Baltimore Comic Convention 2012
A report by James Bacon, with photos by Jackie Kamlot
The term ‘comic convention’ has been appropriated by many events that offer much more than comics, be it TV, movie or game related. To many, the mashing together of so many subjects and media, once it appeals, is no problem at all.
Yet Baltimore Comic Con is an East Coast Mecca for those who want just a celebration of purely comics. There were over 200 comic guests, and none of them were media related although the presenter of the Harvey Awards was a TV personality. The huge venue that is Baltimore Convention Centre, which was nearly 600 feet from one corner to the other, was filled to the rafters with comics, and the programme of panels was all focussed on comics.
There was no show boating, no mediocre announcements made hugenormous by hyped press releases and titillating teasers with little reward. It was all just about comics and the creators behind them, with announcements being greated with nods and discussion.
It was indeed a huge relief, pleasant, brilliant even to be immersed just in the media that I love amongst others who were there for the same purpose. No fighting through screaming hoards after today’s sparkly star or milling mobs seeking milked dry model personalities. It was just queues of fans, hoping to meet their favourite creators. Ordinary-looking people, queuing for ordinary-looking creators, signing their comics.
And in the queue, there was intelligent conversation, a camaraderie a friendship, a common understanding and knowledge. There were little hand trolleys with boxes, or luggage that was huge, all holding comics or empty space for purchases, all for the comic books and knowledge and humour, a spirit, whether it were showing some gem or the new sketch book with a handful of sketches already or pointing out a bargain, it was something good.
Baltimore was a surprising city. From word go, I found it a much nicer place than I had expected. The city is smaller than Chicago or San Francisco, yet in the likes of Gorilla and Alliance Comics the city possesses stores that are of a high calibre. The town has a number of areas with clusters of pubs, so be it Fells Point or Cross Street or the Harbour, there was good night life and great food
I did not expect as many people here as say C2E2 or Wondercon, but at the same time I had to wonder if there were just way higher a density of comic sellers and readers at BCC.
Aisles and aisles of comics. Back issues, old issues, rare ones, recent bargains and graphic novels at stunning prices. The comic stalls were occasionally broken up by a stall of toys, comic figures, Star Wars, maybe Lego, but all related to comics in one way or another, the clothing, the accessories, the merchandise and even the fragrances all directly linked to comics.
And then there were the 300 tables that make up the artists alley. Were there as many at C2E2 and Wondercon, I wondered. It didn’t feel like it, it felt more, more intense.
These alleys, and there were obviously a lot of them, were again of a standard that surprised. Whether it be the ‘Fubar’ stand selling zombie graphic novels set in various wars, the stand stylishly draped in camo netting with a Browning .50 cal set up on the table or Terry Huddleston’s incredible stall, with massive display of his artwork behind him stretching up to the concrete roof, it was as if these regular guys pumped everyone else and so all the tables gave the feel they were on steroids, surpassing what I have come to expect of small presses and artist alleys, so totally different than many alleys I have seen in the UK. Nearly everyone had banners, not just one or two, and all the stands looked really professional, I know many do the circuit, like Terry, but even so, the alleys were superlative.
Therein was a serious problem. Not only were the stands of good quality, the majority of comics and artwork were equally of a high standard, many to a production or better that one would expect from say the mainstream publishers and so, the quandary, what to buy as small presses and individually unique and interesting artists vied for my hard earned cash, while our photographer was taken with ‘fine’ accessories and shoes and many assortments of badges and trinkets available, all based on comics.
The professionals were there in quantity, and standard. Brian Bolland and Garth Ennis had long queues, and were working them well. The queues were not off putting, and people were jovial as they waited, Barry Kitson on the other hand, had a much more modest queue all waiting for a sketch. Anyone who wanted an item signed by Kitson got that straight away, but real collectors who know about artwork were happy to stand all day in a line for Barry since his minders were pretty sure they would get a full length ‘sketch’. Kitson’s sketches consisted of pencil, blue line, ink and then a fully painted water colour rendition to one’s desire. All for free. He just appreciates fans, and their patience.
Artwork was also available. There were two dealers at the show with huge stands, while many comic book sellers had displays of artwork, behind them: Jamie Hewlett, Simon Bisely, Joe Kubert pieces with many zeros involved, pieces I didn’t think I would see for sale, all there.
Many artists were selling their own work. Kitson for instance had kindly done a gathering of preliminary pencils that he was selling at extremely reasonable prices, and I made it my business to buy some of his Captain America/Iron Man pages.
Moving away from ‘British’ creators, Stan Lee was undoubtedly the star of the show. Stan was signing, having photos taken with him, and doing a Q and A session. Despite the session being standing room only, he was very accessible, and people holding regular day tickets were able to get inside along with those who had paid more for various packages of Stan Lee awesomeness. David Finch and Mark Waid were continually busy, as were many of the others, but both these men seemed to be especially jovial and pleasant with their fans.
The friendliness was all about. There was a diversity in Baltimore that escapes many comic conventions, reflective of the city perhaps, and there were no shortage of kids, many in brilliant costumes and enjoying the comics extravaganza.
The costumes were all about comics. As two girls explained to me that they were characters from ‘Fables,’ I smiled, knowing exactly who they were, but allowing them to delightfully talk about their favourite comic. I had opted myself to dress as the Irish character The Glimmerman from ‘The League of Volunteers,’ along with photographer Jackie Kamlot who was dressed as Silk Spectre, from a more well known comic, and this eased us nicely into the atmosphere.
Costumers are outgoing. None of them were shy about their hobby of dressing up, although despite this, I was surprised by the men who would try and sneak a shot of ‘Silk’ when all requests were granted. Odd one or two.
A number of organisations seem to celebrate looking well and dressing up, with bracelets being handed out for Hero Hotties and postcards from Comic Con Cuties by stunning looking ladies in fantastic costumes, all enjoying themselves, basking in the appreciation and knowledge that they look well dressed as literary heroines.
Comics for kids is a theme that seems to permeate US retailers at the moment. Whether it be Rebellion Comix in Chicago or Alliance in Baltimore, they all have pretty serious sections dedicated to younger readers, and DC and Marvel obviously see the market as there were digest volumes from those companies alongside many more, from Tintin and Asterisk to The Muppets and TMNT.
At the con, there was a children’s pavilion, and also an interactive stand and generally kids seemed to be having a blast.
Overall, I really enjoyed Baltimore Comic con. It was great fun. I would have loved to have seen some sort of social event, a fancy dress ball perhaps, in the connecting hotel, or something that would allow for a community to foster, rather than just people going to and leaving a comic convention. Apart from that, I must admit that I can see why Baltimore Washington Airport was so busy with travelling comic fans on Sunday night, all so obvious in their comic related trappings, heading away to nearby cities, for this was a comic convention all about the comics.
Www.bexxfine.com – Fine shoes
http://thuddleston.deviantart.com/ – Terry Huddleston
http://fubarpress.com Fubar Press
http://www.facebook.com/pages/League-Of-Volunteers/134067086605549 league of Volunteers/ Glimmerman
Hero Hotties – http://herohotties.com/main/