This past weekend was the Big Apple Convention at New York City’s famed Hotel Pennsylvania. Fellow ComicMix columnist Molly Jackson joined me in attending this show as she has for the past four years now. Boy, time really does fly, huh?
The Big Apple Con is a show I’ve been going to for many years. For those of you who are unfamiliar, this is a con run by Mike “Carbo” Carbonaro who has had more close calls with retirement than Cher. I don’t *think* he was retiring this time, but I could be wrong.
Anyway, his shows tend to attach some big names from the old guard in comics like Jim Steranko and Ramona Fradon, as well as young up and comers like Mindy Indy and Stan Chou. In the past I’ve gotten to meet people like Herb Trimpe, who is no longer with us, George Pérez, and Chris Claremont back before he was charging for signatures. That’s not a crack on Claremont, by the way. Nearly all the X-Men comics at this point and many of the movies are in part or entirely based on his work so if you can’t shell out a few bucks for a signature you might be trying to flip on eBay anyway, then you can get by without his signature on your comic. I’m pretty sure a firm handshake is still free with most creators, but don’t get carried away.
This year the big draw was Stan Lee. Well, it was supposed to be Stan Lee. He unfortunately fell ill and had to cancel. We all wish him a speedy recovery. Stan regenerated into Jim Lee, who flew in for a signing on Saturday, and Frank Miller was the big cheese for Sunday. As disappointed as I’m sure some comics fans were that Stan Lee couldn’t make it, if Jim Lee and Frank Miller aren’t enough for you on top of everyone else who was there then I just don’t know what to tell you.
Molly and I only attended Saturday of the show. Previously, the Big Apple Con was a one day show and we figured we could get almost everything done that we wanted in one day. As much as I would have liked to see Frank Miller, I’m sure another opportunity will arise. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to pay that much for an autograph this past weekend either.
We had a nice time overall. Yes, we agreed we liked it best the one year it was at The New Yorker Hotel down the block and that it’s hard to walk around some parts with the crowd congestion, but Molly and I together make pretty good nitpickers. Some of the highlights for us were picking up original art from Ramona Fradon and getting to chat with her briefly. I’ve got a couple of sketch covers done from her over the hears, but I splurged on a nice piece she brought from home. Molly picked up a couple of smaller pieces herself. As a side-note, Ramona is an incredible pop artist whose influence can be seen in comics right through to today. If you’re unfamiliar, please consider picking up The Art Of Ramona Fradon digital book or the hardcover and learn all about her career and see so much of her gorgeous art.
The Art Of Ramona Fradon includes a long form interview with her conducted by Howard Chaykin who was also in attendance this past weekend. I’ve gotten to meet Howard a couple of times before and this time was no less interesting. Previously he had recommended the prose novel It’s Superman by Tom DeHaven at a Q&A which I read and absolutely loved. This time the topic of conversation would be deemed controversial to most. I’m not going to tell you what it was about. You’ll just have to go to a con he’s at and maybe if you’re good (not nice – good) he’ll tell you a good (not nice) story.
We got a chance to catch up with Stan Chou at the show and see what he’s been up to. He was previously at Double Take, but since they wrapped up production he’s been doing more freelance work. He gave me a copy of a comic he put out with writer Patrick McEvoy, The Darker Region. Basically, the premise is classic horror movie monsters in space and contains three different stories. What really stands out here in that Stan Chou goes out of his way to make the art style different in all three stories contained here. If you’re not familiar with Stan’s work, the link earlier goes to his Twitter page. Check it out.
Molly and I ran into a lot of other people including Mindy Indy, Todd Matthy, Dennis Knight, Bob Camp, Reilly Brown, many of the people we’ve seen waiting in line with us at signings over the years, and more. It was a good day all around. If you only go to the big shows, it’s worth checking out some of these smaller conventions. And if you’re the type that’s more into the indie comic zine fest scene, there are plenty of indie comics creators at a show like Big Apple Con that need support too.
The 2017 convention season is really just kicking off, so start looking up shows, marking your calendars and putting money aside if you can. There are a lot of shows to come and this is sure to be an interesting year ahead of us.
In my last column I talked about my expectations for the Fan2Sea comic-con cruise, how it fulfilled them, and some of the things I generally loved about being at a con on a cruise ship and about the way in which Fan2Sea pulled off its maiden voyage (haha!).
