Did you order your SDCC gear yet?

21 JULY 2018

Today I tweeted an announcement I thought would be useful to at least a few people: Amazon Prime Day is coming late this year. It's not until 2 days before Comic-Con, in fact, making it too late to order SDCC supplies unless you want to bother with a hotel delivery. In the past, Prime Day has been a ripe opportunity for Con shopping so I thought it was worth mentioning.

But two of my first-timers texted me in a panic. Isn't the whole point to save your money for Comic-Con? they asked. Well, yes, for fun stuff. But you should be lining up basic supplies that can make your Con more comfortable. Here are a few things you might want to buy/order now.

Backup batteries. Your phone and other devices will run down quickly from being used so much and you may not be able to charge them quickly. The fastest way to stay powered is bringing along a few extra batteries. Bring extra/portable chargers as well.

Air hammocks and portable chairs. Whether you're sharing a hotel room or camping for Hall H, this is infinitely preferable to sleeping/sitting on the floor or ground. Especially when you're in line for several hours, blankets and pillows only go so far.

A good water bottle.  The advanced kind that keeps your water cold for a long time, not a terrible plastic one that's been sitting in a cupboard forever.

Drugs and braces. Wraps, orthotics and other supports can make a difference in your ability to get around Comic-Con without pain. Same for painkillers, muscle ointment, moleskin and other salves. This goes double if you're out of shape or prone to headaches or have a bad back/knee. I idiotically broke a toe last weekend and even though I'm sure I'll be healed by SDCC, I'll still pack a little splint for support.

Nerd clothes. I've noticed a lot of first-timers think they have to wear some kind of superhero t-shirt or other nerd-signalling apparel at SDCC. That's not true, you can wear whatever you want. But if you want to wear some special fandom shirt, start looking now because you can't necessarily count on finding it on the floor. Unless you're looking for one of 8000 Chewbacca and Daryl Dixon and Batman shirts, that is.

Good, supportive shoes. Even if you don't plan on walking that much (something first-timers say a lot to me), your feet will be happiest if you bring some super-cushy shoes. Yes, even if you're normally too glam to wear big dorky shoes. I used to think like that. It's a classic case of "no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy" - your vanity will die faster than you can imagine once you're in the grime of the Exhibit Hall.

Sketchbooks and journals. Honestly, these you can get quite easily on the floor - but I know Con attendees have made scrapbooking a thing in recent years and some of you need an extra special leatherbound dragon-embossed journal with plastic photo protectors, etc.  If you want to document your SDCC experience, start looking now.

GoPros, cameras and phones. If you're clinging to a cracked-screen phone that barely works or if you assume you'll be able to march selfie sticks or massive camera crews through the crowd - you should think about getting a more workable device for the Con. It's worth it.

I know this seems like a snoozer of a pre-Con season so far - but we've got ConanCon tickets coming up, the programming will be announced very soon, and we'll hear about more events over the next few weeks. Take advantage of this downtime to get your basics in order.

The Exhibit Hall Map is live

20 JUNE 2018

Today CCI released one of the most important parts of San Diego Comic-Con: the Exhibit Hall map and Exhibitor List. First-timers, this may sound dry - but you shouldn't skip it.

Tell me if this is you: you hate reading directions, you'd rather be spontaneous and roll with your own personal Tao than follow a roadmap, and you believe in Comic-Con serendipity. Yeah, me too. But I still study the Exhibit Hall map - and you should too.

This is what CCI just published:

The Exhibit Hall map

The list of exhibitors

The list for Artists' Alley

The list and map for Small Press

The Fan Tables map

Why This Matters

The Exhibit Hall is a maelstrom of noise, crowds and visual stimulation. You won't accomplish your goals - buying certain exclusives, hitting certain booths - if you try to wing it. It's just too distracting.

"But I don't have any goals," you might be saying. To which I say: "Hogwash" and point out you'll wind up shuffling along zombie-like with the crowd if you don't have some kind of plan upon entering.

I mean, you can just trudge around and see what there is to see. But if you have certain books or collectibles or signings in mind, it helps to look up vendors in advance. You don't have to memorize everything, that would be impossible, but you will get a little more organized and learn some new things. And you won't be on a flight home Sunday night and realize you never did see that amazing Walking Dead photo op everyone else is posting on Instagram.

A few myths and realities of the Exhibit Hall:

You can see everything by walking up and down every aisle. The crowds are too thick and the booths too crowded for you to spot every single item. I've walked right past favorite artists doing signings because there were just so many people around.

You'll remember everything on your list. First of all, you'll have your own list and the wish list from coworkers, roommates and friends - and much of the latter will take the form of "If you see a Zatanna figure" or "Any Black Panther kid's shirt" etc. And once you're on the floor, with video games thundering in your ears and Darth Vader blocking your path and footage flashing on multiple screens, a lot of thoughts will fly right out of your head.

It's all overpriced crap that's available cheaper on Amazon anyhow. No, it's not. Well, okay, some of it is. But you will see unusual gizmos you can't find anywhere else and if you have even a few nerd molecules in your blood, you'll probably spot some weird item you can't live without.

Artists' Alley and Small Press are just indie people who don't have much commercial appeal. No a thousand times. While SDCC can no longer compare to ECCC in this regard, it's still worth going through if you have any comic/art/lit interests.

The Exhibit Hall is all Hollywood studios, with nothing for comic book geeks. Not true. Yes, there is plenty of studio bombast. There are also aisles offering books from Fantagraphics, Image, Dark Horse, Boom, Drawn and Quarterly, Oni Press and others. Lots of back issue dealers. Graphic novels that get cheaper every day. Again, SDCC is no longer a Mecca of comic finds but this comic nerd always finds a few treasures to take home.

You don't want to get lost in heaven. Take a look at the maps and use them to shape your agenda.

A road closure at SDCC - just for us

19 JUNE 2018

In the battle between San Diego traffic and San Diego Comic-Con attendees, a small victory went to our side today. The section of Harbor Drive between First Avenue and Park Blvd will be closed to all traffic during the Con except for shuttles and emergency vehicles. (No bikes, scooters or skateboards, either.) The shuttles will be on the actual road. And the area where we used to see the shuttle buses? That's just for us now, giving us another 34 feet of room beyond the walkway.

First-timers, if this all sounds trivial to you - you'll see how much of a difference this can make when you arrive. Depending on the hour, the area in front of the Con tends to be packed with various lines, general crowds waiting for access, cosplayers posing for photos, media crews and attendees hustling to and fro. (Once our bible-quoting doomsday friends were there too, holding up their signs, but they've been banished and can now be found scowling in the Gaslamp.) And as you can see in the photo below, our foot traffic amounts to a parade just crossing the street.

Because it's 2018, this is also a security move. Only badge-holders can be in the expanded area. With concerts and other large gatherings marked as a terrorism target, Con officials have been instituting tougher measures all over the country. CCI has previously enlisted outside help to keep everyone safe - and this is another way to protect attendees and the convention center. In the words of Lt. Brent Williams of the San Diego Police Dept:

"If someone planned an attack, this could be a perfect place if this wasn't shut down. Because of what we've seen around the country, this is a way to protect attendees. Also, in the event of an evacuation, we could get our first responders there more quickly."

Makes sense - especially for those of us who just lived through a Comic-Con evacuation. (Ahem, Phoenix Comic Fest.)

If you have any questions about this change - about entering the Marriott, about being a member of the media, about ADA access, about parking - please read this FAQ. It answers pretty much every question you can think of.

SDCC goes old school in the Sails Pavilion

15 JUNE 2018

Remember when you used to go pick up your badge in the Sails Pavilion? How it felt so specifically Comic-Con to walk into that big, airy room and show your ID and get your badge and then your books and bag? As much as I like getting our badges mailed to us, picking up our guides and bags at the Marriott or wherever has never felt the same - so it's pretty cool that we're headed back to the Sails for that part of our SDCC routine.

Oh, and yes - our badges are headed our way. I know we're all nervous about thieves/freak mishaps but badge mailing mostly went smoothly in other years so I'm sure we'll be good this year. If your badges are going to a friend or vice versa, be sure to keep in contact about it without being annoying; it's good to check in with everyone just for reassurance sake. And you're covered in any case, because if your badge gets lost or absconded with, you can just contact CCI and they'll deactivate it and issue you a new one onsite.

You'll notice this year's pins include a special Astronaut Toucan version; if you really want that but get the standard pin, or vice versa, you can buy the one you want at the Con.

It's happening! Comic-Con is almost here.

Is SDCC going back to basics?

14 JUNE 2018

If you've been around San Diego Comic-Con long enough, you probably remember the days when attendees showed up for the Exhibit Hall back issues and action figures, the D&D meetups, the chance to sit in the same room with Neil Gaiman. And you probably observed with some bemusement as the periphery of the convention center mutated into a 12-ring marketing circus, with offsite lines that rivaled any day for Hall H.

