[Since we couldn’t go to WonderCon, we charged writer/Elite Beat Operative Matt Maxwell with covering it for us. Maxwell is the author of MURDER MOON, and the webcomic STRANGEWAYS, and has a blog, Highway 62. He also likes to go to conventions.]


by Matt Maxwell

WonderCon is kind of an odd duck for me. I’ve been attending for five years now and I’ve gone from freshly-back-into-comics to jaded blogger to frustrated professional to small publisher in that time. Okay, it only seems like an overnight transformation in retrospect, but that’s where I’m writing this from, so you get retrospect.

The show has grown up significantly in the time since I started attending, and has probably ballooned since it was the Oakland Wondercon before it was exiled across the bay to downtown SF. Perhaps Jimmie Robinson could tell me more of the show’s history. I know that Rory Root could’ve. This was the first show in his absence, a fact I was reminded of every time I passed the Comic Relief booth and didn’t see him there with mug in hand and smile on face.

pixuiiThis year, the show was held in Moscone South, which is in the larger cluster of halls. To my memory, it was only held in Moscone West (a new add-on to the convention center) once, several years ago, and that felt too small. In fact, I recall the doors being closed for a short time more than once so that the fire marshals could regulate the population density. It hasn’t felt that crowded yet, but I can imagine it’s going to be a near thing.

Hell, they may have closed the doors while I was sitting at my booth and I’d have never noticed since #1240 is pretty far back from the main doors. Though, to the merchants’ advantage, 1200 is a bathroom aisle, so it’s guaranteed a lot of traffic. “I’d rather be on a bathroom aisle than an aisle connected to the snackbar that they never open,” quipped Brian Johnson of (a retailer, friend and con neighbor, kitty-corner across the intersection from me.) I couldn’t assail his unassailable logic. He also sold me a copy of PIXU II, the collectively-authored book from the likes of Cloonan, Bá, Moon and Lobos. Get the single issues while you can, folks. They won’t be around forever.

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Outside the show, the tone was struck by barkers chanting “Watchmen. Watchmen IMAX,” as they handed out flyers which led you to a raffle for the screening at midnight Friday, but I am, as they say, connected, so I could walk past them with confidence as they cast out their black and yellow-emblazoned postcards. No, I’m not going to talk about WATCHMEN here. You’ll have to go elsewhere for that. I slipped into the hall, wondering if I was even going to be able to stay awake until midnight to catch the movie in the first place.

Lemme tell you, registering as an exhibitor is only fifty times easier than professional registration. Shorter lines, quicker response time, and being able to get in and out of the convention center before the show opens and being able to hang out after it closes is nothing short of wonderful. Of course, you have to pay to be an exhibitor, so maybe it should be more fuzzy-feeling inducing.

On Friday, I set up just in time for the doors to open. Kind of a late night the previous night, getting the X-box to play nice on the household wireless network shared between it and other, exclusively Apple products. I expect to get home to find out that the X-box has gone all jihad on the Macs and I’ll have to clean up a litter of tangled silicon bits cast carelessly.

On the way back to my booth, I spoke with Mel and Clark from the GUMBY books and the surprisingly robust DEAD AHEAD zombie book that’s published by Image (with engaging art by Alex Nino—still waiting for the third book to come out and scramble people’s brains with its 24-page-mural presentation). They seemed in good spirits, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the start of the show. I could only muster eyed and tailed myself…

As usual with a three-day show, the first half-day tends to the slow side of things. That and four hours of sleep aren’t a great combination, and I’d considered crashing out underneath the table, but that would have been in bad form, I suppose. It’s certainly harder to sell people on copies of MURDER MOON while I’m sawing logs and drooling onto the bare concrete. And that’s what I was there for, so sleep would have to wait.

And wait, as it turned out.

Spoke briefly with the aforementioned Jimmie Robinson, he of BOMB QUEEN infamy, which he accurately described as “You know when your dad caught you smoking and made you smoke the whole pack? Well, it’s that for superhero comics.” And really, you don’t need much more of a sales pitch than that, do you? He mentioned a few other projects he was working on as Bomb Queen took a bit of a break.

Also ran across friend Vince Moore, writer/editor and retailer out of Comics Ink in Culver City. Well, he ran across me, since I was emboothed and wasn’t supposed to be wandering (which is why you never, ever run a convention booth solo. I really should learn to take my own advice sometime.) Talked a bit of shop in-between handing out postcards heralding the arrival of the new Strangeways serial entitled THE THIRSTY over at Robot6/CBR. Hey, I slipped that sales pitch in there pretty neatly, didn’t I?

I didn’t? Oh. I’ll just try harder next time.

The crowds ebbed and flowed as the afternoon wore on, eventually becoming something approaching busy by around 4pm. Which meant there were going to be three good hours of a shopping crowd. Though really, 7pm seems to be a touch on the late side to be closing the hall. That would be especially true on Saturday with a 10am start time, but I’m getting ahead of myself there.

Spoke with Shannon Denton, who I’d known since we both worked at Netter Digital some…ten (oh man) years ago now. I’d seen him from time to time at SDCC and the like, when he was back at Comicworks (or was it Comicwerks?) only to find that he’s now editing over at Wildstorm. Small, funny world. So I got a chance to catch up with him and marvel how we both survived the Netter implosion (Titanic-like) back in 2000.

And the crowds were actually buying. At least from me. Lightly buying, but steadily. The ladies at the corset/fetish/costume booth next to me seemed to be doing well, though perhaps not setting sales records right out the gate. Perhaps the sunny weather outside was contributing to the non-attendance, perhaps people actually had jobs to be at and not the total escape from mundane reality that comic conventions uniquely provide.

200903041420-1Chatted for awhile with Jeff Lester (he of Savage Critics and CTHULHU TALES fame) about the films of David Cronenberg, Peckinpah’s BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA and what’s been interesting in comics lately (OMEGA THE UNKNOWN for him, ESSENTIAL MAN-THING v. 2 for me). Jeff’s a good guy who I don’t get to see often enough, but then my hermitic lifestyle doesn’t lend itself to often hanging out at shows and talking High Cultcha. He was also kind enough to relieve me at my booth for a quick break and coffee. For that alone he should be sainted.

I did move a few copies of MURDER MOON, more than I’d thought at first, but not so many as to have me dancing in the aisles. And, as previously noted, people are either drawn in by the initial quick pitch of “cowboys and werewolves” or they just keep right on moving.

Wrapped the show and took a few moments to try and absorb some of the show vibe. A dealer had “WE WATCH THE WATCHMEN” written neatly in marker on a rectangular sheet of corrugated cardboard. That kinda said it all. WATCHMEN was the ticket to have. Lots of WATCHMEN merchandise, lots of Rorschach cosplay (though I think I saw one Dr. Manhattan in a suit with blue rubber glove hands, but disappointingly, no blueface makeup.) It’ll be interesting to see if the attention on the movie holds up until SDCC, or if we’ll be seeing deep discounts on WATCHMEN stuff after the movie. My gut tells me that there’ll be some market, but it will not be an IRON-MAN sized market, but likely more than, oh, THE SPIRIT.

Overall, dealers seemed pleased with the crowds on Friday, though there was some grumbling about the slow start. But Saturday would make that all up, only nobody knew it yet.

Dined at Henry’s Hunan, partaking in the succulence of Hunan ham, which is more like meaty Hunan bacon, sliced and served with carrots, onion, a lot of garlic and some chilis. After several hours of running on fumes, the meal and the hot tea were enough to put me in a condition vaguely resembling human and able to carry on a conversation. Which meant I could just barely make it through the CBLDF drink and draw party at 111 Minna, basically right next door to where I was eating.

Like last year, it was a fairly low-key affair, at least until the party switched over to the normal bar operation and the music got turned up loud enough for me to hear in my colon, which chased me out in pretty short order. But before then, I got a chance to talk with Mark Smith (not Mark E. Smith of The Fall, but Mark Smith of THE AMAZING JOY BUZZARDS and THE NEW BRIGHTON ARCHAEOLOGICAL SOCIETY). Also chatted with Brandon Siefert and Lukas Kettner of THE WITCH DOCTOR (a gorgeous little medical/horror series) before finishing my Knob Creek and calling it a night.

Or would I? I headed back to my hotel, convinced that I needed to sleep more than I needed to stay up another four hours and see WATCHMEN. But then I realized that 1) I probably wouldn’t see it since me getting to movies doesn’t happen unless they’re animated and for kids and 2) Hell, it’s free and 3) I’m not going to be able to sleep anyways and would rather not stay awake flipping channels back at the room. So I dragged myself the block down 4th street and found the screening staging area upstairs. Then I got my wristband and ticket, sat down and waited for the curtain to go up.

Okay, it’s an IMAX theatre. There was no curtain.


  1. Well, damn, if I knew Matt was an “Elite Beat Operative” I would’ve bought him dinner! Haha!

    Mark Smith’s new book, (New Brighton Archaeological Society) is genius mounted on a stick, covered in the best chocolate, and dipped in pure fun.

    Matt is a perfect gentleman, and he had some prime real estate on the floor. Nice corner set up. I ran right into him. Sadly I bounced around the show like a ping pong ball and didn’t get back to him, but there’s always another con and another opportunity.

  2. That’s because you already had your memory slate wiped clean, Matt…..

    Don’t you know that this website is where Joss Wheldon secretly drew his inspiration for “The Dollhouse”?