In fact, I’m in Pennsylvania having just completed my fourth convention in eight weeks. Yup: Chicago Wizard World, Baltimore Comic Con, New York Comic Con, and last – and best – the Kokomo (Indiana) Comic Con. That latter one came highly recommended by ComicMixers Denny O’Neil and Marc Alan Fishman… and they were absolutely right.
Whereas I am now completely exhausted, I had more fun than a monkey with whippits. I saw lots and lots of good friends and co-workers, made some new ones, and I seem to have managed to avoid pissing off the usual number of people. I guess I’m maturing a bit – as evidenced by my now being exhausted. Of course, because I avoid flying these days I had my car so I took a few side trips along the way, including a great lunch and great conversation with some great folks in Chicago – you might have seen the picture on FaceBook. And it’s always fun going back to the old homestead.
So, other than some sadly not-malicious gossip, I am woefully uninformed about what happened in the comics world this past week… if anything. Anything new, that is. So, no posturing and politicking from me this week.
The main reason I still go to comics conventions after – gasp – 49 years is to talk with the fans. Sure, I do some business when I have to and I sign a lot of comics, which is good for the ol’ self-esteem. But being able to get into one-on-one conversations with the folks who read the books, watch the movies and teevee shows, invest time in deploying our medium in educational and expansionist activities… you just can’t operate in the public media without having a clue what the “end-users” desire, and what they don’t care for.
As our audience has become more and more diverse, this quest for input becomes all the more important. Well, at least to me and those who are charged with putting up with me.
So, I thank everybody with whom I spoke these past eight weeks. You improve our work, and you feed my ego. Whereas the latter is virtually insatiable, it’s all good.
Thank you, comics fans, convention promotors, somewhat bewildered reporters and my companion denizens of the donut shop. I might be exhausted right now, but it’s a good type of exhaustion.
I spent last weekend at the Baltimore Comic-Con with my niece, Isabel, in all her cosplay glory: not just one, but three terrific outfits. Oh, yeah, also in attendance were ComicMixers Mike Gold, Joe Corallo, Glenn Hauman, Evelyn Kriete, and Emily S. Whitten (Denny O’Neil had to cancel). Unfortunately, Isabel and cosplayer supreme Emily never had a chance to meet because whenever Emily showed up, Iz was off checking out the con and also spending her aunt’s money. (How much of her aunt’s money? Let’s just say that I am a very indulgent aunt. *smile*)
Izzy and I only made it to one panel. I don’t remember the exact name because I am old and getting older – though my ego was boosted when more than one person I met that weekend took me for 14 years younger – but it was about industry women and their opinions on where the industry is today and where it’s headed. The topic turned to comic book shops and the unfortunately still ubiquitous problem of fan boys (and I do mean “fan boys” in an insulting manner) unable to deal with OMG!!!! There’s a creature with two enormous growths on its chest!!!! in the store.
Auntie Mindy was plotzing as Isabel added her opinion to the discussion, comparing her own experiences with bullying by classmates for her love of comics and gaming to the unhappy experiences of many of the women in the audience who talked about what they encounter when they enter their local “He-Man Women Haters Club.”
I also must admit that, although I have been the subject of bullying (as I mentioned in a previous column), I’ve never experienced it in a comic book store; have never even thought about it, to tell you the truth. Either I have been very lucky in my choices of where I bring my business, or the fact that comics emporia became a fact of comics reading life when I was already an adult prevented the “fan boys” from daring to open their mouths to me.
I also should admit that I don’t really understand the women who let it bother them – as I said at the panel, “to paraphrase Bryant Gumbel or Bob Costas on their show(s) talking about sports, the only color that matters is green. As in $$$$.” In other words, it’s a really stupid proprietor who makes a customer feel, at the very least, uncomfortable, in his store.
I also want to publicly apologize to the lovely young woman who was sitting a couple of rows behind me to whom I think I was rather rude. She was recounting the time when she went into a comic book store and some jackass said to her, “I’ve never seen a woman in her before” (I may be paraphrasing – again, my brain is hijacked), and how it made her feel so uncomfortable. I turned around to her and said, “And then you say, ‘Well, now you have.’” I guess you had to be there – I said it with a lot of snarkiness – she kinda blinked. I think I apologized to her, but, anyway, I don’t know if she reads this column, but it’s been bothering me, so I wanted to put it out there. I’m sorry, lovely young woman with black hair. I was really rude. In fact, I think I was guilty of a bit of bullying myself.
