Interesting is better

"Real is one thing,
but interesting is better."
                                   - Stanley Kubrick

After decades of missing out and, consequently, of distorting the American Comic Book Convention into my own personal fantasy-collage filled with bits of Kevin Smith movies, flickr photos and Peanuts holiday specials, I finally attended my first ever comic conventions. First up was San Diego Comic Con, and weeks later the first, and only, Morrisoncon.

San Diego was an emotional clusterfuck. There was fun, exhaustion, mob-mania and numb everything. I had short, rushed conversations with people I admire - most of whom showed signs of imminent emotional shutdown - and on the show floor, often, I found myself giving up, allowing the aimless tide to swallow me whole as we all took turns to float past piles of shit we didn’t even care about. I met some cool people in fleeting moments before losing them forever to the convention horde and sat through various panels - some great, some pure PR exercises and some embarrassingly juvenile. I left San Diego with a bag full of stuff and this vague, empty feeling. 

Morrisoncon, held in Las Vegas, was a two-day comic book convention curated by Grant Morrison, Ron Richards and Isotope Comics. The Morrisoncon agenda was simple: put a few hundred like-minded people in the same hotel for the weekend; cut the convention fat; curate an intimate programming schedule and facilitate an environment where fans and creators can connect in casual, un-rushed, normal ways (you know, like real people do). Here’s what I remember best from Morrisoncon:


People in swimsuits spilling beers on the plane. Cab lanes as long as freight trains. A beautiful hotel room all to myself. An afternoon nap fail as disposable techno rattles my hotel windows while poolside drunks with bad tattoos, gold chains and swollen everything try to devour the sun. At night, King Mob stomps through the casino floor in a sharp blue suit, his arms swinging as someone cackles next to him. A swanky nightclub. Blue lights. Spaceship chandeliers. An oral prose performance by Morrison I can’t quite fully comprehend or remember, except for a quote I find on my phone the next morning that reads: 

SATURDAY…At the Artists panel
Somewhere between watching Frank Quitely draw an obese Superman and Jim Lee doing a lightning-quick Joker sketch while he talks to several artists lounging onstage in chairs and coaches the realization sinks in, ‘pay attention, this is something special’.  

…In conversation
Morrison settles into a couch and takes us through his life’s adventures: alien abductions, airline incidents involving ecstasy and explosive-diarrhea, being hospitalized by scorpion demons and meeting superman. Morrison unpacks the layers and layers of intention and inspiration infused in his works. We discuss the Invisibles, Batman, Superman and are offered a reading list full of chaos magicians, historians and documentarians. 

…In the gallery 
A handful of fans move around a room, pouring over original art pages by Jim Lee, Frank Quitely, J.H Williams III and Chris Burnham. Seeing the huge inked pages, I connect with a familiar but forgotten feeling - of being a small kid and experiencing something massive and overwhelming. I pick up the faint sound of a makeshift choir singing the chorus to Rocket Man and drift out the gallery. I follow the music, and fall into a small circle of fans listening to Darick Robertson play a spontaneous, acoustic set of Beatles covers.

…R-Rated sketch jams,
complimentary pastries, fresh fruit and strong coffee. Jonathan Hickman works the line “What the fuck does dyslexic dogs conquer space mean?" seamlessly into a panel discussion. A question and and answer session with Morrison bends and warps as fans step up to the microphone. Surgeons, janitors, writers, engineers, all step up and ask brave, thoughtful questions. I’m suddenly transported back to Comic Con where I sat through hour-long panel discussions of ‘what happens next?’ and ‘whose stronger? and ‘what about continuity?’

People spill out of the hall glass eyed and wobbly limbed. At a nearby cafĂ©, a young attendee with a shaved head and Black Flag t-shirt immediately sets to work in a sketchbook. I head for the strip to indulge in the obligatory Vegas experience. Casino floors, malls and streets. Through the Bellagio, the Mirage, Caesars. Superman slot machines. Young girls with old men. Cigars. Hookers. Chinese tourists. Fanny packs. Football games. Puffed-up Kardashian snake clones and forty-dollar Beatles t-shirts. Short, stocky immigrant mothers hand out flyers promising beer and limos and pussy. A man punts a girl out of an elevator with the bottom of his boot while yelling “Whore Puss! Whore Puss!” The doors close. He screams at me until I get it. “Oh, Hall Pass. Yeah. Ok.” 

Fat burgers. Weak beer. A balding zombie with a shopping cart full of bloodied combat boots rushes through the mall, late for his shift at Eli Roth’s Goretorium. He almost collides with a hairy, shirtless giant in leather pants and furry, stiletto hooves. The giant is too immersed in a conversation about baseball scores to notice. A wailing siren blasts through the mall speakers:

“There has been an event. 
Please walk to the closest exit immediately.” 

Three policeman stand over a limp, collapsed body in a dirty white t-shirt. I notice a perfect red circle just above the left hip. I feel the presence of Death before being shoved on by a hurried, upset woman. As we pass a one-armed man strumming a guitar she reprimands me for having lingered by the earlier crime scene, her voice shaking, the fear thick on her teeth. And for a moment, I think I finally get it. The ‘why have Morrisoncon in Vegas?’ of it all, and some Godspeed lyrics pop into my head: 

“And we're on so many drugs.
With the radio on and the curtains drawn.
 We're trapped in the belly of this horrible machine.
 And the machine is bleeding to death.”

No comments: