Okay it has been almost a week since Comic Con took over downtown Baltimore and all us who braved the entire three-day extravaganza have had time to reflect and recover. This year was perhaps the biggest event yet; certainly there was an increased Hollywood presence as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and Arrow cast members attracted droves of fans seeking autographs, photos and a brush with celebrity. Still for an old school long box diver like yours truly the main attraction will always be the comic books, but not just the actual books themselves, I mean the creators, the publishers and the other likeminded fans who save their hard earned money all year in hopes of finding that elusive key issue that will become the jewel in their collection. In fact several of the creators and venders I spoke to professed a love for the Baltimore con precisely because the show maintains that old school feel. Legendary artist Mike Zeck said that he prefers shows like Baltimore to New York, Chicago and even San Diego because of the intimate size and opportunity to actually connect with the fans. Many of the vendors I spoke to echoed Mr. Zeck’s sentiments expressing similar opinions on the hospitable vibe that permeates the Baltimore event.
I have attended over ten Baltimore conventions and covered the past three for Bag and Bored, every year the event seems to undergo subtle changes, nuanced though they may be, these changes culminate to alter the overall atmosphere of the event. For example, this year seemed to have more announcements and those announcements were louder than I ever remember in the past. I’m not sure if this is due to a new sound system or if I was just more aware of the voices booming over the convention center speakers at what seemed like five minute intervals. I also noticed that the floor plan was slightly different this year; of course Artist Alley and the iconic Stylin’ Online were still there as were most of the other convention mainstays like Basement Comics, Third Eye and Comics 4 Less, to name just a very few, however the addition of drawing lessons made it necessary to provide ample space for these types of attractions which I think are incredibly worthwhile and serve to enhance the hands-on involvement particularly for younger attendees. The pink shirt clad minions were as helpful as they have been in years past, but this time out they seemed to have been better prepared for the massive lines that some of the bigger name creators were doubtlessly going to draw, like Scott Snyder, David Finch and Amanda Conner.
Of course a huge part of covering any con is sitting in on panel discussions and this year had two biggies, the Marvel Panel and the Batman panel both of which were scheduled on Saturday. The room was packed for the Marvel discussion so my friend and con coverage cohort Matt and I found a couple of seats toward the back of the hall. Some of the biggest names at The House of Ideas were holding court in room 339 including Marvel’s senior vice president of publishing Tom Brevoort along with writers Greg Pak who will be taking the helm on the Totally Awesome Hulk, Frank Tieri who will be handling the writing duties on an all-new Black Knight series, brand new Daredevil and Inhumans scribe Charles Soule and the lone artist on the panel Frank “Out Rage!” Cho. The big story to come out of the Marvel panel was certainly the confirmation after much speculation and Internet murmuring that Amadeus Cho was definitely going to be the Totally Awesome Hulk. In fact Greg Pak thought that he was finished with the Hulk altogether until the idea of Amadeus Cho taking center stage in an all-new Hulk book was pitched to him. It was at that point that Pak said simply, “Sign me up.” Pak went on to say, “Amadeus was Hulk’s number one fan so it made sense continuity-wise.” When asked how Amadeus is going to handle his new role Pak described him as a cocky kid who thinks he’s going to be the best Hulk ever and this enthusiasm causes problems for all concerned. When fan favorite artist Frank Cho was approached to work on the book he was surprised by all the layers of plot that Pak was revealing, in fact Cho was on board simply because he wanted to work with Pak. Pak Jokingly added that Amadeus and Frank share the same last name so they must be related. “It makes sense.” In light of all these major changes in the Hulk universe, it also makes sense that Bruce Banner will be playing a major role in this new chapter. Other familiar faces will be showing up as well, including She-Hulk in issue one.
Charles Soule is no stranger to the Inhuman characters running around the old Marvel Universe, the writer has been working in the Inhumans world for quite some time now. When asked about the future of these characters Soule explained that after the events of Secret Wars Medusa and Black Bolt will be attempting to manage all of the newly powered Inhumans popping up after the Terrigen Bomb was set off. He also promises that Black Bolt and Johnny Storm will provide an entertaining dynamic. Along with writing the Inhuman stories Soule will also be stepping into some pretty big shoes in taking over for Mark Waid on Daredevil. There has been so much speculation surrounding Daredevil’s new partner, at first it was widely thought that this staff-wielding sidekick was Gambit. He certainly sports a similar look to the Cajun X-Man; however Soule assures us that this shadowy figure is not Gambit. In fact this is a completely new character. Soule describes him as a young Chinese man inspired by other street level heroes to defend his neighborhood as they do. He is said to have a power that compliments Daredevil’s. Could this new duo be Marvel’s answer to another dynamic DC duo? We will have to wait and see True Believers.