Today it's not uncommon for attendees to buy badges and show up in San Diego without ever setting foot in the convention center. They may camp for Hall H to see their favorite celebrities but mostly they're hunting the other big game: the various HBO and Netflix and AMC attractions, the network-hosted parties and offsites, premieres and screenings, any watering hole where a drunken celebrity might agree to a photo.

But in recent years, studios and other companies have noticed that the ROI of SDCC is more fable than reality. Remember this Hall H infographic? Or when Forbes gently corrected the perception that SDCC outranked the Oscars? 

Various companies have tested the investment waters with offsites, swag and events; sometimes it works out for them but often it doesn't. I can't even count the number of networks and studios that have crowned themselves "Your Comic-Con Headquarters/Destination/Source!" and then failed to show up the following year. Even HBO isn't showing up this year. And this fade has demonstrated itself in other ways, like how so many TV panels now hand out cheap plastic trinkets instead of the t-shirts we used to get or how swag bags get lighter and lighter - even though you've just handed over your personal data at the booth to get them.

In the last 2-3 years, people have complained most vociferously about the lack of good events. For a while it seemed every night offered a glut of comedy shows, cosplay contests, VIP parties, concerts, fetish and goth balls and other offerings. Now - not so much. Nerd HQ can't afford to make it happen (though they obviously want to) and now SyFy Live isn't happening either. Neither is W00tstock or Heroes Brewfest. We've had a few parties announced like the Ready Player One at FLUXX and Impractical Jokers but on the whole, the schedule feels light for only a month out.

Finding Alternatives

If you're feeling a little bereft about your San Diego social plans this year, I'd ask you to remember that there's still a lot going on. I know the big flashy parties get the most social media love and in some ways, they've come to define SDCC for many attendees. But there's so much else going on.

We have film festivals and horror movies and anime screenings to go to. There are gaming tournaments and demos galore. We're still waiting to hear about the official Con offsites. Cosplayers excel at setting their own photo shoots and parties and it's a welcoming community for beginners. SDCC has increased its nighttime programming - trivia contests, panels, screenings - and clubs around the city will host everything from contests to nerd nites to live art shows. You can spend more time with your friends just getting drinks. And you can always plan your own happy hour, meetup, bar crawl or party.

Finally - radical thought - you can always take in more of the actual Con. If you don't typically use your badge much, take advantage of it this year and pick up a new hobby, whether it's anime or comics or sci-fi or virtual reality or something else. Maybe that's not as exciting to you as Conversations for a Cause but it's still a good way to meet people and expand your social network. Ultimately you have to architect your own Comic-Con fun.

It's possible the glow of SDCC's nightlife halo will continue to diminish. But I doubt it will disappear altogether. More events will be announced over the next month and you will find something to do.

DC Super Heroes Challenge wants to send you to San Diego Comic-Con

11 JUNE 2018

Are you a master of AR art or Snapchat's Lens Studio? Have you always wanted to build a Lens using Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman? If so, you and your best friend just might go to San Diego Comic-Con - not only with your hotel and 4-day badges taken care of, but with $500 and some DC and Snapchat swag bags.

DC has teamed up with Snapchat to test your superhero artistry and see if you're deserving of the prize. The deadline is 8 July so you have some time to finesse your augmented reality craft. Here's how to enter:

You can read all the rules and regulations - including not being from Rhode Island and needing your parents' permission if you're under 18 - right here. Good luck.

SDCC news review

8 JUNE 2018

Are you getting excited yet?

We're only a few weeks from the programming announcements - first-timers, these typically drop on a day by day basis 2 weeks before the Con. And we're already starting to spot what our SDCC days and nights may look like, though not all the developments have been positive. Let's review.

We'll start with the bad news: no Nerd HQ. First-timers, don't even ask what it was like; you'll just be sad you missed out. Everyone else, I know you're bummed but Nerd HQ may live in other cities/events so try to see this as yet another fun thing to anticipate. SDCC will be over at the end of July but you might still have this to look forward to - someday, somewhere.

ConanCon. They jumped onto Instagram today and they mention "exclusive behind the scenes photos, @originalfunko giveaways, ticket and celebrity guest updates" and more. In other words, this sounds like a mandatory destination - both for getting tickets and possibly finding out how to get the Funko Pop of your dreams even if you don't.

SDCC is issuing its 2018 Bob Clampett Humanitarian Aware to Frederick Joseph, who created the #BlackPantherChallenge that wound up helping more than 70,000 kids.

