Too Many Long Boxes!
   
   

End of Summer
 
The Sleep Deprived Crank
by editor Michael Hutchison

Discussed this month: Wizard World 2001... Comic book guy contest... Chuck Dixon... Site changes...My Reading List...and more!

I'm loading up the van for my trip to Wizard World 2001. Melinda, my ubertolerant wife, is going to be going along, and artist Erik Burnham is dipping into his thin wallet for the cash to go with us. Yay! I'm all for splitting gas money.

My van now has plates that say FANZING. If you see me on the highway, give a honk!

This is my third Wizard World in a year, and my feelings about it are certainly different from past conventions. It's only a few days away, and I'm honestly questioning why I'm going. The artists and writers are all people I've met before, I've got all the comics I need (except for a few rarities that I can't ever find anywhere, such as Young All-Stars #31 or the finale of the recent "Justice Leagues" Fifth Week Event). My list of Elongated Man comics that I need is now complete.

Quite frankly, conventions in general and WizardWorld in particular can get to be annoying. The overpriced food (and lack of any restaurants nearby) are a source of frustration. You're trying to get to comics on the floor as people press in from the aisles, your deodorant gives out after two minutes...and you get to finally meet a major celebrity like an editor at DC Comics only to have him sniff the air and collapse from the bodily funk.

Okay, I'm kidding. My only real concern is the same one I have every year: finding my way to the convention center on the spaghetti-like mess that Chicago calls a highway system! I swear the thing was designed by union thugs who were more concerned with using as much cement as possible than with streamlined efficiency. I have traveled south to the convention (from my mother-in-law's at Fox Lake) at least five times in the last two years and not ONCE have I found this mythical exit that everyone else swears is there. I've used the map from the Wizard site, Mapquest, Mapblast, the Atlas...it's all confusing as hell. Both Melinda and I put our heads together and try to make sense of it, but there's just no way to do it right. The signs for the exits never seem to match what's on paper, the highway we're on splits off in eight directions within 1 and 1/2 miles, and we're going 70 mph with trucks bearing down on our tails while we try to consult the directions. We always overshoot...or wind up in the O'Hare parking lot (TWICE that's happened!)...or go East and have to turn around three miles later. I don't think there is actually an exit off the highway if you're coming from the north!

So why am I going?

I decided that before I should go, I should make up a list of the reasons I'm going:

  1. Chuck Dixon: Well, of course, the main reason is the Dixonverse Dinner. This year's dinner is supposed to be much better than last year's (when I couldn't get in two words to Chuck and the waitstaff did everything to hustle us out of there). For those of you who don't know, this is an invitation-only get-together of Chuck Dixon's fans and friends who hang out over at Dixonverse.com. Chuck is a great comic book writer who may not please everyone, and isn't shooting for Waid/Moore/Ross superstardom, but knows more of the basics of telling an action-filled book that sells than many other writers who are flavor of the month. I've learned a lot about the basics and essentials from Chuck in the last two years, and I'm looking forward to his lectures.
  2. Titillation: Well, there's no disguising it...Wizard World could be nicknamed "Boobfest 2001". From the hired models in costumes hawking books for small publishers, to the erotic art on display by struggling artists hoping to catch your attention, to the Japanese violent porn videos, to the framed paintings of naked women with TINY little stickers over the nipples, to the hundreds of comic covers displayed of almost-naked Cavegirls, Danger Girls, Lady Deaths and Lara Crofts... well, I think it tends to belay the pretensions that comic book fans are mature. I'm not sure it's anything to be proud of, but it does make things interesting. I'd like to publish my own comic called "The Luscious Adventures of Boobie McBoob" and see how well it sells at the conventions.
  3. Humidity: I need to lose weight, and the cost of a three-day ticket to WizardWorld is a much better deal than buying the same amount of time in a sauna.
  4. Cynthia Rothrock: I can't believe a kickboxing action star is just hanging out on artists alley. Last year I couldn't even think of anything to say to her, so I didn't talk to her. This year I thought of something to say: "Uh...", followed by a shy scampering away to somewhere else.
  5. The Costumes: Seriously, the costumes are always fun. Some people get quite elaborate with these things, and this year I hope to get more pictures.

I was going to show a current picture of me. Instead, I think I'll print off a copy and paste it to my refrigerator as a diet aid.

In keeping with my tendency to spend my editorial space discussing medical ailments in public, I may as well admit it: I've grown fat. It's taken a few years, but all the time spent on the computer has gotten to me. I saw a dietitian and she altered my daily food plan to include more fruit and reduce the daily caloric intake by about 1000 calories. The end result is that instead of going up a pound a week (or so), I should go down a pound a week (or so). In other words, it's gradual weight loss that should last for life instead of being an unbearably restrictive diet that gets broken a few weeks later. Hopefully, in two years I'll be thinner than I was in all of the 1990s! It would be nice to not resemble the "Comic Book Guy" on the Simpsons!

Or would it? Unfortunately, I won't get a chance to compete in WizardWorld's "Comic Book Guy" look-alike and sound-alike contest! It's this Friday night, the same night as the Dixon Dinner. Too bad! Not only am I the roundest I've been in my life, but I do a killer impression of the guy. I could clean up on that contest.

A decade of weight increase, and I miss out on the chance for it to finally pay off! Sad.


I'd like to repost an exchange I had with Chuck Dixon recently on his message board:

I was just reading about this [The ACTOR auction to raise money for elderly comic pros]: http://news.wizardworld.com/Comics/CB0809-Actor.asp

So, ACTOR is this organization that recognizes the legendary artists who created the modern comic book by giving them financial support in their old age.

But elderly Martin Nodell is stuck off in the corner (hidden behind Insane Clown Posse fans) selling his Green Lantern Archives and T-shirts to raise some cash, with no recognition or respect. We even hear of how his wife was chastised for venturing into the break room to get him some refreshments.

I just can't reconcile these two. It's like the children's charity organizers who slap their own kids around, or the cities that clear out all the homeless people before the Democratic Convention.

Chuck Dixon's Reply

It's feel-good nonsense.

ACTOR isn't serious about helping older pros.

In the days of the "evolution" theory of comics do you really think anyone's serious about this?

They get to act all maudlin at some auction selling a few donated pieces of art for pennies. I suggested they go on Ebay (who'd certainly help them promote this) and REALLY make some serious cash. Better yet, how about HIRING some of the older pros and handing them a fat royalty deal. You'd be shocked at what half the profits from a decent selling black and white comic can be. Team some of these "hot" artists and writers with older pros. Heck, I'd write a story for Murphy Anderson or Jim Aparo or any of those guys for FREE. And I'd challenge anyone in the industry to do the same.

Like Michael Caine once said, "If you want to help the homeless you don't make a movie about the homeless. You make Terminator 2 and give the money to the homeless."

But it's like those horrid celebrity events in Hollywood. It's about the givers not those in need. Frankly, this makes me sick.

Heck, I'm probably the oldest pro who's a guest at Wizard World. Nodell has to pay his own way to be in artists alley and try and raise a few dimes.

At least San Diego has a roster of older pros. Though I find it repugnant that they're all grouped together like some kind of leper colony.

Chuck certainly doesn't pull any punches! One thing it does make me want to do is spend some cash at Martin Nodell's table this year.


Over the last month, we got VERY close to debuting the Dixonverse Annual at this year's Wizard World. For those of you not following that, the D-verse Annual was a print fanzine that a number of us amateur writers and artists were going to publish as a sort of comic book devoted to Chuck Dixon. Unfortunately, we're about one or two weeks away from printing at this point, so we won't make the dinner with the completed project.

I contributed two items to the Annual. The first is an 8-page Elongated Man mystery that I'm quite proud of. The second is a full color Twinkies ad parody that Bill Wiist and I did. It is now featured on the www.fanzing.com home page, and I plan to use it as a flier at Wizard World. Hopefully it will generate a lot of attention.


A few more changes to the site are planned for this next week. First off, each page now has invitations to discuss the material in the forum or e-mail us. Secondly, I plan to put up an "About Us" page that explains who Fanzing is, what we do, what our mission is (but NOT a mission statement; I hate those things) and featuring our Trophy Room which was somehow wiped out at an undetermined point in the past.


I'm still reading "Return of the King", the last book in the Lord of the Rings. It's slow going. I'm at the beginning and the book isn't really zipping along yet. I'm beginning to think that the best part of any trilogy is the middle!

I'm hoping to finish it, because I have just a huge load of books awaiting my attention. I've recently purchased two of William F. Buckley's Blackford Oakes spy novels off of Half.com (I LOVE Half.com, since you can find like-new hardcovers for a buck or two!), as well as the very non-political "Buckley: The Right Word," in which Buckley explores and expands the vocabulary of the reader.

I also have a few thick political books to read: "Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus," which details the year that Goldwater and Lyndon Johnson competed for the presidency, a period of which I know little...and "Reagan: In His Own Hand," a book that puts to rest the notion that Reagan was just a doofus who had his speeches -- and his ideas -- handed to him by others; it details his writings and speeches down to the corrected typos, scratched out sentences and such. A more casual and fun book (which my dad absconded with before I could read a single chapter in its entirety) is Larry Elder's "The 10 Things You Can't Say In America".

But before I venture into any of these weighty tomes, I think it's incumbent upon me (see, this Buckley stuff is already taking effect) to read "Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II's Most Dramatic Mission." This true story of a top secret mission to rescue Allied P.O.W.s from a Japanese camp in 1945 is already beckoning to me from my nightstand, so I'm going to publish this issue and go read a bit. Good night!

 
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This column is © 2001 Michael Hutchison.
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