Way back in March, when I was putting together my plans for San Diego Comic-Con, I was leaning towards skipping this year's edition of Baltimore Comic-Con. It wasn't anything against Baltimore, I was just thinking I'd be "conned out" after San Diego, and I wasn't sure I wanted to spend the money or make the drive down. Then, a couple months back, Baltimore announced that Stan Lee was going to be the guest of honor this year, and they even set up a special Stan Lee VIP package. Well... you know how that was going to go.
As it turned out, I ended up having a great time this weekend, and I definitely would have regretted skipping the show.
Technically, I did skip out on part of it, since I left early Saturday to attend the Drew League-Goodman League basketball game in D.C., but I was still there long enough on Saturday to get quite a bit accomplished. I got onto the sketch list for Ron Frenz, who put together this magnificent Mary Jane for me:
Frenz had a long run on Amazing Spider-Man in the '80s, and more recently on The Amazing Spider-Girl, and was kind enough to sign the entire run of the latter for me. It was one of my favorite books to read before it was canceled, and we both lamented its demise.
Then, it was off to the first of my Stan Lee VIP perks: an autograph. Now, last year in New York, I got John Romita Sr. to sign a copy of Amazing Spider-Man #42 (with the first appearance of Mary Jane), and having the opportunity to have Stan sign it was really special.
The rest of the (truncated) day was spent walking the show floor and getting books signed, which went pretty well for me, particularly in comparison with past cons. And I feel like I say this every show, but one of my favorite things is meeting creators and talking to them about the books, because they usually have such great stories. Some of my favorites from this show:
- Apparently Marvel is behind on getting their comp issues to the artists and there were multiple times when I would get a recent issue signed by someone and they'd ask to flip through it, because they hadn't actually seen the issue yet. The cool factor of meeting someone can sometimes go both ways.
- I had Laura Martin, the Marvel colorist, sign Ultimate Fallout #1, and she told me that when she was coloring the issue, she had to set the pages aside at times because she got so choked up (at which point I admitted that I was flipping through the issue that morning, and had to stop for the same reason).
- Paul Tobin and I were discussing "Spider-Girl" (not the same on as the Ron Frenz character) and specifically the Spider Island mini-series. We talked about the twist at the end of the first issue -- which I won't spoil here for those that haven't read it -- and I asked him about the character involved and Spider Island in general. He told me that Marvel gave the creators a lot of freedom on who could get spider powers during "Spider Island", with one specific rule. I also won't dish on the rule, or that Tobin told me Marvel did approve at least one exception, because even as he was talking about it, he jokingly said, "I've probably said too much already."
- Speaking of saying too much, I asked "Charmed" cover artist David Seidman when we might see Prue on one of his covers. He laughed and said he wasn't going to say anything, because someone might have a sniper rifle on him at that exact moment.
- Speaking of "Charmed", I talked with Dave Hoover, the artist for the first three issues of the series. Not only did I talk to him, I commissioned him to do a Mary Jane Watson piece for me, and it turned out beautifully:
While I'm on an MJ kick, let's show off this great sketch card I got from Allison Sohn. I'd actually commissioned this back in San Diego. Allison wasn't able to get it done that weekend, but was kind enough to finish it for me at Baltimore, and it turned out amazing:
(oh, and as an aside here, I'll get around to scanning all of these pieces of art and posting higher quality images over on my Comic Art Fans gallery at some point)
I picked that up, along with all the other artwork I got at the show, on Sunday, which was actually a pretty laid-back day for me, convention-wise. Despite my shortened hours on Saturday, I accomplished most of what I wanted to do that day, so Sunday morning and early afternoon were a little more wide open. I took care of my photo op with Stan Lee first thing in the morning, then went around and picked up my art, including buying two "Charmed" pages from Dave Hoover.
Then, after relaxing outside the exhibit hall and waiting in line for awhile, the big event finally arrived: the Stan Lee panel/Q&A. I was right in the second row on the aisle, and being that close to a comic legend while he shared stories and answered questions was simply amazing. The panel worked a little differently than most I'd been to in the past, and most of the first half of the hour-long session was spent with fans thanking Stan for his contributions to comics and their lives in general, off which Stan would sometimes follow up with a story from his lengthy career in the industry. At some point, moderater Jimmy Palmiotti directed things back more towards traditional questions, but Stan's stories remained just as interesting. He talked with joy about his characters, his movie cameos (he seemed particularly excited about his appearance in next year's "Amazing Spider-Man" movie) and even how he ended up with the name "Stan Lee."
At one point, Stan brought up the movie "Blade", and how writer David S. Goyer had tattoos covering both arms. Palmiotti followed up by asking if anyone in the audience had tattoos of Marvel characters. Well, being in the second row, I decided to just get up and show mine off. I pointed out each of the characters on my arm, and Stan said, "Well, if you're going to get anyone tattooed on your arm, it might as well be three pretty girls." Honestly, it's going to be hard to top that moment at any convention I go to in the future. I mean, it was Stan Fucking Lee, and here he was complimenting my tattoos. I'm not gonna lie, I almost passed out from the coolness of the entire moment. Just awesome.
This is the third consecutive year I've been to this show, and every year there's something else to bring me back. What I love about it is that it's completely comics focused. There's no Hollywood presence, no industry hype, just fans and creators connecting. Even if you don't make it over to the many great dealer tables, you'll still find plenty of interesting things to keep you occupied. Of course, I did manage to get over to the dealer tables at some point. There were plenty of spectacular setups and some sensational deals, but sometimes you just have to pick up one amazing book.