FRIDAY, JULY 23
Freaky Friday is when things got equal parts exciting and surreal for this mild-mannered some-time reporter, but rest assured it was all good.
Started off the evening at the official Marvel-sponsored get together for staffers and talent at a nice Gaslamp bar and grill type joint I’m sorry to say the name of which escapes me at the moment. As I assembled my meager meal of what appetizers proved compatible with my lactose intolerant system (some tasty spring rolls and meatballs), I got a friendly tap on the back and hearty hello from my comrade of the previous evening, Andy Lanning, sporting a crazy-ass Hawaiian type shirt that screamed “I am British, this looks amazing on me whether you like it or not.”
Mr. Lanning and I pulled up some booth real estate and were joined in short order by Marvel production whiz Rich Ginter as well as “Serial Thrilla” Tom Brennan for cuisine and conversation. Andy favored us with the “secret origin” of his comics career, including how he bypassed UK staple 2000AD and went straight to Marvel via the Epic series The Sleeze Brothers and how he and Dan hooked up in Marvel UK then ended up in the States pitching the Punisher crossover Eurohit and eventually landing Force Works. Along the way, I confirmed everything I always suspected about the craziness of Marvel UK in the 90’s (yes, they were more or less required to have at least three X-Men guest star in every issue of every series) and why original Force Works artist Tom Tenney vanished after four issues never to be seen again (apparently he just kinda…did), replaced by some guy named Jim Cheung.
After that initial crew dispersed to work the room, I mingled and got to enjoy watching Mike Choi convince my officemate, Margarita Vaisman, that he was a struggling young artist who hoped to get work for Marvel someday and then hear her offer him encouragement; after I blew the ruse, I gave him a hard time for getting rid of his rad “Rufio from Hook” Mohawk prior to his wedding.
Suddenly, I received a call on my phone from none other than pro wrestling superstar Christopher Daniels, who informed me there was a party going down on the roof of PetCo Park, home of the San Diego Padres, and my presence was requested; well, you don’t say no to The Fallen Angel, so I politely excused myself and headed to the ballpark.
When I arrived at the venue, there was a huge line and elaborate set-up to get in, so I wasn’t quite sure if I’d make it. A couple texts to Chris later and he descended from on high, ditching his ever-present sports coast no doubt ready to intimidate whatever bouncers he needed to on my behalf, then politely asked some lady if I could cut the line (which I did, no doubt pissing off dozens of frustrated onlookers). Chris introduced me to party host Jeff Katz, the Great Gatsby of SDCC and a dude I share many mutual friends with and had chatted with over Twitter—though I always assumed he thought I was Kiel—and was pleased to finally meet; extremely pleasant fellow who went out of his way to make me feel welcome even as he was in the midst of doing the same with hundreds of others. Those dudes showed me to the elevator and within a minute or so I was overlooking a baseball field on one side of me and downtown San Diego on the other.
Once we hit the roof, Chris had to go find his aforementioned jacket, and so for a few minutes I found myself playing deer in the headlights as music blared, drinks flowed, and Bill Hader, Seth Rogen and Joe Lo Truglio from The State all filed by me in short order. Fortunately, before my mind got too blown, Daniels came back, jacket intact, and escorted me over to where his crew was hanging.
Of course given that Chris’ “crew” consists pretty much exclusively of pro wrestlers and I’m a pro wrestling nut, so my wild night was just getting started.
It was actually pretty funny in retrospect how we rounded the corner and out of nowhere Daniels casually introduced me to one of his good buddies, Samoa Joe, one of my personal favorite current performers and a guy whose matches with Kurt Angle I was literally watching on the plane ride to San Diego. Dude was chill as can be and had actually been wanting to meet me because Chris had been bragging about all the free swag I get him; he said he’d even gotten my number from Daniels and had been contemplating giving me a call “during dinner or something and being, like, ‘Yo, it’s Samoa Joe…could I get some free comics?’” which would have cracked me up to no end. He then told me my spirit animal was a “raging tortoise,” which I told him I “got a lot,” then we shared a hearty laugh as I thought how cool I was sharing a joke with Samoa Joe and not getting choked out in the process.
Daniels wasn’t the only wrestler I knew in the immediate vicinity, as I got a shout out and bro hug from my old buddy Shane “Hurricane” Helms and his crazy ass new dreadlocks (which he reminded me weren’t exactly new as he used to wear them back in his 3 Count days 10 years ago). Hurricane told me he’d been at the show that day and really wanted to “get on that Odin’s throne gimmick” (an important lesson I learned that night was that “gimmick” can mean pretty much any and everything in wrestler lingo; as Chris put it: “It’s the wrestler’s ‘aloha.’”) but there was somebody else who he wanted to see up there even more, gesturing to a gentleman in a suit leaning back all cool and a little bit sinister against the bar.
