I’m typing this from a hotel room in downtown Baltimore. This might be the nicest hotel I’ve ever been in. The beds are gorgeous, we have a view of the city that’s pretty nice, Wanda Sykes is on HBO, and the hotel is as posh as it gets. My friend Glenn scored it (two beds, you filthy perverts), and we’re both typing up our convention reports before crashing and getting ready for round two of the Baltimore Comic-Con tomorrow. (That’s our story and we’re sticking to it. Any rumors of dead hookers and bags of blow in our rental car are completely unsubstantiated. That was Chris Claremont.)
Our adventure started with a drive in our snazzy rental car down I-95 to Baltimore. Unfortunately, modern technology let us down, as our GPS (fuck you, Tom Tom) decided that we needed a tour of non-Inner Harbor Baltimore. Our GPS was sadistic; at one point, the directions just read “Turn left at HA HA HA YOU DUMB FUCKERS.” I’m not saying we were lost, but at one point, we saw Omar.
I’ve been to two conventions this year- this and Wizard World Philly. There’s no doubt that this was the better convention. WW Philly has gone from a great show to a terrible one over the years, a victim of the declining Wizard company. There’s only so many people you can lay off at a company before rot sets in, and WW Philly this year was a show that was hollow at its core. Most of the comics industry’s A-List decided to go to Charlotte’s Heroes con instead of Philly, so the only people left were those that lived in the Northeast that just couldn’t get to Charlotte for one reason or another. (Next year, Philly’s not the same weekend as Charlotte. Hopefully, this will result in a better Philly convention. If not, the show just can’t survive. And that’s a shame; Philly’s a great comics town.)
Baltimore is just a great comics show. There’s no “pop culture” aspect of the show; there’s no room. No video games. No “wrestler’s row” to fill the appearance schedule. (Jerry Lawler was scheduled to appear, but his Memphis mayoral campaign got in the way. But Lawler is a legit comics professional, so he doesn’t count.) There’s no gaming tables. It’s a packed show, just wall-to-wall comics. It’s a little overwhelming at times; Glenn and I nearly got lost more than once trying to navigate the showroom floor. But how can you complain about too much comics?
The dealers at the Baltimore show are a grade above Philly, to be sure. Glenn and I saw tons of dealers with Golden and Silver Age comics. One table, Tomorrow’s Treasures, had a table with unbagged Bronze Age books for $3. Imagine a dealer selling an unbagged Starlin Warlock, or Gold Key comic, for $3. Heck, that dealer had some amazing oddball comics on his table; I saw a Barry Goldwater comic next to a Gabby Hayes book! If there’s a drawback, it’s the lack of bargains at the show. At Philly, you could always find something at a rock-bottom price. But price is a function of demand, and there’s higher demand for comics at Baltimore.
There’s no DC and Marvel booths at the show, but there’s plenty of talent from the two companies at the show. Image had a huge booth to promote Image United, and Boom Studios also had a nice booth to promote their books (including The Muppet Show and Irredeemable, two books that I personally adore.) There were a ton of webcomic artists, including Scott Kurtz of PvP and Danielle Corsetto of Girls With Slingshots. There was also a lot of great comics talent that I got to talk to. JM DeMatteis, who has probably written at least 10% of my favorite comics of all time, was a wonderful gentleman to talk to. (Note to DC: please put Brooklyn Dreams back in print. It’s one of the most meaningful books I’ve ever read, and it breaks my heart that it’s out of print.)
Part of the fun of going to conventions is people-watching. There were lots of people in costumes, including a young lady in a slave Leia costume that may not have been legal in Baltimore County. (Are you really allowed to walk the convention floor bare-assed these days?) Also, if you have a great Madrox the Multiple Man costume, but there’s only one of you, is that a great costume or a terrible costume? The best costume I saw was the Thor at the Marvel panel, terrycloth cape aside. If you can carry around a 42-pound Mjolnir hammer, you win best costume.
The only real problem with the convention was the terrible acoustics and sound system at the panels. Due to a last minute scheduling snafu, the convention center rooms were unavailable, so at the last minute, two makeshift rooms were built on the convention floor. The lousy sound system and noise from the floor made it hard to hear the speakers at the panels. That’s truly a shame, because the speakers we saw really were a joy to listen to. George Perez regaled a packed house with tales of his lengthy career in comics. The 70s panel with Walt Simonson, Len Wein, Chris Claremont, Steve Englehart, and Bernie Wrightson reminded us of a time when comics artists built a community in New York City without Facebook or Twitter. And the Mondo Marvel panel…well, I called Chris Claremont bald to his face and lived to tell the tale. (It was all in jest. I love Claremont; without him and my college friend Jim, I never would have gotten back into comics.) I even got to chat with Jeff Parker, writer of Agents of Atlas and one of the true gentlemen of comics. He’s also a comics historian, and I could have spent hours talking with him about his Alex Toth book.
This has been a great show so far, and I can’t wait for round two tomorrow. The Baltimore Comic-Con organizers should be proud of what they’ve done, and I hope Sunday goes as well as today did. And I’m off to bed!