chicago is nice but is in the middle of nowhere, besides, I hate the Bears and the Bears' Cubs, true, nothing compares to NYC but Toronto comes very close, without the assholes and the Long Island pigs, mind you.
The Customs Lady
I arrived at Pearson International airport with a bunch of my books in my luggage and I came face to face with the Canadian Customs officer, my friend warned me to not say I'd be selling books at the convention because they will give me a hard time, since that requires a ton of red tape, fees and hassle. She asked me for my documents and fired the usual barrage of questions, 'What are you doing here? Do you bring any live stock with you? Have you been in a farm, down by a river and through the woods? have you ever been molested by a priest? Are you circumcised?, Coke or Pepsi?, silly shit like that, you know.
I told her I was in town to attend a comic book convention, she wanted to know what would I be doing there, I said I'm an artist and she seemed very interested, she asked: 'So you draw comics?' I said "well, not really" and to verify my claim I pulled out one of my books to show her. I noticed throughout this interview that she seemed very knowledgeable of comic book conventions and she was giggling and being very friendly, usually these people behave like androids, they have no sense of humor and show no emotion whatsoever, kinda like Mr. Spock when he pinches your nerve down there, 'you know what I mean?
It all went a litle something like this:
Agent: "So where is this convention"
Me: "I don't know, at the convention centre I assume"
Agent: "Can I see your convention registration, badges or any document that says you'll be there?"
Me: "I have nothing on me, my friend has my badge"
Agent: "But you're registered, right?"
Me: "yes, of course"
Agent: "So if I go to the convention's website your name would be listed on the guests page?"
Me: "No, because my friend registered as himself, I'm just tagging along"
Agent: "hmm . . ."
Agent: "Will you be selling anything at the convention?"
Agent: "But you do have a table, right?, What are you going to put on display?"
Me: "my books, but I won't be selling them"
Agent: "So what's the purpose? people usually sell comics and other stuff at these events"
Me: "The purpose is self promotion I brought just a few books to promote myself"
Agent: "I see, where will you be staying, what's the Hotel's name"
Me: "I'll be staying at a friend's house"
Agent: "what's your friend's name?"
Agent: "last name?"
Agent: "What's his address"
Me: "I don't know"
Me: "Well, I wrote his address down on a piece of paper and now I can't find it"
Agent: "So, Jim is picking you up?"
Me: "No, Dale is"
Agent: "Who's Dale"
Me: "Another friend. Look, I'm totally ill-prepared, Jim will be here later to get another friend coming from Calgary, since I arrived first I made arrangenments with Dale, he's here at the airport waiting for me, we'll meet Jim in a couple of hours, Dale will drive me to his house"
Agent: "but you don't know where Jim lives"
Me:"No, but Kandrix knows, I have kandrix's number, he will call Jim and Jim will call me and give me the address"
Agent: "Who's Kandrix?"
Me:"That's the friend from Calgary, arriving later"
Agent: "-smiling- this is confusing"
Me:"Tell me about it, I know it sounds fishy but I assure you, I'm no terrorist"
Agent: "-giggling like a school girl- let's move on"
(At this point I'm praying: "Please don't ask me what Dale's last name is" I knew my friend's first name is Dale for sure but for the life of me I couldn't remember his last name, I've never met Dale in person before this trip, that could explain my temporary amnesia).
Agent: "What's Dale's last name?"
Me (panicking): 'Evans", "Dale Evans" like Roy Rogers' wife"
I wasn't trying to be funny, I just said the first thing that popped into my brain, I didn't want to give the impression that I was making things up. (Dale's last name is actually Hayward). She pointed to a group of chairs 20 feet to my left and ordered me to wait in that area, I was thinking: "Oh fuck! she's going to try and verify this Dale Evans guy, I'm going to a canadian jail where -with my luck- I'll get ass-raped by a bunch of inbred lumberjacks" but my fears were put to rest 5 minutes later, when she called me over to her station to tell me I was good to go.
I breathed a sight of relief and I said to her: "You know a lot about comic conventions, that's very strange", she replied; "My boyfriend is an artist and he will also be attending the Toronto show, I recognized your name, he likes your work" At this point I was thinking: "Wow, this is great blog material! I couldn't have made this shit up if I tried"
Later, at the convention, a young man identified himself as German, the customs officer's beau, he turned out to be an excellent artist and a really swell guy. What a small world!
The convention was all I had imagined it would be and more, plenty of friends of this here blog made their presence felt, Thanks for stopping by, guys! a special hug to Carlos, Joto, Perry & Gonzalo.
Kandrix and Y.B. Truly sat next to the crazy and talented Tyrone McCarthy of "Corduroy High" fame, super nice guy. Behind us, Dale and his brother Shan "The Man". I've finally got to meet a bunch of fellow artist friends whom I have only known on-line, prior to the show, like Bobby Chiu, Kei Acedera, Lemec, Nick Bradshaw, all the Udon Studio guys, etc. , old buddies like Humberto Ramos, Dave DeVries, Skottie Young, Superman and Jeremy, Tommy Lee Edwards and the rest of the Blvd. crew, among others and of course, lotsa new friends, including a few members of the roller derby team from Hamilton: "The Steel Town Tank Girls".
Thursday night was mellow, Dale and I met Kandrix and Jim at The Victory Cafe on Markham Street they were celebrating “Comic Book Industry Night”, which takes place on the last Thursday of every month, great artsy place to hang, I highly recommend it.
On Friday night we had dinner at a nice Chinese restaurant on Spadina Blvd. I don't remember the name, I just remember eating like a pig.