Other than that, Izzy and I had a great time. In fact, I would say that a good time was had by all.
Except… for the drive home. When the Giants demonstrated the axiom “no guts, no glory,” after blowing a 21-point lead and they chose to punt instead of going for it on a 4th and 1, allowing the Eagles and rookie Jake Elliot to drill a 61-yeard field goal as time expired.
That really sucked.
P.S.: As I write this, the Giants are down 5, 14 – 22, to the Buccaneers. There is 3:22 left in the game. Gi’nts just called a time-out. Will it be 0 and 4, or 1 and 3?
Droughtlander begins with the airing of the Season 2 finale, “Dragonfly in Amber.” Somehow millions of fans around the world must satisfy their continuing hunger for the Starz adaptation of author Diana Gabaldon’s book series that started with Outlander, first published way back in 1991.
Centering on the love story between 20th century Royal Army nurse Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser (Caitriona Balfe) and 18th century Scottish Highlander James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser, it encompassed the lead-up and beginning of the 1745 Jacobite Rising which climaxed in the final defeat of the Stewart claim to the British throne at Culloden Moor and the end of the Highland clan culture.
Interjection: Prime Minister David Cameron delayed the premiere of Outlander before the referendum on Scottish independence, so worried was he over its influence.
The millions of fans – and I am one of them – had to slate their hunger for more, more, more! through rereading the books (up to eight now, not counting the “sideways” shorter novels, novellas, and short stories, with Ms. Gabaldon hard at work on the ninth), rewatching Seasons 1 and 2 ad infinitum, relistening to podcasts (there are so many, but 31 are recommended here), and endless discussions on message boards and chat rooms.
Outlander had a built-in audience when it premiered on Starz on August 9, 2014, but, like me, I think many, many tuned in because of the involvement of Ronald D. Moore, who had ultra-successfully rebooted Battlestar Galactica for the Sci-Fi channel (now horribly called, im-not-so-ho, SyFy) and who had “made his bones” writing for Star Trek: The Next Generation (first episode: Season 3’s “The Bonding”), Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (writer and co-executive producer), and Star Trek: Voyager. He was also a consultant on the HBO series Carnivale, where he met Terry Dresbach, the costume designer. Here’s a great article about the couple from the New York Times.
Neither Ron nor Terry have disappointed.
The final episode of Season 2, the aforementioned “Dragonfly in Amber,” ended with the Battle of Culloden about to start. Jamie, believing that he will die in that battle, forced Claire, who is pregnant, to return to the 20th century (in one of the most heartbreaking scenes I’ve ever seen) for the sake of their unborn child, whom Claire will raise with her 20th-century husband, Frank. It also jumped ahead to 1968; Frank has died, and Claire and her child, now a 20 year-old young woman named Brianna, have returned to Scotland, where Brianna (named after Jamie’s father) discovers the truth of her heritage…
And Claire discovers that Jamie did not die that day on the moor.
Will she go back?
September 10, 2017.
Season 3 of Outlander premiered.
Droughtlander is over.
And last night, September 17, the story continued.
• • • • •
Next weekend, September 22 – 24, is the Baltimore Comic-Con. ComicMixers Mike Gold, Glenn Hauman, Joe Corallo, Evelyn Kriete and Emily Whitten. And I’ll be there as well!
But because I’m not sure if I’m working on Friday – yes, I’m back at work, though I’m wearing an ankle brace – if you’re looking for me, I may not be at the until Saturday. With my niece Isabel – OMG, she’s 17!?? How did that happen!? – who has discovered the joys of comic conventioneering and cosplay. I am so excited to be able to share my love of the medium with Izzy!
• • • • •
A giant and heartfelt thank you to everybody who contributed and made Mine!: A Celebration of Freedom & Liberty Benefitting Planned Parenthood possible.
Diversity amongst geeks has been a popular topic as of late. You would be hard pressed to find a comic convention without at least one diversity panel. Usually, though, there are panels about the diversity amongst fans, creators, cosplayers, actors, and fictional characters.
Usually, these panels focus on the heavy hitters of diversity: race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation. And yes, these are all very important issues that need to be discussed. I know. I’ve argued on these very points myself on numerous occasions. Still, these aren’t the only groups that should be discussed. One group intersects them all. The disabled.