A few seconds later, I was shaking hands with Mr. Paul Heyman, driving force behind Extreme Championship Wrestling and legendary creative mind in the wrestling industry.
I only got to speak with Paul for a brief time, but that was long enough for me to get a glimpse at the crazy charisma and intensity I’d always heard about. I’d love to get another chance to chat with Paul and just pick his brain about pretty much anything, because you can tell the guy is something else (and I mean that in a good way).
Former WWE Divas Maria and Stacy Keibler were also in “our” little clique, but I only introduced myself briefly. I mostly chatted with fellow “civilians” Michael Kingston, writer of the Headlocked comic, and JC, a former WWE behind-the-scenes dude whose job description I always forget (sorry, bro). Mike and I especially noted how wrestling folks really do live in another world and have their own little cool ass fraternity, but it was real neat to be a part of it for even a night.
After the party gimmick wrapped (ha!) Chris and I accompanied a New Zealander gent named Richard Fairgray who writes the Top Cow joint Blastosaurus back to Jeff Katz’ room at the Hilton where we walked into the unique sight of Stacy Keibler getting a foot massage from Paul Heyman while Hurricane and Samoa Joe watched on—not my typical early Saturday morning.
I hung out for a bit longer, got to witness Jill Thompson join the soiree resplendent from her double Eisner win, then said thank you to the gracious Mr. Katz for a crazy awesome night, said adios to the folks I met, and parted ways with my boy Daniels circa 2 AM to head back to my hotel for some shut eye.
Definitely a night I won’t forget, and a reminder why I’m grateful to have Chris Daniels as a buddy.
SATURDAY, JULY 24
So by the time the show wrapped on Saturday, I was still pretty beat from the night before. I did get a nice natural contact high from watching the awesome Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes preview alongside Chris Yost and Jim McCann, but unfortunately myself and Tom “Maverick” Brennan made the mistake of ordering out for burgers just before the panel, ensuring they’d be nice and cold by the time we got back. I myself followed Jimbo to watch him on the first half of the Gays in Comics panel and received a text from Brennan saying “Your burger is here. It is cold and greasy.” That was my cue to scurry down to the booth where I “live” blogged the big Marvel Studios panel from back amongst Marvel storage while munching on my chilled burger and soggy fries.
The panel ran a bit over—there was some stabbing incident—so I ended up booking it back to my hotel en route to a swanky dinner date with my familiar posse of the Naucks, Dan Abnett and Senor Lanning plus Mike McKone and Tom Brennan as “The Beav.” In my mad dash to snag a clean shirt, I bumped into The Cool Kids Table’s own Kevin Mahadeo and swept him up in my whirlwind, inviting him along while I texted, changed and tried to grab a glass of water.
We met up with the team at the Hyatte and then made our way to Seaport Village, a neat little seaside community that reminded me a lot of Mystic or Rockport. We pulled up a table at the Edgewater Grill and managed to squeeze everybody in; I managed to go five minutes without offending Dan before telling him I felt Mel Gibson’s “Maverick” was vastly superior to Star Wars (it is). From there, Brennan and I began our stand-up routine and had Dawn and Kevin in stitches as we talked about our alternate reality in which we call Joe Quesada every dinner after we get the check to tell him we “made a huge mistake” then he picks us up and takes us home so Bob Iger can yell at us (Kevin assures me it was hysterical). Brennan and me both ordered the crab cakes to keep things light given our still burger-filled-bellies, but I also cowboyed up for a salad I would quickly call “my biggest mistake in hours.”
It was a nice chill end to my evening exploits at the con with some of the people who made it such a fun experience for me. I hit the Hyatte bar briefly afterwards to say my goodbyes to all my bros, but called it an early night.
SUNDAY, JULY 25
We made it! I stayed overtime to help Tim Dillon and his skeleton crew clean up the booth a little and then made my way to the airport.
After what I’m pretty sure was me getting hit on by the girl checking my baggage (oh for a witness), I met up with Alex Kropinak, Ed Bursch, Justin Aclin, Josh Wiggler and a couple more for some last-minute pizza and beers (for them at least; Justin got me some fries).
The delightful Dan Slott was on my red eye home, which was a nice surprise. He was there to see a Marvel exec who shall remain unnamed (lest he choose to reveal himself, because I know he totally reads this blog) offer me $50 for my aisle seat, not realizing he had the aisle seat right in front of me; unfortunately he figured it out before we boarded or I made the deal then spent the early part of the flight reclining his seat back and laughing at me.
Smooth flight home with a kid next to me who kept showing me card tricks (I was polite) and then a few pleasant hours at home in my bed before it was time to head back to work.
Let’s do it again next year!