Wednesday, September 12, 2007

FROM THE ROAD :: Baltimore Comicon 2007 Report.

Whew! I'll try to be brief, as I've written exhaustive descriptions for all the photos I just uploaded to our Flickr page. So we'll do it chronologically. Ready? Okay? Let's go!

The Baltimore Comicon, seen from the air just before our luxury helicopter landed.
So Heroes' owner Shelton Drum, Operations Manager Todd Harlan, and me (I'm Dustin) piled in an overstuffed rental van last Friday and left two hours late for Baltimore, Maryland, and the 2007 Baltimore Comicon. Shelton's good buddies with show's organizer Marc Nathan; and while I'm usually suspicious, I have to say that he's a pretty cool dude. It's a good sign when no one's saying anything bad about somebody, and pretty much everybody likes Marc. Uh-oh, this isn't a good start, brevity-wise. Let me make it up to you: I'll skip any description of the drive up there, except 1) being 6'2" and riding in the back seat of a rental van sucks, and 2) we made great time.

Once in the city, we met our buddy Steve Saffel at the hotel and got some dinner. Steve's worked for about everybody inside and outside the comics biz, and is a straight-up class act from day one. Frankly, Shelton doesn't deserve friends that good. Steve has a new snazzy Spider-Man coffee table book out, and throughout the weekend missed no opportunity to whip it out to show people: you never saw such a proud papa. My friend Randy Howell, a Baltimore local, met us at dinner, and he and Todd and I ditched the older guys ("That drive really took it out of me") and met up with some of our comics friends for some drinks and good times. Here, for brevity's sake, and to resist the urge to constantly name drop, I will skip all description of that evening.

David Finch had a line for pretty much the whole convention--what a hard worker!
Boy, what a night! Waking up the next morning was a trial, but we did it, and somehow had our booth set up and ready for action by the time the show opened at 10. And did it ever open! I have to assume that Marc Nathan set an attendance record this year, as the floor filled up pretty quickly and we started selling comics hand over fist right away. Once things had leveled off a little bit, I started cruising the floor: my reason for being there was to line up more awesome guests for HeroesCon 07. It takes me a while to conquer my powerful aversion to meeting strangers, which is something of a handicap in this business--after some false starts, I finally started talking to pro's, the list of which is far too long to mention here. Although I will say it was nice to see the guys from Gaijin and quasi-Gaijin--Cully, Brian, Karl, Phil Noto, Tony Shasteen, Doug Wagner. Plus old friends of the show like Ron Garney, Howard Chaykin, and Michael Golden. Ron Garney, by the way, is a cool dude if you ever get the chance to meet him.

One of the high/low points was standing in different lines in order to meet creators, in order to then invite them to be guests at our show. The worst was Howard Chaykin--we already know him, but I wouldn't feel right about bustin in his line to say hello, so I respectfully (foolishly) stood in his line for 15 minutes, until I noticed he was regaling the same two guys with stories, and that the line hadn't moved an inch in all that time. So I switched over to Mike Mignola's line, which was moving briskly. Within ten minutes I was right up front and stuttering out my invitation. The problem is that I'm a huge fan of Mike Mignola, and hate to meet him, only to immediately pitch him on something. I guess it's better than if I were handing him a script or something, but I'd rather talk about how awesome he was. Of course, we sure would love to have him back in Charlotte (he was last here in '94). When I told Todd I'd invited him he nearly wet his pants, he got so excited. What a nerd.

So let's skip ahead: because Paul Pope is a super-nice guy, he invited me to come along as his guest to the Harvey Awards. Beforehand the two of us and Jimmy Aquino, co-host of the popular Comic News Insider podcast, had a crab dinner, which was both tasty and expensive. Mid-meal the phone rang, and I took my crabby fingers and shirt-front outside to confer with Nick Gurewitch of the PBF on our Harvey award acceptance scheme (see the Flickr page for the complete rundown, with even more name-dropping). Once our dinner and bottle of wine were finished, we tottered over to the Harvey's, where we were seated at maybe the coolest table in the place: it was me, Chris Pitzer, Paul, Dean Haspiel and his girlfriend Laura, James Jean, and a guy named (I'm mispelling it) Henrik (I'm probably mispronouncing it, too), who was totally cool.

I'd like to thank my agent, my girlfriend, and Todd, without whom this award would never be possible.
I've heard a lot of negative things from people about the Eisner's ceremony: not that it's bad, just that it's soul-crushingly long. The Harvey's were actually refreshingly short, with a lot of cool stuff--Sergio Aragones was the keynote speaker, Kyle Baker was the emcee, so there was a lot of joke-cracking. James Jean was one of the presenters, and when he got up to present he told a story about going to Adam Kubert's house as a teenager and drawing Wolverine and practicing ribcages and stuff. I can't remember all of it--that was some good wine we had at dinner. Joe Kubert accepted an award from the Hero Initiative for his work on their behalf--the man who presented the award made a super-long speech about Joe and the Hero Initiative, and then Joe got up and said, "Well, thanks" and sat back down, which made everyone laugh. One of the funniest presenters was Erik Larsen, who made a joke about Superboy and blonde hair which cracked everyone up--except me (I think it was a comic book reference I missed; or wine). He was presenting the award for Best Single Issue or Story, which eyebrow-raisingly went to Civil War #1 which came out like ten years ago, and beat Fun Home, Pride of Baghdad, Mom's Cancer, and Ganges #1, among others. Surprise! I think you can find a complete list of the Harvey winners here.

