It’s two o’clock in the afternoon and Husband and I are ravenously stuffing food down our throats at Atlantic Beer Garden. Today, the restaurant hosts a different crowd than usual. Looking up from my sandwich, I see that we are seated across from a family of Flashes. A perfect 90’s Jean Grey stands in wait for a table, alongside a gaggle of other X-Men. Deadpool is eating a hamburger on the other side of the room, mask still half on, and behind us sits Captain America. After sufficiently filling myself with fries, I head toward the staircase leading to the bathrooms and am stalled by a young girl in a Wonder Woman tutu. She has halted mid-stair, and is asking her father about her outfit.
“I love your dress, Wonder Woman,” I tell her. She is smiling at me, and I am mush. She is not the only little girl I have seen in a superhero princess dress today, but she might just be the cutest.
Boston Comic Con is always a great time, and this year’s show was no exception. The convention continues to get bigger and better, and I’d be writing a novel if I were to mention every facet of the event, so I’m attempting to limit myself in this recap to what I felt were the personal highlights I experienced. Covering conventions and other shows or signings is always a challenge—the argument being that good reporting is objective reporting—but the more I attend events like these, the less I want to give you a cold-facts account. To me, what makes shows like Boston Comic Con so delightful are the individual stories and experiences people have there. What follows below is just one of them.
My favorite aspect of going to conventions—the reason I started going in the first place—is to meet writers and artists, thank them for their stories, and express to them my love of their work. If possible, getting personalized sketches/commissions is also high on the list, because it gives me joy to own something that was created just for me by someone whose work I admire. Signed prints are also great, but at the end of the day, I know there are many other people out there who own the same thing. Getting a Batgirl in watercolor that was made on the spot, dedicated to me, is something else entirely. I’m starting to amass quite a lovely collection of Wonder Women, and adding different characters to my walls every year provides lasting memories every time I look at a framed drawing that says For Melissa.
This year, I had a running list of artists from whom I wanted to request sketches, but every person’s commission list was already full as of Saturday morning. I’m finding more and more that if you don’t arrive to the show on Friday and/or contact the artist well before the show begins, your shot at a commission is pretty much dead. It used to be that you could roll up as late as Sunday and still get something, but with attendance rising every year, that’s becoming less and less likely, particularly from the bigger names. I had tried asking a few people weeks beforehand if they’d be sketching at the show, and was met with either no response or that they wouldn’t know until the weekend of the con. For me personally, I was really gunning for Phil Noto—unfortunately, he was locked up pretty much from the get-go. At the end of the day, though, I still got to meet and talk with him, and that's pretty awesome in itself.
Even though my pursuit of artwork didn’t work out that great for me this year, it’s not all bad. That the artists are so appreciated they can’t keep up with the demand is encouraging news, and I want to argue that it speaks to a supportive and lucrative fandom. All of this isn’t to say that it was impossible to get any art. In fact, I saw Yanick Paquette and Humberto Ramos still taking requests as of Saturday afternoon.
Of course, there’s more to interacting than just asking creators to draw for you—here’s a quick run-down of some of the guests I was lucky enough to speak with.
Joelle JonesHave you read Lady Killer? Because if you haven’t, you should go to your LCS right now and get the first trade. It’s an exciting book, and the art is … well … killer. I was eager to get on Jones’ commission list, but it was also full as of late morning on Saturday. We chatted for a bit about Boston and I recommended she eat her way through the North End. Joelle is lovely and friendly, and her stuff is gorgeous. If you were able to get personalized art from her, CHERISH IT. I’ll get what I can from reading more Lady Killer.
Jason LatourJason’s line was ridiculous every time I walked by, and rightfully so. He was a pleasure to chat with despite his feeling under the weather, and he drew me a little Gwen on the issues of Spider-Gwen I asked him to sign. We talked about—you guessed it—Boston, and he mentioned going to a game at Fenway Park that several other guests also attended. Very nice guy. Would recommend.
Annie WuFirst things first: Annie Wu has amazing hair. Like, insanely cool. In fact, she pretty much just exudes an air of coolness all around her, so try not to be intimidated by that. I caught her as she was drawing a Star Lord commission for someone, and it was quite interesting to watch it come together. I told her how much I was digging her work on Black Canary, and picked up this nifty Black Canary World Tour button that now adorns my messenger bag. Later on that day, via the greatness of Twitter, I learned she had a secret stash of guitar picks she was giving away to those who requested them, and I was lucky enough to snag one before they disappeared. Time to dust off my guitar and get back to the shredding lessons. I love my new guitar pick, I love Black Canary, and Annie Wu is too cool.
