by Roger Ash & KC Carlson
Hi! In case you’re wondering where we’ve been (c’mon, play along), we just spent a wonderful weekend at Heroes Con in Charlotte, NC. Convention organizer Shelton Drum put together one heck of a show that had something for everyone. If you’ve only been to conventions with a big publisher presence, you’d be in for a surprise at Heroes. There was everything from web comics, superheroes, to autobiographical comics. The only large publishers who had booths at the convention were Boom and IDW. There was still a DC and Marvel presence at the show through panels and creators, but this isn’t a publisher-centric show.
However, if you were looking for back issues, or any sort of comic-related merchandise from hoodies to statues to hats, you could find it in the excellent retailer section. If you wanted to meet your favorite creators, Heroes had a wonderful guest list and was a great place to get a sketch or get a book signed. In fact, because everyone was so approachable, everything Roger brought with him to be signed was done by the end of the day Friday. What was cool about the guest list is that was that it was a nice cross section of creators. Whatever kind of comics you’re into — indy, superhero, web, or anything else — there were sure to be creators there whose work you enjoyed. Names included J. Scott Campbell, Brian Bolland, Jeff Parker, Steve Lieber, Evan Dorkin, Jill Thompson, Guy Davis, Mike Mignola, Roger Langridge, Kate Beaton, and many, many others. What’s interesting is how many creators there have worked for both mainstream and indy publishers. For the most part, the way things were set up, it was often easy to have a nice chat with your favorite creator as well as get your comics signed.
The talk of the convention seemed to be DC’s Justice League: The Rise of Arsenal #3. If DC’s intent with that issue was to get people talking, they succeeded wonderfully. However, if they wanted to get people talking about it positively, they failed, as we didn’t hear any good comments about that issue all weekend long. Instead, we heard lots of recommendations for Marvel’s Heroic Age for a refreshing take on heroing.
All in all, it was a wonderful weekend to be a comics fan. Now, we’re going to split things up and give you some personal thoughts on the show.
Roger sez: This was my first time at Heroes, and I’m glad I went. So often I go to conventions because I’m working for Westfield or running panels at Baltimore. It was nice being a fan for the weekend. High points for me included meeting artists Brian Bolland (The Killing Joke, Camelot 3000) and June Brigman (Power Pack, Brenda Starr). While I had interviewed them both previously, I had never met them in person. It was great to be able to chat with each of them for a little bit. Unexpected pleasures included meeting Roger Langridge (The Muppet Show, Fred the Clown) and Kevin Maguire (Justice League). I admire both creators’ work and was glad to have the opportunity to meet them. Given the genius of their art, I was pleasantly surprised to note how modest each was. They deserve to have much bigger audiences.
I also spoke with Jim McCann and Janet Lee about their upcoming book Return of the Dapper Men, which will be published by Archaia later this year. Janet’s art for this book is amazing, and I guarantee you’ve never seen anything quite like it before. For one thing, all the art is done on blocks of wood.
I attended a few panels, including spotlights on Brian Bolland and Beasts of Burden creators Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson. Both sessions were moderated by Tom Spurgeon and featured interesting looks at the creators and how they work as well as how they view their work. To whet your appetite, Evan and Jill mentioned that there is a Hellboy/Beasts of Burden crossover on the way.
The other panel I attended was Mondo Marvel, at which editor Bill Rosemann, associate editor Lauren Sankovitch, and writers Christos Gage (Avengers Academy), Paul Tobin (Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man), Jim McCann (Hawkeye & Mockingbird), Jeff Parker (Atlas, Thunderbolts), and Jonathan Hickman (Fantastic Four, SHIELD) took questions from the audience. It was a welcome opportunity for fans to talk to Marvel creators about their work. There were some fun news items that sneaked their way into the conversation as well. Dr. Strange and Dr. Voodoo will be appearing in New Avengers #1. When asked if She-Hulk Jennifer Walters would be getting a book again, the response was basically, “Be patient.” And if Jeff Parker and Paul Tobin have their way, Woodgod will be returning to the Marvel Universe. That’s a BIG “if.”
Overall, I had a fantastic time at Heroes and was reminded why I love this crazy industry we call comics so much.