Are you not going to San Diego Comic-Con? Fear not; you might still get a full set of Diamond's exclusives in this contest.

Warner is going to dazzle us all (or those in Hall H, anyway) with a rebranding of the DC Extended Universe. Speaking of Hall H, we're also supposed to get the Aquaman trailer at the Con. We think.

Tickets are on sale for San Diego Sympony's The Movie Music of John Williams. A few notes on this: it's a great option if you don't have a Preview Night badge but if you do, oh well. Also be aware that John Williams won't actually be there and that - if you haven't done a SDCC symphony event for a  few years - it's not out back anymore but at the Jacobs Music Center. I know, I miss the sunset concerts too.

If you're one of those SDCC attendees who gripes about not getting invited to any parties, you're invited to this one: The Impractical Jokers, Saturday night in Petco Park, for free.

A Brief History of Time Travel will screen at SDCC's film festival.

If you missed the Eisner nominees or the profound thoughts of the judges, read here.

WWE champion Rey Mysterio and a few other luchadores will be in their own comic book, with Mysterio appearing at the Con on Friday to promote his issue. 

One of the more exciting comic book announcements this summer is the Vertigo relaunch, with 7 new titles. Panel material? For sure.

Are you bringing your offspring to Comic-Con? Are you dreading their panel tantrums or having nightmares about them wandering off in the Exhibit Hall? CCI has you covered with KiddieCorp - but you have to register by 17 June. 

Are you eligible for Conan tickets?

5 JUNE 2018

In the last few years, Conan O'Brien has become one of the biggest gets of San Diego Comic-Con. It's not just the amazing guests (X-Men, Game of Thrones, Suicide Squad, Silicon Valley and others) or the chance to dance onstage like a fool on TV. It's not even the Conan Funko Pops, which have become such a coveted item that my AC repair guy was struck dumb when he spotted one in my house. It's also one of the more fun things to do at the Con with your friends.

But you have to be prepared! Getting tickets is tough. Here's a primer if you've never been and some tips that might help even if you have.

What ConanCon Is

Conan tapes several shows in San Diego during the Con. Once you have tickets, you can tell your mom to watch Conan on the appropriate night which lets her brag to her friends that you were on TV, which might help her see all your SDCC tomfoolery in a new light.

During the taping, shirts will be thrown into the audience, you'll be encouraged to holler and cheer till your throat is hoarse, sparkling celebrities will take a seat on stage, and then it will all end. On your way out you'll be handed a Funko Pop. Desperate collectors and flippers will sidle up to you and creepily whisper bids in your ear for those Pops. You'll either sell yours off and regret it later or wisely hang onto it.

The timing: usually you need to line up super early in the morning (I arrived at 6:30 am one year and got a nosebleed seat) to get your wristband. You'll still be able to hit the Con when the Exhibit Hall doors open or shortly thereafter. Then you'll return to the venue that afternoon and be let into the theatre. The whole shebang is over by 5:30 or so.

That said - this is a consuming affair. Getting in line that morning means skipping some other Con line and its panel/event. Having to go back in mid-afternoon trims another 3-4 hours off your day. In a world where every day presents Sophie's Choice in terms of choosing between Hall H, offsites, tournaments and other options, you need to be aware that ConanCon will control most of one day for you.

How to Get Tickets

It's not easy. But this is one event that prioritizes SDCC attendees, which is nice.

  • Check that your Member ID account is set up to receive third-party emails.
  • Create a 1iota profile if you don't have one already. They have an app which you should definitely use. ETA:  I should have made this more clear - you need to get tickets through 1iota. It's not just about learning when tickets go live; you need to be logged into your 1iota account to apply for them. You can't just click a link and apply as an outsider.
  • Make your profile fun. Post cosplay and Con photos. They want the taping to feature an electric audience in wild costumes so the viewers at home can say, "Oh, those crazy Comic-Con people!" Make a visual promise that you are colorful enough to fit the bill.
  • You won't get much notice for when the tickets go live. If your job situation won't let you keep a digital vigil, find a Con friend who can use your info to apply for tickets. We've also been emailed special promo codes in the past, so make sure you have access to that as well.
  •  In the past, we've been able to apply for tickets (up to 4) for all shows. Consider yourself lucky if you get tickets to even one taping.

How to Go If You Don't Get Tickets

Despite everything I said above, people do bail on Conan tapings. SDCC is really tiring and sometimes they just don't have the energy for another event. Other times the Con programming for the day of their ticket sounds more appealing. So don't be afraid to ask around. People will have spare tickets.

