I’ve been to a fair number of conventions, but this past Sunday was my first time going to a strictly comic convention and I have to say the experience was pretty extraordinary. Several of the other conventions I’ve been to have also been in the Baltimore Convention Center, and as we walked in my first reaction was that Baltimore Comic-Con was a lot lower-key than what I expected but as I’ll discuss shortly this can actually be quite a good thing. I will preface all of this by saying that we did not attend on Saturday, which can be expected to be busier but Sunday is almost always a day that winds down to a quiet end. I was not sure what to expect, and I was definitely not sure what kind of things we’d be covering as press at the event, but in hindsight it’s actually a great event to simply cover as a whole. I realized that we should let people know about the convention itself rather a few small presentations or snippet news announcements.
The convention may not have seemed like much from the outside, but it definitely filled the main exhibit hall to the brim. The hall was split almost exactly half-and-half with artists, publishers, and other people of the trade on one side and vendors / stores on the other. We started by walking through pretty much all of the artist/publisher side and spying a few people we wanted to talk to, some signatures we wanted to pick up, and several comics we wanted to buy (directly from the creators, no less)! Just to get some general information out of the way: there were tons of vendors selling all kinds of comic and nerd related things. Possibly most interesting of all was a booth selling original (back-lit) movie posters of tons of movies including the original Star Wars trilogy and the Lord of the Rings. If you didn’t manage to find something on the publisher side of the hall, then you could almost certainly find it amongst the vendors, alongside many discounts on trade paperbacks and far too many single issues of comics for Dave and I to even begin to look at them.
What makes Baltimore Comic-Con a great experience is actually an oddity. When you compare it to its sister events such as San Diego Comic-Con and New York Comic-Con, it really appears to be the most overlooked of the events. It comes right at the end of summer, typically right when the new season of TV is kicking off so it’s too late to have any TV or summer movie exclusives, and it’s not particularly close to the winter shopping season either. This might sound like a bad thing, but what it really affords you is a different experience. Dave and I got the chance to meet pretty much all of the artists and writers that we wanted to. The only huge lines were for Jim Lee and Geoff Johns which we just decided to skip so that we could cover more ground. We both got to meet and have books signed by Mike Mignola (creator of Hellboy), David Peterson (Mouse Guard), Scott Kurtz (PvP), Darwyn Cooke (The Spirit), and Cliff Chiang (Dr. Thirteen) without much of a wait for any of them!
Possibly more surprising is that people like Dan Didio and Jim Shooter didn’t even have people around them most of the time, which provides an excellent opportunity for someone who wants to get into the comic industry to show their work to the people that edit and look at this stuff all day long. You should figure that the Executive Editor of DC Comics will be able to give you some good advice, or at least point you in the right direction. I managed to walk right by Brian Michael Bendis, only a couple of minutes after saying I’d be able to pick him out of a crowd anywhere. While the lack of crowds may have been a nice result of us being there on Sunday, it not only allowed for easy access to some big names but it also allowed the indie and self-published individuals to stand out more.
There were about 5-6 rows that ran the entire width of the convention hall that made up the publisher / artist / writer portion of the convention, and beyond that were at least 2 rows for indie and self-publishers to set up a booth and show off their material. This ended up being my default area to wonder if we didn’t know where to go next, because it really gets away from the status quo. If you walk around the big guys for too long, you get sick of seeing the occasional booth babe, or pinup drawings of scantily clad women: it’s a market that is diluted with this kind of material. Over on the indie side, you can find live painting, tea stained drawings of pirates, and other extremely creative, imaginative, and fresh stuff. I walked around for most of the show with my iPhone in hand, taking notes of artist, company, and comic names so that I could find them later and check it out. We didn’t get a good sense of how things were going at the convention, but I truly hope that the big-time publishers and creators spent at least some of the con walking around this portion of the hall and seeing what’s being put out there.
If you’re not into any of that stuff, at least there were some mind-blowing paintings at the show listed for ridiculously high (but probably worth it) prices!