I bring this up because over the weekend, comics writer & Mine! Contributor Tee Franklin announced she would be no longer attending Baltimore Comic Con(Full Disclosure: Various ComicMix staffhumans are guests at the Baltimore Comic Con). This is because, despite her notes about her needs, the convention placed her in a distant spot from the door and bathrooms. Because of Franklin’s disability, she would not be able to make the regular walk through the floor. When she asked for a table change, the con staff told her sorry but there is nothing we can do. So Tee made the decision to skip BCC, which has disappointed a number of her fans. And this isn’t a unique event. This is Franklin’s first year doing conventions, and three of the four shows failed to assist her.
At least one table swap was offered by another creator, but by that time Franklin had already decided to skip no matter what. As a popular creator, this is a serious blow to attendees but teaches valuable lessons that every convention needs to be aware of.
When we talk about diversity, we should mean everyone. Every single person has a unique experience and view of the world. And everyone wants to see people like themselves successful. That’s why characters like Oracle have always been so important to this community, and why writers like Jill Pantozzi were so disappointed when they changed her back to Batgirl. I find Faith from Valiant inspiring and I would be upset if they suddenly made her skinny.
Franklin has only been tabling at cons a short time, and it’s possible that the conventions aren’t equipped to deal with disabled exhibitors. However, I doubt she is the first or even the fiftieth to make these requests. BCC has announced changes to their exhibitor planning to alleviate this issue from happening again in the future, which is a step in the right direction but comes too late for 2017. As we continue on this journey of diversity, we must remain inclusive of everyone, not just the groups we remember.
There is a chance this year that I might again attend the Baltimore Comic-Con next month. This pleases me. It’s a fun show, almost entirely about comic books.
Yeah, there are some movie and television celebrities, and that’s fine. Their presence makes many people happy. They don’t take up a lot of the show floor. For the most part, it’s easy to get around. Similarly, although the cosplay can be brilliant, it doesn’t consume all the available aisle space. Or oxygen.
There is a delightful feeling of cooperation between the folks who run the con and fans and other attendees. Announcements made through the sound system are clear and easy to understand. The pros are accessible, and, in return, the fans don’t maul them. I’m sure there are examples of rudeness and discourtesy, but, unlike at other shows (I’m looking at you, NYCC) they don’t overwhelm the good vibes.
I never thought about a show having a weapons policy before. I mean, every municipality has its own laws about guns, and of course a comics convention within city limits must abide by the laws of that particular city. As cosplay continues to grow, cosplayers will want to look as authentic as they possibly can so they can garner the most admiration possible. This means they’ll want realistic-looking imitation swords, knives, lances, maces, lasers and, yes, guns.
Alas, reality intrudes. Just as we must open our bags before we go into a theater these days and walk through an X-Ray machine at the airport, it’s not unreasonable to expect comics conventions to devise tighter security measures. I would rather be patted down before entering, and possibly even surrender my beloved knitting needles, than fear an attack like the one in Orlando.
A lot of my comrades in the anti-war movement think toy weapons are bad. While I respect their opinion, I disagree. I think all of us, including children (maybe especially children) get frustrated with reality and want to act out our rage and fury, even if only in our imaginations. Children need to be taught to accept themselves and their feelings, even the so-called “bad” feelings, if they are ever to have a chance to learn how to control themselves.
It’s a wonderful thing to dress up in a way that expresses are hopes and fears, and then be admired for our creativity. Although cosplay is not my thing (and you should thank your lucky stars for that), I understand how cool it must feel to walk around in public, costumed as a fierce warrior or an intrepid heroine. It must be fun to flirt with evil, dressed as a villain.
While I love these flights of fantasy, I also admire the way graphic storytelling has, over the last couple of decades, expanded into genres that offer more kinds of heroes to admire. Yes, we have Batman and Supergirl and Thor and the Hulk, and villains like Harley Quinn and Loki and Brainiac. We have dorkier, more human-looking characters like Squirrel Girl and Ms. Marvel. We have real life heroes such as Congressman John Lewis, who has organized kids at his convention panels into cosplayers who replicate the March on Selma.
Along with pretending to have superpowers and smashing bad guys (or good guys, as the case may be), the good stuff about Congressman Lewis encouraging this kind cosplay in children is that these kids are learning how to accomplish the same results through active non-violence.
