Newsletter #87: A Look Back on SDCC 2022
Going over the highlights of this year's San Diego Comic Con!
Hey, guys, it's Scott.
And as you can tell from my voice, I am just back from San Diego and I wanted to do a bigger post. I really wanted to do something where I kind of took you with me and posted throughout the day, but it's just impossible. I thought I could do it, but Tyler and I both really hunkered down and made an effort and it was just too much. I'm really sorry, but I'm gonna have Ty post some of my schedule here. Not just the public facing schedule, but a little bit of the private-facing schedule just you can see what San Diego is like for most pros behind the scenes.
Because we have all the stuff that you see, we have the signings and the panels and all of that. But then there's a whole phalanx of stuff that we do that you don't see that's really crucial to conventions. There's the meeting up with editors that we don't get to see a lot. There's making deals with publishers, there's meeting a lot of the retailers and doing a lot of publicity, doing interviews, doing everything. And it's a workplace.
So anyway, the point is, I'm really sorry, couldn't do that. But the other reason I didn't do it was because there was this building feeling the whole time, like I was kind of forming a bigger thought about it rather than just kind of going through and giving you the play by play. There was more of an emotional thread to it, and I think it's something a lot of people were feeling the more I talked to friends there. But San Diego is a con that for me, at least, I used to carry a lot of stress to a DC. San Diego would always be where we were either promoting or announcing a big event. Summer is a big time for comics, licensed comics in particular. And there was always the feel it was blockbuster season. So I'd be there promoting what was coming in the fall, which was also usually big, that I'd be there doing Batman or Metal or the launch of Justice League. And these are all incredibly fun things. Incredibly fun. But when you're in a company, a lot of the time you don't think about it from the outside, but from the inside, so many jobs depend on what you're doing. Not that people will just get fired or promoted based on your work, but it's all inextricably linked.
So if something like Metal, if Metal does well, it raises all ships. The tie-ins raise the books that they're in, they draw attention to those books. It brings in new talent sometimes when it comes to one-shots. Editors use those opportunities to try and spotlight creators that they've been trying to bring into the fold. And then there's just the entire economy of it itself. Like, if the event does well, the whole quarter does well, so everybody does well. So like a whole quarter, two quarters really, so half a year can depend on something like that. Is it the totality of the whole financial stability of the company for that time? Not at all, like there are plenty of important things happening around that from other books to other events to things that are Black Label to indie series, all of it. So in no way was what we were doing the thing that completely held anything up. But it was an important component.
And so going to San Diego meant making sure that the fans knew exactly what we were trying to do, how excited we were about it, it was doing a million interviews, it was making sure that we're meeting with retailers, making sure we're meeting with foreign distributors, doing marketing, making videos. And more than that, there's just this pervasive sense of pressure. So I'd walk around and see the big banners that said metal and the whole booth would be decorated with it. And you see your boss there, like Dan DiDio, who was really into it or really not depending on which event you're talking about—some he loved, some he didn't. But then everybody else that was either excited or worried about it.
And in that way, I often felt that I would go to the con and do my best to get through it. And it wasn't that I didn't enjoy it. I love meeting fans. I love seeing my friends, other creators. But there was this sense of anxiety the whole time. And a lot of the time that led to you having go and blow off steam. You'd have to go out to lunch, get away from the con, have a drink, that kind of thing. And this was the first year I really felt, I thought it was maybe being away from DC and being my own boss, just none of that pressure. I have more books coming out now, there's a same amount of pressure in terms of a launch, even more pressure in some ways because the books are ours. These three books that just came out this week, four books, really, but the three of Comixology—Canary, Dudley Datson, and Barnstormers and then Dark Spaces: Wildfire from IDW.
Each one is its own planet. Each one is a book that I want everyone to see how special it is with this other co-creator who's put so much love and effort into them. So there's more pressure, and yet at the same time, there's no stress. Like I was not stressed about these launches because each book is something that's really uniquely itself and there's not the same kind of overarching demand for performance and all the stuff that was there before. So at first I was like, oh, maybe it's that, and it is that, I mean, there's definitely a more liberating feeling for me being there and not having to make sure that we're really shoving an event up into the stratosphere of the excitement realm, into that orbit of “everybody can't wait for it!” But the more than con went on, the more it also felt like a bigger, more palpable yet abstract feeling about the whole thing, which is that, to be honest, every creator I saw was so happy to see each other again, and it was really moving. I mean, it was the thesis or throughline of the whole con, that the pandemic, the craziness of these times, we've all been through some rough stuff. Everybody I know, in one way or another, not just in the conventional way of being affected by the pandemic and all that (which we all are).
