Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Convention Season!

Redartz: Spring is upon us, and the weather (theoretically, anyway) is warming. This is a sure sign that comic book conventions are going to be sprouting up like crocuses! Of course in recent years, cons have spread out throughout the year, and throughout the world. Big conventions, small conventions; some like Comic Con in San Diego are pop culture phenomenons in themselves. Others are local gatherings of comic book dealers and fans; buying and selling as they have since fandom began. 
The writer and his youngest son at Motor City Con

Today let's discuss comic conventions. Do you prefer a large, multi-media show, or a smaller, more intimate gathering? Do you go to buy, meet creators, see panels? Any cosplayers among us (one of these days I'll get up the nerve to go as Dr. Strange; my wife the quilter has already agreed to help). Have you any cool convention experiences to share, or are you still looking to attend your first one? 

And speaking of attending, this brings us to another question for you all. Upcoming at the end of April (specifically, April 29 - May ) in Indianapolis, Indiana is the Indiana Comic Con. This year they are featuring a pretty stellar group of Bronze Age comics pros, including: Neal Adams, Chris Claremont, Mike Golden, George Perez, Jim Shooter, Ron Wilson, Marv Wolfman and Bernie Wrightson.  This writer is planning to attend, probably on Sunday May 1. I mentioned it to Doug and Karen, thinking perhaps there might be others among us, located within a reasonable distance, who might be interested in attending also. They agreed, and also agreed that if this is the case, it might be fun to set up a little face-to-face meeting of said BAB attendees! Thus, I toss this question to you all, is anyone open/ interested/available for this? Any suggestions, requests or advice?


Anonymous said...

Members of the BAB community meeting face-to-face ??? Surely this will cause untold chaos in the space-time continuum and probably result in the destruction of the universe.

Anonymous said...

Went to the London con last month. Its right on my doorstep so I've been a few times and Its enjoyable enough. But I think I prefer a smaller scale event as I always had a really memorable weekend at the old Bristol cons in their heyday.


david_b said...

Surely, Colin is right, this could mean.. Armageddon, Pestilence, but some incredible group selfies.

I'm so tempted for Indy but again I face the ire of which con to attend. In May, Detroit's got Adam&Burt, a Python and Mike Nesmith, but practically no one else.

Indy's definitely got the comic heralds going for it.

It's kinda easy for me this year..: None of 'em.

I'm spending a few grand next month to take these two HUGE trees down in my backyard, which I MUST do since I had a sewage backup this last fall due to their roots getting into the system. The guy I bought the house from a year ago (of course) failed to detail this...

Plus I've got nuptials coming up on June 17th now.., so a few grand will go there. A very, VERY small gathering at the lake front bistro over looking Lake Michigan, very elegant and scenic.

I'm contemplating having Nez sign my Gibson J100 acoustic.., if I do run to Detroit.

And with military duty obligations this year, will further contemplate.

Humanbelly said...

It. . . it could make beans into peas-!! (Heh. . . )

Man, it has been decades since I've been to a comic book convention. Every year I'm, like, "this is it! I'm hittin' the hall this time!" Especially since the Baltimore Comicon seems to be a pretty darned good one. And I UTTERLY regret not going summer-before-last and finally meeting Herb Trimpe, since he so sadly and suddenly passed away a year ago. Generally, though, the perception of huge lines, over-packed crowds, and Disney-esque pricing keeps me from jumping back in. The panel discussions are what I would now enjoy the most-- but it seems like the best of those cost a premium above admission, and/or are about as available as SuperBowl tickets. But-- HBSon did go last summer w/ some of his pals (a collective of Magic the Gathering enthusiasts), and they had a fine ol' time--- plus he did get me that Neal Adams signed Hulk print. . . so who knows?

Ha-- Redartz, it sounds like you might have the seeds of a BABster Mid-American Con-within-a-Con in play, there! Too far for this DC-Metro area transplant, I'm afraid, but if I still lived in Michigan. . .

Nice picture o' you & your boy, too! Being able to attach a face to a co-hort's name is not unwelcome a'tall. I'd like to believe that if I saw Doug or Karen (ha- or Karen's husband!) in an airport, I could careen right up to them, giggling madly, and give them a big hug. . . just before the nice TSA folks took me for an extended time-out in the Special Waiting Area. . .