You can also try standby. I feel like the first two years were better for this than last year. But it's worth trying if you're desperate - and you may not only get in, but get good seats, especially if you're in cosplay.

What You Can Do Right Now

  • Check your 1iota account and password. If you don't use it that often, you may not remember.
  • Sign up for an account if you don't have one and pad yours if you do.
  • Download their app for Apple or Google Play.
I'll post more when I know more. Stay tuned!

ETA: ConanCon is now on Instagram and they say it'll be the spot to hear about celebrity guests, ticket updates and other tantalizing news - follow them at instagram.com/conancon/.

6 weeks to Comic-Con: a checklist

5 JUNE 2018

6 weeks from tomorrow, we'll be walking into San Diego Comic-Con. How long is 6 weeks? Long enough to get a lot done - but short enough that you can't put things off. Preview Night might still seem like a distant dream but now is the time to think about making salon appointments, getting your car ready, taking care of things at work and making sure you have all the cosplay components you need. Wait too long to get this stuff done and you might regret it.

Here's a quick rundown of tasks you might want to take care of now.

#1. Get your car serviced. If you have some kind of arduous Comic-Con road trip ahead of you, get your oil changed and A/C and tires checked before departing. You don't want your Preview Night badge to go to waste while you're sitting around a desert auto shop.

#2. Sell back issues, collections and action figures online. It's always good to clear out some display and storage space while making extra cash for SDCC.

#3. Get your money in order. If friends owe you money, if you need to transfer funds between accounts or if you need to resurrect a credit card for your final hotel bill, you should get all that in order now to make sure you're covered and flush with funds.

#4. Take care of any prescriptions, salon appointments or medical care. Whether you want to get a pedicure for Comic-Con, need a different hair color for your cosplay or want to get new contact lenses or renew a prescription that might run out during SDCC, make your arrangements now. Think too about things like knee braces and other supports you might need to help you stand/sit for long periods.

#5. Get the jump on any deadlines and work coverage. Depending on your field, you might already be plunging into holiday/2018 launches and projects, so make sure your presence won't be critical for anything 18-22 July. If you can put in some overtime now to get someone to cover you during SDCC, do it. Set firm expectations with clients. Being expected to call into meetings or "be available" during Comic-Con is like adding just one drop of cyanide to a milkshake. Do whatever you can now to unplug completely next month.

#6. Start walking. You did this already, right? .... Right? If not, 6 weeks is still plenty of time to build up some stamina for those of you who aren't that active. Break in your Con shoes while you're at it so they feel like heaven by mid-July.

#7. Order stuff online. If you need extra device batteries, an air hammock or special costume components, consider ordering ahead of time so you can make sure it's what you need. And speaking of costumes...

#8. Test-drive your cosplay. Don't just try it on. Take pictures of yourself from all angles in it, walk around in it, imagine you're spending hours in a crowd in it. Any discomfort you feel now will be magnified x37 at SDCC, so don't vow to just power through. You still have time to make adjustments or find something else.

#9. Contact your friends and arrange meetups. We're still a month from finding out the programming, but it's not too soon to talk about getting together. Float a few possibilities and get people thinking about a happy hour, dinner or beach night. If you wait until you're at the Con, everyone's schedule will book up. And if you need to reserve any kind of space - do that now.

#10. Get your networking and marketing materials ready. Whether you're printing new business cards, buying a special campaign domain or compiling samples for Portfolio Review, don't leave this to the last minute or it will show. Get everything printed, published and polished now.

This is a busy time of year - weddings, graduations, 4th of July parties and summer vacations can all overtake our schedules. The next 6 weeks will fly by. Take care of the practical stuff now so you have time to luxuriate in Comic-Con anticipation later.

It's lottery time for SDCC Souvenir Book prints

1 JUNE 2018

It's June, which means it's time to turn our sights onto the looming beast that is San Diego Comic-Con. If you're a first-timer - of which there seem to be a smaller than usual crop this year - then you may be wondering when all the good announcements start. While a few exclusives have been flashed around, now is when we'll begin to hear about the parties and shows and panels that will comprise your Comic-Con days and nights. And because SDCC is going to come up faster than you can imagine, I'll post a list of ways to start preparing this weekend.

Let's start by talking about this latest lottery SDCC is offering us. The cover of the 2018 Souvenir Book is out and it's a depiction of Marvel film characters by Matt Taylor. But what's different this year is that 1000 limited edition Mondo prints are being sold; and you can only buy one by being picked in a lottery.

