Sunday, September 16, 2012

Baltimore Comic Con 2012

Last week my wife and friend and I drove the seven plus hours from Columbus, OH to Baltimore, MD to attend the 2012 Baltimore Comic Con. It was my second time, but my friend's first. And my wife went sight-seeing instead of actually attending the convention. 

Each time I go to a convention I look at the guest list and decide who I want to visit with. Last year I was able to meet one of my all-time favorite artists, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez. I got him to sign a few of my comics, and I even chatted with him for a little while. However, I didn't realize he did sketches, and after I heard that he *did*, I kicked myself for not getting one. So this year, my number one goal was to get a sketch of Aquaman from the master.

I wore my orange Aquaman t-shirt with a green dress shirt over it. I figured it would be cold in the convention center.

My wife waited in line with me and my friend before the convention opened. During that time she saw several people in costumes as well as several...well....shall I call them "Extreme 40 Year Old Virgins"? And by that I mean over-weight and or unattractive people in obscure comic or anime or pop culture character t-shirts. I mean, I'm no Brad Pitt myself but I looked normal! (One of the pleasures I get from going to these types of things, to tell you the truth!) My wife turned to me and said, "I understand. I take back all the bad nerdy things I've called you over the years." In Japanese there is a word, "o-taku," that is used to call people what I think of as "extreme nerds." Characters from THE BIG BANG THEORY, perhaps? Oddly enough, this year for every two or three of these people we saw, I saw a hot girl or guy, too. When I was a kid the "cool" or "good looking" kids never admitted to reading this stuff. So I was impressed every time I saw a good looking, fit guy and a normal looking, sexy girl together. The future looks bright!

As soon as I got inside I made a bee-line to Garcia-Lopez' table. However, he wasn't there, yet. So we went to Larry Hama, who is well-known for creating Obnoxio The Clown, for editing X-MEN, G.I. JOE, and WOLVERINE, for appearing on an episode of MASH, and for editing SUPER FRIENDS. That is why I wanted to see him....we chatted a little bit about the comic-book (his first editorial job, he said) and the work involved in it. He was obviously surprised to see 70s DC comics when he's used to seeing 80s MARVELs.  He told me how much of a joy it was to work with the artist, the extra-ordinary Ramona Fradon. I told him I hoped to see her at the upcoming NY Comic Con and maybe get her to sign the same issues he had just signed for me.
He was seated right next to Roger Stern and Scott Hanna. I think Roger Stern wrote the best CAPTAIN AMERICA series ever and one of the best AVENGERS stories, so I got in line to ask him to sign those. His wife (I assume) asked if I wanted them personalized, but I was so surprised by the request that I was momentarily struck speechless. In the end I said no, and I got "Best, Roger Stern." He was a hell of a nice guy. Scott Hanna was offering new copies of PHANTOM STRANGER, so I bought a copy and got him to sign it as we chatted about the character. That was cool, too.

And then.....back to Garcia-Lopez' booth. He was there and we waited in line. My buddy John joined us because he, too, wanted to get a sketch from the master. Finally, after some annoying dealer guy was finished being rude to him, it was our turn. By this time I had seen an earlier guy ask for a sketch and pay $20, so I knew that it would be okay. "Hello, sir," I said respectfully. "Could you please draw a sketch of Aquaman on my Garcia-Lopez Treasury inside front cover?"  He took my book, grabbed a pencil, and went to work. Moments (yes, mere moments!) later, I had the following illustration. "Thank you so much!" 

I could have gone home right then, I was so happy.

My friend and I walked around for the rest of the day. I saw and chatted with Mark Waid, who signed his newest project, STEED AND MRS PEEL.

I had Paul Levitz sign a few of my favorite LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES issues, then later went to listen to him talk about his life in the industry. I chatted with Peter Tomasi, who was the editor of AQUAMAN for several years.

I hung out some more with my buddy John at TWO-MORROWS PUBLISHING. I bought a few back-issues of Back Issue and Alter Ego. They always seem to have interesting articles in their magazines, so that was fun to chat with them.

And lastly, I went up to one of the all-time greats, Mr. Neal Adams, and asked for an autograph. Now, all of these other creators had been signing things for free. Neal Adams, however, charged five bucks. So I gave him a favorite illustration of the JLA and asked him to sign near Aquaman. I pointed to my shirt and told him that Aquaman was my favorite. We made small talk about The Aquaman Shrine, and then I was leaving. It was definitely a tad surreal to meet one of you idols like this, but I'm glad I did. Five bucks seems steep for a signature, but for the whole experience, it definitely seems worth it.


We headed back to our hotel and got stuck in the sudden storm. I had to change into one of my newly purchased Aquaman t-shirts (green this time) for dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. I met up with my Aquaman Shrine and Ace Kilroy buddy Rob Kelly and *his* pal, Doug Slack.

The next day we got up early and drove to Washington DC to visit with another friend. Seven plus hours later, we were back in Columbus. It was a greatly fun weekend.

Next up is the Ohio Mid-Ohio Con (aka Wizard World Columbus) coming up the last week of September. Then we are hitting the road again to go to the NY Comic Con. Looking forward to that one, for sure!

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