Hello there you fine and sexy people that happened to follow us Comic Book Reviewing types to these new digs. This is Humphrey Lee (I think we’re still doing pen names) here to write something that used to be a yearly tradition back when I started writing at our former digs, but has sadly fallen to the wayside in my life as things have become more hectic; and that’s a good old fashioned Comic Con Report. Now, for background, I’m essentially a Pittsburgh native who took his local con for granted. About that same time I graduated college and started earning a bankroll that could make an enjoyable Con Weekend possible, we were enjoying a pretty good Pittsburgh Comic Con at the time. Good size, solid amount of vendors, a guest list that had a good assortment of more or less regional talent but also pulled names like George Perez every year, splurged to pay for the occasional Mick Foley or Frank Miller and so on, and genuinely was a solid place to go each year if I just wanted to long box dive primarily. Then I got pulled into the allure of a bigger show with more actual people I knew from this fabulous place called “The Internet” and would excuse myself out to Chicago each summer for a few years to enjoy what I like to call “Wizard World When They Gave a Shit About Comics” and have myself a booze and comic books filled weekend there. Roughly at about the same time, though, I found those Chicago weeks a little financially unwieldy and then Pittsburgh Con became known as the “Murder Con” and a Con-going life I took for granted came undone.
After that it was just never the same. The folks who took over Pitt Con did their best with what they had but it was never the same, and eventually sold it off to “$150 for a Signed Photo” Con (which Mid-Ohio Con, another solid show before, became the twin sister of) and that left me without not many options for a show with not a lot of driving with a substantial guest list and amount of vendors. So, desperately in need of a geek weekend, I decided to finally travel to a place called Baltimore that as I Pittsburgher really know only three things about: 1. It has good seafood, 2. they worship a team whose best player ever was a stabby-time murderer, and 3. it has been earning a reputation as having arguably the best Comic Book Convention on the East Coast. And you know what, the first two of those things are definitely correct and until I finally visited the place I’ve been led to believe is the BEST convention on the right side of the country, Heroes Con, I can say this show has a case for the last of that trifecta of labels.
Simply put, I had a blast at Baltimore Comic Con. It was everything I wanted and, with all that personal history divesting up front, needed to have. First thing I noticed as I walked through the doors of Baltimore Comic Con on opening day was just lines and lines of vendors. I know that seems like a “no shit” thing to say, at a convention there are people selling shit, but trust me, when the last few local to “modest drive” cons you attend over the past ten or so years are dedicating as much space to $100 lines to spend thirty seconds with a celebrity, you get a little teary eyed when you see the volume of people there to peddle their wares that this convention had. As soon as I walked in the door I was greeted by, well, I was actually greeted by “Baltimore Comic Con” staff doing a welcome line which, as someone who works in hospitality for way too many hours a week, was a nice little touch. At the least it showed an appreciativeness, albeit a little cheesy, that you just don’t always get at these shows while they become more and more soulless. After those folks, though, lay aisles and aisles of four-color dead trees.
And here’s the thing about it all, and this is what I focused my energy the most on from a “coverage” standpoint for the weekend when I wasn’t buying too many half-off trade paperbacks and dollar bin diving: The vendors were happy. They were moving books. Even when a little slow on a modest opening day they were happily talking to guests, I assume knowing they were going to move their stuff and move it well the following day, which was BUSTLING. But I can’t emphasize enough how many actual comic books where there because I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say Comic Cons in general have been attempting to move to more of an all encompassing “Media Con” and get fans of the much bigger TV show and Movie fandom market, which I can’t blame in a revenue regard. But I want comics at a comic convention, at least for now before the digital world and our appetite for destroying the world via yanking its resources out by the root dictate the actual comic con go bye bye, and Baltimore Comic Con was first and foremost a comic book ass convention.
Not that the show didn’t have a media presence, but it was nowhere near as emphasized as the vendor section and what space was parceled out for artist alley, print and apparel and doodad sellers, and the bigger name creators and independent publishers. I mean, the show still had the freaking ageless Lynda Carter and a handful of comic TV Show personalities like Finn Jones (be nice here guys), Sean Pertwee, Jessica Henwick, and a couple others. All good gets for a modest media presence and a show that obviously prioritizes that aspect toward the backend of the list but still respecting it.
Admittedly, I was at the show to soak myself in comics and just get the feel of what it was all about, so I didn’t really take myself off the floor to see what the show offered in the way of panels, costume contests, and so on. I found more than enough to enjoy just walking the aisles for three days checking out all the wares, hunting a substantial buylist, talking to vendors about the show and doing the same with the creators. Judging by the constant announcements it seems like the show runners did more than their fair diligence getting creative talent in front of the fans for some Q&A time and when (not if) I go back I’ll sample more of the overall show offerings. But my time on the floor was more than enough for me enjoy myself, especially conversing with creators on the floor (and in the hotel bars after hours) about how much they enjoyed the show, a line of conversation that was with nothing but overwhelming praise for the atmosphere and the presentation of the show and how it overwhelmingly pushed comics first and gave them a place to get to know the fans or do their hustle for a weekend.
I honestly don’t know what else I can say about my experience with the show beyond that glowing amount of praise. Baltimore Comic Con was legitimately everything I love about comic books and exactly what I want out of a comic book convention. Just the energy I was getting out of the show from the folks doing business there and the fans alike really helped revitalize me after a year that’s been… guys; it’s been a fucking decade in like nine months so far this year. Overall though, I have no regrets about my decision to go to this con; in fact it’s the opposite because I wish I had at least one more day to get beyond my first impressions stage and immerse myself in all the festivities it hosted, including the lovingly renamed Harvey Awards to the Ringos. Even just a simple, class act maneuver like that shows how much of an appreciation this show has for the medium of comic books and it permeated all the way down to the floors I spent three days canvassing like a madman completing lists and bugging vendors and creators alike. I guess I should go out of my way to see some of that aforementioned “Best Comic Con on the East Coast” competition given how delightful my experience was in Baltimore, if for no other reason than to have my faith restored that there could actually be even more good ass comics-first shows like this out there while everyone else is trying to sell headshots, but if I never made it past B-more as my primary comic con from here on out I would be more than accepting of that nerd fate.
Find out more about the Baltimore Comic Con here and on Twitter @baltimorecomics !
Humphrey Lee has been an avid comic book reader going on fifteen years now and a contributor to AICN COMICS and now at MLMILLERWRITES.COM. In fact, reading comics is about all he does in his free time and where all the money from his day job wages goes to – funding his comic book habit so he can talk about them to you, our loyal readers (lucky you). He’s a bit of a social networking whore, so you can find him all over the Interwebs on sites like Twitter, Facebookand a blog where he also mostly talks about comics with his free time because he hasn’t the slightest semblance of a life. Sad but true, and he gladly encourages you to add, read, and comment as you will.