As I head out to get the dog to the spa and myself to the airport, here's why, if you're anywhere near a small comics conference, festival, whathaveyou, you should go.
Disclaimer: There follows a shameless exercise in name-dropping. But it's a very large you-never-know reason why you should go to these things.
And I specify "small" because I'm not talking about walking up and down aisles of tables, which is also okay but different, and I'm very much not talking about attending a costume ball, which is okay, too, but completely off-topic.
I'm talking about two or three day casual get-togethers of cartoonists and their fans, and I wish there were more of them. Kenosha is one, and I'm told Marceline, Missouri's Toonfest, which is apparently happening this weekend as well, is also excellent.
And two years ago, O Best Beloved, I went to the Billy Ireland Cartoon Museum and Library Festival of Cartoon Art, which was larger than either of those but still relatively intimate and completely costume-free, unless you count cartoonists in pants and shoes.
But that's Reason #1 to go to a conference: To encounter new stuff, and some of the buzz at the festival was that Eddie Campbell was speaking.
I wasn't sure just what Eddie did, but he went through his influences (including, as seen here, Harvey Kurtzman) and showed some of his own stuff and I came away thinking that he was a pretty interesting fellow with a quick, dry wit and quite a conscious sense of why he does what he does.
The festival ended about noon Sunday, but I had booked a room for that night on the off-chance that a lot of casual conversation would happen in the aftermath which a blogger/journalist should not miss.
As it turned out, nearly everyone split, which is how I ended up having dinner and drinks that night in the hotel bar with Eddie and this nice lady he had brought with him.
And, boy, was I right about him having a conscious sense of why he does what he does, because we had a conversation about plot and theme and what you show and what you don't show and how you approach it all that wasn't intense in the sense of heated, but rather in the sense that you realize the people you're talking to know their stuff and you should probably try not to say anything off-the-cuff and ill-thought-out. And stupid.
It included a lot of laughter, but none so hardy as when I became curious about the fact that the nice lady Eddie had brought with him was contributing a lot of substantive input.
It wasn't a surprise because she was a woman but rather because you simply don't often have a pairing in which both parties are fully on-board with all the in-depth insider aspects.
But, damn, this nice lady sure knew her stuff, and so I turned to her and said, "So, what do you do?" whereupon Eddie fell off his stool.
"You don't know who this is, do you?" he said, through his laughter. "She's somebody. No, she's really somebody."
And, as with so many things that evening, he was right, because she turned out -- as two of the three of us had known all along -- to be Audrey Niffenegger, author of "The Time Traveler's Wife" and several other things and little wonder that she had a few interesting insights into plot and theme and what you show and what you don't show and how you approach it all.
I'd heard of the book, of course -- I may be solitary, but I don't live under a rock -- but, since I don't read a lot of literature until it's been aged for a century or so, I didn't know much about it, while all I knew of Eddie's work at that point was what I'd seen in his talk.
On the one hand, you could feel that the whole thing was a wasted opportunity then, given that I wasn't familiar with the work of either of them.
But that was actually a good thing, because we weren't referring back to their specific works, and I wasn't simply sitting there going all fan-boy, which made the conversation much more wide-ranging.
And the topic of wide-ranging conversations brings us to Bacchus, Omnibus Edition Volume One, just out from Top Shelf and sitting next to my bed because, at 560 pages, it's too damn big for the nightstand. (It's also too thick for clear scans. Sorry.)
If you are thinking, "I wish I could sit in a hotel bar and talk to Eddie Campbell," this exhaustive collection of random events and intelligent conversations is the next best thing.
The umbrella concept is that Bacchus, the Wine God, is wandering through the modern world, a bit weary of his immortality and position as one of the last remaining Olympians, though not as weary as Theseus, who is telling his story in this first scan.
Nearly all of the collected stories are told by Bacchus, however, who has the grim, dry voice of a film-noir gumshoe with an encyclopedic knowledge of the world, the underworld, and the Underworld, as well as a large supply of bullshit that he scatters throughout his narrative.
For someone with a relatively strong knowledge of Greek and Roman myth, it's very challenging.
Bacchus speaks in catalogs that would make Homer and Virgil proud, and much of what he talks about gets a nod from said knowledgable reader, some gets a "really?" yet prove to be true, and then some of it Eddie admits in the notes is stuff that he was simply making up.
Meanwhile, if you want action, there's some of that, too, because there is a sort of Immortal Mafia running around, and a lot of the picaresque wanderings of Bacchus and Simpson, his delightful, classics-quoting Sancho Panza, are occasioned by the need to avoid them.
And the wanderings of Bacchus and Simpson are indeed picaresque, "of or relating to an episodic style of fiction dealing with the adventures of a rough and dishonest but appealing hero."
In fact, I prefer Bacchus to Don Quixote, whose adventures I felt lacked continuity to the point of being chaoticly random, beginning with the fact that he had an apparent ability to mend bones and regrow teeth that would make Wiley Coyote jealous.
Bacchus bears every painful memory and scar of every adventure, and not as a badge of honor but simply as an inescapable fact of life, even of life everlasting, which makes him a great deal more roguishly appealling than the delusional, gomerpylesque Man of La Mancha.
He not only misses those knocked-out teeth, but has learned from them, and dispenses his wisdom with the voice of an uncle your parents would rather you didn't spend time with but of whom you cannot get enough.
Fortunately, there is more to come.
You should buy Eddie's book, and Audrey's as well, but I'm off now to Kenosha.
If I run into somebody there who's really somebody, I'll let you know.
And I'll let you know how it goes in any case.
"My heart's love, my little jug
Bright health, my darling
My heart's love, little jug full, full, full,
O My heart's love, my little full jug."