Hmm. . . so. . . maybe that doesn't support my point all that well, eh-?


Martinex1 said...

I like smaller conventions...if I can find them anymore. I go to C2E2 at Chicago's McCormick Place about every other year, but it can be a bit overwhelming especially if I bring the boys; crowds can be hard to navigate. But the cosplay and artist's alley are top notch. Fun to see.

Regarding Indy, it's a firm "maybe". I would really enjoy going but I have so much travel already scheduled with work and other trips, so I will keep you posted.


Doug said...

Hello, everyone --

It's back at school for me today... spring break is in the rearview mirror.

Martinex had actually asked me a couple of months ago if I was going to C2E2 in Chicago. I did not; not sure if he did, but if so hopefully he will be by later with a report.

I won't be able to go to the Indy Con this year. That is a busy week-after for me, as I have a two-day workshop north of Chicago in the middle of the week and then down to central Indiana for our younger son's college graduation on May 7. I'd love to see some of the creators, however!

Not sure yet about Wizard World in Chicago in August. That one is really big. If it's comics/memorabilia you're after, you can't beat it. Sundays are "deal days", and like Redartz that is usually the day of a con that I choose to attend.

And lastly, in regard to BABers meeting face-to-face: I don't think I told Karen this, but several months ago my wife and I had talked about heading to the desert over break to take in some spring training baseball games. And then we realized we have different breaks -- hasn't happened that way in over a decade. So, how close was the first ever non-electronic communication between Karen and I? That close...


Doug said...

Just like yesterday -- same time typing!!


J.A. Morris said...

@Humanbelly, I had a similar Trimpe experience. I was working on some Master's level homework and decided that I needed to finish rather than go tell Trimpe how much I enjoyed his work as a kid. I figured he'd be around again. Six months later he was gone.

As far as meeting up at a con, I'm in Richmond,VA which limits me to DC and Baltimore and possibly cons in the Carolinas. Of course Richmond is now host to an annual WizardWorld convention, if any of the regulars here plans to attend the con in my little town, let me know.

Anonymous said...

Reading Martinex' comment, it occurs to me that even the London cons aren't particularly large by US standards. So when I say smaller events... well, I recall one year at Bristol talking to some editor for DC, when one of the other American guests came up to him and talked about heading over to the main con. "You're here, this is it" the editor replied:)


Doug said...

Concerning the size of the cons... Some of the best experiences I had were at really small cons (more like gatherings) in Rosemont, IL adjacent to O'Hare Airport. They were in hotel conference rooms -- not ballrooms, but conference rooms. That's where I first met Alex Ross, just ahead of the release of Marvels. I believe (maybe) the 1st issue had just gone on sale -- Terminator was all that he was known for at the time. I also met Roy Thomas at the same con. That's it -- maybe 3-4 creators and perhaps 18-20 vendors. It was nice, in a quaint way.

But for consumer selection, give me the big cons. I'm not a panel attender, nor do I spend a lot of time in the company areas. I like to focus my time and resources in the Artists' Alley and with the vendors.


Martinex1 said...

I used to go to those Rosemont conventions too. There are positives to both types. I like the comfort and less hectic nature of the smaller hotel ballroom cons . But I also like C2E2 for its all out extravaganza. It is really a circus and spectacle. I like to hang outside the entry doors and look at people's costumes. There are a lot of very creative folks out there. The best I ever saw was a Mysterio that was so faithful to the comics it was amazing. He had the big dome head and somehow had mist or fog in it and he had the intricate gauntlets...it was truly a work of art. I wish I took pictures because it was faithful and still seemed oddly plausible (in context). My lil Martinexes went as Mario and Luigi once and that was fun. But the crowds can make it tough so we didn't stay long. Sundays at C2E2 were free for kids at one point, and so any last day deals were mitigated by navigating through a sea of people big and small. But where else can you bump into Lou Ferigno and the guy that played Captain Marvel on Saturday mornings.

I didn't go this year. I like just wandering artist alley and seeing the art; but I didn't miss it this year much. Greatest regret from past years was not waiting to talk to Gene Colan at a con. Should have done that and thanked him for his work in Subby and DD. Best deal at a con was Origins and Son of Origins for $5 total and picking up a John Byrne page from X-Men Hidden Years starring the Beast sans fur. That is still the pride of my collection. Biggest miss was at a hotel con and not picking up a low grade copy of Avengers 4 for just a few bucks; I was 14 so what did I know!

