San Diego, CA – late night

Well, it’s eleven pm here, and it doesn’t really feel like two am, my time.  I must be getting acclimated to the time change.  Man, the East Coast’s going to be a right bitch when I head home…

I’d really like to get to sleep soon, because I want to get up at six to get on the road tomorrow.  I’ve got another bout with the Mojave, and I’d just as soon do it before the sun fully wakes up.  One night in Barstow, then hopefully another early morning sprint into Las Vegas.  I’m expecting about four hours of driving each day.

San Diego.  I suppose I should do some kind of wrap up here.  It’s a really great city.  While the Comic-Con was running, my life kind of revolved around the convention center, Seaport Village, and Horton Plaza, and the several blocks walk between them.  Seaport Village I’ve already mentioned, it’s the kind of place where you can spend five bucks on an ice cream cone (I know I did), twenty bucks for lunch (did that too), and the sky’s the limit on dinner (I kept mine under sixty, but only just barely).  Horton Plaza is pretty much like every other mall in the world except for the fact that the stairs and escalators were laid out by M. C. Escher.  You can see where you want to go, it’s just right over there, but just try getting to it.  There’s a place there with the best, and quite possibly biggest, cinnamon rolls in the world, and a burger grill called Wichita’s, that I foolishishly assumed to be after the Kansas city until the dark complected girl who took my order told me to make out the traveler’s check to Wuh-CHEET-uhs.  We did giggle, but managed not to do it in her face…

I saw a little bit more around here (“here” being Chula Vista, which I think translates to “View of the shoe,” but I could be wrong.  Chula Vista is just south of San Diego, yet not quite Mexico, and is where the KOA Kampground is located) today, now that the show is over.  I saw the inside of a Midas brake shop, for instance, but, bucking the trend present in my recent history, after I handed over all that money, I found they had actually fixed the problem I asked them to (the Tracker’s braking system apparently grew old and died all at once.  I think I replaced most of the underside of the car, but the brake light now goes out, the brake pedal reacts before it gets within an inch or so of the floor, and the squeaking, scraping noise emanating from the passenger side front wheel is gone gone gone).  I found another great Mexican food joint (when you’re eight miles from the border and you find the Mexican restaurant where you’re the only customer not ordering in Spanish, you know you’ve hit gold) and had more fantastic enchiladas (despite a recommedation from a native I happen to know, I refused to have a “fish taco.”  Where I come from, “fish taco” is a dirty joke, not a lunchtime treat).

The Comic-Con was incredible.  The other time I came out, it seems like I got here later and had to leave earlier.  I know I had to fly out Sunday afternoon, which stunk.  Sunday is the best buying day at shows like this.  Dealers who had bad shows need to make table money, and dealers from far away would rather tote home cash than comics, so low-balling goes a long way on Sundays.  I actually had spent all I intended to spend, and Richard and I were just walking around, not wanting the show to end (the less hardy Sean and Jonathan had already retired to the floor of the lobby area for blister relief), when I practically stole a Tales To Astonish #27 (first Ant-Man) for $200.  I know that $200 for a comic book sounds nuts to a lot of people, but there’s something about a thirty-six year old slab of paper, designed to be thrown away (in that day, you were just supposed to read them and get rid of them, not plan on financing your kids’ college education with them), and yet it’s survived until now, and, actually, is in noticeably better shape than I am at only 32, thank you very much.  And besdies, even with the Overstreet Price Guide’s devaluation of low grade books, this one guides at about $400.  Not that I’m intending to sell it, but it’s nice to know when you got a deal.  I mentioned yesterday my theivery of a $550 X-Men #1 for $250 earlier in the day.  Sunday at San Diego rules.

So now, the big books I have left are Journey Into Mystery #1 ($260), Incredible Hulk #1 ($650), Strange Tales #1 ($255), Tales To Astonish #1 ($120), and Tales of Suspense #1 ($116).  All the prices given are for “good” condition books, which basically means all the pages are there, the cover is still attached, and the thing can be read.  Other than that, it can be pretty beat up.  That’s the kind of book I like, at least books of this age.  By the way, for comparison’s sake, Hulk #1 in “near mint” condition (looks like a brand new copy, fresh off the press) guides for $11,000.  That’s another reason I like low grade books…  Actually, as far as most people are concerned, the Hulk book is the only one of the above that’s really “major.”  I just defined the others as major because I consider them important to my collection.