After the Harvey's it was off to the hotel bar, where there was a lot of chitchat, some really expensive drinks, and some good ole networking. I had a good conversation with James Jean about Charles Mingus, but we were interrupted by something, and then James escaped my clutches and there was no one to talk jazz with. The hotel was packed with pro's--I got to talk to Jim Starlin for a little bit, as well as Nick Barrucci of Dynamic Forces, Tony Shasteen and Tom Feister. I'd planned to go the Mike Wieringo tribute that was held at Edgar's, but almost immediately after the Harvey's someone told me they'd gone and that no one was there--the implication being that it had moved, or maybe had always been planned in another bar. Not true! As Shelton told me later, it was at Edgar's after all, but there was some confusion about what part of the bar. So I missed it, but luckily Todd and Shelton and Steve made it over there, and they said they had a great time. People had gathered to celebrate Mike's life and enjoy each other's company, which as someone said, was "exactly what Mike would have wanted." Anyone who ever met Ringo could tell you that the last thing he'd want was for anyone to be inconvenienced on his behalf--so a good ole party was a great way to remember him.

Speaking of Ringo, I have to mention the many, many pro's that donated sketches or autographs in his name. I'm not sure what the total might have been, but it seemed like every five minutes they were announcing a different creator signing or sketching to benefit the ASPCA (one of Mike's favorite charities) or Hero Initiative. The only problem was that the announcements were kind of loud, and the guy doing them had this stentorian deep voice, so it was like God was talking all the time. Oh, that God! Anyway, Sunday was the last day of the show, and I spent much of it meeting everyone else in the convention center, and regretting the second of two hotdogs I had for lunch. I heard a LOT of praise for HeroesCon, both from people who've been ("You can consider me confirmed for LIFE" I heard a lot) and who haven't ("I've been hearing about how great your show was for years"), which of course felt great. Between myself and Shelton, we made a ton of confirmations, which I'll be announcing over the next couple of weeks a few at a time, as we get back into the swing of things.

Literally room after room crammed with incredible art and priceless objects and comics.  Whew!
That night, after loading out our booth and packing the van up, Shelton, Todd, Steve and I (I'm Dustin) went to the Geppi Entertainment Museum for a reception. I was thinking it would just be kinda so-so--Oh, Look! A Lot Of Comics Stuff!--but I was blown away by how cool it was. If you're in Baltimore's Inner Harbor for any reason, and like comics even a little, you have got to stop in this place. Todd and I were totally geeking out over all the strip art: while I was looking at a Milton Caniff Terry & the Pirates, Todd would point out a Winsor McCay original, then an E.C. Segar. We were bouncing from wall to wall like the kids in Willy Wonka. Everything was really classy, too. Top of the line all the way: lots of dark wood grain, exposed brick, and everything super shiny and clean.

Almost finished! After turning in for an actual complete night of sleep, we got up Monday morning ready to go to the Diamond Retailer Summit. Unfortunately, we got mesmerized watching Mel Brooks' "Silent Movie" and almost missed breakfast. But not even surly caterers could keep up from free food, and we wolfed down our breakfast and then attended a couple of workshops. After lunch Todd and I repaired to the harbor to see that big ole boat, the USS Constellation, but only had about a half-hour before the last presentation we wanted to see. Once that was done, we were out, baby! Literally moments after it ended, we were on the freeway--remember how easy it is to get to the highway from the convention center?--and on the way home. Many thanks to the Baltimore Comicon, in many ways our "sister" show. Marc Nathan, his fiance Shelly, and their staff really put on a great, friendly show, and we were pleased as punch to be part of it. Thanks to everyone who was nice to us in Baltimore. And to the haters: well, you know what they get.


Neil said...

It was good to meet you guys at the con. You're always so busy at Heroes Con that I've never been able to say "Hey". Anyway, I was one of the many who said you could count me in for Heroes '08. I also said I would post on your blog, so......

Dustin Harbin said...

Yes, Neil! We got a surprising number of people at our booth who stopped by to say how much they dug HeroesCon, and Neil was one of them. Keep those comments a-comin', Neil!

Dan Morris said...

I'm really glad to hear that Baltimore went so well and I'm quite eager to hear who as confirmed for the convention. *crosses fingers for Mignola*

Steve Saffel said...

Baltimore ComicCon was great fun, and I really appreciate getting to work with you guys. All of the fans were so excited at the new collection you were selling, they were walking away with huge stacks. They looked so happy you would've thought they'd hit the mother lode.

Thanks again for a terrific weekend. It was almost as fun as a Heroes Con.

Rusty Baily said...

Man! You guess got to hang out with Steve!?!?!? I'm jealous! HEY STEVE! Bye Steve!