Saturday, July 26, 2008

Making Nice On The Playground

"Meet me under the 1300 sign!" my friend Chris shouted into the cellphone. It was hard to hear her over the din in the background. As my daughter and I made our way down the stairs, we stepped into the grown up playground that is San Diego's annual Comic Con.

When I was a young child, I spoke only Spanish but I was taught to read in English and I supplemented my reading lessons with comic books. The colorful pictures helped me understand the nuances of this second language better than any textbook and increased my English vocabulary. Richie Rich, Little Lotta, Hot Stuff, The Archies and Little Dot became my at-home language tutors. When I had learned enough English to feel comfortable, I went back and taught myself to read and write in Spanish using Mexican comic books and photonovelas. Memin Pinguin and Novelas de Amor were my favorites. Comic books provided the bilingual education that was lacking in my grammar school.

But back to the playground. My friend Chris was a real Comic Con superstar. She knitted her own Wonder Woman costume and was unable to walk more than two feet at a time without someone stopping to compliment her or wanting to take her picture. It was fun basking in her glory. Here's a picture of her being taped for The Tonight Show.

Wonder Woman Chris at Comic Con -08, photo courtesy of Mondo Rick-o.

We spent the first hour in the playground just looking at costumes. The level of creativity was off the charts. My daughter dressed as a character from Gaia Online and wore a blue wig, even though I tried to talk her into bleaching and dyeing her own hair blue. She said she didn't want to damage her hair and I told her "hair is dead anyway." But I digress. The costumes were amazing; people must plan this stuff all year long. My own posse included Gaia's Timmy, Wonder Woman and Sailor Mars. I was not in costume (what a noob!) but I saw Chewbacca, several Jedi, a Wonder Woman outfit made entirely out of duct tape, super heroes of every shape, size and color from all over the galaxy and people out of costume standing in the crowded convention hall, holding signs reading “free hugs” or “free high-fives.” My daughter went for the hugs and I took the high-fives. My girlfriends passed on these freebies, but I have to say they missed out. The exchange made me smile. The guy holding the free hugs sign had a huge, silly grin on his face all day. Hugging strangers, what a concept.

My posse split up to attend different presentations. My daughter wanted to see Lynda Barry and my husband got out of work early to join us and attend the Ghost Hunters panel. I walked my kid to Lynda Barry's conference room, planning to join my husband in line for the Ghost Hunters presentation, but when we saw the line extending out the door and around the building, we decided to see Lynda Barry instead. It was a fortuitous decision.

From Lynda Barry's book, What It Is.

I am so glad we got to see Lynda Barry, who was very funny and wise. Her presentation not only had the audience in stitches, it was truly inspiring. She talked about the importance of play and of allowing ourselves to approach creativity in the way a child approaches play, without evaluation, simply enjoying the process. She also talked about editing and self-editing, explaining how we do it constantly in our own lives. Those occasions when we think back and say “Oh, I wish I'd said this or done that,” and we think of something much more clever to say or do and replay the scene in our heads with the new action or dialogue – that's self editing. She explained that it's a necessary part of our mental health.

Lynda's comments hit close to home because earlier that afternoon, I'd been talking to my friend Jane Wiedlin who was promoting her upcoming comic book, Lady Robotika.

Lady Robotika photo by Bonnie Burton.

While I walked away to meet my husband, some guys went over to Jane and started interviewing her. When I came back with my hubby, he waved from a distance, not wanting to interrupt the interview. “Where's Alice?” she called. She playfully dragged me into her interview, but I can't be witty at a moment's notice. In fact, talking into a microphone is a million times harder for me than singing into one. I edit myself to the point of muteness. It's strange, but as I've gotten older, I've tried to stop and think before speaking or taking action. This keeps me out of trouble, but doesn't make for an especially interesting interview. Sorry, Jane.

Sometimes, it is necessary to edit. For example, a couple of days ago, a woman in a car cut off my daughter and me as we were crossing a parking lot. I had to keep myself from throwing something at the car, as I have done in the past. I kept Violence Girl in check but later, I edited my response in my mind. I threw my car keys at her, or spat on her car, or followed her and smacked her, but in reality I didn't do any of it and I'm sure my daughter was happy about that. She and my husband have taken to calling me “EeeeeevA” after the character in the movie Wall-E (she is quick to blast things that startle or annoy her.) I'm a grown up now and have to play nice most of the time, at least when the kids are looking. But Lynda Barry got me thinking that you don't always have to play nice; sometimes it's O.K. to be a smart aleck kid, even if you're nearly fifty.

Special highlights of the day for me included:

  • Admiring Sergio Aragones from behind a crush of his fans. Sr. Aragones warped my impressionable young mind with his pantomime cartoons for Mad Magazine.

  • Hearing Lynda Barry sing “You Are My Sunshine” without moving her lips. I wanted to give her a standing ovation, but edited myself.

  • Meeting Al Jaffee, who was a co-conspirator with Sergio Aragones in the warping of my mind.

  • Watching Chris be a Rock Star.

  • Ninja kissing Jane Wiedlin.

I still read comic books, but my Mad subscription expired (hint to hubby). I gravitate more towards graphic novels these days, here are a few of my favorites:

Buddha Series by Osamu Tezuka

Adolf Series by Osamu Tezuka

Hino Horror series by Hideshi Hino

Maus 1 & 2 by Art Spiegelman

Persepolis 1 & 2 by Marjane Satrapi

Evangelion Series by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto

Ranma ½ Series by Rumiko Takahashi