Originally published December 17, 1999, in Comics Buyer’s Guide #1361
Finishing up the Fantabaires convention in Buenos Aires…
November 7 (continued): Our guide takes Mark Waid, Devin Grayson, Kathleen and myself to an outdoor antique fair. There’s a massive and eclectic assortment of just about everything that you could remotely be interested in. I purchase a bola, a weapon used by South American gauchos that consists of several hard, round balls on leather thongs which—when spun and released—can give you a fairly nasty crack. Not that I’m intending to do so, mind you. But they… don’t mess with me. Y’never know when my boiling gaucho blood may come to the fore and I unleash my new, devastating weaponry.
There are numerous street performers. Human statues who remain frozen, and one guy dressed like Charlie Chaplin. Also, in one section of the street that has been cleared out, there are a man and woman performing the tango, the preferred dance of Argentina, while a musician strums a guitar with gusto. It doesn’t look remotely like the tango as performed in, say, Scent of a Woman, but it’s still very dramatic, very stylized.
We arrive at the convention and discover that Kyle Baker has finally made it. I don’t recognize him at first; he’s now sporting copious dreadlocks that would make Lister on Red Dwarf quite envious. He’s arrived with his wife, Elizabeth, and their infant daughter, Lilly (hope I’m spelling that right, Kyle. If it’s “Lili,” I apologize.)
The crowd on Sunday is not quite as large as the Saturday group, so walking around the dealer’s room is a bit more of a possibility. There are assorted dealers typical of what you see at a convention, but I have to admit that there’s one booth that you don’t see at most conventions: A booth where several nicely dressed women are giving away condoms in an assortment of cheery colors. That’s a new one. I’m tempted to go over and ask the women if they’re made of mylar, but I decide (wisely, I think) not to. I mean, I’ve heard of snugs being sold at conventions, but this is certainly novel.
I do more autographings. What I find interesting is that is that when I did conventions in Mexico and Spain, in both instances a sizable number of fans showed up with bound copies of my comics. But no one does so here, and when I mention that fans in other Spanish-speaking countries routinely store their books in that manner, the Argentine readers seem rather surprised at the notion. It’s amazing to me how what is standard in one region is regarded as bizarre in another.
That evening Mark, Devin, Kathleen and I head out to dinner at (naturally) a steak place. Kyle joins us, while his wife and baby decide to remain back at the hotel (well, actually, I tend to think Liz made the decision; I suspect Lilly didn’t have much say in the matter.) It’s a rather memorable place in that it has, standing outside, a large statue of a steer. At least, I think it’s a statue. Part of me is concerned that it might actually be a large stuffed steer.
At dinner, Kyle regales us with tales of Hollywood idiocy, having toiled in the showbiz realm for a few years. The comments are classic foolishness. (Picture a meeting with producers regarding Why I Hate Saturn. Yes, I’m sure you see it coming, as a producer says intently: “Does it have to be Saturn?”) Then, of course, there are the meetings where producers are throwing around ideas the way that Alzheimer sufferers lob about their own excrement, until the Big Boss makes an arbitrary declaration at which point everyone says, “Great idea!
It’s amazing to me how anyone involved with show business quickly piles up a briefcase full of horror tales… but Kyle is one of the few I’ve encountered who is actually willing to turn around and say, “To hell with this” and just walk away from it.
Kyle should make a very interesting father, since he has a rather unique way of relating to children. Neighborhood kids come to visit with him, and sometimes the encounters can be quite memorable. He tells of how one morning a young boy came by, and Kyle asked him, “Would you like to see a piece of magic tape?” The young sucker… uh, child… nodded eagerly, and Kyle took a piece of tape from his drawing board and stuck it on the kid’s nose. “And if you leave that on your nose for three days without removing it, you’ll turn into a dragon.”
So the kid wears this tape on his nose for the entire day. Then his father comes home, sees the tape on his son’s face, says, “What’s this?” and, without waiting for reply, pulls the tape off. The kid immediately goes into hysterics, dropping to the floor sobbing and howling, “Now I’ll never turn into a dragon!!”
“I was just kidding!” Kyle says in his own defense. “I never expected the kid to take it seriously!” I didn’t ask Kyle, but it makes me wonder if he’s an only child, because anyone with younger siblings can tell you that small kids can be made to believe absolutely anything. At this point, my two older daughters have convinced eight-year-old Ariel that gnomes and/or monsters guard their rooms, that Ariel’s middle name is Tequila, and that she has a sister named Jessica who is kept locked in a hidden closet.
(Then again, I’m the one who convinced then six-year-old Shana that I’d had a friend who died in a pogo stick accident, so I shouldn’t talk. When they first started running promos for a new TV series, Freaks and Geeks, there was Second City’s Joe Flaherty as the family’s father, intoning gravely to his kids, “So you’re failing math, huh? When I was young, I had a friend who failed math. You know what happened? He died!”) My kids started shouting, “Dad, that’s you!” Ha ha. Very funny. Freaks and Geeks made fun of fathers. You know what happened to that series? It died. Let that be a lesson to you.)
Monday, November 8: We check out of the hotel. They hand me a bill for three hundred dollars. I tell them that the room is supposed to be paid for by the convention. “No, sir, that’s your phone bill,” they say. I almost have a stroke. Sure, I called home to check how things were and how they were going, but my God, I didn’t talk that much. Unfortunately, family members hadn’t been able to call me (which would naturally have kept the bill down.) They tried and, believe it or not, got recorded messages that said that Argentina was busy. Nice. “Oh yeah, we never call from the hotel. There’s a place downstairs you can call from that costs less than half of the hotel,” Kyle says cheerfully. Wonderful. What a great time to find that out.
My last panel is one about the Silver Age of Comics. I’m on it with Mark Waid. I don’t quite understand why. It’s like being on an X-Men panel with Chris Claremont (or for that matter, any panel with Chris Claremont.) Not that Mark hogs the time, but really, if you’re talking Silver Age, I’m excess baggage.
I have to depart half an hour in, though, if I’m going to make my plane. I get an ovation upon departure, presumably because they’re happy to see me go. No one in Argentina cries for me, which is fortunate, because naturally I’d have to tell them not to.
No Spanish-speaking women are occupying our seats, but we discover that we’re sitting in front of Seatback Boy. You know him: The kid who sits behind you and kicks your seatback. Fortunately enough it turns out that’s not his seat. Unfortunately enough, his seat is directly in front of me. He leans back his seatback so far that he’s practically in my lap… and we haven’t even moved away from the terminal yet. Kathleen and I manage to move to different seats where Seatback Boy does not pursue us.
No old men pass out on the plane home, and the film is Runaway Bride, which I actually stay awake for.
(Peter David, writer of stuff, can be written to at Second Age, Inc., PO Box 239, Bayport, NY 11705.)