Today, it’s all about the details. Want to know what your daily experience will be like if (when! I hope!) Fan2Sea happens again and you decide to go? Well, I can’t say, but I can tell you what mine was like! So here goes:
Day 1 was pleasantly low-key from the start. Because luggage was still being delivered to staterooms, I spent the first bit of ship time chilling in one of the main areas overlooking the bar, with my lovely roommate, ComicMix assistant editor Adriane Nash, and with PR guru (and former Comic Book Resources writer/editor) Steve Sunu. After some people-watching (and excited taking of first-day selfies), and a little bit of a ship tour, we wandered up to one of the main eating areas where we found plenty of food on hand; and in the midst of a mellow lunch out on deck in the warm weather, I also caught up with the ever-fun comics creator Reilly Brown (and lovely family). It was the beginning of several times when I got to actually just chill with friends I usually see in only rushed or crowded circumstances at cons, and that was super nice.
Once staterooms were accessible and we’d gotten settled in ours, I rustled up my Hot Topic Walking Dead-themed blood spatter sundress (although I do like to do full-on cosplay, I’d opted for more referential casual cosplay on this trip, given I was packing for ten days and also didn’t want to wear a lot of layers on a warm, sunny trip!). Then we headed to the pool deck, where the first two big panels, for The Walking Dead (with Michael Rooker, Lew Temple, Madison Lintz, and Seth Gilliam) and Guardians of the Galaxy (with Michael Rooker and Sean Gunn), were taking place in quick succession.
Although it was a bit windy and distracted out on the deck (which is why they moved later panels inside), it was also super cool to be reporting on a panel out in the beautiful sunny weather while literally standing in a pool. (Yes, that’s right – your intrepid reporter stood in a pool to bring you this con round-up and accompanying photographs!) And the actors fielded some great audience questions. I enjoyed the Walking Dead actors’ talking about the challenges and quirks of working on such a gruesome show; for instance, Michael Rooker shared that the bloody makeup didn’t really bother him – until he saw the zombies during lunch sitting around eating while wearing it! And one of my favorite questions to the Guardians panel elicited discussion from Sean Gunn about Gunn’s providing the rehearsal stand-in for the CGI Rocket Racoon, which the other Guardians actors would act against. Apparently at first Gunn was simply going to stand in and read Rocket’s lines, but he thought he could also provide the acting and eyelines for the others to reference, so he gave it a try – and lo-and-behold, he did such a good job of it that he ended up doing it throughout rehearsals.
After the panels we had a bit more time to explore, including checking in on the casino, which had an excellent and thorough Sin City theme, before it was time for the ship to pass under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, which was pretty exciting considering our ship was so tall it barely cleared the bottom of it. (Also, the sunset was beautiful!) After that we headed to the formal dining room, where I confess that upon ending up at a table with some veteran cruisers, we were unable to resist the peer pressure of each ordering two appetizers and two desserts to accompany our entrees. And all were tasty! (P.S. Pro tip that I didn’t know beforehand, having not been on a cruise before – if you want to be seated with a group in the formal dining room, you have to show up with your group. But our small party also enjoyed talking with folks at the larger table, so if you don’t form your group beforehand, you might just end up making a new friend!)
The only thing that could properly finish off a dinner like that would be a great cocktail; so of course after dinner I headed up to the Walking Dead / Guardians of the Galaxy cocktail party and, on the recommendation of another attendee, tried a “twisted” peach and mixed berry daiquiri. It was a great accompaniment as I enjoyed chatting with folks at the rotating bar (which took us by surprise when it started moving!), including Lew Temple (who I was really sad to see die on The Walking Dead, and who was really friendly and laid back to talk with); and Sean Gunn (a favorite from both Guardians and, of course, Gilmore Girls, and with whom I had a really wide-ranging and interesting conversation).
The party was a ton of fun, and when it wound down, no one wanted the good times to be done – so first, a few of us had the idea of playing a round of mini golf – but the wind was so crazy up on that deck that we had to postpone that for another time. Luckily, on the Fan2Sea cruise there was always stuff going on (including, e.g., the movie theater, the in-room monster channel, and the game room); so instead we located the karaoke just in time to see Steve and Chris Sims singing Toxic by Britney Spears (yes, really – and trust me, it was an experience!). But even that kind of fun has to end sometime, so eventually, we made our way to sleep and…
Day 2 started with a relaxing room-service breakfast on our lovely private balcony, followed by a jaunt to Key West in the beautiful weather. I confess we had all kinds of complicated plans for what to see in Key West, including a butterfly garden and Ernest Hemingway’s house; but by the time we got off of the ship what we actually ended up having time for was a scenic trolley ride, a chill lunch with friends at Fogarty’s and the Flying Monkey Saloon, and a little stroll through the streets before it was time to get back to the ship.
