Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The First Annual Asian American ComiCon (AACC) was also my first book signing

Yep, I got my book signing cherry popped at the AACC.

Cliff Chiang, Keith Chow, Parry Shen and Jimmy J. Aquino by Rahadyan Sastrowardoyo
From left to right: Cliff Chiang (with Keith Chow kneeling down at Cliff's left side), Parry Shen and I sign copies of Secret Identities at the AACC at the Museum of Chinese in America in Manhattan's Chinatown on Saturday, July 11 (photo by Rahadyan Sastrowardoyo). At the center of the table, you can see a bottle of hand sanitizer, which an unknown person left for us. I guess he or she was inspired by the following photo, which is from the "I Touched You with My Nerd Cooties, Beth Cooper" collection...

Stain the cheerleader, stain the world.
... and wanted to make sure we got as much protection from the unwashed masses as possible.

At the next ComiCon, the congoers will have to step through a decontamination shower before they enter, although I think the contestants of Rock of Love: Criminal Intent would need it more.

Cliff Chiang, Ken Wong, Jimmy J. Aquino, Jef Castro and Jeremy Arambulo by Kate Agathon
From left to right: Cliff, Ken Wong, me, Jef Castro and Jeremy Arambulo entertain--or are entertained by--the witty and surprisingly decent-smelling fans at our signing session (photo by Kate Agathon).

In addition to being an exciting and refreshingly low-key con, the laid-back AACC, which was co-presented by the museum and Secret Identities Universe Media, was also a chance for me to meet other Secret Identities contributors I never met before face-to-face, including Parry, Jeremy and Cliff, who signed my favorite issues of Vertigo's much-missed Human Target reboot, which he helped draw for writer Peter Milligan. The thought-provoking Vertigo incarnation was one of my favorite comics, and it appears to be an influence on the upcoming Fox TV series version starring Mark Valley, a.k.a. Keen Eddie, as master of disguise Christopher Chance (Comic Book Resources did an interesting recap of the Vertigo series here).

Human Target #6, autographed by Cliff Chiang for Jimmy J. Aquino
At the AACC Artists Alley, I shared a table with Secret Asian Man creator Tak Toyoshima, whom I was honored to meet at the New York Comic Con's Secret Identities panel earlier this year. In the few minutes we hung out at the NYCC, we chatted about comic strips and our experiences working for alt-weeklies (the paper I used to work for introduced me to Tak's strip and has carried it since its pre-United Features Syndicate days).

Jimmy J. Aquino and Tak Toyoshima by Kate Agathon
If you ever have to share a table at a comic con, make sure you share it with Tak. He's the definition of chill. Nothing seems to faze the always deadline-minded yet easygoing Tak--not even another deadline on the weekend (someone had commissioned him to create an on-the-fly strip about the AACC). He was one of the most approachable guests at the con and found time to talk with fans and sign items for them even while pencilling his strip at our table (photo by Kate). One of my favorite moments of the con was seeing Tak's mom quickly drop off a bag of siopao for him.

Runaways colorist Christina Strain also had a table at the Artists Alley and signed my copies of the digest-sized Runaways TPBs Escape to New York and Parental Guidance. She told me she'd prefer to see unknown teen actors in the Runaways feature film instead of name actors, and she'd like an unknown child actress to be cast as Molly, the youngest member of the series' unnamed band of teen heroes.

Runaways: Parental Guidance, autographed by Brian K. Vaughan and Christina Strain for Jimmy J. Aquino
No, former Lost staff writer-turned-new best friend of Olivia Munn Brian K. Vaughan wasn't at the AACC. He actually signed Parental Guidance for me a few years ago at WonderCon.

Larry Hama by Jeremy Arambulo
AACC co-chairs Jeff Yang and Greg Pak honored Larry Hama with the first-ever Henry Yoshitaka Kiyama Award for his outstanding writing for the G.I. Joe and Wolverine titles and the Devil's Due satire Barack the Barbarian (photo by Jeremy). Jeff and Greg named the award after the self-published Japanese immigrant cartoonist who created Manga Yonin Shosei (The Four Students Manga), America's first original graphic novel, in 1931.

G.I. Joe #61, autographed by Larry Hama for Jimmy J. Aquino
Hama signed for me all the G.I. Joe comics I bought as a kid, including the issue that I said on this blog was an eerie precursor to the imprisonment of Laura Ling and Euna Lee. Like everyone else at the con, I admire Hama, but I was actually more enthusiastic about a couple of other veteran Asian American talents who showed up to the con, sci-fi author and guest panelist William F. Wu and longtime Marvel and DC letterer Janice Chiang.

I don't think William gets enough props for his creation "Wong's Lost and Found Emporium," which writer Alan Brennert adapted into a standout episode of the '80s Twilight Zone. I enjoyed William's recollections of the making of the episode. In the comments section of a big WOWO blog post about the original Twilight Zone, I mentioned "Wong's" and said:
When I first caught "Wong's" on DVD, I was stunned to find an actual show from the '80s with non-stereotypical Asian American characters. I was also stunned to learn that the episode was a backdoor pilot for a "Wong's" TV series, which didn't get picked up, of course, because those were the days when networks would only greenlight shows with Asian leads if they involved martial arts or starred Pat Morita.
I was even more surprised to find out from William--who wore to the AACC an '80s Twilight Zone jacket that was a gift from the showrunners--that several years after the Twilight Zone adaptation aired, there was a second attempt to launch a "Wong's" series over at the Sci Fi Channel, now inanely respelled Syfy. Unfortunately, a channel higher-up didn't like the series idea and got his way. SyonUvaBytch.

