BCC: The Baltimore Comic-Con Wrap-Up

The 10th annual Baltimore Comic-Con wrapped up on Sunday, after a weekend full of entertaining panels, crowded signings and a show floor full of fans in costumes of their favorite characters.

"I think this is the largest one we've ever done, and I think there were more people here on Saturday than on any other single day we've had," said Con Organizer Marc Nathan. "I would say that, in these ten years, certain things seem like it's only yesterday and certain things seem like it was a long time ago. A lot has changed in ten years, obviously. After the first one, it didn't even occur to me that this would be an annual thing. I didn't think it would be like, 'Oh now you're sucked into doing this for the rest of your life.' I just did it because I thought it was the right thing to do at the right time. It didn't even occur to me that I would have to do it for ten more years. It never occurred to me that I would have to improve it and do more. I was just doing something that I thought needed to be done. I didn't realize that the growth and the need would be this significant."

In Nathan's opinion, BCC's proudest accomplishment is the staggering amount of money raised for the Hero Initiative. "This convention has made over $100,000 for the Hero Initiative," Nathan said. "To me, that's a life-changing big-time number. That's pretty amazing, especially since the $100,000 isn't for all ten years. We didn't really get going with Hero until year four, when Kevin Brogan, our East Coast Hero Initiative representative, really came onto the scene. It's not $10,000.00 a year, it's a significant amount of money per year."

However, this year was particularly hard on the Con Organizer, who tried to make the 10th anniversary show the best to date. "This specific year really hurt," Nathan said. "The tenth anniversary was so big, there were so many guests, it was just so monstrous that this one physically hurt to do from months out. It wears on you; that task every day of putting this on."

But making it all worth it for Nathan was the Harvey Awards. "The Harvey Awards gives us a chance to shine and to get dressed up and recognize the best we can be," said Nathan. "It's my favorite part. I don't need to be on stage for that. Just to have Neil Adams, Joe Kubert and Brian Bendis in the same room, and they're not asked for anything except to be themselves, I think that's a wonderful thing."

Bendis, after a memorable showing at last year's BCC in a debate with Image Comics' Robert Kirkman, participated in many Marvel panels throughout the weekend and was on hand at his own table to sign autographs. "Well, this year, it's definitely clear that I won the debate," Bendis said jokingly. "This was a great year, it's just one of those conventions where it's full of positivity. You can go on the internet and there's snarkyness afoot. But here, it's just [that] we love comics and enjoy meeting people. You get to meet old friends, and there's really no downside at all. It's really fantastic."

Bendis, like many other professionals, have embraced Baltimore as one of the last purely comic-centric shows. "My thing now is, shows that are all about comics are much more appealing to me as a person," Bendis said. "This show, Emerald City Con, Heroes Con are big shows, they're extravagant, they're very cool, but its not all about media or movies or games, and we should be celebrating this art form. That's why I love it here."

Bendis was joined at Baltimore by fellow Marvel creators Jason Aaron, Matt Fraction and "Mighty Avengers" cover artist Frank Cho. "Baltimore Comic-Con is actually more intimate. Unlike San Diego where it's just one giant chaos, Baltimore is more laid back and friendly. You can talk to fans and hang out with your friends."

While Marvel did not have a presence on the floor at BCC this year, Image, Dynamite, Dark Horse and DC Comics were all represented. Leading the charge for DC's panels this year was Senior Story Editor, Ian Sattler, who has been coming to the show since its beginnings in 1999. "Every year this show gets better, but it's always managed to maintain its core Baltimore-ness, great guest list and fans who love comics," said Sattler. "It's just a bigger version of what it was when it started, which is pretty cool. It's been a pretty special one for me, doing a big panel like we did yesterday with everybody stoked on 'Blackest Night' and the Batman family. This is a great crowd, and I'd be here anyway if I wasn't working."

Joe Keatinge, head of PR for Image was also in attendance at the Image booth. "This is easily the best year that I've ever attended," said Keatinge. "It is the best convention I attended this year. We go to a lot of amazing shows. Marc Nathan and the entire Baltimore Comic-Con staff really know how to put together a great, great show. Image is just having an awesome time."

Image took home two Harvey Awards this year, one for "Comic Book Tattoo" for Best Anthology and Bryan J.L. Glass won "Best New Talent" for Image's Mice Templar.

"It's been a great, great show. We had a phenomenal Saturday," said Glass. "Everything else has been Harvey afterglow. The fans have been great, the crowds have been great - I really love to see the expansion of the con this year. To me it feels bigger than past years. Maybe that's my own imagination, but the energy is really high, the turnout is phenomenal, the fan response and interaction with folks is terrific. [It's] always a pleasure to meet longstanding fans and introduce new people to the series, just connecting with fellow professionals, every show I'm meeting new folks. It's my honor and privilege to be here. I feel like someone left the door open and I snuck in without paying, but Mister Harvey says otherwise!"

Another 2009 Harvey winner was "Strangers in Paradise" and "Echo" creator, Terry Moore, who was equally positive about his show experience. "This is a great show. It's very busy, people are buying - everybody's catching up on their collections, they're buying art. It's just a fantastic show. It gets better and better. It's growing, and I've noticed that all the comic book shows this year have been good despite the bad news in the country, and this one is finishing out the season for me on a really high note. It's the best one of them all."

Additionally, the Harvey Awards Master of Ceremonies, "PvP" creator and longtime BCC attendant, Scott Kurtz, had nothing but good things to say about both the show and its staff. "I've been coming here since about 2003. Baltimore is like the Emerald City Comic-Con and Heroes Con," said Kurtz. "You can't say it's a smaller show anymore, but it started out as a smaller show, run by a guy who also runs a comic book shop who loves comics. You walk around here, and you can see this is where comics is. All the other shows have a lot of media guests, and Marc really says, 'No, this is about comics.' It's one of the last shows that really is all about comics. I think that's why it does so well."

Dynamite Entertainment also had a strong showing at this year's BCC, revealing that Matt Wagner will be writing "Green Hornet: Year One." "We love the Baltimore show. Marc does a great show," said Dynamite Editor Joe Rybandt. "Each year seems to be more and more people. I do a lot of shows. We were in San Diego, we were in Chicago, we were in Philly. Those are good shows, but this show's got a great crowd, Baltimore's a great town."

While most professionals had an easy time getting to the convention, Dark Horse editor Scott Allie went to extraordinary lengths to attend the show this year. Allie, whose travel plans were interrupted by a cancelled Delta flight, rented a car with four strangers from Chicago to Baltimore in order to reach the convention. However, this did not dull his enthusiasm toward the convention. "It's great. It seems like maybe attendance is down a little bit, but everyone's saying they're selling really well," said Allie. "I feel like we've been busy, we haven't been slow, but last year the aisles were crowded with people. This year it's a little less so. The people who are selling have all been telling me that they've been doing great and it hasn't been any slower for them. The greatest thing about Baltimore is the writers and artists that Marc gets here is just amazing. For a show of this size, it has the greatest guest list you could ask for. That's why we want to come and that's why we get the turnout of fans that we get."

"The outstanding thing is that, if you go to any convention where there's mixed media, you can look down an aisle and look at a bunch of people, but you don't really know exactly why they're here," said Marc Nathan. "They could be here for an autograph from a movie star, they could be at a convention to buy something that isn't necessarily related to comics. Everyone in this building, that's in those lines and in those aisles, is there for one thing, and that's comics. There isn't one other reason they're in that room. There's no other reason to bring them there [except] the want for comic and comic book related materials."

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