So, this is the first year in a long time I didn’t man a table at Heroes Con. Why? Mainly just because most of my old books have now been out for a while and I’m pretty certain any folks that regularly attend Heroes that want them have them by now. Also, though, I really missed the experience of being able to wander the floor freely, attend programming/panels, etc.
I arrived on Saturday and after picking up my badge immediately hit the Team Cul de Sac panel, already in progress. I was a bit disappointed by how few people were in attendance there, but they were up against the big Marvel writers panel and that’s apparently a huge draw. The Team Cul de Sac guys talked about their book as well as the upcoming Complete Cul de Sac Collection. The most interesting news, though, was about a recent meeting between Cul de Sac‘s Richard Thompson and (the notoriously reclusive) Bill Watterson of Calvin and Hobbes. I missed some of the details, but apparently Watterson said Thompson was the one modern cartoonist he’d really wanted to meet. Man, I’d loved to have been a fly on the wall at that get-together. Throw in Patrick McDonald and that’s arguably newspaper comics’ last great cartoonists. No mention of Thompson, though, can go by without me getting pretty down about Richard not being at Heroes and why he’s not able to attend any more: one of the greatest cartoonists of our generation cut down in his prime.
After that, I hit the con floor. Heroes Con doubled its floor space this year and you could definitely tell. For one, there’re a ton more vendors and artists. Also, the floor never really seemed crowded the way it has in years past on Saturday. I said hi to a ton of folks too numerous to mention here, but in a nutshell: as cornball as it may sound, there really is a “Heroes family” of cartoonists that I really look forward to hanging out with all year–and it was, as usual, really great to see them.
Our Music Mega Panel cranked up at 3:00 in the afternoon and I feel like it went pretty well. The crowd wasn’t “Matt Faction Hawkeye big,” but we had maybe 50 or so people there and the bulk of them hung around for the whole two hour affair. Charlotte Jazz duo Ghost Trees did an amazing job both with their musical “reading” of Joe Lambert’s Turtle Keep it Steady and with improvising over Craig Fischer’s presentation of music- related comic book covers. They even gave me this amazing picture disk LP of their music:
For the record (no pun intended), if I ask you to do me a big favor–like performing live at a panel–you shouldn’t give me a gift. If anything it should be the other way around.
What the music panel may have lacked in sheer number of attendees, it more than made up for in how appreciative the folks that attended were. Both after the panel and intermittently in the Westin bar later in the evening, folks were pulling me aside and telling how much they enjoyed the whole program.
One aspect of this year’s Heroes Con that’s got to be mentioned is the parallel convention going on in the Charlotte Convention Center. There’s always some other thing–sometimes more than one thing–going on in the convention center at the same time as Heroes and those events often make for some hilarious juxtapositions among the attending crowds. This year’s concurrent event was a Republican convention of some sort and indeed there were some hijinks as a result. I ran into Athens, GA’s Robert Newsome who had found someone’s dropped dinner event tickets to a meal with speaker Karl Rove. I sure hope he went! Cartoonist Ed Piskor apparently shared an elevator with Rove as well. Sarah Palin was momma grizlying about and apparently had an encounter with Heroes owner/organizer Shelton Drum. Mainly, though, the result was just a bunch of confused old white guys in the convention center wondering why people were dressed so funny.
(I didn’t have a picture of Karl Rove handy, so I used this image of Red Skull. My apologies.)
There was a bunch of great stuff on the floor that I really wanted to buy, but I was pretty strapped for cash this year and was hoping to pick up an original page. So, that’s where pretty much all of my funds went this year. On the other hand, the page I purchased is this gorgeous Scott Chantler page from his book Two Generals.
I occasionally yak with Scott on Twitter and I knew this was a relatively rare state-side appearance from him (he hails from Canada) and I figured I’d better take advantage of the situation and buy a page from him at Heroes where I’d not have to shell out for shipping.
If I hadn’t spent pretty much all my funds on that page, though, I’d for sure have made some other purchases. Among the things I looked at: Joey Weiser’s Mermin, the first few issues of which I bought as B&W minicomics, is now a full-color hardcover from Oni Press. It’s a gorgeous-looking book and I’ll for sure pick it up at some point. I probably should have “sold my boots” and bought a copy of Jim Rugg’s Supermag, since (a) it looked amazing, and (b) he sold out of it at the show. Patrick Dean had at least one, if not two, issues of Big Deal that I’d not seen before and as usual he was selling ridiculously underpriced originals. He also did this amazing Sandman illo for the art auction:
His table-mate Robert Newsome had issues of his wrestling ‘zine Atomic Elbow that looked so cool I’d have picked them up even though I know nothing about wrestling. Kelly Williams had stacks and stacks of great-looking originals. I sure hope people picked some up.
Speaking of originals, one of the highlights of Heroes for me this year was having time to look through an absolutely mind-blowing selection of original art from one of the dealers who regularly attends. I’ve never had the time to really dig through his stuff before, but there’s nothing like being able to flip through (yes, he lets people flip through this stuff) page after page of Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Don Heck, Wally Wood, etc. In addition to the abject weirdness of having a $40,000. Kirby/Sinnott in front of your face, it’s fascinating to see all of the little notes and back and forth on some of the pages–Stan Lee’s handwriting: “Who is this? Make it Cyclops.” My absolute favorite page, though, was this original Herbie cover by Ogden Whitney. You don’t see Ogden Whitney originals every day and this one’s truly one to behold. Click for a bigger image and check out the brush-work on that fur!
Before hitting the road on Sunday I attended a really interesting–if somewhat marginally attended–panel on Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol. It was a one-on-one with artist Richard Case (whose work I admittedly don’t know that well). I distinctly remember one specific quote from him on the subject of creating characters in a work-for-hire situation: “You’re playing in their sandbox and if you create a new character you put it back in the sandbox for the next guy to play with.” Interestingly, the few characters he and Morrison invented haven’t really been “played with” much by anyone after they left the title.
It was hard to get a bead on how folks did sales-wise. As mentioned before, Jim Rugg totally sold out of his book. I also ran into the owner of our local comics shop, Ssalefish, on Sunday afternoon and he said they’d set a sales goal for the con and met it by Sunday. On the other hand, I spoke to a number of artists who said that sales were slow throughout the show and wondered whether doubling the floor space–and number of vendors–without a parallel increase in attendance had “diluted” sales.
Whatever the case, I sure didn’t run into a single person who didn’t say they had a blast at the show. It’s one of the funnest and best-run comics events around. As usual, I’d like to offer a big Thank You to Shelton Drum, Rico Renzi, Andy Mansell and all the Heroes staff and volunteers for yet another great, well-run show. See you next year!