There is a saying in Baltimore that crabs may be prepared in fifty ways and that all of them are good. • H.L. Mencken
“There is only so far that you can push people into a corner… We’re frustrated and that’s why we’re out there in the streets.” • Charles, Member of the Crips gang
“I would never want to live anywhere but Baltimore. You can look far and wide, but you’ll never discover a stranger city with such extreme style. It’s as if every eccentric in the South decided to move north, ran out of gas in Baltimore, and decided to stay.” • John Waters, Filmmaker and Writer
“This is a skewed portrayal of the protests; it is what the media chose to portray – the media that consumers bewilderingly seem to want. The real revolution is thousands of people across America standing in solidarity against police brutality. The real revolution is youth activists using their voices and their fearlessness to fight for the future of their generation. The real revolution is people of different races walking through the streets of inner city Baltimore, arms locked, chanting ’All night, all day, we will fight for Freddie Gray.’” Leah Eliza Balter • Student, Baltimore Community College, Op-Ed in the Baltimore Sun
Detective William Moreland (Wendell Pierce): I’m just a humble motherfucker with a big-ass dick. Detective Lester Freamon (Clarke Peters): You give yourself too much credit. Moreland: Okay then. I ain’t that humble. • The Wire, HBO
This isn’t a column about the Baltimore Comic-Con!
Yeah, I didn’t make it down to Baltimore. I’ve never been there. I’ve never been to Camden Yards, where the Baltimore Orioles play, or the Ravens’ M & T Stadium. I’ve never been to Fort McHenry, where soldiers prevented the invasion of Baltimore by British troops during the War of 1812, which inspired Francis Scott Key to write The Star-Spangled Banner, which became our national anthem in1931(!) – I thought it was much older than that, as our national anthem I mean. But I have driven through the Fort McHenry Tunnel – according to the Maryland State Government website, the largest underwater highway tunnel, as well as the widest vehicular tunnel ever built by the immersed-tube method – on my way to Washington, D.C. I’ve never been to Pimlico to watch the Preakness States, the second lap of the Triple Crown – although I remember watching Secretariat on television as he came out of the gates in last place to take the lead by the first turn and win by 2½ lengths like some impossible super-horse out of legend made real.
I never went to the Maryland Film Festival, held in Baltimore each May, but I do know that Meg Ryan’s character in Sleepless in Seattle, Annie Reed, lived in Baltimore. One of my favorite films is Avalon, directed by Barry Levinson, who grew up in Baltimore, and is part of his “Baltimore” film series, which also includes Diner (another favorite of mine), which every football fan – including me – remembers as the movie in which Steve Guttenberg, as “Eddie,” tells his fiancée that he will not marry her unless she can pass a quiz about his beloved Baltimore Colts, the team that, as every football fan knows, absconded in the middle of the night on March, 1984 to Indianapolis, causing a flood of 911 calls and emergency room visits by apoplectic fans of the iconic team that was one of the founding members of the NFL team. Then in 1996 the Cleveland Browns – another iconic NFL team – did the same thing to its city and fans, packing up and moving to become the AFC’s Baltimore Ravens.
And speaking of Baltimore football, I was only five years old but I remember going with my dad to The Greatest Game Ever Played, when the Colts played the New York Giants – my team! – at Yankee Stadium for the 1958 NFL Championship. The game went into sudden death overtime, something that had never happened before in a playoff situation. Final score: Baltimore by 6 points over the Giants, 23–17.
I don’t come from Baltimore, but Babe Ruth did. As did Edgar Allan Poe. So did Eubie Blake. And Frank Zappa. And Billie Holiday. And Mama Cass. John Waters and the aforementioned Barry Levinson are Baltimore natives. So is Ed Burns. Politically speaking, Spiro Agnew and Alger Hiss are Baltimore natives. So is Nancy Pelosi, but I didn’t want to list her with Agnew and Hiss.
Who is Ed Burns? To answer a question with a question, remember Detective John Munch? Played by actor Richard Belzer, he was a pivotal character on the Baltimore-set series, Homicide: Life on the Streets, which ran for seven seasons on NBC, won numerous awards, and was co-created by Burns, a Baltimore homicide detective and public school teacher. He and his writing partner, David Simon, used city again in two more series, both on HBO: The Corner, and The Wire.