Janice, who brought her aspiring video game designer son to the con, wanted me to sign her copy of Secret Identities, and when she introduced herself to me, I told her, "You're a lettering legend. You lettered half the comics I bought as a kid! You deserve a table of your own here."

Hell, I think she deserves a panel of her own at the second AACC. I told Janice I always wanted to be a letterer like her. She lettered my favorite issue of Alpha Flight, in which Madison Jeffries, a mutant who can reshape metal with his mind and merge with a flying robot called Box, realizes he's no match for his mutated evil brother Omega, so he reconfigures Box, which looks like a homosexual Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robot, and upgrades its design from a dorky-looking one to a sleeker-looking, more badass one.

Alpha Flight #49, lettered by Janice Chiang
Janice gave me some pointers about lettering and taught me about kerning, or adjusting the spacing between letters. I was relieved to know she dislikes how the letter D looks in the fugly and much-maligned Comic Sans font, which was used during our novel's preface by Jeff and Jef (doh!).

Kate Agathon, Jimmy J. Aquino and Lisa Hanasono
Here I am with the first two fans I ever signed books for, Purdue University graduate students/lecturers Kate Agathon and Lisa Hanasono, both passionate supporters of Secret Identities and the AACC (photo courtesy of Kate).

Masked crimefighters Kate Agathon and Lisa Hanasono. Photo courtesy of Kate.
I love this picture of Kate and Lisa posing in the Secret Identities masks that the New Press slipped into complimentary copies of our novel.

Jimmy J. Aquino by Kate Agathon
Here's me discovering the memory on each of the batteries for my camcorder/still camera is full (photo by Kate), which meant I was unable to use the camcorder during the AACC. The look on my face says "Interesting," but the thought in my head is "Aw, fuck me."

Luckily, I brought a spare camera, a disposable Kodak, which I find easier to use than a digital camera. If the snapshots from the disposable camera look alright, I'll include them on a future post.

Also at the AACC, we Secret Identities contributors signed each others' copies of the anthology.

Bernard Chang, Sean Chen, Jeremy Arambulo and Jef Castro signage
A couple of artists poked fun at their friends' sketches in my copy of the novel.

Cliff, Ken, Jeremy, Tak, Jef, Bernard Chang, Sean Chen, Alex Tarampi, Paul Wei and Sarah Sapang are far more skilled artists than I am. (I told Alex my hand would sometimes get tired from drawing my webcomic The Palace because I would grip my pen too tightly whenever I wouldn't feel confident about my art.) One fan mistook me for an artist during the signing session, but I drew something inside his copy of Secret Identities anyway: the only comic strip character I can draw, Dick Tracy.

Dick Tracy and Homer Simpson by Jimmy J. Aquino, from Jeremy Arambulo's sketchbook
On Jeremy's sketchbook, I drew Dick and Homer for him.

In addition to my first signing session, this trip also marked the first time I ever used the New York subway. I decided to listen to my older brother's recommendation that I save money and forego the cabs I always rode in previous trips to New York. Of course, I got lost on the subway (after a nice night of hanging out with Chelsea-based A Fistful of Soundtracks listener Ben Erwin, his wife Helen and his nephew David) and didn't get back to my hotel in Chinatown until six hours before the AACC's opening at 10am.

Lack of sleep often makes me cranky, but I was so jazzed about meeting the novel's fans and getting the chance to spend some more time with the Secret Identities crew--as well as being part of a history-making day and what Hama referred to in his acceptance speech as the AACC's celebration of community--that the crankiness slipped away. I'm looking forward to the second AACC.


  1. It was a great pleasure and honor to meet you at AACC. Thanks for the photo credit! Hope the shots on the disposable come out well. As well, thanks for the laugh in your referring to the Indigo Tribe (from Blackest Night) as the "Care Bears" of the DC Universe. Best, Rahadyan

  2. Cool deal, man. I wish I could've been there! I still have a copy of S.I. that is waiting to be signed.

  3. I almost forgot about my comment about the Indigo Tribe after you explained to me their logo on your T-shirt, Rahadyan. Thanks for reminding me about that. I don't follow the Green Lantern comics, but I'm glad to hear that the long-delayed live-action GL feature film is finally being made, after watching three different animated series do entertaining episodes featuring the Green Lantern Corps (Superman: The Animated Series, Duck Dodgers, Justice League). Green Lantern has a lot of potential as a big-screen franchise. The Green Lantern Corps members are like Jedi knights with personality.

    If Jeff adds Portland to the Secret Identities Tour, I'll definitely be there to sign your copy of SI: TAASA, Byron.

  4. What about Chicago, Jimmy? What up with that? I need a book cover done soon. Holla...

  5. The tour came to your hood on April 1. I wasn't able to make it to the Challengers Comics signing:


  6. Wow! Very cool to give Larry Hama an award like that. He is way, way underrated and in my view the best comic writer of the 80s and 90s with what he did on Wolverine and GI Joe. The GI Joe stuff is simply amazing, especially considering the obstacles of being forced to put toy characters Hasbro created every year into his storyline.