Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Comic Book Wednesday – Heroes Con 2011

I’m sure it’s a super idea to be writing about Heroes Con two weeks after the fact. I would’ve done it sooner but I needed to finish up all the Green Lantern stuff for last week and just had a bunch of new toys I wanted to go ahead and review. So now I get to sit here and wrack my brain and try to remember who we met and when and who was cool and who wasn’t.
Actually, that last part is pretty easy because everybody was cool.

Up until last year I had never been to real comic book convention. I had only ever gone to Dragon*Con; which I love but is a whole other kind of thing. You go to Dragon*Con to party, to look at B-grade and lower famous people, to party, to buy dorky shit, to party, to look at people in slutty costumes and – mainly – to party. And also to watch wrestling and Dragon*Con TV. If you happen to see a couple of comic books while you’re there it’s an added bonus.
A comic book convention is where you go to meet and interact with creative people in a more friendly and positive and sober environment. I have discovered through such sober and friendly interactions that most of those creative people fall into 2 camps:
  1. Those who recognize Dragon*Con for what it is and attend to do what little business they can and party the rest of the time
  2. Those who recognize Dragon*Con for what it is and openly loathe it
I can get along with either camp because I totally understand both points of view, but I’ve noticed group number one tends to smile more.
Last year we hit Heroes Con on Sunday on the way back from visiting my parents on the Carolina coast. Charlotte is not on the way, but isn’t much out of it, either. We had such a good time and I gained such an appreciation for the different atmosphere that we decided to go on the way to my parents this year. We even went so far as to drive up on Thursday and stay the night in a hotel so we could hit the convention first thing Friday morning.
The drive from Atlanta to Charlotte is a fairly easy and short one. At least, it is when you don’t run into weather that suggests that the Odinson and Storm from Xavier’s school have run into one another on the way to the convention and are either having the most brutal fight in the history of weather-oriented powers or are totally getting it on. Seriously, rain and thunder and hail and lightning like I have never seen in my life hit us a couple of hours outside of Charlotte. It fucking sucked. I’ve never been so nervous driving in all of my life; not just because of the weather but because my family was in the vehicle with me. I couldn’t see more than a few feet in front of my front bumper and I was just shy of pulling over to wait it out. I didn’t because I thought there was a good chance we’d be sitting there several hours.
But we made it safely to our destination and checked into the fabulous Charlotte Windham. It looked like a very nice hotel on the outside. The inside seemed okay, too. It was nice enough that I had to fend off various hotel staff members and their attempts to assist me with various things ranging from getting our luggage out of the car to finding a table in a near-empty bar area to shaking my dick off after I peed. Okay, I might be exaggerating with that last one, but not by much. I would describe the folks at the Charlotte Windham as overly solicitous. And I didn’t plan on tipping anybody for something I could do myself.
Once we got in the room Lil’ Troublemaker promptly dumped all 11,472 action figures he had brought with him on the floor and sat down to watch cartoons. I was tired and was just going to lay down, but my wife – who is a very awesome person – told me I should go down to the bar and see if anybody was down there. I told her she knew more people than me and should go down there herself, but she insisted I go. It didn’t seem like the kind of scene where a whole lot of folks would be walking around in costume, but I tucked a mask into my pocket just in case – you never know.
It seemed like the only place to really hang out in the area was the Windham’s lobby bar. It was located adjacent (first time I’ve used “adjacent” in an article – awesome!) to the check-in area and was not as impressive as you might think the Charlotte Windham’s bar might be. It was an amazingly tiny bar with maybe about fifteen or twenty tables and a couple of loungey-looking couch/chair combo areas.
I went to the bar and got a Miller Lite – my convention beverage of choice – and didn’t see anybody that looked familiar. Well, that’s not entirely true. There was a guy at the other side of the bar holding court that I thought was Mike from Titan, but it wasn’t. Just as I was deciding a good night’s sleep would be a better idea than getting drunk enough that I would be comfortable talking to total strangers, a fellow at a table called me over.
Hey, Bud – where’d you get that ink done?”
