Each year, when we cover San Diego Comic-Con, we come into the show as press and as fans. We want to bring you the big news and the coolest stuff we saw, while jumping up and down about the stuff that got us particularly excited.
But, of course, those aren't the only perspectives on SDCC. There are people in the film, television, and publishing industries marketing their products and making connections. There are people who spend most of the convention behind tables hawking their wares. There are security staff and convention organizers. And among all those people are talented cartoonists capturing the whole thing in text and pictures.
Top image from Dylan Meconis' Comic-Con 2010 Sketchbook.
In the last few years, a handful of cartoonists have posted their visual write-ups of San Diego Comic-Con online. Some cartoonists, like American Elf's James Kochalka, The K Chronicles' Keith Knight, and Hijinks Ensue's Joel Watson regularly offer glimpses of SDCC in the course of their comics, but a handful of cartoonists have done more extensive write-ups of the convention.
I'm rather partial to Dylan Meconis' Comic-Con 2010 Sketchbook, which shows what SDCC is like from behind the table. She does a nice job capturing the sensory overload, but — aside from some contributing memories from other cartoonists — what makes it a particularly lovely account is how personal it is. Meconis has a moment of introspection where she wonders if she's making the right kind of stories (like Bite Me! and Family Man) for a popular arts convention like SDCC, expresses her own discomfort with some of the costumes she sees, and comments on odd little moments like being confused for her table mate. Plus, she draws those amazing Galactus paper hats that got handed out that year. Those were great hats.
Gabrielle Bell's Lucky San Diego ComicCon Comicumentary is one of the most comprehensive write-ups of SDCC I've seen online. That's in part because she tackles the show from the perspective of a volunteer, an exhibiting cartoonist, and an invited guest panelist. It's also because she doesn't write just about the show itself, but about the time spent around the convention: the parties, the attempts to stay fed, the folks getting drunk in a hotel room (guest starring Ariel Schrag and Michel Gondry). She even captures the background details, from the wallpapered hotel elevators to the San Diego bicycle rickshaws to the people tossing t-shirts around. In addition to being online, the entire diary is available as a printed minicomic. Oh, and Jillian Tamaki, who has a brief cameo in Bell's Comicumentary, did a brief SDCC 2010 comic of her own.
It's not surprising that PHD Comics' Jorge Cham would examine the whole San Diego experience from an academic perspective as well as a cartooning one. He encounters cosplaying grad students, attends some of the more academic panels, meets up with a PhD candidate writing a thesis on the linguistics of comics, and follows around a sociologist doing an ethnographic study of comic artists. It's a slightly more journalistic take on Comic-Con, but one that ends with a bunch of cartoonists sitting at dinner explaining just why they go each year.
In the course of Marc Ellerby's diary webcomic Ellerbisms, he attended SDCC a few times. His 2007 visit to the show, when he was signing books at the Oni table, is a particularly nice visit to San Diego, even if it ends with Ellerby's foot in a bandage. He also hits on one of the universal truths of SDCC: you will come back exhausted.
Brian Ralph's account of SDCC 2011 is a bit crankier than the others (with advice like "Do build yourself a book bunker" and "Don't be too wacky") as he recounts signing copies of his Drawn & Quarterly book Daybreak. Despite complaining about the silly costumes, he tries to snag photos with cosplayers, manages to meet his cartooning hero (which inevitably ends in awkwardness), and goes for a drunken swim at a nearby pier. He also shares his snarkily captioned photos from last year's show.