Sunday was the last day of the Comicon, and so, though I was beyond wrecked by that point, there was a pervading sense of the things coming to a merciful end. None of my physicality or verbal expressiveness reflected this sense of hope and relief in me, but it was in there, burning with a feverish life, like a man digging his way up after being buried in an avalanche of yellow snow.
My cyclopic view of the SLG booth at the start of a signing.
There was a thing I noticed this con, a thing that’s been a theme for every con I’ve attended (except any convention I’ve done in Seattle for some reason), and I’m not sure if it was more prevalent this time around or if I was just more attuned to its presence, but it was a thing that popped up seemingly more than usual this time around: PEOPLE TELLING ME ABOUT ME.
The first time it happened was fairly early from the start of the whole convention, maybe on Thursday, and I was hanging over at the TopatoCo booth talking to Tyson Hesse and Sam Logan about manly things like we do. A girl, not sure who she was, either a friend, fan or both of Tyson’s, who was just leaving as I arrived when Tyson called her back and and introduced her to me. She in turn called her friend over, a friend who was a big fan of mine, and introduced her to me. They both seemed super nice, and happy to meet me, and the second girl began by saying “I know you hate your fans, but-”.
I’m sure whatever she was going to say after that was gonna be very nice, very flattering about a my work and such, but I stopped her immediately and asked “Whoa, whoa, whoa…Wait, why are you telling me I hate my fans?” Everyone around sorta laughed, Tyson and Sam because they know I get this kind of thing a lot, and the girls maybe because I was just being silly, putting on a show. “No, seriously, while I have you here, I genuinely want to know why you think I would hate my fans? Why would I hate people just for liking my stuff?” More laughter and then actual tears from the girl. Like, not crying from sadness, but maybe crying because I had just stopped her and pointed out that maybe she had allowed her brain to become demented by reading too many internet posts from angry haters of mine or people who think they’re defending some false beliefs they think I hold because of something they also heard on the internet. She was short circuiting.
I explained that it’d be idiotic and cruel to hate people for being fans of something I do, I think it’s great that people would like stuff! I don’t hate fans, I hate assholes, and what confuses certain people is that some of my fans also happen to just be total assholes, people who were raised by internet wolves and have no concept of how to actually be polite to people in real life, and no I’m not talking about this girl I was talking to because she was just misinformed but otherwise pretty nice to me.
I was just having fun with her, but also genuinely attempting to stop ONE more person from telling me, matter of factly, what I am like when I’m standing right there thinking “what is this person talking about??” I put my hand on the girl’s shoulder to comfort her, told her it was all good, everything’s cool, and I’m just playing, but also YOU’RE FUCKING WRONG AND YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELF.
Silence. Everyone was stunned. When I get angry, I wet myself, and so there I stood, my face a tight mask of disdain, eyes burning into her still watering eyes, and a dark spot growing on my slacks. I still think it makes me look like a fucking badass when that happens, so I walked away and didn’t even look back at when the girl exploded.
My friends, Donnie and Tara had a baby. That thing is screwed.
Gotta admit, that time I do feel a little guilt about because the girl, parroting bad information aside, seemed super nice and pretty level-headed, not scary obsessive type at all, and I can think of a more deserving people to put on the spot like that. This other guy, though…
It was on a different day, not sure which, but a guy came up, an older fellow, maybe in his late 40′s, kind of grizzled, probably an old school punk rocker from way back in the day, and he started out pretty alright. While I was signing something, he started talking about how much I hated INVADER ZIM. I get the feeling people do it thinking they’re agreeing with me in some way, backing some decision of mine to denounce the show or I dunno what, but every time I hear it I have to ask myself “Should I correct this person? Will it even affect anything? It’s just a thing people think regardless of what I tell them?” In this case I did tell the guy, just like with the girl before him, that his information was about as off as it could get and that I was in fact very proud of the show and that it would be terrible to hate something I created as much as a lot of people tell me I do.
What made this guy different, however, was that he STOOD HIS GROUND. I was suddenly in an actual semi-argument where a person was repeatedly telling me I was wrong and that I did, in fact, hate the show and said I hated the show. I explained that, maybe what he was recalling was me, in interviews or muttering in my sleep, saying things along the lines of how much of a nightmare and grotesque mockery of life making the show could be at times, but that it was also something I put up with because I couldn’t help it, because it was MY SHOW and I loved seeing my stuff come to life.
