Fresh off our trip to the Wizard World Chicago Comic-Con last month, we made the short drive east this weekend to the Pittsburgh Comicon. I was sort of on the fence about the show originally, but figured it could be a fun time, and Tracy and the kiddo were up for it so I figured, “Why not?”
Stan Lee, "Marvel Legend" in capital letters, was the guest of honor. When he was first announced months ago, I thought that was pretty cool, but kept it to myself and decided not to pay the extra forty bucks to get his autograph. Weeks later, I mentioned it to Tracy in passing and she was incredulous that I had not signed up to meet him, get his autograph, and give him a copy of Deus ex Comica! She pointed out that Stan is getting up there in age and this might be the only opportunity I have to do this. So I purchased my autograph ticket online when I ordered the con passes for all of us and figured I’d see what happens.
We got on the road around 8 Saturday morning, getting us to Monroeville (east of downtown Pittsburgh) around 10:30. By the time we grabbed a bite to eat and got into the con, it was just after 11. The Stan Lee autograph deal was set up so that you were assigned a number when you purchased your ticket, and they were going to call groups of 100 people at a time to queue up to meet The Man. Of course, nowhere on the online receipt was the number you were assigned, so I had no idea what lot I would be in. Turns out I was in the 200’s, and when we checked in at the con, they told me they were already up to the 300’s. It worked out great for me though, because they told me to skip the queue and head right to the end of the line up at Stan’s table.
They wouldn’t let Tracy come up with me, but I took the kiddo. The line moved very quickly, and Stan was friendly and talkative and personable... just like you'd expect! After delivering a copy of my book, I thanked him for all of his influence and the happiness he’s brought us while he signed my hardcover copy of Marvel Visionaries: Stan Lee (which I picked up for a mere $2 at the Chicago con courtesy of the awesome folks at InStock Trades!). Stan had a brief conversation with the kiddo about their mutual love of comics, and it was over. The whole encounter probably lasted no more than a few minutes start-to-finish, but it was a wonderful way to start the con!
Afterwards, Tracy made an IKEA run while the kiddo and I made our way to the con floor. We worked our way around the outer perimeter and over to Dave Wachter’s table. Always good to see Dave. He was busy at work on sketches and visiting with passersby. I was happy to hear he was selling a lot of copies of The Guns of Shadow Valley preview comic (and glad to see postcards of his awesome Deus ex Comica cover art out on the table).
The kiddo almost immediately went into the “con mode” he established in Chicago: He found a vendor selling the digest-sized Marvel Adventures trade paperbacks for $2 each, promptly bought a half-dozen of them, and happily wandered the floor with Tracy and me leading him around while he kept his nose stuck in a book, popping his head up to join the conversation when he'd see some artwork that caught his eye or someone dressed up as a character he liked.
I was disappointed that Michael Golden, Arthur Suydam, and David Mack were cancellations. I had taken my single issues of G.I. Joe Yearbook #1, Fantastic Four #554 “Skrull variant,” and New Avengers #39 for each of them to sign, respectively. But Greg Horn, Ron Frenz, Gary Friedrich, and Terry Moore were there, and that was pretty damn exciting in and of itself!
I had previously met Greg Horn at Wizard World where I had him sign my signature jam piece, but this time I took Ms. Marvel #25 with the great Skrull cover he did. It was pretty cool because when he saw what issue I was asking him to sign, he was like, “Aw, there’s a great story behind this cover. You wanna hear it?” Like I’m going to say anything other than “Yes!” to that question. According to Greg, the cover of issue #25 was supposed to be of Ms. Marvel battling a Skrull Ms. Marvel, but Greg suggested a close-up of a Skrull Ms. Marvel with a finger to her lips to because he felt the battle cover would give away that Ms. Marvel isn’t a Skrull. (A variation on the “multiple Ms. Marvels battling” cover was used on the next issue, because by then it was revealed and no longer a spoiler.) On top of that cool little tidbit, he said the issue #25 cover led directly to his awesome “Who Do You Trust?” campaign I fell in love with that led up to Marvel’s Secret Invasion event!
I saw Ron Frenz at the Screaming Tiki Con last year, but for Pittsburgh, I brought Amazing Spider-Man #258 from the many issues of Frenz’s I have in the Original Collection for him to sign. He was really nice to chat with and talked up the kiddo, too, which was cool. I think Gary Friedrich has been at every con I’ve been to, but like with Frenz, this was the first time I took something for him to sign: Uncanny X-Men #45, a great Cyclops-centric tale written by Friedrich I picked up when I was collecting comics back in the '80s. Last up was Terry Moore. I had him sign the Runaways: Dead Wrong hardcover I snagged on sale at the show.
I met local artist Jeremiah Witkowski at the Screaming Tiki Con last year, and since become friends on Twitter and a fan of his You, Me + Steve web comic. (I actually mention both Jeremiah and the web comic in Deus ex Comica) It was cool to see him again and refresh our memories to put a face to the tweets. He gave the kiddo a signed Darth Vader sketch card and I picked up a copy of his book collecting 25 or so pages of You, Me + Steve goodness. Jeremiah is such a great ambassador to the Pittsburgh Comicon, I swear if the organizers knew what they were doing they have him on payroll!
It was also nice to chat with Michael Sangiacomo and Bill Pappas. I thanked Michael for the nice write-up he gave Deus ex Comica in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on Free Comic Book Day earlier this year. And we chatted about the state of mid-sized, regional cons and challenges of self-publishing and book promotion and all that good stuff. I hadn't seen Bill (who had hosted me for an in-store book signing, also on Free Comic Book Day) in a while, so it was good to catch up with him.
Apart from meeting and visiting with folks, I did some bargain hunting, too. (Actually, although this didn’t feel like I needed to attend the con multiple days, it seemed just the right mix of artists and creators and sales for a one-day visit.) It was Saturday, no doubt the busiest day of the con, so there weren’t any bargain basement prices, but there were plenty of vendors with half-off collected editions. Everything I bought was on sale for 50% or better. I didn’t go crazy, but picked up nine books I’ve been wanting for a while now, including the new Darwyn Cook Parker: The Hunter book, Annihilation Conquest Book Two and Dead @ 17 Ultimate Edition trade paperbacks, the oversized hardcover of Fallen Son, and Frank Miller’s Absolute Dark Knight (which was the best deal of the day for me, getting the seller down to 60% off retail). Good stuff all around!
Late in the afternoon, we made our rounds and said good-bye to Dave and Jeremiah, then headed for the Ohio border and home. It was a long day with nearly five hours in the car – more for Tracy with her detour from the con to IKEA and back – but we had a lot of fun (and we got the added bonus of seeing nature up-close and personal when we got home). I’ve got no complaints on the day, after all, it’s not every day you can say you gave a copy of your book to Stan Lee!