Madrid Comic Book Convention: Tapas, Tourism & Travails

One of my earliest adventures in comics was the Madrid Comic Book Convention in November of 2002. This trip cemented many comics industry friendships, and I cherish them to this day. My friend Mike Kennedy just posted a Facebook video about Botin, the World’s Oldest Restaurant, which was the first restaurant we tried in Madrid, triggering this trip down memory lane. The first thing that struck me about Botin was the prosciutto, sitting out in the open, and the liberal number of flies alighting on the marbled hunk of meat. I ordered prosciutto-free entrees.

Comics legends, bestselling authors and me at Botin Restaurant in Madrid. L-R: Dave Dorman, me, (can't recall his name), Mike Kennedy, Rebecca Moesta, Kevin J.  Anderson, Chris Warner, Randy Stradley, Randy's former wife, Joyce Chin and Art Adams

Comics legends, bestselling authors and me at Botin, The World’s Oldest Restaurant, in Madrid. L-R: Dave Dorman, me, Ramon Bachs, Mike Kennedy, Rebecca Moesta, Kevin J. Anderson, Chris Warner, Randy Stradley, Randy’s wife at the time, Joyce Chin, and Art Adams. For the paranormal fans among me, note the orb over Randy Stradley’s face.

At this first gathering, we sat across from Joyce Chin and Art Adams, and they were both fascinating to talk with; these were the days before either of us had children. I remember admiring Joyce’s passion for dog rescues and the work she did with dogs. Post-kids, our conversations today would take a much different turn: “How do you arrange the stuff crammed beneath your SDCC booth tables to accommodate a sleeping kid?”

Along with Dark Horse Comic‘s Chris Warner and Randy Stradley, writer Mike Kennedy (now publisher of Magnetic Press), artist Ramon Bachs, and NY Times bestselling authors Kevin J.  Anderson and Rebecca Moesta, we embarked on a five-day odyssey of comics autograph sessions where the crowds rushed the tables and orderly lines were not even a possibility, tapas meals together at 10:30 p.m. were the norm (yes, it IS actually possible to tire of garlic potato salad after three nights in a row), we experienced the world’s best hot chocolate (like hot chocolate pudding poured into a mug), squid ink pasta (I’m not a fan, Kevin J. Anderson ended up eating mine) and Rebecca Moesta introduced me to mango yogurt shakes at the one vegetarian restaurant we hit (I am still hooked). In the hotel lobby one night before going out for tapas, one of our handler Miguel’s friends brought in a platter of thinly sliced horse meat appetizers, which was a delicacy there, but I just couldn’t do the whole when-in-Rome thing. I love my horses too much.

Joyce and I hit the Museo del Prado and followed it up with a lunch at the Hard Rock in Madrid (do yourself a favor and do NOT order the spaghetti there–it was out of a can). Since I’m a morning person, the whole noon siesta and up-all-night culture was an adjustment. I could handle it better today than I did back then. The one thing that stays with me was how beautifully the buildings were lit at night. I’m hard-pressed to describe it, but it’s something you have to see at least once in your life. This was the pre-iPhone era, so few pictures remain of that trip; this one from Mike Kennedy’s archives is such a treasure to all of us.

Immediately following the Botin lunch, I was the naive tourist flinging my purse about like I hadn’t a care in the world–it was promptly pick-pocketed in the town square. Miguel took me to the local police station, but after sitting with the unwashed masses for 30 minutes and feeling more endangered than safe, I begged off. It was fruitless. My wallet was long gone. I spent the next hour on the phone canceling all credit cards. Lesson learned.

On Facebook right now, we’re all posting, reminiscing, and wishing we were back at Botin, reliving that moment.

H.G. Wells, how’s that time machine coming along, anyhow?

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An #SDCC2015 Artists Alley Volunteer Friend in Need: Clydene Nee

Dear Friends,

Our friend Clydene Nee has been the angel helping #comics #artists and creators at #SDCC2015 San Diego Comic-Con International for decades in Artists’ Alley. Today, she needs our help. Here is a link and below is her story – she is a diabetic kidney dialysis patient who is the victim of an administrative error, so she is not being covered with disability from her work and she can no longer work, as she is losing her vision. If a LOT of people donated even a couple of bucks and skipped their Starbucks for today, it would make a world of difference to her. Here is her Go Fund Me link:

http://www.gofundme.com/xuredg

#SDCC2015 Artists' Alley volunteer Clydene Nee needs our help!

