When Words Collide

Mon, August 30th, 2010 at 2:28pm PDT

Comic Books
Timothy Callahan, Columnist/Reviewer
4

BALTIMORE DAYS

Cliff Chiang at Baltimore Comic-Con
I know I ended last week’s interview with Scott Snyder by saying, “Hey, more next week, and we talk about Grant Morrison,” and while that was the plan, a couple of things foiled that sucker: (1) Scott and I aren’t quite done talking about Grant Morrison, and (2) I went to the Baltimore Comic Con this weekend.

So. Baltimore.

I’d only been to that show once, a couple of years back, and it was a good time. I even wrote about it for this very column. This year, my motives for going to the show were a little different. I didn’t have any grand idea about tracing the development of the industry or looking for comparisons between different types of conventions. I wasn’t going to sit in on any panels or conduct any interviews, formal or informal.

I was just going to enjoy the show, talk to as many old friends and new friends and soon-to-be-friends as I could, and maybe pick up a sketch here or a book there. Maybe dive into the bargain bins. Maybe have a personal order of loaded tater tots to celebrate Jason Latour’s birthday. That sort of thing.

Geoff Johns had to cancel at the last minute, so he didn’t get to hear my pitch for a “Secret Society of Super-Villains” revival. It’s too bad, because I’m sure the idea of Captain Comet fighting all of Star Sapphire’s evil exes would have been a major hit for DC next year. “We are SSSV…Ba-bomb.”

I did get to meet up with the Internet’s Mike Phillips, my regular Baltimore companion and Sequart Books editor supreme. Did you know that Sequart will not only have my two books for sale at the New York Comic-Con in October, but they’ll also have the new “Minutes to Midnight” book of “Watchmen” essays? And the finished version of “Our Sentence is Up,” with the “Invisibles” analysis? And that “Gotham City 14 Miles” collection of essays on the Adam West television show? This paragraph has turned into a crazy commercial for Sequart, but I have chapters or introductions in all of those books, so, once again, it’s all about me.

Also, and this may be a secret, so don’t tell the Internet’s Mike Phillips that I told you, but the Grant Morrison documentary might be screened (in full) at the New York show this year. I’m in that too. Not as much as Morrison, though. He kind of hogs the screen. I suggested they just have me describe everything and then cut to stills of Morrison looking ponderous. But they decided to actually do in-depth interviews where Morrison talks about his life and his art and his comics and his music and his ideas, and, whatever. It’s pretty great, even if it’s not about me, I suppose.

So even though none of that has anything to do with Baltimore, those were the kinds of topics we talked about at Baltimore, as we trolled the aisles and looked for comic book goodness. I don’t know what the Internet’s Mike Phillips found, because he mostly bailed out on the convention early to watch his hometown Phillies on television. Guess he didn’t feel like digging into the longboxes to help me find that one issue of “Micronauts” I’m missing. His loss.

(I didn’t find that one issue of “Micronauts” I’m still missing, though, so I guess it’s my loss too.)

Jack Purcell at Baltimore Comic-Con
But I did do a lot of longbox diving over the weekend, and a lot of not even thinking about back issues as I caught up with some of my favorite comic book creators and talked about reality television, green women, why “Bones” is the best show ever, how to read comics, why comics are awesome, what the Thing should really do on his day off, what went wrong with “Superman Returns,” the entire history of the comics industry in the 1990s in ten minutes or less, and Helix.

The thing about the Baltimore convention is that it’s exactly like the San Diego Comic-Con, minus the oppressive crowd, huge lines to get in to see a panel featuring the cast of “Glee,” a million multi-media promotions, giant vehicles parked in the middle of the show floor, and, yeah, it’s nothing like the San Diego Comic-Con. But it has – it had – a great list of guests, all of whom were easily accessible and ready to talk and sign and sketch like crazy. If you wanted to talk to Jeff Parker about She-Hulk, he was standing right there. Right around the corner, Jonathan Hickman, ready to talk about She-Hulk as well. Eric Canete was sketching away a couple of rows over, while Paul Pope signed copies of his Baltimore exclusive “THB” issue, and Cliff Chiang made everyone look classy. I’m not going to list everyone who was there, but the point was that all of these top-notch comic book creators were just…there. Not cordoned off inside some maze that involved holding on to numbers or “The Line Ends HERE” signs. Not inside a booth that was blocked by a million fans jumping up for free Marvel t-shirts after someone said the magic word. Nope. Just creators talking to readers. Signing books. Drawing sketches.

It was like being at a comic book convention. A good one.

Of course, as I mentioned, I spent a good portion of the weekend ignoring all that goodness to sift through rows and rows of white boxes, looking for comics that I probably wouldn’t get around to reading any time soon. Here’s a rhetorical question: does anyone buy any comics at a convention that cost more than $1.00 each? I sure don’t. And from what it looked like, most other convention goers were hitting the discount bins like crazy, completely ignoring the longboxes that had comics that were high-grade or in any way valuable. It’s not like I really pay close attention to those kinds of transactions, but I honestly have never seen anyone buy a comic off one of the shelves or racks behind the dealers. And I suppose they are a kind of decoration, to say, “Hey, we have nice comics here, come dig through our bins for cheap ‘West Coast Avengers’ issues.” But, really, does it make any difference? If a guy has nice comics on display and a row of $0.50 bins, that’s the same to me as if he had nothing on display behind his row of $0.50 bins.

There was only one guy selling swords in Baltimore. I didn’t check to see if he had any $0.50 bins.

Tom Scioli at Baltimore Comic-Con
I bought plenty of cheap stuff, for sure. A few “Master of Kung-Fu” issues, a stack of Doug Mahnke-drawn “JLA” comics, the final Simonson “Orion” issue I was missing, the 1975 “Justice Inc.” #1, a few issues of “Kamandi.” More along those lines. When I look for back issues, unless I’m trying to complete a run of something, like “Orion,” I buy stuff mostly on impulse, and then I go home to find out that I have, in fact, three copies of that same “Master of Kung-Fu” issue. But that’s how it goes, and someday I’ll get it together enough to have a master list of all my comics and put it on my cell phone.

But the cell phone I brought to this weekend’s show was a burner. And I threw it in the harbor in the dark of the night.

It was a great show all around, with the likes of Dean Trippe and Chris Roberson to keep the Internet’s Mike Phillips and I from getting into too much trouble. With Val Staples being gracious and funny and spending too much time on the convention floor when he should be home being an awesome colorist every single day. With Dan Panosian, full of energy and enthusiasm for everything. With the inky stylings of Jack Purcell, one of my local boys, bringing his family down for the weekend, and managing not to spill a single drop of ink on any passers-by. With Kevin Colden’s fierce facial hair and his deranged M.O.D.O.K drawings.

And Tom Scioli! With the “GØDLAND Celestial Edition Volume 2” by his side, and his “Myth of 8-Opus” all around. I finally got a chance to pick up Scioli’s books, and when they are collected in an oversized hardcover, I will write an essay about the mythic parallels of “8-Opus,” I’m sure. Because contrary to what the Internet’s Mike Phillips would have you believe, not everything can be judged according to the Green Lantern Corps/Klaus Janson scale. Sometimes, there’s a separate Scioli scale for the cosmic stuff.

So, hey, to finish this little Baltimore report, two art-related stories from the convention:

Story #1: One of the first tables I stopped at, after I said hi to a few friends, was the table of Dexter Vines, the best inker in the world. I stopped by mostly to tell him that, but I always like to shuffle through whatever original art he has on display, because, as I said, he’s the best inker in the world. And though I like Steve McNiven well enough, I would probably never buy a Steve McNiven page, even inked by Dexter Vines. I don’t really buy original art. Everything I do have basically came from one eBay lot I bid on, about ten years ago.

But then I saw it: an Ed McGuinness/Dexter Vines page from “JLA Classfied” #1. Superbia. Gorilla Grodd. Nebuloh. And it was only $40.

I don’t know if you ever buy original comic book art, but that is a damned good price for a piece that has so much cool stuff, even if the JLA members aren’t anywhere on the page. Who needs ‘em, when you have Grodd and Nebuloh? And McGuinness and Vines.

Jason Horn's Ninjasaur
That page came home with me, and I will hang it up in the living room if my wife will let me. (Note: my wife will not let me hang it in the living room.)

Story #2: Jason Horn, of “Ninjasaur fame was sitting at his table, in the “Kids Love Comics” section, surrounded by his cute drawings of animals and lethal dinosaurs and O.M.A.C., when a guy and his son approached. “I’d like you to draw me a sketch,” said the man.

“Sure, what would you like me to draw?” replied Jason Horn, eager to please. Eager to make art.

“I have this memory…” began the man. And he ended up telling Jason a story from his childhood – some traumatic memory he had – and he wanted Jason to draw that thing from his memory.

I saw the finished drawing, and it was an image of a midget wearing a 1960s firefighter’s outfit, running across the page, carrying a huge human leg over his head. Just a leg.

That guy might want to invest in a sketchbook. Get one of those theme books started.

In addition to writing reviews and columns for COMIC BOOK RESOURCES, Timothy Callahan is the author of "Grant Morrison: The Early Years" and editor of "Teenagers from the Future: Essays on the Legion of Super-Heroes" anthology. More of his thoughts on comics can be seen regularly at the Geniusboy Firemelon blog.

Follow Tim on Twitter: TimCallahan

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TAGS:  bcc2010, cliff chiang, tom scioli, dexter fines, jason horn

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