No, this is not going to be a review of the new series by Howard Chaykin being published by Image comics with the same name. Rather I would like to share my experiences at the Baltimore Comic Con this year. This convention is more than just a place to meet creators, buy comics, and get to see some great cosplay. For me it is an opportunity to get out of the house with my brother and a couple of friends and spend the entire weekend eating, sleeping, and breathing comics.
For the last couple of years I have joined my brother and his friends on a pilgrimage to the Baltimore Convention center where for almost 72 hours we let our geek flag fly with other like minded individuals. We get a couple of hotel rooms and spend the weekend sharing stories, breaking bread, and making each other laugh. It is the high point of the convention season for me and this year was no different. On that note let’s get on the with the highlights of the convention.
Forty Years of pointy ears
This year Wendy and Richard Pini are celebrating forty years of publishing the Elfquest comic and they were in Baltimore to share that with hundreds of Elfquest fans. When it was announced that they would be attending the convention they instantly became my number one objective for the con. I was going to ask them to sign some Elfquest comics no matter how much it cost me.
Elfquest has been a very important comic to me for most of my life. My brother and I were introduced to the comic with the trade paperbacks that collected the story of the original quest and was sold at Waldenbooks across the country. It was a special deal for the Pini’s because it was one of the first comics ever sold in bookstores that was not on the magazine rack and was not published by Marvel or DC. I’ve read the original quest more times than almost another other comic. As with many comics and books when I re-read them at different points in my life I read it with different perspectives and find different things to take away from the story.
When the convention opened on Friday I went to their table first. I was the third person in line and they were just finishing setting up. They had original art for sale along with the new collected editions that Dark Horse comics is publishing. I pulled the items I wanted to get signed and waited patiently in line. Now i have never known what to really say when I get to meet someone famous and this gets worse when it is someone famous that I really admire. I start to feel like a eight year old dork who turns shy and loses all control of their mastery of the English language. Once I actually get to speak to whomever I am looking for an autograph from I feel like I just stammer out some nonsense about how much their work, what it has meant to me and ask them to sign whatever I have brought with me.
In the case of meeting the Pini’s it wasn’t much different. When it was my turn I politely asked them to sign several comics, bought the convention card they were selling and made a donation to the Heroes Initiative. I then blabbered on for thirty seconds or so about how much I enjoyed Elfquest and how much it had meant to me over the years. They were both super nice and very friendly. Later that day my brother and I attended their panel where they gave an excellent presentation on the last forty years of Elfquest. Meeting them was everything I had hoped it would be and was a lot of fun.
In the last couple of months I have started reading some Valiant comics. Up until recently the only Valiant comics I had read were a few issues from the original series back in the nineties that were Wizard magazine hot picks and the less than stellar Deathmate mini series. Now though I am reading XO Manowar, NinjaK, and Bloodshot Salvation and looking for more. Stopping by the Valiant booth at that convention I was hoping they would be able to provide some recommendations for what to read next and they did not disappoint.
They were offering a deal aimed squarely at new readers like me. They had piles of Volume 1 trade paperbacks for many of their different series and the deal was too good to pass up. Buy three volumes and get two free. Each trade was ten dollars so for thirty dollars I could get five trade paperbacks. The guy running the booth recommended two volumes of Bloodshot and the guy standing next to me recommended Rai, Welcome to New Japan. I rounded out the purchase with Shadowman: Fear of the Dark and NinjaK: Weaponeer.
While I was there, there was only one other customer and the one Valiant staff member. He asked if we wanted to see something cool. Of course we said yes and he showed us Valiant new dealer incentive cover, in this case for the new Bloodshot series starting in a couple months. It was an all glass cover etched with the Bloodshot logo and character below. It was made of the same super strong glass that car windshields are made of and was really cool looking. Valiant is well known for their dealer incentive covers and it was fun to see this new one before most of the general public.
Long lines are an opportunity
Any convention goer has waited in a long line for any number of reasons. Whether it be to get into the convention, to get an autograph, or just get access to a dealer’s bins. I usually try to make the best of the situation when I am waiting in line to have a creator sign something for me and talk to the people near me. I usually ask what they are getting signed, if they are having a good time at the convention or if they have met the person we are waiting for before. Most of the time people are happy to chat instead of just staring blankly ahead. (Don’t care me wrong, I’ve got nothing against staring blankly, but in this case conversation at least makes the time go by faster).
This year Baltimore had more creators than ever before and I brought more things to get signed that I ever have. After meeting the Pini’s I headed over to the Simonson’s table because they always have a long line. I was getting a couple things signed including my BattleStar Galactica Artist’s edition and Action Comics #1000. While in line I meet this really nice guy who was getting a Batman comic and Archangel Funko Pop signed. We had a really great conversation sharing stories about different artists we had meet over the years in Baltimore.