Unbelievably, The Wire never won any awards; but the show was a critics’ and fans’ darling, and hailed as one of the greatest dramas every to appear on television. Simon said of it: “[It’s] really about the American city, and about how we live together. It’s about how institutions have an effect on individuals. Whether one is a cop, a longshoreman, a drug dealer, a politician, a judge or a lawyer, all are ultimately compromised and must contend with whatever institution to which they are committed.”
Baltimore. Also known B’more. And Smalltimore. More macabre nicknames are Bodymore, Murdaland, and Mobtown. But it’s also been called Charm City, The City of Firsts, Crab Cake Capitol of the World, The City That Reads, Clipper City, Monument City, and The Greatest City in America.
At the recent Baltimore Comic-Con, I presented “It’s an Ad, Ad, Ad, Ad, Ad World” which was both a nostalgic look back at how brands connected with pop culture fans and how brands connect today.
And I’ve got to say, it was invigorating to be part of such an exciting convention. The convention center is in the heart of their downtown, and the entire, upbeat weekend was an encouraging contrast to the agonizing images of Baltimore from last April. I’m not saying problems don’t still exist, but the Baltimore Comic-Con presented us all with an optimistic and hopeful weekend for this city.
For “It’s an Ad, Ad, Ad, Ad, Ad World,” I tried hard to balance my presentation between nostalgic, backward glances of ads in old comics and the brilliant innovative ways that brands now connect with Geek Culture. But to be fair, a lot of the old ads were so surprisingly goofy, especially through the lens of 2015, that it was hard to resist taking the audience on an extended, smirking “field trip” through the marketing of yesteryear.
We talked about the classic ads, like Sea Monkeys, but also about some of the clever and absurd ads, like those for muscle-building programs and part time jobs selling shoes.
During the presentation, I also took a closer look at two classic brands that engaged in long running campaigns specific to comics: Tootsie Roll’s Captain Tootsie series and Hostess Twinkies (and Fruit Pies) long running single page adventure strip ads. In fact, Hostess’ ads are so memorable that they’ve inspired a plethora of satire ads over the years.
And for today, we talked about KFC’s clever onsite marketing at San Diego Comic-Con last summer. As part of a media partnership, Kentucky Fried Chickens place Col. Sanders statues in cosplay outfits, in various parts of San Diego’s downtown and Gaslamp districts. (And I’m sure you all know by now that cosplay refers to the practice of dressing up as pop culture character for a convention.) Fans were rewarded when they found these statues, and amplified KFC’s marketing messages via social media. And closer to home, we explored how my agency, Bonfire, helped Guinness connect with passionate pop culture fans as a sponsor of the Harvey Awards. These awards, honoring creativity and craftsmanship, are held annually at the Baltimore Comic-Con.
So, the title of this presentation was, in retrospect, misleading. It’s not really an Ad, Ad, Ad, Ad, Ad World anymore. Not traditional ads, anyways. But it is a world that eager for creativity and accepting of marketing messages – as long as they are authentic, entertaining and appropriate. So keep your eyes peeled, and don’t be surprised if you see the next corporate mascot having fun with cosplay –just like everyone else.
So, I wasn’t here last week. Some of you may have noticed. So, where was I? At the Baltimore Comic Con (BCC), which was dandy, and I enjoyed it very much. Usually when I’m gone somewhere around the deadline for this column, I’m supposed to get it in earlier and most times I do. This time? Just screwed up the time. What can I say? I’m (mostly) human.
Lots of my fellow columnists here at ComicMix have already done their columns this week on the BCC last week. Mike Gold, Emily Whitten, Martha Thomases, and Molly Jackson all contributed. Marc Allan Fishman wrote about an aspect of the BCC and he wasn’t even there. Makes you wonder what I could add to the (comic)mix. I wondered too, but Mike has already speculated I would probably write about the Con and I wouldn’t want to make a liar out of him.
One of the big pleasures of the Con was getting to see so many of my old friends. I shared a table with my bro, Timothy Truman, and he was considerate enough to bring his wife, Beth, who is a real treat. I hadn’t seen Tim in ages and Beth for even longer; she gave me a great hug and if that isn’t a great way to start a Con, I don’t know what is.
I had dinner with them the first night and we ran into Mike Grell who joined us. In fact, we were going to have a First Comics reunion of sorts over the weekend. In addition to Tim and Mike and Grell and me there was the two Marc/ks, Wheatley and Hempel, and Joe Staton. We even got our picture taken together to commemorate the occasion. The Mighty Gray Panthers of the real First Comics!