KC sez: I, on the other hand, am a old hand at convention-going, probably attending well over 100 conventions – large and small – since I first started in the 1980s. Most of those I worked at – either sitting behind a table at a DC Comics, Capital City Distribution, or Westfield Comics booth; actually selling comics for various comics retailers over the years; or running around like a crazy person supervising the panel rooms or other odd jobs for several years at the Baltimore Comic-Con. These days, I’m happy to not be working shows so much, so I can treat attending shows like a vacation, most of which I spend catching up with old friends. I think this was probably my 13th or 14th time at Heroes, so I had a lot of people to catch up with.
I “worked” the show a lot differently than Roger. Instead of seeking out autographs or sketches, I was more interested in handshakes/hugs and good conversation – all of which were in generous supply at Heroes (as they always are). Much time was spent talking to good folks like Jeff Parker (check out the Heroic Age versions of Thunderbolts and Atlas, if you haven’t already), Jim Amash (chatting about his book on Sal Buscema and serialized interview with DC editor/writer George Kashdan currently running in Alter Ego), Jose Marzan, Jr. (one of my fave Superman inkers, we spoke about Dick Giordano romance covers and Dan DeCarlo, of all things), Bob Schreck (checking up on each other’s health issues and life at IDW), Kevin Maguire (an old DC bud who I haven’t seen in close to a decade), Mark Waid (our traditional two-minute conversation before he blew me off — he’s evil, you know), Rob Ullman (who lives in the same city as me and yet we only seem to chat at comics shows), Mike Lieb (Legion fan supreme, who caught me up on his latest Legion commissions), and dozens of others.
The only panel I got to attend was the brilliant Defective Comics: A Celebration of Superhero Oddness. Ben Towle and Craig Fischer assembled this multi-media tour de force. The high point of the panel was the discussion with an eclectic bunch of folks who have been known to deconstruct (as well as produce) superhero comics over the years: Jeff Parker, Evan Dorkin, Colleen Coover, and Chris Pitzer. There was already a good chance that this panel was going to be one of the high points of the convention, but it quickly went off the rails and propelling itself into something a bit more legendary. There were early clues that something might be up – Dorkin sat for several minutes early in the panel with his head in his hands, before erupting into a brain-warping, stream–of-consciousness rant/deconstruction of comics history, comics fans, and comic panels themselves. With Parker and Coover occasionally chiming in (preventing Dorkin from completely hyperventilating), topics ranged from why anyone would even date Archie Andrews, much less actually marry him, to the inability of the big two to produce anything for a general audience that isn’t dependent on decades of continuity, to out-and-out rants on Stan Lee and much discussion (and condemnation) of DC’s most recent issue of Justice League: The Rise of Arsenal. With Parker summarizing the “plot” in the most monotone matter-of-fact-way while Dorkin provided pantomime for the hard-of-thinking, it was one of the most brutal (and well-deserved) public floggings of a recent comic book that I have ever seen. (As well as gut-bustlingly funny.) Amazing stuff.
That’s not even all the content Ben and Craig put together. They also included clips of the weirdest superhero movies you’ve never heard of and some additional discussions we weren’t able to stay for. (Unfortunately, my wife Johanna Draper Carlson was having a bad reaction to a convention hot dog.) That kind of smorgasbord panel was a great metaphor for the convention overall.
The Heroes show is so packed with things to do that you can’t possibly do everything – so I regularly met up with Roger, Johanna (who was having her favorite show in a long time – check out her con report at ComicsWorthReading.com), and blogger Tim O’Shea (Robot 6, TalkingWithTim.com). Since all of us had different experiences of the show, chatting frequently with them was like being able to see the whole thing! If you’ve been thinking about attending your first convention and are looking for a low-stress, amazingly friendly atmosphere, you can’t go wrong by marking your calendar for next year’s Heroes Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. And that goes double for all you folks who usually just do the humongous high-pressure shows, where you have to stand in line for hours just to get a signature and maybe a “Hi, how are you?” At Heroes, you stand a really excellent chance of meeting – and actually having a conversation with – your creative heroes! Hey! I wonder if that’s how it got its name!
*KC Carlson knows that the show is actually named after the sponsoring retailer, Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find. But he likes his version too.