Adventures of a Filipino Comic Book Artist
In an American Comic Book Convention
Episode 2 : Page One
By Gerry Alanguilan

 
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Why episode 2?  I wrote episode 1 two years ago when I first visited the San Diego International Comics Convention.  I've had the opportunity to visit San Diego once again this year, 1999, and I've written down here pretty much everything that I did and the things that I saw and experienced there. Since I was already able to get a US visitor's visa 2 years ago and returned to the Philippines shortly after, it would no longer be difficult for me to renew it, since I have already shown that I had no intention of staying in the US for an extented period of time.  And for that, they gave me 10 years access to the US wherein I could return as often as I wanted.

Shortly before the convention, I had a deadline to finish inking Stone #2 for Avalon Studios, and I made it  just a few days before I left.  I even inked the cover to Wolverine #143 over Leinil Francis Yu in the meantime.  I spent the last few days preparing, packing and making many lustful (I wish) goodbyes to my girlfriend. I would miss her, but I was also eager to go, excited at the thought at being in America once again. I had planned on going first to San Diego for the con, go to Detroit for a Bruce Springsteen concert, and then off to New York for some serious sightseeing.

August 10 1999
Tuesday

After a 2-and-a-half hour delay at the airport due to "mechanical problems", my plane finally left the Philippines at 11 in the morning.  And due to a time zone quirk, I arrived in San Diego on the same day, at 3 in the afternoon, seemingly a nice 4 hour trip. Not so. I was in fact travelling for more than 26 hours. I hadn't had any sleep, I was tired and my stomach was going ballistic and I needed a bathroom real quick.  I arrived at my hotel, the Ramada Inn/St. James Hotel at the Gaslamp District at around 3:30 pm. After an hour-long bath, and inspite the fact that I was dead tired, I was so excited at finally being in America again that I immediately went out to see downtown San Diego.  One of the first things I looked for is a place where I can find some phonecards so I can call home and to my girlfriend who was by this time going nuts waiting for a call. And I was right! he.he.  I then went to the nearby Horton Plaza Shopping Center and just basically looked around and window shopped for the next several hours.  I got several gifts for my family at Sam Goody's and looked around for an internet cafe, if there was one.  One thing that I noticed about San Diego, and later New York,  is that there are probably more internet cafes in Manila, heck, even here in San Pablo, then there is in San Diego or New York. And this was confirmed by comics artist Rafael Kayanan whom I would meet later in New York. He said that there was really no need for internet cafes because practically everyone has a computer and they're all online. Having cafes would be extremely redundant. And yeah, I guess that's true.

August 11 1999
Wednesday

Exhaustion and sleepiness finally took over me and I woke up at 10:30 in the morning. I called Brian Haberlin at his phone and left a message in his machine that I was there and if Avalon needed me to help out set up the booth, I asked him to just let me know.  I did some more sight seeing during the day and by 5 in the afternoon, I headed off to the Convention Center to get my badge.
I lined up for the Pro-Registration line and soon after I was able to retrieve my badge, as well as a badge for my girlfriend. Well, she wasn't with me, but I thought it would make a nice souvenir; a San Diego comic-con badge with her name on it.  However, while the con volunteer rifled through the badges to look for hers, I noticed a badge that had my girlfriend's father's name on it!  Her father is veteran Filipino comic artist Rudy Florese whose work graced pages of Korak and Tarzan back in the 70's.  Rudy is a incredibly talented artist but unfortunately, he was slowed down by 2 strokes that left him in no position to do much work and he spends much of his time recuperating at home.  Apparently, some loser thought to take advantage of Rudy by using his name to get a free badge at the convention. Whoever you are you sorry piece of shit, I hope your balls dry up and you suffer and die.
               Later on, I met up with friends I met on the Vertigo mailing list Alex Tam and Eric Simons. I went to their hotel at the Hotel San Diego and talked to them a bit about the mailing list and of course, comics.

