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Maggie’s World 053: Serendipity

You Know the Story, Right?

Horace Walpole said that the story “The Three Princes of Serendip” involved its characters’ “always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of.” He coined the term “serendipity” to summarize such occasions. And “serendipity” is one of the aspects of Comic-Con that you may not have considered.

Before Comic-Con every year, attendees are advised that they should plan to attend events they most care about. They should look at the lists of guests and program items and exhibitors in order to make the best possible scheduling of their time.


Bill Sienkiewicz and Sergio Aragonés at Comic-Con International 2017

(Left): Bill Sienkiewicz helped attendees figure out how to pronounce his name. (Right): Sergio Aragonés was on hand to sign and draw—and starred in the annual “Quick Draw” cartoon event in which he competed to produce visual gags on a variety of topics. Photos: Maggie Thompson


But another approach to enjoying the show is to relish events as they occur. This year, I was almost overwhelmed by the number of treats I happened across coincidentally in hotels, in the exhibit hall, and in the program items.

It might have been an omen of all this when, heading to my hotel room the night before the show, I found a couple who had punched the “up” elevator button before me. I suddenly realized they were Steven Moffat and Sue Vertue of Doctor Who, Sherlock, etc. (Despite being a long-time Who nerd, I think I managed to avoid blathering overmuch at them. I hope so, anyway.) The next morning, I was similarly geekily delighted to discover that among the people eating breakfast at the nearest booth was Stan Lee. (I was relieved to see him at all, given the recent loss his wife of almost 70 years, Joan.) And so it went.

Daughter Valerie found herself in an elevator with Matt Groening of Life in Hell and The Simpsons (he was announcing a new project at the show). Together, she and I ended up at a table next to Vincent D’Onofrio (Farmer Edgar and “The Bug” in Men in Black and Wilson Fisk in Daredevil—to limit his long list of credits to a couple of comics-related projects) on Sunday.

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah. But Comics.

Well, that’s my point. In a world in which we ride the elevator with favorite creators and eat a table away from stars, it’s also a world in which we can chat with countless others who love the art form and have a variety of information to share.

Which is to say that I was delighted to see a stack of Bill Schelly’s terrific biography John Stanley: Giving Life to Little Lulu at the Fantagraphics table, on display for all to see. I hope it caught the attention of comics buffs who might never until then have known much about the man who brought Marjorie Henderson Buell’s Little Lulu panel cartoon to comic-book form for a generation of kids. And I spotted for the first time at the Titan table the graphic novel The Death of Stalin by Fabien Nury, Thierry Robin, and Lorien Aureyre (complete with autographed tipped-in signature by Armando Ianucci).

There are cool new books—and cool old comics—sometimes on neighboring tables. I bought a small stack of Nancy comics (speaking of John Stanley); you never know what’s there till you look.

The point is: You never know when you’re going to see something or hear something that you didn’t even know you wanted to know. Be ready to be entertained.

Thomas Lennon, Gail Simone, Wayne Brady, and William Messner-Loebs at the Eisner Awards at Comic-Con 2017

(Left): Eisner Awards presenters included Thomas Lennon, Gail Simone, and Wayne Brady. (Right): Writer-artist William Messner-Loebs was one of two recipients of the Bill Finger Award for his many comic book scripts.


It was at the Eisner Awards Friday night that many found out about a new comics project that will team Michael Davis and Wayne Brady in “Level Next,” continuing the sort of creation with which Davis has been involved as long as I’ve known him: creating entertainment by, about, and for people of color.

For that matter, the Eisner Awards are where you’ll always find a variety of comics professionals in assembled availability Friday night. (When I’d mentioned that to one of the staffers at a back-issue booth in the Exhibit Hall the day before, she’d told me she’d assumed that she couldn’t attend, “because it’s only for members of the convention, right?” It seems that Comic-Con is a rarity in opening its event doors to its exhibitors. As if we don’t all love comics! But I digress.)

There’s news wherever you turn, whether in panels or conversation: Jeff Smith will be producing a Bone picture book for little kids (Smiley’s Dream Book). Who knew?

And answers to questions abound: I had a panel called “Dealing with Stuff” that opened some doors I’ll be peeking through (and reporting on) later this year. Because you’ll find experts at Comic-Con.

Larry Marder and Scott Brick at Comic-Con International 2017

(Left): Larry Marder’s work has included for years stories set in his Beanworld universe. A bonus at his booth were his inaction figures (otherwise known as lima beans; if they sprout, they become action figures). (Right): Among the many unexpected encounters this year: Scott Brick, whose comics reporting is only one facet of an award-winning career.


Moreover, who’d have thought Scott Brick would be hanging around in the Exhibit Hall? You don’t know Brick? Or maybe you know him only as an award-winning voice artist whose life largely consists of reading terrific stories? (And, when I say, “reading,” I mean as in audiobooks. Look him up on Wiki.) Anyway, Scott was the reporter who broke one of the most popular stories we ran in Comics Buyer’s Guide in 1998—“Who Killed Gwen Stacy?”—and he and I caught up a bit before we headed to other spots in the room.

And who’d have thought I’d be able to assist a reporter in coverage because (for once) I happened to have a new SDHC photo card stuck in my bag when that person needed it? Serendipity for all!

Or who’d have thought I’d still be digging out business cards from an assortment of luggage and pockets a week after I’d arrived home? (Next year, I must get organized. But I say that every year. Heck, I still haven’t even had time to take a close look at the dozens and dozens and dozens of photos on my own photo card—though I located a handful for now.)

Unforeseen Consequences

Finally, as I look back on Comic-Con, something else occurs to me: More than ever, it seemed to me this year, the crowds included a vast variety of kids. Toddlers and teens alike were wearing costumes and seemed to be having a ball.

How will their memories of July 2017 affect their love of popular culture in general—and comics specifically?

Let’s remember to ask them in a decade.

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