‘The Killing Joke’ is a Shit Show

I was warned by Ryan, the night shift manager of Century Regency and part-time cashier at Blue Moon Comics, about Batman: The Killing Joke a mere minute before the movie started.

It’s 90 minutes of my life I’m never getting back,” he lamented while I was in the popcorn line.

When the movie got out just a little before nine, I felt the same way.

The Killing Joke animated feature film is about as bad as you’ve heard. Of the handful of DC Universe Animated Original Movies that I’ve seen, this one is easily the worst. In addition to retaining all of the problems many people have with its source material (the 1988 graphic novel of the same name written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Brian Bolland) – which it exacerbates tenfold with a ludicrously awful scene in its dragging first act – it is also the most boring Batman movie I’ve ever seen.

By now, you’ve probably heard of the controversial addition to the film: the rooftop sex scene between Batman and Batgirl. Writer Brian Azzarello and executive producer Bruce Timm somehow thought this was a good idea. I watched the YouTube clip (embedded above) of this scene before I saw TKJ and it doesn’t improve within the context of the film. This by itself is enough to mar the movie; Batman hooking up with any of his sidekicks or protégés is going to come across as borderline incest. There’s a reason why Batman’s team of Robins, Batgirls, Spoiler, Nightwing, etc. is referred to as the “Batman Family.” They’re the family Bruce Wayne never got to have. Hell, he even adopted at least two of the Robins, which would legally make him their father as well as figuratively. It’s so damned wrong that it will make you long for that other cringe-inducing rooftop sex scene in the Dark Knight’s history.

Other than that, the first act is utterly unremarkable. It’s dull as hell, features a disposable villain who isn’t the least bit interesting yet he gets tons of screen time and it has absolutely nothing at all to do with the rest of the movie. The idea behind it was to give more agency to Barbara Gordon/Batgirl, all of which gets completely undermined by the Bat Hookup. Her subsequent crippling and implied sexual assault at the hands of the Joker – troubling enough in the original story – now just feels even more like a fridging than it already was.

Whatever the hell Timm and Azrello where trying to accomplish by adding a Batman-Batgirl romance angle into this story, it fails miserably. It doesn’t cause Batman to act any differently toward the Joker after he assaults her and if you were a half hour late and walked into this after the first act, you wouldn’t have the slightest inkling that Batman cares about Barbara in a romantic sense. And given the extreme victimization Babs endures in the story just for the sake of motivating Batman and upping the stakes of his conflict with Joker, the romance angle is just…yikes.

By the time the actual Killing Joke segment of The Killing Joke started, I was already feeling weary. The prospect of seeing the graphic novel’s iconic panels recreated shot-for-shot on screen was undermined by the stiff animation. Batman in particular looks like he’s made of cardboard in most of his scenes. Kevin Conroy (reprising his role from the acclaimed animated series, along with Mark Hamill as the Joker and Tara Strong as Batgirl) sounds frankly bored for the whole damn movie. This perfectly channeled my feelings about The Killing Joke but didn’t make for a compelling performance.

The first and second acts meander through the motions, checking off all of the stuff you’d expect to see in a Killing Joke movie: Barbara Gordon getting shot (which of course happens in slow motion), the flashbacks to the Joker’s past (the only decent scenes; Hamill is really good here) and Commissioner Gordon getting stripped naked and dragged around Joker’s carnival lair by his circus freak henchmen (which, like everything else in this mess, goes on for way too long). It’s almost a relief when the infamous ending, in which Batman may or may not have killed his arch nemesis, finally arrives.

This version of The Killing Joke is a dumpster fire and a waste of time. If you’re one of those people who thought the “MERTHA!” scene in Batman v Superman was the greatest thing ever, you’ll probably love this movie. Otherwise, skip it. Batman: The Killing Joke will be out on Blu-ray and DVD on Aug 2. I suggest you buy literally anything else instead.

So Why Are Captain America and Iron Man Fighting?

Captain America: Civil War is nearly upon us, and as I expected last time we indulged in this exercise, some of you are no doubt wondering why Cap and Iron Man are trading blows with each other. The easiest and most cynical answer would be that they are fighting because they fought in Marvel’s Civil War crossover event from 2006 and 2007, and since that is routinely among the ranks of Marvel’s highest selling trade paperbacks then it makes sense to make an adaptation out of something fans really dig. Coincidentally, Batman v Superman did pretty much the exact same thing, with much of its plot being informed by The Dark Knight Returns and The Death of Superman but I’d really rather not talk about that right now and at any rate, we need to discuss Marvel business this week.

So what exactly happens in the Civil War comic to bring about conflict between the two biggest Avengers? In the inciting incident of CW , a young and relatively inexperienced superhero team called the New Warriors try to take down a villain called Nitro, who uses his explosive powers to destroy an elementary school and a couple of city blocks, resulting in the deaths of most of the New Warriors and more than 600 people. Public sentiment starts to turn against heroes, so the government proposes the Superhero Registration Act, which would require all superheroes to register with the federal government for oversight purposes. Tony Stark/Iron Man takes up the reigns of the pro-registration side after initially opposing the SRA, while Steve Rodgers/Captain America becomes the self appointed leader of the anti-registration side. Things quickly got out of hand…

After a not bad start, CW rapidly flew off the rails. The breaking point was when Iron Man and Mr Fantastic starting dumping captured ani-reg heroes into a prison in the extra dimensional Negative Zone without any semblance of due process, culminating in Cap and his gang staging a massive prison break that spills into the streets of Manhattan and culminates in massive collateral damage. The story ends with a sobbing Steve Rodgers unmasking and turning himself in to the authorities after witnessing first-hand the destruction caused by the brawling heroes.

I do not have any great fondness for this story and I was more than a little apprehensive when Marvel announced it would be the basis of the next Cap movie.

From what I’ve seen of the trailers and promo material, Captain America: Civil War is working off that same basic framework. The movie’s Sokovia Accords appears to more or less be the same thing as the comic’s SRA, except its scale is global rather than national. Part of my initial skepticism of a straight adaptation of CW is that despite being around for nearly eight years and spanning 12 films, two TV series and two (so far) Netflix series, there still aren’t really that many superheroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Hence, a CW movie wouldn’t have the advantage of taking place 60 plus years into the existence of a Marvel Universe already inhabited by hundreds of characters. Since the CW movie we are getting is baffling still (at least technically speaking) a Cap feature and not an Avengers sequel, the smaller stakes could actually work to its advantage. At most, this titular civil war appears to be a six-on-six affair; I’m okay with that.

CW was almost a decade ago, so I’m really hoping all of those years of hindsight will allow directors Joe and Anthony Russo (who directed Winter Soldier and will also helm the next two Avengers) to avoid some of its mistakes, particularly the business where Iron Man turns into a fascistic prick and starts tossing his friends in jail (that building at the 54 second mark in the above trailer looks like a prison, so maybe we are getting that version of Iron Man). Granted, the early reviews have been positively rapturous and it can’t possibly be worse than the slog that was BvS. I’m cautiously optimistic.

So what’s the deal with Spider-Man? In the comics he initially joined the pro-reg side of the Civil War and even followed Tony Stark’s example by publicly outing himself as Peter Parker. As the story went on, he became disillusioned with Stark’s increasingly Draconian measures against rogue superheroes and jumped ship to Cap’s team. As for him being in the movie (where he’s played by Tom Holland), Sony Pictures and Marvel studios now share “joint custody” of Spidey’s film rights on account of Sony scuttling their initial plans after the dreadful Amazing Spider-Man 2 underperfomed at the box office. I’m pretty sure this Spider-Man (who already has his own solo feature in the works) won’t be revealing his secret identity to the public, but the business with him getting a conscience attack and switching sides? I’m absolutely positive that will go down in the movie.

Captain America: Civil War opens this Friday. Good movies being made from bad source material isn’t unheard of and maybe that will be the case here. I’m a huge fan of the Captain America movies and they’re largely the reason why he’s my favorite Marvel hero. As much as I don’t like stories where superheroes fight each other, I’m Team Cap all the way on this one.