It rained cats and dogs on Saturday, we got lost looking for a restaurant called the Armadillo, which oddly enough happened to be located right across from the convention building, the food was OK but the fun we had there was ridiculous; the waitress dumped a giant pitcher of iced water on jeremy's girlfriend while Bobby Chiu and I finalized our evil plans for taking over the world. Pretty surreal.
Afterwards, we went to another 'industry party' where the cream of the crop of the Toronto geek scene met to roast some old dude from the 'Space Channel' (a science fiction cable TV station) Lots of uber famous peeps there, I won't drop names this time because that would be cruel.
Jim Z. from Udon, Chris, John and the guys of the Beguiling (the best comic book store in Toronto) sure know how to throw a party!
After the show ended on Sunday, Jim drove us to Udon Studios, where Jim and Erik Ko gave us a tour of the facilities, gifts and a delicious dinner at a local Japanese restaurant. many thanks to the gracious Erik Ko for the gesture. The rest of the time in Toronto we spent trash-talking and laughing hard at Rob Liefeld's anatomy masterpieces. Leifeld Rocks! say it with me!
I'll be back later to give you my impressions on the Baltimore show. . . .
. . . Pardon the interruption, Dear Diary, now, where were we?. . . Ah, yes! the Baltimore show, good one! you missed a good one! . . . well, not so fast, buddy!.
As you well know by now, my reviews are based solely on my personal experiences at these events, which is also the experience of an independent artist, illustrator/designer/whatever from a non-comics point of view; yes, I do understand these shows are taylor made for comics fans, hence the smell but like I've said many times, this is all we have, if there were conventions for people who design and draw the female figure, I'd be the first in line but nobody cares about that stuff, there are some sleazy shows for "Erotic Art" and "Pin-Ups" like "Glamour Con" and sordid shit like that but that's all garbage.
From a strictly mainstream old skool comics vantage point, this show was a total success, why? simply because they gathered all those 100 year old folks who are industry legends, some of them I like, such as Howard Chaykin, but the rest of them were as awful then as they are now. A lot of these sacred cows did not get better with age, they still can't draw, I don't give a flying fuck about much of the mainstream corporate comics, I never really did as you also know but that doesn't necessarily stop me from enjoying these festivals, many of the creators working in today's comics are my personal friends and I always find someone who shares my devotion to illustration and to figure drawing, even at these shows, that alone is worth the trip. I had a great conversation with the principals of Indigo Ink, one of the brightest spots in this otherwise insipid show. A lot of fans I saw were having a great time standing in line for long periods of time to shake those hairy palms and shove stacks of old, crusty comics in the faces of those who created them, payback time, motherfucker! That never gets old, it just smells that way.
John Higashi, (an art collector and industry darling) bought an entire section of seats (tickets) to a baseball game at the gorgeous Camdem Yards stadium in Baltimore's popular Inner Harbor, between the Yankees and the local team, the Orioles. He invited a ton of artists to the game, including your humble narrator and his daughter, the game was as enjoyable as a day at the DMV, as all baseball games are when they don't mean squat in the standings but we had a lot fun making cruel observations and talking behind people's backs.
Pat Carlucci and his lovely wife, welcomed us into their home, somewhere in rural Maryland, great southern hospitality and kindness which I hope to repay one day.
My good friend Joe Pekar was kind enough to split his table with me, thanks Joe!. A couple of hours after the Con started on Saturday some punk pulled the fire alarm and everyone was evacuated from the convention building, including a ton of geeks wearing red ties, whom - judging by their scummy appearence- were there to attend a used condom sales conference, 20 minutes later we were allowed back into the building. There were of course some conspiracy theorists in the crowd implying that the fire alarm was set off to distract the attendees while thieves made out with valuable comics drawn by Rob Leifeld, having been spiritually touched by the magic hand of Leifeld I have to agree.
Mike Manley, Echo , Scott Neely and our friend Sean Hissey joined Megan and myself at a sushi place on the boardwalk on Saturday, I'm an old fashion kinda guy, I like my fish cooked and my women raw, not the other way 'round but we enjoyed the dinner regardless, I was on fire that night, my impressions of Spongebob Squarepants and Patrick the starfish delighted everyone within listening range, what a magical night! I'm growing more and more confident about my voice-over talents with each passing day, if this self-publishing thing doesn't work there's always Hollywood.
My new books didn't arrive in time for the Baltimore show, that sucked dinosaur dick, so I walked around a lot, visiting my peeps and drawing for fun with Megan The Pagan.
My idea of a successful Con is one that is inclusive of all types of comics (not just the superhero filth) and other forms of popular art such as animation, gaming, toys, illustration and even Manga, why not?. a lot of those other forms owe a lot to comics, many games, movies and toys are derived from comics it makes perfect sense to me. Comic book purists want to isolate themselves, that's a mistake, they want every convention to be exclusively for comics and comics' fans, just imagine the stench!, to return to the days of yore, where comics were bought by kids, but that will never happen, the Baltimore show is a clear indication of how bad things are, the same old fanboys come to see the same old farts, no one is paying attention to the new independent stuff. The contrast between Toronto and Baltimore is super ridiculous, the Toronto show is light years more progressive and inclusive, and way more successful, period.
You'll always hear and read different opinions about a particular show depending on the artist's affiliation, check out my friend Mike Manley's account, it was a totally different experience for him than it was for me, that's all very valid. If you're a veteran of comics and love mainstream stuff you would have had a blast there, for me personally, it was more of the same old shit. I'll be there next year :)