Nothing about that statement excited me. I can’t stand being called “Bud”. This is unfortunate because I live in the South and work in an extremely Southern environment and am called “Bud” at least sixty-two times a day. I also hate “Bro”, but that doesn’t occur nearly as much. Just to be clear, “Brother” is fine. I’m also not crazy about the tattoo question. I get it all the time because I have a lot of interesting-looking tattoos. Black people and rednecks are constantly asking me where I got my work done. My pat answer is “Florida” because that usually waylays conversation because these people clearly aren’t going to travel to Florida. I feel comfortable with this lie because my friend Richard – the one that did 90% of my tattoos – really did move to Florida several years ago. I honestly can’t explain why I need to feel comfortable with my lie. I could tell these complete strangers I got my work done in Albuquerque and they wouldn’t know any better. But I need a certain level of relevance to the truth. The only thing worse than having to tell strangers who might even be so horrendous as to grab my arms and start twisting them in ways that I do not twist is when people think that I am a tattoo artist. I feel like they don’t ever believe me when I tell them I am actually a pet psychic.
Every once in a great while I’ll tell somebody the real story, but only if they give me a dollar.
So I walked over and gave this guy – we’ll call him Buddy - my Florida thing and he starts telling me about how he wants to have portraits of his family tattooed on him. He was nice enough and I certainly didn’t have anybody else to talk to while I finished my beer, so I sat there and made conversation as best I could. I ended up feeling bad for Buddy because he was in Charlotte with his wife for some conference but he couldn’t get into any of the events because he wasn’t actually an employee. We got to talking about the convention and I told him it was a pretty cheap three days and he might as well check it out if he was stuck with nothing better to do.
Just as conversation and beer were about to run out, Chris Walker of HeadHunta’ Studios came up and saved my ass from an awkward situation. I know Chris from when I worked at GameStop and he’s a nice guy who can network like a motherfucker. I introduced him to Buddy and after a quick chat announced I had to get back to the room because I had told the wife I was just taking the luggage cart back. Again, a half-truth. I did indeed return our luggage cart to the lobby and my wife knew I was doing it. I just didn’t want to sit there all night with Buddy. Me and Chris walked back towards the atrium and I told him I might be back down later.
I got back to the room and was pretty exhausted and just didn’t feel much like socializing, but I realized this might be a good opportunity to hang out with some cool artists that I might not otherwise get to see other than across a con table. Lil’ & Mrs. Troublemaker were both content and the wife was still insistent that I should “go have fun” so I laid down for a little while and planned to go back down around 10.
One of our friends got us into this book called CanYou Survive The Zombie Apocalypse?. It’s basically a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book with graphic violence and heavy use of the word “fuck”. I wouldn’t call it a must-have, but if a friend of yours owns it you should borrow it from them. I don’t know if libraries would carry such a thing. I’m not sure Mrs. Troublemaker actually read any CYOA books when she was a kid (she’s just a wee bit more ancient then me), because she kept talking about dying and starting over. Clearly she did not develop the necessary skill of leaving your thumb or a piece of paper at the last decision point so that you don’t lose your place. As much as that felt like a cheat in the books of my youth; it was all but required with this one. Many of the choices led to things that really had nothing to do with the option given. Something like:
Zombies are pouring into the hardware store! Do you –
  1. Shoot your companion, run out the back door, get on the motorcycle and say, “Fuck, fuck, fuck!” four fucking times? Turn to page 227
  2. Use the giant fucking weed whacker on the wall to cut open some zombie heads? Turn to page 1138
Page 227 – You shoot your pal, Jose, in the face. This splatters brains and blood all over the fucking place. You run to the back and then decide it isn’t a good idea to ride the motorcycle and go back up front and the zombies fucking eat you. Fuck.
An End.
Page 1138 – You grab the weed whacker and slip in the bloody fucking zombie mess and Jose shoots you in the face, runs out the back door, gets on the motorcycle and speeds off. You can’t quite make out what he’s saying because you’re fucking dead.
An End.
Okay – maybe they’re not that bad, but some of the paths did seem pretty cheap. I don’t think any of the branches in the old ones led to death no matter what (but I could well be wrong).
Anyway, I read that for a couple of hours and didn’t love it as much as I had hoped I would. This guy was no R.L. Stine.