So Why are Batman and Superman Fighting?

I’ve already been asked the above question at least 10 times by family members and a couple of friends and I expect I’ll be asked it many more times before Batman v Superman: Dawn of the R-rated DVD Cut gets released on March 25. For the sake of preemptively answering any lingering queries you may have about the oncoming slug fest, I will spend the entirety of this article telling you everything I know about the most popular superhero-on-superhero battle in all of comicdom.

Within the context of the film itself, why Batman and Superman are fighting is pretty easy to answer. The trailers and the marketing materials have made it pretty clear that the world and Batfleck in particular feel threatened by Superman after that his fight with Zod reduced Metropolis to ruins at the end of Man of Steel. Honestly, I can’t really blame them for feeling that way; Superman was punching Zod into skyscrapers that were presumably full of people. For his part, Clark Kent/Superman doesn’t approve of Batman’s vigilante tactics and I also can’t quite fault him for feeling that way, since Batfleck is in full-on psycho-thug Batman mode and is straight up breaking bones and branding badguys with the bat symbol.

So, yeah…we’re kind of at an impasse.

Lex Luthor will be stirring up the pot to try and get them to destroy each other, because that’s what super villains do. I suspect that Wonder Woman’s role will be to try to get them to drop the macho bullshit and make friends with each other. Doomsday will be a last ditch gamble on Luthor’s part to destroy all three heroes once he realizes his initial scheme has fallen through. Doomsday will most certainly be made from Zod’s DNA. Then, once the dust has settled, the trio will recruit more super friends to make a team in case stuff like that happens again and that’s how we will end up with the Justice League.

That’s my big, not-risky-at-all BvS prediction, because having superheroes stepping on each others toes before uniting against a common enemy is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Hell, we already saw versions of that scenario in The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy. At this point, I’m in awe that movie goers aren’t as sick of this cliché as comics readers.

For those who don’t know, BvS did not invent the great Batman/Superman fight. These two have tussled more times than I can count in the comics and the occasional cartoon for decades. It has been the center of many spirited debates in the geek community for a long ass time and it has been fought over so much that pretty much all of the fun has been thoroughly drained from it. I think I got sick of the debate before I was legally old enough to drink. Speaking of drinking, I’m legitimately terrified that BvS will blow so much that it will turn me into an alcoholic. The stakes are high on this one.

I’m not particularly well-versed in old comics, but one of the earliest Batman/Superman fights I could find is from 1966, within the the pages of World’s Finest Comics #163, in which an evil alien forces the two heroes into gladiatorial combat against each other via hypnotic suggestion. That issue sadly isn’t available on Comixology, but I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that Batman and Superman threw off the hypnosis and took down the villain at the end.

It wasn’t until the 1980s, the beginning of comics’ dark modern age, that the rivalry between DC’s two biggest heroes became deadly serious business. Frank Miller’s landmark 1986 miniseries The Dark Knight Returns ends with Superman (now working for the US government in DKR’s dystopian future setting) brawling with an elderly, armored-up Batman (a vigilante fugitive) in Crime Alley. Batman wins the fight in the most ridiculous and appropriately Batman-esque manner possible: by plugging his suit into Gotham’s power generator and using the power of the entire city to deliver a knockout blow followed by the most brutal head stomp in all of comics. Superman survives, and Batman fakes his death so he can train a new generation of Batmen to take his place. I first read DKR when I was 17 (for an English class, of all things) and I thought that fight was pretty badass. Looking back now, I begrudgingly acknowledge that it’s still awesome, though it’s far from my favorite comics moment for either character.

Granted, DKR was made by an all-time great writer/artist who was at the top of his game; of course it’s awesome. And like pretty much all awesome works of art, it inspired a legion of inferior imitators. Aside from the grim dark aesthetic, the Batman/Superman fight – or rather, the notion that they don’t get along and are often at odds with each other – is one of the biggest impacts DKR had on DC as a whole. It completely restructured the relationship of these two characters in a way that persists so strongly today that we’re now getting a very expensive movie about it.