John Layman & Rob GuilloryUUUGGGGGGHHHHHH. This was so great, and yet recalling it is so frustrating. John and Rob were seated beside one another, and I was shocked to find their table relatively quiet since they were both about to head to a panel. John signed my copy of the first Chew trade, and I told him about how I’d gotten a non-comics-reading “foodie” friend of mine hooked on the book. He was giving away Chew stickers to those who’d visited him; I got the second-to-last one and gleefully slipped it into the front cover of my binder, thinking YAAAYYYYY, then moved on to say hello to Rob. Rob was as friendly as John and he happily signed my trade. His commission list was, alas, full … which sucks, because I think I would have just asked him to draw me whatever he felt like drawing for me, and you KNOW that would have resulted in something ridiculous.They left for their panel, and about 15 minutes after I’d walked away from the table, I realized my sticker was missing. WWHHHHYYYYYYYYYY. It had somehow slipped out of the binder, which is perplexing because it has a closed bottom and I can’t fathom how it disappeared. I was distraught. Re-tracing my steps proved futile. John was kind enough to offer giving me another sticker on Sunday when he’d be able to replenish his stash, but as I could not attend Sunday, I remain sad. I remain stickerless. It is not to be.Cool guys, though. Read their comics if you aren’t already.
This girl. I want to be her friend. Marvel, I don’t how you nabbed Stacey, but if you’re smart, you’ll hang onto her because her art is wonderful and she is an utter delight. I walked by Stacey’s table a few times on Saturday and did not find her there; like Jason Latour, she was also feeling under the weather, and arrived a little later in the day. Sidenote: how much of a trooper do you have to be to show up at a convention and sit there at your little table all day long even in good health, let alone when you’re sick? Stacey was fabulous enough to push through and show up, and her fans were clearly happy to see her, because she had quite the line going. I chose to forego waiting in line at first and went back later on in the day when I saw her table was clear, at which point another new line started forming almost immediately behind me. When Stacey returned, I was pleased to have an opportunity to tell her about how much I’m enjoying Silk and what great work she and Robbie Thompson are doing on that title. She expressed gratitude and satisfaction with being on the book, and then … the moment I had been waiting for … Stacey was doing drawings! Yay! She was offering mini quick character sketches, and I was happy to ask for a Black Cat. Which came out wonderful, and I had to hold back my squeeing. She also drew Ritsuko Akagi for Husband, and I just stood back while the two of them geeked out over Evangelion. It was so cute. Have I mentioned that I love comics? I bought this achingly gorgeous print from her, and then forced myself to say goodbye in order to give someone else the chance to say hello.But Stacey is awesome and so fun to talk to. And I can’t wait for more Silk.[/gush]
So, I was lucky enough to get comics signed by everyone above, but it has since come to my attention that there’s been some recent huff regarding the concept autographs—namely, whether or not creators should charge for them. It’s a topic big enough for another post of its own, but I just want to chime in to say that none of the writers or artists at Boston Comic Con charged me for a signature, and even when an artist signs my books for free, I still like to make a small purchase of some sort from their table—be it a print, a pin, or what-have-you—as a gesture of support and thanks. It just seems like the courteous thing to do, and the world of comics could probably do with a little more courtesy.
LISTEN TO JIMMY & AMANDA (TALK ABOUT POOP)
Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti were a huge highlight of my con experience last year, and this year was more of the same. After inhaling our lunch as though possessing the Speed Force, Husband and I raced back to the convention center to get in line for the Listen to Jimmy & Amanda panel. I typically don’t attend panels when I go to conventions, either because the timing isn’t right or because I’m more interested in things happening on the show floor, but this year it came together and I decided to try this one. I hadn’t had a chance to visit Jimmy and Amanda at their table yet and wasn’t sure if I’d be able to later on in the day, so I figured this was my best shot. They’re always great together in interviews, and I knew I’d be in for something fun—we managed to nab front row seats in the filled room, and as the panel began, it was clear we were in for some hilarity.