Eventually I went back downstairs and it was super packed. The bar was ridiculous, so I got two beers to avoid any more trips than were necessary. I found a central spot to sort of hang and watch for familiar faces and settled in. I ran into Chris again and said hello to Brian Stelfreeze, but there really just wasn’t that much for me to do. I hope you weren’t expecting some kind of wild tale of partying here because it isn’t what happened. Unlike ridiculous and unnecessary WWE “Superstar” Heath Slater, I am not a one-man rock band. I need accompaniment to party and this really wasn’t that kind of environment anyway. It was mostly just people sitting around talking quietly with one another. Certainly not the type of scene where the mask would go over well. I guess this was another instance of just how different Heroes Con is from Dragon*Con.
I finished of my beers and went back to the room to get some sleep.
We all woke up at about 9 and got our stuff together. I went down to the lobby to fetch a luggage cart, but there weren’t any to be had. That sucked. Mainly because we hadn’t had the foresight to pack one family bag for our single night stay in the hotel - we had brought all of our bags for our whole five day stay in North Carolina upstairs. For me this isn’t such a big deal because whether I am staying somewhere for two days or two weeks my luggage consists of a backpack, a rolling suitcase and a hanging bag if I have suits. Mrs. Troublemaker, on the other hand requires no less than a rolling suitcase, two duffel bags, two backpacks, a steamer trunk, and a hat box. And that’s just for her shoes.
Eventually we got the car loaded and were ready to go across the street to the Charlotte Convention Center.
We got breakfast at some bagel place upstairs and ate in this nice little nook sort of separated from the rest of the convention center. We totally hit the jackpot here. See, Lil’ Troublemaker is thoroughly potty trained now, but much like myself he doesn’t take to public restrooms all that well. He does not want to use them. We keep a little kiddy potty in the back of the Trouble Wagon, but sometimes it’s not convenient to get to. Luckily for us, the Charlotte Convention Center features a – get ready… Secret Potty. I can’t very well tell you where the Secret Potty is, but I will say that it is secluded and we didn’t see any other people use it the whole day and Lil’ Troublemaker was so excited about the prospect of a Secret Potty like the one Batman might use right there at the Super Hero Convention that he had no trouble using it. Thank God.
One really cool thing about Heroes Con being held in the Charlotte Convention Center is that you have to go down these huge escalators to get to the actual convention hall. It just feels cool and sort of exclusive to pass through the turnstiles and then descend into that monstrous cave of dorkery.
A huge line had built up by the time we finished breakfast. I was honestly a little surprised by it. Since we had gone on Sunday last year and basically been able to walk right in I had no real idea of the scope or popularity of Heroes Con. Obviously I knew it was a bigger deal than Atlanta Comic Con and not as big as Dragon*Con, but there were hundreds of people in that line when we got there.
Once we got in the hall it was pure heaven. You are immediately greeted by dealers booths, with the artists on the far side of the room. It’s funny how much like a department store the thing is set up – you have to make your way through the money makers to get to the stuff you’re there for.
I had a few items I wanted to look for and three artists that I had to hit up. The most crucial thing I wanted was from Young Justice and Battlepug artist Mike Norton. Since Robin is Lil’ Troublemaker’s favorite and I have a love for pugs that will forever go unfulfilled I thought it would be great to get a sketch of Robin on a giant pug. I also wanted to see if current Doctor Who: Fairytale Life artist Kelly Yates would do a sketch of Phantom Troublemaker with the Doctor. The third objective was unlikely to happen, but I was hoping to get a Phantom Troublemaker piece by Francesco Francavilla.
I went straight for the back in hopes of catching at least one artist for a sketch before they got booked up while the family went to look for loose toys. I found Francavilla’s spot first, but he wasn’t there yet. There was a ComicTwart panel at 1:00 and I figured he would probably be in the hall after that. I spotted Mike Norton’s banner next and went over to ask him about the sketch.
I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m not entirely comfortable with the whole process of getting art from an artist. I know that’s what they’re there for, but I don’t want to ask some guy to draw something that he doesn’t care about or; worse – tell them about my idea and have them request an amount of money that I’m not willing to pay. It just all seems so awful.
Thankfully, Mike Norton had a helpful sign on his table stating that sketches were $40. That sounded okay to me, especially given how specific my request was to him. We chatted for a minute and I told him what I wanted and made sure it was okay that we were back before 5 to pick it up. He was cool and seemed thoroughly amused at what I wanted.