 

August 12 1999
Convention Day 1
Thursday

I coudn't sleep the whole night because of jetlag, a problem that I would have for my entire stay in San Diego.  Just as I was about to fall asleep at 2:00am, a phone call woke me up. It was fellow Filipino and Wolverine artist Leinil Francis Yu. He has finally arrived in San Diego from the Philippines and he was already downstairs at the hotel  lobby.  We were to share that room at the Ramada for that night. I was expecting him much earlier but things got late that he arrived only then. It seems I won't be getting much sleep this day either.
               Leinil had a big problem. He had forgotten to reserve rooms early so he won't be having any place to stay for the next following nights. By this time, it would be immensely tough to get rooms anywhere in San Diego, specially anywhere close to the convention center.  I too would be moving out of the Ramada today and moving into the Marriott for the next 3 nights.  This was a room reserved for me by Brian Haberlin and Avalon. I woudn't be able to share this room with Leinil since I would be already sharing it with some other guy from Avalon.  I suggested that we go out at 5:00am and visit the nearby hotels and ask personally if they have any rooms. It was still a bit dark by 5 and it was very cold. We asked everywhere from the Westin to the Gaslamp Plaza Suites to the J Street Inn to the Clarion and to the Embassy Suites and we came up with nothing. We eventually wound up at Hotel San Diego. It looked hot and run-down but since we didn't have any choice, Leinil booked the next few nights.  After breakfast he checked out of the Ramada and moved in to the Hotel San Diego.  I then checked out myself and moved into the Marriott.  The San Diego Marriott is probably the best hotel in San Diego and is probably the most expensive. At $255 a night for a standard room it was probably too much for me to pay by myself.  I felt a little uneasy that Brian's footing the bill. It was terribly nice of him to do so but I felt sort of guilty that I was being a bit of a burden. So I did my best to help Avalon out at the con by staying longer than I was scheduled to be there at the booth.
               I could not exactly describe Leinil's crooked smile when I saw him later on. It was partly exasperated, partly half helpless, and partly half insane.  He apparently did not like his room and his hotel and he wanted to get out real quick. Fortunately, we met up with another guy from the Philippines, Russel Tomas, who agreed to share his room with Leinil at the Westin.
               I spent the next few hours at the booth just talking to those who dropped by. I met the guys who are doing the Wu Tang Clan comic for Artis/Avalon. 2 of them were there when I arrived. I also met 2 of the production guys from Avalon, all of them incredibly nice and friendly people.  I walked around the con floor a bit and the very first thing that caught my eye was that magnificent and beautiful hardbound book OPUS by Barry Windsor Smith. I lost no time and getting it, as well as his other book Adastra In Africa.  I have been a huge fan of Barry Smith every since I saw his art in the Uncanny Xmen way back around issue #186. I have since collected every comic of his that I found from Conan to Iron Man, Daredevil, Weapon X, Machine Man, X-O Manowar, Rune and Storyteller.  My art has been largely influenced by him.
                 On this first day and the next, people came over to the booth that I have met through the various mailing lists that I'm subscribed to like Matt Caruso from the Comicart-L, Kumar Sivasubramanian from the Alan Moore list, Eric and Alex from the Vertigo list. I also met pros that I either know or worked and will work with like Kevin Senft, Danny Miki, Jonathan Sibal, Mark Pajarillo and of course, Aaron Sowd from the Inking-L mailing list, who was also working the Avalon booth promoting their book M-Rex. More on that later.
                 Easily the most asked after book in the booth was Aria which is written by Brian Holguin and drawn by Jay Anacleto.  Jay wanted to come to the convention, but he had to stay home in the Philippines to finish Aria #4.
              I also got to meet Richard Ashford, a British writer who is now Editor in Chief of Cross Plains Comics, this comics company that develops comics from characters created by Robert E. Howard.  He, by way of Rafael Kayanan, asked me to draw a pin-up of KULL the KING. I have always wanted to draw, if not Conan, Kull. And this was my chance to do my stuff with it.   My pin-up will appear in a Kull book from Cross Plains sometime at the end of the year.
                 I ended up sharing the room for the first night with Francis Takenaga, writer of the comic book Wicked from Avalon/Artis with artist Roy Allan Martinez, my former partner in crime in books like Hazard, Loner and Grifter. The view from the room was fantastic.  I could see the San Diego harbor and was treated to a fantastic sunset on my first day at that hotel.
 

