The magic that is Comic-Con '06 started bright and early Thursday morning when, laden with a box of Bone and Sam & Max postcards, two boxes of Computer Gaming World's August issue, and a video camera and tripod, we left the hotel to hail a cab. Fortune smiled upon us, because right at that moment, a big white bus pulled up to the curb and people wearing Comic-Con badges started shuffling on in single file. Great, a shuttle to the convention center! We got in line, but as Dan tried to board, a sixty-something woman standing at the bus door (apparently in charge of the bus) put up her hand to stop him. "Postal service?" she asked, and gestured to the boxes we were carrying.
We didn't have our Comic-Con badges yet, so it's understandable that she would be confused. But even after Dan said, "We're going to Comic-Con," she shook her head. As we stepped out of line, another woman, who also looked to be about sixty, called, "There's a UPS truck back there you can ride on!" We looked sheepishly down at our packages. The woman at the door of the bus (which we now understood was not, in fact, a hotel shuttle) must have felt sorry for us, because she said we could ride with them after all. As we got on, another sixty-something lady called "Postal service!" and laughed out loud. We tried to look inconspicuous, which wasn't that easy with the boxes and camera and tripod, not to mention the fact that we were a good twenty-five years younger than everyone else on the bus. Not exactly the demographic I'd expect to see at Comic-Con, but hey, age is just a number.
On our way off the bus at the convention center, Dave G asked the woman at the door what group they were with. "Postal service," she said, with a blatant duh tone. We were utterly baffled. Then a guy walked by with a head like Jack from Jack in the Box and a robe and light saber like a Jedi, and the whole experience didn't seem quite as bizarre anymore.[readmore]
Check-in was relatively uneventful (with the exception of Dave B's badge proclaiming him the "guest of Dave Bogan" instead of just "Dave Bogan") and we headed to Steve's booth to drop off the magazines and postcards and to say hello. I'll cover his booth in more detail in the next blog, but suffice to say he had some brand new Sam & Max merchandise on display that fans are going to be fighting over on eBay five years from now.
We had about 90 minutes before our panel, so we went next door to the Marriott to get some breakfast. We got there just as the buffet was closing down. Dan convinced the hostess to let us in and we ran through the buffet, loading our plates with bacon and eggs and yogurt and granola and pineapple and cranberry muffins and all sorts of other foods we didn't need, frantic with the knowledge that it might not be available to us a few minutes later. (And it wasn't -- they took the trays away while we were eating.) Now, you're probably thinking, "Who cares what they had for breakfast?" Normally I wouldn't consider it very newsworthy myself, but then Dan went to open his chocolate milk carton and noticed Phoney Bone was printed on the back of it. It's almost as if the milk carton gods knew we were coming.
By the time we finished "breakfast" it was almost noon. Our panel was scheduled for 12:30, so we headed up there a bit early to set up. I had a grand plan to video tape the panel with the microphone plugged directly into the sound board, but the connector the convention center's A.V. guy told us to bring turned out to be the wrong kind. He was very apologetic and brought in some other equipment for me to try, but we couldn't make it work. Strike two was that with the lights down and a big bright projection screen to the side of the podium and not the best camera in the world, I wasn't able to get very good still pictures, either.
That's okay, because the panel itself was great. The large(ish) room was about half full, not bad considering that we were up against another panel about writing in games and that it was still early on the first day of the show. After a quick introduction by Dan, Dave Grossman led off, talking about the blank looks he gets when he tells people he designs games for a living, his process of getting to know characters, and design diagrams that look like the head and pigtails of Bubbles the PowerPuff Girl. Dave Bogan then showed how Bone and Sam and Max art evolves from the source material into fully-realized 3D worlds. Steve, looking dashing as always in his fedora, chimed in with several insights and sarcastic comments, then took the podium to talk a bit about his web comic. There was time for a brief Q&A before we were rushed out to make way for the next panel, which had an audience of five. As the door closed behind us, we heard the speaker's opening remark: "Gee, I sure know how to clear a room."
The panel revealed too much neat info about the game development process to cram it all into this blog (which is way too long already), but we hope to add some content derived from the panel to our website in the next few weeks.
Tune in tomorrow for a write-up of day 2, which will include the punch line to the postal service saga, the coolest Fone Bone puppet you've ever seen, and the story of how Steve Purcell sold me a thong.
UPDATE: Friday's blog is here!