The next day the first line I got in was for Denny O’Neil. For several years now I have been trying to have Mr. O’Neil sign my copy of the Question #1. Either he has cancelled or I was not there on the day he was going to be and have missed him several times. This year he was my white whale. On Friday I had tried twice to get to him but each time the line was capped. Saturday I vowed to wait all day if I had to. I waited an hour and thirty minutes but he did not show. Finally someone told us that he would be later in the afternoon and they would give out tickets for us to come back and get to the front on the line to have him sign our stuff.
I eventually got my ticket and his signature. Because of how busy he was I did not get the opportunity to meet him and thank him but that’s part of how this all works out sometimes. During that very long wait I did talk to a dealer I was in line with who was from the west coast and was attending Baltimore and New York Comic Con in order to get six suitcases of comics signed and graded for himself and his customers. It was really interesting to get to talk to someone in the business and hear what their experiences are like.
Also signed by the artist Denis Cowyans.
Baltimore and, so I hear, Heroes Con in North Carolina are two of the biggest “comic book” shows on the east coast and are therefore two of the best. Now what I mean by that is that they are focused on comics while also having some media guests and great cosplay. They are not like the Boston or New York shows that are so big they try to be everything to everyone. Baltimore is a show for comic lovers. The majority of the guests that are invited are comic artists and writers and most of the dealers are selling comics. For a comic collector like myself this is a wonderful thing.
At every convention I carry around my bag of holding and notebook with my series lists and go from dealer to dealer like a man on a mission. I am looking for two things most of the time, great or interesting finds in the cheapo bins or to fill holes in my collection with comics at the right price. One series I have been working on for the last year is Tomb of Dracula. For more on why that series is significant for me check out my post on Tomb of Dracula #30.
I am not looking for pristine issues to get graded but am instead searching for issues that are in decent shape at a reasonable price. Good copies of this series usually sell for anywhere from ten to thirty dollars with the key issues #1 and #10 (the first appearance of Blade) commanding high dollar amounts. I’m looking for reading copies in the five to ten dollar range and boy did I luck out this year. I came across a dealer trying to really move some inventory who had cut almost all his prices in half. I was able to pick up a bunch of issues I needed all at five dollars each.
Some other highlights that I was able to find this year were Crisis on Infinite Earths #8, the issue where the Flash dies and the last issue I needed to complete the run. I also found a dealer that had almost all the issues of Plop! that I needed, all at three dollars an issue. I picked up an issue of DC Comics Presents that I needed, #27, the first appearance of Mongul, and Groo #120, the last issue in the Marvel run.
One of the coolest things about Baltimore is the yearbook they sell. Every year there is a different theme and creator being honored. This year was dedicated to Terry Moore and his comics Strangers in Paradise, Rachel Rising, and Motor Girl. Artists that are attending the con are asked to contribute pieces and the original art is then auctioned off, with the proceeds going to the Hero Initiative I believe. Con attendees who buy the yearbook can then participate in a scavenger hunt where they collect signatures on the pages and if they get enough they can obtain several loose prints of additional pieces that were not included in the yearbook. Each year there are usually several pages I really love and a few duds but it is always interesting to see different artists interpretations of the characters. These are some of my favorites from this year’s book.
Pug Grumble is an self published creator. His comic is Farlaine the Goblin. Farlaine is on a quest through various lands seeking to plant a unique forest like all good goblins do. I first met Pug at Baltimore a couple years ago and have followed his work ever since. This was the first time he contributed to the yearbook and his piece turned out great.
I am not familiar with Mr. Hunt’s work but I absolutely love his Rachel Rising homage to Bernie Wrightson.
Jose Luis Garcia Lopez’s work is some of the neatest and tightest in all of comics. It is consistently excellent and this piece was no exception. The pic above is the color version of his work that was obtained by completing the scavenger hunt. The black and white version was featured in the yearbook and that was the page I had signed.
I really could go on and on about how dynamite the con was. I could write about the great conversations I had with Jerry Ordway and Howard Chaykin. I could write about the great deal I got on Thanos Quest #1 but despite all that the real highlight of the convention is getting to spend time with my brother and his friends. We spend the night talking about our day, the comics we found, the people we meet, and sharing funny stories. In the morning we eat breakfast at the hotel restaurant and typically many of the creators do as well. Iit is always fun to admire these people while eating eggs and bacon right next to them. All in all it is a wonderful time that we get to share together.
This year I got more autographs than I ever have and purchased more comics than I ever have making it one of the best cons I have ever attended.
I’m going to close with the Action Comics #1000 that I have been getting signed at all the cons I went to this year. I’m very pleased with how it turned out. It has been signed by Peter Tomasi, Tom King, Walt and Louis Simonson, Jerry Ordway, Clay Mann, Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, and John Workman.
I have loved ElfQuest for decades! Reading The Final Quest was bittersweet, and I hope the Pini’s revisit the series sooner rather than later.
Me too. They indicated they might tell stories using the other characters which could be really interesting.
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I’d definitely be interested in that!