BALTIMORE COMIC CON ’09 REPORT
“We’ve got some beers here. We were thinkin’ we could join all of you and make it a party.” What? Were they serious?
From the back of the room it came: “COME ON IN!”
I’ve heard strange stories about Comic Book Cons before, but never I was really in a position to experience one for myself. My first real Con was San Diego in 2004 when I went down with my wife, Erin, to show off my inking portfolio and become a superstar doing the most misunderstood job in comics. Needless to say, that didn’t work out.
Erin was great company, but she was predictably dependable and not given to getting wasted and running through the streets naked shouting “Chewbacca is my co-pilot!” into the night sky. Fast forward five years later and I’m the bastard son of the Th3rd World crew, flying from California to Maryland to spend 3 days with a group of guys that I’ve spoken to over email but never met before. The potential for hilarity and being greeted by a 300 pound woman who’s just looking for love was great.
Once we got past the pleasantries (“Okay, guys, I’m at the convention center, where are you?” “We’re at the hotel.” “Oh. How do I get there?” “Grab your luggage and just walk until you hit the harbor, then turn around and walk the other way until all you see are homeless people. When you start feeling really uncomfortable, turn around again and head back to the convention center. At that point you should be hot, lost and doing your best to resist the urge to man down and ask for directions. Call us at that point and we’ll meet you there and walk you back to the hotel.” “Why would I do all of that?” “Because we don’t really know where the hotel is either.” “Oh, okay. Call you back in about half an hour after I’ve dehydrated and sweated all of California right out of me.” “Sounds good.”), we had the night before the Con to get acquainted.
To the man, each of the Th3rd World crew was incredibly congenial and easy to get along with. Th3rd World publisher Mike DeVito is, I think, exactly who you want at the head of the company: easygoing but efficient and not easily riled. You’ll be happy to know that SuperFogeys Origins artist T.L. Collins, to his credit, didn’t deck me for all the anally retentive art tweaks I’ve asked him to do over the past year. Instead, he was a real pro, greeting me with a firm handshake and a smile that said “Change Swifty’s costume again and I’ll break your face.”
Also with us were the Stuff of Legend boys, high as kites after selling out the entire first printing of the first issue of their phenomenal book. Co-writers Mike Raicht and Brian Smith pretended that they weren’t 10x more awesome and successful than me by treating me as a peer and sharing secret tales of their time working as editors over at Marvel Comics. Brian, an artist in his own right, even agreed to do a SuperFogeys Origin story for me just as soon as I get him a script.
Also agreeing to do a future SuperFogeys Origin story was the artist arriving a few hours after me, “Stuff” illustrator Charles P. Wilson, III. (Who insists on being called by his full name at all times, with the Greek pronunciation on the P. Actually, that’s not true. I’m not even sure there is a P in the Greek alphabet. ) Charles, who is the absolute hottest thing going in sequential art these days, nevertheless does not know that and debased himself by doing a sketch exchange with me and turning out this beauty:
The Baltimore Con began the next morning on Saturday. I don’t know what I was expecting, but the avalanche of people falling on their swords just to get a copy of the latest issue of the Stuff certainly wasn’t it. Luckily, I grabbed a few customers before they bled out and piggybacked a few SuperFogeys Volume One sales. SF Volume One was a beautiful thing to see, which you could from just about any spot on the floor thanks to the great cover design by Mike DeVito (Jon Conkling designed the insides and back cover, but you obviously can’t see those in these pics). I felt like a proud papa holding my baby aloft and saying “Buy this, please.” Some did, ensuring long life and happiness for them and their children.
(From left to right: Omega Chase creator Keith Dallas, Me, SF Volume One, C.P. Wilson III, Space Pig, Michael DeVito)
There I was, selling like a mad (BUY THIS OR MY CHILDREN STARVE, CRETINS!) fool when all of the sudden I look up and there’s Zorphbert and Fred’s Dawn Griffin. Dawn was pretty as a picture and just exactly who you want her to be—cordial and about to rip her face off at any moment to reveal the alien underneath. Well, at least that’s what I was hoping for. She snagged her pre-ordered copy of the SF book and her original sketch card and danced her way out of the convention, her day made brighter by the prospect of enjoying super-powered old folk from the cold comfort of her bathroom. Later on, she came back and her friend David bought one too. Dawn, next year feel free to bring your friends, neighbors and cat as well.
(From left to right: Dawn Griffin, Michael DeVito, C.P. Wilson III, Me, Mike Raicht, Space Pig)
Jason Mott, a FogeyFan with a penchant for making me smile as he introduces himself, snagged his pre-ordered copy of the book too. As he walked away, stunned by the significance of having SF in his warm, eager (but not the least bit sweaty—Jason’s a class act) hands I swear I saw little birdies circling his head and singing. Remember, I’m Mormon. I wasn’t stimulated by mind-altering drugs at this time. This was just the universe’s honest reaction to the joy that is having SF Volume One exist in this world. It’s like a ray of light cutting through the dark.
(Jason Mott and his proud purchase)
Directly across from the Th3rd World booth was the creative team behind Zuda’s High Moon. They were an affable couple of gents. I told them the name and the premise of the comic I’m prepping for submission to Zuda, and they were even politely unimpressed!
