Sunday, September 4, 2016

San Francisco Comic Con

Wonder Woman by Mike Mayhew
Since the departure of WonderCon to Southern California, the San Francisco Bay Area has been making several attempts to replace what was easily the biggest comic book related event of Northern California. It was looking like the Big Wow Comicfest might have taken its place, but that seems to be a thing of the past, and it's been replaced by the Silicon Valley Comic Con. I didn't attend that one, mainly because it seemed like more of a media convention and I was still hoping that Big Wow might be making a return. (I'm not including the East Bay Comic Con. I've been to the past two of them, but it's a pretty small, although worthwhile, show.)

Since that idea is apparently a bust, I went ahead and bought a ticket to the San Francisco Comic Con. The ticket price was a bit steep at $50 for a Saturday ticket, but I have been dying to go to a big show, so I ponied up. It didn't have nearly the star-power of the Silicon Valley show, and there weren't too many artists in attendance that I wanted to see, but when a buddy of mine expressed interest in going, I figured that was a good enough reason to at least check it out.

Overall, I think that it was a pretty good convention. While there weren't a lot of comics professionals there, the ones I got to see where kind of a big deal to a long-time comics fan like myself. For some reason, I've managed to go nearly 30 years of reading comics without meeting Mike Zeck, who drew one of the greatest Spider-Man stories, Kraven's Last Hunt. He's also the guy who designed Spidey's black costume.

I not only got his autograph on the first part of the aforementioned Kraven story, I had him sign the issue of Secret Wars that detailed how Spider-Man received the black costume. On top of that, I got the signatures of the inkers: Bob McLeod on Kraven's Last Hunt and John Beatty on Secret Wars. One more signature topped off the Secret Wars, and that was writer (and former editor in chief of Marvel Comics) Jim Shooter.

I also parted with some money when I bought some art prints with some classic covers that Zeck did, along with a really cool profile of The Punisher. (I had two Zeck-drawn Punisher posters hanging in my room when I was a kid.)

Writer, penciler, inker - all signed
Those guys were all some of the best in the business, but you don't find them doing much in comics lately. Zeck and Beatty informed me that they work more in licensing now rather than do the monthly comics grind. I'm assuming the same is true with Bob McLeod. (McLeod also signed the first two issues of The Amazing Spider-Man that were penciled by Todd McFarlane. In my opinion, his inks improved McFarlane's art. I told him so, but he said that McFarlane didn't think so.)

I did get to meet one artist who's currently putting out some great work, and that's Mike Mayhew. He has recently illustrated a couple of issues of Star Wars that feature the exploits of Obi Wan Kenobi and young Luke Skywalker, filling in some gaps between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. I got him to sign those tow comics, but I was disappointed to hear that there weren't any more issues like that in the works. I also got into an interesting conversation where I got some insight into the workings of Disney and Marvel regarding keeping all of the continuity straight between the movies and comic books. Just like with Zeck, I also purchased some pretty cool art prints from him. One was with Wonder Woman, one with Batgirl, and one with Jean Grey of the X-Men.

One other thing I observed was the overall quality coming from the independent comic book publishers. Usually it's pretty easy for me to bypass what they're selling, and maybe once in a while I'll see something interesting. This time I found myself passing on a lot of stuff that looked pretty cool. (But I did pick up a couple of them - most notably from Emet Comics. Their focus is female creators and female characters, but I was drawn to the obvious quality of the artwork. I haven't read them yet, so I can't speak to the quality of the stories. One way or the other, the female angle is definitely not just a gimmick.)

As for shopping, you'd be happy if you were looking to buy some classic comics (think Golden and Silver Age) as there were a few vendors specializing in those. I didn't see as many dealers selling trade paperbacks and graphic novels as I'm used to seeing, and I didn't see a whole lot of toys or cool T-shirts either.

They apologized for looking exhausted,
but they were good sports as I geeked out.
I only checked out one panel, and that was the one with Ian McDiarmid. You probably know him better as The Emperor from the Star Wars movies. He took audience questions and shared stories from filming the movies and his stage career. Fun fact - he does an uncanny impression of George Lucas.

Of course there were also plenty of cosplayers, which is a bigger deal now than when I started
reading comics. There were the ones you'd expect like Boba Fett, Stormtroopers, Deadpool, Spider-Man, and Batman. I only caught a few surprises like a 90s era Superboy and Captain America's dancers. (I did the closest thing to a catcall in my life when I saw them on the street, pointed at them and shouted, "Awesome!" They thanked me, so I guess I can keep my Not-a-sexual-harasser card.)

I'm glad I went, but I'm also glad that I just went with a friend and fellow comic book fan. I didn't bring the wife and kid, and I'm not sure if they would have enjoyed themselves as much as they did at Big Wow. There wasn't as much kid-friendly stuff, and it was a lot more crowded. It's not that I think my wife would have hated it, but I don't know if she would have wanted to stay as long as I did. Hopefully this is just the beginning for this con, and we'll see an even more impressive guest list for next year.