POME Does San Diego!

I have a confession to make: I have never wanted to go to San Diego Comic Con. It’s mostly a personal hangup: I hate massive crowds, I am not interested in meeting or seeing most celebrities, and I very seldom have a large chunk of money to spend on travel and multiple large purchases. (I prefer to irresponsibly spend my rare discretionary funds in smaller, more impulsive batches.) “Why travel all the way to beautiful Southern California to check out some comics when there are amazing conventions all over my region of the country?” I thought. 

That all changed when this year, POMEpress was nominated for a Prism award for Group Chat, an anthology about friendship and found family that features many stories by queer creators of LGBTQ+ young people getting through life with one another’s help. With some very handy luck and a little bit of help from the kind folks at Prism, I, POME’s resident West Coaster, was sent to represent our little coven at the Prism Awards and SDCC. Despite my reservations, I was excited to talk to new people about POME, and to meet my fellow nominees, who all have done incredible and important work in comics. What I did not know was that I was about to have one of the best experiences of my adult life. 

Whether you’re a skeptic like I was, or a curious fan who wants to know what all the fuss is about, please enjoy this little recap of Babby’s First San Diego Comic Con. 

Day 0

  • Got up at 4 AM to catch my 6:30 AM flight. Yes, it was a lot cheaper to leave before it is legal to be awake. No, I do not know if it was worth it. 
  • Arrived in San Diego late morning; was picked up by my generous host, Marla, a 70-year-old friend of a friend with a currently empty rental unit in her backyard. 
  • Napped for several hours.
  • Picked up my badge after only about 15 minutes of confusedly wandering around trying to match the convention center map to the very large physical space it represents. 
  • Was delighted to find life-size pictures of the cast of The Good Place pasted all over a The Good Place-themed breakfast joint. Allowed myself one (1) pass to be super corny and take a selfie with the Ted Danson. 
  • There was an early con preview, but I did not attend it in favor of sleeping more. This was the correct choice. I also declined the opportunity to watch Dirty Pair on the big screen late at night. I still lie awake at night reconsidering that one. 
The original Good Bad Guy, sorry Crowley

Day 1

  • Prism Awards day!!! I’ll cut to the chase: Group Chat did not win, but we were THRILLED that the winner was ABO Comix Vol 2: A Comic Anthology by LGBTQ Prisoners. Their work is clearly vital, their award is immensely well-deserved, and it was an honor to share a nomination with them. 
  • Here you can see a recap of all this year’s winners (including Meal by Blue Delliquanti, who we met as table neighbors at CAKE this year, and Soleil Ho; and Lumberjanes by Lilah Sturges, a longtime POME fave, Polterink, and Jim Campbell. There is also a picture of me looking very silly with some of the assembled winners and nominees. 
  • I’m making a third bullet for the Prism Awards, because it was such a proud moment to share space with such talented LGBTQ creators and scholars, and bask in each other’s work together. The Prism awards themselves are all each lovingly handmade  — a wooden book with a beautiful rainbow arcing over it — which is a fitting symbol of all the love, thought, and care the folks at Prism, the Cartoon Art Museum, and the Queer Comics Expo have put into creating this unique, affirming space to celebrate and acknowledge excellent queer comics. 
  • Earlier in the day, I attended a panel on the state of the tabletop gaming industry, where I learned a lot about interesting trends within and the creation of tabletop games. I also met my #1 Dungeons and Dragons Game Master crush, Satine Phoenix. That’s where I learned about Storyteller’s Guide, a video series helping people learn to take on the role of “storyteller” in their gaming. 
  • I don’t remember the rest because I was too jittery!

Day 2 

  • I finally got a chance to walk the floor and think about buying things! First stop was the Center for Otherworld Science booth, run by POME pal and wondrous space gnome, Shing Yin Khor. I went both to say hello and to pick up a comic for a friend —  and ended up getting one for myself, because Shing’s work is truly irresistible.
Say It With Noodles by Shing Yin Khor
  • Attended one of the most fascinating panels I’ve ever seen, called “It’s Women Who Love Horror: The Forgotten British Girls’ Comics,” moderated by veteran comics journalist Rosie Knight. There I learned about the recently re-printed Misty, a horror comic for young girls produced in Britain in the 70’s. After the panel, I managed to snag the publisher’s very last copy at the con!
Misty, reprinted by Rebellion

Day 3

  • Attended the other most fascinating panel I’ve ever seen, called “Conjuring Black Folx: Race, Space, and Hoodoo in Contemporary Comics.” John Jennings, Kinitra Brooks, and Stanford Carpenter had an incredible conversation about representations of Black and Indigenous spiritual and magical practices in comics, which numbered far more than I realized! Among the titles discussed were Bitter Root, House of Whispers, Jook Joint, and Bone Parish, all of which are got bumped up to the top of my to-buy pile. 
  • Picked up Jaime Hernandez’s new book, Tonta, and got stuff signed by him and Gilbert Hernandez, who are both very sweet and tolerated me showing them all of my best friend’s Love and Rockets tattoos.
Tonta by Jaime Hernandez
  • I also picked up a mini from Natalia Hernandez, Gilbert’s daughter, and it was absolutely charming.
  • The absolute highlight of the day: an impromptu hangout on the grass near a hotel pool with a bunch of delightful queer cartoonists, and making a zine with them in favor of bats. 

Day 4 

  • Had a much-needed large breakfast across the street from a mysterious building called the “San Diego Broom Works.” Interpreted it as an auspicious blessing from our POME’s patron crones.
  • Got my trade of Die signed by Kieron Gillen, who very kindly and correctly complimented my lipstick. 
I believe “fierce” was the exact wording, and I can’t argue with that.
  • Attended hands-down the most heartwarming and inspiring panel of the entire con, “How to Be a Nerd for a Living: Discovering Careers in Pop-Culture,” featuring a number of incredible professional nerds I either met or got to know better at SDCC. I came away from this with a ton of hope in the future of this huge, wild pop culture industry, and with a lot of pride in what POME, a smol babby compared to many of these folks’ enterprises, has achieved in our almost five years on this mortal plane.
From left to right: Jen Vaughn, Sarah Kuhn, Jazzlyn Stone, Robyn Warren, Steenz, Annalee Newitz. Not pictured: moderator extraordinaire Wendy Buske

In the interest of not boring our readers to tears, what I’ve shared are just the major highlights of a massively fun, always surprising, and deeply inspiring journey through the wilds of Capital-C Con. Somehow, someway, there seemed to really be something for everyone; so much that a person couldn’t possibly not miss out on something. It’s unavoidably overwhelming, and certain to exhaust even the youngest and best of us. But by taking things at my own pace, being okay with missing out on a meetup because stuff happens and bodies get tired, and prioritizing having a genuine good time with the people around me, I learned that there’s a new place I want to be every July from here on out.

Ashley Gallagher

Ashley Gallagher

Ashley writes comics and emails from zir burrow in the Pacific Northwest. Ze is a sentient subtropical swamp fern whose favorite food is old words.

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