Maggie Thompson’s Comic-Con Diary, Day Three!

HD Toucan reading a comic

The day began for me with a fascinating “Spotlight” panel on Tony Isabella. I’ve known Tony since he was in high school, but the anecdotes that host Mark Evanier elicited included many I hadn’t known. (Which goes to show one reason Mark runs what may be the most comics panels anywhere. Could that be a Guinness Book of World Records category?) Among the discussions were brief commentaries of where Tony would have taken some plot threads of characters he has written over the years, had he had longer runs. He said he would have loved to have continued Johnny Blaze becoming more of a white-hat superhero. The stories for Ghost Rider would have focused on fun in Hollywood. As for It, he planned for that title to be a family series. “Almost everything I worked on, I would have liked to do more of.” Asked for his opinion of Comic-Con, Tony replied, “I am loving this convention. It is paradise. Anywhere in the show, I can find something to love.” He concluded the response by suggesting that the staff that runs Comic-Con should run the country—and the world.

In the Exhibit Hall, collector Robert Wiener showed me an iPad full of photos of his art collection. It struck me as a valid way to carry such a collection wherever its owners go. He revealed that he had once purchased a complete Pogo story from Animal Comics—which floored me. I’d had no idea that any originals of Walt Kelly work survived from that era. I must pay more attention to auctions, obviously.

Comics historian Bill Schelly, whose superb biographies of writer Otto Binder and writer-artist-teacher Joe Kubert are standards in the field, is in the midst of yet another focused research volume. But I can’t tell you its focus because … Spoilers. Of which there’s a lot floating around at the show.

I had the wonderful experience (by barging into the middle of a conversation he was having with Abrams ComicArts editorial director Charles Kochman) of meeting Freaks & Geeks writer Gabe Sachs. Who, I now realize, was also involved with the Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie. (We do know, don’t we, of Kochman’s connection with Diary? Just making sure. Our reach into the mainstream continues unabated.) There are wheels within wheels at Comic-Con.

Speaking of Mark Evanier, as I was, I should mention what an honor it was to participate in the panel gathered by our host to celebrate the work of Walt Kelly. I suppose it shouldn’t have been a surprise to me that several on the panel (Paul Dini, R.C. Harvey, and Jeff Smith) were too young to have grown up with a plethora of his non-Pogo work (and it was a Pogo celebration, after all). But I reiterate here that I think Walt’s Our Gang stories were the very best that kid-gang tales have to offer. In the audience for that panel was Simpsons Movie director David Silverman, who spoke of Walt as providing the foundation of his career. I’d like to hear more about that at a future Comic-Con …

I came off that panel at an increased pace to get ready for the Eisner Awards ceremonies but still took time to hang out a bit with “Wolverine creator Len Wein” [see Diary Day Two], who was talking with some folks I didn’t recognize but were fascinating (including a Disney editor and a British radio writer), and David Gerrold. I thanked Gerrold for giving our kids authentic Tribbles in 1976—and, of course, he didn’t remember the event. We then commented on the inescapability of his “Tribble creator” designation. “No one calls me ‘The Battle of the Planet of the Apes novelizer David Gerrold.’” True that.

That was fun—and a delightful interlude with a bunch of followers of NPR’s “Pop Culture Happy Hour” podcast, not to mention an actual waiting line for the Marriott elevators—delayed my preparation for The Eisner Awards, which began rigorously on time. Which meant (a) I missed the earliest awards and (b) was embarrassed to have done so.

That said, the Eisner Awards were, as ever, a delightful event, complete with charming moments. Someday, I shall release some of the photos, including the proverbial “money shot.” Of which, more later … In the meantime …

Many award recipients made a point of paying tribute to Fantagraphics’ Kim Thompson, who had been of fundamental importance in steering a vast assortment of award-winning projects to completion over the years.

On a lighter note, Chip Kidd accepted a number of awards for Chris Ware, whose monumental Building Stories (111,000 copies in print at the moment, Kidd said) was acknowledged in several categories. (Kidd: “Chris Ware getting the Eisner for Best Lettering is like Frank Lloyd Wright getting an award for Best Doorknobs.”)

Don Rosa, who received a Bill Finger Excellence in Writing Award, is especially noted for his work in creating new stories in the universe of Donald Duck. In his acceptance speech, he made a point of paying special tribute to the late Bruce Hamilton, whose Another Rainbow projects not only collected the Duck work of Carl Barks in high-end hardcover reprints but also widened the field of such other high-quality projects as limited-edition prints and statues.

Nevertheless, such emotional moments were lightened by frequent seasonings of humor, especially as the festivities reached the wind-up. Final presenters were Neil Gaiman and Jonathan Ross, and the show went into overdrive. The Hall of Fame winners had been Lee Falk, Al Jaffee, Trina Robbins, and Spain Rodriguez. Chip Kidd commented, “Thomas Nast has lost for the 140th year in a row! He’s the Susan Lucci of comics!” And references to a memorable earlier Eisner Awards soon became prominent. In 2007, following the international sensation of the kiss of Britney Spears and Madonna, Ross had (shall we say) planted one on Gaiman. So it was that there was tension (or at least expectant giggles) in the air.

Ross complained that his ardor had not been properly reciprocated six years earlier. “It was like kissing a [bleeping] trashbag!” He said Gaiman had made a mockery of the Eisners. Such gags continued between awards. And then it came to the wrap-up of the evening: Best Graphic Album—New. And Building Stories won again. And here came Chip Kidd again. And then, well …

Someday, the world will see what we saw. (I can pretty well guarantee it, since I was getting photo after photo. Someone else’s photos may already be on line …) And afterward? Well, Gaiman summed it up: “I have snogged my first man—and it was Chip Kidd.”


End of report.

See you tomorrow.

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