Entering the Mondo Print Lottery

You can "submit interest" in CCI's words by logging into your Member ID account and visiting the Exclusives tab. This is for attendees only; no exhibitors, pros, press or other Comic-Con species are eligible to enter. Yes, probably all of those people know an attendee they can maneuver through, but I still like the way this is being handled. Being last in line is a long-standing attendee complaint. Using Member ID accounts to sort the attendees from everyone else is a good jumping off point for fixing that.

The deadline to enter is Thursday, 7 June, at noon PST. "On or around" 12 June you'll get an email telling you how to log into your account and find out if you were selected. Why can't the emails just tell you that directly? Because it's Comic-Con.

And if you don't get picked? A few more prints will be available through the Comic-Con museum in Balboa Park, so save your $$$$. Because those will definitely cost way more than the $70 you'll spend buying one as an attendee.

I know some of you dislike lotteries while others feel they are the closest thing to "fair" that we'll get in our Comic-Con world. It does seem to be the general MO for most of our endeavors, from hotel rooms to badges to autographs. Will Hall H move to a lottery system one day? That's not for me to opine on since I avoid it entirely, but I'm sure you devout campers have fierce opinions on it.

Back to first-timers. You can find out more about the Souvenir Book here. You'll get it for free when you enter the Con, a journal of articles and art that delve into specific pop culture topics and anniversaries. It's something to settle onto the sofa with when you're back home and have time to actually sit down and read. (You won't have that time at the Con.) And while all this hullabaloo about the Mondo prints might convince you they are absolutely indispensable to your SDCC experience - don't get too hung up on this lottery. Your chances are slim and it's healthy to work that into your perspective now. So don't be too sad if you don't get a print - you'll find a few other thousand things to spend your money on at Comic-Con.

47 days until Preview Night! Start prepping now, nerds.

Interview with JH Williams III on Where We Live: Las Vegas Shooting Anthology

29 MAY 2018

On 1 October 2017, Las Vegas was the site of the worst mass shooting in American history. While every shooting has its own uniquely horrific repercussions, the scope of the Vegas shooting - with 58 fatalities and over 500 people injured - is so monstrous that it's  impossible to fully comprehend. And our ongoing dialogue on gun control and the various marches and protests don't really tell the full story of any mass shooting; what it's like to live through one or watch someone die in one or live with the aftermath - individually and as a community.

JH Williams III and Wendy Williams, who live in Las Vegas, responded to the shooting by pulling together one of the most anticipated anthologies of 2018. Where We Live features more than 70 stories by creators like Gail Simone, Mike Mignola, Jeff Lemire, Neil Gaiman, Mark Millar, Kieron Gillen, Joelle Jones and others. It's out in stores on March 30, with all proceeds donated to survivors. 

I talked to JH Williams III and contributor Dan Hernandez about the anthology.

Did you have the idea for Where We Live right away after the shooting?

Williams: Not immediately. We were shell-shocked for quite a few days afterward, after the incident.  It didn’t really start to set in that we could do something until later in the week. But during that time it was a helpless feeling, one that carried over from that awful night. That following Friday, I kept thinking there had to be something we could do beyond the obvious of giving a little money or giving blood.  I started randomly posting on Twitter in the middle of the night that maybe a book should be done, but had no idea how to even do it, how to go about organizing it. By the time I woke up the next morning I had responses from people offering to help.   

So that’s when my wife Wendy and I decided to try and do it, to create a book that raises funds while also serving a purpose of addressing the gun violence problems we’re all facing. We refused to remain feeling helpless.

An event of this magnitude – you think “This will be the one that changes things” and then nothing changes. There’s a predictable media cycle and the story fades and eventually, a kind of learned helplessness sets in. Were you hoping this would inject more energy and impetus into the dialogue?

Williams: Yes, exactly right. We’re never going to get to solving the problem if we don’t act.  Just looking for acceptance that this is the “new normal” is a copout.  I’m sick of hearing that this is the “new normal”, there is nothing normal about this whatsoever. The book doesn’t claim to have answers to the problem, but it does go into how this problem is seriously affecting the country, going beyond just statistics.  The news cycle always focuses on the statistics, especially over time, as if that changes anything, to most people it just becomes a number. 

We need to be discussing what this problem is doing to people’s lives. And for many of those people, they will be dealing with the aftereffects for a very long time, and possibly for the rest of their lives.  This needs to be acknowledged. We want others to consider how a shooting incident like this might impact their own loved ones if they were unfortunately caught in one. The book speaks to that in various ways.

