The Japanese Beetle!
The Japanese Beetle! for September 01, 2003
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September 01, 2003
I actually manged to update the missing Thursday and Friday strips for last week... Click the left arrow to check 'em out.

This marks the first appearance of the Japanese Beetle's roommate in the new series. Keep in mind that he's his roommate, and not a cartoonist. Why the change? There's only so many times you can break the fourth wall before it becomes a lazy crutch and a poor substitute for humor. I think I'll keep my walls intact - or at least, more intact than most strips.

Sounds: Saint Etienne, "He's On The Phone"
Clarissa Watch: page 305

September 02, 2003
Hey. Sorry for the lack of updating - last week was a madhouse. Work was busy, I wound up buying a new car (which really screwed up my schedule), and then, of course, on Friday I left town to go to DragonCon2003. The upshot of this all is, last week's been completely wiped from history. The Monday and Tuesday strips have been moved to this week's Monday and Tuesday. Consider this the "Continuity Stutter of Infinite Earths" if you will. New strips will resume tomorrow, and with god as my witness I will never miss another deadline again.

Anyways, I know what you really want to hear - DragonCon stories!

DragonCon 2003 - Friday
Got up at 5:00 in the morning to get to the airport. I really have to thank my roommate for giving me a lift - he was having his teeth capped later that morning, but was still willing to help me out. Now that's friendship. I really should buy him dinner tonight or something. The trip itself was pretty quiet - I was in Atlanta and checked into my hotel by 11:00.

Well, almost. For some reason my keycard wouldn't work. The front desk gave me a replacement keycard, which still didn't work. An hour later, the maintenance men have let me into my room, but announce that they need to completely replace the door lock. Sigh. After making sure to cram all my valuables in my pocket, I make sure I can pick up a replacement keycard later in the day and zoom off to the con.

I actually wander the con for about an hour and a half, having fun and looking for registration. (Oddly, despite the fact that I don't have a badge, no-one in security stops me from wandering about freely.) Several times I get in a huge line, thinking it's the registration line, only to discover later that it isn't. When I finally do find registration, I get in the express line (since I've purchased my badge through TicketMaster) - and even that takes about an hour. Man, I really felt sorry for anyone who'd merely pre-registered...

First event of the day? "An Hour with George Takei." Great fun - the man really knows how to work a crowd, and seems to genuinely love what he's doing. Me? I'm not a Trekkie or anything, but I could listen to Takei's voice for hours.

"An Hour with Walter Koenig," on the other hand, was almost completely different. George filled a huge ballroom, Walter filled a small meeting room. If George seemed extroverted and confident, Walter seemed introverted and insecure. Walter's panel was far more interesting, though, in that it was interesting to see someone who's grateful to have done Star Trek, but not necessarily blinded by the show's mystique.

In between those two panels, I wound up attending the "Comic Book Writers" panel with Geoff Johns, Bob, Burden, Dan Jolley, Judd Winick, Peter David, and Greg Rucka. Some interesting stuff, but a lot of it was drowned out by Peter David prattling on about himself. Not that the stories weren't necessarily funny, but that they had very little to do with actually writing comic books.

At 9:00 PM, those of us who were on KittyHawk's panel were going to meet at the bar in the Hyatt, just so we could get to know each other, and maybe plan a few things to say. I'll say this - KittyHawk was really easy to notice, and yes, that hat is as cute in real life as it is in the comic. Anyhow, we couldn't find Rob Balder or Space Coyote anywhere, so planning was out. Instead, we just sat around, shot the breeze, and had a good time. Good fun for all.

Tomorrow: Saturday (and the panel)

Sounds: Bowling For Soup, "The Girl All the Bad Guys Want"
Clarissa Watch: page 620

September 03, 2003
DragonCon 2003 - Saturday
I woke up surprisingly early, given that I hadn't gone to bed until 3:00 in the morning. So I showered, grabbed my camera, and went out to walk around Atlanta for a while. At first, I'd just wanted to get photos of SunTrust Plaza, which had some really neat sculptures. But then, I figured I'd go check out this building with a really neat-looking top. And before I knew it, I'd found myself committed to a short walking tour of Downtown Atlanta.

Around 10:00 I found myself down around Underground Atlanta and the World of Coca-Cola - both of which I wanted to see, so I did. The Underground wasn't anything special - other than the novelty value, it's just a damn mall. World of Coke isn't much at the start, either, unless you really like watching corporate propaganda. However, the end of the museum is by far the coolest part - you can drink all the Coke you want. Okay, so that's not much enticement, given that you'd have to drink about six gallons to get your money's worth - but you can also sample soft drinks that Coke sells in other parts of the world, like a lychee-based soft drink from Thailand and a weird tasting ginger ale from South Africa.

And then there was Beverly. They called it a "bitter aperetif" but I'm pretty sure it's an elaborate practical joke being played by Coke on unsuspecting World of Coca-Cola patrons. Italians have too much taste to drink something that disgusting. Anyhow. Drinking these disgusting concoctions definitely made you appreciate good old-fashioned Coca-Cola.

Got some great photos, though. Hope they turn out.

Then, around noon, back to the convention. Do a little shopping - one of the exhibitors was actually selling non-pirated DVDs! Criterion discs, no less! So I filled out my Kurosawa collection. Had no luck finding issues of Nancy or Tip-Top in the dealer's room, though - anyone know where I can grab some cheaply (i.e., under $15)?

And then the panels. First, "Writing About Comics" with Peter David, Cliff Biggers of CSN, Maggie Thompson from CBG (who wasn't supposed to be on the panel, but got plucked from the audience), and some dude from Wizard's sales department. The panel ultimately wound up being "Peter David Discusses But I Digress" since he wound up monopolizing every question and talking about anything except writing about comics. This would have been a complete and total waste of time if it weren't for the other panel members steering it back on topic whenever Peter was distracted by his daughter.

Then, "Everything Old Is New Again" - a panel about reviving superheroes with Judd Winick, Geoff Johns, and Julie Schwartz. They kind of struggled to make it last an hour, but it was worth it just to see Judd and Geoff defer to Julie, who kept trying to defer back to them, insisting that most of what he had to say was pretty irrelevant.

Then, off to Chick-Fil-A for a quick bite, and then it's time for Danger Woman. If you've never seen Danger Woman, I'm not even going to try and describe her in detail. Let's just say she's a superhero, she fights evil with karaoke, and her singing leaves a lot to be desired. You can get a bit of an idea what she's like here. The performance wound up being an endurance session - a lot of people just couldn't take it, and left before the hour was up. They were very quickly replaced by other people who were morbidly curious about why people were leaving the Learning Center in droves.

I'm of two minds here. For those of you who don't know, Danger Woman is autistic - and it's really very shocking to want to laugh at the disabled. However, her singing is definitely a campy pleasure - she's not Enrico Caruso, folks. Ultimately, however, I was won over by Danger Woman herself. She had everything carefully worked out, she handled hecklers with aplomb, and threw herself into everything so enthusiastically that I wound up enjoying everything in spite of myself. And believe me, I was trying very hard not to enjoy it.

That still doesn't mean I'd go back a second time, though.

And then, after a quick stop back at the hotel to drop off my crap, it's time for my panel. The EFF was our host, and the other panel members were KittyHawk of Sparkling Generation Valkyrie Yuuki, Erin Lindsey of Venus Envy, Rob Balder of Partially Clips, and Space Coyote of Saturnalia.

I think the panel went pretty well, myself. It was packed - SRO, though admittedly not many people were standing. It skewed a bit towards the technical for my tastes - I'm more of an artistic guy, and I can't really tell a business model from a baboon, so those questions really went over my head. There wasn't a lot of friction between the panelists, though Rob and I had an enthusiastic disagreement on the subject of micropayments and PayPal tip jars. For those of you who couldn't make it, the EFF should have an MP3 on their site eventually.

Oh, and one item of note - Rob and I have cordially decided to be enemies. So let me offically fire the first volley - Rob, you're a poo-poo head. Now go to his site, read his strips, and make up your own mind.

After the panel ended, we spent some time signing autographs - well, okay, Erin and Kittyhawk spent a lot of time signing autographs, while Rob and I had a long conversation about comics with Trevor (Kitty's boyfriend) and Plink (one of her friends). Fascinating stuff. It eventually broke up and everyone went off to game, etc. I'd have joined them, but I had a 9:00 appointment to take the CNN studio tour the next day.

By the time I got back to my hotel room, my feet were so sore from all the walking I'd done that I had to pop my blisters with an X-Acto knife before going to bed.

Tomorrow: Sunday (in which I am accosted by a drug dealer)

Sounds: Nerf Herder, "Jenna Bush Army"
Clarissa Watch: page 630

September 04, 2003
DragonCon 2003 - Sunday
So the first thing I had on my schedule was the CNN Studio Tour, which I had to show up for at 8:40 sharp. So I walked across town, through Centennial Olympic Park (pretty, but very small) to CNN Center (which is kind of a pit), at least from the outside. Alas, the tour featured even more corporate propaganda than World of Coca-Cola did, with less redeeming features. I kind of like seeing newsrooms, though, so it's not like I was throwing my money down a hole.

One funny thing - when you leave CNN Center, all of the billboards around Centennial Park have been purchased by Fox News Channel. The most prominent one accuses CNN of cozying up to dictators and being anti-American. Yes, Fox is accusing CNN, which had so many embeds that their coverage of Operation: Enduring Freedom lost all sense of perspective, of being anti-American. That's fair and balanced for you, I suppose...

Anyway, I had plenty of time between the end of my tour and the first panel of the day, so I decided to visit the Martin Luther King, Jr. Historical Center, which I'd originally planned to see on Monday. And I figured it was close enough I could probably walk there. Which was a bad move, since that took me through what looked like one of the worst neighborhoods in Atlanta.

Walking down the street, a guy with a bike sees my camera (I've got a pretty nice Canon SLR) and asks me if I'm a professional photographer. No, say I, I'm a tourist. His response? "A tourist? Then why the hell would you come to Atlanta? Ain't nothin' here!"

So he bikes alongside me for a while, being very friendly, which was a nice change, because most of the Atlantans (Atlanteans?) I've met have been very surly. He asks a lot of questions, like where I've been, and what else I plan on seeing, and where I'm from, and how long I'm in town for. And then, he surprises by asking me if I want to buy some weed.

Um, no. Well, that's cool. So we start talking about the King Center. He's not sure whether it's open on Sundays, but says it's great - I'll love it. Oh, and he knows I don't want any weed, but maybe I could stand to get some p****y?

Uh, no. Well, that's cool. We keep walking and talking. About halfway down Auburn, we're accosted by two drunk guys, who threaten to beat me up just because I'm white. Kind of scary, but the drug dealer talks them out of it by pointing out where we're going. And then, before I know it, I'm at the King Center, the dealer shakes my hand, says he hopes I have a good trip, says if I ever need weed or p***y I know where he is, and then pedals off.

Even while this was happening, I couldn't help but be amused at how absurd it all was.

The MLK Center is really nice, BTW, and his gravesite and memorial are very moving. If you ever go to Atlanta, it's the only tourist destination that I really recommend. Though I definitely suggest driving there and not walking. And definitely traveling in a group of more than one or two people

Anyway, after my little incursion, I was pretty much frightened back to the con for the rest of the day. The first panel of the day was "Comics As Art" featuring Jim Steranko, Frank Brunner, and Bill Sienkiewicz. It was absolutely fascinating, and what really sticks in my head is the message Steranko arguing that modern artists and audiences had no idea what was made a good comic. "What you people are in love with is just lines on paper - but none of you know what it means to tell a story." Chilling, and absolutely true.