If the fact that this picture now lives in my phone is any indication, I’d say the panel was a
horrible nightmare success.
Overall, it was more of a conversation as opposed to two people talking to an audience. Jimmy is exorbitantly funny in person, and together he and Amanda played off each other adorably. Conversation topics included everything from Stan Lee to ... naked Stan Lee; wooden spoons-turned-weaponry in Italian households; the shit show that is Boston traffic; Amanda’s obsession with finding the perfect mailbox; scatological jokes (because let’s face it, poop is funny); and—of course—Harley Quinn. Brigid Alverson has an excellent recap of the panel here that captures a fair deal of the greatness that was, but sorry, you really just had to be there to get the full effect.
Once the panel ended, Husband and I went back down to the con floor and I went searching for issues of Harley Quinn to purchase before getting into the rapidly-forming line for Jimmy and Amanda’s table. I tried not to carry too many single issues of comics with me this year, because I’m old and tired and carrying stuff is a pain, plus I’d already gotten most of my favorite Amanda comics signed at last year’s show. But I needed some more Harley in my life, and I managed to snag three issues including the scratch-n-sniff comic from a local vendor. When our turn in line came up, we talked to Jimmy and Amanda for a few minutes and told them how much we enjoyed their panel, and how great it was to have them back in Boston this year. They both expressed their enjoyment of the show and of Boston, which was great to hear. I bought a Black Cat print that Amanda signed for me, which I will frame and hang, and my fangirl flag flew as Husband took a photo of us. So much fun. Love those two.
Lots of Star Lords. So many Agent Carters. An unbelievable amount of Deadpools. One Quail Man and at least one Squirrel Girl (sidenote: how cute a couple would that make?). For some reason, I utterly failed at snapping any decent photos this year—many of them came out blurry, or there was no room in the mass of people to take a picture without someone else’s head/body getting in the way, or I just didn’t catch people in time before they walked by me and my shout of “Hey, Iron Man!” was drowned out by the crowd. The few pictures I did manage to snap are below.
Similar to last year, the con floor was peppered with “Cosplay is not Consent” signs, and from everything I saw on Saturday, most photographers and attendees were respectful of others. It pleases me that my hometown con not only encourages cosplay, but respects it and realizes what a fun piece of fandom it is.
MEDIA GUESTS, AKA I WANNA BE PEG
One thing I never take advantage of while at conventions are the celebrity autograph and photo session opportunities. Last year I lamented the fact that I didn’t bother to get a photo with Jason Mamoa when I could have, which I’m still kicking myself about, because hello, Khal Drogo. But now that I know he’s also playing Aquaman and I could have further fanned the flames of my not-so-secret love for Arthur, I’m even more disappointed I didn’t just shell out some cash and get a picture.
That’s kind of the problem, though, right? The cash. There you are, you’ve already paid fifty bucks to get into the convention, you’ve paid for gas or parking or a subway ride (or all three), you’ve paid for comics and art and merchandise and lunch and … okay, now you have to pay even more just to say hello to a guest who you’ve already technically paid to see by virtue of buying a ticket to the convention? Who wants to do that?
I do. I did, this year. And the reason why comes down to three words: Agent. Frigging. Carter.
That’s right. Hayley Atwell. Ms. Peggy Carter herself. The arguably coolest chick in Marvel’s films, the character every girl wants to be (and believe me when I say that, because there were about three thousand Agent Carter cosplayers in attendance … of whom I managed to capture exactly zero photos). I wouldn’t allow myself to make the same mistake I made with beautiful Khal Drogo Jason Mamoa—I absolutely had to meet Hayley.
And I did. And it was worth it. Except that I made a different mistake this time—I got an autograph instead of a photo.
I assumed the autograph was the safe bet, because I have a tendency to be caught mid-blink whenever I get a picture taken, and I didn’t want to risk spending $60 for a photo of myself looking stupid. So I said, okay, I’ll get the autograph instead—what could go wrong? Well, nothing technically went wrong, except that the autograph option provided me with all of 30 seconds in which to talk with Hayley. From what I gathered from those who chose the photo option, they had a bit more time to say hello and chat, and a few people even got to do a dubsmash with her, which leaves me insanely jealous (it should come as no surprise whose side I’m on in the Dubsmash War).
