Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Heroes Convention 2013 Preview

Hey Phantomaniacs! It is once again that time of year where I pack the rest of the family up in the Troublemobile and travel the trail from Atlanta to Charlotte to Wilmington. In Charlotte we will spend two days at the for-real, actual comic book convention known as HeroesCon and then in Wilmington we will visit the senior Troublemakers and spend some time at the beach. The next two weeks should be a great time and hopefully a relaxing break for all of us.
            My first HeroesCon was in 2010, when Mrs. Troublemaker had suggested we stop by on the way home from my parents’ place in Wilmington. We just went for Sunday and it was one of the more eye-opening experiences of my life. Up to that point the only con I had experienced was of the Dragon variety. And while I love Dragon*Con and the partying that ensues, it is not a comic book convention. I found this out at HeroesCon.
The first major difference was how pleasant everybody was – all of the artists, guests, and vendors had time to talk and were glad to do so. It wasn’t packed elbow-to-elbow and we could easily maneuver around the floor. This made for a much more relaxed experience than the frantic “I have to keep going or I’m going to miss whatever I’m headed for” atmosphere that permeates Dragon*Con.
Also – and it took me longer to notice this – the Guest list was very different. While my beloved Dragon*Con is packed with celebrities from lists B, C, and Z with a smattering of creators from the world of comics; Heroes offers a top-notch selection of some of the very best talent working in the medium today. And they are all there to interact with the fans. I have spoken to more than one grumpy-ass, sour puss creator at Dragon*Con, but every single person we talked to at Heroes was delightful and thrilled to be there.
This is because HeroesCon is a comic book convention. And now I understand what that means.
This year at HeroesCon I am going in almost as blind as I did the first year, but in a different way. I plan to represent Needless Things and I hope to be able to chat with some of the creators and put a podcast episode together. But I dunno. We’ll see how that goes. I am going to have to overcome my desire to not bug people and chances are if I do I will end up breaking a few rules of con etiquette. Right now the list of people I hope to get a few minutes to chat with are Jamie Cosley, DJ Spider, Chris Sims, the folks at Handmade Stuffs, Francesco Francavilla, Tom Fowler, and Mike Norton. Like I said, we’ll see.
The 2013 Guest List is absolutely massive. Even with two days this year I doubt very much we’ll be able to see all of the people we’d like to. But as I always do for these sorts of things I’ve made a priority list of the people I absolutely have to check out. I doubt very much I’ll be getting sketches from anybody, as this year’s con budget is pretty restricted. I’m doing my best to not go nuts and blow all of our disposable income on cons. We’re even trying to avoid the mass purchasing of prints that we usually do, as we’ve got a stack three years in the making awaiting frames. At the very least we’re going to avoid non-standard sizes. Those are the ones that are just on the shelf gathering dust.
Artists – please stop making non-standard size prints. I understand that your 6 3/16” x 27 1/8” print makes you feel all special, but it will probably never make it to my wall.
Okay, anyway – here’s my Priority List of Folks to See:
Jason Aaron – I know he’s got a much longer resume than this, but his work on Wolverine and the X-Men has absolutely endeared this guy to me. I’ll be bringing along a copy of issue #1 for him to sign.
Becky Cloonan – I feel like I know her work mostly from sketches I’ve seen online. But her work of note for me was the fantastic Batman #12 that introduced Harper Row and presented a welcome break from Greg Capullo’s work, which had become a bit too… something… for me as “Night of the Owls” went on. I’d love to see Ms. Cloonan on her own title for one of the big companies.
Amanda Conner – I’ll admit that it’s only been in the past few years that I’ve become a fan of Ms. Conner’s work. Her facial expressions are absolutely the best in the business, and I’ll fight anyone that says otherwise. Okay, not really. But damn is she good. I purchased DC’s collection of some of her work and I’ll be bringing that to get signed and maybe sketched in if it isn‘t insanely pricey. Which it certainly should be.
Side Note: I am very cheap about what I want to pay for sketches, but I don’t think that the artists should be charging less. Those folks have a skill that nobody else has and they should definitely charge top dollar for that skill. I often don’t even ask about sketches because I don’t want anybody to think it’s a reflection of my opinion of their work if I decline. So if you happen to be an artist and read this and a dude in a wrestling mask decides not to get a sketch from you - it’s because he’s a cheapskate, not because he undervalues your talent. And if anybody overhears me clumsily explaining this to an artist, please kick me in the shin.
