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Sun, August 19th, 2001 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

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WIZARDWORLD DAY TWO

[WizardWorld 2001]I'll start off at the end of the day. Ballrooms A&B of the Hyatt Regency hotel were occupied for two and a half hours by the gang at ACTOR ("A Commitment To Our Roots"). The auction was mid-to high-level. As opposed to the Pittsburgh Convention's Make-A-Wish Auction, I don't think a single item here went out for less than $100. The lots were made up mostly of splash pages, covers, two-page spreads, and original pieces done specifically for the con. Other lots came in for things like autographed Alan Moore scripts, Spend A Day At Marvel or Image, and movie memorabilia. I have to guesstimate that the total auction brought in around $50,000. I'm judging that by the 80 lots or so that I was there for. I can only imagine the mayhem in the first half hour when Kevin Smith was auctioneering the thing with props from his upcoming "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" movie. There are also two showings tonight of the movie with all ticket proceeds (400 sold at $15 per) going to ACTOR. All in all, it was an impressive and successful night.

Wizard's Jim McLaughlin ran the auction for about two thirds of the lots, with a rapid-fire pace. Anthony Bozzi ran around like a madman showing off all the pieces as they came up. George Perez took on the "spotter" role, making sure the auctioneer saw all paddles that went up. CrossGen's Mark Waid auctioneered for 35 lots in the middle. He had a slower pace, but it was worth it for the interplay between he and Bozzi as they exhorted the attendees to pay till it hurt.

Amongst the funniest things I've seen this weekend: The Spend A Day At Marvel Comics item involved a tour of the new offices, lunch on Marvel, and the chance to sit in on an actual editorial meeting. Someone seated a few chairs away from me ended up winning it at $1400. I was happy for him, and he was obviously thrilled at this chance. I'm sure the gang at Marvel will show him a great time.

But the laughs came early in the bidding. CrossGen founder and president Mark Alessi was an active bidding participant up until the end, when he finally let the kid win it. I'm trying to picture Alessi sitting in on an X-Men editorial meeting. It boggles the mind.

Mark Alessi did, however, win a beautiful Frank Cho pin-up of Brandy done for the LIBERTY MEADOWS: BIG BOOK OF LOVE's back cover. It was quite the little bidding war that raged on, finally ending in applause at $3100. (The Alex Ross piece that went out the door for $7500 a little while later almost felt anticlimactic.)

The Joseph Linsner Batman piece you may have seen an image of posted on the 'net in advance of this auction netted $850, while the Superman piece went for $500. I bid on a few things, but won none of them. The most exciting to me was the Leonard Kirk sketchbook. It's a 45-page sketchbook that he kept while working on SUPERGIRL from September 1999 to June 2001. It's an amazing book, and one that now rests in some lucky collector's bookshelf for $800. I just wasn't prepared to lose a paycheck for the thing.

I think that all the volunteers (most of which came from CrossGen) should be recognized and thanked for their tireless efforts tonight. The auction came off without a hitch and I think everyone had a good time. ACTOR still has a booth here tomorrow if you're around and want to support them with a donation of any sort.

DAY TWO AT THE CON

The convention itself was ludicrous today. This convention has definitely grown since last year. Coming from a completely unscientific point of view, I'd even have to say that this convention grew more this year than San Diego did. And it's running out of room. They can't use this floor plan anymore. They cannot continue to do things the same way next year. I'm ready to give the organizers a bit of leeway this year. A sudden spike in attendance like this can't be predicted. But it's here and I hope they plan for it next year.

For starters, it's too cramped. The aisles aren't wide enough. You don't get those really wide aisles breaking sections like you do in San Diego. Lines forming at booths that got monstrously long had to be woven in very weird ways. If you did want to get into a line, there were times when you might get lost looking for the end. The crush at the Dark Horse booth for Gene Simmons spread out to the side wall of the con and then all the way up to the snack bar along that wall. DC's lines were often mixed up. I wanted to get in one or two, but was too frustrated by the prospect of having to ask people what should be an obvious question, "Who are you in line for?"

