The Trip Up (Friday) - The trip up to Baltimore went a whole lot quicker than we expected it to. Jon, Jason and I piled into the car early on Friday morning and hit the road. There was some music listened to, a lot of comic book discussion and even a little bit of football talk (though Jason didn't have a ton to contribute to that). Jon was introduced to fruit leather, Jason mocked my love of bologna and I did (most of) the driving. When we got to town we (read Jon and I) were too hungry and too in need of beer to sit still at the luxurious Red Roof Inn, so we went to the only place out by the BWI that was open; The Ruby Tuesday.
I hadn't eaten at a Ruby Tuesday in at least a decade, probably more. They've got burgers, ya know? Like, a metric ton of burgers. So I ate one and it was alright, if only because I was so travel-hungry I was nearly delirious. Jon ate steak and shrimp and I don't know how many sides and this was at, I don't know, ten that night, maybe later? So we're eating and then Dean's plane gets in and he joins us, then Jay rolls into town and heads to the RT as well. Beers, food, even some cheesecake (we're a healthy lot) were had and then we headed back to the Red Roof to crash. Jon and me in one bed, Dean and Jason in the other and Jay on the floor. That's right, folks. Aspiring comics creators live pretty high on the hog. Don't forget it.
Day One (Saturday) - We rolled out of bed early enough to grab a quick bite to eat from McGarbage before heading into the city. Jay was handling the driving (I opted out after having driven over ten hours the day before) which meant that he was handling the drive-thru at the restaurant. Jay had apparently never been to a drive-thru. Ever. IN HIS LIFE. So after a drive-thru trip worthy of the Keystone Cops, the five of us headed into Baltimore and promptly ran into a wall of traffic caused by the street closures for the Baltimore marathon. This caused even more confusion, which was eventually conquered after a near detour toward New York.
Once at the con, Jason and Dean broke off to try and find their way onto a table (they did, thanks to Kids Love Comics) and Jay, Jon and I set off to do our own thing. My first thing that morning was talking to Jason Aaron and trying to set up an interview for sometime during the weekend. He was a really nice guy and was more than willing to give me some time the next day to run some questions past him for the blog. After that, Jon, Jay and I decided to walk the floor. Their geek eyes lit up wide at the site of all the comic books for sale, but I hemmed them both in, reminding them that whatever they saw on sale on Saturday would be even cheaper at the end of the day on Sunday. Not long afterward we split up, agreeing to meet back up later for the George Perez panel.
I was really impressed with Baltimore right off the bat. It was obvious that Baltimore was a convention about comic books, not just a massive multimedia expo using the medium of comics as an excuse to launch video games and hype Twilight films. The floor was filled to capacity almost exclusively with retailers and creators. Baltimore is a con that's still devoted to comic books. There were so many great deals on comics (even though I didn't take advantage of them) and a ton of face time with creators (which I certainly did take advantage of). Aside from meeting Jason Aaron that day, I also met Chip Mosher, head of marketing at BOOM! Studios. If you've been reading this blog then you know I'm a huge fan of BOOM. They have a great mixture of horror, adventure, superhero and kids comics, they're run by a group of guys who really know and love comics and most recently they've had a real knack for hiring my friends (see Ming Doyle and Dean Trippe). I stopped by the table because I knew Mark Waid was supposed to be around. As I showed up, a young couple was asking Chip why Mark Waid wasn't there and when they could expect to find Mark Waid. Chip gave them the requested information and they went along their way. So I walked up and asked him how many people that morning had been annoyed that he wasn't Mark Waid.
"Oh, I could never be Mark Waid. Mark Waid has far too much char-as-ma." Char-as-ma? "What do you think, Mike?" Mike was Michael Alan Nelson, the creative mind behind Fall of Cthulhu, which rivals Hellboy for the best "inspired-by-Lovecraft" comic I've ever read.
"Definitely char-as-ma." This was an inside joke. I was privy to a BOOM inside joke. So far this was going well. Then Chip tried to read my badge. As you can see from the picture above, http://surfingthebleed.blogspot.com isn't that easy to read. Chip was having trouble. But that's okay, because I had these awesome new business cards.