I’d met writer David Gallaher in San Diego a couple months and he actually remembered me, which blew my mind. Both he and artist Steve Ellis (who looks exactly like you want a guy who draws werewolves for a living to look like) signed my copy of High Moon Volume One, complete with awesome, I-wish-I-could-draw-that-well-that-fast wolf sketch. Check it:
After a long day of selling my butt off (anyone reading this who got a piece of it, I only ask that you put it to good use) the Th3rd World crew headed back to the Hotel for a night of debauchery and strippers. By which I mean board games and doing our best not to check out the patterns of each others’ boxers without staring.
For dinner, I recommended a delicious pineapple and pepperoni pizza, for which I was roundly criticized. Some even wondered aloud how I got through East Coast Customs. Nevertheless, a pineapple and pepperoni pizza was ordered and I was able to persuade a few of my compadres in comics to give it a taste. Brian Smith agreed that it was quite good. Mike DeVito, being of Italian descent, claimed to hate it and then ate two pieces. Everyone else fell somewhere in the middle, with the notable exception of T. L. Collins who refused to even acknowledge the pizza’s existence.
After our fifth round of the old married guy friendly board game“Carcassonne,” those of us who were still awake settled in for some Saturday Night Live. The sober, 21st Century version of Drew Barrymore was hosting and it was a good one. At least it was right up until we heard that loud THUMP outside our door. After that, it gets a little hazy.
Mike DeVito immediately went out of the room to check to see what was disturbing our loud laughter. There he found two inebriated comic geeks searching for a way to not make idiots of themselves and being met with a fierce wall instead. They turned to look at Mike and immediately recognized him from earlier in the day.
“Hey! You’re the guy from the Comixology panel!”
“Yeah,” Mike replied warily.
“Sorry for bothering you, dude. We’ll take off, okay?”
Mike closed our room door behind him, not the least bit flattered by the recognition. Not thirty seconds later there was a knock at the door. The Two Geeks were now at the threshold of our room. One of them, the Beer Geek, held a giant, plastic grocery bag of Budweiser in his hand. Then, he spoke.
“We’ve got some beers here. We were thinkin’ we could join all of you and make it a party.” What? Were they serious? We had plenty of beer already, I thought. I mean, I wasn’t drinking it, but most of my Th3rd World cronies looked pretty satisfied.
From the back of the room came the voice of the ill-advised (and joking) Brian Smith: “COME ON IN!”
The Two Geeks stepped into our hotel room like invaders from another, socially inept and awkward country. They tried to make small talk, but it was so small and of such little consequence that I could not be bothered to remember it five minutes later, much less five days. SNL came back from commercial and Brian Smith shushed us all. There was nowhere else to sit, so the Two Geeks were forced to just stand there. From the bag, the Beer Geek took out a Bud and popped it open.
Beer sprayed everywhere, like a fountain of Diet Coke in a You Tube video. Most of it ended up on the floor and down and around the Beer Geek’s hand. He licked and licked his fingers and palm, refusing to let go of the now half-empty can in his hand. In an alternate universe, he and Fellow Geek apologized profusely and made a dash for the bathroom to grab some towels to mop up the mess. In our reality, no such efforts were made and a very irritated Th3rd World publisher was forced to break his attention away from (the first live episode of) SNL (I’d ever seen) and clean up the splatter.
There the Two Geeks continued to stand, rocking back and forth ever so slightly on their heels and hampering our enjoyment of the comedic stylings of E.T.’s makeup artist. The rest of us in the room formed a hive mind, all of us thinking the same thing: “WHEN THE #@$% ARE THEY GONNA LEAVE?”
SNL went to commercial and we got our answer.
“Okay, well, you guys have a good night. Thanks for letting us join you. We’ll, uh, we’ll catch ya later.”
Grabbing their bag of beer, the Two Geeks exited quietly into the night. Number of beers in said bag consumed by the Th3rd World Crew: 0.
The last day of the Con, Sunday, was a slow one. It was a good day to get in touch with some very nice retailers, but sales were less than brisk and attendance was quite a bit down from Saturday. Still, just hanging out with the guys was a blast. I touched based with Josh Norwood, SuperFogeys T-Shirt Master, about some new designs we’ll be selling soon. (Josh has this awesome Space Pig shirt idea that I want to get up in the store pronto!) I had the chance to grill Mike Raicht about The Stuff of Legend and where the story’s going and what the process of making the book is like, which was a total geek fanboy moment for me.
It’s weird being on this side of the table. I only got into comics just three short years ago, but now here I am hanging out and breaking bread with guys who are so friggin’ talented and that have far, far more experience than I. Can’t help but be grateful for that. Could not have asked for a nicer group of guys to hitch my east coast ride to.
For those of you that didn’t make it out to the Baltimore Con this year, hopefully I’ll be back and will get the chance to meet you next year. I have a feeling Th3rd World is going places. Maybe one day to a Con near you. Here’s hoping.
(From left to right: Me, C.P. Wilson III, Michael DeVito, Space Pig)
(Special thanks to Dawn Griffin, Jason Mott and Josh Norwood for additional photos)
On Tuesday we find out what Tom’s adult life has been like. Then, on Thursday, Tom and his Captain Spectacular discuss Tom’s mother. Action packed!
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