November 19, 2013

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Baltimore Comic-Con 2013

Baltimore Comic-Con Floor
Continuing my series of "better late than never" posts, it's time to talk about what was most likely my last trip to the Baltimore Comic-Con, though that's no fault of the show itself, which remains excellent and recommended, though getting a bit more for capes and a bit less for indie comics every year.

This was my fourth trip to the Baltimore Comic-Con, and I was really excited because I planned to go both days for the first time this year. Sadly, because Baltimore's transit system can warn about the scary (read: Black) people with you on the train via loudspeaker, they can't be bothered to tell you the train itself is broken down so I ended up wasting so much time I wouldn't have made the show anyway on Sunday.

Archangel!
That was a bummer, and it definitely impacted on my purchases at the show, which were lower because I'd planned to get sketches, a few bargain trades, and my final selections when I came back on Sunday. Oh well!

At any rate, the day I spent at the show was extremely pleasant and fun, as I talked to the many lovely people that make the show so much fun year in and year out, whether they're bigger names like the ever-conversant J.M. DeMatteis or local creators like Monica Gallagher or Curls Studio. I also finally caught Roger Langridge at his table to grab a sketch (he did an awesome 10th Doctor for me in just a few minutes of work) and found myself often in some nice, long conversations with creators about their work.

That meant I didn't do a lot of time at panels, because I was busy on the floor itself for most of the time I was there. The one I made sure to make, though was the Stan Sakai panel, and it was as good as you'd expect. Sakai is incredibly entertaining, and now I really want to just watch him, Sergio Aragones, and Mark Evanier just go at it with no moderator or particular topic in mind. They're definitely three of a kind.

Stan Sakai.
Sakai was the feature guest of greatest importance, since Usagi Yojimbo is 25 years old, and I was sure to grab the commemorative book before it disappeared. It's every bit as gorgeous as you'd expect it to be, with work from tons of amazing artists.

I think my favorite Sakai story was hearing about Usagi getting a toy in the TNMT line. Sakai was friends with them because once upon a time they were all small indies together, before the cartoon exploded things. They asked him if he wanted a toy (due to the rabbit's appearance on said cartoon), he said yes, and they told him to have his people call their people.

"I don't have people" was Sakai's reply.

I took an extended lunch with Erica and our friends Julia and Ed (and Ed's brother and nephew) during which we compared notes, talked about all-ages comics, and caught up on things. It's a little sad that it might be our last time dining together for awhile, but that's what Twitter is for.

Ramona Fradon and Herb Trimpe, Two Legends of the Field
The show itself was extremely busy, but I honestly couldn't tell how well it was spread around. Kevin Smith I guess was the main guest, but I don't care for the kind of comics culture he endorses, so I kept my distance. I did my part to help folks make good comic choices, like talking a young man into the corruption-inducing lovable antics of Archer and Armstrong, much to the amusement of the Valiant marketing folks. Personally, I bought a bit less than I usually do, including no mini-comics for the first time ever. Sadly, I just never saw one that made me want to grab it on the first pass. The folks I normally buy from had nothing new and what I saw from others either was priced too high or just felt too derivative.

This is not to say that they were bad. Some of them always are, of course, but I have gotten pretty good at spotting that from far enough away that I don't get lured in. It's just that, well, I read a lot of comics these days, and my priority is shifting towards keeping up with the people I like. (I'll have more to say about this either in my SPX write-up or a post relating to it later on.) I only have so much time and money, and I have to be picker now that I have quite a few people that I look to every year for comics.

I feel bad about that, but it can't be helped.

The Amelia Cole Crew
Before I knew it, it was time to move on to post-show fun and frivolity with the Amelia Cole folks and their friends, where we talked shop, discussed geeky things, and heckled a really bad Irish music band from a safe distance. Man, why do restaurants think we want live entertainment during dinner? No. No. No.

Overall, while this may have not been my best show for finding books, it was one of the best for me personally in terms of just experiencing a con and talking to folks that I've seen year in and year out, as well as talking to the marketing folks for Valiant, IDW, and other companies whose titles I review on a regular basis. What I want out of a show is shifting from sales and panels to "meeting and greeting" and for that, I can really think of no better show than Baltimore Comic-Con. It's a very friendly atmosphere in general, does a great job for kids (with their own section, panels, and activities), and if you are a fan of superheroes and mainline indies, this is probably the best experience you'll have without going to one of the BIG BIG shows like NYCC or San Diego.

Since I am almost certainly moving to the West Coast, I can't justify paying several hundred dollars to fly back here, when there are similar shows close by. However, if the stars align, I'd happily return to Baltimore Comic-Con, which I hope retains it Biggest Small Show feel for as long as it remains active, because we really do need that in the comics world.

So thanks for the memories, Baltimore. I've had so many good ones with you, even if I'm less happy with the city you're located in. May you have tons more great years of shows, and perhaps an old friend will return some year...

You can find more Baltimore Comic-Con 2013 pictures on my Flickr page.