As mentioned earlier this week, The Beat is 10 years old this month! What was it like in the primitive days of 2004? Thanks to the wonders of digital archiving we can tell you! We can even take you back to San Diego 2004 for a look at skinnier but not necessarily better versions of many Beat favorites. So step with us behind the veils of time for….

Comic-Con International: San Diego 2004


Neil Gaiman accepting an Eisner award for SANDMAN; ENDLESS NIGHTS as Will Eisner looks on, as was the custom until Eisner’s death in January 2005. This was the last time that Eisner was at the awards named for him.



This was the year of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, starring Jude Law, Gywneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie. These giant inflatable robots set up across the trolley tracks were, as I recall, one of the most spectacular movie marketing displays to date, and Sky Captain was one of the first movies to fall prey to the “Comic-Con Curse” — despite heavy promotion to the nerd herd, the movie was a flop. If there was anything at SD 2004 that was a harbinger of the future, it’s this. These robots would barely rate a nod these days when entire theme parks are set up to promote webisodes.


I think this is the last year I attended the indie beach party on Saturday night, probably because it was the last year that enough indie cartoonists to have a beach party actually attended. When things were less hectic this was a wonderful respite from the hectic world of the con. I think this may have been the year that Jim Lee drove  the McClouds, myself and Peter Milligan and an illegal number of people to be in one car to the party and I was forced to set on someone’s lap all the way there.  sd04d401

Future superstar Chip Zdarsky dreaming of the day he will be happy, along with Kagan McLeod.sd04d404

Dean Haspiel and Vito Delsante in a show of powder blue solidarity.  sd04d405

Trina Robbins, unknown in the center and Go Girl artist Anne Timmons. Looking at these photos what’s notable to me is how many cartoonists who I would never see at SDCC any more are in them.


Frequent Beat commenter Cary Coatney and his comic Deposit Man. Countdown until Cary comments on this post in 10…9…8…


Robyn Chapman and two people whose names I don’t remember. Yes boys and girls, once upon a time cartoonists went to San Diego!


Dave Roman, John Green and future superstar Raina Telgemeier.


I have no idea what happened to this Cardlings dude, but he was way ahead of the curve on the marketing spectacle that would later become necessary.


Sinister nuclear lemonade they served in the pro room that mutated all the cartoonists.


China Miéville.


DC’s Bob Wayne, who looks exactly the same right this minute and may be wearing a similar shirt, George Perez and writer Malcolm Bourne.  sd04d432

Pia Guerra and Ian Boothby


Diamond’s Kuo-yu Liang and Roger Fletcher


What then passed for an impressive display in 2004



And every single inch of the convention center wasn’t always jammed. Artist Alley wasn’t anyway. I think this may have been before Hall H even.



Jeff Parker and Steve Lieber were tabling-buddies and even had a hilarious blog back in the day, later to become the Periscope studio blog and then, Facebook. However to prevent each other from being driven insane by the other’s table patter, they erected a fence between them.


Skottie Young and Khary Randolph. I ran into Khary at Heroes Con a couple of days ago and almost didn’t recognize him because he wasn’t wearing a hat.


Dave Johnson, Tony Harris and Phil Noto.


Kirby inker and raconteur Mike Royer who once told me he had seen Blade Runner 70 times.



The Italian contingent, consisting of Matteo Casali, unknown, Giuseppe Camuncoli and unknown. Sorry I don’t recognize so many folks…life was so different then!



Beside the Sky Captain thing, the biggest showbiz buzz at the 2004 con was the presence of Burlyman, the comics company run by the Wachowskis. Both Andy (I think that’s him in the floral shirt above) and Lana showed up at the booth, which got a lot of attention as both had not done a public appearance in years.



The Golden Apple’s Sharon Liebowitz, the late George Gladir and the late Bill Liebowitz. I believe Bill passed away a few months after this photo was taken. I miss him still.

This was one of only two years when the Hyatt bar was closed to to construction so DC arranged to have a bar set up in the grassy area out in back of the Hyatt, a bar I dubbed the Chu-Fong, since DC’s Fletcher Chu-Fong had been instrumental in arranging it. There was never a more pleasant hang out at Comic-Con, as the sea mists rolled in, people satin the cool evening dew and the douchebag rabble didn’t exist yet.


Then as now, folks gather on the steps in back of the Hyatt after last call to talk and have fun. Such a simpler, more innocent time.

So there you go! Pretty much the same and yet subtly different. Do you have any memories of Comic-Con 2004? Did you drink that lemonade? Tell us all about it in the comments.


  1. The only SDCC I ever went to… and I thanked Heidi personnaly for having already wasted tons of my office time surfing for her incomprable reportage.

    Made a promise to Craig Thompson the year before in Chicago after BLANKETS had just broke, that I’d see him at the floor here, and kept it. And Jeffrey Brown slipped me a copy of this under the table:

    So let’s set the world on fire, we can burn brighter than the sun…

  2. I think my last San Diego was 2002.
    I remember walking into Hall H early to get a seat for Disney’s “Treasure Planet” panel, and seeing about twenty actors from The Lord of the Rings posing for photos. Since I wasn’t that big a fan, I ignored it.
    I also attended the Warner Brothers panel, where Arnold Schwarzenegger made a surprise appearance to promote T3.

    2004 is indeed when it all changed.
    The New York Times had a large article in their arts section:

    Was it in 2006 when Hall H became a refugee camp?

  3. I think Hall H might have been introduced in 2003. I had a great time photographing all the celebrities from the front row of Ballroom 20 in 2002 but I remember in 2003 not being able to get into the Hollywood events anymore because now all this stuff was being shown on the Tonight Show and other places.

    By 2004, the con had already exploded. Keanu Reeves showed up (“Whoa!”), the cast of the Fantastic Four were there along with many of the cast of Smallville. Those Sky Captain robots were great. A shame the movie didn’t do better.

    For comic creators, I got to see a rare appearance by inker Romeo Tanghal, hosted by his New Teen Titans writer Marv Wolfman. The treat was seeing some of Tanghal’s non-Titans inking work.

    Around the dealer’s room floor, we were treated to an X-wing fighter at the Star Wars Pavilion, the Sideshow Collectables booth in full force, the costumes from the Lord of the Rings, and live girls in bikinis in glass tanks for that SPECIES sequel.

    The Saturday night masquerade as also good with some stand outs like a JLA group and a Lord of the Rings group.

  4. Congratulations to The Beat and the inimitable Heidi MacDonald on the Beat’s 10th anniversary. That means for the last 10 years I’ve been reading the Beat so I know what to write about!!!

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