By Beau Smith
If I had to do them every week, I’d lose what little mind I have left. During my days as Vice President of Marketing for Eclipse Comics, Image Comics, McFarlane Toys and IDW Publishing, I spent half my time in an airport, plane or hotel doing conventions and meetings. As a freelancer, not so much. I can pick and choose the shows I do now, mainly because I’m on my own tab and not the bottomless company credit card that used to fit so perfectly in my wallet.
This past weekend I was a guest at the Pittsburgh Comicon in Monroeville, Pa. I’ve done this show many times in the past and it’s always been one of my favorites. The show is big enough to entertain, yet cozy enough to rekindle old friendships and start new ones. I did both at this year’s convention.
The con was in a different expo hall this year and not only was the hall brand new, it was well laid out and well lit. Stan Lee was the Guest of Honor and, needless to say, he packed the fans in and had an immense line at all times. On Friday night, Stan was dining a couple of tables over from us and even then his line of adoring fans was non-stop. It’s good to be Stan.
The weather in the Pittsburgh area is lovely this time of year and we were blessed with sunny skies and comfortable temps throughout the entire weekend. At the show Sgt. Rock writer/artist- Billy Tucci and I were teamed up together as always. Our tables of testosterone were connected and we welcomed fans and friends to our Viking-like setting to share words of iron and thoughts that were impure. Our table manners were nonexistent and no one complained – to our faces.
Billy entertained everyone with his north of the border charm and spent most of his day doing wonderful sketches and commissions for folks. Of course sketches of Sgt. Rock were top of his To-Do list, but it was fun to see him also draw Catwoman, Captain America, Batman, Wonder Woman and of course, his own creation, Shi.
Seated on my other side was Marvel artist Khoi Pham. Khoi is well known for his work on Incredible Hercules and Mighty Avengers. It was the first time I had met Khoi and we ended up having a very good time discussing football and other manly topics. Khoi did some really fantastic sketches for fans that were eye-popping. He’s a good guy and somebody you really need to meet at your next convention.
This was the first time my wife, Beth, had attended a convention with me in many years. Needless to say, I was on my best behavior. I had to limit my eyeballing pretty women attached with my usual caveman comments. I restricted myself to having only one fistful of beer at a time instead of the usual “I lost count”. Beth had a very good time meeting some of my long time amigos in comics that until that weekend she had only heard legendary tales of from me. We dined with long time friends Terry and Robyn Moore on Saturday night and they hit it off like they all went to school together. I think they were all making fun of me when they knew I couldn’t hear them. (I get that a lot.)
Of course I blame the dinner MC, Billy Tucci, for starting that. Beth closed down the lobby that night in a serious discussion with Tucci and Mike Soloff. Seems those boys got a small taste of the wide range of topics that are tossed around here at The Flying Fist Ranch on a regular basis. Young Sgt. Travis Miller told us tales of his time spent in Iraq and Afghanistan. No matter how many newspapers you read or how many TV newscasts you watch, you don’t get the real story until you’ve listened to a veteran who has been there.
The guests for the show were a true list of talent. I’m proud to say that most of them are long time friends of mine as well. If you attended, you had the opportunity to meet such comic book creators as: Adam Hughes, one of the hardest workers in comics, Joe Jusko, Ron Frenz, Darryl Banks, Talent Caldwell, Ramona Fradon, Gary Friedrich, Dan Fraga, Mike Grell, Jamal Igle, Scott James, Sean McKeever, Pat Olliffe, Gary Reed and loads of other incredibly talented folks. They were the friendliest creators at the friendliest convention.
I pride myself on being able to uncover new talent. In the last 22 years, I’ve found some real gems that have gone on to fame and fortune. The 2009 Pittsburgh Comicon was no exception. I was lucky enough to talk to and get a signed copy of the self-published, all-ages book The Many Adventures of Skipper the Overweight Bunny by twelve-year-old artist/writer Bethany Barbis. In fact, my issues even had a personalized sketch in it. Guys like Jim Lee should do the same. (Meaning give me a free sketch.) The book is a wonderful read for young and old alike. I think it’s a perfect book to read to your young ones that aren’t yet old enough to read for themselves. The art is clear and clean and there’s a special bit of wit with each page. Get on the Bethany Barbis bandwagon now and tell them Beau sent you.
If you were ever a fan of the X-Men or Teen Titans anytime in your life, but just lost interest when things got too “event-full”, then you may want to invest some reading time into The Uniques by Comfort Love and Adam Withers.
The Uniques has all the passion that once fueled X-Men and Teen Titans, only with a modern slant on young superheroes that you just haven’t seen yet. These smart, enhanced teens from The Pryde Foundation-Advanced Foster Home and School For Orphaned, Abandoned Uniques is a new take on teen super heroes. The art matches the characters, there’s mood, great camera angles, dialogue that is directed to perfection and a story you don’t want to end. Jump on the Uniques web site and check this out. I have spent some time with Comfort and Adam; they are smart, creative people that know the big picture for the future of comic book stories. I would not doubt if we’re all working for them one day soon. Comfort and I had spoken last year at Pittsburgh Comicon and here a year later she is already seeing a bigger future for comics than some of the folks that have been in the business for decades.
It was a pleasure to once again talk to good guy Jonathan Hodges, the editor of The Serial Squad For those of you that haven’t read The Serial Squad, it’s a very stylistic, pulp superhero comic book that pays homage to the comic book golden age that should never be forgotten. With Alex Toth-influenced art by Paul Schultz and a fast paced action script, Schultz proves that you can still put a new spin on the super hero genre.
To be honest with you, I could easily write another 2,000 words telling you about all the stuff that went on at Pittsburgh Comicon this year, but Instead, I’ll show you a gallery of photos that from the show and try to give you a feel of what it was like to be there. Maybe I’ll even see you there in 2010. I’d like that.
Your con-attending amigo,
Prove your manhood by visiting Beau at the Flying Fists Forum!