In addition, there were all the fine people over at the ComicMix table such as Martha Thomases, Glenn Hauman, Evelyn Kriete and Emily Whitten. I’d never met Emily in person before; she’s delightful and sat to my left at the Harvey Awards on Saturday night. I hatched an idea for a project with her and you’ll hear more about it as we get that act together.
There were lots and lots of other old friends there such as Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Connor and my old Suicide Squad editor and ComicMix reviewer Robert Greenberger. I want to take this moment to acknowledge how much Squad owed to Bob. He’s the one who suggested the title to me and helped guide it through its debut and onward. Take a bow, Bob.
As I mentioned, I was also at the Harvey Awards on Saturday night, sitting between Emily and Mike Gold. Vivek Tiwary was the host; I’d never met him before (among an amazing list of accomplishments, he wrote the graphic novel [[[The Fifth Beatle]]]). He was very personable, very enthusiastic about comics, and very generous when he introduced me (I was a presenter). I got to follow both Russ Heath and Jules Feiffer as they accepted their inductions into the Harvey Awards Hall of Fame. These men are legends and, if you don’t know them, go Google their names or look them up on Wikipedia.
And I followed them! Ye gawds. Well, at least I didn’t stutter.
As you may have read elsewhere, there was something of a controversy at the BCC. Some of the comic book guests charged for their autographs and some didn’t. Neal Adams charged 30 bucks per autograph; Mike Grell was also charging a much smaller sum and he donated what he made to The Hero Initiative.
I didn’t and I do not charge for autographs; I never have and I doubt I ever will. This is not to suggest any sort of judgment on those who do. Neal is a legend in the industry and an unquestioned leader in the fight for the rights of freelancers. He’s a long standing hero of mine, both as an artist and as a champion of our rights.
My rationale for not charging is pretty simple: the fan bought the book and it had my name on it and that has supported me. If they want me to deface it with my autograph, it’s the least I can do. Yes, I know that some dealers get them signed and then re-sell them on eBay or some such. I don’t think I ran into many of them, if any, while I was at the BCC. I can’t really sort out the dealers from the fans and I don’t bother trying. If others see the matter differently, so be it. This is just how I do it.
I want to say that the fans were wonderful. They were knowledgeable and enthusiastic and warm and friendly. There were all ages, too. Lots of kids, which wasn’t so true a few years ago. That was wonderful to see and hopeful for the industry.
I think it was Mike Gold who defined the BCC for me: it was really comics orientated. Other Cons are very orientated to the media guests. BCC had some but the main thrust was comics. It also seemed very much like family; other cons, such as NYCC, feel more like business. That’s okay, too; it’s New York City and that’s appropriate. In Baltimore, however, it felt like old times in the industry to me, in between the Con, the fans, and my friends. I think maybe that’s why I really enjoyed it.
I didn’t get a chance to see much of the city, which is usual for me at Cons. What I saw was interesting and nice. I ate a lot of crab which I take it is what one is supposed to do in Maryland. I think I’ve had enough Old Bay Seasoning for a while.
In short, it was a great weekend and I’m so glad to have been invited. It had been maybe two decades since I had last been there; I hope not to make it so long again. Of course, if I did, I’d be really old. Geezer City.
Thanks to all who made it a good time/ I hope we can do it again soon.
Getting old isn’t for quitters. I’m just back from Baltimore Comic-Con which is a lovely show in my time zone and I was chauffeured back and forth door to door by the lovely and talented Glenn Hauman and even in these non-stressful circumstances I’m exhausted.
Baltimore Comic-Con is, as I said,a lovely show. For one thing, it is almost entirely about comics. Yes, there are media stars signing autographs. There are dealers selling things that are not comic books (including some great jewelry that I wish I had a chance to eyeball more) but they are on the fringes.
Comics are the heart and soul of the show-floor. Comics are the heart and soul of the show.
Comics are among the few mass media to have a heart and soul. Because they can be produced on (relatively) small budgets compared to movies television and popular music and because the profit potential is (relatively) small they attract creators with more personal passion than greed. Yes, we can alcove up with our own list of exceptions but I’ll stand my my statement as a generality.
