Wizard World Chicago began Thursday with Preview Night from 4 to 8. I loaded up my messenger bag with copies of books I brought to be signed by various creators and a few copies of Deus ex Comica to hopefully sell. We headed over a little before 4 – we were simply too excited to heed the advice of our friends Matt and Sarah, who recommended we wait until just after 4 to avoid having to queue up with the crowds to enter the con floor.
The kiddo, still completely oblivious to the impending comic book-y goodness in his future, was completely bummed out when we walked out the doors of the hotel and headed towards the parking deck instead of towards the Rosemont CTA station. He was hoping we would be headed back into the city. Instead, we walked up to the skybridge that connected our hotel’s parking deck and the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center. It was quite a hike taking the walkway (after that initial time, we just went back and forth by way of the main doors – our hotel was directly across the street from the convention center), but it amped up the kiddo’s excitement.
Coming down the escalator from the walkway to the main lobby of the convention center, people were queued up to get their wristbands and others were milling about until the floor opened. There were big banners with Superman, Spider-Man and Captain America flanking the main doors, and the “Chicago Comic-Con” logo was splashed all over, but the details slipped by the kiddo. When we asked him where he thought we were, he responded, “The airport…?” (Not a bad guess, actually: He knew we were one stop from O’Hare on the blue line, we’d talked about how close we were staying to the airport, he loved all the planes flying overhead every time we stepped outside, and we did walk a long way on the skybridge, so I can totally see where that guess came from.)
We walked him over to the banners and pointed out the “Chicago Comic-Con” logo across the top, and the light bulb finally lit up! He was simply beside himself that we came all the way to Chicago to go to a comic book convention.
We picked up our wristbands and eventually made our way onto the Preview Night con floor to take advantage of the smaller crowd. I had brought my copy of the Bendis/Mack/Maleev Daredevil Omnibus with me, and made a beeline straight for David Mack's table so I wouldn’t have to carry the book around with me forever. He was finishing setting up, but took time to sign my book, talk to me a bit about his Kabuki project, and signed and gave me copies of his last two sketchbooks. (It was pretty cool that he was giving away his sketchbooks, which were professionally done, when so many other artists were charging for sketchbooks that amounted to staple-bound pamphlets.)
A few tables down from Mack were the Dial R Studios guys. I got to meet Dave Wachter, creator of Deus ex Comica’s incredible cover, in person for the first time, and picked up my preordered sketches of the Hood and Etrigan. If anyone is underpricing themselves, it’s Dave. The quality of his work makes you feel guilty for paying so little for it. I hope he breaks big soon… cover work for someone like Dark Horse would be perfectly suited to his talent, along with being a huge, well-deserved step in the right direction for him!
I also got to meet one of Dave’s fellow Dial R Studios mates, Andy Jewett. Andy surprised me by asking to buy a copy of Deus ex Comica before we’d gotten very far into the conversation. And that ended up being the first of many book sales (some expected, some unexpected) over the course of the next few days. I went back to these guys a lot throughout the weekend, and I ended up getting Andy’s sketchbook, Word 2, which contains some of his best sequential stuff. I enjoyed it so much I ended up reading it straight-through twice in the first sitting! Andy has a bit of a sentimental bent to his work, especially his autobiographical sequences, that makes me think he might really enjoy Deus ex Comica.
The kiddo must have asked me three or four times that first night where my table was. You see, all the comic book conventions he’s been to have been small, local shows where I have a table setup to sell copies of Deus ex Comica, so he didn’t know any different… he was told this was a comic con, and in his mind that meant Dad should have a table for his book. It was very cute.
I made my way over to Bryan J.L. Glass’ table because I had a great time talking to him at the Screaming Tiki Con back in October of last year, and I was excited to have him sign my Mice Templar hardcover collection. I had emailed Bryan about Deus ex Comica earlier in the year and he was very encouraging. While he was sketching and signing my Mice Templar book, I pulled out a copy of Deus and his face lit up… “That’s you! I remember you!” and he immediately asked me if he could buy a copy of the book. What a cool experience! I have been meaning to pick up a copy of Bryan’s novel, Quixote, for a while now, and I ended up going back later in the weekend to get it.
From there we visited IDW’s G.I. Joe artist Robert Atkins. I have been a big fan of the Darkhan City Times Awesome Things Podcast since its inception. Robert, along with his buddies Quinn and Troy Johnson, put together a professional, entertaining, informative, and usually all-ages appropriate pop culture podcast. It was great to meet him in person after talking with him via email and on various forums over the last few months. I had commissioned a full marker sketch of G.I. Joe’s Scarlett from him in advance of the show and was amazed by what he produced. I can’t count how many people asked me where I got it. Vince thought it was a print when he first saw it, and Chris stopped me on the con floor to tell me how much he loved it. That’s how great this piece looks! I also ended up trading Robert a copy of Deus ex Comica for one of his Snake-Eyes prints. Gorgeous stuff.
I picked up a copy of Justin Bleep’s Super Human Resources trade paperback. I love his art style and am really looking forward to digging into this story. Preview night was also great for being able to just chat with the folks in Artist’s Alley, like Mouse Guard creator David Petersen. At first, the kiddo and I talked to him about how much we enjoyed Fall 1152, and how it was one of the first comic books I really sat down and read to the kiddo. But soon, Tracy took over as she and David had a good ten-to-15 minute discussion about the Twilight saga and how much they both dug it.
It was an exciting start to the second half of our vacation, and we capped it off with a fun dinner with our friends Matt and Sarah, and Chad and Heather. The kiddo was on his best behavior, impressing everyone by ordering calamari and quietly reading the Tiny Titans trade paperback he bought from creators Art Baltazar and Franco earlier in the evening. In fact, in what became a blueprint for the rest of our vacation, the kiddo was never without a comic or collection of some kind to read while waiting in lines with me or while the adults were having dinner and talking or whatever. He went back to Art and Franco’s table the next day and bought the second trade paperback volume of Tiny Titans, then again on Saturday to buy the single issues that follow the two trades and ended up with two great sketches – a Beast Boy from Art and a Kid Devil from Franco.