I decided to be impulsive this last Saturday and attend the Baltimore Comic Con. Usually, when I go to a con, I plan it out for at least a few weeks, and more likely than not, apply for a press pass or arrange to moderate a panel or two so that I can get in as a guest. That makes a lot more financial sense for me these days. And I tend not to do overnight hotel stays too often, either, as those can really increase the cost of the trip.
But Friday was payday, and there were a lot of people I liked on the guest list, including several comics professionals I’d never met before. I’d never been to Baltimore, but after looking it up on Google Maps, it wasn’t all that far away, as long as I got an early start and made the most of the day.
And so, after a late night of scouring the Convention website, planning panels to attend, guests to meet, and pulling comics & books I wanted to get signed, I got up at 6:45am (ungodly early hour for me) and took the three hour drive from Parsippany, NJ to Baltimore, MD. It was a fairly easy drive, mostly just a straight shot down I-95 south. The Baltimore Convention Center is easy to find, right next to Oriole Park at Camden Yards:
I arrived in Baltimore shortly after 10:30am. By the time I found parking and walked over to the convention center, it was about a quarter to 11.
After I bought my ticket for the day (a quick & easy process), I immediately set out to find Room 339-342, for the 11am Story Structure panel moderated by Robert Greenberger with panelists James Tynion IV, Marv Wolfman, Louise Simonson, Elliot S! Maggin, and Mark Waid.
I’ve had many friendly interactions with Bob Greenberger online over the years, and meeting him face to face at long last was one of the things that motivated me to come to the convention. Bob & I both write for BACK ISSUE from TwoMorrows, and he’s been very generous sharing his time and his memories of comic projects he’s worked on for articles I’ve had to write for BI. I was a beta reader on Bob’s upcoming book Captain America: The Never-Ending Battle, due for release this November, and I highly recommend you pre-order it.
Despite the microphones not working at first, the Story Structure panel was quite enjoyable, with everyone having interesting things to say. Elliot Maggin talked about how his B+ college term paper turned into his very first comics script for Green Lantern/Green Arrow, James Tynion talked about the challenges of writing Batman in Detective Comics today, and Mark Waid was sure to heap praise on Maggin for his Superman stories and Marv Wolfman for establishing the “A Day in the Life” story as a new trope in superhero comics.
At one point, Waid talked about how certain moments in comics resonate, noting that while most of us recall Steve Ditko’s iconic shots of Spider-Man lifting several tons of machinery off his back, probably only one in 30 fans recall the exact circumstances under which it happened. (It was in the Master Planner’s underwater headquarters, BTW, when Spidey was trying to get his hands on the serum that would save Aunt May’s life. I went up to say this to Waid after the panel, and he said, “Well, you’re the one in 30, then.”)
I should note that the Baltimore Convention Center is very nicely laid out and the convention itself is very well organized. The aisles on the floor never got very crowded, there are tables and chairs scattered throughout the center (very handy when you need to stop, rest, or get something out of your bag), and bathrooms were clean and plentiful. I even met writer Alisa Kwitney in line for the bathroom, and if that’s not a perk, I don’t know what is.
I also ran into DC head honcho Dan DiDio in between panels, and had a short but pleasant conversation with him. I thinked him for his participation on the BACK ISSUE Facebook page, and for being such a good sport about the New 52 piece I did a few years back, to the point of even buying of print of it from me at the East Coast Comicon.
At 12:15 I went to another panel that caught my eye, A Crash Course in Online Reviewing, moderated by the folks behind the website Pop Culture Uncovered. While I wasn’t familiar with the site, they had some valuable tips to share with anyone looking to get into writing for the web. They made a video recording of their panel, but I’m not seeing it up on their site yet. Keep an eye out for it this week.
At 1:30 I went to a panel I wasn’t originally planning on attending. Lettering with Todd Klein & John Workman. This one was once again moderated by Robert Greenberger. The beginning of the panel was plagued with technical difficulties as Todd struggled to get the slides on his laptop to project correctly. The convention people were right there helping out, and Todd was finally able to display his slides for the crowd. Bob had to vamp a bit and focus on John Workman while this was going on, and I discovered all sort of interesting things about Workman’s comics career. In addition to being Walt Simonson’s regular letterer for the last few decades, John’s also worked for Heavy Metal and the National Lampoon. Quite a pedigree!
After his panels, Bob was kind enough to wander around with me for a bit and show me around the con. I met Jim Calafiore, probably best known for his run on Aquaman with Peter David. The ever-cheerful Paris Cullins was also there. Bob asked him about his banner proclaiming he’d spent 30 years in comics, which doesn’t quite check out anymore, since he was working for DC in the early 80s. Cullins confessed that he got the banner a few years ago during his actual 30th anniversary, but he was getting his full use out of it even though he’s been in comics for more than 30 years now.
We saw Jose Delbo, still drawing and appearing at cons at age 84. I was hoping to say hello to Jose, as he was one of my favorite teachers during my Kubert School days, but he was occupied signing several old Charlton comics for one fan. We also chatted briefly Ramona Fradon of Brenda Starr, Aquaman, and Metamorpho fame, another testament that you can keep doing comics no matter how old you are.