ComicMix shared a very large space with Insight Studios and The Sunday Comics. I’ve known Marc Hempel and Mark Wheatley of Insight for more than 25 years, longer than the Sunday Comics crew has been alive. I enjoyed standing around mouthing off to my old friends. I loved loved loved! watching the new kids show off their big beautiful paper comics to new readers.
Speaking of heart and soul I kvelled like the Jewish mother I am watching Vivek Tiwary host the Harvey Awards. Vivek is relatively new to comics as a creator and he reminds me every time I see him of the simple joy I feel when I get a good story in a four-color cover.
This was only the second time I’ve attended the Harvey Awards presentation and I have to say sitting in that banquet room at the Hyatt I felt very much like I was attending a family celebration. It wasn’t a wedding or a bat mitzvah but it had that same combination of vague bitchiness but overwhelming love that (my) family celebrations have. Instead of DNA the comics business shares a love of graphic story-telling as well as a sense of ourselves of outsiders.
It’s a beautiful thing. Even if I didn’t get to see Dean Haspiel without his shirt on.
On a completely different note I enjoyed the first episode of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. It wasn’t perfect and it wasn’t Jon Stewart whom I’ve adored since before he got that gig but I like the new host and I like that he has a different perspective than I do.
It’s fun to watch a show where the host appreciates indoor toilets.
You probably read Emily’s column yesterday. It was all about the Baltimore Comic-Con. You’ll probably read Martha’s column Friday. It is all about the Baltimore Comic-Con. And, damn, I wouldn’t be surprised if John’s Sunday column is all about the Baltimore Comic-Con as well. This is because ComicMix invaded the place.
Emily, Martha, John and I were joined by fellow ComicMixers Glenn Hauman, Ed Catto, Bob Ingersoll, Robert Greenberger and Evelyn Kriete, all in a combined effort to make Adriane Nash feel bad that she missed a big one. I believe Nelson Muntz said it best: Ha-ha!
But I’m not here today to talk about the Baltimore Comic-Con. I’m here to talk about something that happened at the Baltimore Comic-Con. Something that Hilarie Staton captured in the photograph that (hopefully) appears above. Something that Baltimore Comic-Con’s official photog, Bruce Guthrie, also captured but, since he took so many photos last weekend even Carl Barks couldn’t come up with the right-sounding number, I don’t have them as of deadline-time. Bruce is quite the artistic guy and I look forward to seeing his… well, his pictures of me and my buddies.
Let’s identify the folks in Hilarie’s picture, from left to right, physically but not politically.
Marc Hempel, Mark Wheatley, Mike Grell, some pudgy asshole, Joe Staton, John Ostrander, and Timothy Truman.
Yep, that’s a reunion. The First Comics class of 1984, sans Howard Chaykin, Lenin del Sol, Hilary Barta, and Rick Obadiah. Rick had a pretty good excuse for missing the party.
It was about 34 years ago when Rick Obadiah and I were, literally, lying on the floor of an office in the mighty Video Action Magazine complex with our sketches and notes, detailing what was soon to become First Comics. The act of creation takes on many forms and an enormous amount of time, and Rick and I further developed the company through a wonderful series of elaborate restaurant meals that would provoke a vegetarian to a massive seizure. I know that it worked – actually, I’ve finally accepted that it worked – because dozens and dozens of people still stop me at comics conventions such as the Baltimore Comic-Con to tell me how much they enjoyed our work.
Yes, and more than a handful of fans whose introductory sentences started with “I discovered my dad’s comic book stash and…” Sigh.
The above-pictured people were responsible for Mars, Jon Sable Freelance, Starslayer, E-Man, and GrimJack. Our work either remains in print in trade paperback form or, as in the case with Starslayer, about to be so memorialized.
That’s really cool and sort of life-affirming.
I am not alone in saying that the Baltimore show is my favorite, and that it is my favorite because it’s by and for comic book fans. There aren’t many faded teevee stars there eking out a living; it’s all four-color, all the time. A celebration of what makes comics and comics fandom great. It’s also the home of the Harvey Awards – John and I were presenters this year – and as Martha will tell you Friday, the Harveys is all about family.
The combined age of all those guys up above is about 400 years old. Please note: all of us are still working, and still turning out great stuff. In many cases, better stuff. And signing all those comic books (sometimes in front of a CGC witness!) and chatting with you-all remains completely… what’s the word you kids say?… oh, yeah. Awesome.