Wednesday, July 24, 2013


What Has Gone Before: I was a special guest at this year’s Comic-
Con International in San Diego.  The above logo is from the bag my
Inkpot Award came in.  This report is the story of my journey to,
my adventures at and my journey home from Comic-Con.  My last panel
of the convention took place in the back of the plane flying me and
my son Ed back to Ohio.  How’s that for a tease?


I do not like flying.  If I weren’t trying so hard to purge hatred
from my heart and soul, I would tell you I hate flying.  I used to
love it, but that was back in the day when I could get low student
fares and take late-night flights where I could stretch out across
a row of seats and dine on sandwiches left over from the aircraft’s
day of flying.  The good old days before we made fear our co-pilot.

I was traveling with my wife Barb, my son Eddie, my daughter Kelly
and her best friend since kindergarten Giselle.  Terry Fairbanks,
Barb’s uncle and one of my best friends since I was a teen, drove
us to the airport. Terry will play a key role in a later episode of
this however-many-entries-it-takes Comic-Con report.

My nervousness aside, checking in at the airport and going through
security was pretty much a breeze.  Yes, there was a tense moment
when I lost my driver’s license, but the security people found it
quickly and we were on our way.

The wait to board the aircraft was long and tedious, but board we
did.  I sat in a row with Barb and Ed...and tormented my son with
Snakes on a Plane puns for the entire four-hour flight.  Examples
would include:

They’re going to serve us an ice cream treat.  Shakes on a plane.

They’re going to show the sequel to Chinatown.  Jakes on a plane.

You can play along at home.

My favorite was...did you see one of the actors from Star Trek is
on this flight? Frakes on a plane.

I am an evil man.

I tried to make myself unconscious during the flight, but failed to
accomplish that.  I made several trips to the restroom, which I’m
sure is too much information, but which foreshadows that one last
Comic-Con panel.  Tease, tease, tease.

We landed in Los Angeles, picked up our rental car and drove to the
San Diego Marriott Marquis and Marina.  The drive was uneventful.
The hotel was right next to the San Diego Convention Center, a very
short walk away from Seaport Village and a slightly longer walk to
the Gaslamp Quarter.  Those are but two areas of San Diego that owe
their revitalization to Comic-Con.

We were getting two rooms, one paid for by the convention and the
other by us.  One for the girls, one for the guys.  The convention
handled the booking and arranged for the rooms to be connected.  It
was a perk of being a special guest, but you’ll have to forgive me
for not writing too much about most of the perks.  That’s between
the convention and the special guests.

I will say that, if you are ever fortunate enough to be invited to
be a special guest of Comic-Con, don’t even stop to think about it.
Just accept.  You will be treated with the utmost generosity and
kindness and respect.  Your experience will be an unforgettable one
and, as you will see in a coming installment of this report, it may
even make you tear up.  I tease more than a balloon dancer.

When we arrived at the hotel, we were greeted by Raoul, one of the
valets.  We explained that our plan was to check in, drop off our
luggage in our rooms and then head to the San Diego Zoo.  He made
sure our car would be at easy access.  Throughout our stay, Raoul
and other valets did a terrific job taking care of us.

Inside, we were greeted by Comic-Con volunteer Steve Lord.  Think
of a more handsome, slightly younger version of Hendrickson of the
original Blackhawks.  He was friendly, he was efficient and we had
several mutual friends.  In other words, he was good people.  Like
every Comic-Con staffer and volunteer we encountered.

Our badges were at Comic-Com, so Steve had them brought over to us.
They came in a bright blue Comic-Con carrying bag.  It held seven
badges - we would be joined on Friday by my goddaughter Vanessa and
her son Josh - and an assortment of goodies, including Comic-Con’s
incredible souvenir book and events guide.  The events guide was my
constant companion during the convention, at least until I saw the
handy Quick Guide.  Whatever the need, you can bet Comic-Con has it
covered.  I was in a constant state of admiration and awe whenever
I considered how much it takes to pull off an event like Comic-Con
and to do in exceptional fashion.  It’s true.  I love Comic-Con so
much we should get a room.

Our hotel rooms - Did you see that segue there? - were bright and
airy with small balconies.  The rooms were more than comfortable.
They were welcoming.  When I wasn’t too excited to sleep, which was
often, the beds and pillows were soothing indeed.  As we would find
out, all of this Marriott was wonderful. 

Eager fans were all over the place waiting to get into Comic-Con’s
Preview Night, but our merry band headed out to the San Diego Zoo.
Going to the zoo was the one thing Kelly had asked us to do while
we were there.  It was very important to me that she get her wish.
I knew my blogging son Eddie would have the time of his life at the
convention.  I was pretty sure Giselle would get into it as well.
Barb? She’s a trouper through and through.  But, outside of some TV
panels, I didn’t know how much Kelly would get out of this greatest
of comics events.  Going to the zoo was a must.

The San Diego Zoo is amazing.  While some might question the logic
or sanity of prefacing a night and four days of walking around the
huge convention center by spending a sizzling hot afternoon walking
around a huge zoo, there’s no denying all the wonders to be seen.

Borrowing from Wikipedia...

The Zoo houses...over 3,700 animals of more than 650 species and
subspecies. It pioneered the concept of open-air, cageless exhibits
that re-create natural animal habitats. It is one of the few zoos
in the world that houses the giant panda. Most recently, it added
“Koalafornia Adventure,” providing an entire Australian experience
of its native birds and animals.  It is privately operated by the
nonprofit Zoological Society of San Diego on 100 acres of parkland
leased from the City of San Diego, and ownership of all animals,
equipment and other assets rests with the City of San Diego.

Our Zoo tickets were $44 each, but we got a 10% discount with our
Ohio Auto Club card.  If you belong to AAA, it’s worth making sure
you have your card with you at all times.

We hadn’t eaten since the plane - and I hadn’t really eaten at all
that day - so dining was our first priority.  The Zoo has a dozen
restaurants and we went to Sydney’s Grill.  The food was great, but
it wasn’t cheap.  Few things are in southern California.

We mostly walked the Zoo, though Ed and I took a bus at one point
and the girls rode the Skyfari.  Because of the heat, some animals
were a mite sluggish...or simply smarter than we were.

I’m not going to give you a cage-by-cage or habitat-by-habitat tour
of the Zoo here.  But I will mention the exhibits I enjoyed most.
The rhinos, giraffes and other residents of the “Urban Jungle” were
awe-inspiring. Likewise the elephants of “Elephant Odyssey.”  And,
really, who doesn’t love koalas and meerkats?

I had bought two pairs of New Balance shoes for the convention and
my running shoes really got a workout at the Zoo.  By the time we
left to head to Comic-Con, I had some serious burning sensation in
my thighs.  I also had a swell Zoo t-shirt that I love so much I’ll
probably need to replace it in a year.

How terrible.  I might have to go back to the greatest zoo I have
ever visited.  How will I endure that?

Hint: I’d like to go back when it’s just a mite cooler.  However,
I’d go back anytime, even if I had to dump water over my head every
ten minutes.  What’s that? Various family members who are somehow
mysteriously monitoring what I’m writing have offered to dump water
on my head at the Zoo or anywhere else.

Can you feel the love?

Looming in my immediate future was Comic-Con’s Preview Night and,
like my family, the convention was all about love.  Love for those
taking this journey with me.  Love for the comics fans and pros who
are, in a very real sense, my second family.  Love for the comics
and the industry that have been a big part of my life for over four
decades.  It was time for Comic-Con, baby!

My Wednesday report will continue tomorrow.

© 2013 Tony Isabella


  1. If most of the passengers on your flight are blonde -- flakes on a plane.

  2. Johnny...I did that one with breakfast cereal.

  3. Did you do any spit-takes on a plane?

  4. Anyone with fibromyalgia on board? Aches on a plane.

  5. A group of bakers flying -- cakes on a plane.