This is probably going to seem really namedroppy and braggy, but please believe me that I don’t intend it that way. I hope you see it for what it is–genuine gratitude and a sort of… stunned appreciation.
I walk around with a black cloud a lot of the time. I have for years, really. I forget if I ever went into detail about what went down during March, but it was a bad month. My knee, two different payday screw-ups (both out of my control), an absurd wisdom tooth situation, and a variety of other things, both big and small, made for a very, very cloudy month. When you add in my long-running breakup with the comics I grew up on… let’s just say I was Charlie Browned out, to understate the situation. I was having a hard time, despite the advice and efforts of friends.
My temper burns cold, too. Even when I’m really heated, it’s not really obvious to everyone else. It’s like… the cloud metaphor works, actually. It’s like a cloud swirling around in my head, building up a head of static, rather outward responses like screaming and yelling. But after nearly a month of letting this cloud run things, after some new trauma arriving with every new week, I decided that I could either let myself be crushed or just sort of roll with the punches and laugh about it. A hollow laugh, maybe, but better a fake-ish laugh than sitting in my room in the dark on the weekends like I’d been doing. (And if we’re being honest, my luck in March? It was at Charlie Brown levels, which is actually pretty funny.) I made a joke on Twitter that I’d need Emerald City Comicon to be transcendant. Turns out… it basically was.
I wasn’t going to go to ECCC originally. I’d been curious about it, but if you’ve been reading this blog at all over the past year, you know I’m pretty burnt out on the industry. But Brandon (King City) Graham and Adam (Empowered) Warren were tweeting about it one day, and I think Brandon suggested I should go. I pshawed. It’d be cool, but nah. I had the money, thanks to my first tax refund in several years (that evaporated in March thanks to my leg, ha ha), but comics? Comics, comics, comics. But then Dennis Culver, a local artist whose work you’ve definitely seen online, threw me a DM that basically called my bluff.
So I booked a hotel right then, booked a flight later, and then, on 03/29, I caught a flight to Seattle. Rooming with Dennis was a lot of fun. He’s a good dude, and he knows a lot of cool people.By Thursday evening, I’d been introduced to half of Portland’s comics scene and a wide variety of other people employed in and around comics.
That night basically set the tone for the weekend. I met a lot of new people and saw a handful of old friends, and all of them were extraordinarily kind. I described it as “unbearably kind” in an email to a friend, but that could be taken the wrong way. What I mean by that is that I was surprised and flattered to be where I was, in kind of a “What did I do to deserve this? Is this real life? Or is it just fantasy?” type of way.
Let’s be honest here: I’m nobody. I write well, and I’m thankful for every reader I have (even this guy), but as far as the bigger picture goes? I’m a customer, homey. But the kindness on display at ECCC, whether coming from a complete stranger or someone who knew my work, was stunning. No, stunning is the wrong word. Devastating? Imagine being given a gift and it’s so good that your first thought is “I don’t deserve this.” It’s that feeling. Whatever that’s called.
I met Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover. They’re outrageously funny people. I knew and enjoyed their comics work, but seriously: dang. Josh Williamson, Jason Ho, Dennis, Andy Khouri, Vinny Navarrete, Doc Shaner, and Mitch Gerads are great people to hang around with. I didn’t get a chance to get into a deep Spider-Man conversation with Josh, but we danced around it all weekend. My SF and former SF buds Chunk Kelly, Emily Stackhouse, Nick Shahan, Greg Hinkle, and Jason McNamara came through and we had a lot of fun catching up. Joe Keatinge was tabling with Emi Lenox and her awesome hair bow, and chewing the fat with those two was great, too. Jen van Meter and Greg Rucka were unbelievably gracious as we talked for an hour or so. Ravishing Ron Richards, iFanboy extraordinaire, was running the floor of the con when he wasn’t being stopped by his scads of fans. Euge Ahn, aka Adam Warrock, was kicking around. Steve Lieber is a funny guy. Jeff Parker is the best kind of rascal, and it was a pleasure to finally meet him. Zack Soto is another cool dude, even though I keep forgetting that I owe him emails (sorry! I am the worst at email). Adam Warren and Brandon Graham both let me chill behind their tables for a couple of hours and talk while they signed and chatted with fans. I met this guy Mike who sent me a really kind note when I talked about feeling down a long time ago, and he showed me his awesome looking comic. I ran into Nolan Jones, who is a cool dude, even if his beloved Kansas U beat my beloved Ohio State Buckeyes by two points in basketball on Saturday (booooo!). The always delightful Allison Baker & Chris Roberson were around. Rachel Edidin and I bonded over X-Men and Thor. I think I ran into Sam Humphries in two different elevators before we got a chance to stop and chat. I hung around with Ali Colluccio and Cheryl Lynn. I got breakfast with Tom Spurgeon, Graham, and Robin McConnell (there’s a pic or two here) I told dumb stories about breaking my finger while playing video games and played down my leg brace. I talked about shoes.
I basically got to hang out with a bunch of cool people and forget about everything (barring the knee, which was always present, but you’d be surprised what a bunch of alcohol will do for pain killing). At one point on Saturday, I was in a deep conversation with Cheryl Lynn and Ali (sitting on either side of me) and Graham and Warren (sitting on the wings). I took a quick moment to recognize that my life had officially passed the surreal barrier and shot on toward absurd.
A funny thing is that I realized once I got to the con that I’d read the brochure wrong and the panel I really wanted to see, a three-way conversation between Adam Warren, Brandon Graham, and Bryan Lee O’Malley, was happening when I’d need to travel to the airport to leave. I was pretty bummed about that. Then, on Sunday, I got a series of notices that my flight was delayed, but that I still had to show up on time just in case. Which is cool, whatever, I’d already resigned myself to not seeing the panel and just catching Robin’s MP3s at a later date.
And then I got an email that my flight was canceled and the soonest they could fly me out was Tuesday morning. Which is ridiculous, obviously. Suddenly I was homeless for the next two days and facing missing a couple more days of work than I’d planned for, which would basically tip the deadline dominoes much faster than I’d wanted. Cold temper, though, right? So I made a joke about it, decided to call the airline after the panel, and caught the panel of the convention. I had to rush out of the con a little after that, but it is what it is. (I later got a flight that next morning, after a whole lot of stress and a dead phone battery.)
I know I’m forgetting some people. I got sick after the con, sick enough to work from home today, and I’m buried under cold/flu meds, among other things. I apologize for that, but if we met and talked, I almost definitely liked you. (Everyone except that Ron Richards! ) I just wanted to thank as many people as I could, and by name and in public, because that’s how grateful I am. I can’t even tell you, man. My heart didn’t grow three sizes (it’s still blacker than midnight at Broadway and Myrtle), but like… I don’t know that I have the words to express the gratitude I feel. I was having a real hard time, and for a weekend, I got to come up for air and avoid that black cloud.
So, seriously, truly: thanks. I had a great time. Easily the best convention experience ever. Y’all are stunning, and I’m extremely, extremely grateful.