Baltimore Comic-Con was my first comic book convention. (I don’t count Small Press Expo because it’s kind of a different thing.) I’ve been to comic book “shows” — the sort where it’s mostly dealers with big boxes of back issues and maybe one “name” artist who drew an issue of Uncanny X-Men back in the ’70s — but never a convention where the main draw was the artists and creators.
The line for tickets was surprisingly long at 11 a.m. on Saturday, an hour after it opened. We were in line behind “that guy.” You know, that guy who is overweight, socially awkward but still talks to everyone and makes unfunny jokes. You know, that guy who goes to comic book conventions. I know that not all comic book fans are “that guy” but it seemed typical to end up in line with him.
I met up with Tim and got my guest pass and my companion’s ticket was purchased.
I probably spent the first 20 minutes feeling a bit overwhelmed and lost. The con was in the convention center basement and so it had that sort of ambiance and was filled with people and noise. It was fun wandering around but I did need time to settle in and figure out what was going on (I think there was something said about programs and I think that or a map would’ve been helpful, if such a thing existed).
I was surprised at how accessible everyone was (other than Mike Mignola, whose line never seemed to decrease the whole time I was there. I didn’t wait in it). Sure, there were regular crowds around some, like Frank Cho, but everyone else, even the creators I consider to be big ones, seemed very approachable.
Which isn’t to say I did much approaching. I talked to exactly two creators — Kyle Baker and Andy Runton (I probably would’ve stopped to talk to Marc Hempel, but he wasn’t at the table when I was going to).
I am a big fan of Kyle Baker. There are few other comic book creators whose work continually surprises me in the way his does. It is constantly delightful and always surpasses my expectations. I was very thrilled to meet him and actually had that little starstruck high afterwards.
When I went to his table, two men where there before me, but Baker caught my eye and smiled. I waited for my turn and Baker seemed happy I was there. Now, yes, I was there to give him money but I know he’s said that it’s mostly women that buy his comics and he tries to write for them, so I think he was some of it. But I also think he’s just like that. I bought a copy of The Bakers: Do These Toys Belong Somewhere? and said I’d be honored if he’d sign it for me and he asked if I wanted to “star of the book” to sign it too. His daughter Lillian appeared from under the table where she had been crawling around and said “Dad, I wish you’d stop telling people that” as she signed the book. He said “But it’s true.” It was all very cute and now my copy is signed by both of them which I think is really The Coolest Thing Ever. I told him I was a big fan (and left out The-Bakers-instead-of-Family-Circus fantasy I have) and left, feeling giddy.
I’m almost sure Baker treats everyone with the same amount of charm and grace and this interaction was not special for him, but it was an amazing amount of fun for me.
Andy Runton was a sweetheart and took time with everyone — adults and children alike. He drew an adorable sketch of Owly and the flying squirrel in Flying Lessons. I think Owly deserves more attention — it makes a great all-ages comic but it’s also a beautiful example of sequential art storytelling. It was a joy and a pleasure to met Runton.
After that, more wandering (and gathering of freebies) and people watching, which was fun. Yes, there were plenty of “that guy” in his various guises, but I was amazed at the diversity of people who were there. There were the teenage manga fans in costumes, the nerdy hipsters, the young parents with toddlers, the 8-year-olds in Stormtrooper costumes (well, just one of those). There was a surprising number of women and girls. I don’t have anything to compare this to (like I said, this was my first con) but I don’t imagine it would’ve been this way 10 years ago, or even 5 years ago. I think that’s excellent.
After about four hours, I decided I’d seen all there was to see and I was nearly ready to drop. So, no, I didn’t stay for the Harveys, but considering I crashed for three hours after I got home, that was probably a good thing (and really makes me think that if I ever do San Diego, I’d need to sleep for a week afterwards).
My photos came out terribly, which I pretty much knew at the time (not enough light to not use a flash, but the space was too big to use one effectively) so I’ll just have to be content with my memories of Baltimore Comic-Con. It was more fun that I expected and I’m not sure why I never managed to get to one of these before.