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Maggie’s World 031: Comic-Con Takeaways

This year, I found myself fascinated by the way old and new approaches kept merging for me at Comic-Con International: San Diego.

Old Stuff

In an oddball throwback to conventions of days gone by, daughter Valerie and I found ourselves experiencing the 2015 Comic-Con in much the way we’d experienced science fiction and comics conventions in the 1970s and 1980s. We prowled the Exhibit Hall, noted news of things to buy, things to come, and things to do—and hung out with friends.

That “hanging out with friends” thing may sound normal—but, in the high-intensity environment that is Comic-Con, we’ve increasingly found it all too easy every year to adopt the “One-Minute Manager” approach. “Hi! Good to see you! How have you been? Great! Do I have your updated contact information? Thanks! Onward!”

It’s likewise easy to fall into the dependable pattern of the shark: grabbing whatever looks tasty in an always-moving flow of activity, never settling in one spot long enough to savor it.

Instead, at three different points (only roughly planned in advance) this year, we deliberately chose a few times in which to pause for a while to catch up with people we hadn’t seen for a year—and hadn’t really hung out with for even longer. (Note: There are quiet spots in the Comic-Con environment; look around, and you can find them.)

Also on the “Old Stuff” list was the chance to visit with people who brought us wonderful echoes of the past. We spent time with such representatives of past comics entertainment as Michael and Phyllis Barrier (he of the Eisner Award-nominated Funnybooks), comics trailblazing scripter Don McGregor, and James Stanley (son of comic-art genius John Stanley). (Don and John were presented with the Bill Finger Award for their comics-writing accomplishments.)

James Stanley and Don McGregor at the 2015 Eisner Awards

Recipients of the 2015 Bill Finger Award were John Stanley (accepted by his son James, left) and Don McGregor.

Eisner Awards Judges panel at Comic-Con 2015

The Eisner Awards Judges panel featured, standing: Maggie Thompson, Ron McFee. And seated: Carr D’Angelo, Susan Kirtley.

New Stuff

It may not have been the first time for such a panel, but it was the first time I’d been part of a panel that took the attendees behind the scenes of Comic-Con’s Eisner Awards—because it was also the first time I’d served as a judge of these creative “Oscars.” (It’s also the last time, because you only get to do the job once.) All those who had been involved couldn’t be there to share our experiences with attendees, but four of us discussed the fun and the challenges of savoring an entire year’s output to come up with nominees in each category.

Photo of Lea Hernandez at Comic-Con taken with a Fujifilm Instax Share camera

Lea Hernandez received a new version of an old tradition.

Valerie and I also enjoyed hanging around with a buddy who keeps us posted annually on the latest developments in tech. This year, as we wandered the show, Kathy Li paused from time to time to take photos. No surprises there. However, what followed was a delight we hadn’t experienced for decades: After a minute or so, she handed us a tiny shiny card, only slightly larger than a business card. “Is this a Polaroid print?” we asked—and it wasn’t. But it shared some aspects of those instant prints, even while letting her camera retain the HD original photo. (Yeah, I bought one, a Fujifilm Instax Share. Now to learn how to use it.)

New Stuff about Old Stuff

I came across another new aspect of some old stuff. Noticing a box labeled “Fanzines” on one dealer’s table, I paged through its carefully bagged assortment of the amateur magazines produced by fans of science fiction and comics. You mean there’s a market for these?

They were filed in alphabetical order, and among those at the front of the box was “The Container of Rainy Days.” What the heck? You see, this was actually Rainy Days #27 (September 1968), a Don and Maggie Thompson contribution to a CAPA-alpha amateur publishing association mailing. (As it says inside, “Cover design by Don, executed by Maggie.”) The contents of the 18 pages was a first draft of an article on E.C. that we were in the midst of putting together for the next issue of our Comic Art fanzine—which never happened. And, hey, the draft was promising! Maybe I should polish it up at last?

Rainy Days #27 (September 1968), a Don and Maggie Thompson contribution to a CAPA-alpha amateur publishing association mailing

Did we make a collectible? © 1968 Donald A. Thompson and Margaret C. Thompson)

In any case, what was the price the dealer had put on this mimeographed extravaganza?


Spa fon!

He kindly explained to me that print runs on old fanzines were very low. (Having turned the handle of our Rex Rotary to churn out the issue, I was aware of that—though we’d run extra copies of this number to circulate among our fellow E.C. admirers.)

I trotted to the Heritage Auction booth to discuss fanzines with the staffers there—and was told that, yes, there’s considerable interest in such elderly material these days.

This was borne out at another point during the week, when I met with academic folks who are in the midst of researching such fanzines. (They’re working toward building a view of the fan environment in the early days of comics fandom.)

A Celebration of Women Artists in the Comics During World War II panel

A variety of opinions were expressed in the kick-off for an upcoming book on pioneering women in comics. Left to right: Trina Robbins, Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson, Ramona Fradon, Maggie Thompson. Hidden: Daniel Herman


And yet another entertaining combination of new and old came during a different panel of which I was a part, as Trina Robbins and I debated, not only about how and why female comics readership had changed over the years but also about which publishers of the 1940s were our favorites. (Trina held out for Fiction House; my fave has always been Dell.) A mutual friend expressed surprise at our lack of unanimity—but hasn’t that always been part of the fun of comics? (By the way, continuing the theme of new approaches to the old, I should mention that the panel focused on Trina’s upcoming Hermes Press history Babes in Arms: Women in the Comics During World War Two. I’m looking forward to it.)

And Now

I’ve begun to gather a variety of notes made during the convention in order to tackle the follow-ups (follows-up?). It’s a tradition for me to stack up such things to deal with later—and then box them to get to “when there’s time.” Those boxes are scattered, inviolate, around the house. This year, I’m trying to do better.

The 2015 “to do” list includes buying more of the Eisner Awards winners and runners-up. By the time I arrived at the convention, I’d spent about $800 buying copies of what I’d admired during the Eisner judging. Adding to those means that my 2015 con-connected purchases of recent publications is approaching $1,000. Luckily for you, much of the award-nominated material is—or will soon be—available at your local library. But I think you’re going to want some copies for yourself.

And it’s time to begin planning for 2016. I see that the Comic-Con dates will be July 20-July 24. See you then?

Maggie’s World by Maggie Thompson appears the first Tuesday of every month here on Toucan!