There have been a bunch more Batman/Superman fights since DKR, notably in Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee’s Batman: Hush storyline (Superman was under the influence of Poison Ivy’s mind control pheromones for that one) and also in the “Origin” arc of Justice League when DC relaunched everything with the New 52 initiative in 2011. That particular fight also involved the Hal Jordan version of Green Lantern, just in case it wasn’t boring enough. I can’t remember for the life of me how it started, though I do recall it was another one of those “let’s make the heroes fight and then kiss and make up in time to face the real villain” affairs. Miller himself even revisited the famous battle in his twice as ridiculous and half as good follow-up to DKR, The Dark Knight Strikes Again, published from 2001 to 2002. In the rematch, Batman beats the crap out of Superman using a pair of Kryptonite boxing gloves, and frankly, it wasn’t even the most bizarre scene in DKSA.

Lest I give the impression that I’m completely against any sort of Batman/Superman conflict, there is one instance where it was executed so well that I pretty much consider it the gold standard of that worn out storyline. Curiously, it didn’t happen in any comics; it was in the two part “World’s Finest” episodes of Superman: The Animated Series. Save for Batman somehow throwing Superman across the room in the video I embedded at the top of this article, the two don’t actually fight at all, but they start off not liking each other. They are forced to team-up when Lex Luthor hires the Joker to kill Superman and over the course of 42 glorious minutes, Batman and Superman are forced to put aside their differences and find out that, hey, they actually have a lot in common. Their relationship continued to develop over the course of a couple more crossovers and well into the Justice League cartoon, which functioned as a successor to their respective animated series.

To be uncharacteristically optimistic, maybe Snyder is shooting for something similar to “World’s Finest,” but just blown up to the bombastic proportions suitable for the guy who directed 300. After all, BvS, is supposed to lead into a proper Justice League film, which Snyder is also directing. But from what I’ve seen, it all just looks like a bazillion dollar version of those last few pages of DKR, to the point where Batfleck is basically Miller Batman (Brick shithouse proportions, graying hair, dark colors, short bat ears, oversized logo, the power armor, etc) come to life. It looks great and all, but I really don’t need a live action DKR. Part of what made the fight in that story so memorable was that it felt like the culmination of the relationship between those two heroes, spiraling downward into a violent end decades in the making.

By contrast, Batfleck takes it upon himself to take out Superman because he torn up a city, broke a dude’s neck and then cried about it. And while those are valid concerns, there’s no prior relationship between them; these aren’t former friends or allies turned against one another by circumstance. Pretty much the only reason for Batfleck being in this movie looking the way he does is to conjure up memories of Batman and Superman’s most well-known brawl and to bring it to life, probably in 3D. But no amount of CGI wizardry can make up for the context that made the DKR fight so great; it’s just going to be two dudes who feel threatened by each other getting into brawl, except one can break a city. I already feel bored.

And again this is just idle speculation on my part. Maybe Snyder has more than a superficial recreation of the DKR version of the Batman/Superman fight in mind. Maybe the finished product will blow my mind and be incredible and maybe I’ll like it so much that I’ll check out the R-rated DVD release; or maybe not and we’ll end up with another out of touch, alienating, too dark for its own good fiasco like Man of Steel.

Anyhow, I hope this column was helpful to the “Why are these guys fighting?!” crowd. I have a feeling that I’ll be writing a spiritual sequel of sorts when Captain America: Civil War comes around on May 6.

The Worst Thing Ever Just Happened

This definitely calls for an Ahsoka Face. Image courtesy of Agents of Geek.

This definitely calls for an Ahsoka Face. Image courtesy of Agents of Geek.

I decided to dust off my imaginary psychology doctorate and coin a new mental health term. Let’s call it Irrational Fanboy Butthurtness (IFB). I feel like it needs to be addressed because I have recently suffered from it for the first time. I think.

If you are a fanboy or fangirl of Avatar: The Last Airbender, you may be aware that the first of a new graphic trilogy – this one called Smoke and Shadow – just came out. It has the same creative team as the last three such trilogies: writer Gene Luen Yang and artist duo Gurihiru. This first entry, which I read, is pretty good. Or it would be if some unholy abomination hadn’t defiled it. This:

Seriously? Art by Gurihiru. Photo by me.