Biggest improvement needed at cons is the food.. Hot dogs spinning endlessly under a 75 watt bulb has lost its appeal. They need to add some Galactus World Burgers and Ultimate Nulli- Fries!

Karen said...

Generally speaking, I enjoy going to cons, which is odd, since I don't like being in the middle of crowds! But I've learned how to maneuver in groups. And I can put up with some jostling if it's for something I love, like comics and sci-fi.

I used to really love going to the San Diego Comic Con (the first con I ever attended, back in 1975),but it has just become a huge logistical and financial nightmare these days. We haven't gone to it since 2009. Now I satisfy my con-jones by going to smaller shows, like Monsterpalooza or Phoenix Comic Con, both of which have grown quite a bit in the last few years.

While I enjoy cruising the dealer rooms, I look forward to checking out panels. I also like being able to speak with creators and others whose work I admire, so the small to midsize cons are fun for that. I miss the old days, before everything became so commercial, and you could actually interact with folks without having to plunk down $60 for an autograph. Sometimes you can still do that but not often. I miss the freedom and coziness of the old fan-run, less corporate shows.

Well Doug, no, I did not realize you were nearly out my way! To think, a real-life team-up ALMOST happened! Someday....

JJ said...

I've only been to three conventions, but at the third one (Tampa, FL) I totally hit the jackpot. George Perez was the guest of honor. I got down there early, before the doors opened. Once I got in I had a hard time finding the man. When I asked for help from one of the convention employees she didn't even know who he was! Finally I made my way back to artist's row and there he was, all by himself. I introduced myself and even managed to pronounce his name correctly.

He gave me a warm handshake and noticing the many white hairs in my goatee, he rubbed his chin and said with a smile, "Wow, you guys keep getting older!"

I thanked him for all the wonderful work over the years. I then asked him if he would autograph my copy of New Teen Titans Annual #1 (a comic my father bought me from a Wa-Wa store way back in 1982 and one I absolutely cherish). He did so cheerfully. I then bought two prints from him, one of Superman and one of Captain America. He autographed those too. I then pushed my luck and asked if he would take a photo with me. Again, he did so cheerfully.

It was a thrilling experience for me. What a nice guy. I mean, if I could pick just ONE comics legend to interact with, Perez would've topped my list. I couldn't believe my luck.

Doug said...

Nice guys, JJ? How about John Romita, Sr. and Sal Buscema seated at the same table? That happened to me at the Chicago Comicon (before Wizard took it over) in the early 90s. True gentlemen, both.

The list of creators I've had the privilege to meet is long, and I've never had a bad experience. That is saying something, because those weekends have to be grueling for those guys, and to be pleasant the entire time is something to applaud.


JJ said...

Wow, two titans right there, Doug! I can only imagine how difficult it is to spend all day autographing books, sketching, and shaking hands with all the fans. I'm so glad I got my butt down there early, before the huge crowds really descended.

I'd love to hear some more about the pros you've met, Doug, if you're so inclined.

pfgavigan said...


I think I'm going to vote for the smaller and more intimate, thou the larger can have it's charms. The first one I went to was at the Rosemont and I got there later on the last day. Plenty of bargains to be picked up and I took advantage of them. A gentleman dropped a few items that he was carrying and I gave him a hand getting them together which led to a fifteen minute discussion with Jim Steranko. Later conventions had chances to spend a little time with Jim Shooter, who was never anything less than gracious, and Harlan Ellison, who was never anything less than friendly.

At the last one I attended in Chicago, which was a mega-convention, I basically told a writer/director type whose panel appearances at conventions seem to include an 'insult the audience' routine to go to hell in front of said audience.

Interesting experience, but not one I'd care to repeat.



Edo Bosnar said...