That said, the 30 seconds I did get with Hayley were great; she’s as warm and friendly as I imagined she’d be, so it’s not an experience I regret. But word to the wise: if you have the opportunity, go for the photo op.
Other celebs in attendance included Brett Dalton, who was so great and accommodating to his fans, offering hugs and taking selfies with them; Manu Bennett, who showed up wearing a Free Brady t-shirt and immediately won the heart of every New Englander in the room (and I don’t care how great a Deathstroke he is, he’ll always be Marc Antony from Xena to me); Robin Lord Taylor who seemed to have an adorable bromance going with Scott Snyder; and even Elvira, who was a HUGE hit and may have had the longest line of everyone else combined. Photo ops and autograph sessions with Stan Lee was another big attraction of the weekend, and also the priciest at $350 a pop for the “Stan Lee Experience,” which was limited to 400 people. A couple of people I spoke to who had purchased those tickets were pretty pleased with the deal, but it was a little out of my league for this year. At any rate, meeting Stan Lee is something I’d much rather do accidentally as I step out of a hotel elevator or something, you know?
OUT OF TIME
Last year I told myself that I’d attend at least two days of the convention so that I could take in everything it had to offer. Unfortunately, the day job got in the way of that, and I was only able to make it to the con Saturday, meaning I had to cram everything I wanted to do into the 9 hours I’d be able to spend there. I had to skip a lot of stuff and a lot of people. Interactions with some guests were limited to a few minutes at a time, and I missed out on a huge portion of Artist Alley that I would otherwise have loved to spend a couple of extra hours checking out all the independent artists and fun comics and merchandise people created and marketed on their own. It’s a guilty feeling to attend this show year after year and not fully explore all the talent sitting right there in front of me.
What’s more, there are some amazing bargains to be had on comics, trades, and books via all the different vendors hocking their wares in such a concentrated area. We are talking serious competition in pricing. Husband, ever on the hunt for a good deal, snagged 8 trades for a total of $20 at just one vendor. I, on the other hand, didn’t buy a single thing because I was too consumed by standing in lines. (It worked out for the both of us.)
I missed a lot. I missed Erica Henderson and Humberto Ramos, Joe Prado and Amy Reeder. I forfeited Babs Tarr and Scott Snyder, figuring I’d met them both before and sacrifices had to be made. I avoided Brian Azzarello because I’m curmudgeonly toward his work on Wonder Woman and I had nothing nice to say. I missed the art auction.
And STILL, despite missing ALL OF THAT, this year’s show was one of my favorites. Which leads me to say …
The BCC staff did an amazing job yet again this year, both in the months of prep work beforehand to secure guests and coordinate all the logistics, as well as making sure things ran smoothly while the convention ran.
I recall last year’s attendance being above and beyond anything I’d seen at the show before, and they had a bit of trouble containing the gargantuan line of people trying to get in—if I remember correctly, tickets were sold out at the door and a lot of people were turned away after waiting for a while to get in. This year was a major improvement, and they were able to facilitate a lot of people getting through very quickly. I didn’t hear a single complaint from the crowds—neither in person nor online—and there seemed to be an overall stress-free air to the day. Not only that, but once inside, the lines for various panels, signings, celeb autographs, etc. were easily navigated in my experience. The staff was on top of everything and managed the throngs of people extremely well—when Scott Snyder’s signing line started getting unruly, the staff even moved him to the celebrity autograph section to accommodate, and it was a smart call (that Scott Snyder, you know—he’s quite a star). You can tell the experienced cons from the ones just starting out, and the staff at Boston Comic Con certainly know what they’re doing. I heard from many creators and guests who can’t wait to come back next year.
I’m right there with them. To meet creators we admire; to stand in the midst of the cosplaying crowd; to bond with strangers over shared passions and engulf ourselves in this atmosphere of enthusiasm and joy is to fall in love with comics all over again.
Thank you, Boston.
It’s Monday. I am on a late train heading home after a long day at the office, and the conductor asks me what I did this past weekend.
“We went to Boston Comic Con,” I tell him.
“No way, really?! I wanted to go to that, but I had to work.” He is excited. My statement has opened the floodgates, and he is telling me about his stashes of X-Men comics he still has from childhood and his dreams of going to SDCC. But I am nearing my stop, and the conversation is cut short. I bid him goodbye, knowing I will see him on my ride home tomorrow.
We’ll have so much more to talk about.