Channel the entity "Jeff Parker" from beyond the Ether

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Great White North Report 

Last week I was a guest at the Calgary Comics Show, and it was the first time I'd been back to Canada since I was about ten. You know what they like to see from you nowadays? Passports. Or at least birth certificates. And if you thought it was like when you were a kid and didn't take such things, officials at the airport get insulted as if you don't think Canada is a real country. "Would you try to get into Germany with just a driver's license? I bet not," they might say. Okay, I had to get that out of the way right off the bat.

Other than that, the trip was very pleasant. I was on the same flight from Portland as Fantastic Four inker/sometimes writer Karl Kesel, and his wife Myrna. So lots of catching up with them, and we flew into Seattle where Jay Faerber (Noble Causes) joined the pilgrimage. We were on prop planes the whole time, but that didn't keep me awake. I only woke up long enough to be puzzled about our flight snack: beef jerky. That was a switch from the usual pretzel packs. Once in Calgary, we were picked up by Kelly Dowd who runs the comics shop Redd Skull. A darn nice (and handsome!) guy for someone with a Captain America-hating Nazi for a store mascot. Later we found out that Kelly took the store over from someone else a decade ago, pre-named. I could go on about us eating at the Mongolian Grill, but you'd get hungry and you're probably at work. We were joined by Tom Grummett, Steve Rolston, and Brian Ashmore, and boy can those fellers eat grill. After dinner everyone was obsessed with picking anything up from The Liquor Barn and heading back to the hotel.

The show was on Sunday, at the University of Calgary stadium. And after several comics shows in concrete bunker convention centers, it was really nice to have one in a skybox where you could look out big windows. Kelly and fellow organizer Ken Poole ( whom I believe to actually be actor Steve Buscemi) warned us that every year, no matter what the weather was like (it was hot Saturday) before, it snows on the day of their show. And later I was pelting Jay Faerber with a snowball, because the curse holds. Despite the cold and flurries, there was some football practice on the field, and later a whole soccer game. All the guests had tables right in front of the windows, so we thought the attendees were simply staring at us all day.

Maybe it was because I got some of the famed "Calgary sleep" that Kelly told us about, but for some reason I had one of the best sketching days I've had in a long time. A good thing too, because Steven Gettis (half the people at the show were named Steve, so I'm glad Lieber didn't go) was there, ready to collect a literary commission. Steven builds websites for many of comics' top creators, and has an impressive collection of creators/characters from literature drawn by industry artists. We had pored over the pieces the night before (after Liquor Barn!), and there's been some talk of it all becoming a book to benefit the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund at some point. I've owed him a Rudyard Kipling for almost a year, and I brought reference with me just for this day. Jolly good.

So there it is, and now it's on the website. If the book gets made though, I'll have to tinker with it beforehand. Albertans are undaunted by snow, and plenty came out for the afternoon. They had to be reassured that the hockey game would be aired at the show though -- go Flames!-- and it was. Some of the friendliest readers you could hope to meet, even though I charged them too much for my book. Hey, that exchange rate confuses me. I did bigger sketches than usual in the books. No matter how much Canadians say they don't really say "Eh" and "aboat", you get them in their element with comics and hockey all over, and they can't help themselves. The only thing that confused me was buying a coffee that morning, where they didn't let me add the cream and sugar. I guess I can't be trusted to bring along my passport, so it's probably best to take that responsibility out of my hands too. Here's a shot of the room with Kelly and Vancouver's Leonard Wong comparing notes on how they put on these shows.

Later I'm looking over Brian Ashmore's paintings from a Batman book he did, and asking him about life in Montana. Then I'm talking to Smallville writer Jake Black about his life in Utah. I think Grummett lives in Saskatoon, but I'm not sure on that. I'm envious of how simply Faerber can state the premises of Noble Causes or Dodge's Bullets, while I take forever to get out my Interbabble. Jay's not in any of these pictures because he was taking them. Erik Sveinson brings me his Star Wars sketchbook and I draw an Amidala for him. I've got to say, if you ask a Canadian to email you a jpeg of your commission, when you get back home, there's a jpeg waiting in your Inbox.

Yeah, I know there should be an Annakin in that scene, but I'm calling the shots here. The show wrapped up, and we got ready to eat again. Except for Karl and Myrna, they rented a car and took off for Banff. No, not that farty sound effect when Nightcrawler teleports, its a humongous park in the Rockies. After pizza, I spent the evening hanging with Rolston and his mate Sabina. Steve and I drew Redd Skulls for the store's collection, and we all watched the conclusion of Survivor. Ambah (the way Boston Rob says it) won. And I won copies of Rolston works Pounded and One Bad Day from Oni-- I enjoyed them as soon as I got home.

And I did get home, though I caught some more lip from the Department of Homeland Security at the airport. I was really afraid they were going to question me about the ungodly amount of candy I had in my bags. Steven Gettis also works for Cadbury, and loaded us up with chocolate, gummy bears, Chiclets and more. They must have thought Faerber and I had freakish sweet tooths. Finally I'm back in wet, warm Portland, wondering when I can return to peace-loving, healthcare-having Canada. Probably this Fall, because I promised Leonard I'd come to one of his Vancouver shows. Thanks Albertans, I'll be back.


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