I love comic books, I really do. Always have. When I was a wee lad my parents used to take me to the drive in theaters because I wouldn't behave in regular theaters, and I think my dad just really, really liked drive-ins. There used to be TWO Drive-Ins near us in Los Angeles, the fantastic Centinela Drive In over in Westchester, and the one on Sepulveda and Jefferson, which I can't remember the name of at the moment. I'm sure it will come to me eventually. In any case, before they would go to the Drive-In my folks would hit the newsstand and buy comic books. Now this was the 70's, and they amassed a nice stack of "bronze age" comics, including Amazing Spider-Man #122, the death of the Green Goblin. These comics were given to me to keep before we moved to San Diego when I was 10.
Sometime during the early 80's my mom came to me one day and said "Hey, I saw a comic book store opened up the street, here's $10 go ride your bike and buy whatever you want." That store was Comic-Castle II on El Cajon Blvd., and it was my regular comic store for the next decade. I was introduced to Dungeons and Dragons in that store, playing my first game with a bunch of adults (my PC died an ignominious death during my first campaign). I was also introduced to the world of Anime, though I had already been watching the stuff and didn't even know it. The Summer of 1985 was a watershed moment for me: I was changing schools, going from Horace Mann Junior High to Gompers Secondary School, which was a magnet. My local high-school would have been Crawford, but my parents decided that I would be better served at a Math, Science and Computer oriented school. I wanted to go to San Diego High, which was the Humanities magnet, but I was outvoted. Anyway, the Summer of '85 I went to Summer-School to get ahead on classes (I did that for three summers in a row, going to Summer School when you don't have to SUCKS). There I made friends with David Feiler, who already went to Gompers, and together with another guy we met, we went to the Comic-Con that year.
Back then it was held in Golden-Hall, next to the Civic Center, and it wasn't nearly as big as it is now. You could actually talk to people and get great deals. I was heavily influenced by Robotech at that point, and was introduced to the actual Japanese version at that show.
Over the next 12 years I attended 10 cons. In 1990 and 1991 I was convention staff, helping to edit the Japanese Animation guide that was provided to attendees. Later I would be able to get in with a "Pro" badge due to my job, or wrangling a deal with my comic dealer. I haven't paid to get into a Comic-Con since the 80's and I don't intend to start now.
After 91 I quit going for a couple years, I had stopped collecting comics and the show moved to the Convention Center. When I did go back, it was with a vengeance, attending all four (and sometimes FIVE) days and running around like a chicken without a head, getting autographs and sketches done. My first sketchbook was started and lost, so I had to start a second one, which I still have to this day. It's one of my most prized possessions, containing sketches by Mike Mignola, Geoff Darrow, Jerry Ordway, Dan Jurgens, Rick Veitch, several by Matt Wagner, and others. The poor book is falling apart and I need to get it rebound, but it's still has so much sentimental value to me that I couldn't even conceive of it's loss.
One year I worked for Decipher's booth teaching people how to play the Star Trek CCG. Another year I spent close to $2,000 on comics and stuff. That same year I went to the GOOD parties, the kind that most people who attend the con don't get to attend. The kind put on by Fantagraphics and Roger Corman. Then there was this one party over at a Golf driving range, that I barely remember. There were a LOT of parties that I barely remember.
I met some of my best and longest friends at the Con, namely Tony and Michelle. Together we had one of the best times ever in 1996 when we all got a hotel room at the Hyatt and proceeded to have way, way too much fun both legal and illegal. I even broke up with a girlfiend at Con once. Having the "pro" badge opened up way too many doors and offered me a status level that I'd never achieved before. Talking to your favorite creators one the same level is fabulous. Plus bonding with the likes of Garth Ennis and Mark Millar because you were at the same parties and you had the same headaches the next day is something I'll never forget. Besides I have the souveniers (Garth signed a "Saint of Killers" poster for me with "Thanks for the asprins!"
Con was also a place to rekindle friendships with folks I hadn't seen in a year, namely Tom Ammon and his "crew" of followers. The last time I saw him he was asking me to come with him to play around, but I couldn't because I was with my own crew of folks, and we had better plans.
My last Con was 1997, and I don't think I'll be going back any time soon. It's gotten too large and too off topic. Comics are no longer the focus, and it's too media oriented today. Plus the exclusives are out of hand. Back in the day you could count on a few special comics and that was it, but now you have SDCC toys like last years' Pimp Daddy Destro going for hundreds of dollars. As much as I want many of these toys, I have a baby now, and diapers are more important than Cobra Commander in a suit.
That said, if anyone reading this is going to con and wants to pick up a few items for me, please let me know ASAP.
I'll be sitting at my laptop reading the reports online, like I've done for the past several years.
- Why I Love/Hate Comic-Con