Still, the guy refused to believe that I didn’t hate the show, and, at most, conceded that maybe what I tell people has changed. I asked him what was wrong with him, why was he telling me what I thought. People at the booth were laughing at how absurd the dude was being, but he just could NOT be turned away from what he just believed to be true about the person right there in front of him telling them what they ACTUALLY felt. “You sound like an insane 14 year old girl writing angry delusional posts on her Livejournal.” I told the dude. It never even got past that point, he just got a book signed, wandered off, probably saying things like “That Jhonen, you could just see how much he hates ZIM in the green cloud of wailing devil faces I constantly see swarming around him. You see them, right?” Again, this guy seemed like he was alright, didn’t come up with any malice or dark agenda, but he just had this piece of him that was already set in stone about me, and he had to flash it at me like a badge the way a lot of these people do, something to say “I’m on your team, man.”, to which I respond “What?”
There were other variations on this encounter this time around, but the last one I’ll detail was towards the very end of the convention, when people were already filing out once the con had officially been announced OVER. I was sitting at the booth still, done with my signing and just hanging with Dan Vado, master of SLG Publishing. This girl, looked like maybe mid 20′s, possibly later, walked up and asked if I would sign something. By that point I was pretty much a zombie, so the machinery in me that allows me to simulate a human being in those times took a few seconds to power up, but I eventually figured out what was happening and said yes, I would sign her stuff.
As I’m signing, she, like people do at these things, asks “Do you remember me?”, a question I’m usually pretty honest about answering. I told her no, I didn’t remember her and sorry but I tend to see a lot of people at these things. I figure that should be enough, and that most people would already assume that anyhow, and really, you only have to take one look at me at these things to see that I’m practically in another dimension from exhaustion. She then says “I met you here last year, and you were very mean to me.”
I look over at Dan and he’s giving me that face anyone from SLG gives me when they hear someone saying things like that, it’s a face that says “Oh, here we go.” I shrug, look back to the girl and ask her why I was mean to her, laughing a bit, waiting for the joke, but her face, that face of hers, it was like an alien was wearing a mechanized human face that was only set to a limited range of emotions and laughing wasn’t one of them. “You don’t remember? I cam up to you and gave you some candy and you said it was terrible.”
Again, I laughed and told her that that doesn’t sound like me, that I don’t know why I’d actually be mean to her for giving me candy, but no, that doesn’t end it and she goes on about how I told her I ate it and that it made me sick. Like, did this encounter in her memory go on for so long that not only did I have time to be given candy, but I also ate it in front of her and had time to be sickened by it? I told her it sounded to me like I was kidding with her back then, that I maybe made some joke about how terrible it was in some way, but her face… it registered no ability to understand how that could be a joke in any way. She just insisted I was mean to her and that was that.
She was one of those people that never smiles, not entirely anyhow, as if some defective self diagnostics program was making it impossible for her to fully convey a definite emotional response in any one direction. The face she wore was neither friendly nor hostile but a hybrid of the two, like the muscles were playing a game of Tony Hawk’s Pro skater and were focused solely on pulling off an eternal rail grind, the thumbsticks of her mind constantly making adjustments to keep the balance right there in middle. Here, lemme show you what her face was doing:
That. That’s what her face was doing. The whole time.
At that point I just wanted her gone so I could finish talking to Dan who watched this whole thing with a sense of unease, that usual unease everyone at the booth gets, that the less bizarre people in line get when they see these moments unfolding. I finished up signing stuff for her, and off she went.
Dan and I immediately talk about what the hell her intent was, why would she come up and get stuff signed while also being unpleasant like that, more rhetorically than in any real sense of confusion because these scenes have played out for years, but then she came back! She came back to have a t-shirt signed, still with her strange, scrambled emotions face.
Again, Dan and I start talking about how strange it is that people who don’t seem to actually enjoy or even understand sarcastic, absurd things, seem to be fans of my work. She was getting Johhny stuff signed…JOHNNY STUFF. No sooner than we resumed our talking did she come back a third time, this time for a photo with me. That was the last encounter, but one that stood out more than others because it made me think I should really use that fun little animation app on my iPad.
Well, after that the convention people released the Comicon raptors they use to clear out the stragglers in the hall.
End of Con.