Other nifty things I got: 2 more Carl Barks library sets (Carl Barks was the guy who wrote and drew the Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge stories most of us and our parents grew up with.  In the eighties, Russ Cochran reprinted _every_ Barks Duck story in ten slipcased sets of three hardbound editions.  When I left home, I still needed half of them.  Now, I only need 3 more… and I know where to get one of them, I just need to see if I can afford it after this trip is over…), _A Game of You_ hardbound (Neil Gaiman’s Sandman was one of the best story books ever published, in any form.  This volume reprints a story that ran about eight months in the regular comic series.  I’m now missing only one of the Sandman hardbounds…), 8 or so paperbacks (my current “these things aren’t worth much, but, _damn_, they’re cool” collection is my Marvel paperback collection.  There are three main series:  Lancer’s late 60’s reprints of comics, Pocket Books’ early 80’s reprints of comics, and Pocket Books’ early 80’s novels based on Marvel characters.  I’ve also found both novels and reprint editions from oddball publishers at weirdo times.  I think I’ve completed the reprint editions [I need to find a resource on exactly what was printed.  The numbering system used, particularly on the Lancer series, suggest there’re more of these things out there, but I’ve got everything I’ve ever heard of being published.  Perhaps the “missing” numbers are simply not Marvel reprints], and I just need one more of the novels [which I swear I owned at one time.  Probably in some long forgotten box at my parents house, assuming mom didn’t sell it at a garage sale…].  By the way, the comic world has a way of following me around on this kind of stuff.  No one ever wanted the Marvel Masterworks hardbound reprints until after I started picking them up when they got discounted to half cover.  Now that I only need a couple more, they’re the hot, popular collectible, and it looks like the last couple volumes are going to set me back a couple bills each.  Three years ago, I got into collecting Marvel Treasuries, comics printed in a totally impractical and inconvenient 18 inch by 12 inch size.  I thought they were cool because they were reprints of normal comics blown up in size, so the art was just huge.  I used to pick them up for a buck or two each at shows, because no one wanted to have to store the damn things.  Guess what was on all the displays for 15, 25, and 50 bucks this year?  All my damn Treasuries.  So you heard it here first, Lancer and Pocket Books paperbacks will skyrocket in price over the next few years), 5 Seven-Eleven cups with superhero pictures on them (I have no excuse for this, I just thought they were way too cool to leave laying around), and 4 more of the 60’s Marvel cartoon videos (these things are truly atrocious.  They were apparently “animated” by cutting up comic books and sliding the pieces around in front of a camera.  Think low tech South Park, and you’ll be in the right neighborhood.  I really have no idea what attracted me to these things.  I do remember coming home from school to my grandmother’s house, when cable had just started to hit [you thought it was tough explaining vinyl albums to kids today, try explaining three channels accessed through an antenna].  Lipton also had some of the first big improvements on the Cup-A-Soup idea, and I remember eating mugs full of instant Macaroni and Cheese or Chicken Ala King and watching these pieces of crap on Turner’s fledgling empire all afternoon).

And actually, I got a lot more cool crap too, it’s just that I’m getting into things whose purchase completely defies justification.  Even my geek friends were looking at me funny about the Gear Cloth Dolls (if you have to ask, you don’t want to know).

The San Diego show is fantastic for a reason completely aside from the massive amounts of useless pop culture available for your spending needs.  It is still _the_ show for the industry to come out and shake its own hand, do a little insider business.  _Everyone_ is there.  The great part about this is that you often just run into heroes of yours, wandering the aisles, buying the same crap you are, looking in amazement at that which amazes you.  There was a small fire at the DC booth one afternoon when the wiring for their huge video display apparently heated past the combustion point of the fabric used to hide it from public view.  As I stood and watched the minor debacle, I found myself standing next to Grant Morrison again, and we talked a while more.  I think in the next couple years I’m going to stay at one of the hotels downtown, so as to run into these folks after hours.  I imagine Grant and I would have even more to talk about after dozens of Black and Tans…

And the sheer number of creators is overwhelming.  People who would be featured guests at shows back home, where there would be lines hours long for a quick autograph, are literally just sitting around at San Diego.  I talked with people whose work I’ve admired since I understood that there was someone “in” there, someone on the other side who wrote and drew so that I might get the message.  I got sketches in my own little notebook from people whose work you see on book covers in every Waldenbooks and Barnes and Noble in the world.  I talked philosophy with Neal Adams (I know, his name means nothing to most of you.  But if you know the name, you know he’s a living legend.  And he drew me a Batman sketch), I talked shit with Evan Dorkin (who deserves to be a legend, someday.  And he drew me a Milk and Cheese sketch: “No murder today, very sad!”).  So many artists and creators that I got to talk to, that drew a little something (in some cases, substantially more than that.  Let me show you my William Stout sometime…), that I got the chance to tell how much I’d enjoyed their work.

Well, I’ve probably spouted off enough about the show.  It’s another in a long list of things that I don’t feel I can explain to you unless you already know what I’m talking about.

I really enjoyed it.  I hope to be back next year.  I need to go to sleep.  Of course, I’m currently wired all to hell…

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