This was my third time showing at Heroes Con and on my previous two experiences the Friday portion of the show has tended to be slow and meandering with only a few intrepid souls bothering to flip through a minicomic or part with a dollar. Not so on this 30th Anniversary, however. The aisles and arteries of the convention floor were vibrantly pumping comics people all about for opening day. I somewhat suspect these were the wisest of the convention goers who were sagely getting their purchases and visits in before the onslaught of the Stan Lee leviathan set in and cemented the walking space with clumsy, lumbering bodies and their various backpacks, strollers and wheeled suitcases. Anyhow, thank goodness for these people because they came and shopped and chatted and, from the people I talked with anyway, made that first day the most profitable Friday most of us had experienced. As the day closed, I came out without having met Jaime Hernandez or Dave Copper as I had planned but I did come out with a wad of cash and a golden sunshine feeling in my heart that this was going to be a super great Heroes Con, probably one for the books.
(Dean Trippe's friends Batman and son stolen from Dean Trippe.)
As the convention hall shut down, many of us made our way to the pizza aroma infused arboretum across College Street to do some drinkin' and drawin' in whatever order seemed to work out best. Husband and wife tag team, Seth and Heather Peagler conducted the Drink and Draw ceremonies and some pretty incredible work found its way onto a drink coaster and then into the art collections of some generous patrons who gave the resulting cash for Parkinson's research. Much like last year, it was a great deal of fun and a worthwhile excuse to down flagons of ale.
After a few hours of the ol' drink and draw, myself and some fellows ventured over to the Westin hotel to join the already in progress bacchanal that was advertised as McGinty Fest. Ostensibly a venue to admire and celebrate the animation and artwork of the much lauded Brad McGinty, the fest instead was more of an outlet for closeted rock god cartoonists to play Rock Band and sing songs by Queen. We did manage to watch one McGinty short and had a dramatic reading of a truly terrible Spider-Man comic before things went back to straight up rocking. Somewhere along the way Robert Newsome and Patrick Dean discovered and ancient scroll in an adjacent conference room that seemed to explain the ancient rites of NASCAR. Unfortunately, none of us could decipher the runes and so the spirit of Dale Earnhardt was not raised that night and made to sing Night Ranger.
(McGintyfest pic stolen from Ben Towle.)
Saturday was exactly what everyone expected, an onslaught. Piles and piles and piles of people queued up from the rafters to the parking decks to get a glance at the great grandpappy of Marvel comics. I had some real wonders whether all those extra people would be willing to drop some cash on comics about farts printed on copy paper stolen from various day jobs when they had already laid out $200 to high five a 89 year-old man and squeal "EXCELSIOR!!" Turns out some did but a lot of the extra attendees took their Stan Lee experience as 'nuff said and shambled out of the convention center without the benefit of a satchel full of minicomics. All in all, despite the extra traffic, I moved about as much product as in previous years on a Saturday. It was satisfying but not an overabundance of sales or visitations.
I joined J. Chris Campbell in a first time exploratory journey of making stuff on the Art Stage in front of the peeping eyes of the passing masses. Despite my nervousness at the thought of drawing on a large scale in a very public arena, the act itself ended up being really fun and gratifying. J. Chris turned out a super amazing Neatobot painting that ended up being featured front and center directly behind the auctioneer's head at that night's Art Auction. My Adventure Time drawing also made the Art Auction, which was pretty cool, but no one bothered to put their head in front of it.
As the crowds thinned out, I finally slipped out in the last hour of the show and met Jaime Hernandez, for my money, the Greatest Cartoonist in the World. As you might expect from the Greatest Cartoonist in the World, he was incredibly nice and chatted and sketched for everybody in his line. I talked to him about Maggie and Ray and the last few pages of the Love Bunglers and dumped my heart out on the table. He said "Thanks." That's the Greatest Cartoonist in the World, y'all.
(The "Greatest Cartoonist in the World" meets the fans. (Special guest star Robert Newsome's chin.) Stolen from Brian Ralph.)
With the hall closing up, we weary bunch sought out some dining holes, ate our fill and then crossed back over to the Westin once more for the Art Auction. Some really amazing work was on display including a Popeye #1 cover recreation by Roger Langridge that made me want to bash my head in at the sight of its beauty, a triptych of exotic, arty, sexy ladies by Falynn K that was sold for less that a song before a crusty crowd of Spider-Man fans and a truly amazing Mad Men painting by Brian Stelfreeze that will haunt my dreams forever. The big happenings there were when Stan Lee himself came sauntering down the aisle and personalized a painting by Phil Noto and when a Mark Brooks Phoenix piece sold for just under 10 grand. I ended the night with a little small talk in the Westin bar and called it a day. And a pretty good day at that.
