My Overdue Baltimore Con Report

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The new school schedule is throwing a serious monkey wrench into my ability to get other things done. That coupled with a contractor making various portions of the house unusable and a head cold means I am significantly behind on things, starting with my con report from last week.This was my second consecutive trip to Baltimore Comic-Con, which is a great excuse for a father-daughter weekend. Kate shares me with my peers and I share Kate with his significant other and their posse. Courtesy of Westfield Comics’ Roger Ash, who runs the con’s programming, I was invited to moderate three panels and they went exceptionally well.The show’s reputation, thanks to organizer Mark Nathan’s continued focus on purely comics, has grown which has turned into a swelling attendance. I was surprised by how much more crowded the show floor felt, even though they apparently took over more space in the convention center. Nice problem to have, I suppose. Still, the staff was friendly and organized so people moved in and out efficiently. They were also dressed in zombie makeup on Sunday which was sort of neat and not something I’ve seen elsewhere.As usual, there was more programming I wanted to see than time, especially things I was scheduled opposite but that means Roger’s taking full advantage of his illustrious lineup of guests. Just about every writers and artist on hand could be easily found throughout the show as writers busily scrawled their names on comics and artists had lengthy sketch lists.  The positive energy I enjoyed last year remained in full force this time around.On Saturday, things started off with a catch-up breakfast with Barry Kitson. We barely had a chance to talk last year so this year we made a point of sitting down away from the crowds and that was lovely. He was accompanied by Tara, a con friend who enjoys dressing in costume and has partnered with Barry for a serious of posters. Buy a poster, you get to pose with Tara. This year she wore a Red Sonja outfit she made entirely on her own and as you can see here, she wields a fine sword.At noon, I hosted the British Invasion panel with Barry, Brian Bolland, and Mark Buckingham. I had never done a panel with any of these gents and I was looking forward to getting their thoughts on the migration of talent across the Atlantic. The discussion went well although twice I was tripped up because the information I gathered from the Comic Book Database was erroneous and that irked me. Still, we had a lovely chat and the questions from the audience were interesting, even though we got the inevitable, “What was it like working with Alan Moore on The Killing Joke”, which Brian gets at every panel he does. Members of the British Tourism board were on hand and they provided us with this fun backdrop and gave the panelists promo t-shirts.Minutes later, I was in the next room and conducted a one-on-one conversation with Paul Levitz. I’ve known Paul since I was I 13 years old so I wanted to explore with him those early days of comic collecting and fanzines, looking back at how much smaller and simpler fandom was and how it evolved. He jokingly told me I had three hours’ worth of questions for a sixty minute slot but we managed to get through most of the important questions. It was one of the most conversational panels I’ve ever been a part of and I gather the audience, which included several fellow pros, got something out of it.The rest of the day was wandering the show floor and visiting with fellow writers and artists. It was great seeing some I have not caught up with in ages while others it was the second or third time I’d seen them this year.  The conversations were interesting in that several threads had developed starting with few creators genuinely happy with their dealings with the editorial staff at either DC or Marvel. I gather the lines of communication are not as open as the creators would like and decisions seem to be countermanded on a whim, which complicates their ability to do their best work. Scheduling remains a persistent issue as inkers get jobs and are asked to finish 20 pages in two weeks or pencillers getting scripts months later than promised.The other issue also seems to be how the major and minor publishers can retain their star talent when the desire to their own projects has grown so strong. This year alone we have seen several creators abandon one company after another to do their own work, either through Image or crowdsourcing the funds via Kickstarter. This is a developing trend which is worth following into the coming year.Retailers were generally happy with their sales so people were spending and no one was worried about how digital comics were going to put comic shops out of business, especially now that the data shows the pie has actually grown so we’re not cannibalizing as feared.Once the show ended, I went out for a nice Indian dinner with Kate and her pals.Sunday morning at the con got off to a fine breakfast with Paul Levitz, where the conversation turned mostly to geopolitics which was a refreshing set of issues to discuss. Kate’s education and work experience lent some valued insights into the discussion. We were briefly joined by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, one of the finest gentlemen and best artists you could find.Afterwards, Paul and I participated in the Joe Kubert Memorial panel, joined by former students Tim Truman, Tom Raney, and Thom Zahler. The half-full room was a major disappointment as Joe’s legacy deserved everyone’s attention. Still, I think we honored him well. After the panel ended, a distant cousin came up to us and introduced herself. She had hoped to meet Joe, who had been scheduled to be a guest, but still came to hear the panel. We urged her to get in touch with Adam and Andy and hope she follows through.The remainder of my con time was spent chatting with old pals, including a nice reunion with my Doom Patrol art team of Richard Case and Scott Hanna. Seeing people I worked with throughout my time on staff at DC or Marvel is always fun and it’s gratifying to see many who I helped get started still involved and thriving.Once more I missed out on getting to say hi to Stan Lee, never getting to his panels or braving the throng that always seemed to surround him. Ah well.While I normally don’t bring my sketchbook to cons, I did this time because I wanted to make certain I caught Brian Bolland at long last. He did a lovely Tank Girl and I also collected a Dream Girl from Jamal Igle.I had an absolute blast at the show and it wound down at Penn Station, awaiting Amtrak. I chilled with Peter Tomasi as we watched the Yankees-Orioles game, just chitchatting. Much as I am enjoying the student teaching, weekends like this remind me how much I miss the day-to-day action of working in the comics field.Next up: New York Comic-Con in just a few weeks where many of us will be reunited yet again.

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