Friday, June 28, 2013

Repost: My article for the Bakersfield Comic-Con for BAKOTOPIA magazine 2009

Repost: My article for the Bakersfield Comic-Con for BAKOTOPIA magazine 2009

Comic books have been a huge, huge part of my life. I feel no shame saying that. In fact, I hold that admission as a matter of pride, much like a fan who champions an unknown band that becomes well known: the feeling that I was on the ground floor before the crowd showed up. Comic books jump started my imagination, inspired the artist in me, colored my world view and even helped me bond with my daughter. From the start of my love affair with comics, my world has been painted in a four color comic scheme, in amazing multiple panels and spectacular splash pages.

I've written about my experience at the San Diego Comic-con (or the "COMIC-CON!!!") and my love of all the things that gave me joy in my youth but I wanted to write about the main reason why these little funny books mean so much to me. For a long time, they were my best friends and led me to my other best friends. I looked forward to picking up the newest issues at the local liquor store every week. My close friends at that time collected and read with the same fervor I did. They were sons of the workers on a ranch owned by my dad's friend. I knew what it was like, first hand, to stay in a trailer on a ranch, or to stay in the ranch hands' house because my dad was a ranch foreman himself. The ranch hands' homes were rows of tiny houses where whole families would live crammed and waiting for their dads to come back from a hard day in the fields. I still smile at the sight of a sunset over the vast green fields, being sprayed with two foot tall sprinklers; power lines humming steadily while the sky turned into a golden/purple hue. The daily business of the night pushing the day into the ground. It looks in my mind like one of those splash pages I was talking about. Those friends have disappeared over the years, their houses abandoned and rotted; still decaying off the 138 towards Lancaster.

I drew joy in reading, rereading and remembering those issues that still are burned in my mind: discovering Frank Miller's run on DAREDEVIL and HEAVY METAL magazine (waaay too young) in 1981. Reading Alan Moore for the first time in SWAMP THING in 1983 then in V FOR VENDETTA in 1993 and WATCHMEN and FROM HELL a few years later. Finding the unique wonder of Neil Gaiman's SANDMAN series; marveling at the mutant massacre in X MEN, buying THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS and KRAVEN'S LAST HUNT all in 1987. Reading Wolverine's beginnings in ORIGIN, rediscovering Spider Man and crying at the 9-11 issue back in 2001. Imprinting the work of Bill Sienkiewicz (pronounced sin-KEV-itch), Moebius, Richard Corben, Drulliet, Jack KIrby, Steve Ditko, Howard Chaykin, John Byrne, Liberatore, Alex Ross, Neal Adams, Mike Zeck, Frank Quitely, Grant Morrison, Mike Zulli, Mark Millar, Frank Frazetta, Berni wrightson and so, so, so many others into the core of my being. When I was 10 years old I wallpapered my entire room with all my comics, their mylar bags holding them in place. It was GLORIOUS!

It's not all sentimental though, there's a real sense of power in getting a particular issue or set at a bargain that gives you a sense that you got away with murder. For every "I could have paid twenty, but I got it for five" it's balanced by " I payed ten, but it was worth five." Regardless, those bargains have a particular aura of their own. they've inspired the frugal, tenacious, aggresive and intrepid collector in me. Whether it was collecting my early toys, magic cards or even CD's the collector in me was always looking to complete the collection/set/run and to get it for a "deal."

Thus, I come to the main focus of this blog: The Bakersfield Comic Convention at the Double Tree on November 8th.

One of the main guests is Sergio Aragones. I was first introduced to his work not in MAD magazine (I discovered that the next year thanks to this) but in a book my mom bought for my dad titled SERGIO ARAGONES ON PARADE. My father was born in Spain in the Aragon region, so my mom thought it was cute to buy my dad a book with the word ARAGON in the title. My wonderful well-meaning mom. I don't think it ever got to my dad- I keelhauled it. A few years leer I discovered GROO which is the ongoing saga of the world's DUMBEST barbarian and the world's most loyal dog (and ironic minstrel, like sir Robin's in MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL). Imagine Al from HAPPY DAYS with long hair and dressed like CONAN with an IQ of 2. or for you youngsters John C Reilly with a big nose acting the same way.

If you want to see someone that ebraces their love of the comic book medium look no more than John Dolmayan, the drummer from SYSTEM OF A DOWN. The guy had each of his drums drawn on by different comic book artists (his snare drum was embellished by Neal Adams. Natch.)and he recently shelled out over $300,000 for an issue of ACTION COMICS #1-the first appearance of SUPERMAN. In my opinion, it sounds like a fine investment. There aren't a lot of those left in the world. Besides Kevin Smith he's probably the biggest comic book fan in the public eye that I can think of. Oh, I forgot Nicolas Cage, whose real last name is Coppola but changed it to Cage (after Luke Cage the comic book hero for hire first introduced by Marvel comics in the seventies and who should be hitting movie theatres in the near future. He's due.)
Mr. Dolmayan will be at the Comic con as well.

There will be other names there that most people that don't read comics wouldn't know (like Scott Shaw! and Alex Nino who I remember from HEAVY METAL magazine) but don't let that stop you from talking to them and hearing their stories. If you're already a fan, bring your kids to show where you come from. If your kids are fans take them to see where they're coming from. My fifteen year old daughter Tatijana and I trade comics sometime. She hips me to Japanese Manga and I prefer to share with her their cousins from the west. The fact that this is just one way of seeing the fruit hasn't fallen far from the tree and that we can have this wonderful connection in common is a sublime fact that will keep me warm on my death bed.

I have seen comic fandom go from humble magazine racks, to comic boutiques, to comic conventions, to big business, to bankruptcy, to great success in the box office to the rise of Manga and to pretty much taking over popular culture as we now know it. From the golden age and the age of EC comics (where comics were seen as "seducing the innocent" and corrupting children) to the modern fables we see on the big and small screen, comic books have permutated through the fibers of the collective unconcious. Another guest of the convention will be Herb Jefferson Jr who played Boomer in BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. How times have changed. In the ravamped series that was introduced a few years ago (and which to this day is still considered one of the most innovative, influential and revered dramas in recent times. Sci-fi or not.) Boomer changed from being played by a black man to a HOT asian woman. Starbuck went from being Face from the A TEAM (Dirk Benedict) to another hot blond woman with a drinking problem and anger issues who *SPOILER ALERT* also happened to be an angel (Katee Sackoff- too soon?), and Adama went from being Lorne Green to Edward James Olmos. Ladies and gentlemen: genre reinvention at work.

This is an unabashed love letter to the longest running relationship in my life: me and my imagination.I could literally keep going but it's time to bust out my GROO lunch box and a Sharpie. It's convention time again. Oh, and also Sergio Aragones killed Marty Feldman. It's true.


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