Somebody had a great idea. Take an enclave of some of the most well-respected creators in the world of comics, put them in the most happening party town in the world, and create an exclusive weekend conference around it. Over 500 fans of the medium in the Hard Rock Hotel for a weekend of gambling and listening to luminaries such as Grant Morrison, Jonathan Hickman, Jason Aaron, and Frank Quitely as they expound upon the art and meaning of their craft. I managed to score a couple of tickets for myself and a companion. The following is my travelogue. I will engage in mystery and adventure and probably lose a significant chunk of my salary at the blackjack table.
MorrisonCon, Day 1
Made it to the plane with literally seconds to spare. The TSA agent who administered my handjob patdown complimented my TARDIS shirt. On the flight, stuck in the corner seat in the back row, sandwiched between a chatty biker lady and a jet engine. My headphones blast Blakroc and Dave Smallen to try to drown out the noise.
This is me on my way to the best weekend of the year. It’s the inaugural year for MorrisonCon, taking place in Las Vegas’ libertine Hard Rock. In the next few days I should be attending a rave/chaos magic party, observing panel discussions from my favorite writers and artists, and even sitting down with Jonathan Hickman for a personal chat.
But first, I have to take to the air. Claire and I had a late start and reached the airport with 27 minutes to takeoff. The harried woman at the check-in desk gave us a look that said something along the lines of “You two are screwed. Go home.” But we begged, she acquiesced, and we blazed through security – on the way, I had a chat with a member of the staff regarding our favorite actors to play the protagonist in BBC’s Doctor Who. Him, Pertwee. Me, Smith. I’m sensing a generation gap.
As we jogged toward our gate, the mysterious voice from the ceiling gave us the final summoning. “FINAL CALL. GET THE HELL ON THE PLANE.” The pilot, lounging by the gate, made eye contact. We waved, he smiled. “Ya barely made it.”
Everyone stared at the frazzled latecomers as they trudged toward the back of the plane. We had to sit apart, but hey. Now we’re on our way.
As we made our final descent, I looked out at the desert spread out before me. “It’s beautiful,” I thought. “I might find something out here.”
Spent the afternoon exorcising the effects of a French dip sandwich, spent the evening grinding blackjack in the Hard Rock pit with a jolly bearded guy and a rotating cast of amicable dealerettes. I’m up exactly $300 for the night, so that elevates my mood a bit.
Now, in the basement club of what should be Vegas’ most banging nightclub, the party is populated almost solely by people who are nerdy enough to travel to a comics convention, and thus are somewhat lame. Once it gets going, though, I imagine it’ll be nuts. Nobody cuts loose like existential pop-culture fanatics.
Supposedly Grant is going to be performing a spoken poetry jam session thing with Gerard Way, the fella from the glamtastic pop-punk outfit My Chemical Romance. Should be interesting.
It’s almost time for Morrison to come out, but Hickman and Jason Aaron are just hanging out. Nobody seems to be noticing them except for a small cluster of sycophants fans. In the meantime, all eyes are glued to the VIP door.
As best I understand it, Morrison just read a really long, fascinating story-shaped thing. From what I gather, the story was about a secret agent whose job it is to witness a battle between a giant robot version of Howard Hughes and an evil wizard who lives in the Luxor pyramid. The secret agent gets trapped in a black hole until he hits the jackpot on a slot machine and wins the whole city. Or something. That’s really the best summary I can come up with.
Passed Jim Lee on the way out and patted him on the shoulder. In person, he is so tiny. Like…so tiny.
In bed. What a day! Just finished reading my promo copy of Morrison’s Dinosaurs vs. Aliens. Watching Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Alarm set for 7:30.
MorrisonCon Day 2
Getting ready to face the day. According to the itinerary, the hall opens at 9, then the panels begin at 9:30. My little sister is going to drive out from LA to join us. Most anticipated thing on the agenda is my personal meet’n’greet with Hickman, scheduled for 2.
The real star of this first panel is James Sime, the punk rock Kramer owner of the Isotope (Isotope being a comics store that is one of the main sponsors of this shindig). He’s a towering man with an exquisitely zany haircut and an obvious heart of gold. When he got onstage and told us about how this event is the culmination of his biggest aspirations, he teared up, and so did many of us in the audience. It’s obvious this is a man who cares about what he does. I imagine everyone here wants to buy him a drink. Also, after finding out that there will be art on sale directly from the creators, I have an adamant desire to purchase an original piece from Frank Quitely or JH Williams III.
Just finished the “What’s Coming Up” panel. Chris Burnham debuted new pages of Batman Incorporated 4-5, as well as some of Quitely’s work from the long-gestating Multiversity. [Note: this was a month before BI #4 actually came out.]
Just finished the writers’ panel. Fascinating stuff from Hickman, Aaron, Williams, Kirkman, and Morrison.
Bought a piece of original art from JH Williams. Issue 668 of Batman, page 17. Mind=Blown. He was fairly nice and even signed the piece for me!
Back from the meet’n’greet with Hickman. Incredibly nice guy. We talked about writing, Fantastic Four, and random stuff for about 10 minutes. He was mostly impressed by Claire. Can’t blame him – she’s prettier than I am.
Morrison’s impression of Alan Moore is maybe the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. Now: Morrison, Darick Robertson, and Akira the Don are playing Beatles covers and singing terribly. Why is this happening? Have I taken drugs? [No.]
Milling around after the film panel. They barely touched on movies, but Max Landis and James Gunn had a somewhat raucous argument about the definition of the word “superhero,” then Max Landis and Darick Robertson got into it over The Boys. At the Q&A session, the first guy in line asked Max Landis whether he’d seen Chronicle. [Max Landis WROTE Chronicle. He had indeed seen the movie.] Laughs were had.
MorrisonCon Day 3
The events from last night are a little bit hazy. After the “Creation Myths” panel, which basically turned out to be the Jonathan Hickman show, we met up with my sister and her friend Kim. We had a delicious dinner and a few cocktails at the Hard Rock’s “Culinary Dropout” pub. I had a killer turkey/salami sandwich.
Then, we picked up a few bottles of booze and returned to the room where the kiddos fawned over our creator-signed comics. After reading the first issue of Happy, Kim is now a hardcore fan of Grant Morrison. After that, we played some cards and everything went wobbly.
Had a pastry breakfast with coffee, then went to Chris Burnham’s sketch jam. He drew some wacky things (Fat Superman, Judge Dredd on the toilet, etc.). Claire and I checked out of the hotel, then attended Morrison’s solo Q&A where he dished on subjects such as drugs, his experience with beings from the 5th dimension, and shitting his pants on an airplane.
Now, sitting through the pitch-crafting seminar. My Little Nemo pitch (a 35 year-old insomniac reflects on the vibrant dreams he had as a child) was not well-received. Jason Aaron gave me a look that said “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I’m gonna write that anyway.
At the airport, awaiting my flight home. There are still a number of panels going on, but we had a flight to catch and it was time to go back to the other world. Listening to all the writers discussing their craft, giving constant advice to just go for it and never give up, that put a fire in me. This weekend may have changed the trajectory of my life. I have a two-hour wait until the flight boards, then a layover in Phoenix, then home.
~ JK Leo ~
Note From The Editor: Many thanks to JK Leo who got us closer than many of us have been. Look for new work to come from him in the future.