What sticks in my craw was the shabby treatment this panel got. It was in a huge ballroom, which was mostly empty. A guy wearing a Michael Vick jersey got a call on his cell phone in the middle of the panel, and rather than leave the ballroom, he actually took the call - proceeding to interrupt and drown out the speakers, who took it all with surprisingly good grace. Near the end of the panel, people starting filtering in for the Klingon beauty contest, and by the time the panel was over, Klingons outnumbered the comics fans by a large, large margin. I think it was really shameful to see legendary creators like that get treated so poorly.

After that, it was back to the con floor to pick up some trinkets for my friends. Picked up some binary 8-siders for my RPG buddies, and some other presents I haven't doled out yet so I don't want to talk about 'em. Also snagged a copy of Zendo for myself, an issue of Neutro, and a Lunch Money T-shirt ("Jesus hates you and so do I").

And then, before I knew it, it was time for "Web Comics: Trend or the Future of Comics?" - a comics track panel with Jeff Darlington of General Protection Fault, Bill Holbrook of Kevin and Kell, and everyone who was on the previous panel except for me (I was invited to join, but wanted to listen for a change) and noted poo-poo head Rob Balder (who showed up late). Oddly, the panel was almost empty - maybe because people were preparing for the masquerade later that evening, and maybe because the comics track gets no love. Anyway, not much of interest was said here from my POV. Though I did make some lovely sketches on a cardboard box I'd been using to hold some of my more fragile puchases. Maybe I'll sketch it and put it in later.

After the panel, we were invited to join all the other comic artists at dinner. However, Kitthawk was otherwised engaged signing autographs and the like, and Trevor and I forgot to find out where the others were eating. As a result, we wound up going to McDonald's, and then retiring to watch the masquerade on the convention channel. Except for some reason it wasn't on. So we wound up watching The Phantom Edit instead. And that was pretty much that.

Tomorrow: Monday (in which Mr. Sulu stiffs his barista)

Sounds: DJ Defilements, "Kasuta Move"
Clarissa Watch: page 640

September 05, 2003
DragonCon 2003 - Monday
After the incident on Auburn yesterday, I resolve not to wander too far from the convention today. Besides, I've seen almost everything I wanted to see (except for the High Museum and the Cyclorama). I grab a quick breakfast at McDonald's, and then it's off to Starbucks for a large mocha. Ahead of me? George Takei. Which is cool - you don't get to see Mr. Sulu stiff his barista every day! (I felt embarassed, and wound up tipping my barista twice as much as usual.)

Back at the convention, I decide I really need to get Jim Steranko to sign something since his speech yesterday really excited me. So I scour the dealer's room until I find a decently-priced copy of Strange Tales #168, "Behold the Savage Sky!" However, when I buzz artist's alley, Steranko's not there yet.

To waste some time until he returns, I pop into "Spotlight: Judd Winick." However, since I'm completely uninterested in the subject matter, I'm not really paying much attention. About halfway through the Q&A session, I decide to double-check my itinerary so I know when to leave the convention. Sure enough, my flight out of Atlanta's not scheduled until 8:00 PM.

On September 30th.

D'oh! I bolt out of the panel, dash back to my hotel to retrieve my checked bags, and rush to the airport. Fortunately, I'm able to book another flight back for 3:30 that afternoon with little difficulty. So the rest of the day is pretty much spent either in the airport or on the plane, reading Clarissa.

And that's that, more or less.

Sounds: The Beatles, "Savoy Truffle"
Clarissa Watch: page 650

The Japanese Beetle and all related characters are copyright ©1998-2004 by Dave "The Knave" White. All rights reserved. Any passing resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead or otherwise, is purely coincidental except when it isn't. Really, we swear. Please don't sue us. Published on line by 741.5 Comics.