NASA’s latest Mars lander, InSight, successfully touched down on the surface of the Red Planet this afternoon, surviving an intense plunge through the Martian atmosphere.
What you may not know is that Insight Studios, run by Mark Wheatley and Marc Hempel, got to Mars back in 1983 with First Comics, edited by Mike Gold. The entire series was collected in a trade paperback by IDW in 2005.
Real life imitates comics again! And congratulations to everyone at NASA!
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.