July 26, 2011

Looter Report: Magic at SDCC 2011

I've been home from the San Diego Comic-Con for almost 48 hours yet am still waiting for my new digestive implants to fully absorb the husk. So while I float in this vat of regenerative goo I will dictate a ground-level account of the Magic element at the big show.

My Comic-Con experience centered on a table in the small press area where I peddled my non-MTG art wares. As such, I spent a lot of time planted there in a growing hobo-nest of food wrappers and promotional freebie trash. I darted out into the show when I could, but this report is far from comprehensive.

The official Magic booth was a modest affair crammed with consoles demoing Duels of the Planeswalkers. If you hung around long enough you could score an M12 sample deck. There was also a gigantic Jace statue, looking way mind-sculpty and not at all banned. That was about it. I heard some grousing about the minimal nature of the booth but having been personally involved in exhibits of all sizes at SDCC I understand that the lavish, goodie-laden mega-booths are often hungry furnaces that consume only money and dispense only garbage and sorrow. The Wizards approach these past few years seems to be to establish a floor presence focused on their most accessible product without turning the whole thing into a gold-plated foie gras jacuzzi limo.


Despite the recent influx of Hollywood glitz a good chunk of the show floor is still a flea-market hodge-podge of collectibles merchants. There was a smattering of tables selling singles, boosters and pre-cons but nothing remarkable. If you need fixins for some post-con gaming you'll find what you need. It's probably not the best place to find an elusive card or an awesome deal.

On the other hand if you're after original art, artist proofs, signed cards and close encounters with elite fantasy painters then Comic-Con is it for you. My herky-jerky aisle-scrambling revealed impressive set-ups from Steve "Slave of Bolas" Argyle, Todd "Sun Titan" Lockwood and Stephan "Dark Depths" Martiniere. Plus Magic's Senior Creative Art Director (and one helluva painter as well) Matt Cavotta was in the house. Plus I heard I missed rk post and Christopher Moeller. I did not interact with any of these artists purely out of dumbstruck aww-garsh-ness! They were all very accessible.

The jewel in the crown of Magic at Comic-Con was the Wizards-hosted Magic panel on Friday night. This year's panel featured Matt Cavotta, Aaron Forsythe, Scott Larabee, Mark Purvis and Mark Rosewater. I enjoyed last year's panel (write-up here) and had circled this year's with red Sharpie flames in the Comic-Con program. I even wrote "¡Caliente!" next to it. Not to be missed.

So I started sweating comical oversized droplets when I showed up what I thought was a safe hour early and there were already hundreds of people in line. Quite different than the previous year, but in line (ha) with the overall arc of Comic-Con. Each year I hear more woeful tales of people waiting in line for hours to see a panel only to be turned away when there isn't enough space/oxygen in the room. The True Blood line was adjacent to the Magic panel line and those poor bastards looked wilted and hopeless, like they'd been robbed of their vitality by vampires and left with no choice but to queue up until they died. Now, Comic-Con works quite well for such a sprawling, resource-taxing event. Some of the panels simply attract larger audiences than can be accommodated. Still, it seems bad for peoples' convention experiences to be waiting in line all day gnawing granola bars only to have their dream of glimpsing the top of Robert Pattinson's hair crushed when they don't get in. It's possible that those lines are a clever crowd-control mechanism designed to keep the show floor from locking up at any given time, but as an exhibitor I'd like to see the sad line people and their wallets unleashed. Maybe some Disneyland-style spot reservation system? Science?

Anyway, the Magic panel line got lively when Mark Rosewater started working it--signing cards, shaking hands, posing for photos and chatting. When MaRo approached I said hi and handed him a Phyrexian buck. He stopped and we talked for a few minutes and I don't think I drooled too hard, and sheesh, NICE GUY!

The doors opened and I made it in. Whatta relief! I'm not sure how many didn't. Rosewater took the podium and led the crowd through an ooh-and-aah-inducing slide presentation of the coming products including From the Vault: Legends, Duel Decks: Ajani vs. Nicol Bolas, Innistrad and Dark Ascension. For the substance of the presentation (including lots of spoilers) check out this summary by Greg Haenig at GatheringMagic.com. Innistrad feels nostalgic for me because some of the early sets (Legends, The Dark) had lots of classic horror flavor. In the Q&A Forsythe revealed that they'd be moving forward with the smaller-than-Legacy but non-rotating format Modern, which seems smart. As with last year, passion for the game was obvious on both sides of the microphone, from the Wizards guys and from the fans. They juiced the Q&A by giving out crazy prizes including a Worlds invite, an Arabian Nights pack, the original painting of the art for a future card and a Beta pack. The pack recipients giddily succumbed to the crowd's call to, "Open it!" And then, before we knew it, the excitement ended and we were flushed back out into general convention flow.

A ballroom in the hotel adjacent to the convention center hosted open Magic and organized play all day and late into the night. I made it over for a chill-out mini-master (start with 2 packs of M12, 25 card decks, single-elimination, add a pack and increase deck size each round) after the show floor closed on Friday night. I lost in round 3. It was a relaxing time and just what I needed after a long day of art hustle (plus, hey, a Grave Titan).

Throughout the convention--in the game room, the panel, the booth--it was clear that many of the players were new to the game. Sure, there were the hardened vets nodding "obv" to each other but the quantity of wide-eyed questions and comments gave the impression that this was indeed the Duels of the Planeswalkers generation taking up the real cards. Old-timers on notice!

Wizards gave out a bunch of mana symbol shirts in all five colors and on Saturday they rallied a horde of beshirted Magic fans to march through the convention center lobby. I joined in despite not usually being a fan of chanting mobs. It was fun and light and ended with some trivia questions and giveaways. I correctly answered the question: "Who here has been playing Magic forever and is now super-old?" Answer: "Me."

Meeting cool people is the best part of these conventions and this one was a doozy. After reading his column and watching his coverage for years it was surreal to hang out with Pro Tour Historian and Raconteur Brian David-Marshall. I gabbed with Mike, Elicia and John at the Wizards booth. And several determined Inkwell Looter fans found me at my table where I proceeded to talk their ears off like an attention-starved lunatic who maybe was suffering from a poor convention diet. Only one person brought a card template for me to draw on (see right) but I enjoyed doing that one. Next time, people! Free one-of-a-kind art! O.K.

And now I must turn up my vat's nutrient drip to hasten my emergence from post-convention recovery. Good thing I have the new Kate Beaton book to help pass the time, way before any of you all will get it, nyaaahh! Looter out.

July 13, 2011

Looter at San Diego Comic-Con

I'll be exhibiting at the San Diego Comic-Con, July 20-24. The items I'm selling are not Magic-related, but they're by me and also totally cool. You can read about what I'll have and how to find me at the show in this non-Magic post.

I'd love to meet some Looter fans, and if seeing my true, secret face is not enough incentive to get you to swing by, how about this: free, original drawings. That's right! In the land of six-dollar nachos I'm giving away one-of-a-kind artwork! Here's the deal:

1. Download (right-click, save) and print this PDF. This is my official convention sketch template.

2. Bring that paper to my table at the show. I will draw on it for you.

Restrictions: One drawing per fan. I will not draw proxies of actual cards. If I'm out getting coffee or whatever be nice to my tablemates. Whatever other restrictions I think of, blah blah blah.

That's it. Pretty crazy, huh? Nevertheless, I do not plan to wear a colander on my head. Meet me. Get art.

July 10, 2011

Standard Prison Blues

Free Jace

Could I resist? No, I could not. Stay strong, Mr. The Mind Sculptor!

More substantial posts are in the works (including much more of the Spark House gang) but I've been buckling down for a little thing called the San Diego Comic-Con. Stay tuned for more details!