Just back from the San Diego Comic-Con, where MAD Art Director Sam Viviano and I had a great time meeting up with hundreds of MAD fans. Whether the fans had a great time meeting up with me and Sam is questionable! DAY 1 We arrived early Thursday afternoon along with what seemed like the entire population of the United States. San Diego was teeming. While grabbing a quick bite in the hotel restaurant, we looked over to see MAD Executive Vice President of Sales, Marketing and Business Development, John Rood, entertaining a client nearby. We immediately had our waitress bring over a salt and pepper shaker set to John's table with our compliments. John seemed most appreciative of the thoughtful gesture, though he failed to reciprocate then or at any time throughout the remainder of the Con. Whatever happened to good, old-fashioned manners? Sam and I headed over to the convention center and to the new and improved DCE booth, under the direction of Captain Fletcher Chu-Fong. It was easy for us to find, thanks to the giant MAD banner that hung over the booth. Well, that and the fact that we had a map…and it was in the same place it was last year. The place was jumping with fans, many of whom were checking out the two seven-foot glass towers that housed the custom Spy vs. Spy statues, some of which you have seen on The Idiotical. Unlike some of the aging celebrities attending the Con hawking their autographed photos for $20 a pop, the Spies looked even more incredible up close and in person! There were also prototypes for some of the new "Just-Us League" Alfred E. Neuman statues and prototypes for 13" vinyl Spy vs. Spy statues. (More about these in upcoming shameless blog plugs) We happened to be there during the freebee hour. All MAD fans who stopped by received a collectible Spy vs. Spy pin -- #2 in a series. Last year, an Alfred collectible pin was given away. (That would be the #1 in the series. Duh!) At 4:30 it was off to our first panel – “Mad Men” --hosted by Mark Evanier, author of the book MAD Art and a guy who knows a lot about everything. Joining Sam and me were MAD's Maddest Writer, Dick DeBartolo, the legendary Sergio Aragonés, artist Tom Richmond, Spy vs. Spy writer-artist Peter Kuper and Father O' Flannity's Hot Tub Confessions writer-artist Keith Knight. (MAD founder Bill Gaines passed away in 1992 and was therefore unable to attend.) Several hundred MAD fans were in attendance for the free panel and they got what they paid for. Evanier peppered each MAD contributor with thoughtful and insightful questions. And for the most part the MAD panelists responded with long, rambling, incoherent answers! There was one bit of good news. Dick DeBartolo announced that earlier that day, Comic-Con had presented to him (along with Steven Spielberg) The Inkpot, an award given to honor lifetime achievement in writing. As of issue #511, Dick's writing will have appeared in 408 consecutive issues of MAD! DAY 2 Another day, another MAD panel, this one with the producers of the CN show MAD – Peter Girardi, Kevin Shinick and Mark Marek, along with Sam Viviano, Sergio Aragonés, Dick DeBartolo and myself. The panel began with a sizzle reel from the show and an exclusive peek at Season 2, which debuts in September. (Check it out on YouTube!) Personally, I’m most looking forward to a sketch Kevin said they had just finished — “Conan the Kardashian.” Peter Girardi then took to the podium and peppered each of the MAD panelists with thoughtful and insightful questions. This time, however, the staff was prepared and gave short, rambling, incoherent answers! On the bright side, however, Dick DeBartolo noted that there were four seats in the front row that were designated for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. When Dick asked a Comic-Con official why the seats were empty, he said he was told that it was the four individuals' wish to never attend a MAD panel! The fools! Had they attended, they would have each received a specially created MAD Bookmark for their iPad. In fact, every MAD fan who attended a MAD panel received a bookmark. If you would like one, I have a few left. Over the next few days I'll be sending them out to readers of TheIdiotical.com who leave the pithiest, smartest or funniest comments. So get posting! (Please note: iPad not included.) Sam and I followed with a Power Point presentation, featuring highlights from MAD Magazine and TheIdiotical.com. Since most of the people in attendance were MAD fans and probably saw all of this material before, in retrospect it probably wasn’t the smartest of presentations. Next year, I need to begin preparing sooner than an hour before. Q & A followed by LOLs. (Thank god the TV guys are funny!) At noon, Sam, Dick and I were off to the DC booth to begin the first of our two signings of the day. Much thanks to all the MAD fans that stopped by to say hello. To the countless others who stopped by to complain, who asked you? Start your own humor magazine and see how easy it is -- grinding out 56 pages every two months with a staff of unfunny, unprofessional underachievers. And to the obnoxious fat guy in the blue spandex suit let me just say — “I know you are, but what am I?!?” At 4 o’clock it was back to the DC booth where twittv.com stopped by to interview Sam and me about the customized Spy statues. You can watch a rebroadcast of this interview at the twittv site. (Click on "Play Video"; once it's running, you may want to scroll through to the 19:00 mark, which is where we enter the picture.) At 5 o’clock it was off to the WB booth for another signing where Sam and I and the MAD show producers were met by thousands of cheering fans. Unfortunately they were cheering for late night talk show host Conan O’Brien, who was there signing before us. When Conan left, so did the thousands of fans. Finally, some peace and quiet! Actually, you could hear crickets… But those MAD fans who did stop by were rewarded with this giant Alfred mask, signed by everyone from the magazine and the CN show. Most surprisingly, as of this writing not a single one of these masks has showed up yet on eBay! (Thanks to the WB for letting us borrow the above photo of Sergio Aragonés, myself and Sam in front, with MAD show producers Mark Marek and Kevin Shinick in back, from their site. You can check out more photos here: http://comiccon.thewb.com.) That night were the Eisner Awards, where legendary MAD artist Mort Drucker was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Mort was unable to attend so Sam stepped in to accept the award on Mort's behalf. If the Eisner's gave an award for the best fill-in acceptance speech, Sam would have certainly won. (Though he would have been there to accept the award himself, I would have been honored to fill-in and accept it on his behalf if he weren't. Iit would probably be the closest I'll ever get to an Eisner Award!) Day 3 Breakfast at the hotel with Sergio Aragones, Peter Kuper, Tom Richmond. We all had the over-priced buffet. I thought the potatoes were cold. Walking around the convention floor, I ran into former MAD interns Steve Jarczak and Jason Katzenstein, both of who seem to being doing well despite their previous association with MAD. Then it was back to the hotel, where Sam and I finally figured out how to rent pay-per-view movies and have them charged back to the company. That, and room service, pretty much killed the rest of the day and night. Day 4 Sam and I had an early flight back to New York. On the way to the airport, we got into an argument over how much we should have tipped the hotel maid.