Wizard World probably just killed the idea of the daily column.

Writing daily con reports was a conceit that I borrowed from CBR’s Augie De Blieck, whose Pipeline column made the practice look far easier than it actually is. After two years of frantic reporting from San Diego, where figuring out a way to actually send the columns became as interesting as the pieces themselves, I might be done trying to keep up. One focused diatribe, after I’ve been able to process the whole thing, and that’ll be it. Least, that’s what I keep telling myself, but if this past weekend is any indication, they might be easier to give up than I thought.

Doing Chicago after the complete madness that is San Diego already leaves you feeling slightly medicated to begin with, but leaving the laptop at home allowed me to just hit the floor and soak up the vibe, without giving thought to the night’s eventual word count. Lot of the same people and programming hit both shows, but the atmosphere varies wildly, Wiz World more focused on the actual comics, while San Diego is attempting to do everything at once, a pop culture orgy drenched in Hollywood presentations and celebrity guests. That said, I really enjoyed the smaller Chicago venue much more this year, and in one moderately focused diatribe, I’ll tell you why. We begin on Friday.

Started by checking in at Arcade and saying “what’s up” to Jimmy Jay, while the crowd continued to build for Rob Liefeld, who was running a little late. The new X-Force looked very good for business, with an undeniable buzz surrounding it, and the table flying through a couple dozen copies of the first issue in much less than an hour. Much less. It’s like no matter how many people gather at their favorite online spot, to proclaim him as the most disastrous creator to ever hit the industry, there are another 3 people that just love them some Rob Liefeld. Or there are industry legends like George Perez or John Romita JR., just swinging by his booth to say hi. First time I watched Rob work a flock of fans into a frenzy, it was confirmation of something I’d joked about in a much earlier column…Rob Liefeld is the comic industry’s version of Sean “P. Diddy” Combs. Hated by many, loved by more, and impossible to ignore. Everyone get their best P. Diddy voice together, and say it along with me…it’s Bad Boy, baby.

Anyhow, Mike Marts, senior editor at Marvel, showed up looking for Rob, and I went ahead and introduced myself formally, as the fates will see us finally working together on the Shatterstar mini that spins out of X-Force. I say finally, because I have a Mike Marts tale to go along with my collection of strange, and tragically ironic, editor stories. Back in the day, when Marts was at Acclaim Comics (the second one, not the first) I’d decided to make him the target of nearly every pitch I could conjure up, and gather the nerve to send. This was in my “researching” days, when everything was about talking to creators and editors and publishers, making a loose laundry list of things that might get my work seen by the right people. It wasn’t any good at that point, but I was doing the homework, you know. One creator I talked to, can’t remember who exactly, suggested that I pick an editor or two, and just fire stories at them until they cracked from the pressure of mine own genius.

So, Mike Marts was unfortunate enough to make that short list, and I swear to God, before the week was even over, and before I could even get off my first pitch off, he’d left Acclaim. Overly elaborate storylines 1st Born, The D Files, Darque Days, Harsh Realm, and that year long Turok revamp were denied him, but it’s all good though, cause now we finally get to work on something together, and at Marvel Comics to boot. If I have anything to say about it, this won’t be the last project we collaborate on, but that’s just the story engine talking. Regardless, it was really cool meeting him, and I got nothing but good vibes off him.

Mark Millar dropped by too, also looking for Rob, so we took the time to catch up, and he spent the majority of it gushing all over John Romita JR., and the work he’s been turning in for Wolverine. If anything, Mark’s latest stint on Marvel Knights Spider-Man proves that penning a series of violently active stories for Logan to tear through, is something he’ll do very well with. Wolvie’s fighting Electra, SHIELD, the X-Men, and a school of fucking sharks in this thing, and in Mark’s typical manner, he only needs a few sentences to convince you it’s one of the most ingenious things man has ever come up with. Millar is an extremely talented writer, but I think another of his primary strengths lies in just how quickly, and how strongly he can sell you on a project.

It’s always interesting to just listen to him describe the things he’s working on, a lesson for guys like me that feel like they have a mouth full of adjectives and a dumb ass look on their face whenever they’re called to verbally relate what their book is about. Millar is the perfect combo of energy and exposition, and whenever he’s done, you want to read the book he’s been describing to you right the fuck now. I know, I know, I’m climbing off his dick right this second, but seriously, read that Wolverine when it hits issue
number 20. Should be hot.

First big panel of the day was Cup o Joe, but it was hardly THE biggest panel of the day, which Brian Michael Bendis was responsible for. Almost didn’t get in because of the huge crowd, and the fact that Wizard World needs at least two “main” auditoriums that can hold a decent amount of people, but luckily, there was standing room in the back corner. Really glad I didn’t have to hear about the Bendis/Wayne “showdown” on the Internet, which for the most part, made the incident sound decidedly more hostile and sensational that it actually was. Like that classroom exercise where the teacher whispers a sentence to one person in the class, and lets them pass it around the room to see how messed up and completely backwards it’ll become once it hits the last set of ears.

