Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Wizard World Chicago Con Report

Tom Spendlove catches me clutching someone else's cold,
half-eaten cheeseburger for CBR's Photo Parade

Drove to Chicago Thursday morning with Jeremy Haun and Jason Hurley, fully intending to get there in time to set up for Preview Night (which means four). Instead, we made it in time to catch the last ten minutes (with Jeremy whining about not being able to change out of his flip-flops and Flash T-shirt). Our travel attire must have given us away. Walking through the Hyatt, a couple of nicely dressed middle-aged women (one with an open bottle of champagne) commented, "Those must be comic book guys." Well, you know--we are, I guess. Checked in at the show with Tony and Kara and Mike Norton, exhibiting next to us.

Thursday night was mellow, eating Giordano's in the room before heading down and hanging out in the lobby of the Hyatt. Hung out with Ivan Brandon and Andy MacDonald, Rob Levin and Filip Sablik of Top Cow, Tim Seeley, and old pals Seth Jones (who was running things for CBR, since Jonah Weiland couldn't make it), Mar Harris and Tom Spendlove (who was rooming with J. Torres). At some point CB Cebulski wandered out of his room looking to swipe a laptop power cable from lost and found, and we ended up chatting about Image for a while before calling it a night.

Friday morning I had a meeting with DC, discussing what I've been doing, and what I may be doing. Tracked down J. Torres, Ande Parks and Phil Hester. John Lucas showed up to join our little group of table monkeys, with his latest (and awesomest) sketchbook in hand. Bumped into Jai Nitz and chatted about things. At the table we were selling the hell out of BATTLE HYMN for some reason. Moved my last three copies of the first HAWAIIAN DICK trade, and quite a few of the second, but BATTLE HYMN was the sales winner by miles. Vanetta from Newsarama stopped by the booth to ask what I was up to (see my answers here: NEWSARAMA FLOORBUZZ). Our Canadian amigos Geoff and Joel made their appearance, and graced us with a case of Molson's and a case of Keiths Pale Ale. Great guys, and they joined us for dinner that night. Wandered by the Marvel booth, which suddenly resembles the old Chaos! Comics booths from years past, with a carnival barker shouting at the clustered fans, who screamed out answers to trivia questions for kibble.

Newsarama catches me before noon. Urk.

Dinner, by the way, was at the Outback Steakhouse (Joel the vegetarian dined on cheese fries). Norton and Torres, along with Sean Dove and Spendlove, directed us there. Nothing like visiting a city and ending up at one of the country's most omnipresent chains. Back to the Hyatt again, generally hanging with the same crew. Paul D. Storrie was around, and Greg Thompson popped in and out with Jen Simmons. At some point the St. Louis crew showed up, and I chatted with Cullen Bunn about THE DAMNED (great book!) being optioned. Ended the night talking Golden Age comics with Erik Larsen. I think Erik's main goal in Chicago was to shop for old comics, but it was fun chatting about them. The lobby cleared out (without prompting from Rosemont's finest) by around two-thirty. I think a bunch of folks headed up to CB's room (CB is the comic world's primary party facilitator), but I just went to bed.

Saturday. Big day at the con. Sales at the table continued to be brisk, and lots of people dropped by to tell me they loved BATTLE HYMN, asking about sequels. Lots of HAWAIIAN DICK fans dropped by to say "Aloha," and we had our share of LEADING MAN fans show up, too. All very gratifying, to say the least. Creators I checked in with (or scammed sketches from) included Shane White, Kevin Mellon and Dennis Hopeless, Brian Hurtt, Chris Samnee, Chris Mitten, David Ahn, Francis Manapul, Sean McKeever, Seth Frail, Chuck BB and Nick Stakal. Chris Ryall dropped by the table to say hey to me and Jeremy, and chat briefly about a little somethin' somethin'. I ended the day sitting down with the Around Comics guys to talk about what I've been up to, and that was nice. Good guys, those. At some point Tom Spendlove came by, snapping pics for CBR's Photo Parade. Since Tom had been doing nothing but tracking down costumed attendees, I dragged him around to snap some of the professionals in attendance. The results of our trek appear here: Saturday Photo Parade. Roger Ash from Westfield Comics stopped by to arrange an interview about the new HAWAIIAN DICK, so that was cool. Nice guy.

At heart, Tom remains that little boy from Michigan who loves Storm Troopers.