Seriously? Art by Gurihiru. Photo by me.

Yep. That is Mai; kissing someone who is not Zuko. It is disgraceful.

Said Not Zuko is some fuckstick named Kei Lo. He sucks. If you didn’t read “Rebound,” which was one of Dark Horse Comics’ offerings from Free Comic Book Day 2013 then you have no idea who he is. He was some tool who attempted to lure Mai into joining the New Ozai Society, which is trying to overthrow Fire Lord Zuko and replace him with his insane war criminal dad Ozai, who was imprisoned as of Avatar’s end. The society is being led by Mai’s dad Ukano, whom Kei Lo was working for. “Rebound” was a solid one-shot; Mai kicked ass, put her delusional dad in his place, rescued her toddler brother Tom-Tom and punched fuckstick Kei Lo in the face. It even ended with some hopeful implication of her and Zuko getting back together, since Yang broke them up in the not so great (and not just for that reason) The Promise.

My experience with Yang’s writing outside of his Avatar work is limited. I’ve never touched any of his supposedly very good independent graphic novels but I’m enjoying his currently ongoing Superman run to the point where I was even willing to forgive this frankly baffling scene where Yang felt that the need to reassure his readers that Superman does in fact have a large penis.

Well, thank God that's settled. Art by John Romita Jr. Screencap from Superman #43.

Well, thank God that’s settled. Art by John Romita Jr. Screencap from Superman #43.

I mean, I always just assumed that the Man of Steel being as hung as Comet the Super-Horse was one of those things that went without saying, but Yang clearly felt otherwise.

But part one Smoke and Shadow marks the point where this guy is officially on my Shit List. Because having Mai hookup with freaking Kei Lo just feels like trolling at this point. Not helping matters is Kei Lo’s rather rushed and unconvincing transition from unsympathetic patsy to well-intentioned schmuck with a heart of gold. Mai and Zuko (or “Maiko” in fandom terms) was never exactly the most popular pairing in Avatar, especially amongst the sizeable chunk of fans who feel he should have ended up with Katara (they’re called “Zutarians”). However, these people are morons are deeply misguided. Maiko is awesome and is meant to be. Avatar didn’t invent shipping but it sure as hell cranked its intensity up to 11.

So is Yang a bitter, jaded Zutara shipper trying his best to sabotage Maiko, seeing as Legend of Korra cemented Aang and Katara’s relationship (called “Kataang”) into capital C canon? I would have to wait until the end of the Smoke and Shadow to find out but signs currently point to yes. At best we will get some awkward love triangle stuff before Maiko is reunited and Kei Lo is smothered to death beneath a mound of flying bison shit. Or Yang regresses Zuko’s character (again) and has him do something bratty and impetuous that drives Mai permanently into Kei Lo’s feeble arms.

But in the meantime this really sucks and I am filled with dread and rage. I have full blown IFB and it isn’t leaving anytime soon. Is this how Gen One Star Wars fans felt when they stepped out of The Phantom Menace? Or how Celtic Frost fans felt when they first listened to Cold Lake? It really sucks.

I was able to cope with the Niners losing the Super Bowl. The very real prospect of Deftones never releasing Eros bothers me but I can accept it. But destroying Maiko for the sake of some completely disposable dipshit character whose name you will still have to look up even after seeing it in print five or six times is completely intolerable. The mere possibility (nothing is set in stone yet) makes me lose my shit. Don’t blow this, Gene.

Part one of Smoke and Shadow is out now. Part two will be released Dec. 29 and we have to wait until April 12 for part three.


My 2015 San Diego Comic-Con Top 5

As just about all of you already know, last week was San Diego Comic-Con. While SDCC has strayed pretty far from its roots over the years (and for the record, that hasn’t always been a bad thing), there’s always been at least a handful of stuff to get really excited about. This time around, though, there were five big effing deals that have captured my attention. Without further ado, here’s the SDCC announcements that I was most excited for.

  1. The newest “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” trailer:
    Putting aside all of my concerns about this movie, it’s pretty damn hard not to be excited about it. Zack Snyder is a goddamned genius when it comes to spectacle and visceral thrills, and in many ways his inner eight-year-old is perfect for Batman and Superman’s first live-action onscreen pairing. Until the movie itself rolls around, I’ll save the judgment and just take in this breathtaking three and half minute trailer. We see our first glimpse of Wonder Woman in action (fleeting, but there nonetheless), Jesse Eisenberg’s “Silicon Valley” version of Lex Luthor (I’m thinking of trademarking that description), and that money shot at the end…damn.
  2. The Darth Vader crossover: Trade waiting all of the ongoing “Star Wars” comics Marvel is currently publishing is so far my biggest regret of 2015. It seems that Marvel is hell bent on punishing me for that disastrous decision even further. In addition to that new Chewbacca miniseries we’re getting, Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada announced that the “Star Wars” and “Darth Vader” ongoing series will crossover in an event known as “Vader Down.” Jason Aaron and Kieron Gillen will be handling the writing duties and Salvadore Larroca will be illustrating. I’m about to lose so much money this fall…
  3. Grant Morrison’s new DC projects: Weirdly enough, there were quite a few really cool SDCC announcements that actually had something to do with comics. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the great Grant Morrison is doing a followup to his “Multiversity” miniseries, called (I kid not) “Multiversity Too.” Considering how awesome “Multiversity” was – the whole series is this jubilantly insane celebration of every bizarre nook and cranny of the DC Multiverse – I’m definitely hungry for more. In addition to more of that stuff, Morrison will also be doing a series of “Batman: Black and White” graphic novels.
  4. The “Star Wars” behind the scenes video:
    This video was shown to fans at “Star Wars’” Hall H presentation. Watching it, it’s hard not to get caught up in the enthusiasm shared by JJ Abrams, the cast and crew. Look at those real sets! Those on location shoots! Was that an actual explosion?! Holy crap, that bucking bronco Millennium Falcon cockpit looks like a blast! So far Operation: Make This as Different as Humanly Possible from the Prequels seems to be working out for Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy and co.
  5. This: If you don’t like this, we can’t be friends.

The Awkwardness of Meeting Your Idols

“I loved your work on ‘Lateralus.'” Brian K. Vaughan and I. This photo was taken with my phone by another attendee at the expo.

Brian K Vaughan was standing in the corner of the theater, looking appropriately relaxed. The keynote of the second 2015 Image Expo had ended 15 or so minutes ago and I was standing on the stairs, still lugging my backpack around and trying to look like I knew what was doing. Hovering on the edges of conversations looking for an opening is an art form I’ve mastered over the course of my 25 years and the Image Expo is a great place to put it to practical use.

Vaughan and artist Steve Skroce – his collaborator on Image’s US-invades-Canada-with-giant-robots opus “We Stand on Guard” – were deep in conversation with some couple who weren’t buggering off anytime soon, so I waited on the stairs and continued to chat with Julie, the new friend I met at the Expo. I was unable to find an opening with Jimmie Robinson, who was at the middle of the theater speaking with some long-winded retailer and I had just suffered an exceptionally awkward encounter with Kyle Higgins (we both mistook each other for someone we knew). My conversation track record was off to a lousy start.

Finally, those people were gone. Feeling that it would at least give me something to do, I approached the corner where Vaughan and Skroce were standing and extended my hand.

“Mr. Vaughan,” I timidly uttered.

“Ah, call me Brian.” He replied.

We were off to a satisfyingly not-terrifying start, so I launched into the usual stuff I say when I meet people who create things I like. Usually this covers phrases such as “I love your work” and “Keep it up.” Those two things typically encompass everything you need to say to a writer/artist/musician/what-have-you. I wasn’t expecting Vaughan to ask me how I heard about his and Fiona Staples’ magnificent “Saga,” but I was delighted to inform him that the first trade paperback was an Amazon suggestion.

“Well, thank you Amazon,” he said when I told him this.

I felt really bad, because Skroce was just standing there in silence while Vaughan and I conversed. I was not familiar with any of his work, not having picked up “We Stand on Guard” #1, which was released the previous day. I promised myself to remedy this, and I told Vaughan and Skroce that I would get a hold of it.

