Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Baltimore Comic-Con Recap: Day Two
Day Two (Sunday) - Sunday started off a little slower than Saturday had. We were all nursing a day of con funk and a night of drinking, so we all resigned ourselves to being a little late, Jon and I more than everyone else. Jay wanted to hit a couple of panels and get some shopping done in time to head out kind of early (he had a family obligation) so he took Jason and Dean down to the show and Jon and I hung back to have a hearty breakfast. By hearty breakfast I mean Bob Evans. This was my first trip to a Bob Evans and I must say, as far as hangover cures are concerned, it's pretty damn good.
After a breakfast the size of the greater D.C. area at the Bob Evans, Jon and I headed into the city. We were expecting traffic and parking problems due to the Ravens game at 1:00 o'clock that day, but it ended up not being a problem at all. Once inside the con I split up with Jon and found a quiet corner of a panel room to work on my questions for Jason Aaron. Once the questions were prepped I headed straight to the booth Jason was sharing with Matt Fraction and Jason Latour and sat down for our interview.
The interview went great, despite my technological failure. Jason's interview was the first one I'd done in person and I had to do it without a recorder. I tried using my phone's recorder, but the ambient noise was so overwhelming that there was no way to pick up his responses. It didn't occur to me till much later that I could have just videoed the entire thing. I soldiered on and the interview went great. Jason was a great guy and he had some great responses for my questions.
Once the interview was over I really only had one more thing I felt like I had to do; meet Mark Waid. Mark Waid is one of my top two favorite comic creators of all time. For me, Denny O'Neil and Mark Waid define superheroes. Getting the opportunity to shake his hand and thank him for the effect he's had on me as a fan and a creator was a very important part of this trip for me. So I headed over to the BOOM! table and introduced myself. As brief as the meeting was, it was very successful. You never know what people with a fair amount of celebrity are going to be like. When you respect someone creatively, you have a tendency to build them up in your head, and unfortunately the reality of the person can sometimes be a disappointment. That is not the case with Mark Waid. I told him that Kingdom Come was the book that got me back into comics as a teenager, that I'd been a huge fan of everything he'd done as a creator, that I had a ton of respect for BOOM! Studios and most importantly, that he was my largest creative influence. Mark Waid is the reason I want to write comics. His reaction? Extremely positive. You can tell that the man really loves the medium and the fans. He was so happy, so excited to hear me say those things and he was genuinely happy to meet me. He even took my card and promised to give the blog a look. That would have been great in and of itself, but as I was leaving Chip Mosher made a point to stop what he was doing, come down to the end of the booth, shake my hand and tell me thanks for supporting the company.
Maybe the above reads like some fanboy having a thoroughly fanboy moment, but it was more than that to me. Sure, it was great to meet Mark Waid and even better to have my opinion of him justified, but that's not the best part. The best part was just how comfortable I felt in that position, standing there talking to him and feeling like he treated me as an equal. Even though all I've published so far is one strip of Dean's webcomic Butterfly, Mark treated me with the same reverence he would give an industry veteran. Mark Waid loves comics and he loves that young people still want to make comics. For me, that was extremely uplifting. Chip making a point to come down and tell me thanks was the icing on the positive energy cake. It may not seem like much, but for a guy trying to break into the industry as a writer (a notoriously hard thing to do) even that tiny gesture, that brief recognition was enough to fuel my creative will for a good long while. Seriously people, BOOM! Studios are the good guys.
At that point, my con weekend was over. At some point shortly before or shortly after my introduction to Mark Waid I stopped at that giant t-shirt retailer and bought a t-shirt with the Nightwing logo. I suppose I was feeling young, headstrong and heroic, just like Dick Grayson. With business cards in the hands of creators such as Mark Waid and Walter Simonson, some memorable feedback from Chip Mosher and Bernie Wrightson (they both thought Wendigo sounded like a cool idea) and a Nightwing t-shirt (blue is my color) I felt ready to put the convention hall behind me. So I left Jay to his panels and his shopping and went back across the street to The Nest, where Jon and I spent the rest of the day watching football. Jay stopped by to show off some goodies and say his goodbyes before he got out of town and Jon and I bellied up to the bar with one of the nicest and strangest sports bar crowds I'd ever encountered. Baltimore is wacky place, but I really did like it a lot.
At the end of the convention day, Jon and I hooked back up with Dean, Jason, Danielle and Jessi and coordinated a trip down to the harbor for some food. We found exorbitant parking and proceeded to march to our destination which turned out to be a monstrous walk from where we'd parked. By the time I got to the restaurant where we were meeting some other cartoonists, I'd decided that all I wanted for dinner was two glasses of bourbon. Oh, don't get all high and mighty. I'd eaten already at The Nest.
The dinner was casual, the night air brisk. I loaned Danielle my hoodie and that bought me hugs at the end of the night, which was doubly nice since it was largely unexpected. At the end of it all we said our goodbyes, sent Dean and Jason off with their friends and Jon and I went back toward the hotel. We wanted to keep drinking (since we knew the Colts were going to destroy our beloved Titans) so we stopped into a bar that also functioned as a package store. This was the same bar, Howard's, that Jon and Jay had discovered on our first night in town. Jay was so impressed with Howard's that he actually spent the majority of this time in Baltimore trying to convince Jon that he had to convince me to forgo all activities and drink at Howard's instead. That would have been career seppuku, but I can see now why he was so adamant about it. Howard's was the most amazing bar I'd ever seen in my life.
It was all red leather, wood paneling and neon signs, with women older than your mother pulling the taps and men that could have been your grandad bellied up to the bar. It was like something straight out of a 1970s crime film, the sort of place where poker games and shady deals get done in the back room. It was beautiful, it was glorious and it was custom built for guys like Jon Burr and I. I took one look at the place and decided we had to stay and watch the game there (which I'm sure Jon knew would happen).
The patrons were nice, the staff were great, the beer was cold and cheap, the game was...well, not everything could be perfect. Jon and I got a comfortable drunk, relaxed, had a heart to heart, made some new friends and even played this arcade bowling game that defies description. Of all the things I saw in Baltimore (including the bum eating leaves off a tree like a panda), Howard's is the thing I'll remember best. It was the bar from Heaven.
The Trip Back Home (Monday) - The next morning we all rose pretty early. Jon, Jason and I said our goodbyes to Dean then got on the road. The trip back home seemed to last so much longer than the trip up had, but I suppose that's almost always the case. I did most of the driving again, which tends to be for the best on long trips. I'm kind of a control freak in the car so I always feel a lot more comfortable behind the wheel. That's not to say Jon or Jason are bad drivers. Far from it. I just can't stand riding. So I drove us most of the way home, with Jason coming in for relief when I was just too tired to go on. The trip back was a lot of fun, as exhausted as we all were. I really felt like I got to know Jason a lot better, which was nice. I'd hung out with him a few times over the course of my friendship with Dean but I'd never had enough time alone with him to really get to know him. I liked him a lot in passing and liked him even more so after getting a chance to spend some real time with him. He's a good travel partner, as is Jon. By the end of the trip I felt like I knew them both a lot better and that I was better for it.
All in all, the trip to Baltimore was a rousing success. Sure I'm still unemployed and we're still struggling for money, but at least people are starting to take note of what I'm doing and who I am. I know more people in the industry this time than I did at the end of NYCC and I'm constantly making new friends and new contacts. I've got people offering me great insight into my work, great advice on what to expect in the future and great discussion about square jawed heroics (and maybe even a little sports). So for the guys who made this possible, thank you, for the excellent travel companions, you were awesome and for those of you coming to the blog for the first time, welcome to my world. It's nice to have you along for the ride.