What kind of work will readers find in the anthology? Comics and what else?

Williams: We felt right away that it should be a book open to all forms of expression. We didn’t want to hinder anyone by forcing it to be all comics.  So, besides comics, we also have numerous essays speaking about a variety of topics related to the issues, spot illustrations, and some poetry as well. And some of the comics' stories are allegorical, with underlying messages speaking to the themes in the book. We wanted it to be open for contributors to work in whatever way they felt they could be their strongest. 

Dan, you're a journalist who's in the book. How did you get involved?

Hernandez: When the editors invited me to contribute I immediately said yes. I’d been reporting on the shooting for weeks, interviewing survivors, first responders and therapists. So this was a way to give back. We’re spreading awareness about issues like the need for common sense gun laws, which is important. But we’re also directly benefiting the healing process by contributing proceeds to a treatment fund.

I don’t know if anything like this has existed before. People associate comic books with escapism, since they’re usually about superheroes in a fantasy realm. But these artists are well aware of the way American politics and the gun lobby have contributed to the plague violence in this country, and I’m glad to help them use this genre to take a stand.

I’d imagine that storytelling can more effectively humanize both the victims and survivors than a typical news story, which tends to focus on the shooter. Was that your intent?

Williams: Yes. When we started outlining the content goals of the book, we quickly knew we wanted to see if any witnesses and first responders would be willing to participate.  We felt it important for readers to see those stories and understand those experiences in a meaningful way.  We ended up with a variety of stories that discuss that night and its immediate aftermath in powerful ways. That was some difficult stuff to deal with, emotionally. But I’m glad that we did it. It’s important, it shows that they matter.

Did any of the contributors’ work or viewpoints surprise you?

Williams: I don’t know if “surprised” is the right word. It’s more like a feeling of elevation. Everyone has done such incredibly profound work on this, and in such a variety of ways. For Wendy and I it was emotionally difficult as well to read these as they came in. We’re so proud of what everyone has done.  There is so much heartfelt expression in this work.

With gun control being such a contentious issue, have you gotten any pushback just for creating this anthology?

Williams: Not as yet. Our hopes are that people will take it as intended, that it’s about helping others, while discussing the problems that have led to those people needing help in the first place. It’s about our collective human experiences surrounding the issues of gun violence. It’s a book that discusses solving the problem that can no longer be ignored. 

We didn’t send out a mandate to any of the contributors asking for their stories to lean one direction or another.  We had a basic mission statement with a list of a variety of topics we were looking to be addressed in some form. We looked for a variety of perspectives, even if they were ones we might not agree with.  By the end, if the book leans more toward one direction on the issues, then that is purely the tide at this time. But like I mentioned, our hopes are that people take the book as intended, that its purpose is to help others while facing the problems of gun violence.

How are you handling donating the proceeds of the book?

Williams: We're working with Route91Strong.org, an organization run by many who have been directly impacted by gun violence themselves.

Where We Live comes out tomorrow. Signings are planned across the country in bookstores and comic shops - follow @WhereWeLive_LV  to see if any of them are near you.

Phoenix Comic Fest Summary

28 MAY 2018

Phoenix Comic Fest is over - permanently, since the organizers changed the name again. What did you think?

I wasn't expecting to go this year but had a better time than I expected; my experience seems to be the opposite of most attendees, who did plan their event but had a few gripes. Let's break down what everyone liked and disliked.

The fire alarm evacuation.

Saturday's evacuation saw everyone escorted outside, where they could hit the beer garden, attempt to ride a mechanical silver dolphin or go to the hotel across the street for some informally relocated panels. This happened at around 7:30 pm and if the event had shut down for the night right then, people could have found other things to do. But the official announcement came after 10:00 pm, when a decent number of attendees were still hanging around.

The Masquerade was rescheduled, so were a few other events, and Saturday-only attendees were given free wristbands for Sunday. I didn't find any of this to be the end of the world but some attendees were still perturbed by Sunday evening.

The wristbands.

I prefer these to badges but a surprising number of people couldn't figure out how to tighten them just enough to stay on while staying loose enough to get off. Others complained their wristbands got dirty. Mine was begrimed with sunscreen and makeup by the end of my first day but I rolled with it; and tapping in was easy enough. On the whole, I think these were a success. Yes, we had scammers who sold fake wristbands but these people were stopped by the tech, as they should have been.

(And why buy a fake wristband at all? This Con was not sold out and there was no equivalent to Hall H. Just pony up for the real thing.)

The Exhibit Hall. 

