Exploring Boston Comic Con, in just three hours

Boston Comic Con has grown over the past few years, but it still manages to keep that hometown-convention ambiance, even while drawing in top comics creators like Scott Snyder, Jeff Smith and Sergio Aragones. The focus is still firmly on comics, although it's branching out a bit; John Barrowman and a couple of other actors were there, and there was a costume contest as well.

Last year, the con had to be rescheduled at the last minute in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, but it came back bigger and better in a new location, the Seaport World Trade Center. It kept the momentum going this year, expanding from two to three days, while shaking out some of the bugs. Organizers made a strong effort to eliminate the long lines that plagued the con last year by starting distribution of wristbands the day before the show. On Saturday morning, as lines stretched around the convention center, they sent out an email informing con-goers who hadn't bought their tickets yet that the line was long and they might think of attending instead on Sunday.

Once you got in the door, the show floor was a pleasing mix of well-known creators, many strategically placed at the ends of aisles, and up-and-coming talent. The comics hit you right when you walk in, as the first section of the exhibit floor was devoted to comics retailers, so the first thing you see is longboxes. The show floor would likely be more attractive if the first thing you saw was a couple of interesting booths, but local retailers are an important part of the convention, and their placement reflects that.

This year, thanks to an unfortunately timed family reunion and a houseful of guests, I only had a few hours to spend at the con: three hours on the con floor, and another hour to moderate the "Queer Comics" panel. The nice thing about Boston Comic Con, however, is that it's not overwhelmingly large, so I managed to cover most of the exhibit floor, and have a number of interesting conversations, in that short time. It's sort of nice to have a satisfying con experience in just a day, although the panels, which get stronger every year, would have drawn me back if I had time.

What I really, really like about a convention like this is the opportunity to talk to creators and let them sell me on their comics. Here's a sampling of what I saw this time.

Sara Woolley's art just blew me away. She is a professional illustrator who does children's books as well as comics, and her style is complex and sophisticated. I picked up Los Pirineos, the story of how her grandmother's family left Colombia, as well as a supernatural tale Fate & Company, written by Mark Boutros.

One of the most impressive comics I saw was Lost Angels #0, by writer Erin Cardiff and artist Deena Pagliarello. It's a retro-noir story set in Hollywood in 1956, and Pagliarello's art really carries the mood, with simple curves and bold swaths of black, white and gray. Perhaps what's most impressive, though, is that this eight-page comic tells a complete story. It's an origin story, and it's fairly simple, but it's also well-structured and a satisfying read on its own. You should be able to download a copy from the Facebook page, and Pagliarello shows off some of the art on her Tumblr.

Robert Salley quickly sold me on his comic Salvagers, a story about a ragtag crew that salvages wrecked spaceships. This is the first comic Salley has written, but he has ambitious plans, and his Kickstarter to fund the third issue, which ends today, has exceeded its goal.

Honestly, I'm not usually a fan of book reviews in comics form, but John Bonner's single-page comics step outside the conventions of the genre and are really clever takes on the books he reads. He had a print collection of these at the show, which was nicely printed and had an oversized format, which made it a pleasure to read. Sometimes print comics are just nicer, and one of the advantages of going to shows and meeting creators is being able to buy their work in printed form.

I do like to get a couple of really mini minicomics, so I'm glad I picked up Jerel Dye's Hoard. It's small (a quarter of a page, I would guess), and the panels are packed full of detail without being overwhelming. Dye uses simple black and gray washes very precisely, in a way that works well in the small format, and it helps that the comic is almost entirely wordless.

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