On the floor I ran into my friend Christy Blanch of Aw Yeah Comics. I met Christy at last year’s East Coast Comicon, where we bonded over our mutual love of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. It was nice to see her in person again and catch up a bit. I also saw Walter and Louise Simonson on their way to somewhere or another. I said hi to them, and Walter gave me a quick pat on the shoulder as they passed. That was fun.
At 4:00 there was a panel with Charlie Kochman and Mark Evanier talking about the new revised edition of Evanier’s book Kirby: King of Comics. Evanier, Kirby’s former assistant and friend of over two decades, talked about his first meeting with the King shortly after the Kirbys moved out to California, as well as what made Jack Kirby such a pioneer in general. Kochman talked about his initial struggles in convincing his publishing company Abrams Books to do a book about Kirby, since no one else in the room had ever heard of him (Kochman’s response: “Well, that’s a failure of the room, not the artist.”)
After the panel I walked over to the Abrams Books booth, where I introduced myself to Kockman and chatted with him a bit. I also spoke with Evanier, took a picture with him, and got him to sign my copies of Crossfire #12, Crossfire #15, Blackhawk #268, and two of his collaborations with Steve Rude: 1999’s Legends of the DC Universe #14 (based on an unused Jack Kirby story idea) and 1987’s Mister Miracle Special.
Meeting Mark Evanier face to face was another highlight of the con for me. I’ve been a fan of his work for years, and I’m a daily visitor over at his blog NewsFromME. He’s one of the most vastly underrated writers in comics as far as I’m concerned. He hardly ever does cons on the east coast, so I was very happy to have the opportunity to meet him in person and gush for few minutes.
Getting a signature on my copy of Blackhawk #268 was especially meaningful for me since I own an original page of Dan Spiegle art from that issue. You can see it over here in this column from April if you’re interested. And I rave about the Evanier/Spiegle runs on Blackhawk and Crossfire (as well as the Robert Greenberger-edited The Atlantis Chronicles) over here.
At the IDW booth, I lustfully eyed their Artist Editions editions on display, including the Frank Miller Daredevil Artifact Edition, the Chris Samnee Daredevil Artist Edition. IDW’s Artist Edition line is amazing, and I’m going have to write a column about them in the near future. The gentleman Mike behind the IDW booth told me that the AE line is currently at 47 editions and counting!
I was also quite taken with IDW’s two collections of Berke Breathed’s recent return to Bloom County. I intended to circle back and buy their first BC collection, but I wasn’t able to make it back before the con day ended at 7.
I next visited the Kirby Museum booth, just around the corner from the Abrams Books booth, where they were selling various books about Kirby and displaying high-res scans of Kirby’s pencils and the inks he received from his various collaborators. It was there that I ran into Mark Evanier again, where he confirmed that the correction pronunciation of “Himon” is “HI-mon.”
I stopped by the table of Todd Klein to tell him how much I enjoyed his panel with Bob and John Workman. He asked me to take a picture of him and his tablemate Andrea, after which I took one of my own. I also bought a print from him, a collaboration with artist Shawn McManus that every freelancer can relate to.
Longtime DC artist & writer Jerry Ordway was there sharing a corner table with his daughter Rachel. Rachel is, like me, a former contributor to The Line It Is Drawn over at CBR and a great cartoonist in her own right. Ordway was the only comics celeb I had to wait in line for, as he had a line of fans winding around his table. I chatted a bit with the fan in front of me, a friendly chap named Eli. When I got to the front, Ordway signed his The Power of Shazam graphic novel. All-Star Squadron #24, and Batman Annual #9 for me, three of my favorite art jobs from his long career. He was pleasant to chat with, and told me a bit about his redesign of Tarantula’s costume. The outfit has a great retro feel, perfect for the 1940s setting of All-Star, but Ordway had to fight for the brown color scheme — All-Star Squadron writer/editor Roy Thomas was originally thinking red. I’m glad Ordway stuck to his guns and came out on top!
As the day was winding down, I ran into Bob Greenberger again, and met his lovely wife Deb. Bob also took the time to sign my copy of Murder at Sorrow’s Crown, the Sherlock Holmes novel he co-wrote with Steven Savile, as well as my copy of Star Trek Annual #2, a tale of the end of the Enterprise‘s five-year mission, which he edited for DC Comics.
I sadly missed Bob’s third panel, the 5:15pm Creator-Owned vs. Company-Owned, where he talked with Walter Simonson, Dean Haspiel, and Thom Zahler about the benefits and drawbacks of each option. As Bob told me when I ran into him later in the day, he got to ask all of one question at the top of the panel and Simonson, Haspiel, and Zahler took it from there. Sounds like a great conversation!
All in all, I had a wonderful time at the Baltimore Comic Con! My main regret is that one day wasn’t enough to do it all. Next year, I’m going to have to go for at least two days.
Keeping the Lights On Department: Most of the things I linked to in this column are Amazon Associate links, which means that if you use one of them to order something from Amazon, this site will get a small referral fee from the sale even if it’s not the item that I linked to. So please click on one of the links and make that Maserati purchase you’ve been putting off. Thank you, and end of commercial.
I did do one more thing in Baltimore after the con ended on Saturday, but since it’s not related to the convention or comic books, I’ll put that in a separate column soon. Stay tuned.