Cheers, kittens! It’s me, Miss Hannah Hart, ghostdame of The Del. As the SoCal comic convention season is in full-swing (You remember Wednesday’s Wild WonderCon, don’t you?), Dr. Lucy and I are getting ready for San Diego Comic-Con 2015 (SDCC) and, in that process, partaking in a wee bit o’ pre-con cavorting. Fortunately for us, Yours Truly has contacts; they might be in books, they might be in comics, they might be in beer. You don’t know. In any event, as a ghost, I could totally get into whatever event I wanted anyway. Lucy, too.
So, as it pertains to our most recent pre-conning, I have a query for you. What do the Library of Congress, IDW Publishing and San Diego Comic Art Gallery have in common? A vision of posterity, crackerjack curators, an historic backyard and a brewery within walking-distance. Two of these pip organizations have set up shop in a gloriously gorgeous San Diego community and, happily for all, they’re both sitting pretty next to Stone Brewing beer garden.
Comics bulwark IDW, founded in 1999 by Ted Adams and Robbie Robbins, has grown so big in its britches, those britches have been let out to accommodate an 18K+ sq. ft. workspace in the posh yet chill, waterside neighbourhood of Point Loma. Think Range Rover-meets-Roxy, Brooks Bros-meets-Billabong, Nautica-meets-No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problem. Situated serenely along the San Diego Bay and America’s Cup Harbor, housed in one of the original barracks at the Naval Training Center (NTC) at Liberty Station, the cavernous, 1921 Spanish Colonial Revival edifice makes great digs for a Vans-and-RayBans kind of entity like IDW.
If you know my back-story, you know I was kicking around when the NTC was first built. Hoofin’, flirtin’ and jazzin’ down in the Gaslamp and out by the seaside at The Hotel Del Coronado. Ushered in by Prohibition, 1920s San Diego was two-parts business, one-part good times. In 1921, the NTC commenced construction and by 1923 began rustling to life as a hive of naval activity. Having just come out of WWI, protection along the Pacific, offensive and defensive, seemed a good idea. Initially a training base for one-sixth of the U.S. Naval fleet, the compound soon came to house military classrooms, residential quarters, tactical training fields and everything the Pacific fleet needed to prepare for come what may. Come it did. By WWII’s peak years, the NTC was home to more than 33K sailors. (I can’t say the wartime Betties of San Diego had a problem with that!)
Today, the NTC is a far cry from its initial intentions. By the 1990s, Liberty Station was maneuvering away from military endeavours and into real estate. Now, it functions as a center for the arts, entertainment and business: retail, churches, beauty and wellness, hotels (Marriott, Hilton), golf (Loma Golf Club), leased office space, banking (Navy Federal Credit Union, natch), fitness, dining, culture, museums and so much more. What your great-grandfather saw as a campus for national secrecy and necessary aggression, you may now see as a weekend destination for Starbucks and SDCAG, SoCal Fly Fishing Outfitters and Capoeira Brasil, or California Ballet and Sushi Mura. Cap off your jaunty day with a pint at Stone Brewing and a run for Longboard Chips and New Zealand water at Trader Joe’s, and you’ve got the new normal at Liberty Station. It’s like Sarah Jessica Parker took great-grandfather’s Naval-issue peacoat and stuck a giant, pink, silk rose on the lapel. The original bones are still there, but now it goes better with a Zara cocktail dress than a mop and bucket, you know, for dancing and swabbing decks whilst belting out Fred Astaire-style nautical chanties with your fellow sailors.
That’s a nice story, but what about IDW, Hannah?, you gently prod. To continue …
Notable as the fourth-largest comic book publisher in America (Disney Comics, The X-Files, Orphan Black, My Little Pony, etc.) IDW carries comic gold in its inimitable portfolio: twenty-five Eisner and Harvey Awards, more than eighty NYT Best-sellers, hundreds of freelance artists around the globe and, solely in 2014, more than 700 unique, analog and digital, titles. Additionally IDW dabbles in tabletop and hobby games, stickers, posters and other collectible merchandise. With all this street cred, not to mention being Liberty Station’s largest tenant, you’d think they must be a bit haughty and unapproachable, like Hillary Clinton or that big German girl who works at Ruby’s on the pier. Yet, no.
IDW is about as mellow and laid-back a group of folk you’ll meet in publishing. If IDW was a Muppet, it would be Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem. (Sam the Eagle would not approve of hot yoga being taught on-grounds.) If IDW was a time of day, it would be Happy Hour: affable, a good value and always ready to tell a tall tale. Like any good tale, there need to be visual aids; and that’s how San Diego Comic Art Gallery (SDCAG) adds to the party.
Installed on the bottom floor of IDW’s digs, in Barracks 3, the SDCAG opened to the public June 5th, 2015: “designed to educate and engage the local San Diego community and the region of Southern California with the sequential comic book and graphic arts”. Owned-and-operated by IDW, the gallery houses an analog, research library (appt. only), artist-in-residence program (coming soon) and, for you Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) aficionados, the Eastman Studio: a permanent installment of TMNT co-creator/artist Kevin Eastman’s home studio and personal memorabilia collection. Throughout the year, SDCAG will install exhibits featuring a bevy of artists knee-deep in comic lore. The inaugural exhibit? Kevin Eastman and his TMNT.