This wasn’t some scripted publicity stunt, or a temper tantrum from Bendis, because one of his pitches wasn’t instantly greenlit, or whatever the hell people who weren’t even there are labeling it as. This was one of the biggest creators in comics doing whatever he could to get a book made that he, and another group of creators, were very interested in putting out there for the fans and the retailers. He seems to regret the whole thing now, but what’s most interesting is how the situation casts light on how things really are accomplished in this industry. A broken personal relationship between two men supersedes all creative and financial possibility, and despite Bendis’ assertions that writing DC Comics, or tipping our retailers off, will help this happen, you know and I know that this book’ll never see the light of day. Especially not now. Because people are mad that the biggest writer in comics even had the nerve to bring it up. To highlight the animosity between the two companies that power the entire industry, and how easily it could be squashed. If the man with his hand on the button feels so strongly about Marvel’s verbal jabbing, find Joe Quesada in the street, and take a swing at him.

Otherwise, let the beef die, and let’s go get this money.

Even without the unplanned visitation from Bob Wayne, Bendis ran a great panel, answering questions as quickly as they could be fired his way, and teasing that there’s a very very very good justification behind his New Avengers line-up. I can’t hate the dude too much though, cause I saw that David Finch cover, which somehow eases the initial shock of seeing both Spider-Man and Wolverine as active Avengers. And don’t even get me started on how cool it is to see Luke Cage there, even though my man is all in the back. Only disappointing thing about the panel had nothing to even do with it, but I was supposed to meet my third Cross artist outside the room before things got started, and we missed each other. Since this meeting was one of the more important goals for the entire weekend, I spent a lot of that night and the next morning figuring out how to find him, if I didn’t run across him on Saturday.

Second day of the con was kicked off by the glorious Star Wars panel, which I attended with my friend Rob Baker, one of the managers from my old Barnes & Noble store, who’s even a bigger SW fan than me, and that’s saying something. Seeing the first movie on VHS was literally one of the most important parts of my childhood, and even though the prequels are missing most of the heart and soul that drove the original trilogy, end of the day, it’s still Star Wars. It’s still one of the main reasons I do what I do. And you know, Attack of the Clones felt progressively better than The Phantom Menace, so hope springs for Revenge of the Sith, which by the way, is the most important chapter in justifying these movies in the first place.

But I can’t front, sitting in that darkened auditorium, as they scrolled through several clips of behind the scenes footage and trailers, I felt like a wide-eyed kid again, afraid to blink because I might miss something. We got just a brief tease of the final duel between Obi-Wan and Anakin, and the shit just looks incredible, even on green screen. Any SW fan worth mentioning has envisioned the fall of Anakin Skywalker, and the subsequent battle with his mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi, the fate of the galaxy hanging in the balance. One thing that the new movies have managed to accomplish for me, other than the kinetic lightsaber duels, is hammer home the sense of ominous foreboding that results from knowing the terrible end of this story. Even in their disappointing state, there’s still more than enough there to give me a bad feeling about the whole thing, and I can live with that.

Squeezed into the Marvel Universe panel afterward, and following that, ducked my head into the Arcade booth to holler at Rob real quick, since he wasn’t doing Sunday this year. Was probably there two minutes before someone grabbed my attention, and I turned around to find my missing artist. We ducked outside after quick introductions and talked for about a half hour, laying out my plans for Damon Cross, short and long term, and what I think his style could bring to the table. The publisher will have to sign off on him as the new guy, but over the next couple weeks, we’ll get some brand new character designs together, and “re-shoot” the first sequence for final approval. Hard to believe and borderline depressing at how long I’ve been laboring over this character, but hopefully this time next year the first arc’ll be out among the masses, and I can exhale a little bit.

Ducked out of the hall early and went to Gino’s East with friends, then stopped back at the hotel to chill for a bit, before hitting the popular post-con hang-out spot, Knuckles. Not a huge fan of bars, but did run into a bunch of cool people, and very briefly met Joss Whedon, who came into the place with John Cassaday, and managed to remain unnoticed for almost ten minutes. Also got recognized by a couple of readers on the way out, which is always somewhat embarrassing for me, but I won’t pretend that I didn’t feel really good about myself on the walk back to the hotel. My inferiority complex often takes hold, and convinces me that only my editor is reading this crap as it posts, so meeting and hearing from actual people is extremely gratifying.

Sunday was about winding down, and started just like Sat., with the Star Wars panel. Yes, yes, I went to the same panel two days in a row, but it’s not my fault though, I was with a friend that hadn’t seen it the day before, and since I spent the night gushing all over the Obi-Wan/Anakin footage, you know, HE wanted to go. I was just being a good friend, so he wouldn’t have to go by himself. I mean, seriously, the same panel two days in a row? Come on, who does that? Seriously…

Well, okay, moving along, my last panel of the day was the X-Men one with special guest John Layman (read Gambit). Joss Whedon was there too, and obviously, received most of the panel’s questions, but Mark Millar managed to get a few clever bits in there, and Chris Claremont looked uncomfortable the whole time. Apparently, Phoenix is coming back too, but Greg Land is doing the artwork, so the fans should find themselves strangely comfortable with it.

The rest of the day was filled with last minute purchasing, a couple final laps around Artist’s Alley, and trying to leave the floor early before the final weekend exodus. Had a really good time, and am filled with an uncontrollable optimism that should last me about a week before the post-con depression fully kicks in. Special thanks to my homie Nate Lee, and all of the fellow fans and creators I met over the weekend.

Back soon,

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