Back on board, I attended one of the great Master Classes offered with the comics creator guests – this one with Reilly Brown. I always like watching Reilly’s approach to art, and this was no exception. He illustrated how to use dynamic action and expression to convey character in comics, and I especially enjoyed his example of how adding details to the same base character frame can result in two such disparate characters as Wolverine and Tony Stark. (And I totally claimed that sketch afterwards.) After the class, I hurried over to the live read of Charles Soule and Ryan Browne’s Curse Words #1. I love live reads, and this one featured some of the great guests on the ship – including writer Charles Soule, and actors Randy Havens, Catherine Dyer, and Sean Gunn. It was excellent fun and very well done, and I even managed to get a couple of clips on video.
The live read overlapped with the Batman pub quiz, which was also on my must-do list, in part because ComicsAlliance’s own “Batmanologist” Chris Sims was running it and had created the questions; so as soon as the live read had wrapped, I rushed over to the pub to join Adriane, who had been holding down the fort for two of the six quiz rounds all by herself. Steve joined our team there, and despite us all missing the first round entirely and only one team member being there for rounds 2 and 3, we still came in fourth! Go team! The quiz was great, and pretty darned challenging, too! (Kudos, Chris!)
Of course, all of that hard work made us hungry, but the cruise more than took care of that with another trip to the formal dining room, before we headed back to the pub for the After Hours War Stories with comics creators. This was a pretty unique program (with no recording allowed) in which creators shared the sort of personal industry and convention stories you wouldn’t usually get at a big convention panel. The stories shared definitely made this program a favorite of mine, and I was glad they enforced the No Recording rule so that everyone felt comfortable sharing.
By that point, we were well into the late night activity portion of the day. I stopped by the Nerdlesque (it’s not really my scene, but there were definitely some creative themed scenarios being played out onstage) and then was challenged to a game of air hockey (I totally lost) and issued my own challenge for a game of pool (Adriane and I totally won!). And then somehow, it was five a.m., and way past time for all sensible reporters to be in bed. Ah, convention life.
Day 3 was the one day Adriane and I had decided to book a specific excursion through the cruise line, since we were going to Mexico and had a longer time in port. We booked a Mayan ruins tour that included lunch and a trip to the beach, and were delighted to find the lovely and talented Gail Simone and her husband Scott were part of our tour group. We had an adorably charming and funny tour guide named Luis to show us all around; I could actually feel the history of the Mayan ruins as it was described to us; the lunch was tasty; swimming at the beach was exciting (there were reasonably strong currents and also underwater rocks to avoid!); and we had a great time experiencing it all with Gail and Scott.
On returning to the ship, despite a pretty full day in Mexico, it was Stranger Things day and of course there were con things I wanted to do; so I first stopped for a brief glimpse of Goonies, which was being screened on the pool deck; and then changed into my Stranger Thingsparty cosplay (yes, I was costuming The Wall, with a Hot Topic picture frame dress and blinking Christmas lights!), and went to the Stranger Things cocktail party, where I had an entertaining time talking with other fun cosplayers and fans, and meeting Shannon Purser, Catherine Dyer, Randy Havens, and David Harbour – all of whom were wonderfully nice and fun to talk to! (Caleb McLaughlin and Gaten Matarazzo were also circulating, but I did not get to chat with them due to the crowd – they looked like they were really enjoying themselves, though.)
After the party, I stopped by the pub to see how the Cards Against Humanity: Writers Edition program was going; and discovered that all of the comics guests were there chilling. So I sat down for a chat; and more friends came around; and then we wandered over to the casino; and next thing I knew, it was almost five a.m. again and we were ordering hamburgers from room service. Ah, cruise life!
And then suddenly, it was Day 4! Our last full day on the ship, alas!! It was also the day of the Deadpool Panel, which I was moderating; so I donned my Hot Topic Deadpool dress (love that store for geek dresses!) and headed to the Pacifica Theater, which, incidentally, has some really interesting props backstage. This panel featured Gail Simone, Reilly Brown, Scott Koblish, and Chris Sims, and we had a riot of a time talking Deadpool on stage and taking questions from the audience – probably the most fun I’ve had on a panel to date! We talked about everything from how to get into the head of such a character to what it’s like to draw a story that’s told entirely on the covers of comic books to what the comics creators thought of the Deadpool movie adaptation – and happily, it seemed like the audience was having just as much fun as all of us on stage!
After the panel, the Deadpool folks headed up to their tables at Artist Alley, and after a brief rest (hey, even I get a little tired after such late nights) I did too. Even though this con was, for obvious reasons, organized differently than a traditional convention, it still had sections of time set aside for fans to meet comics creators in Artist Alley, and I was pleased to see a setup that made it easy for everyone to interact, and a good number of folks waiting to meet the talented guests. While there, I enjoyed watching Scott Koblish and Reilly Brown draw, chatting with Laura Martin, Scott Snyder, and Gail Simone, flipping through some of Creees Hyunsung Lee’s cool art, and picking up a copy of Curse Words #1 (hey, after that live read, I had to have it!) from Charles Soule.
