by Roger Ash
As some of you may know, I coordinate programming for the Baltimore Comic-Con. No, I haven’t moved to Baltimore; a lot of the programming work can be done by phone or email. Baltimore has become (unsurprisingly) my favorite convention of the year. It is comic centric, it has a guest list that is second to none, and I really like the people I work with. We even had the British Embassy on hand due to the number of creators from the UK who were at the show this year. This year the show was bigger and better than ever and I thought I’d share a few stories with you about this past weekend.
The Baltimore Comic-Con is a two day show (Saturday & Sunday) but this year we had our first Friday evening event; a Stan Lee & Friends panel for VIP Gold ticket holders. It was a fun event that gave fans an opportunity to meet a number of comics professionals in an intimate setting. Who were the friends? The panel was moderated by Mark Waid and featured Herb Trimpe, Frank Cho, Walter & Louise Simonson, Roger Stern, Barry Kitson, Mark Buckingham, and Larry Hama. The fans really enjoyed listening to the panel tell stories of their time in comics, and Stan put on a great show (as usual). Even though Stan was a bit late due to a delayed flight, I didn’t hear anyone grumble. It was a special event that was a nice kickoff to the weekend.
The volunteers, myself included, were at the convention center by 6:45am Saturday to help put wristbands on ticket holders who lined up early. We kept up very well and even though the line was wrapping around the building by 9:30 when I went inside to start preparing for the panels, things were under control. But it didn’t take long for the line to grow as the crowd Saturday was larger than anyone had ever seen at the Baltimore Comic-Con before. I got down to the convention floor only rarely as the panel rooms were hopping.
I’m not going to list every panel we had Saturday (which included – for the first time – a third panel track for part of the day), but they were all well attended. The panels covered such topics as Kickstarter campaigns; creating your own comics; digital comics; Team Cul de Sac; the British Invasion with Brian Bolland, Barry Kitson, and Mark Buckingham; and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund presented the History of Censorship in Comics. There were spotlights on Paul Levitz, Garth Ennis, and comedian/voice actor Phil LaMarr. There were publisher panels featuring BOOM!, Valiant (who announced that the Eternal Warrior would return in Archer & Armstrong #5); Marvel; and DC which featured Bob Wayne, Dan DiDio, Jeff Lemire, and the insanely popular team of Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo. The day was capped with Mark Waid moderating a panel featuring two comic legends, Stan Lee & John Romita Sr. It was so cool seeing these two collaborators together again and talking about their work together. It was a busy day, but so much fun and I’m grateful fans supported the programming in such large numbers.
You’d think that would be enough for one day, but you’d be wrong. The Harvey Awards were Saturday night. The awards were hosted by Phil LaMarr who was very funny and kept things moving. You can find all the winners here. It was a big night for Daredevil and writer Mark Waid and father/son art team of Joe and Paolo Rivera. But the highlights of the evening for me were the two special awards. The Hero Initiative’s Dick Giordano Humanitarian of the Year Award was presented posthumously to Joe Kubert. Hero’s Kevin Brogan gave a moving tribute to Kubert as did Paul Levitz who accepted the award on behalf of the Kubert family. It was a very special moment.
On the other end of the emotional spectrum, Stan Lee appeared to present an award and called John Romita on stage to help. Romita commented about how happy he was at the success his son, John Romita Jr., had achieved in comics and called him on stage. After a bit on good-natured banter, father turned to son and presented him with the Hero Initiative’s Lifetime Achievement Award. To say that Romita Jr. was shocked would be an understatement. He never saw it coming. It was an amazing moment that I was glad I was able to witness. It makes me happy just thinking about it.
Sunday was quite busy as well with the main attraction being the costume contest which was sponsored by StylinOnline.com. One of the winners for the day was a personal favorite – Lego Batman! There were so many great and memorable costumes, such as an amazing golden Dalek (also a winner) and one I can only describe as mini Hulk (a child in purple shorts and lots of green makeup). Cosplayers and fans alike had a great afternoon.
But there were also panels to run. The day ran a full gamut of topics from comics in the classroom to breaking into comics to Billy Tucci on Christianity and comics, which seemed more like a free flowing discussion than what you might think of as a panel. There were also publisher panels spotlighting Avatar and IDW. Creators were spotlighted as Frank Quitely was interviewed by teacher and colorist extraordinaire, José Villarrubia; and writer Ron Marz and artist Jamal Igle shared the stage to announce their upcoming book from IDW, The Historian, which was created with Eric Sellers. You can read more about that here.
There were two panels Sunday that I want to spotlight. First was our first-ever (at least for as long as I’ve been working at the convention) ticketed panel. As a fund raiser for the Hero Initiative, Marvel’s Tom Brevoort shared for the first time with the public the training lecture he give to the Marvel editorial staff. There was also plenty of time for Q&A after. The fans who participated really seemed to enjoy the panel and I’m glad Tom decided to share this with them. And the fact that it benefited Hero makes the whole event even cooler.
The second panel was the Tribute to Joe Kubert. Kubert was an amazing artist and his legacy will live on through his sons Adam and Andy and the many students who passed through the Kubert School. Moderator Bob Greenberger; friend and co-worker Paul Levitz; and former students Thom Zahler, Tim Truman, and Tom Raney shared many stories about Kubert that made me respect the man and his work even more. I wish more people had attended the panel, but those who were there got to share in something that I think was very special.
Both Saturday and Sunday, John Gallagher put together some awesome programming in the Kids Love Comics area that featured also sorts of fun activities for the young and young at heart. I know it’s been said by others, and much more eloquently, but it’s important to share our love of comics with kids. I think it’s so important for the art form we all love that kids learn how fun and exciting comics are too.
If you’d like to read more about the panels, Comic Book Resources has some coverage here.
I realize that this is a very lopsided look at the Baltimore Comic-Con, but since running panels is my job, that’s what you’re going to hear about. I did occasionally make it to the convention floor to look around and shop. The convention floor was quite busy with all sorts of retailers and lots and lots of wonderful creators for fans to meet, have sign a favorite comic, or maybe even purchase a piece of art from. In that short time I was on the floor, I did manage to spend a hefty amount of money. One interesting purchase was the first Baltimore Comic-Con Yearbook, a hardcover celebrating 15 years of Frank Cho’s Liberty Meadows. The book features pin-ups by artists at the convention featuring Liberty Meadows characters, often interacting with the artist’s own characters. It’s a lovely book.
The best part of the convention, in my opinion, is the people. I’ve gotten to know a number of creators over the years and often the only time I see them is at conventions (and often for far too short a time). And seeing the staff of the Baltimore Comic-Con always makes me feel like I’ve come home. I’d like to give a shout out to my crew these last four years, Tim & Kevin; and to Andie, Brad, Shelly, Dustin, Chris, Randy, Sam, Steve, Matt, Michael, and all the others who make me feel so welcome. Special thanks to Marc Nathan who asked me to be part of this crazy team. And, of course, there are always new friends to be made.
Sound like fun? Hell yes it was. The Baltimore Comic-Con will be September 7-8 next year. If you’re a comic fan, you should try to make it out. Start planning now. You’ll be glad you did.
Now, go read a comic (and have a hot dog)!