Baltimore Comic Con is one of the last big comic book conventions where comic books are the entire point of the thing. In the last decade or so, comic book conventions have turned into entertainment conventions and have little or nothing to do with the comic books. People like to bang on San Diego Comic Con for this, but the real villain is Wizard World. Wizard where its almost triple the price to get in and that is not counting the worse thing to happen to comics, the VIP badge. The badge might as well say “I am a rich bastard who gets to cut in front of you in line while you have been standing there all day due to the vast amount of wealth I have, so screw off 99%” I hate that Con.
Baltimore does have VIP packages, but all it does is give you an somewhat early entry and a few exclusives and that is about it. No screwing over other fans for the sake of profit. That is why Baltimore is the one convention, I feel the most relaxed especially on Sunday. Everyone is more laid back including the writers and artists. There is a general feel of having a good time. This year, Kris, Andy and I went for a few reasons. Kris wanted to see Hellboy creator, Mike Mignola, I wanted to see everyone else and Andy just loves going to this thing as well as Geppi’s Pop Culture Museum which houses a lot of cool things like say Action Comics 1, Detective Comics 27, Amazing Fantasy 15 and yeah, everything the Ocean 12’s gang would lust for if they were into comics.
Here is the rub about Baltimore and why its so great and weird. The last time, I went I got stuck in a Chris Claremont, the guy who really made the X-Men, line that did not move for an hour. How many people in line were there, you may ask? Four. Four terrible people in front of me, all with large boxes for Chris to sign for free and would go on Ebay, the second they left his table. I gave up on this line when a luggage cart full of comics landed on my foot. A few minutes later, I am in front of Brian Michael Bendis, the guy who writes everything at Marvel. I kid you not, the running gag in my old comic book store was if Bendis got hit by a bus, Marvel would close its doors. I am 90% sure that would happen. I had a five minute conversation with him and I went on to meet other writers and artists whose lines were really short for no reason what so ever. Its is wonderfully bizzare.
The battle plan going in was Kris was going to stand in line all day to get Mike Mignola’s autograph and do his panel at noon. She was done in three minutes. This guy created and still is creating probably the biggest hero in all of indy comics. She should have been in line for days. Not here, three minutes and she even got a good conversation with him about how much she loves Cosmic Odyssey, a JLA story that is truly amazing. The place is freaking weird. As she is doing that, I am getting my Batman 252, first appearance of Ras Al Ghu, you know Liam Neeson from Batman Begins, signed by Neal Adams. Neal Adams is one half a comic book God. The other half is Denny O’Neil. Both of them revamped Batman in the 70s and all the stuff you love from the Nolan flicks and the animated series is their doing. So much so, he told me he got $100,000 for Ras at one point. He was amazing and let me get this out of the way, everyone I meet was awesome expect one person, but we will get to that later.
After meeting one of my favorite Spiderman artists, Mark Bagley, whose line was ridiculously short. I was in the Mark Waid line when Kris and Andy came back from Mignolia. We got there a little after 10:00 am by 10:30 am, we were basically done. Waid, who wrote Kingdom Come and if you listen to the podcast which you should, my favorite Fantastic Four run. That is what I talk to him the most about and he brought up something, I think is missing in comics. The hero bringing the fight to the villain. It seems a lot of comic books are heroes waiting for the villain then bitch about how tough it is. Taking the fight to them makes for better stories, period. It can’t happen all the time, but sometimes, its nice to see the hero just really go after the bad guy.
So, up next was Jim Starlin, the writer for Cosmic Odyssey and the guy that is made fanboys wet their pants when Thanos appeared in Avengers 2. He wrote in my opinion, the best event book in Infinity Gauntlet. While I told him this was the book that made me a Marvel fan, we talked about how DC hated Cosmic Odyssey and yet, its still making them money while being in print. After that was the book throwing stylings of J.M. DeMattis and Keith Griffen. The two created one of the better Justice League teams. The team was Batman, Martian Manhunter, Captain Marvel and a buch of scrubs. One of whom was fanboy at the time favorite, Green Lantern Guy Gardner. Guy was a punk. So, Batman knocked out with one punch. One punch from a human takes out one of the proctors of the DC Universe. It was beautiful and that is the page I had both of them sign which they did gladfully. Those two make comics fun which is sorely missing as well.
Kris headed off to the Hellboy panel which gave me and Andy time to wheel and deal. Here is the wonderful and terrible thing about comic book conventions, you can negotiate. Its terrible, because the dealers know this too and jack the prices up. A Rick Grimes figure from Walking Dead, the size of the coffee cup in front of me was going for $100, Darryl was $200. To add further insanity to this, I was looking for the first appearance of Elektra, the prices there ranged from $45 to $300. Think about that for a second and there was little or no difference in how they looked. The book search went well at first, I picked up a hardcover book that retailed $45 for $5 and Andy was able to grab some Monster Magazines for dirt cheap. Yet, like Apocalypse Now, the further we went down the heart of darkness, the worse it got. Andy got a comic for $5 that we later saw for $70. I was having zero luck on the Elektra front and there seem to be more people clogging up spaces. Eventually, we did give up.
Remember that part when I said there was only one person who acted like a jerk well that was Brian Bolland. Bolland drew Killing Joke. Killing Joke was basically the book where Joker paralyzes Barbara Gordon, shows naked pictures of her to Commissioner Gordon and Batman kills him at the end. The last part is how I see it anyway. So, its automatically a winner for Batman fans. I am one of two people in line as the last guy gets his book signed. From behind Bolland comes this weasel looking guy handing me a ticket. The ticket is for me to come back in an hour. All the while Bolland is signing like ten copies of Killing Joke. The other guy in line looks at me and we both start say that we just have one book each, can he just sign it? Nope. Come back later. I do and guess what? I like the Nazi, Indy throws from the blimp in Last Crusade, have no ticket. There is now a giant line and talk of you have to have a ticket. Its crap like that that makes fans turn on you.