So I gave Chip a business card and things were suddenly a lot clearer. "You're a writer? What do you write?" I explained to him the purpose of the blog and that I was trying to break in to the industry. That's when he informed me that they were on a new talent freeze till 2011, but I was undeterred. I wanted some feedback. So I ran a few concepts past him and got the feedback I wanted. Then he told me thanks for being interested in the company and that he'd check the site out and maybe we could set up some interviews with some of their talent. So, ya know, cross your fingers.
I also took this time to re-introduce myself to Danielle Corsetto, she of the Girls With Slingshots fame. She recalled lending me her couch back in February. It also allowed me the chance to finally meet Jessi (Awesome), one of the two members of Team Awesome that I hadn't met in person yet. I found her (as most people seem to) instantly charming and her official Baltimore Comic-Con sign was infinitely impressive. I tried to buy some prints from Danielle but they had a slight change crisis. All is well though, as I came back later for some awesomeness on the cheap.
A few more laps around the building and it was time for some panel watching. Jon, Jay and I sat in on the George Perez panel which might have been good if we could hear it, but unfortunately the panel set-up at Baltimore left something to be desired. I guess maybe the economy limited the amount of money they could spend on conference space, but for whatever reason the panel rooms were set up at the front of the convention floor with only temporary dividers to separate them from themselves and from the floor itself. So as you can imagine there was quite a lot of ambient noise. Add to that the fact that the sound system in the room with the Perez panel was constantly on the fritz and things were almost impossible to hear. So we bailed long enough to do a little more walking, window shopping and creator greeting then reconvened for the Comics in the 70s panel that followed Perez.
Luckily for us they managed to fix the sound system enough to hear things and boy were there things to hear. The panel consisted of some of mine, Jon and Jay's favorite creators. The 1970s is possibly my favorite period of comics creation ever, so this was a particular joy for me. The panel consisted of my favorite creator, Mark Waid, moderating a discussion about the era with Bernie Wrightson, Len Wein, Chris Claremont, Steve Englehart and Walt Simonson. There was honesty, reverence, bitterness and humor abound. Each creator told their stories of breaking in and related some of their favorite moments from working during that exciting leap forward in comics. There were dead stewardesses, art crawls, Stan Lee wackiness and werewolves so good that upped the ante. I could explain all that, but trust me when I say you had to be there.
After that was done the three of us headed to The Nest, a sports bar across the street from the convention. Jon and I camped out, made friends with the bartender and watched some football till it was time to meet back up with Dean, Jason, Danielle and Jessi. The day wrapped up and they went off to the Harvey Awards dinner while Jon, Jay and I went pub crawling.
We ended up down the road a bit in a nice little area full of pubs and restaurants. The first place we stopped into was called Illusions. It was a 50s style lounge with a magic theme that had a big bar, lots of red, floor to ceiling illusionist posters and a nightly magic performance. There was supposed to be comic shop grand opening party there that night, but it started later than we'd arrived and the place was still pretty dead. So we decided to head across the street to a little dive that looked nice from the street, but it was misleading. The front looked like a simple, down to Earth pub but the back was a mewling throng of no-neck fratboys listening to the loudest music one could possibly listen to. Seriously, it was like a theme restaurant whose theme was Frat House. So we had a beer and got out, which was fine because by then it was time to head down to the Marriott for the Harvey Awards.
It was a fun experience to go to the Harveys but I had more fun hanging with Jay, Dean and the guys in the back of the room, acting as something of a peanut gallery than I had actually watching the awards. It was nice to see some great books getting the recognition they deserved though. Jon bailed early and went down to the hotel's bar to hang out. We joined him after the Harveys and had a blast, despite the exorbitantly priced booze and the overwhelmed bar staff. I got to spend some more time chewing the fat with Jason Aaron, met and had a great conversation with John Siuntres of the podcast Word Balloon, shared a great (if brief) conversation with Walt Simonson, cracked a few jokes with Jason Latour and made friends with a fellow Titan fan from Colorado. It was a very productive day and a great night. Day Two would be even better.