Next up was the Batman panel. What better way could there be to celebrate Batman Day than to attend a discussion on the future of Gotham’s Dark Knight Detective with current Batman writer, the amazingly talented Scott Snyder, Up and coming Grayson scribe, Tom King, co-writer on Batman and Robin Eternal, James Tynion IV, Harley Quinn artist Jimmy Palmiotti and doing double duty Greg Pak. Scott Snyder promises that things are going to start to get really crazy in Batman #45 as seeds planted in End Game start to take root. When asked how much longer the writer would be on Batman Snyder replied, “I have a lot of stuff I’d still like to do with it.” That sounds promising to me, especially when he says that this story will contain his favorite opening so far. Most of the attention was focused on the upcoming Batman and Robin Eternal at this point in the discussion. James Tynion IV said “Dick Grayson was what we were missing in the first Batman Eternal so he’s in this one.” Also on the subject of bringing characters into the new series, Cassandra Cain could be making her return to the DCU. As far as the creative team on this series, Batman and Robin Eternal are going to bring in a lot of new talent to the DCU. We will be getting our first look at some of DC’s brightest new talent, in that respect the book is going to be launching the careers of many new, up and coming artists. In the other Bat Books we can expect lots of family drama in Batman-Superman due in large part to Batgirl’s role in the coming arc and the rumors are true, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are coming to Gotham! That’s right a Batman/Turtles crossover is coming. The plot centers on the entire TMNT crew including Shredder being trapped in Gotham and desperately trying to get back to their world. Of course they run into Batman along the way and all shell breaks loose. Ugh, I know it was a bad pun but I couldn’t resist, but what’s not bad is the fact that this book is going to feature a Kevin Eastman variant cover. On a much more serious note, the Robin Wars will be the big cross-over event kicking off in December and if you are not excited about this heed the words of Tom King, “If you are tired of events, my job is to wake you up.” I spent a good long while talking to Tom over the course of the convention and he is a great guy, definitely one of the most approachable and down to Earth creators I’ve been fortunate enough to meet. After the panels it was time to hit the floor for some more treasure hunting and meeting creators.
This year’s guest list was one the best ever; I met two legendary Justice League artists, the absolutely incredible Kevin Maguire and the innovative Bart Sears. Both of these guys changed the face of comics in the 90’s and their influence is still apparent today. There were two creative couples at this year’s con; the distinguished duo of Walter and Louise Simonson. These consummate professionals are always a pleasure to meet, I was lucky enough to meet them at last year’s event and they were even nicer this year. The other terrific twosome appearing this year was current Harley Quinn creative team Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, like the Simonsons this pair of brilliant creators was super friendly and made waiting in line to get their signatures worth every second. All the creators we met this year were nothing short of fantastic when it came to taking the time to chat and sign books, not once did we encounter attitude or ego from any of the talented guests.
Annie Wu was a joy and more than accommodating when I asked her for a sketch to give away as a prize on the website, Tom King and Matt Daley were two of the nicest guys I ever met and Justin Jordan was as friendly as ever. This year also boasted a guest list containing many of my all-time favorite creators; the writers and artists whose work got me hooked on comics and kept me a satisfied reader for many years. Guys like; Mike Zeck, Jeff Parker, Ben Templesmith, Richard Case, John Totleben, Bernie Wrightson, Mark Waid, Ethan Van Scriver, Jim Starlin, David Finch and Mike Grell. Not only are these creators I have admired most of my life but they were all genuinely friendly, accommodating to the fans and appreciative of our admiration for their craft and contribution to our lives as collectors, readers and fans of comic books.
Overall this was an extremely fun albeit an exhausting weekend. Three days on the concrete convention center floor will take a toll on anyone. By the end of the third day I was as drained as my wallet. I was able to get a few of the key issues I was looking for as well as fill in a pretty good chunk of my Batman run, I’m basically solid from 400 through the New 52, next year I plan on filling in the gaps from 300-400. I got to meet lots of really great people on both sides of the tables and even did some fill in retailer time with my buddies at Universal Comics. Not a bad weekend at all; I got some new comics, made some new friends and spent some time with some old ones, what could be better? Maybe next year’s con could be four days, just a suggestion.
Shawn is an aspiring writer/ artist who has been reading, collecting and living comic books for over 30 years. He lives in Baltimore with his wife, their son, lots of cats, dogs and other various finned and furry friends.