You guys want a small con? Come to Zagreb - it's so small the organizers actually just call it a "show" (Doug's term, gathering, would work as well). The upside to that is that you can really spend some quality time with some of the pros who show up - as I did when Howard Chaykin was a guest back in 2010. The downside is that hardly any creators from the US ever show up.
Otherwise, I have to say I've never actually been to a real con, and one of my big regrets is that I never went to either a comic, sci fi or Trek convention during my college years when I was living in the SF Bay area in California, before the cons became these big crowded, corporate affairs they are today. Even so, I still would like to go to one of the big cons in the US. And that line-up of Bronze Age pros Redartz listed is quite awesome; I'd love to at least shake the hand of each and every one of those guys.

Anonymous said...

Hey Edo - I've had the pleasure of a chat with Chaykin. What a thoroughly nice man he is.
More generally - its an odd phenomenon that cons are getting larger at the same time as comic sales are declining...


Redartz said...

Many thanks for all the terrific comments, all! Love hearing the stories...
David_b- sounds like you have a plateful; good luck with the trees, and with the wedding!

Doug- wow, Buscema and Romita; that must have been incredible.

JJ- great to hear of your meeting with Perez. Really looking forward to meeting him.

Like many today, I prefer the smaller shows. I've hit Wizard World Chicago a few times, but had better fortunes at shos like Motor City and Gem City. Like Karen, I try to catch a panel or two. Also love to watch the cosplayers; at Cincinnati last year I photographed a couple appearing as a perfect Joker and Harley Quinn. They enthusiastically hammed it up for a photo, giant mallet included...

david_b said...

A highlight for me was asking Yvonne Craig some in-depth questions about her PSA Batgirl appearance in Detroit back in 2012..:


Don't know who had the video camera, but he/she was pretty shaky (yes, that was my voice nearly-shouting the question in the beginning.., terrible acoustics).

Other highlights from that con...:

1) Discovering Dawn Wells was dating a MUCH younger man at the Pentagon...

2) Getting a pic with Peter Tork and asking him about working with George Harrison on 'Wonderwall' (1967)..

3) Asking Loni Anderson just what her Jennifer character on WKRP did with ALL THOSE TOASTERS... (WKRP in-joke..)

4) Talking Gibson guitars one-on-one with Bill Mumy.

I like the smaller scale cons personally.. At the Galactica 20th Yahren/Year anniversary in LA back in '98.., you could walk up to and shoot the breeze with all the celebs as long as you'd like without any of the bad security attitudes of larger events.., and I was lucky to have it happen again for Galacticon 4 in Seattle last August. I was flabbergast when I escorted both LIS's Marta Kristen and Mark Goddard into that convention hall there, because no one else was even paying attention. I even took celeb food orders for a nearby deli there.., the virtues of a badly-run convention.

In fact, Mark Goddard kept coming back to my booth during the 3 days, just to talk football and other stuff, gave both my fiancé and I some free signed glossies as well, just for helping him and Marta out with the meals and especially the NON-geek banter.

Doug said...

JJ --

Creators I've had the opportunity to chat with at least briefly, and I know I'll forget some:

Stan Lee
John Romita
Sal Buscema
Neal Adams
Denny O'Neil
Julius Schwartz
Jim Lee
Al Williamson
Murphy Anderson
George Perez
Whilce Portacio
Jeff Moy
Bernie Wrightson
Archie Goodwin
Colleen Doran
Dave Dorman
Alex Ross
Roy Thomas
Mart Nodell
Sheldon Moldoff
Dick Sprang
Dan Jurgens

Again, I'm sure I've forgotten quite a few. Years of going to cons in Chicago gave me opportunities to thank so many people who have brought four-color joy into my life.


Anonymous said...

I love going to cons to meet pros. My ultimate goal is a piece of art, usually a free or cheap head sketch. The first time I went to a con was 2001, in Florida. I've gone to one every year since, almost all of them in Boston. I've always had a good time, and never had a bad experience with an artist or writer. I've been lucky enough to meet my two favorite artists, Bill Sienkiewicz and Gene Colan. The latter signed my copy of Tomb of Dracula 10 (1st appearance of Blade), and I'm excited to meet Marv Wolfman at this summer's Boston Comiccon and have him sign it, too.

The guys who run the Boston con do a great job, but it's gotten too big. They are renting the biggest place they can afford, and it still gets filled to capacity. A lot of the attendees are cosplayers, and I'm glad they have a place to do their thing. It's hard to get around, however, when so much of the floor space is being used for pictures.

