So, early last month I was invited to be a guest at the SDCC in 2019.
I was more than a little surprised, since my experience as an invited guest has averaged once every seven years—you know, like the locusts.
After fulminating over this for two days, I replied with the letter below.
Thanks very kindly for the gracious invitation. It’s with regrets that I have to politely decline, even for so auspicious an anniversary.
My reasons are complex, and yet simple.
I won’t rehash the “It’s not a comic book convention anymore” trope–we both know this is all too true, and that complaining about it is as valid, worthwhile and successful as using sarcasm on cats.
That’s just the way the ball bounced…and the world continues to spin.
Rather, it goes directly to my experience the last couple of times I’ve been an invited guest. In these cases, it became abundantly clear to me that the convention had no idea who I was, or at the very least who and what I had become, in the decades since my first San Diego show in 1975.
I don’t recall the specifics of the previous, but last time, 2015 or 2016, the memory fades, I was put on a panel about comics in the 1970s, and another on covers.
For the record, I didn’t become a talent actually worthy of real attention until the 1980s. And for another record, covers are a tertiary skillset of mine.
I have no interest in participating in a nostalgic exercise that seems landlocked, at least in my regard, in the 1970s. I’m a cult figure, obviously never popular in a commercial sense, but, certainly since I found my metier in the 1980s, always important to the development of the craft, in ways, I suspect, that won’t be recognized or acknowledged until I’m dead and gone.
Unfortunately for my needs–and yes, to be honest, my ego and sense of self–the convention’s interest in me seems to engage with the same sort of enthusiasts’ mindset that has neither idea nor interest in what I’ve done since Star Wars. Completely understandable, but no thanks.
Again, I am deeply flattered to be asked to participate in the 50th anniversary of the San Diego Comic-Con, and I wish you, your colleagues, and the show all the best.
That said, I’ve learned the hard way to not be flattered all that easily.
Best, and with respect,
I spent those two days chewing this over in order to come up with this honest response—neither glib nor flip, but true to my experience at the show. And lest you think this was a breeze, forget about it.
I had had such an unpleasant experience at that last show, I made a public vow that I would never go back…not anticipating that instead of seven years of waiting, it would be in half that time that I’d receive an invitation, and I was genuinely taken off guard.
That said, after my usual spate of self-doubt, I settled down and came to my senses. The only regrets I have in this regard is the missed opportunities to see old friends and colleagues. I’ll miss you all—but I won’t miss the feeling of discomfort of feeling out of place and out of sorts at what most of comics regards as the Mecca, the gathering of the tribes, of our industry.
I’m reminded of that great Rick Nelson line from the above mentioned GARDEN PARTY…
“…But if memories were all I sang, I’d rather drive a truck.”
If there was a comics equivalent to that sentiment, I’d invoke it now.
As ever, I remain,
HOWARD VICTOR CHAYKIN…still a Prince after all these years–occasionally despite himself.