‘How I Survived the 14th Annual Baltimore Comic-Con’ Part 1

Reported by Shawn Warner

I was counting the seconds waiting for September 7th like a kid anticipating Christmas and the promise of new toys and dreams fulfilled. Well, Comic-Con flew into the cheerless city of Baltimore and brightened it with all the magic and spectacle of Christmas but instead of one white haired, bearded man in a bright red suit spreading joy we witnessed a cadre of characters draped in capes and corsets of all colors, male and female they came with weapons of Styrofoam not steel, their faces hidden by masks and make-up. This was much bigger than Christmas, this was Comic-Con! At last the appointed time had arrived for cosplayers, fanboys, aspiring creators, collectors and the just plain curious to mix and mingle on the convention floor. It was time for the equitable exchange of currency for comics and collectibles. There is no time of the year equal to Comic-Con in my opinion, no holiday that includes and encompasses all the things that I love like Comic-Con and on no other day can you be alone and with a few thousand friends simultaneously.

The day started like any other in that the sun did in fact rise in the east but other than that it was to be a day like no other. I walked to the 15 minutes from my house to the convention center, as I neared my destination I began to spy signs of an invasion, (a Secret Invasion, nudge, nudge) subtle at first like a Batman t-shirt or Spider-Man back pack. As I got closer the signs became more obvious; Deadpool crossing against the signal, to my left Iron Patriot holding hands with his best girl… Wonder Woman! Who Knew? I approached a young man in a bright yellow shirt emblazoned with the Baltimore Comic-Con logo and traded my ticket voucher which I had received in the mail months ago for a red, two-day wristband. I took my place in line right behind a clone trooper and Poison Ivy. It was a hot and sunny day, my personal least favorite but not even the weather could dispel the magic that was in the air. The line moved at a surprisingly brisk pace and within minutes I crossed the threshold dividing us from them. I was surrounded by comic book fans, the costumed and the casual were equally represented along with the bottom-feeders of the comic book world, the dreaded and annoying ” speculator”. You know them well; they buy up variants, death issues, first appearances and most recently 3D covers by the armful. Yes they too were counted among us as they slithered in and out of line getting their (unread) books signed and then running directly to the CGC line to have them forever encased in comic book carbonite.

I met up with my friends Matt and Adam. We surveyed the room, taking in the terrain and devising a plan of attack. Adam left the group on a solo mission, so Matt and I would try to get in some creator lines but with a guest list as extensive and impressive as the one Baltimore boosted this year, this was no easy task. After some recognizance we decided to gravitate to the shorter lines first, to maximize our time, first stop was Neal Adams. I brought along my Neal Adams’ Batman hardcover hoping to get a signature and a handshake. However I received neither since Mr. Adams was the only creator charging for his signature, we immediately left in search of Brian Bolland. When we reached Mr. Bolland’s table he was not there but they were giving out signature tickets which we could redeem beginning at 1:00. Zero for two at this point, I got in line to chat with Justin Jordan. Justin is not only an incredible up and coming writer, he is one heck of a nice guy. We spoke of what the future might hold for Kyle and the rest of the guardians; things like who will live out his run on the book, to which he ominously replied with only a sinister grin and an unspoken promise of coming Luther Strode level violence. After meeting Justin I find his work so much more intriguing because he is so laid back and approachable. He is a creator who is very appreciative of the fans and that is such a tremendous attribute. In fact I met each of the Green Lantern scribes and they were all very kind and personable gentlemen. Charles Soule spoke not only of his plans for Red Lanterns but of following Daniel Way on Thunderbolts and the even more daunting task of following Scott Snyder on Swamp Thing. After our short conversation I feel secure in saying both titles are in very competent hands. We subsequently made our way over to the table of current Green Lantern writer, Rob Vendetti, another really friendly approachable guy. I asked him if he felt any added pressure following up Geoff Johns after such a long and acclaimed run. His response was one of humble assurance to deliver his best work but to his credit as a professional he expertly avoided anything remotely resembling a spoiler. He is such a great person that he not only signed my Green Lantern #21 but after asking me if I read X-O he gave me a copy of #1 and signed that as well. He is a stand-up guy in a field where that cannot automatically be assumed.

Matt and I decided that we would take a break from meeting creators to do some shopping, out come our want it-need it lists. We spent the next few hours scouring dollar boxes in search of comic book gold. I managed to locate and obtain the few issues of American Vampire I needed to complete my run as well as a few missing issues of Action Comics and Masters of the Universe. My biggest ”lost in the long box” find were All Star Superman #1 and a complete run of Grant Morrison’s Legends of the Dark Knight arc called Gothic. It’s from the late eighties, not particularly valuable in terms of money but it is the definition of comic book gold. It was getting near lunch time at this point so we thought it would be a good time to get a panel in.

We made our way upstairs to the presentation rooms to 309 where the Comic Book Men held their panel which consisted of a Q&A and discussion of the new book Crytozoic Man written by Brian Johnson with art by Walt Flanagan. The panel was moderated by Jason Mewes, who most of us know as Jay of Jay and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith). I’m not sure what Mewes is in the world of comic books; I’m not sure what he is in any world for that matter, other than Kevin Smith’s friend. I guess he has managed to parley that into a career. I guess it’s good work if you can get it.  It was a fun panel despite the heinous condition of the sound equipment. It cracked and buzzed making it necessary for most of the answers to be shouted back to the crowd. Mewes did little actual moderating opting to pick up a hand-held video camera and shoot the audience. I did manage to meet the four Comic Book Men later in the convention and receive a copy of Crytozoic Man which I will be reviewing for the site as well. AMC was filming an episode of the series lending the convention a surreal air, I felt like an extra in some convoluted film about pop culture.

The rest of the first day consisted of meeting more creators; Mark Waid, Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMattieus, Chris Samnee and Ray Fawkes were all very kind and receptive, each were more than willing to chat and spend time with their fans. The Convention floor was crowded for the first day. I stayed from open to close but it was just not enough time, every year at the close of the show I get filled with such a sense of melancholia that nothing can cheer me; however I knew I had one more day of comic book magic remaining.

Matt and I exited the convention center basking in the afterglow of Comic-Con. The faithful gathered into small groups to make post-convention plans or to snap a quick photo op with a cosplayer dressed as their favorite character. All around us the crowd buzzed with the excitement of having found that elusive issue of Hawkeye or a carded 1984 Luke Skywalker in Bespin fatigues or just the thrill of being in a place where you are not ridiculed for being different or made fun of for collecting comics and toys in fact you are celebrated and encouraged. My heart swelled at the sight of a father with his three sons dressed as Batman with various Robins, it was awesome! It’s getting harder to find an activity that can be enjoyed as a family in the world today but comic books have always been a source of inclusion. Comic books can be used as a tool of learning and collecting them can be handed down from father to son. Who among us would be opposed to being left a copy of Detective Comics #27? What I’m saying is that in a time when most activities are divisive comic books can be a unifying element in any family. They transcend age, sex and social status. That is what Comic-Con is, it is the celebration of a sub-culture based on lifting up one another and encouraging the creative spark inside us all, whether it be drawing, writing, reading or just collecting and appreciating how much happiness can come from paper, ink and imagination.

That’s going to do it for my first report from Baltimore Comic-Con. Please read my next report which will include a look at the Harvey Awards as well as a look at the second day of the con including the costume contest and panel coverage. Day two will also be available with a 3D variant cover, so speculators please read it five or six times and leave comments every time.

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Follow Shawn Warner on Twitter:  @shawnwarner629

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