Jamie Cosley – Mr. Cosley is my favorite artist on the planet ever. He was the first guy we got a sketch from back in 2010 and I am absolutely thrilled that we get to see him again this year. He drew some of my favorite pictures of all time for Lil’ Troublemaker – Finn and Jake with Batman and an amazing Scooby-Doo. I don’t know that I’ve ever met anybody nicer at a convention. I will absolutely be getting more work from him this year.
Michael Dooney – Mr. Dooney is one of my comic book heroes. He is one of the original Mirage Ninja Turtles artists and brought a bright, clear new style of storytelling to the books. I would love to get a sketch from him, but I bet he charges a lot. As he should.
Tommy Lee Edwards – I mostly know Mr. Edwards from his work on Batman comics. His work ended up in the midst of a bunch of visually sub-par issues. I had been thoroughly enjoying the story, so I just kept slogging through a bunch of rotten art. Then, all of a sudden, there was awesome art. The first page he illustrated in that huge story arc hit me in the face like a brick. I hadn’t expected the art to ever improve – it rarely does as a story goes on – quite the opposite, usually. But I certainly didn’t expect to suddenly get a face full of something that was right up my alley.
Tom Feister – Feister is a local favorite of mine. His work on GI Joe covers is an awesome blend of modern sensibilities with 80s designs. His stuff is exactly as stylized as I like things to be. Not so realistic as to be boring, but not so cartoony as to be distracting. The lack of “G” and “I” in the prints I lost in the flood will always be a reminder to me that I need to act when somebody offers something and not be such a dork about imposing on people’s personal time.
Tom Fowler – I really want to have another conversation with this man. When I talked to him at HeroesCon in 2010 it was one of the most enlightening conversations I have ever had. While I don’t necessarily agree with his viewpoint on Dragon*Con, I certainly understand it. I would love to have a segment on the podcast with Mr. Fowler. Also, his art is great and fucking wacky. His run on Venom was amazing.
Francesco Francavilla – Francavilla is one of my favorite artists working today. Not only is he putting out one of the most fun titles I’ve read in years with his Black Beetle from Dark Horse; he has also lent his considerable talents to both Marvel and DC for some of the best of their recent offerings. On top of that, the man is constantly posting new artwork across all forms of social media. I love his style and cannot get enough of his takes on existing franchises. The covers he has been producing for IDW’s Doctor Who: Prisoners in Time have been beautiful.
SL Gallant – Gallant is the absolute perfect companion to Larry Hama for IDW’s continuation of Marvel’s GI Joe: A Real American Hero. His art in that book is modern, but fits in perfectly with the style of the original comic. It’s more advanced, but still clean and simple with just the right amount of realism. I’ve got a couple of issues I’d like to have signed.
Tony Harris – I have only recently started reading Tony Harris and James Robinson’s Starman and it is one of the best things I have ever read. Right up there with Saga. I also picked up his recent book, Chin Music (written by Steve Niles), and the first issue already has me hooked. Part of the reason Starman is such a fascinating book is watching Harris’ abilities evolve as the narrative goes on. I’ll be bringing the first Starman omnibus and issue #1 of Chin Music for a signature.
Steve Niles – I’m just a huge fan of Niles’ work. He writes compelling, badass horror and is just one of the nicest guys ever. We’ll spend some money with him.
Jimmy Palmiotti – I’ve read bits and pieces of Palmiotti’s work here and there over the years and I dig him. But right now he’s part of the best title DC is publishing – All-Star Western. Every single issue still amazes me with how good it is. I never imagined that my favorite book from DC would be a Western. I’m probably going to say “awesome” a lot while talking to him.
Paolo Rivera – I am not a fan of Daredevil. But between Mark Waid’s fun, exciting storylines and Rivera’s fantastic art I am addicted to the new book.
Don Rosa – I would love to have some original art from the Founding Father of Duckberg, but I’ll probably end up settling for a print.
Greg Rucka – I really need to check out some of his independent work. His runs on Batwoman and Punisher are outstanding and I’m curious to see what he does without editorial restraint.