Next I found Kelly Yates table. I am not familiar with Kelly Yates except as the artist on the current Doctor Who miniseries. My desire for a sketch was driven more by what I know Yates from than anything else – if you know what I mean. His sign listed head sketches for $100, so I continued on my way. This is in no way a comment on Yates’ talent or marketability. I just didn’t want to pay over a hundred bucks for a sketch from somebody with – as far as I was concerned – one title to their name.
There were a few other folks I wanted to catch up with in the artists’ tables, but I wanted to check out the dealers and find Mrs. & Lil’ Troublemaker. They had already racked up a respectable little stash of figures.
We probably indulge Lil’ Troublemaker with way too many toys, but if it’s something he wants and it doesn’t put us out I don’t see why we wouldn’t get it for him. He’s a great little guy who behaves and stuff and besides, how do you say “No” when your son is asking you for a Metamorpho figure? His newest thing is Mattel’s JLU figures, which might sound pricey, but you can find those things loose and cheap everywhere. Seriously, you can’t even set foot in a flea market without finding a bucket of ‘em. The only problem is when you’ve been picking them up at a buck or two apiece all day and then you hit some assclown who thinks a loose Thanagarian Warrior should be eight bucks and you just bought a Hawkgirl for three – mint on card, no less; not that that matters – and your son needs a Hawkman to go with her and doesn’t realize that’s not actually the Hawkman, just a Hawkman. So you buy it.
I was on the lookout for a couple of things. Since the jackwagons at Hasbro didn’t see fit to make Thor figures in a reasonable scale – say, six inches – I wanted Thor and Loki from the Marvel Legends line. The Thor I wanted – the beardy Hasbro one – was around thirty bucks everywhere and I didn’t want to pay that for him. I was also hoping for a Toy Biz Loki with the crazy horns, but he was going for around thirty as well so I settled for the other one with the funny hat for ten. I passed over these figures the first time around because I really didn’t care about Marvel’s Thor all that much before the movie. Now I’ve got some of ComicsAlliance’s recommended titles on order at the shop.
I also wanted to see if I could find King Randor and Wun-Dar from the Masters of the Universe Classics line at reasonable prices. I want Wun-Dar because I’ve decided I’d like to have the different iterations of He-Men through the ages and I’d like to order thatbread shield. Randor was necessary only because of Marlena coming out and being awesome. Every booth we stopped at had them, but reasonable prices were scarce. The best deal I found on Wun-Dar was sixty bucks (which was much fairer than you might think) and I’m not spending that on a novelty figure. I did get Randor. 
He sucks, but I’ll wait until my review to say more about that.
We went back to the artists’ section after a little while and ended up talking to Jamie Cosley and his son. They were really cool. What had drawn our attention was a little painting of Finn and Jake from Adventure Time. We got to talking about that and I saw that Mr. Cosley was offering sketches for five bucks. I asked if he would do Finn and Jake with Batman for Lil’ Troublemaker and he was more than happy to. While he was working on that we saw Chris and the HeadHunta’ guys at an adjacent (that’s twice! In the same article!) table and went over to say hi.
(That picture is from their site - I just thought it would be neat to include it)
Chris is always super nice and enthusiastic and asked me if I had brought any Phantom Troublemaker references. Laugh if you will, but I normally carry pictures around for just such an occasion. Not all the time, but at conventions. But I’d left mine at home, which is particularly stupid because I had taken them out of the very backpack that I was using for the trip. But Chris took a picture and gave it to Koi Turnbull for a sketch. I cannot wait to see how that turns out. I specified that I normally wear a suit. I talked to Turnbull for a while about the differences between Heroes Con and Dragon*Con and introduced him to the magic of LeSexoflex. I hurts my heart that anybody who has attended Dragon*Con might not have heard of The Sexiest Band In the Whole Muthafuckin’ World, Y’all.
