As I noted earlier, I only attended Wizard World Chicago on Saturday, but I was pleasantly surprised to find an actual comic book convention behind all the more general pop culture bonanza garbage up front. Here's how my day went...
The S.O. and arrived around 9:30. Although I was a tad disappointed not to see any blatantly obvious attendees as we drove up, a couple of guys in Naruto costumes parked right next to us. We meandered our way from the garage to the convention lobby itself and picked up our tickets.
My first inclination as we went in was to check A) for the Warren Ellis line and B) to see if I could track down Erik Larsen, figuring they'd be relatively popular draws and I'd want to get to them early before things got too crowded. I quickly found, though, that the Ellis line was already snaking well through the publisher area, and I'm sure there was easily an hour wait, if not an hour a half. So we shot back to find the Image booth, only to discover that it was completely vacant.
We made our way across the back to the Artists' Alley, hoping to get back there, again, before things got too crowded. My first encounter was with Jeremy Bastian, promoting his upcoming Cursed Pirate Girl. His artwork looks absolutely gorgeous, and we spent a fair amount of time just marveling at the portfolio of original pieces he had on display. I was almost floored when he revealed that it was all brushwork, and that he didn't use an inking pen on it. Provided he doesn't go blind working at 100% for his comic pages, he's going to really turn some heads for some time.
The S.O. was then drawn to nearby Lorenzo Lizana, plugging Scarab: Agent of Isis. He explained the plot in some detail, flipping through pages of finished art. She was impressed by his updating of ancient Egyptian mythology, and I'll certainly be curious to see the book in a final, published form. Lizana was visibly excited about the project and, from what I was looking at, that energy seemed to translate to the printed page.
We wandered up a few aisles, and the S.O. began to take note of just how many women and minorities were at the show as creators. She made a point of checking out all their work as the day went on, and she found several that she seemed rather impressed with. Certainly, she brought some good-looking works to my attention that I might have otherwise not noticed.
See, while we were wandering through, I found my eyes flitting between two general locations. One was the floor in front of the tables, where the artists' names had been taped down fairly uniformly. The second direction of my gaze was at the creators' faces, trying to see who I knew/recognized on sight. That second part meant that I would catch glimpses of banners and backdrops immediately behind the creators, but I tended to miss anything above shoulder height or on the front of the tables. Definitely a detriment on my part, so I was glad she was taking a different approach.
I talked briefly with Stu Kerr of RalfinStudio. He's had a long and varied career in the comics industry and, after several years in something of a lull, he and partner Ralph Griffith are poised to make another go at indie publishing. They're currently lining up artists for several new series they're putting together, some based off their old Oz properties, some entirely new. He's just found a fast, and fairly talented 19-year-old woman to work on their new Sinbad-based comic, following the exploits of Sinbad's daughter. The preliminary sketches he had on had looked promising, and I'm curious to see this develop.
Jason Yungbluth was jovial and was impressed that I was already familiar with much of his work. He recently came out with Deep Fried vol. 2 #3 which includes the latest adventures of Weapon Brown.
We stopped and chatted with The Devil's Panties' Jennie Breeden for a bit, and got the low-down scoop on her "Men in Kilts with Leaf Blower" calendar. Point 1: It's only a dress if you wear underwear. Point 2: Guys who actually wears kilts tend to get gun-shy when they realize that the leaf blower is real. Point 3: The girlfriends of guys wearing kilts tend to think it's a great idea and encourage the proceedings. Point 4: Oh, yeah, consent forms are probably a good idea. They also have a tendency to quickly scare off those who think you're kidding. Point 5: It's fun to watch the mental cogs spinning after this exchange: "What are you dressed as?" "A kilt hunter."
I didn't think Templar, AZ's Spike was going to be at the show, despite it being local for her, but was pleasantly surprised to see otherwise. She was exceptionally charming and enthusiastic, which probably comes as no surprise to anyone who's met her before. And those misprints of Book One she's selling? Even if it's the wrong paper, it's still a gorgeous package and easily worth the discounted price.
Mike Watson and Ren McKinzie caught the S.O.'s attention with one of their promotional posters. Her expression -- which I missed -- got Watson jumping for his camera. "Did you see that?!? That look was because of something she saw at OUR booth! Oh, I gotta get a picture of that!" She bought a sketchbook and a print of the poster that caused the commotion; McKinzie and Watson then tag-teamed on an original sketch of the character for her. I'm pretty sure this was the S.O.'s favorite part of the convention.