With San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) just around the corner, geographically and temporally, (San Diego Convention Center, July 9-12, 2015) IDW/SDCAG have positioned themselves smartly for a pop-culture, coming-out carousal. As the cosplayed hordes descend upon America’s Finest City, they shall find that besides The Old Globe, S.D. Air and Space Museum, S.D. Museum of Art, S.D. Natural History Museum and Hooters (For a lot of you mooks it’s the closest you’re going to get to San Diego boob.), the S.D. Comic Art Gallery will serve many of your artistic, and geeky, needs. To serve those more primal needs in Maslow’s Hierarchy, SDCAG is fortuitously located right next door to Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens: an 11K+ sq. ft., glass-stone-and-wood re-purpose of what used to be the NTC mess hall. Hello, sailor! Buy a girl a stout and some crispy Brussels sprouts?
On June 4, 2015, the night before their grand opening, IDW/SDCAG held a VIP event, to present the art gallery on a more intimate level to those closest to the effort. That night, along with Ménage à Trois and J. Lohr wines, an oh-so-hoppy IPA flowed generously, provided by Stone. It’s just good fence-building, proffering beer to the new guy on the block.
Whether it’s an Arrogant Bastard, a Double Bastard, a Crazy Ivan or a Border Psycho, a quaff of Stone is always a great mingling lubricant. So, just in time for San Diego’s greatest mingling event, IDW/SDCAG and Stone Brewing Liberty Station are celebrating con-season with Hop-Con 3.0, the w00tstout Festival: “Our annual celebration of nth-degree beer geekery”.
Launching Wednesday, July 8, 2015 (same night as SDCC Preview Night), if you jelly beans can swing $40-$100/person, you can drink-and-geek with Aisha Tyler, Wil Wheaton, Kevin Eastman and the upper echelon of Stone brewerdom. To boot, you can be of the first to imbibe the “2015 Stone Farking Wheaton w00tstout”. Want more special beer? According to an inside source, there might be a Kevin Eastman/Kris Ketcham collaboration beer which might be called “Twisted Turtle w00tstout”. (Call 619-269-2100 for more info. on advance tix and event specifics.)
But, Hannah. what about the Library of Congress?, you ask wearily and patiently. Allow me to elucidate …
In 1800, amidst legislation which would move our new country’s capital from the progressively sophisticated Philadelphia to the swampy backwoods of Washington, America’s second president John Adams (1797-1801) understood the dire need for a local, congressional reading room, research facilities and library for this new nation. Moving merrily along its way, August 1814 saw Adams’ library come to a fiery end as the British set our Capitol aflame. (Good thing we’re all friends now.) Upon this news, then-retired, third president Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809), and Adams’ BFF, proffered his precious, voluminous, private library at Monticello as a replacement. Jefferson’s collection and all that would be added to it over the years would become America’s library: the Library of Congress.
Visionary like Jefferson and Adams, IDW/SDCAG understand that, even though the comic arts seem all too present and contemporary, at times even fleeting, wondering when this wild, geek, pop-culture rocket will free-fall back to Earth, history always needs a paper trail, even digital history. When tomorrow arrives, mankind always thanks those whom were ambitious enough to preserve the past. (Plus, if you’ve been watching Wayward Pines, you’ll know that even in the year 4065, First Generation will need something to read. Why not Jem and the Holograms or Mr. Peabody & Sherman? Although, I would suggest against 30 Days of Night and Rot & Ruin. Those might be too realistic in WP.)
Adams, Jefferson, IDW and SDCAG also know America needs just the right word-nerd to curate the past and present, for the future. John James Beckley served as the first Librarian of Congress (1802-1807) under the Jefferson administration. In keeping with a national level of know-how, Harry L. Katz, former Head Curator of Prints and Photographs at the Library of Congress, will serve as the first curator of SDCAG. He now calls San Diego home. (Psst, Harry. The Starbucks at Liberty Station is a beautiful and breezy switch from the one you’re probably used to at Seward Square. Still, it’s hard to beat the small, window-table facing the streetlight on Penn. Ave., on a snowy D.C. morning. Enjoy our palm trees and ocean air, good sir!) Oh, breweries within walking distance of the LOC? A couple of Gordon Biersch, Capital City Brewing Co. and District Chophouse and Brewery. Yeah, D.C. is a far better walking-town than San Diego.
Kids, here’s an insider’s tip: San Diego is one hell of a town and you’ll never grasp it in one long weekend. You can try though! Start by getting up early; you can sleep when you get home. Then, grab a quad shot over ice at Starbucks or Peet’s and hit the terra-cotta tiles heading in any direction! If you’re in town for Comic-Con, out for a sunny getaway from Beantown or the Big Apple, or if you’re just a local doof like Lucy and Moi looking for more stimuli than Big Steve’s Comic Kitchen can give you, drop by the SDCAG, year-round. When you’re done, treat yourself to a tantalizing brew in Stone’s sunny, stony, garden bistro. It’s your summer, kittens; do something fun with it.
Abyssinia at Comic-Con, kids!
Aside: A v special Thank You! to Denton Tipton and Rosalind Morehead at IDW, and Gary Sassaman at CCI, for a wonderful SDCAG opening event! Cheers to all!
Hannah’s other fave places to haunt online?