The San Diego Human Centipede Convention
Feeling like a ghost haunting my own past, I waltzed (on my crutch), up the professional registration desk and gave them my name. In return they graciously granted my Perpetual Prefered Professional status (or something), entitling me to a life times worth of Comic Cons and for my close, personal guests.
Like the waitress at the Anaheim WonderCon who’s 11 year old son was crest fallen that she hadn’t been able to get tickets on line inn time. Him, her and her daughter got in that very day courtesy of yours truly and the SDCC. My PPP status is earned by happenstance. I happen to be the SF coordinator for the 1974 San Diego Comic Con when I was a young and fervent fan and wanted to walk up to Harlan Ellison and tell him that god spoke through him.
I was there this year, aeons later, wandering around like a sack-bearing minstral touting my upcoming debut collection of poetry IS SHE AVAILABLE? and it’s complimentary music and animation. In principle I was supposed to be touting to industry movers, shakers and cheque writers. In fact, it was mainly artists, some old trading friends, a few young fans and a homless man who benefited from news of my impending launch. I reckon if I can corner the homeless reading market sector, I’m on my way.
San Diego Comic Con 2014 reminded me most of all of that episode of South Park in which Steve Jobs exercises the terms and conditions from the Apple licence agreement (you know, the one you always just click through without reading), to collect human specimans in order to fabricate human centipedes. The joke being how ridiculously absurd it is that anyone would voluntarily put up with day upon day of physical and emotional endurance just for the sake of a quickly forgotten signature.
But the hairless apes endure a great deal more for the chance to take an intimate dream, a very public but nonetheless private fantasy one step closer to reality by getting to peek behind the theatre curtains. I will pay for the privilege to meet the writers, the artists, the TV and film stars. The latter attracting a pestulance of clicking, wirring cameras like someone kicked a over wasps nest.
The attraction is the focus, not the object of focus.
We not only comprise the public eye we are self aware of its meandering focus; like the guard’s light in a POW camp, the focus must keep moving, bouncing; taking in the walls, the ground and the towers of our narrow realm. Quick! Run over there, it’s over there now.
The San Diego Conference Centre is Enormous; a Star Ship sized concrete mass. on the ground floor one room large enough to build a couple of passenger jet planes in, stretching from the center of San Diego Bay to seemingly, Tijuana; if you were walking. As if there were an alternative to walking, or limping. The upstairs Upper Deck of the Convention Center is a Gormenghast castle of windows and endless corridors of rooms and as many culdesacs. The entire homeless population of San Diego could easily fit into two panel rooms; and the panels wouldn’t be too much different from the writers, artists and TV stars ones.
What would you rather do? Give money to a panhandler or pay to hear him appear on a panel regarding the new Marvel universe infringing on Dante’s 10 Circle of Hell? .
The Convention Center is Enormous and yet unmoveable for stagnated flow of people. These are human currents of motion. Anyone who has ever been swept up in a crowd knows exactly what I mean. It’s terrifying in a profound way, even though logic and civilization dictates otherwise, it is still intimidating to feel the raw, brutal energy of the mob. The Mob: that entity formed by shaping a collection of humans (and the spaces of interaction between them) into one singular mass of motion and motive.
[Funny, that: a flock of birds, a school of fish, a pack of hyena,
a Mob of people. And we invented language.]
This collective swarming of people tends to occur organically, specially around sporting events and the escape of man-made monsters. In this case it is due to the First Through Tenth Laws of Acquisition that motivates the herd.
The grass is collectable.
The commodification of value; selling Art wrapped in newspapers and doused in salt and Vinegar.
SDCC is a trade show, a place of business of commerce of PT Barnum huksters selling your dreams back to you. It is the most successful animal of its kind and it demonstrates how commerce has successfully replaced the human imagination.
And what drives the currents of human traffic? Distant stars. Usually at the exhibit stand near Hall G while you had to go all the way to Hall A just to find that out. How did you get to Tijuana? I walked there. And there, finally, after swimming upstream against the trecherous human currents, you find the comics artist, your respected hero, who’s every word you hang on to, just so you can brag about it to others who have also spent the same money for the privilege of basking in the sunlight of a comics artist.
And most of them are really quite funny; and charming and grossly underpaid for the craft of that they do. But hey that’s publisher’s innit? nothing to do with comics. Comics illustration is an amazing craft in that it is generationally passed on, like shoemaking or wood turning used to be; so it has an antique heritage: the smell of newsprint funny papers is never far from even the glossiest deluxe graphic novel edition.
I’ve known a legion of comics artists; meaning commercial illustrators who primarily do and want to do comics.
I’ve known some of those luminaries both writers and artists when they were breaking in and then when they were breaking out of the comics industry.
God what a lonely life that must be, to be living at the nub of your pen, gliding across an endless white surface of parchment, flying from city to city, convention to convention, drawing pictures, sketching characters, signing books, signing prints, signing the bellies of beautiful women and the arms of worshipful fans. Always in the air, always on the move, always either landing or taking off; never falling, always floating but never quite touching the ground.
An artist’s studio is his home but his work is all around him, all over the world.
The secret brotherhood of comics artists who quietly cross hatch the world, behind our backs, behind hidden doors.
They scratch away with their pens and inks and digital tablets’ eradicating this world with their framing shots of new ones.
Last time I checked the Hawaian Comics Artists and Writers Retirement Orgy Island had a waiting list for placement openings some 160 years long.
Well at least they have all those conventions awards they can pawn to cover any unexpected medical bills that might come up in the future and what about us centipedes for the rest of the year?
While we can all see their latest enduring creations at the box office for about $12 for a decent seat on a weekday, or play the pixelated interactive version; long after our heros have all moved onto another Universe.