Everyone I know, work-wise, things have been really up and down. Everyone was scared, everyone was worried for their friends when the industry really shuttered during COVID and then reopened. But they're all these new opportunities, all these new pitfalls. We've all been through it a lot, in a way, and we're still going through it, but to see each other physically brought a different kind of energy to things. Like, for example, it was one of the first nights and we had the Comixology party. So Ty’ll post all the pictures here and stuff (read the last newsletter for all the names!):
It was Scottober: West Coast Edition and they gave me a handful of invites, and I invited my friends and people I hadn't seen in a while, and then other people wound up coming and it wound up being this really fun, pretty big party. And at one point, they asked me to say something. And so I was standing on this ramp, about to say something, I'm looking out and I see Becky Cloonan and Mike Conrad laughing with Jock, and Tom Taylor standing with James Tynion and Bruno Redondo, and they're gesticulating and talking about comics and everybody just seemed so excited. And it was like that feeling if you go to a wedding, or if you've been married, when you're at your own wedding, and you have this overwhelming feeling of wanting to bottle the room, because you don't really get to see as you get older, you don't have birthday parties like you do when you're a kid. You don't see the people you care about that often in one space. And to see them all there, it made me want to just shut the doors and be like, “can we stay here for longer?” And I got really choked up, and the whole thing I could say about it was “thank you to Comixology so much for all the creative freedom on these books. But even more, thank you for giving us this moment together space.”
And that feeling carried through the whole con and I really feel like everyone I spoke to felt the same way. There was a greater generosity, a greater enthusiasm to just sit and talk. There was just more joy. DC set up this booth called Larry's Luau. Larry Ganem is the talent relations manager at DC, he’s been there a long time and he's friend to all of us, really sweet person. And so he he set up an open bar and a meeting spot out on the marina. If you've been to San Diego, there's a marina behind the con, it's this beautiful strip of walkway and it borders the port where there are all these boats and yachts and superyachts. And you go there and you get a bracelet and I remember walking in and seeing the sun slanting in off the water. And there was Chris Conroy, an editor who I haven't seen from DC in years and who helped on everything, Swamp Thing, all these things I've done and has been responsible for some of the best Black Label books, and there's Marie Javins, my old boss and head of DC, who we go all the way back and we're both big Daniel Johnston fans. And just all your friends.
And I remember looking at that crew and just thinking I love these people. James really summed it up. So the next night was the Eisners and I took out you guys, the fans, I took out the Black Jackett Founders tier of Best Jackett and the thing that was so moving—I was so concerned that I wasn’t gonna give them enough stuff. We rented out this nice Brazilian barbecue restaurant. It's just a private room there.
And I was so concerned, we'd have the things like the signed variant exclusives, and we also had a surprise extra trade, and we also had a surprise—t shirts from We Have Demons that were glow in the dark and had halos on it. We also had giveaways like special slab CGC 9.8 Nocterra and head sketches and Tony Daniel coming as a special guest, everything. And I got there and I was all nervous and everybody there was talking to each other and trading things. And I was like, what's happening, and turns out they were just excited to meet each other, because they had been in communication and some of them were doing a workshop together where they were trading stories, trading comics, and all of this. Some of them gave me their comics. They were so happy just to be there together as a community. They didn't need anything from me, even though I moved from table to table and I was so happy to talk to them. It was so inspiring. It made me be like, “you guys are the next generation of comics!” And it's true.
This is the spirit of comics. The spirit of comics is, at its core, deeply, deeply collaborative. I mean, filmmaking is and all of that stuff, but comics, it's this strange dance between a few people at first—it's a writer and an artist, co-creators, a colorist and inker, but these people making something they all have to believe in together, and you have to sacrifice some control to get back the best thing from the other person. And there's a connectivity there and a collectivism on a comic that speaks to exactly the kind of spirit that we need right now in the world. It really feels like being there. Everybody there understood. Comic creators understand you have to give a little to get a little. You have to open yourself up to somebody you might not fully trust at first to be able to express something that means the world to you. You've got to be able to have a discourse, you've got to be able to be vulnerable. And all that stuff is so wanting right now in the world. It’s just so hard to find in places.
So anyway, I had that dinner. I came back all choked up, I got back and then I found out on the way that James Tynion had won all these prizes, including the Eisner for Best Writer, which is not only deserved, but undeniable on every level. He has the best books on the stands. He's my idol. And I think he looked a little overwhelmed. I was feeling emotionally overwhelmed from meeting you guys and feeling so inspired. And we went outside on the balcony to just step out, just the two of us for a bit. And we had the exact same feeling, which was just that we were both like all teary-eyed. We’d both been doing things, like I've been working in Hollywood a little bit on the Wytches stuff (hopefully that goes through), he's been doing some of that stuff too with his work. And neither of us have great ambitions to do that, but even taking a small trip away from comics a little bit. And the people I worked with are wonderful, I love it over there. But coming back and seeing these people, seeing comic people, looking through the window with him into the bar and looking at all these wonderful nerds just making things they love. And it doesn't matter to them if it's a huge hit or not. They're making things they care about. Just look at everyone and it's so obvious and it's so tangible. They’re making physical things that go out in the world by virtue of their labor that they love that are going out there to you.
It's not a question like it is with TV where they need more of this, or this show already came out and we're not sure and we’re switching people in the room and it's all under a producer. All that stuff is fine. But comics is so pure, man. It's just pure. You're just there making stuff. And we looked at each other and we just couldn’t believe how lucky we feel to be a part of this community. I was just just looking at him like, this is one of my best friends, him and Greg and Mark Doyle and Jock and they’re all there. And you're just thinking to yourself, thank you to you guys, to the fans, for giving us this opportunity to be part of this community that we love. And it made us never want to leave. I was just like, “I love comics!” And he was like, “I love comics too, man!”
It just carried through the whole con, this pervasive feeling. And the next morning, I was at my table signing and this dude was coming by dressed as a big transformer. and it was like this elaborate costume with the wheels and eye lights and stuff. And he tripped as he was coming by and he fell. And I felt really bad, I was walking over, but as he was getting up, people in the line or the area nearby started being like, “gchhh gchhh gchhh gchhh…” and making the transformer sound, like cheering him on like, “you can do it, you can get up!” And then they were like, “you can do it, Bumblebee! Transform! Transform!” And he got up and put his hands up in triumph, and I was like, this is who we are. But it was the dumbest thing, but that's how it felt all weekend, just a place full of wonderful people.
Yeah, we can be assholes. Yeah, we fight with each other. Yeah, there were moments where we're all annoying and weird or whatever in our own way, but we love each other. We do. And this community is one of passion and inclusion and creativity and love. And that, to me, as corny as it sounds, like I'll go out there and be a cheerleader for comics forever because that feeling was so special at this con. It's so corny, but it's just so true. I mean, it just felt different. Yes, there were annoying moments. Yes, there were normal dramas behind the scenes in different ways. But at the end of the day, that was the takeaway. It made me never want to take it for granted. Never want to go to San Diego and not be like, this is a special opportunity to engage that feeling and that energy of ‘we're all in this together with comics.’ As big as it gets, it's still just a community of nerds making things they care about.
So anyway, that was the takeaway. Some funny things, I really got to catch up with Greg Capullo, which was a blast, and with Jock with Becky Cloonan, finally and got to catch up with James Tynion. And I met Daniel Sampere and Bruno Redondo, and I got to hang out with Hayden Sherman, who's amazing, my co creator on Wildfire, and had such a good time hanging with the Best Jacket folks, like hanging out with Jamal Igle, we had a long talk. Dan Panosian, who's hilarious. Tula Lotay, we had a lot of a lot of time together to get to catch up and it was a blast.
And Tony Daniel, Tony and I had a great time. He’s hilarious and a wonderful human being and our friendship is pretty effortless.
And the creative process on Nocterra is effortless and we planned out the whole third arc together. And we have a Val Special coming out soon with art by Francis Manapul.
And there's just a good feeling. I don't know how to articulate it. I feel really inarticulate talking about it. But that's the best way I can describe it is like being at a wedding or one of those feelings where you're like wanting to not let go of a moment when you're surrounded by people you care about. So it was a good one.
And the last thing I'll say is so many of you came up. Like every few people in line was somebody that was like, “I'm taking your class!” And I just want to say thank you, like every artist that I was sitting with kept remarking to me how nice that was. And it warmed my heart, the fact that so many of you are doing this class or take it upon yourselves to come up and tell me you are. It really was energizing, and I can't wait to now do Comic Writing 102 in the fall, and we'll re-open the Founders Tier as well for special things. But we’ll also switch it over where we're starting to look at your work in tandem with published stuff so that you can really learn even faster and more aggressively, because I think seeing things that need a little bit of work and repairing them together in constructive and thoughtful ways is honestly the best method of learning different techniques and getting a clear eye on how to approach your own stuff when you're trying to edit it. So anyway, it'll be fun and thanks again!