Saturday night we decided to trot off to Maria's, with Word Balloon's John Siuntres in tow, and were joined by Filip, Rob and Chazz from Top Cow. Had a great dinner, and good conversation (fellow Atomic Revolver Jason Aaron's RIPCLAW one shot was available at the con). On the way home from Maria's, Geoff snapped a shot of a deer, grazing just off the sidewalk. A rabbit hopped by, but, you know, once you've seen a deer chilling at the con, a rabbit ain't nothing special. After we returned to the Hyatt we got word that Tony, Kara, Ivan, Kristyn, Andy, Greg, Jen, John Lucas and Hilary Barta were all at the Hala Kahiki, so we headed on over, with Geoff being gracious enough to drive us there and back (and all Geoff had was a big, poofy ice cream drink). I went with Zombies, and threw a Hurricane in for good measure. Hilary regaled us with tales of growing up in the thirties, and Greg sucked down a volcano-sized drink on his own.

Chris Mitten poses for CBR with my sketchbook in hand.

Saturday ended up being one of those late, late (early, early) nights I try to swear off every year. I ended up sitting in the lobby until about 4:45, sitting with Ivan and Andy, Chuck BB, Nick Stakall, and (for a bit) Scott Wherle and Tom Bolton. Tony went up to his room to work, and I sent Tom up there to say hey around three. Well, I thought it was three, anyway. Kara later informed me it was actually 4:30, and entrance to their room was denied Mr. Bolton. At some point Filip and Rob straggled in, followed by Nicky Barucci, who was extremely wound up. After busting my balls for never calling him ("just to say hi"), Nicky picked Rob up and threatened to pitch him over the balcony, but I intervened in time to prevent everyone appearing in Lying in the Gutters on Monday.

At some point a debate broke out over whether or not it was raining, and Scott informed me that it was raining, because if it wasn't, we would hear the sound of it "not raining." Listening to him try to explain the sound of "not raining" was even better. Other people I remember talking to Saturday night included Kody Chamberlain, Jim Valentino and Kris Simon, and the Seth Jones substitute CBR crew (Danny don't high five, kids).

Oh, and at some point Saturday night I finally got to check my email, and had an urgent message waiting from an artist I've been putting a project together with. He'd been in contact with the publisher we're pitching the book to (a creator-owned book), and things seem to be progressing very, very well. I don't want to reveal who the artist or the publisher is just yet, but this one should make a splash. The idea is to follow the artist's current creator-owned book with ours, and if we manage three-quarters of that book's success, I'll be a happy fatboy.

Sunday was the wind-down. We slept in a bit, and didn't get to the show until eleven or so. Knowing we had a bazillion hour drive ahead of us later, I think the extra couple of hours of sleep were a good idea. The show itself was mellow. I finally found old friend Kalman Andrasofszky, and we talked a good long while about what we were doing, the state of various collaborations we've planned over the years, and Canadian creators in general. While chatting with Kalman, this guy whose goal is to track down obscure work from creators and have them sign it dropped by with a copy of LOVE IN TIGHTS #1. That issue featured Francis Manapul's first publisher work, and I guess Francis hadn't been all that happy to see it. Kalman and I first collaborated on a LOVE IN TIGHTS story, but the guy didn't have a copy of it. It did prompt me to pull out the BATTLE HYMN trade, which features a page from that story, showing Kalman's original design for the Mid-Nite Hour (which we changed for BATTLE HYMN, since it ended up being too close to Mike Mignola's later Lobster Johnson design). Also talked to Jim Valentino and Kris Simon for a bit about things, reminiscing about Image days, and checking in with Shadowline's new books.

Jeremy was interviewed twice on camera, including once by Marvel's guys. Oddly enough, they even asked him about "more BATTLE HYMN." For the record, I think Jeremy and I will slowly work on a 64-page sequel to the first series, starring the Mid-Nite Hour in about 1949. It's plotted, and I started the script while stranded in LaGuardia earlier this year.

A fan came by the table and told me he didn't know how close we came to the truth with THE LEADING MAN. He says he knew of at least one movie star who was a super spy, but couldn't reveal the name. I guess I'd better watch my back.

The journey home was typically eternal, not helped by Jeremy and Jason disappearing into the Iowa 80 Truckstop for roughly a decade. We also made a stop at one of Chicago's overpass Oasises, where we loaded up on a variety of gut-busting fast food delicacies. Got home around five in the a.m., and was soundly asleep by about six, so I could grab about two hours of shuteye before Baby Moore rousted me again.

All in all, a good con, even if the best news I got came from outside Chicago.

If you're curious, I've posted the new sketches I snagged for my Timely Golden Age sketchbook here: LOOKA LOOKA!

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