Bill Sienkiewicz – I’ve been a fan of his ever since I bought some crazy Daredevil graphic novel in a dollar bin years ago. The wild art on the cover is what sold me on it. I have a Venture Bros. poster he did that I need to get signed. It already has Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick’s signatures, so Sienkiewicz’s would complete it. And me.
Chris Sims – I didn’t realize Sims was actually a Guest here. I hate to sound all Marc Maron-y (Mrs. Troublemaker recently informed me that I am very much like Maron and I have no idea how to feel about that) but this makes me feel old and unaccomplished.
Dean Trippe – This guy produced what is one of my favorite prints ever – a meeting between Silver Age Batman and Robin and the Doctor. But I didn’t actually get to meet him when we bought it.
Christopher Uminga – Uminga regularly produces some of my favorite pieces of art in the world of social media.
Chris Walker – The inimitable Mr. Walker is an old pal of mine and always a hoot to chat with at the cons. I used to get to talk to him on a regular basis, but life is very different from what it once was. It’ll be good to see Chris again.
Skottie Young – Mr. Young is one of the best cartoonists working right now. His work on the Oz books from Marvel is what sold me on them. He has a frenetic but family-friendly style that we all enjoy.
Obviously there are a lot more Guests than that. And there are even some that I am a fan of but didn’t mention. Mostly that’s because I already have stuff from them or will see them at other cons. But definitely check out the full Guest List:
Of course, like any good con, HeroesCon has panels scheduled. Since I’m with the family I doubt I’ll be attending any of them, but I might as well point out a few that I‘d be interested in:
2:30 PM – Dark Horse PanelEric Powell, Francesco Francavilla, Becky Cloonan, Matt Kindt, and Sanford Greene should make for an interesting panel. I’d like to have a little more insight as to how things are run over at Dark Horse.
4:00 PM – CBLDF: History of Censorship – Obviously it will depend on who is doing the talking, but this has the potential to be a fascinating panel. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is such an important part of the comic book industry and I would be very interested in hearing their take on the complicated issue of freedom of speech in comics.
5:00 PM – Eyevis: The Animation of Dave Johnson – This is probably the thing I would most want to see. It’s a screening of Johnson’s weirdo, Lovecraft-inspired cartoon along with a Q&A.
7:00 PM – 3rd Annual Drink & Draw at the Hilton City Center Bar – I’m much better at drinking than I am at drawing, but I’d still like to check this out. It is exactly what it sounds like.
12:00 PM – Cover DesignI can’t remember what sparked this in me, but I’ve been thinking a lot about comic book covers lately. I’m one of those guys that gets infuriated when the cover is not representative of what is going on inside the book. To me, the Marvel covers I grew up with in the 80s were the best – GI Joe and Uncanny X-Men almost always had covers inspired by the action in the pages. I think it’s pretty lame that we seem to have lost that particular aspect of the art form. Joe Quinones, Reverend Dave Johnson, Phil Noto, and Francesco Francavilla will be discussing the art of the cover.
3:00 PM – Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner – I’d love to see these two just sit down and talk about making great comics.
4:30 PM – Cosplay – I’m never gonna be a costuming guy. I don’t have the skill or patience to make or wear costumes. But I love costumes and am fascinated by what goes into them. Wait – maybe I should rephrase that. I am fascinated by the work that goes into them. But this panel features some of the people that go into them (and make them) - DJ Spider, Chris Donio, Sean Patton, Yaya Han, and Ryan Hicks. There seems to be an awful lot of strife in the costuming community these days and I’m curious to see if these folks address that at all. I’m only familiar with two of the names on the panel and from what I’ve seen in the social media they are both too classy to get into all of that. This one should be interesting.
There are panels schedule on Sunday as well, but I’m not going to be there. I didn’t even look at the schedule because I don’t want to be tortured by the possibility of a “Francesco Francavilla Gives Away Luchador Paintings For An Hour” panel.
To see the full schedule, check this out:

In addition to the Guests and panels listed above, HeroesCon also has a number of independent artists and publishers and a MASSIVE selection of exhibitors and vendors. For the full list of all of these things, check out the Heroes Conwebsite.
And that does it for me, Phantomaniacs. As of right now I am off duty for Needless Things. Keep checking in over the next two weeks for fresh new posts from some great guests. And of course you should be following me on Facebook, Twitter, and as Phantom Troublemaker on Instagram for up-to-the-minute goofballery from the convention floor.
See you in two weeks!

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