We hoofed it over to the panel on superhero costumes, hosted by Peter Coogan. We got there a tad late and had to sit way in the back. The lecture was decent, but a bit cursory. (Not surprising, given the length.) I'm definitely more curious now to pick up a copy of Coogan's book. The Q&A period was a bit disappointing, though, as most of the questions were pretty trite and unimaginative.
We made our way towards the back of the convention to grab a bite at the cafeteria. The line was long and the food didn't sound very appetizing, so we decided to try our luck at a nearby hotel.
As we were walking out, though, I caught a glimpse of Warren Ellis sitting at the Avatar booth with LITERALLY no line at all. I don't know if he had just sat down or what, but we quickly detoured towards him. We were given some rules by a couple of con workers as we walked up: only one book per person and don't offer to shake his hand. My "discussion" with Ellis was limited to a few simple praises of his work, and brief thank you, but I did spend more time talking to him than I did waiting in line, so I considered that a big win of the day.
Lunch was at the Hyatt next door. We sat one table over from Paul Storrie, and I noticed Bill Roseman sitting down as we were leaving. The restaurant had a nice Mexican buffet, reasonably priced at $15 a plate. One bathroom break later, I saw a crowd of well-dressed X-Men posing for pictures in the lobby below. (The photo at the left is swiped from Doctor Beef's Flickr page. I'm just off camera to the left on the second floor.)
We dropped some loot off at the car, and hiked back to WWC. We swang past the Image booth again (still no sign of Larsen) and then back over to Artists' Alley. Things start to blur for me a bit at this point, so I'll have to go back through my swag to recall the specifics of everyone else I saw. But a few meetings stand out.
I talked briefly with Michael Avon Oeming. He noted his upcoming project with Taki Soma, and I watched him work on a Thor commission for a bit. Personally I never had the patience to do watercolors myself, so I find it fascinating to see someone who can use the medium effectively.
I also hit up Bryan Glass. He was surrounded by several people he seemed to be having an extended conversation with, so I only stopped for a short time.
Casey Heying and I talked a bit about the production problems he's run into with Alice figure been working on. Dorothy looked good, but Alice has taken considerably longer because of some issues on how they went about making the model. Evidently, the original skirt was crammed over the legs and stretched out considerably, making her hips look disproportionately wide. He seemed generally pleased with the progress on and response to Oz/Wonderland Chronicles and added that they'll finally be able to attend Mid-Ohio-Con this year since it's been moved off Thanksgiving weekend. Points to them for also giving out "Eat Me" cookies similar to the one Alice used in Through the Looking Glass.
Christopher Schons and I talked about his work with Tokyopop and how things have changed due to recent changes in their structuring. He seemed to be a little uncertain with where things were going with them, but comforted by the fact that they're still paying him for his work, even if it only ends up getting published online. He also seemed content with how Earthlight will finish at the end of volume 3, and seemed happy to be able to work on that for the next few months.
Ryan Kelly was looking for to the big ol' honkin' hardcover collection of Local. It's clocking in at around $30, which sounds like a reasonable price for the package, even if there aren't much in the way of extras. (Which I expect there will be anyway.)
On our way out, I did ask to stop by and look at a couple of the art dealers' booths. I found a Jack Kirby Jimmy Olsen page with the requisite Curt Swan Superman head dropped in. Oddly, it wasn't a paste-in and I couldn't really even see Kirby's pencil lines underneath the inks. I also found several Neal Adams pages with prices upwards to $35,000. You could have easily bought several Kirby and Ditko pages with that from the same vendor!
And, although I didn't actually rifle through them myself, I saw several retailers with quarter and fifty-cent booths. They were, of course, being well combed through by patrons all day. However, I saw very few people with larger purchases. Only a handful of statues and Golden Age comic purchases that I noticed. Given the volume of people at the show appeared to be about on par with other recent years, that suggests to me that con-goes are cutting back more on the purchases they make at shows rather than the shows themselves. Obviously, though, those are second-hand, anecdotal conclusions at best.
I've left out a lot of the people the S.O. and I talked with. Mainly web comic artists. Not because I'm dismissing their work, but only because I haven't had a chance to really check it out yet. I think some of them had some really good ideas and good looking art, and I'm eager to see more of that. But I hesitate to comment on it before having spent any time or energy with it yet. I'll post notes on those comics as I get a chance to study them more closely.
I never did get a chance to chat with Erik Larsen, though.
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