Also, sketch prices have crept way up. I don't begrudge any artist making money with their art, but most of the bigger names seem to charge at least $40 a head sketch. That means I can only afford one, maybe two. That said, I was spoiled for years by artists sketching for free or cheap. I even have a George Perez Hulk sketch that cost me nothing. So, this is me whining about not getting free/cheap art. Waaaah!

- Mike Loughlin

Rip Jagger said...

The Cincinnati area has been having dueling cons for a few years now and they've been getting in some really good guests. I got to meet and greet Herb Trimpe there a few years ago. (Special Note - if you want to get a tiny glimpse of the drawing I had Trimpe do for me of Phantom Eagle then check out a recent issue of Alter Ego which used it in a piece on Trimpe.)

I don't usually like cons and now that my back issue hunting days are largely behind me, I have little to scout for. There are some small publishers I like to check out at these things and they seem always to have trades for very nice small money.

Rip Off

JJ said...

Fantastic list, Doug. So many legends there. Thanks!

Dr. Oyola said...

I've never been to a comic con of any kind.

As a kid I always wanted to go, but couldn't afford it or had someone to bring me. Now as an adult the only reason I'd want to go is to checkout the long boxes and hunt down some harder to get back issues I am looking for.

I have never cared too much about meeting the pros - what would I say to them? That I like their work? I met Chris Claremont a couple of months ago at a book event/signing (not his book, a comics scholar's) and told him just that and felt really dorky doing it. The same goes w/ panels, none of which are going to have a scholarly focus, which is what I want (speaking of which, I am attending and presenting at the International Comics Art Forum conference in two weeks), and I am not a collector of signatures or original art. . . so I am not sure any of it is for me. Still, I do sometimes consider going just for the experience of it and to know for sure if it is something I am interested in continuing to do.

I have gone to GEN CON a bunch of times (in Milwaukee and later Indy) because I love table-top gaming of various kinds, but that kind of con is different, since I am playing games for four days straight.

Phil said...

San Diego long ceased being a comic con. The problem with the smaller cons is many of the dealers and original art guys don't go to them. I'm nostalgic for older cons when most of the legends were alive and you could walk up to Jack Kirby or Milton Caniff and talk to them. Alas they are gone and even the kids are now is their sixties and the new guys I go....who is that? You used to know - Swan drew Superman, Batman was Dick Sprang ( later Adams). Spidey was Ditko later Romita. Infantino drew Flash. I can honestly say I have no idea and if you showed their art I wouldn't know who drew them now. Am I old? Yes. But there's also a sameness to the art now that's disturbing. The powers that be want a house look so that when the artist leaves there's continuity in the look of the comic. That's my hypothesis and I'm sticking with it.

Doug said...

JJ --

I'd nearly forgotten that I actually did a post on the autographs/meetings I mentioned. You can check it out here... from seven years ago!


Redartz said...

Doug- thanks for the link to your previous column. Very impressive; those Les Daniels books with those signatures are treasures!

Dr. Oyola- best of luck at the ICAF. That truly sounds fascinating...

Anonymous said...

What Redartz said- that Les Daniels book having those signatures is great, as is the Greatest Joker collection.

My prized multi-autograph book is Heroes, the magazine-sized pin-up book Marvel put out soon after 9/11. I have it signed by (deep breath):

Neal Adams, Jim Lee, Bill Sienkiewicz, Frank Quitely, Evan Dorkin, Sarah Dyer, Mike Allred, Steve Rude, Carlos Pacheco, Michael Avon Oeming, Tim Bradstreet, Joe Kubert, Adam Kubert, Paul Pope, Mike McKone, Mark McKenna, JH Williams III, Humberto Ramos, J Scott Campbell, John Cassaday, Sean Chen, Norman Lee, Dexter Vines, Tim Townsend, Bob Almond, David Mack, Tom Raney, Mark Bagley, & Joe Quesada.

I've taken it to every convention I've gone to since 2001. I hope to have every living contributor sign it someday. My only regret is I couldn't add Stan Lee's signature, but there's no way I'm paying $80 for an autograph.

- Mike Loughlin

JJ said...

I'm glad I doubled back, Doug. Thanks very much. Looking forward to reading this in the morning. Cheers!

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