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Sat, August 18th, 2001 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

DAY ONE AT WIZARDWORLD - A CROSSGEN MORNING

[WizardWorld 2001]To answer the question everyone's been asking me so far: The flight out here was OK. One little quirk is that the flight left forty minutes late and still arrived at O'Hare on-time. It seems that Expedia.com's flight time was just a wee bit conservative.

When the convention opened at 10 this morning, I made a direct bee-line for the CrossGen booth. It was one of my regrets at San Diego last month that I didn't get the chance to get any sketches from the gang assembled at their booth. The CrossGen booth is set up with four tables in the middle. At each table sits the writer and the artist of a given book. Since there are more artists than writers, some tables have two artists. The lines spread out from there. George Perez's line was four hours long, from what I've heard. But Perez does amazing work. CrossGen keeps track of the sketches he does. I'll have to get that information so you can marvel at the man. While I was on another line, I spent much of it looking over Perez's shoulder at the amazing stuff he was doing.

I got right in line for Butch Guice's table, which he shared with Paul Pelletier. There were only about four people ahead of me, so the wait wasn't too long and I got a great sketch of Simon, the lead character of the upcoming RUSE title he's working on with Mark Waid. It's an amazing pencil sketch of the character's head and shoulders, starting off in blue pencil and then finished with a pencil line that very closely resembles his ink work you may have seen in his issues of BIRDS OF PREY. Guice is really easy to talk to with his infectious southern accent and easygoing manner. While he said the easy way to describe RUSE is as X-Files meets Sherlock Holmes, it's really much more than that. He and Waid are looking forward to exploring different things, such as the other historical and fictional figures of the time.

After that, I departed the CrossGen booth. It was 10:30 and the lines were starting to form around everyone. Perez's had to be about two dozen deep by that time. I can remember last year when CrossGen had a smaller booth and the big draw was Brandon Peterson. His line was an amazing ten or so deep when I saw it then.

At noon today, I had lunch with a small handful of my fellow comics journalists with CrossGen's founder/president/publisher/quote machine Mark Alessi. There are a lot of great things coming up from CrossGen. When I get home, I'll straighten out my notes enough to give you an idea of the types of things he said. Some will be in the next couple of weeks, such as the CrossGen store on their web site. Others will be coming forth in the next few months. When I asked about second volumes of the CrossGen trades, Alessi said that they weren't on the schedule yet. In the next six to twelve months, he promised to unveil his "new plan for the future of comics… We're not going to play under the rules we play under today."

THE CON AT A GLANCE

The con itself seems to be much busier and much more crowded than last year. Panels that last year were only half full were filled to near capacity this year. The best example I have of this is the McLaughlin Group Panel. Last year, it was half full. This year, it was nearly standing room only.

Tangent: Every year, Wizard's Jim McLaughlin hosts a panel with four comics industry loudmouths to discuss various industry topics. The two I've seen so far have been the funniest, most entertaining and interesting panels I've ever attended at a con. This year, the panel was made up of Jeph Loeb, Mark Waid, Bill Jemas, and Erik Larsen. Jemas was his usual quote machine self, even eliciting a couple of rousing boos from the audience, although I thought the one was a misunderstanding. (He was countering someone else's logic by taking their point further, and I think that went over most people's heads. He didn't really mean to say that DC only publishes one quality book, folks. If you see that trumpeted somewhere on the 'net this weekend, ignore it. It's out of context.) I'll have some little quips and quotes from the con later in the week as I get my notes organized.

The point is, the con felt much more crowded this year. It's still in roughly the same floor space. The layout is the same, with the artists alley on one far end, the dealers in the middle, and the companies on the other side. (It's the layout San Diego emulated this year. The difference is that this con is small enough that you don't need to flag a taxi to get from one end to the other.)

The crowd fits in perfectly with Wizard's demographics. It's comprised predominantly of teenaged boys. At San Diego, I feel young and professional. Here, I feel like a cranky old man at times and all the more professional in comparison. =)

But at least I'm a well-showered man. I never get the feeling after a day at the San Diego Con (or at the PittCon earlier this year) that I absolutely needed a shower. Tonight, I couldn't wait to get back to my hotel room. UGH

CONVENTION ONE-LINERS

There's an amazing lack of costumes present at this con so far. I've only seen two or three and they weren't that bad.

Brian Azarello, Dan Raspler, and Chuck Dixon looked lost at their afternoon panel. It was a discussion about villains, with questions taken from the floor to get things moving. That's never a good sign. When you're relying on random con-goers who raise their hands to move your panel along, you're dead in the water.

Funniest site of the day: There was a guy walking around with the new Vampirella model who had a roll of industrial-size packing tape in his hands. I wondered if he was using it to keep her in her costume.

The G.I. JOE booth, as predicted, was doing brisk business in the times that I saw them. Given the demographics of the con-goers, this comes as no surprise.

The wrestlers are back having matches in a ring along the back wall. I continue to feel sorry for the dealers and gamers nearby.

Martin Nodell is back in artists alley with his wife.

Steve Lieber is there, also, but that isn't really news. He was happy to report that he had already sold out of the copies of his wife's novel that he had brought with him.

WizardWorld East: Philadelphia is scheduled for May 10-12, only about two weeks after the Pittsburgh Comicon.

WizardWorld Chicago 2002 is scheduled for July 5-7. It's moving back towards its Chicago Comicon roots of July 4th weekend.

Con food is expensive, but hotel food ain't much better. My bagel and orange juice breakfast cost me darn near nine bucks.

According to Mark Alessi, the long-term plan for CrossGen is to be 24 titles strong in eight to ten years.

Picked up a few things at the Oni booth today. Looks like you'll be seeing more Oni reviews in the coming weeks.

Didn't buy much else today, aside from a few spare issues of comics here and there. I did get the four issues of INSTANT PIANO packaged together for eight bucks, which made me happy.

Special thanks to everyone who stopped me today to say that they read CBR and this column, specifically. It is much appreciated and it's always good to get the feedback. Heck, it's just nice to know that someone reads this stuff occasionally. An amazing number of you specifically said you enjoyed the daily format. You're all trying to kill me, aren't you?

TOMORROW

I have no idea. But that's half the fun, isn't it? If it's busier than today, I might spend a lot of time hiding in panels. The ACTOR and CBLDF auctions are tomorrow night, as are many parties. Chuck Dixon is holding his annual writing session. And Bendis and Jenkins have an hour to talk about writing prolifically.

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