Graphic designer Tim Reamer discusses his long relationship with the San Diego Comic-Con.
What is your occupation?
I've been a graphic designer and illustrator for San Diego Zoo Global for 30 years while simultaneously freelancing.
Any particular freelance work you'd like to highlight?
I did a cool public sculpture that's on the sand in Ocean Beach, one of the coastal communities.
What is your connection to Star Wars?
I did the airbrush illustration for Return of the Jedi. I think it's called the A sheet. The one with the vertically gripped saber.
The design team who came up with the concept needed to show George some “comps” of the idea so that an illustrator could be chosen. My very close friend, Eric Baker (a noted designer in his own right), was asked by them to recommended an illustrator, and therein lies the tale. I think maybe half a dozen other comps by different illustrators were submitted.
How long have you been going to the San Diego Comic Con?
I went in 1972, I think it was. The El Cortez Hotel. Card tables, cardboard boxes, and comic books. Nascent and very small, celebrity free, but wonderful nonetheless. I was immediately hooked for life. Haven't missed a Con since.
When did you first notice Comic-Con changing into something bigger?
It was never sudden. Sort of a Moore's law phenomena over time. It just gradually became overwhelming in physical size, scope, subject matter, and attendance. I presume, because of the cap on ticket sales, that it has now leveled off.
Do you miss the older, smaller incarnation of Comic-Con?
Well it was sure easier! And one could
sneak in free with a little stealth. So I'm told.
There was always the exciting new thing to come across: A non-mainstream publication one would never see in a bookstore. A figure of some sort that didn't look like it was sculpted from playdough. Original art by the likes of Frank Frazetta that was actually purchasable (though not by me at the time). Sighting one or two minor character actors here and there. A few real movie props. Stanley Mouse of “Mouse and Kelley” airbrushing custom Ts on the spot. I bought one! A few hard-cores wearing DIY costumes in public of all things! Getting a beat-up paperback signed by a golden-age science-fiction author (Bradbury, Heinlein, etc.). That sort of thing. And one could process it all, not enter a state of shock like today.
So I miss all that quaint nostalgia, but I do love the Con today.
The thing is that the early Cons were offbeat and for the rare few (it seemed). Counterculture to be sure. Not at all a mainstream, populist event. Now it is culture defining/shaping. How'd that happen?
What do you think about comic books and geek culture in general going from a counterculture to the mainstream? Is it a good thing? Why do you think it happened?
What a strange phenomena.
In the early ’60s my dad trashed several knee-high stacks of my golden-age comics because they were making me weird. Wonderful things, those comics. Lurid colors and simplicity. Sitting down in a backyard canvas tent during the rain with a freshly traded pile of comics. Bliss. But frowned upon by sensible go-getters and achievers and normal people.
Comics and science fiction were illegitimate when I was growing up. Escapes from reality, not to be taken seriously. It was for the weak, meek, and odd. Which turns out is most people.
Our current culture isn't counter at all. That's a good thing, I guess. "Conformity" was a huge force in the last mid century. Now there isn't a model to conform to. There’s such a diversity of acceptable behavior nowadays. Especially at the Comic-Con. Dig in and act and look the way you want. A very freeing environment.
Have you formed any friendships with other artists through Comic-Con?
No BFFs or anything. Had the opportunity to spend a little time and conversation with Robert Williams, the outrageous surrealist who started Juxtapoz Art & Culture Magazine, and Jim Steranko, who did some revolutionary stuff in comic layout and composition.
Interview by Jack Rodgers