August 23, 2011

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Baltimore Comic Con 2011 Wrap-Up

Over the past weekend, I had the great pleasure of once again attending the Baltimore Comic-Con. As I mentioned in my preview posts, I was at the show last year and enjoyed myself thoroughly. It was nice to get to go again, even though I had to make it basically a one-day show due to other commitments.

I can't speak much to Saturday's part of the show, though Johanna Draper Carlson amongst others has done a wonderful job of writing up the fun on Saturday. I will say that I encountered tons of people who had clearly been at the show, either in costume or out of it, as I walked towards the Convention Center. They were full of smiles, too, which is always a good sign, and talking enthusiastically about what they'd bought.

When I got into the show proper, I saw that it was extremely crowded. I barely got time to grab some of the books I wanted to definitely buy before it was time to go. I left with so much anticipation for the next day, it probably stayed on my face all night. Not even eating alligator and kangaroo could dull my enthusiasm, due partly to a great dinner with comics friends Johanna, Ed, Julia, and Erica.
The next day, I ran (literally at some points, because keep in mind I don't need a car to go to this show!) to the Convention, and was greeted by a welcoming committee, pictured to the left. Fortunately, I was not one of the bloggers they were looking for, so I was able to hit the show floor for a quick look around before going to a panel.

While not as crowded as Saturday, Sunday still did quite a brisk business. I think a lot of it had to do with Stan Lee's presence, but that didn't mean people were only around for one of the legends of the comics business.

I will say, however, that the lines for all things related to Lee were impressively long, even longer than for McFarlane the prior year. The snapshot to the left was pretty typical of the Lee lines, which only grew as time went on. For better or worse, I opted to skip waiting to see The Man. I love Lee's work, but I'm at the show to see as many folks as possible, not just one person, and waiting would have killed my timeline.

Not too long after I ogled the Lee lines, I went up to the first panel of the day, about children's digital comics. Based on the debut of a new product that should be available on the ipad now, Comics Jukebox, the panel consisted of folks related to kids comics in some way, ranging from Todd DeZago's Marvel work to a representative of Archie Comics to the founder of the Jukebox, John Gallagher.
Partly because Gallagher was a bit late, DeZago started off the conversation and as a result, the panel ended up being more of a conversation on digital comics than on kids comics in the digital world. That was cool, because I am extremely interested in the subject, as most regular readers know

I live-tweeted the panel and I might get a panel write-up later this week if time permits. The most interesting things I heard was that these panelists not only were not afraid of the copying issues related to epub, they argued that the future of digital comics was in an epub-related format. (Tell that to the publishers, who are locked into the cloud!) They also kept referencing the ipad, despite the fact that the non-ipad users in the room outnumbered ipad people by about eight to one. Lastly, I was shocked that the panel agreed that digital was a better deal for creators than print, which is against all the conventional wisdom I've ever read. Go figure.

Soon it was time to be back on the floor again, which had a nice buzz about it. I started my swing through the artists and guests, picking up the things that interested me along the way. This takes time and effort, by the way, to do it right. If you just sort of scan the aisles, it can look like there's just a lot of folks trying to do pinups of popular characters. Which is fine, if you do that sort of thing.

However, what I look for are either creators who I've met before who might have new stuff, people whose art blogs have intrigued me, or those with an affordable introductory product that I can grab without worrying if I overspent.

It also doesn't hurt if you have an awesome booth, like the FUBAR folks. They put together a themed anthology of zombie stories set in World War 2. While I admit I'm a bit--make that a lot--zombied out, I knew one of the contributors and picked it up as a result. I'm glad I did. The stories are quite good, and use the meshed ideas quite well. Definitely worth it for $12.

Before moving on, though, I want to emphasize how important art blogs and affordable comics were for me at this show. I specifically sought out people that I'd started out knowing only from their art blogs. Having had the chance to see that their chops were good, I knew I wanted to buy merch from them. Blogs aren't paid work, but they are free advertising that can later be put in a book, or used to tease a longer work. Definitely consider it if you're trying to get the word out about your work.

When you make that book, make sure it's a good value, too. While I rarely put down a five dollar or less comic if it's caught my eye without buying it, I won't even pick up anything over that if I don't know you. Please place value on your work, but also understand that it's always good to have something people can use to see if they like you or not. Trust me, we'll be repeat customers, and that's when we'll start buying the pricier stuff!

Before I knew it, I had to be back up in the panel area for the second digital panel of the day. This time, Comixology was hosting, and they had a row of talent that included Jeff Smith, Jimmy Palmiotti, Scott Snyder, and others. The panel started off a bit stiff, but Palmiotti (and a passing thunderstorm) quickly set an informal tone, and the conversation flowed freely.

(Palmiotti is a riot, by the way. If you get a chance, make sure you see him on a panel, regardless of topic. He's awesome.)

As with the prior panel on digital, most of the creators were enthusiastic about the medium, particularly with what it can do for independent creators. Smith noted that Rasl and Bone sold equally well in digital form, which is not the case at all in print. Palmiotti liked being able to add digital extras, and everyone seemed to think it nixed the availability issue for smaller comics.

I thought it was really interesting that the panel seemed to think that digital would not kill the comic store at all, becoming a place to pick up things otherwise unavailable or serving as a way for those not near a shop (or who are uncomfortable in a shop for whatever reason) to get their comics. Comixology mentioned working on a deal with retailers to have the ability to pick up digital comics through their websites, which I don't quite understand, but I trust them to be on top of good ideas.

Comixology continues to be the top of the digital field, both in terms of being promoters of the digital comics world and also in terms of improvements. They're looking at doing more digital trades and seeing what publishers might let them do in terms of sharing comics. I can also say that they are not ones to rest on their laurels, either, though that's all I'm at liberty to mention. Just trust me on this. It would be easy to stand pat, but they keep moving forward. I hope that continues for a good long time, as I'd love to keep giving Comixology more business.

As with the prior panel, I live-tweeted the conversation. If time permits, I'll try to do a more in-depth post about it as well.

After the second panel, I made another few swings through the show, getting a chance to talk to Stan Sakai, JM DeMatteis, Jose Garcia-Lopez, and others. It's always a thrill for me to be able to shake a creator's hand and tell them how much I love their work. I found out one of my favorite DeMatteis stories is one of his favorites, too!

Before I knew it, it was time to leave. I had a nice full bag of goodies (more on that tomorrow) and the rain had conveniently stopped. It was time to leave this oasis of comics behind for another year. Like many others, I had a great time, but I hope to be able to attend both days next year. Walking home, I realized just how much I didn't get to do, despite all that I had done!

The next Baltimore Comic Con will be on September 8-9, 2012, at the Baltimore Convention Center. You owe it to yourself to be there next year. Start making plans now.

Otherwise, you have to answer to these guys: