2011 was my third trip to the Emerald City Comic Con. As always, I was impressed by the turn-out and by the events coordination. There wasn’t quite the big draw that there was last year with Stan Lee – to be honest, I don’t know how they could top that one – but there was still a respectable guest list including loads of new favorites and some welcome returns.
The only real downer this year was personal; I had been laid off from my job a month earlier, which meant that my shopping budget was roughly $0. I always look forward to acquiring a few new additions to my Golden Age Captain Marvel collection at the Con, and while there were some real beauties on display, I couldn’t do much more than look and dream. Apparently I wasn’t the only one with a tight wallet. Dealers reported less than stellar sales and a general drop from last year. Hopefully next year will be a little brighter, and I hope that the dealers keep coming back. A Comic Con without comics for sale would be sad indeed.
Without further preamble, my favorite moments of the 2011 Emerald City Comic Con:
1. The Entire B.P.R.D. Crew
The absolute stars of the Con. They have all made appearances before, but to my knowledge, this was the first time the entire gang appeared en masse. Mike Mignola. Guy Davis. Dave Stewart. Scott Allie. John Arcudi. Fantastic. Dark Horse, and this group in particular, puts out my favorite modern comics. I am never happier in a comic store than when I spy a new issue of Hellboy on the racks, or pick up the latest Conan collection. Under Scott Allie’s guiding hand, and with Mignola’s unique take on the weird fiction genre, they have taken something that was initially a quirky little character that didn’t seem long for the world and forged a comic universe.
The B.R.P.D. gang gave a panel and dutifully manned their booths for long hours. Every single one of them was approachable, willing to take some time to talk, and just all-around great guys. I chatted with Guy Davis about the difficulties of drawing a masked character with emotion, and recommended he check out Japanese Noh Theater. Scott Allie (the busiest man alive!) told me he was leaving the Solomon Kane series due to pure overwork. Mike Mignola promised me he would send Hellboy back to Japan someday, and I finally delivered my long-overdue apology to Dave Stewart for not realizing how awesome he is, spending some time flinging fan praise at him for how he single-handedly gives continuity to the entire Hellboy universe.
And of course, the sweetest thing about having them all there at once meant that I finally got my three Hellboy Library Editions signed by everyone. Never again will I have to lug those massive, back-breaking tomes around to a convention. Now if only Volume Four had come out in time for the Con…
2. Marv Wolfman
I always like it when some of the-old school guys are at the convention. Last year, Len Wein was there, and this year, Marv Wolfman. Now, Wolfman may not be all that ancient, but when I was a kid, his name on a book meant Good Comics, and Wolfman and Perez are both responsible for getting me to take the leap from Marvel to DC. Marv Wolfman also happens to be the writer for one of the only comics to ever make me cry: New Teen Titans #38 – Who is Donna Troy?.
Wolfman was definitely not the most approachable fellow. He is New Yorkish, with a pronounced accent and attitude. Once I got past that and started getting into talking with him about the impact his stories had on me as a kid, he opened up and got chatty. It was remarkable to see just how much he remembered about every story he had written, and how passionate he was about his work and creations. He regretted naming the Anti-Monitor the Anti-Monitor (“Stupidest name ever. If I had known he was going to be so important I would have thought of something better.“) and refused to acknowledge any resurrection of Terra (“She’s dead. I don’t care who they got running around in her costume now, but she’s dead. And she’s never coming back.”)
Marv Wolfman signed my run of Crisis on Infinite Earths, including my hardcover, and some other assorted Teen Titans comics.
3. Match Game
So, I didn’t expect this to be as fun as it was. Really, I saw it on the schedule and figured it was a good way to take a break and sit in a chair for awhile. But it turned out to be a gas.
Basically, this was a take on the old 70s game show Match Game where a phrase is said with one missing word–substituted by BLANK–and the celebrity panel writes down what they think the missing word is. The contestants then say what they thought the missing word was, and you win depending on the number of matches you get. Oh, and most of the questions can be interpreted as something…naughty. It was the 70s. These kinds of games were all about innuendo.
This version of Match Game took actual questions from the 70s game and swapped out the names comic book style. The celebrity guests were Kurt Busiek, Mark Waid, and…..some other people. Probably the best part of the game was the cluelessness of the contestants. I don’t know how they picked them, but they really, really didn’t get it. It was funny watching the celebrity panel get exasperated.
Announcer: “Many people say Mr. Fantastic has no sense of humor, but the Invisible Girl says his BLANK always makes her laugh.”
Contestant: “His vast intellect?”
Kurt Busiek: “Look, you aren’t getting the point of the game. Try it again. You’re thinking ‘penis.’ We’re thinking ‘penis.’ Everyone in the audience is thinking ‘penis.’ But the fun comes from thinking ‘But will they say “penis?”‘ Try it again.”
4. Geof Darrow
For a guy who draws like Geof Darrow does, he comes off like a harmless, charming uncle. Really, the guy is just a sweetheart. And he sold his very, very cool prints at very, very affordable prices. And he drew a dinosaur for free for a cute little 6-year old girl who had no idea who he was but just liked his pictures of dinosaurs. Pure class.
He drew a dinosaur for me too, unasked, in my copy of The Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot.
5. Sergio Aragonés
First off, Sergio Aragonés’ English is not nearly as bad as Mark Evanier says it is. He don’ta talka lika dis, ya know? Mama Mia! He carries the attitude of a seasoned old pro, which he is, but is still incredibly passionate, charismatic, and charming. The guy had constant crowds around him, because it was just fun to listen to him talk. He is a fireball of energy.
I talked to Sergio for a bit. He had read my column on wrote on Groo< /strong>, which pleased me immensely. I tried to sell him on the idea on doing trade collections of Groo, pointing out that Dark Horse had put all of Matt Wagner’s Grendel back in print in nice hardcovers. But Sergio didn’t seem all that interested in stuff he had done. It was an idea, he said, but one that was more accounting than creativity.
My favorite thing about Sergio was that he had no patience for fools. He was charging for sketches, but at reasonable rates, depending on size and detail. One guy came up with his sketchbook and tried to beg for a free one, and complained when Sergio asked for money.
Sergio’s response: “This is my job. I draw pictures for a living. And you don’t think my job is worth money? I’m not asking for much. Five dollars. How much did you pay for your breakfast this morning? How much for some bacon and eggs? You think my art is worth less than some bacon and eggs? How much did you pay for that shirt you are wearing? Look, if we draw a free sketch for you at a convention, it is because we feel pity for you, not because we like you. I don’t feel pity for you.”
Chastised, the guy ponied up the five bucks. And I got one of those convention moments that I live for.