By the time Artist Alley closed, it was just about time for the Wayne Foundation Black Tie Dinner (for which I had brought my fancy sequined Suicide Squad Harley Quinn dress, because what else do you wear to a Batman-themed fancy dinner?). By now I was a Super Pro at cruising (hah!), so I’d suggested we get together a big table of folks ahead of time, and we managed to make it happen. It was great to have our last big dinner be with a solid group of friends; and fun to get all dressed up for it! But it was also nice to relax for the last bit of the cruise, so after dinner Fancy Dress Harley turned into Casual Cruise Harley, and then, fittingly, ran into The Joker. Who managed to convince me, a solid non-gambler, to go gamble. (Look, when someone says they’ll bankroll you to go play a slot machine called the “Enchanted Unicorn,” there is really only one response, and that is: “Let’s go!”) And solid non-gambler me might have to revise that solid stance, because lo-and-behold on top of the money we put in we won a whole $54! At which point I decided it was probably best to end on a high note, and Adriane and I took our end-of-cruise sad feet back to the room for one last night of sleep in our cozy little stateroom.
But since I can’t go back just yet, I’ll just have to console myself with looking at the full album of photos I took and crossing my fingers that soon, we’ll be hearing announcements of another Fan2Sea. When that happens, I assume you’ll all be signing up to go with me!
And until then, and until next column, Servo Lectio!
Back in 2010 and 2011 I was going through a bit of a hard time. For those who don’t know, I have a degenerative eye disease, keratoconus, which had at that time progressed to the point where it looked like my next step in attempting to retain my vision was going to have to be corneal transplant surgery. Fortunately, it turned out there was a less drastic option that would halt the degeneration I was experiencing. However, because that option was experimental it wasn’t covered by my health insurance, and was going to be very expensive.
In a demonstration of how wonderful the fandom community is, a number of friends convinced me that in a situation like this accepting assistance was not a bad idea, and then worked together to raise money to pay for the surgeries, primarily via a fandom auction (a fact I will never forget and for which I continue to feel blessed). It was a dramatic demonstration of how supportive the fandom community can be; and not only the fans, but also the creators, as several comics and literary professionals who learned of the auction or my situation contributed auction items or funds as well.
One of those creators is a wonderfully nice dude who also happens to be one of my favorite Deadpool and comics artists, Reilly Brown. I’ve been privileged to know Reilly since my first New York Comic Con in 2009 and can attest to the fact that he’s an all-around good guy who cares about the comics community and has occasionally done things like reviewing portfolios for free just to help new artists out. For the auction, he contributed this beautiful Deadpool piece along with a nice post asking for support for my situation, and it was a big help and really meant a lot to me.
Recently, Reilly’s had some really great things happen – getting to see a character he’s worked extensively on in his very own successful box office hit; seeing his co-creation Bob, Agent of HYDRA, show up in the Deadpool movie); starting work on a new Deadpool & Cable project; and most important, welcoming his adorable son William (seen here wearing a Deadpool hat to continue the theme) into the world.
Unfortunately, on February 13 (shockingly, not a Friday), one epically bad thing happened as well – a fire started in an apartment building near the one Reilly, his wife, and their new baby live in and quickly spread from building to building. Although no one was hurt (thank goodness!) and the fire itself didn’t reach their apartment, it did hit the apartment directly next door, and the resulting smoke permeated everything, including everything the Browns own. The water the firefighters used to quench the blaze also damaged their belongings.
Reilly writes about the experience here and notes that, although insurance will cover some of the damage, it will not be enough to assist with cleaning or replacing everything, or with moving expenses. Happily, he also includes several means by which you can assist him and his family in getting back on their feet, if you’d like to do so. Among them are purchasing original comics art he currently has for sale; contacting him via his website to commission an original piece; and purchasing a downloadable version of one or both of his sketchbooks for whatever amount you’d like to contribute.
From experience, I can tell you that when going through a hard time, every little bit helps; and knowing there are people out there rooting for you and wanting to help means a lot as well. In addition, lessening the financial worry for someone in difficulty makes it easier for them to bear the stress attendant on a bad situation. In my case, not having as much money stress, and knowing people were out there caring about my situation, made having to go through two surgeries and recovery periods more bearable. I can imagine that, likewise, whatever people might be able to contribute will help the Browns in dealing with the stress and daunting list of things to be done to get back to equilibrium after losing a large chunk of their belongings, as well as a settled place to live (not to mention dealing with all of that and taking care of an infant!).
So if you’re in the market for some really cool comics art, or if you can spare a little bit for a family who needs it (and are also wonderful people), please consider looking at the options Reilly has provided and giving your assistance. Let’s continue to be a great comics community that cares about and looks after its own.