#SDCC2015 Artists’ Alley volunteer Clydene Nee needs our help!

The Hidden TRUTH About Comic Book Convention Earnings: For Creators, Have Comic Book Conventions JUMPED THE SHARK?

I’m guessing you’re here because you want to hear all about how Denise Dorman hates cosplayers, n’est-ce pas? Unfortunately for all of the haters still out there perpetuating this myth, that data point remains totally untrue. So…if you’re going to be a hater, read elsewhere. In the words of the great Obi-Wan Kenobi, waving his hand, “There’s nothing to see here.”

So how did this insane myth come to light? On a misleading click-bait headline on Bleeding Cool News in September of 2014. That’s what kicked it all off. And today, two years and 8 months after I wrote that initial article, I’m still getting 200 hits a day on this blog, and having to defend myself to total strangers. One of my best friends, Heather, shared with me that the weekend of C2E2, some of her brother’s cosplay friends verbally accosted her recently at his 40th birthday party, incensed that she was close friends with me, as was indicated on Facebook. They actually sneered at Heather, “I see on Facebook that you’re not just friends, but close friends with Denise Dorman…” Sadly, these are the kind of people who reproduce and vote every four years, and yet they have no intellectual curiosity beyond hearing a rumor or reading a headline.

Hmmm...would a cosplay hater be in the foreground of the 501st? Stop. Think. Listen.

Hmmm…would a cosplay hater be in the foreground of this 501st photo AND be an honorary member of the 501st? Would his wife? Stop for a moment. Think. Listen. Use some logic.

Here are some TRUTHS you need to know:

#1. Neither Dave Dorman nor I hate cosplayers. Never have, never will. We are honorary members of the 501st, the largest cosplay organization in the world. Some of our closest friends are cosplayers. I cosplay. Cosplayers rest their weary feet in our booth at SDCC (or any other show where we’re exhibiting), they elicit my help in adjusting or fixing their costumes, hair, or makeup, and they pose for Dave. My niece Madyson is a dedicated cosplayer, model and actress in Albuquerque. Are the lie perpetuators out there suggesting I would hate or diss my own flesh and blood, or close friends?

My beautiful niece Madyson, cosplayer, actress, model.

My beautiful niece Madyson: Cosplayer, Actress, Model.

#2. Dave Dorman couldn’t do his amazing art work without the help of cosplayers. They pose for him. ALL. THE. TIME.

#3. We admire cosplayers and we understand firsthand the hard work and craftsmanship that goes into their work.

And here is the key interview I did on Yahoo! News with Mat Elfring to clarify my stance on cosplay:

http://bit.ly/DeniseDormanOnCosplay

And if that isn’t enough, as a business decision, Dave and I made the decision to actually invest in the promising New Orleans author MiMi Rawks, whose new geek erotic romance novel, “Cosplay Virgin” from the three-book “Cosplay Confidential Series” should be hitting the stands in the next couple of months. Dave is doing the cover art for her book series, which takes place in the cosplay community. The first cover illustration is breathtaking, and author MiMi Rawks serves up some HAWT geek erotica; her story is as compelling as it is suspenseful and entertaining.

Now…are we done YET with kicking the dead dog?

That Time I Wrote for Newsarama

Every once in a while, I’ll get pulled into a project for Dave, like that time he informed me at breakfast on a Monday morning that the manuscript for his autobiography IDW wanted to publish was was due by end of business day on Friday. (Good thing they were on California time!) I dropped everything and camped out in his studio with my laptop and wrote all but the Foreword and about 10 pages written by his BFF Steve Smith.

The book I wrote in technically less than 5 days. 5 lbs. of Art & Text.

The 358-page book I (mostly) wrote in 5 days… 5 lbs. of Art & Text.

But I digress. Before #SDCC one year, Newsarama was looking for a fun hook, and I’m like a heat-seeking missile for the silly and the ridiculous, so I suggested writing Dave doing an interview with Alien and Predator in an L.A. White Castle. I pitched it because Dave was renowned for painting Alien and Predator’s images over the years, and this particular summer the first AVP film was coming out, so it was timely. Dave had earned his Eisner Award for Aliens: Tribes. (The Eisner is like the Oscars of the comic book field, for the uninitiated reading this).

