Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Top 5 Favorite Moments From My Comic Con Journey

AWWWWWWW YEEEEEAAAHHHHHH!!! Guess who’s back, bitches? That’s right, it’s me. I’ve been away from updating this thingy for about 3 months now. I have no excuse because I’ve had the time I just chose not to do it. It was a conscious decision that I made because I felt I just didn’t really have a lot to say, nor did I have the desire to nerd out or vent. I originally started the blog to help myself cope with the bleak realities of this world and to beat back the knocking on my door from my old friend, darkness. Since losing my job my life has improved immensely. I’m not saying that shit just to make myself feel better, it really has improved. I’ve just been in a better place altogether and I was honestly just too busy having fun to really want to just sit down and write. That’s not to say that I wasn’t productive though because I did have a lot on my plate.

So what have I been up to you ask? Well for starters I’ve been taking the standardized tests needed to become a teacher in the state of Oregon. I passed the CBEST and now need to take the Praxis 2 and the ORELA. I’ve also been working on 3 different comics. One is a personal book, the other is the project I’ve been working on for Planet Blue, and another is one I actually wrote more than 7 years ago which I stumbled upon and realized this was the version of X-Men I would have created had the X-Men never existed. I also took classes this summer at PSU. Most were prerequisites for my masters program, but one was an introduction to drawing. My art skills have often been compared to a seven year old who is recovering from a stroke drawing with his off hand. So I took it upon myself so do a little self improving. Now I’m by no means a good artist but after taking this class I have improved a lot, which is supported by my instructor who took it upon herself to point out how much I improved to the entire class, thus inducing embarrassment (which is rare for me). I tutored for a few weeks in a Sophomore English class at Benson High School. That was seriously a lot of fun and it made me so excited to get my masters so I can become a teacher. I also took a little road trip over this break to a little place called San Diego for the 40th annual San Diego Comic Con. And yes, this blog is going to be all about that.

For those of you that have been reading my top 5 since I first started (I apologize) you may remember that going to the Comic Con was on my top 5 list of places I would love to visit along with the Winchester Mystery Mansion which I also visited on this trip. So obviously this adventure was a pretty big deal to me. If you haven’t already seen them, watch our videos chronicling our journey. After that check out the rest of this blog and read my testimonial on my top 5 greatest moments of my journey to Comic Con 09.



5. Winchester Mystery Mansion

So I’m sure you saw this coming. I’ve been craving to see this thing since I first heard about it since my freshmen year at college where I stumbled upon this while looking for haunted places in America. So for those of you who are uninitiated or just flat out forgetful, Sarah Winchester married into the Winchester family who are famous for the Winchester rifle. Her husband died and then a few years later her kid followed. She went to her psychic friend who basically told her that she was being punished for all the people that the Winchester rifles killed and to appease the spirits she must build non stop to create rooms in her house for these spirits. So Mrs. Batshitcrazy purchased an 8 room farm house in San Jose and continuously built onto this house, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for 38 years. On top of that she actually designed every square inch of the house including a door that opens up to a wall, a staircases that leads to the ceiling, a door that drops to the kitchen below, a door on the second floor that opens up to the outside that just drops down, and many other strange and mysterious things. Just plain weird.

So we spent a few hours at this place and went on two different tours. The first tour was just of the house. You walk over a mile through the house with a tour group where they give you information on every significant room of the house with tidbits about how off the rocker Mrs. Winchester really was from a tour guide. The other tour was a behind the scenes tour where you get to see the fruit farming stuff, gardens, basement, and a few other miscellaneous things, again with commentary from an expert tour guide. They also have giant cookies in gift shop area along with a small museum. The cookie was awesome.

It was crazy hot and I got rear ended on the highway literally minutes before we went on our tour (no damage though), but I managed to have a great time with it and I’m honestly wanting to go back. I was excited every step. The only down part was the German couple that had a toddler they let run around. The child not only ran behind roped areas on multiple occasions, but it nearly killed itself by not only falling down a flight of stairs, crawling through the railing on a balcony, and finally by nearly running headfirst into a thin glass door. This is just a note of advice to all you overly permissive parents out there, it is not good for your children and they usually grow up with the inability to make critical decisions. Other than two terrible parents and a crazy kid it was a lot of fun and I recommend everyone check it out if you’re ever in San Jose.

4. Meeting Mega 64

One thing I’ve learned over the last few years is that there are celebrities and then there are Mikey’s celebrities. See, there’re people that everyone knows and if they met them they would probably get nervous, maybe pee a little. I could care less about most of those people. I have my own special people that if you guys were to see them you’d probably walk past them without even noticing them. Mega 64 are some of those people. Rocco, Derrick, Shawn and Garrett comprise a comedy troupe that do skits and videos usually centered around video games, although they occasionally dip into other mediums as well. They’re like the Jackass of video games. To me these guys are not just funny, but they’re a perfect example of how new media can be a really successful thing where people are allowed to experiment in ways that can’t really be done on the rigid television networks.

