August 19, 2011

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You Should Go to the Baltimore Comic Con This Weekend (August 20-21)!

It almost time for the Baltimore Comic Con! It's time for the comics world to shine right here in my own hometown, and I couldn't be happier! The show is being held at the Baltimore Convention Center on August 20th from 10am to 6pm and August 21st from 10am to 5pm.

I actually have surprising confession to make in relation to this show: Last year, the Baltimore Comic Con was my first major comics show! I know that's hard to believe, given I've been reading comics for almost thirty years now, but it's true. When I lived in Pittsburgh, I never once made the big show there.

Why, you ask? Because while there were always comics folks at the Pittsburgh show, a lot of the focus is on general media sensations, like TV show stars or models or things of that nature. It wasn't focused squarely on comics, and thus, it was never a must-see show for me.

What made the Baltimore Comic Con such a great show for me as my first major show (and pushed me to go to Heroes, when I was told it was just like it) is that it's about *comics.* Sure there are other elements involved--I don't think you can separate comics and movies at this point--but the bulk of the show is about comics. From the guests to the panels to the theme of the show, the Baltimore Comic Con places the emphasis on comics, which is where I want it to be.

If you are at all interested in comics and live within a few hours of Baltimore, it is definitely worth your trip. There are big names every year that will draw all sorts of lines (last year it was Todd McFarlane) and there are plenty of others who will see crowds all weekend. What that means is there is almost certainly going to be creators who *you* like that are seemingly being ignored. For me, that was Jeff Parker. I got to have a lovely conversation with him, and he convinced me to read Red Hulk (though it took me awhile) with words to the effect of "Hey, it's me we're talking about. Trust me."

Those are the little moments you'll have at Baltimore. No matter how huge the show appears at first glance (and trust me, it's daunting if you're a con newbie), the crowds ends up working its way out, and while everyone has their own preference for what to do (mine is spending time in Artist Alley), they get to do it. You will, too!

Here are some things you should do if you go to the show tomorrow and/or Sunday:
  • Bring something to read while waiting in line. The entry lines are pretty long at the start of the day. You might get lucky and talk to someone cool, but you might also get the tool who spends the whole time talking about why Poison Ivy shouldn't wear pants. Plan accordingly.
  • Spend the first half hour or so just walking around. Sure, you've got your map and your list of panels and you're ready to make a bee line to J.M. DeMatteis, but if you don't take some time to get oriented, you might a) get lost or b) end up missing something you weren't expecting.
  • If you are looking to buy comics or trades, shop around. There are a ton of vendors at the show for those who want trades or singe issues. While it might be tempting to stop at the first place that looks good, pretend you're actually on the internet for a minute. Take the time to find a good deal unless it's a must-have item. Odds are you can find it cheaper, and if not, you're not out much in the way of time.
  • Speaking of spending, set a budget and stick to it. Get cash if you can. Leave your credit card at home unless you have a strong sense of restraint. There is going to be a strong urge to buy everything you see that you like, and down that road leads madness. Whatever you do, don't hope to be able to get cash at the show. That's sage advice for any con, really.
  • There's nothing wrong with appreciating and taking a photo of a person in costume. But always ask first and please don't be one of the many creeps trying to take pictures of women from the back. That is just so low class it's not even funny.
  • Make sure you stop by artist alley. Not only is it a place to meet your favorite well-known creators, sometimes you'll run into a favorite that you weren't expecting to see. I got to thank Ron Garney for his Cap and Silver Surfer runs that way. Also, a lot of these guys have things for sale, ranging from their prior work to sketchbooks and the like. Always nice to support them with a sale.
  • Plan your panel-sitting carefully. Baltimore has a lot of really cool panels this year, but if you only do panels, you can't see the artists, and that's a big part of the appeal of the show. I'd argue for at least a 50-50 ratio of panel to con-roaming.
  • Eat. For the love of God, do not do what I did last year and skip food. Either leave the show and come back or bite the bullet and get con food. Trust me on this one. [Edited to add: Drink lots of water, too. Easy to dehydrate and feel as weak as I did for not eating. Thanks for the heads-up on that, Julia!]
  • Lastly, buy at least one thing outside your comfort zone. Like Superheros? Awesome, so I do. Buy someone's autobiographical work. You might like it. Only read webcomics? Give a small trade paperback a try. See what happens when the story has a beginning and an ending, all within 150 pages. Find yourself gravitating to known publishers, no matter how small? Pick up at least one self-published title. Any one will do. Self published doesn't mean bad, it means complete creative control. Never touched a Superman? I challenge you to go and find a new series to try that involves powers and the fight of good against evil. Open your boundaries! That's what these shows should be for!
Whatever you decide, I hope to see you at the Baltimore Comic Con this weekend! Look for me to either be entirely overdressed on Saturday late in the afternoon or wearing an awesome Dick Giordano Batman shirt on Sunday. Have fun, and buy some comics!!