Speaking of which, why would you stand in line for an hour just to get your comic autographed?!? I love getting signatures, too, but I'm not that patient. Even worse are the people who wait in line and then bring out a stack of 50 issues of a series to get autographed. I saw poor Matt Wagner at the Dark Horse booth having to deal with that today. Thirdly, is it really fun to lug around a short box filled with comics all day in the hopes of getting your entire collection signed? At what point does the signature lose significance? I usually like to get a significant issue of a series signed, or maybe one with my letter in it or one with a really nice cover. I realize this is very much a matter of personal preference, but it does strike me as odd.

Another problem the organizers have to deal with is the lack of programming. There are only about four panels going on at any given time, so the overwhelming majority of people are going to be on the con floor. One of the pleasant side effects of panels is that it draws people off the con floor at various times. Wizard had two panels today, though, that were just asking for riots: The Star Wars presentation followed immediately by the Kevin Smith/View Askew panel. It was literally a fire hazard. The lines were too long and the rampaging sea of humanity was scary. And did I mention that they were both in the same room, one after the other? Which genius planned this out? This con needs a larger facility. All of the panels that I saw or tried to attend today were packed to standing room only. The panel rooms are just not big enough.

The convention hall was so packed today that I did something I never had to do: I hid in the dealer's room. I found it a lot less crowded. Of course, it also meant spending a lot of money quickly and noticing the pain from the increased load on my shoulder because of the backpack. I returned to my hotel room by 11 a.m. just to unload the backpack and settle myself down. It's such a waste of a convention when you can't get to talk to anyone without waiting in line for a long time. Usually, I just keep circling around a con until I find someone who's free or not completely busy. Eventually, I get to everyone I want to see that way. I buy their books, get their autographs or sketches, and - yes, occasionally I schmooze. There was no circling without jostling, bumping, or kicking today. It felt good to sit in my hotel room for a few minutes, unload my comics, and check my e-mail.

Of course, just to make this a little more painful, the skies opened up and the rains came down when I left the hotel to get to the convention center. My hotel isn't attached via the habitrails. It's all outdoors. There's no protection from the elements, and it really started to pour near the end. Thankfully, I'm just across the street and down about 3 hotels. It did teach me, however, to not leave the con again during the day unless absolutely necessary.

Things got better in the afternoon, though. I had the chance to hang out with and talk to a lot of different people. Met Paul Dini at the Oni booth and got a sketch from his most recent JINGLE BELLE collaborator, J. Bone. Flipped through many of the Marvel preview copies, including ALIAS #1. It'll be out in the next two or three weeks and looks really sharp. As for that controversial sex scene: You can feel free to calm down. It's not graphic at all. You have to read into it a little, but it's not the sleazy thing many were freaking out about seeing.

One definite highlight of the day, though, occurred at the Bendis booth. I caught him there without a crowd and walked over to wish the bald-headed man a happy birthday. He thanked me, offered me a seat behind the table, and plunked a copy of the next issue of ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN in my hands to read. Reading it, my jaw dropped.

Best. Issue. Ever.

I promised him I wouldn't spoil it so that's all your getting from me. The issue did make me giddy, though.

Then Image's marketing maven, Anthony Bozzi, showed up with a giant cake for Bendis and a giant sing along commenced, following by free birthday cake for all! I have pictures of that moment; I'll get them up here this week.

UNTIL TUESDAY…

That's it from WizardWorld: 2002. I'll be back here on Tuesday with more about the con, but there won't be a column tomorrow. I'll be flying home and trying to wake up for work Monday morning. That'll be enough pain for one night for me. Right now, I have to go find a party to attend. It's time to choose between the bar, the Chaos Party (hopefully with Karaoke), or the Upper Deck Survivor Party with Kimmie from Survivor 2.

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

I just hope I don't lose the last 35% of my voice that I still have by the end of this.

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