The other big thing that happened was Comic Book Men. On Saturday, Kevin Smith and Jason Mews showed their Groovy Movie for mere $40 per person. A lot of dough, but you got the movie, a two hour podcast and a lot of dick and fart jokes. Sunday, the cast of Comic Book Men were filming the release of Walt’s Crypto-Man. A lot of people have different opinions on the show. I like it. Yes, a ton of is staged and the complaint about how it shows that all comic book guys are adolescent boys. My answer is, there is no such thing as reality TV and yes, we are adolescent boys, all men are to some degree. Anything that makes comic books interesting which the show does is great. I do love their Tell them Steve Dave podcast. Which I shouted at them and got the high sign from Walt and Bryan while almost running to random stranger. I hope that made their day, because they made mine.
And that is basically it. We got in early, got everything we wanted to do done early and had a good time walking the Con and the surrounding area. I as a Steelers’ fan I got to watch their dreadful display at a local bar all the while keeping my mouth shut. I lived, so that is another win too. Below, is the list of items we got at the Con, so you can see how irresponsible we are with money. One last thing if you do go to a Con, I highly recommend hitting the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and Hero Initiative. They have an amazing selection of signed books at good prices and it goes to two great causes.
Dragon Lance hardcover: War of the Lance
Princess Bride U.K. Edition Castle Movie Poster
Werewolf by Night #8
Man of Steel #1-6
Mad Love signed by Bruce Timm
Saga vol 2 signed by Bryan K. Vaughn
Lock and Key vol. 4
King Kong Size Monster Magazine
Daredevil #181-Death of Eleketra
JL8 Batman and Superman print signed by Yale Stewart.
Doctor Who season 7 part 2 DVD set for answering ten Doctor Who questions for free. WINNING!!
Also, Baltimore Comic Con, can you please for the love of God hand out some programs to tell us where people and things are, so we are not walking around for 45 minutes looking for one person.
Stop reading if you don’t want to hear a giant rant from Joe about comic books, gays and how stupid we as a society, we are.
One last thing, I went to address is the Batwoman shake up. If you don’t know, Batwoman was re-introduced as Miss Kaine, a lesbian in the 52 storyline a few years ago. She is awesome and has an on-going relationship with the new Question, Renee Montaya who original worked for the Gotham PD. They were going to get hitched til DC said No. This lead to the creative team quitting and a rather fun panel at Baltimore Comic Con. In the panel Dan Dido, the editor of DC Comics, said Batwoman and all heroes shouldn’t have good personal lives. To that I say…. BULLSHIT!!
Not everyone needs to dark and gritty while bemoaning they can’t have a normal life. This isn’t F’N Twilight. That works for Batman, Hulk and Ben Grimm and back in the day Peter Parker. That shouldn’t apply to Superman, Flash, Green Lantern and every character at the DCU. Hey, I understand Batman is your best seller and you want to push sales, because the newness of rebooting the entire universe is wearing off for fans who realize a good chunk of these new stories basically suck. So, why not just have everyone hero be Batman. I am sure sales will climb with Bat-Flash, Bat-Lantern Bat-Wonder and so on. Yet, they won’t. Because comic book fans are human beings. They all have different quirks and one of those is they like to read different heroes due to how different they are from other heroes.
I love Batman, but he doesn’t really complain about his life, he just fights crime and that is it. Yet, he still occasionally needs Superman or Wonder Woman or the entire JLA to save his ass, because while he was being all emo, he overlooked something. Batman and Superman works so well, because they are light and darkness. That is why the movie Man of Steel failed at the end. Besides the 20 minute CGI orgy, they turned Superman into a killer. A decision that Dido signed off on when Nolan said hell no.
So, it comes no shock to me that Dido wants our heroes to be miserable. Because, what comic book fans want to read is a book about miserable people doing miserable things to other more miserable and slightly horrible people. Its no wonder there are only four to five books in the top twenty-five in sales that are DCU and most of them are Batman. This plan seems to be working out so well. Here is the thing, we are taking the whole “Heroes can’t win in their personal lives” at face value. I am for now. Because, the other reason could be DC doesn’t want to have the craziness of the far right descend on them for having two people who love each other who happen to be consenting adults and also happen to be women. Yes, far be it that art and storytelling push back on the stupidity of some society norms to tell a beautiful story. Nope, you have to think about the advertisers and what corporate Warner Brothers might say.
If it were me, I would tell Warner Brothers to shut up. They need DC more than DC needs them right now. There are no big WB franchises left. Harry Potter has grown up. The Matrix films turned to crap real quick and their CW network is one tissue box full of crying teenage girls. What DC has given them is a $3 billion Batman film with a half a billion dollar Superman film. It has given them their highest rated show on CW with Arrow. It is probably one of the few divisions at Warner Brothers that brings in cash. So, If I were the editor of the DCU, I would say screw off. If..If that is the real reason behind everything which we don’t know.
What we do know is Batwoman will be unreadable after issue 26 when the creative team leaves. What we do know is Dan Dido is an idiot and if it wasn’t for the fact he inherited the most recognizable and profitable super-heroes of all time, he would be out of a job. What we do know is that like a lot of lesbian women, Miss Kaine and Miss Montaya will not be wed, because someone somewhere has a problem with it and God forbid, we tell those people to go to hell. At least for now.