When we got back to Mr. Cosley’s booth Mrs. Troublemaker told him how she had given everybody crap over not being able to draw Scooby Doo (Lil’ Troublemaker’s other favorite thing besides Batman & Robin). He laughed and the guy next to him explained that Scooby Doo always looked a certain way and if you didn’t get it right it didn’t look like Scooby Doo. He was a little patronizing and also wrong and also the point was that Mrs. Troublemaker was giving people she knew shit, not complaining or anything. The awesome part was that when Cosley finished Batman and Finn and Jake:
he asked us to hang on just a second and drew a great Scooby Doo in, like, five seconds:
He did it for free, but I had to give him some extra dollars. He was such a nice guy and his kid was cool. We had more fun hanging out with him than anything else we did that day. We should’ve bought that little Finn and Jake painting, too.
Next we found Steve Niles. I am a huge fan of most of what Niles writes (not so much Doctor Macabre) and will slavishly buy any of his collaborations with Kelley Jones. I don’t do this a lot, but I brought a stack of stuff for Niles to sign. The Cal McDonald novel, some various other comics and every issue of Edge of Doom. That book blew my mind. I’m not going to spoil it, but you really need to check out that miniseries. It is the definition of rewarding comics. I asked Niles if he could help me with my Kelley Jones sketch problem and he told me to send him an e-mail and he was pretty sure he could help. Steve Niles is probably the nicest guy I’ve ever met at a convention and if you see him at one you should definitely stop and talk to him. He’s very kind and engaging and well worth a visit.
Sitting right next to Steve Niles was another very nice gentleman. His name was Eric Layton and he overheard my Kelley Jones woes and very kindly offered to help. He just so happens to be the inker on the revival of Atlas’ Grim Ghost comic, which just so happens to be penciled by Kelley Jones. Layton was very cool and we got to talking about toys and all kinds of other stuff. He lives in the Atlanta area and shares my laments about Metro Atlanta’s toy shipping issues. Cool guy and I don’t doubt that I’ll hear something from him one way or the other about my Kelley Jones sketch.
Also of note is this young lady:
That’s her last year at Heroes Con. She was just walking around and showing some of her hand-made stuffed creations to various folks at the convention. She was very sweet and obviously talented, so it was awesome to see her again this year. With her very own booth! I wish I had taken a picture. I wish I had taken a lot more pictures, but the more intimate and personal environment of the Charlotte convention almost makes it seem rude to walk around taking pictures. There were Skeletors, Destros, zombies, He-Mans, the Etrigan you see above and more that I can’t remember right now. I honestly wanted one of each, but they were forty bucks apiece – a totally fair and reasonable price, but prohibitive if you’re looking at buying eight or nine things. I got Skeletor:
and Lil’ Troublemaker picked out a zombie for his mommy:
The guts come out of his tummy. It’s adorable.
The young lady in question is undeniably a genius and you should go spend some money at her store right now. I just remembered that we were going to get Lil’ Troublemaker an Etrigan (he has an odd fondness for the Demon), but he kept saying, “No! Etrigan is a boy!” We finally realized it was because of the little eyelashes:
He thought this was an inaccurate or differently-gendered variation. Lil’ Troublemaker is a stickler for details. He also thought Mr. Cosley’s Jake was too orange. I don’t know if the artist heard him or not.
After a couple more hours of wandering and 73 more loose figures for our son, we decided it was time to stop by Mike Norton’s booth for our Robin/Battlepug sketch and call it a day. The piece turned out great:
And we now have a Robin by the guy who draws the licensed current version of Robin. That’s pretty cool. Granted, Lil’ Troublemaker doesn’t care who’s drawing it as long as they don’t get it wrong.
I absolutely recommend Heroes Con to anybody within a few hours of Charlotte. You can find all kinds of stuff there, they have an amazing collection of guests and everybody is just so darned nice. It’s like visiting Canada or something. You should definitely try to fit it into your calendar for next year. We’ll definitely be going back.
P.S. – I also bought one of the funniest shirts I’ve ever seen in my life. But you’ll have to wait until Dragon*Con to see it. It may or may not involve penguins.

Until next time, stay creepy


  1. Sorry you didn't get a sketch from me at HeroesCon 2011. $100 was for full figure sketches inked with markers. I only charge $25 for headshots. Sorry for any confusion.

    Kelly Yates

    1. Ha! I should've inquired beyond looking at - and misreading - your sign! That's okay - I'll see you at TimeGate next weekend! And I still want a sketch.