“There’s no friend like an old friend…” (Oliver Wendell Holmes)

Comic Con — aka “The Nerd Prom” — is special for me because it’s my opportunity to reconnect with all of my old friends in comics. Primary in this group are my three, close friends Dave Kellett, Kris Straub and Scott Kurtz. Including the How To Make Webcomics book, the Webcomics Weekly podcast and countless other side projects and appearances over the past year, we’ve gotten to be very good friends with one another. It’s more like a family reunion when we all get together. I laugh so hard with them my face hurts by the end of the night.

My Halfpixel colleagues and I had two panels — both on the subject of Webcomics — on Friday. One went 3-4 p.m. and the other was 6-7 p.m. The first was moderated by another old friend, Phil Foglio. Phil and Kaja Folio sent their boothmates to Subway on Saturday to buy lunch for a bunch of us. Seriously, we were slogging away at the Halfpixel table when up they come with four trays of sandwiches and toppings. It was a seriously thoughtful thing to do. Listen. They don’t come classier than the Foglios. Nowhere.

And Phil was in rare form, hosting the Webcomics 101 panel. I counted about 220 seats in the room, and we had filled it to capacity. The Comic Con officials had been warned about allowing standing-room-only attendees, so people were turned away at the door. We talked and laughed, and joked and teased each other. Go to the 2:32 point in the video below to see the introduction to this talk.

San Diego Wrap Up from Scott Kurtz on Vimeo.

I found it fascinating that, although the five of us were absolutely lockstep on some issues, there were others — retail sales vs. direct Web sales, for instance — that we had wildly divergent views on. Phil, for example, actively encourages Girl Genius readers to buy their books from a retail outlet — Amazon, bookstores, comic shops — because he feels this has earned him a reciprocal relationship at the retail level. I’ve always asked you guys to buy directly from me for the simple fact that I make more money when you do that. I have to say, hearing Phil’s logic gave me a lot to think about, though. If it gives you any indication, look at the photo below to see our reaction to Phil’s explanation. Phil Foglio…. The E.F. Hutton of Webcoimics.

Now. Are you ready for this? The Webcomics 101 panel ends at 4 p.m., and a bunch of the people in the crowd for that panel ran to the room in which the second panel was to be held and started waiting in line. For two hours. The second panel seated close to 300 and we filled it to about two-thirds.

The second panel was aesome. It was the four authors of the How To Make Webcomics book doing a live version of the Webcomics Weekly podcast. It was supposed to end at 7, but we were having so much fun, we burned through for another 45 minutes. We went so late, we returned to find the exhibit hall locked. (That’s where the David Malki / Magnolia Porter story starts up.)

Two more old friends, Bill Barnes and Gene Aubaum, co-creators of Unshelved, were onhand for Comic Con. They were exhibiting in the aisle prior to ours in the Independent Press Pavilion. Jim Demonakos, who runs my favorite convention of the year, Emerald City Comic Con, was hanging with the Unshelved boys, too, and stopped over for a chat. On Wednesday night, as Kris and I arrived in the parking garage with more than a dozen heavy boxes, Bill offered the use of his dolly (in addition to Kellett’s), and what was going to be a nightmare became a snap. I’m always excited to see Bill. But when I saw him come around the corner with a second dolly, I could have kissed him. Bill — wisely — declined.

I also got a chance to reconnect with Ryan Sohmer and Lar Desouza, the creative team behind Least I Could Do. It’s always great to see those guys, and they were swamped at their booth for most of the week, promoting Blind Ferret, LICD and Looking For Group. Lar joins us in being a huge fan and supporter of Evil Inc colorist Ed Ryzowski.

And I was happy to see a bunch of my friends at The Night — like R Stevens, Meredith Gran, Phillip Karlsson, Jonathan Rosenberg, Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik. Jon introduced me to his agent — the one who landed the Random House deal for Jon’s strip, Goats. Jon’s agent said “Woo!” as Jon mentioned Evil Inc and Phables. Either she’s a fan or Jon goosed her. (That was a joke. She’s much to classy to be a fan.) Meredith brought around copies of the latest Octopus Pie book, which my wife has already devoured. We both agree, Gran’s confidence makes her work shine.

Another old friend of mine who made it to Comic Con was Dennis Earlenbaugh. Dennis and I worked together in the graphics department of the Akron Beacon Journal. Dennis was attending with his friend, Mike Barr, who was invited as a guest by the convention to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his creating Batman and the Outsiders. To those of you who have read the story, Dennis is notable for the fact that he gave me the “enjoy your obscurity” talk. It was that talk that, years later, encouraged me to create Evil Inc.

Finally, I was able to meet up with a friend of mine from college, Beth Ann, whose husband now works for Dark Horse Comics. She and her daughter were cruising the hall and found me at my booth. It was so great to see her. We used to spend hours, sitting atop the Art Department building, talking about everything and nothing. Her daughter is confident and bright (home schooling, I’m told with a proud smile). Her daughter mentioned a fondness for mythological creatures, so I gave them directions to the PvP table. Scott, being the big softy that he is, gave the girl a Skull plush.