After listening to people talk and standing in line, waiting is the next most common activity at the expo. Image had set up a merch stand outside the theater where individual issues and trades could be purchased. Since I still had some time to kill, I picked up “We Stand on Guard” #1 and blasted through it in the lobby. It was…alright. It didn’t quite grab me the way “Saga” #1 (possibly the greatest first issue ever) did. Skroce’s art was splendid, but “Guard” looks like the type of series that has to grow on you.

Due to some strict rules regarding the signing sessions, I was unable to get in on the panel Vaughan and Jason Aaron (the two expo guests I cared most about) were part of. This didn’t really go over well with me. Inside my heavy backpack was book one of the “Saga” deluxe hardcovers – purchased specifically for the expo – and my imposing “Punisher MAX” Omnibus by Aaron and Steve Dillon.

These big books plus my issue of “Guard” were to be the stuff I got signed but I missed my window by a long shot (if you are at a con and want to get some stuff signed, get in line as early as possible).

I had a chance to salvage some signatures at the after party, which I neglected to attend at my last expo visit. It was held in the seriously cool Cartoon Art Museum on Mission Street, which was a short walk from the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, which hosted the expo. The place was crowded, hot and stuffy, though it was easy to locate Aaron, with his unmistakable Grizzly Adams-esque beard. He was in the very back, where the complimentary drinks were being served and where props and costumes from the Marvel movies were on display. Aaron was locked in a conversation circle with some people who may have known him; it was hard to tell in that place.

Here I was hovering again. I had a glass of red wine on me, so I at least had something to do with my hands. Since the bar quite understandably drew the most traffic, I found myself frequently shifting around to let people get by. This was made much harder by the backpack. When I finally had Aaron’s attention, I shook his hand and started launching into the same talking points I covered with Vaughan. I felt very much like a gushing fanboy; I did just about all of the talking and Aaron just sort of absorbed it all. I’m sure he’s used to it at this point.

Vaughan was at the front of the museum where it was coolest. He was chatting with more fans, signing a few books and posing in pictures. Seeing my opening, I got in the short line that formed near him and bummed a Sharpie from a gal in line and approached him once more. The awkwardness was pleasantly absent and he gladly signed my “Saga” hardcover and “Guard” #1. Feeling exceptionally bold, I lent my phone to the same kind stranger who lent me the Sharpie and she snapped a photo of Vaughan and I. Then I asked him some advice on how to get into comics writing.

My copies of

My copies of “We Stand on Guard” #1 and “Saga” Deluxe Edition Volume 1, both signed by Vaughan. Photo by me.

“Do you mean like finding artists?” he asked.

“Sure,” I replied.

According to Vaughan, the best places to find artists are Twitter and DeviantArt and usually just shooting them a message is enough to grab their attention. But there is also a catch.

“Here’s the part no one wants to hear,” he said gravely.

“What is it,” I asked, with only a little bit of dread creeping into me.

“You have to offer to pay them,” he finished.

I was expecting so much worse than that.

“That sounds entirely reasonable to me,” I replied.

My copy of the Punisher MAX Omnibus, signed by Jason Aaron. Photo by me.

My copy of the Punisher MAX Omnibus, signed by Jason Aaron. Photo by me.

My second conversation with Vaughan boosted my confidence immensely, so I promptly bummed another Sharpie from the cashier at the museum’s store and set out to locate Aaron again. I subconsciously used a rather cheap strategy to get his attention: I removed my Punisher book from my backpack, placed it under my arm and then strayed into his line of sight. Upon seeing me holding his book, he promptly approached me and I got his signature on it. Mission accomplished.

I stuck around for only about 20 more minutes after that. I made sure to check in on Julie before I left. She had succeeded in meeting Greg Rucka and we congratulated each other on other coming our famous people fright. After exchanging a few more words, we parted ways and I exited museum. I had a long, traffic filled drive ahead of me, on account of the Fourth of July being two days away. It didn’t matter to me; this was the best Thursday I’ve had in a long while.