THURSDAY: CON MINUS ONE DAY
…was interesting. We drove across Pennsylvania from New Jersey starting at 11 a.m. With a couple of stops for gas and food, we made it to the Radisson in Monroeville just after 6 p.m. The trip out here across Route 78 is filled with rolling hills, farms, and cows. Along with that came the occasional stench of manure, and the more delightful bird droppings on the windshield. My license plate - normally a bright New Jersey yellow plate - now looks blackened with all the small insects and flies that are splattered across it.
The air is clean and the weather was gorgeous, but I think I hate Pennsylvania anyway. I mean, even their trees are all dead and half knocked down. What's wrong with this state?!?
Nah, I can't do that. The people were all nice. It's fascinating to me to go into a gas station's Quicky Mart type place and be greeted by a smiling guy for whom English is his first language. Even the people at the Wendys I ate lunch at were nice, despite having run out of ketchup by the time I got my fries. (Oh, and there's a Wendys at just about EVERY exit on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. I like that in a highway.)
The Pittsburgh Comicon is located in a convention center attached to the Radisson Hotel in Monroeville, PA, just across the street from the Monroeville Mall. Unlike Chicago, there are places you can walk to around here for things like food. There's even a Borders book store a block down the street. How sick is it that you have to go 400 miles from home to look at the graphic novel section of a comic book store at a bookstore across the street from a comicon?
Checked into the hotel and had no problems with that. That was nice. The bed is really bouncy. Hung out at the bar tonight for a half hour and saw nobody I recognized there, besides a Jeph Loeb lookalike. (I found out the next day that it's the actor who played Biggs in the first STAR WARS movie. Weird.) I imagine a lot of comicon people will be showing up tomorrow. And they'll be pissed: The bar is really small - at least half the size of the bar in Chicago - and the service is somewhere between poor and abysmal. If you're looking to drink in this town, you might be better off at the TGIFridays or somewhere else around here.
My room overlooks the back entrance to the convention center, so I can see the flood of white rented mini-vans in the parking lot, with empty long box tops adorning handcarts. The dealers' badges have their names written on them. I hope the "General Admission" people get them, too. That's one thing I really like about San Diego - everyone's tag has their name on them. Chicago can be real confusing that way, although the journalists and professionals have their names on their tags. That's a good start.
FRIDAY: CON DAY ONE
The con started at about 1:30 for me. That's when I got in line for the 2 p.m. opening. Had to get my tickets first. Since I didn't pre-register, I couldn't get a neat Press Pass with my name on it. Not that I'm bitter or anything. ;-)
As it turns out, there aren't nametags at this con. You get wristbands, which have to be the dumbest way to run this. (OK, stamping the back of your hand would be even dumber.) If you buy a three-day pass, they put the Friday wristband on you, and then you have to hold on to your Saturday and Sunday bands.
The doors flung open at 2 and I ended up at Steve Lieber's table first. This is a fun con game to play at home, kids. Wait for a con to come to a city near you, and then go to Steve's table first. I mean, the odds are pretty good that he'll be out at the con. When I asked him about it, he guessed that this is his 5th or 6th con of the year. I picked up a WHITEOUT hardcover, which is just a beautiful book. The picture to the right of this paragraph shows Steve, myself, and traveling companion Danielle. As you can see, Steve's still going with the scholarly artiste look, complete with studious jacket.
Stepping back a bit: The con floor is split neatly in two. The left side (as you enter from the adjoining Radisson Hotel) is the artists and companies. The right side is all the dealers. It's about a fifty/fifty split. I didn't spend much time in the retailers area. After all, I have two more big conventions to go this summer and plenty of time to look for books. Did pick up a few GROO issues and Chuck Dixon and Graham Nolan's JOKER: DEVIL'S ADVOCATE hardcover for half price. A hardcover for half price? Sounds right up my alley.
The outer walls are lined with guest booths. George Perez had the first booth and a pretty consistent line of about seven to ten people at all times. It seems kind of small, but it ran steady.
Brian Bendis' booth was the one with the biggest crowd surrounding it. I had to laugh at that a little. When I first met Bendis at The National con in New York City just after SAM AND TWITCH started, he was manning a doublewide table and had plenty of time to himself. Nowadays, you have to get in line. I caught him at a point later in the day when I only had to wait behind four people. Picked up the new JINX compilation, and realized that I've picked up all of his trades - except TORSO - from him at conventions. You can see him here drawing a Bendis head in my sketch book with a word balloon above too dirty to mention on a nice family site like CBR. ;-)
Also got to briefly meet Michael Avon Oeming, Bendis' collaborator in all things POWERS-like. He was sitting at the Insight Studios Group table across the way from Bendis, but had a remarkably short line at all times. That's me with Oeming next to this paragraph.
CBR's enfante terrible, wunderkind Larry Young is cohabitating with a dealer booth at this con. He doesn't have his own booth, but he does have his own section of table to display his wares. He could be seen wearing a dashing black shirt with lovely CBR logo across his chest, not unlike a superhero uniform. We chatted about all sorts of wonderful things. Too bad I can't remember a one of them right now. As discussions always do with Lar, the topics of bars and beer came up. Oh, and he needs to get his CBR business cards, Jonah.
Frank Miller signed for the CBLDF for a couple of hours, with a line that wouldn't let up and threatened to choke artists' alley. It was a most impressive line. Originally only scheduled for one day, he's going to be signing again Saturday for two more hours. He's also a sales magnet. The Harvey's, as hosted by Evan Dorkin, are going on downstairs as I write this. It sold out at $40 a plate. Frank Miller is getting an award and, presumably, will be offering some comments. Those are about the closest thing you'll find to news at this con. Heck, even Bendis is still mum on the last bit of Marvel news he promises is upcoming. (Have you seen this week's PREVIEWS? Is Elektra on every other friggin' page or what? I think I'll be burned out on the book before it hits shelves.)
Jamal Igle, artist on NEW WARRIORS and an IRON MAN mini, set up shop next to inker Mark McKenna. Igle just finished up some fill-in work for IRON MAN and is back in the market. Hey, editors - he's available. He draws nice looking stuff. Give him something. Please? Hopefully, the market will start rebounding enough that some new work will open up for artists like Igle. There are a great number of quality artists out there who just aren't working because there aren't books available. He's also very enthusiastic, and easy to talk to. Always nice to meet one of the nice guys.
Visited Terry Moore at his lovely little corner booth. He's a Pimpmaster General. That man could sell ice to an Eskimo, and tell him how good she looks with it. I am impressed with his STRANGERS IN PARADISE publishing empire, though. Moore's got a table with a nice spread of trades and hardcovers. Made me wish I were still into the book. Would love to add a series of hardcovers to my shelves.
There's not much in the way of big news coming out of this convention. There are also no real panel discussions. There's a neat Quick Sketch thing, which I'll be talking a lot about in Tuesday's column. Another wacky topic for discussion that day will be the Certificates of Authenticity you can buy for AUTOGRAPHS at this show. ::sigh::
Speaking of that column, we'll also talk about the differences between this con and San Diego and Chicago, aside from being much smaller.
But come back tomorrow first or more musings, meetings, Mardi Gras, and madness.
See ya tomorrow!
(Personal Note: If Rich Henn or any of the gang from Fanboy Entertainment are at this con, please drop me a line! I want to say hello but didn't find you today.)