Alien v. Predator by Dave Dorman

Alien v. Predator by Dave Dorman

So, I wrote it. Mind you, some of my comedic pacing is thrown off by the forced promotional mentions, and some of my grosser humor got cut, but I am posting it here for you today, in all of its sick & wrong glory:

DAVE DORMAN INTERVIEWS ALIEN and PREDATOR in a WHITE CASTLE

Back Story: Renowned illustrator Dave Dorman, Alien and Predator are old friends, dating back 15 years ago to the days when Dorman was painting Alien v. Predator pieces to please the Dark Horse fans…today the threesome reunites for a pre-Comic-Con interview in this Newsarama exclusive.

POV: We see the famed illustrator and two of his favorite creatures lunching at a local White Castle.

Dave Dorman: Hi guys. Thanks for wearing pants today.

Alien & Predator (in unison): Ditto.

Dave Dorman: Let’s Q&A. How did you like being depicted as warring nemeses in your new film, Alien v. Predator?

Alien: Well, the fans have been dying to see me kick Predator’s ass in a live action piece…

Predator, interrupting: Hold on a ****in’ minute. Whose ass did they want to see getting kicked by who?

Alien, continuing: I believe the correct word is whom…but Dave, you were the first one who actually depicted us dukin’ it out 15 years ago in your painting for Dark Horse Presents #36. It was that first fight cover in the swamp, remember?

Predator: That’s right! You made us fly down to your Florida studio and pose under all of those hot lights. In the middle of summer, no less! That was the modeling job from hell. Just for that, you’re buying lunch today. And I’ll take an extra sack of sliders for the flight home.

Dave Dorman: Nada, Rasta-boy; you can afford to pay your own way! But that particular cover has been one of the most popular from my fans–and yours. You have to admit, Predator, you seemed to enjoy posing with that hot babe on the cover I did for Alien v. Predator #4.

Predator: Nah, she didn’t do it for me. Though I did like that slinky, latex costume.

POV: We see Predator struggling to fit a milkshake straw into his etiquette-unfriendly mouth.

Dave Dorman: Havin’ some trouble, Predator? Let me help.

POV: Dorman’s hand shakes nervously as he pours the vanilla milkshake into Predator’s gaping pie hole.

Dave Dorman: Hey guys, remember when I worked on those designs for that first attempt at the Alien v. Predator movie 12 years ago? Did I ever show you my hybrid Predalien character?

POV: We see Dorman revealing the Predalien illustration to an astounded Alien and Predator.

Predator (sniffs with disdain): That is sick and wrong…unnatural. Not to mention chromosomally impossible.

Alien (lighting a cigarette): Humans shouldn’t be playing God with the mother race.

POV: Predator slaps the cigarette out of Alien’s mouth and his long claws rake against Alien’s jaw. A few drops of blood drip onto White Castle’s table, hissing as they burn steaming holes through it, then the floor.

Predator: Alien, how many times do I have to tell you? There’s no smoking in California restaurants! Besides I didn’t bring my inhaler.

Alien: Thanks, pal. There goes my goddam product placement cash from the tobacco industry.

Dave Dorman: You know, Alien, I have this persistent rust stain in my toilet and I’ll bet a few drops of your blood would take it right out.

Predator: I’m bettin’ it’s not a rust stain…

Dave Dorman (indignant): Nice. And to think I painted your flattering side in that jail scene for the Predator: Race War piece!

Alien: He doesn’t have a good side. He’s a ****in’ four-toothed freak!

Predator (growling): Wrap it up, Dorman. I’m not sitting much longer with this slimed up gene pool abortion.

Dave Dorman: Right. So, guys, what do you think of my WASTED LANDS series?

Alien: I got your RAIL graphic novel, which definitely had some slick Schuiten and European influences, but my agent’s been hanging onto my complimentary copy of THE UNINVITED. He wants some cool beach reading in case Danny Devito and Rhea Perlman ever invite him over to their private Malibu sands.

Dave Dorman (offering Alien his book): Ah, well here’s an extra copy for you.

Alien: Thanks, man.

Predator: I thought the artwork and the stories kicked ass–just like I do with Alien on a regular basis–HAH!–however, I noticed you didn’t write any parts for me or Alien into your new series.

Alien: Yeah, we’re a little hurt. Remember, I helped you win that Eisner Award for your graphic story album Aliens: Tribes. Nice work with writer Steve Bissette…

Dave Dorman: I’d include you guys in a New York minute, but you have that contractual thing happenin’ with your movie studio. Since you liked the artwork, I’ll forward both of you my “Tales of the Wasted Lands” from Atomeka Press, which is a collection of three Wasted Lands stories with a color portfolio coming out in October.