So I first met these guys at their booth and did the usual, “I love your guys videos,” cliché crap and they signed some swag. Later that night Ian and I went to their screening that was actually 15 minutes away from the con at a movie theater where they showed two new episodes of their show that haven’t been released yet. I had a lot of fun with that but afterwards they opened it up to Q+A for an hour or so. So I asked a few questions. Some good, some fluff. Either way they must have made some kind of impression because I went to their booth again the next day and they all remembered me and proceeded to talk with me for about an hour about everything from music to Portland. I don’t know if it was just the fact that I had presented myself as more than just a mindless fan, but they opened up pretty damn good and we’re just really funny and great to be around.

One of the great things about these guys is how they make you feel like you’re one of them. They do this on a weekly basis with their video podcast. They have their set decked out like a camp site and they talk straight to their camera and have a live feed (sometimes) where you can ask questions or even call them. They always say that if you ever see them to come up and introduce yourself. They love their fans. You don’t see any real celebrities with that kind of attitude or approachability. In fact, you usually see an effort to be just the opposite. These guys are a huge inspiration to me because they came up with a website and just do what they want and get to make a good living off of it. Not many people can dress up as Frogger and run across traffic and get paid for it. Check them out, especially if you’re a gamer. mega64.com

3. Going to panels

I don’t know if you guys have heard but I’m a pretty big nerd. I know it’s hard to believe but if you look past my cushy, muscular physique and jokes stolen straight from Buffy you’ll see that I’m a nerd at heart. So as a nerd one of the biggest things for me is to sit in a room and hear a whole a bunch of creators of nerd content answer questions from socially awkward adults dressed as Deadpool, Northstar, and stormtroopers. Now I wasn’t dressed as anything special (although next time I am thinking about going as Silent Bob) I did ask some of my favorite creators questions and I listened in on some very compelling discussions about the industry and how it operates. I also got to see Felicia Day in a hot costume modeled after her avatar in The Guild (I’m so going to marry that girl).

So what’s so great about panels? I’m glad you asked. I’ll give you an example by describing the X-Men one. They open it up by bringing out the creators of the comics on stage. In this case they had the writers of Wolverine, Uncanny X-Men, X-Force, and X-Factor along with a few artists and editors. They then tease you a bit and make announcements for what you’re going to be seeing over the next year in the comic. This is usually breaking news so you’re getting it the same time (or even a little bit before) press people. They then open up the floor to people for questions so you can basically embarrass yourself (which I did). At the X-Men panel we got first views of two major stories coming up, one featuring the return of Magneto (at which the room lit up in applause). I asked a very long question that was prefaced by some ass kissing and got a great response from all the writers on it.

So I went to a lot of panels and I’m going to list them off in order of attendance. Superman, Marvel Mania, Uncharted 2, How to break into the comic book industry without going through the comic book industry, The Guild, X-Men, Batman, Spartacus, and Cup-O-Joe. By far the most fun panel was The Guild, although I did leave 15 minutes early so I could make the X-Men. I was really sad that I missed the Joss Whedon/Dollhouse panel, but it was so packed that even after an hour into it there was still a line outside the door wanting to get in. There were also some panels that took place on Saturday and Sunday that I really wanted to see such as the Venture Brothers, and Kevin Smith. Next time I go I plan on all 4 days though so that this disappointment doesn’t happen again.

2. Meeting Claudio Sanchez

This is another example of celebrities versus Mikey’s celebrities, although Claudio is very close to a legitimate celebrity. For those of you that don’t know, Claudio Sanchez is the lead singer and song writer of Coheed and Cambria (#4 on my top 5 favorite bands) and The Prize Fighter Inferno. He’s also the writer of the comic book series, The Amory Wars and Kill Audio. As I’ve mentioned in my very first top 5, Coheed and Cambria is a concept band. All their albums are a continuously building story. Prize Fighter Inferno is also part of this story only told from the point of view of a different character. Amory Wars is the literal representation of this story. I have a tattoo on my right calf that’s the bands emblem and an important story point.

So he was doing signings for one hour on Friday and one hour on Saturday. Not only that but he was selling a vinyl doll of Kill Audio that was comic con exclusive only during these times. So obviously I had to be there even though going meant I had to miss the DC panel. So I rushed my ass down there to get in line. While there I realized I had left my camera in my car. I mentally kicked my own ass then noticed that the guy next to me had an iPhone. He was kind enough to snap a picture then email it to me. Go technology (woot).

So I was one of the first people in line. When I approached him he saw my GI Joe tattoo on my right arm and commented on how cool it was. My reply was, “Then I think you’ll like this.” I showed him my Coheed tattoo to which he replied, “You’re a fucking bad ass, sir.” I couldn’t argue, I mean I am a bad ass. So while he signed some of my comics and the vinyl figure we chatted for a bit. Honestly, it wasn’t that amazing as far as conversation goes, it was just great to have one of my favorite musicians call me a bad ass. He has one of the most unique voices (which turns a lot of people off), one of the most original bands, and he’s a comic writer. The only way this guy could get any higher on my bad ass list is if he made movies and video games. Again, I met one of my heroes and I had a positive experience.

1. Stepping onto the showroom floor.

For serious, it was a spiritual experience. Let’s just do a little recap of what happened to get here. First off I spent years wanting to go. This is something I’ve seriously wanted to do since I knew this particular convention existed. Lets be honest, there are comic conventions, but when someone says comic con they mean the San Diego Comic Con. I’ve been to a few of the Portland conventions and they’re not even a tenth of this mother bleeper. Finally after I buy my tickets and we make our reservations and pay for everything, I lose my job. Now the job sucked and I was happy to be rid of it, but it did mean that I may not be able to financially be able to do this. I bit the bullet and made it happen, but it was a little scary. So aside from wanting to go to this for years and the job crisis we also had the journey. I drove 1,500 miles to this thing. I got rear ended. It was over 100 degrees for the whole trip (which is a great way to find out your air conditioner is broken). I drove up the side of a freaking mountain (which made me confront a lot of issues I have with heights). On top of that I found out at the convention that my grandma was dying. It really felt like I was being tested (this also supports my thesis that God is an ass hole if anything at all). Once we got to the convention center at 6:30 AM we still had to wait in various lines for 3 hours before things actually opened. So when the doors finally opened and I set my feet inside that convention hall the only thought going through my head was, “I finally made it.”

Let me give you some statistics here. 125,000 people attended Comic Con. At any given time there were 60,000 people in the show room. For all you non math majors out there, that’s a mother fucking shit load of people (according to the George Carlin unit of measurement). On top of that, we’re talking 60,000 nerds. So you can imagine it didn’t smell good. If you were using your other senses you would have picked up something else. True happiness. Let’s face it, nerds are a socially persecuted group (which is why we prefer our mothers basements). Granted, things are getting better and nerds are becoming more like the token black guy in the media, but the truth is people are still put off by nerds in general. I myself find it very empowering because I know I have more passion in my comic collection alone then most people have in their entire life. Nerds are ruled by their passion for creative things. No athlete or businessman has ever legitimately made the world a better place. That’s what nerds are for. We live for that shit. We know what good means and what a hero is. That’s all we know. 60,000 people in one room that all have the widest eyes you’ve ever seen and the biggest hearts in the world all just looking for the thing that gave them the courage to face this world that was never made for them. Being surrounded by this can only be summed up as a spiritual experience.

From the consumer stand point this place was like the black market of bright colors and things made of plastic. Seriously, whatever you want that has anything to do with a fictional character can be found here. Need that Nightwing action figure? What about Edward from Twilight’s sperm sample? How about that variant of a previously unreleased special edition first issue signed by the writer’s mother? It’s all there. If terrorists had something like this we’d all be dead. Most of what I bought were gifts for people or things people asked me to get for them, but you have no idea how many amazing things I responsibly walked away from. I think I actually only bought 4 or 5 things for myself and not a single comic book. Comic related stuff isn’t the only thing there either. Film, television, video games, and even music are featured things here. It should almost be renamed Creative Con.

So that’s it. I had a whole bunch of other fun times too, but these were the best. I’ll tell you the worst though. LA. I’m convinced the only thing good there are my relatives (and Ben Affleck). I can’t for the life of me ever understand why anyone would choose to live in that town. Driving down the highway at noon felt like being in a mosh pit where you’re not aloud to touch anyone, all the while everyone is rushing forward like a sperm towards the egg not realizing that they’re no where near a fallopian tube, but are stuck in a stinky ass hole. Driving into LA on I-5 was like driving into Mordor with the welcoming black cloud of doom hovering over it. People honk at everything like they’re having conversations with their horns. The air feels like I’m breathing dust, and everyone dresses like a douche bag. Being there for one day made me love Portland (and Oregon in general) so much more.

So other than that it was a blast and if you have a single nerd gene in your body I’m sure you would love to go. I recommend it. I just want to say sorry that it’s been so long since I’ve done this stuff. I know I mentioned up top everything I’ve been up to, but I know it’s no excuse. I’m going to try to update this semi weekly and on the off weeks I’ll still try to post something fun for everyone to check out.

On a side note, I plan on kicking my comic writing into high gear with a couple different books in the funnel right now. What I want to know is if there’s anyone out there who’s interested in drawing, inking, or coloring. I can’t pay but I would love to collaborate. If so, email me at m_neilson@msm.com with the subject line “Comics.”

So I welcome any and all comments or feedback. I know this isn’t really a top 5 people can respond with their own, but any response is appreciated. Once again, I love you all for reading this and being part of my life.

Stay safe,