 I barely bought anything, not even back issues, which I attributed to being a jaded attendee who's been to too many Cons. But some other people said the same; the wares offered just weren't that irresistible to us, apparently. As for how the vendors did, the ones I spoke to reported disappointing sales. That said, I did speak to a few first-timers who were dazzled.

The panels.

I only went to one, so I'll rely on the feedback of my associates - most of whom agreed the panels have become more interesting and better managed. Tell me what you thought.

The prices.

This seems to have pissed more than a few people off. Yes, this Con got more expensive this year, at multiple levels. Parents complained that it's no longer family friendly. Attendees complained that between the parking and the membership prices, they couldn't afford the full show. VIPS complained that their $400 didn't buy them privileges equal to the cost. All in all, this seemed to bear the brunt of the blame for the drop in....


The number I heard was a 30% drop. Maybe that's accurate, maybe it isn't. The point is that the drop alarmed vendors, guests and organizers, given that this Con has bragged of its burgeoning attendance.

There are a few dynamics worth pointing out:
  • The security incident last year - one guy showing up with weapons after making threats on social media - got a lot of media attention but I doubt that actually made anyone skittish about coming this year. He was shut down quickly and the security this year was excellent.
  • The pricing issue isn't just about passes. It's also about how much it cost to get certain signings and photo ops and panels. Some people are okay with that, others feel it panders to the economically privileged when they would prefer a more even playing field. 
  • Some locals have always harbored a certain contentiousness around this Con. We've seen it in arguments around the associated club Blue Ribbon Army, we've seen it when PHXCF went to a paid volunteer model, and I can attest that among local nerds and artists, there are always debates on issues like table space and exhibitors and access.
  • While Phoenix offered better talent this year, certain hardcore comic book nerds have considered it a lightweight Con in that regard (as it has been in the past.) So we may need a catch-up period where Phoenix continues to invest in those creators while the word gets out in the comic community.
  • This Con has always seemed incredibly adolescent to me. High school kids deserve to have fun too, of course, but I've heard many people over 30 remark that they feel out of place at this Con. This year I noticed a more even generational distribution and I think that's because some kids were priced out and because this Con's reputation has spread enough that older attendees from other cities were intrigued enough to try it out. Half the attendees in my space panel were from out of state.

The cosplay.

I was impressed. And I'm not even a cosplay person. Instead of 800 Disney princesses, Jack Sparrows and Harley Quinns, we saw a fantastic range of comic, anime and pop culture cosplay representation. A lot of it was incredibly professional. I've always thought the Phoenix heat must make cosplay and makeup an exercise in suffering, but the heat wasn't terrible this year and people looked great.

Some volunteers reported having to send cosplayers home who weren't dressed appropriately. Given that I saw people inside the event exposing as much as they legally could, I can only imagine how the inappropriate people were dressed. If that's you, remember that Comic Cons ARE a family event. Phoenix offers several other destinations where you'd be welcome so take it there next time.

The name change.

Apparently this was the one and only year for Phoenix Comic Fest; last year it was still Phoenix Comicon and next year it will be  Phoenix Fan Fusion. I loathe this name, I don't mind saying. As someone who cares about comics and science, and doesn't consider herself a literal fan, I would never attend an event called a Fan Fusion.

But apparently Square Egg feels this represents the event more accurately and helps them sidestep the litigious Comic Con issue. (Remember, CCI and Square Egg were in combat over trademarks. Legion of Sand has a good summary.) I'm curious if the programming will change to adhere to the name or if they think it already fits pretty well and nothing needs changing.

The talent.

I thought this year's Hollywood contingent was less than sparkling - there were some definite gets but nothing that eclipsed previous years, in my opinion. Obviously that's a matter of individual taste. Where PHXCF did invest was in the comic book talent and that was a joyful change for comic nerds like me. Will they continue this next year? I hope so.

Overall, it seems like this Con is trying to go from a big, mediocre Comic Con to a Con that's got both big attendance numbers and high quality offerings. If they can maintain the focus on good comic creators while stepping up the Hollywood draws, they'll become a top Con, no doubt. I know locals who just want a fun few days to dress up and go to parties probably disagree. And I did hear several people bluntly say they dislike the palpable sense that this Con is being run like a business. But pop culture conventions are a business and it's useless to pretend otherwise. They try to deliver what attendees will pay for and that presumably gives some attendees an incomparable experience. It just won't please all attendees.

Hope you had fun. If not - the year is still young. You've got time to put another Con on your calendar. Either way, I'll probably see you next year.