Predator: Cool. Let me leave you with my home address this time so my agent doesn’t permanently borrow my copy.

Alien: What else ya’ got cookin’, paint-boy?

Dave Dorman: Promise not to get pissed?

Alien: I’m not promising anything except for some seriously stale White Castle farts in your van for the ride back to the studio.

Dave Dorman: Okay, let me reiterate, I would have written you in if I could…

Predator (nods, knowingly) to Alien: He’s stalling…

Dave Dorman: Well…it’s a new Wasted Lands sci- fi action adventure novel, featuring my popular character Iguana, called…just don’t get mad, guys… “A Thousand Angry Teeth.”

Alien hisses (dripping with slime and sarcasm): Gee, I wonder who inspired that title?

Predator to Alien: Last time I checked with the dentist, you weren’t the only one with a mouthful of sharp teeth, you cocky bastard!

Alien (revealing menacing, dripping teeth, slowly rising up from his chair): That****in’ does it!

Dave Dorman: Hey, look!!! Isn’t that Harold and Kumar at the White Castle drive thru’?!?

POV: Alien and Predator–both cursed with short attention spans–look toward the drive thru’ window, distracted just long enough for Dorman’s quick get-away. Dorman flips them some cab money as he casually exits the fine dining establishment, relishing the fact that his van will be Alien fart-free for the drive home.

Approaching sirens wail, tables overturn, plate glass windows shatter and fry jockeys quiver beneath the stainless steel counter at the White Castle as Alien and Predator stage their own private, kick-ass sequel. Were it not for the 20th Century Fox-licensed monsters, it would definitely resemble a scene from Dorman’s action-packed sci-fi series, The Wasted Lands. Don’t believe it? See for yourself: http://wastedlands.com.

The Glamour of #SDCC from the Exhibitor’s Side of the Table: Or, What It’s Like Traveling to SDCC with a 9-Year-Old

Dave has always encouraged Jack to cosplay at San Diego Comic-Con, so this year, Jack took the bait. Dave waited until Monday night–the night before we left for San Diego–to order Jack’s “morphsuit” costume on Amazon. FYI, morphsuit is merely a new term describing Woody Allen’s sperm costume. Jack wants to get his costume covered in autographs.

Unfortunately, Dave ordered the suit via an Amazon third-party provider with our debit card.  Thirty minutes later, while Dave and Jack were at Jack’s very first football practice on Monday night, I received a call from the bank informing me that a bunch of suspicious charges were placed on my card. In Germany. Sure enough, the bastards cleaned out our bank account the night before we were traveling. The next morning Dave was literally the last one to board the plane because he was finishing up his call with the bank to reverse the charges. I think there’s still a $400 charge on there we have to fight.

After many tearful outbursts from Jack about never getting his costume in time, it finally occurred to me to call the front desk of our hotel this morning. It was here all along.

So…all of this hassle for this:

The Morphsuit That Cost Us Our Life Savings.

The “Morphsuit” That Cost Us Our Life’s Savings.

As a parent, there are few places we take our son that amp up my anxiety disorder more than a 150,000 attendees cosplay convention. “Yes, officer, you are correct in understanding that I cannot identify the pedophile in a police lineup who snatched my son from Comic-Con, because the kidnapper was a grown man dressed up in a Batman costume.” Most geeks are the coolest people on earth, but I remain ever vigilant, convinced the pedophiles are lining up to execute kidnappings in disguise.

For all of the celebrity sightings, super-exclusive TV and film panels, and fun creatives and fans we encounter at San Diego Comic-Con, this show is exhausting. The most exhausting part? Keeping a 9-year-old happy. We are very fortunate to have friends we trust who will take Jack around the show here and there. Jack has no empathy for the idea that we need to remain at the booth to serve customers and meet industry professionals. He has less empathy for the fact that I need to remain at the hotel and work during business hours on week days. The work I do actually funds these five expensive, angst-filled days.

How I miss the days I could just head out to the Gaslamp District after the show and grab dinner and drinks with industry friends. Flash forward to 2014: by 7 p.m. when the show ends, Jack is already lying on the floor of our booth under a table half asleep.

Honk if you see a sleepy child...

Honk if you see a sleepy child…

These days Jack and I head back to the hotel by ourselves, I miss all of the fun conversations, industry gossip and laughs, and we dine on the limited menu of over-priced hotel food while Dave, the reluctant introvert, has to socialize without his buffer–me. Glamorous, ain’t it?