August  13 1999
Convention Day 2
Friday

On the picture on the left is Brian Haberlin working the Avalon/Artis booth. Right next to him in the dark pink shirt is Deadpool and X-Men writer Joe Kelly, who is at Avalon writing M-Rex, his new creator owned book. Beside him is Aaron Sowd, inker of the book and beside him is Duncan Rouleau, penciller of the book.   I met all of them at the start of the day and all of them were extremely nice.
             My schedule at the Avalon booth was from 1-3 in the afternoon so I spent the entire morning chasing back issues and pros whom  I was a fan of (which was practically everyone!). I saw Terry Austin and Carl Potts together at the Artist's Alley.  Terry Austin is my #1 inking hero. I absolutely loved his inking over John Byrne in the classic X-men issues written by Chris Claremont. I rushed over to the dealers and retailer's section of the con floor and got the very first Cloak and Dagger series which was pencilled by Rick Leonardi and inked by Terry Austin.  I flew back to Terry for his autograph(s). I talked a bit with him about inking techniques.  It's amazing that he's able to do all the lines that he does with a #102 crowquill pen.    I walked over the con and saw all kinds of pros from Jim Starlin to Neal Adams, Charles Vess, Brent Anderson, Jim Steranko, Sam Glanzman, Eddie Campell. I was so starstruck that my head was spinning and I didn't know what to do or who to turn to next.  I had brought my copy of Birth Caul from the Philippines just so I can have Eddie Campbell sign it. He's an incredibly nice fellow and talked to me a bit about doing that book.   I also went comic book hunting and I picked up some more Alan Moore Swamp Things that I don't have  yet plus a bunch of Chris Claremont's New Mutants and X-Men, Rick Veitch's Maximortal and some Koraks drawn by Rudy Florese. I wandered around the art dealers booths hoping to find and buy some Florese originals when I stumbled upon this booth that had a ton and I mean a TON of original Filipino art by Gerry Talaoc, ER Cruz, Nestor Redondo and YES, Alex Nino! And top it all off, the dealer said that Alex himself will be at the booth around 2 in the afternoon. I was ecstatic! I've always wanted to meet Alex.
                I sauntered over to the Avalon booth well before 1 pm so that I could quickly zip out at 2 so that I could meet Alex. Whilce Portacio was already there and a considerable line has already formed for his sketches.  Knowing Whilce, he takes an enormous amount of time to do each sketch so that line will be slow and long. But jeez, I'm definitely sure that his fans come away completely satisfied. I immediately got down to do some signing and sketching myself.  Lots of people came over to see Whilce, specially a good number of his pro friends.  Carl Potts came over to say hello. I took out the first issue of Epic magazine that I had gotten earlier and I asked him if he could sign it. 
                   I managed to squeeze out at around 2:30 but by the time I got to the art dealer's booth, I was told that Alex had already gone. Aiigh!!!   I returned to the booth for more sketches and more signings.  It felt really great because it wasn't too long ago that I wasn't even thinking of doing comics. All I wanted was to read them. I never thought I'd ever get to see people like Stan Lee or Whilce Portacio or Len Wein or Neal Adams up close.  When I realized the fact that I'm there, a comics artist, working with Whilce and seeing all these people whose work I've admired ever since I was kid,  it became absolutely overwhelming.
                   That night Leinil, Russel and I went out to eat at the Gaslamp District.  All of the restaurants seemed full and we must have walked the entire length of that district without getting into one.  By the time we got to the very end, I thought, hell, let's go in this last one. We were stopped at the door by a bouncer, asking for our IDs if we wanted to drink. Duh? Hey, I'm 31 years old! Do I still look young enough to be a minor? Leinil maybe, but he's already 23. Russel's older than him.  I got a sandwich and I didn't realize it was so ass damned huge that I was able to finish only half.  That's what I noticed about American food. Each serving is absolutely huge. None of us, save Leinil, was able to finish his dinner.
                   I got back to my room at around 11 and hey, it looks like Whilce will be my roommate tonight.  We talked for hours and hours about everything and anything and we got to sleep around 3.


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The Greatest Fan Meets Pro Encounter of All Time!
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