(Brian Stelfreeze draws Joanie stolen from tumblr.)
Stan Lee was back in action on Sunday but perhaps the crowds were hyperboled out because not so many crowded the aisles as on Saturday. Still, there was a healthy throng and that last minute impulse to dump out pocket money was in full effect. I did way more sketches on Sunday than in any other day of the convention and actually sold out of a few products by late in the day. There were a lot of great panels over the weekend that I earnestly wanted to attend but the only one I made was first thing Sunday afternoon, a Heroes Discussion Group of the Love and Rockets New Stories with the aforementioned Greatest Cartoonist in the World, Jaime Hernandez in attendance. I sat on the front row, stared intently at Mr. Hernandez and absorbed every word that came out of his mouth. It was an amazing, electrifying experience and I thanked moderator Andy Mansell over and over for making it possible. I came back to the convention floor with super comics mojo flowing all through my veins.
Sunday is the day I finally allow myself to get out from behind the table and buy some honest to goodness comics from the great people around me. I started with a whole armful of stuff from table neighbor Mike Freiheit. Apparently organizer Rico Renzi had sat us nearby one another so we could get all friendly and, dang if it didn't work. I really love that guy's work. I also picked up some minis from adjacent SCAD student Ian Jay and my buddy Tait Howard. I got several items from Matthew Smith but totally lost out on his table mate Benjamin Marra who left early to catch a plane. My local Charlotte pal, Eraklis "Herc" Petmezas had a new sketchbook out that I got gratis although I argued a little. It's hard to fight buddy to buddy pricing. Purposely I waited on buying Jackie Lewis' Play Ball until I could buy it from her direct and tell her how really great she is, which happened. I also got the Beasts and Babes mini that she, Erin Gladstone and Cara Mcgee had at FLUKE but that I had missed.
Speaking of FLUKE, I got Patrick Dean's newest Big Deal issue which is six kinds of beautiful and eight kinds of strange. Patrick just makes good stuff and that's all. Man, it was so enlivening to have Josh Latta back in the genuine Southeast. Naturally I bought a copy of the new colorized Rashy Rabbit book and asked for the most perverse, filthy, wrong sketch Josh could work up. I won't elaborate, but he didn't disappoint.
(Pic of mint in package double bird variant Josh Latta stolen from Lattaland.)
When I made my very first minicomic and brought it to Heroes Con back in 2008 and showed it around, the guy who was the nicest, who took the time to look over my work and give me feedback and encouragement was Ed Piskor. Ed had just finished the first volume of Wizzywig in '08 and I've kept track of the story throughout. So, I was super pleased to be able to buy the hardcover fruit of his labors at this show. Right near Ed was Adhouse Books, Chris Pitzer and Jim Rugg. Dammit, they had the most amazing single item I bought all weekend: a 48 page spiral notebook of Rugg's incredible ballpoint pen drawings. Ah! I swooned over that book. I believe only 300 were printed and, oh yeah, one of them became my own.
So, the day ended, the show ended, everybody was beat. We tore down our displays, packed up and ambled over to the Heroes Aren't Hard to Find shop for a hell of an after party. Getting to hobnob with your comic heroes is pretty great and just getting loaded in one of the country's best shops is pretty great on it's own too. I'm pretty sure I drunkenly talked to Roger Langridge for way longer than he was interested but, geez, he's so danged polite it never showed.
(Robert Langridge sketch stolen from Healther Peagler.)
I didn't actually have the nerve to bother Jaime but it was certainly surreal to just glance over and see him eating pasta salad in a parking lot. The staff at Heroes is amazing and those guys were STILL working as I was trying to sober up enough to drive home. Seth, Rico, Bridgit, Matt, Brent, Justin, Shelley, big daddy Shelton and an amazing cadre of volunteers worked crazy hard to make the best show on Earth and, as I finally did call it a day, I really and truly felt the rapturous joy of their success. One for the books, my friends, one for the books.
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p.s. Say you want a leader but you can't seem to make up your mind. I think you'd better close it and let me guide you to my twitter feed.
p.p.s. Let's pretend we went to high school together on facebook.
p.p.p.s. Google + is another place you can read the same thing I posted here.
p.p.p.p.s. I'll tumblr for ya.