Friday, August 14, 2009

Chicago: The Con (Part 2)

Much of our time at the Wizard World Chicago Comic-Con blurs together after Thursday’s Preview Night, but we had a great time! Friday’s high points include meeting Chris Samnee, picking up my Matt Murdock commission, and having him sign my copy of Daredevil: Blood of the Tarantula. I also got to meet Steve Bryant, who, like so many others, I have known for quite a while on the forums and Twitter but had not previously met in person. Steve’s a really nice guy, and I had a great time chatting with him. I traded a copy of Deus ex Comica with him for a copy of his Athena Voltaire: Flight of the Falcon trade paperback.

I ended up buying a great original page from the Uncanny X-Men: First Class Giant-Size Special one-shot by Craig Rousseau. The page is primarily of Storm and looks fantastic – I see shades of Sean Galloway and Skottie Young in it his style, only more conventional (and appropriate for this book).

It was so great to meet Pat Loika. I had no idea what to expect from him. The first thing he said to me was that in person I sound just like I do on my Marvel Unbound segments on the Marvel Noise podcast. Later, he offered to do a sketch of any character of the kiddo’s choosing (he picked Fin Fang Foom and Pat threw in some Iron Man for good measure – “Oh, crud.”) and it came out great! The kiddo was thrilled to get his picture taken with Pat and the sketch. Pat was such a nice guy. I’m looking forward to seeing him at future cons.

Tracy was most excited about the Buffy and Twilight celebrities in attendance. We made our way over to Emma Caulfield’s table early Friday afternoon, and it was kind of an awkward experience. As Tracy put it, Caulfield seemed more concerned with her hair and her phone than being fan-friendly. Tracy did get her picture with her, but that was about it. That didn’t stop Tracy from wanting to attend the Buffy/Emma Caulfield panel later that afternoon. I sat in the back with the kiddo (who read Tiny Titans the whole time, natch) while Tracy sat up front. The panel seemed kind of disorganized and again Caulfield came off a bit above it all, referring to the fans as “you people” multiple times, but Tracy enjoyed herself.

We only stopped in the con briefly on Saturday after our morning visit to Harry Potter: The Exhibition at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry downtown. Tracy really wanted to attend the Twilight Q&A panel, which was moved from Sunday to Saturday, so she headed straight from the Rosemont train station to the convention center, while the kiddo and I stopped back at the hotel room to collect ourselves. It was incredibly hot that day, miserably so. And I felt kind of overheated and sick that afternoon, so after a very brief appearance on the floor I took the kiddo back to the hotel for a swim in the pool (something he’d been wanting to do since our arrival four days earlier) while Tracy had her autograph meet-and-greet with Cameron Bright from Twilight.

Sunday, the kiddo and I went back to Steve Bryant’s table to chat and pick up a copy of his Black Coat/Athena Voltaire one-shot, and Steve offered to draw the kiddo an Iron Man sketch. But it wasn’t that simple, Steve insisted the kiddo come around behind the table and not only watch him sketch, but also help with the drawing! Steve even made him sign and date the sketch. What a great experience.

I also picked up my Tony Stark commission from Skottie Young Sunday afternoon. Amazing. And, after running into Dave Wachter on the con floor and realizing he was through most of his commission requests, I couldn’t resist throwing more work his way and asking for a Ghost Rider headshot for Tracy that came out beautiful!

The bulk of Sunday was reserved for bargain hunting. I picked up 20 collected editions – both trade paperbacks and hardcover collections – for an average of four bucks each! I also snagged the Devil Dinosaur Omnibus for $5 and the Secret Wars Omnibus for less than half the cover price. Good stuff all around. The one deal I missed out on, and it was my own fault, was not picking up the Captain Britain Omnibus for $40 before the booth sold out of all their copies. But I got so many other good things, I can’t complain. There was plenty of stuff I’ve been dying to get my hands on that were available for anywhere from $2 to $5 each, like Iron Man: Enter the Mandarin and Doctor Strange versus Dracula trade paperbacks, Spider-Man: The Death of the Stacys and Brian K. Vaughan’s Logan hardcovers, and some DeFalco Spider-Girl and classic Spidey team-ups with the Fantastic Four and the Black Cat.

I’ve been really digging on Black Panther lately, and wanting to try Matt Fraction’s Punisher and Brian Michael Bendis’ Alias MAX series, and the Last Day of the Con sales were a great opportunity to bring some of those titles home. Especially when I was able to find volumes two, three and four of the Alias trades for as little as $2 and $3 each!

By far, the best part about the whole convention for me was getting to meet so many people I have become friends with over the last few years on various online comic book forums. Sometimes it was a far-too-short “hello” and “nice to meet you,” and with others it was a wonderful, lingering conversation over a meal. I wish there had been more time to spend with Vince and Chris and Pat, in particular. It was great to at least be able to meet folks like Zack and Scott and Eric.

I think our con experience was probably a bit different from others’. We didn’t stop in at the Hyatt Red Bar or anything like that at night, so I know I missed out on getting to hang out with Vince and Pat and all at length, but I still had a great time.

I quickly realized that visiting on the con floor for any length of time is difficult, especially if you don’t have the same objective as others at that moment. I didn’t attend any panels other than that Buffy one for Tracy, so it wasn’t like there was opportunity to just sit and chat with friends unless there was food or drinks involved. And I’m fortunate that we were able to go out to dinner with Matt and Sarah, and Chad and Heather that first night. We ended up having a great time visiting, and it’s amazing how strong the friendships formed over the internet can be. There was never a lull in the conversation the entire night.

I was so bummed when I realized that we’d just missed Dave at Millennium Park the day we came in town, but we made up for it by going out to dinner Friday night and having lunch together at the end of the weekend. Again, with only the comics forum as our starting point, it’s grown into a very cool friendship, and we’re looking forward to getting together again soon.

That Sunday lunch with Dave also included Mike and Amiee, which was great because they breezed into town late Friday and then back out of town immediately after we ate, so it was good to have some sit-down time with them to visit.

We met so many cool people, I can’t say enough good things about the con experience. There is a chapter of Deus ex Comica where I talk about online communities and the bonds we form over common interests, and it was nice to discover those connections translate so effortlessly from the seemingly impersonal medium of the internet to real life. Now more than ever, I “get” what is so great about these cons and why I continually go back to the forums… the friendships.

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