The many disguises of Ty Fighter!
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The final day of a show is always bittersweet, but this show was proving to be much more show. Why are shows bittersweet? Because eventually they must end. And the final day of a con has the knowledge that this is going to happen, mixed with the energy of needing to sell out the final day and the momentum to finish strong.
I got up and packed, checked out of the hotel, and headed to breakfast with my final free breakfast pass. The cafe was mostly empty, which didn’t surprise me because many people were likely sleeping in a bit more this morning, after a late night out. I hiked over to the con with my stuff, set up the table, and proceeded to sell my heart out as best I could.
The final day of the con, and only a few books left!
The day was cut short a bit, though, because I had an earlier flight out – so I wouldn’t get to finish up the day at the con. I sold as much as I could before I had to pack up and say my goodbyes and head for the shuttle. The shuttle was packed with guests from the show – including Joe Rivera, who I had met the first morning in the gym.
We chatted the whole drive to the airport, each of us getting off at different airlines. I checked in and headed to the waiting area, catching up on social media while I waited to board. Before I knew it, I was on the plane and headed back to Chicago.
For years my friends had talked to me about how amazing Baltimore Comic Con was, and I didn’t know what they were talking about until I finally attended the show myself. There’s an overwhelming sense of family at the show – among staffers, guests, volunteers, and the organizers of the event. It’s less like a comic convention, and more like a family reunion – where you get along with your entire family, and generally want to see them. Plus, the awards ceremony added on top of it was a huge highlight – to receive the nomination alone was amazing, to get it two years in a row was not expected, and to get the support from my peers in comics was incredible.
Thank you so much Baltimore Comic Con for having me out, for all of the last-minute arrangements, and for generally being an awesome and amazing con. I look forward to seeing you next year!
The worst part of a con is always the same: when it ends. See you next year, Baltimore!
I was greeted in the morning by a pleasant surprise under my door – free breakfast passes from the management team of the Hyatt, as an extra apology for the dirty room I had the first night. I took the passes downstairs, had a quick bite, and then headed to the convention center to set up for the day.
We’re ready for the commerce!
Our row was joined by the very talented Chris Giarusso (G-Man), and the antics between him and Franco all morning were hilarious. You can tell people are friends by the inside jokes they have, and the two of them just kept talking like tough guys the whole time and trying to one-up each other in this tough guy voice. It was quite funny.
As the day pressed on, behind me the Kids Section workshops started up. They had sessions on character creation, storyboarding and story flow, making your own superhero team (and their first adventure), and many more! It was loud enough to hear what they were doing when it was slow on the floor, but quiet enough to not interfere with sales – which was much appreciated.
Staffers would walk by every now and then and present us with water, lunch, and conversation. They gave you the sense of community in a way I haven’t felt in many years – like an extended family. My table neighbors, too, were passing out snacks and drinks (including Ecto Coolers) to the row, to keep us all energized and in high spirits. It was an incredible feeling.
G-Man creator Chris Giarusso leads a workshop on how to make your own comics
Chris Giarusso helps some kids make their own comics
A fan cosplaying as a character from Voracious (his favorite comic)! Cooking dinosaurs = awesome!
Sipping an Ecto Cooler, and I’m instantly transplanted back to 1988….Ah, nostalgia
About an hour before the floor was supposed to close, the fire alarm went off. We were told to evacuate, so I closed up the table real quick and headed outside. By the time they let us back in, it was about 30 minutes to close – which was the same time the Harvey Awards cocktail hour started. The con staff was willing to extend the floor hours, but everyone in artist alley (near me, anyway) was yelling for them to not keep the floor open longer. I didn’t bother opening my table, and headed back to the hotel to change for the Harveys.
A quick hurdle presented itself at me when I arrived, however, which was that I had accidentally left my suit in the closest of my old room. Thankfully security had collected it, but I had to wait to get it back. It wasn’t too wrinkly, so I changed and headed downstairs to grab a quick cocktail and network before the dinner and award ceremony started. Paul Storrie was kind enough to show me there were different name tags, which I had completely missed on my way in, which identified me as a nominee. Once that was on, lots of people were asking who I was and what I did. Being the webcomics guy, I figured people would dismiss me outright – but they were polite and interested in the project.
Eventually, they called us all into the ballroom. I was sitting at a table with Paul Storrie, Christina Blanch, Thom Zhaler, and several other faces I didn’t recognize at the time (but later made friends with a bunch of them). Dinner was served promptly, which I was told was unusual – apparently the ceremony commonly runs late, but they keep the bar open for us late after, so no one minds at all. The place was PACKED with people – a veritable who’s who of comics. We ate and enjoyed conversation among our table for the evening, and then eventually the lights dimmed slightly and it was ceremony time!
Dinner at the Harvey Awards!
The Harvey Awards dinner – it’s a packed house
Constance Ezra opened the event, and introduced the master of ceremonies. Dean Haspiel gave the keynote speech – a very sobering tale about his life as a creator, and how comics have changed over time. It really set the tone for the evening, and had many of the audience in tears. A standing ovation was rightly given after that personal tale, and the awards started to be passed out. They had a different presenter for every 2-3 awards, and the webcomics category was the fourth in the line. They would also give out special awards every so often – lifetime achievement awards, Hero Initiative awards, and more. Eventually, we got to the Webcomics category.
From a distance, Dean Haspiel gives the keynote speech – a touching personal story
The category was a unique one, because 1) there were no big names from comics in this category this year (last year, Brian K Vaughn won for his webcomic, Private Eye), shy of Mike Norton, who had won in the category previously, and 2) there was such a unique mix of comics, from young readers titles like mine, or Bloom County, and adult titles like Oh Joy Sex Toy. My table was very supportive of me when the category was called – hugs and smiles and fingers crossed as they called out the nominees. Suffice it to say, we didn’t win – Mike Norton took the prize – but my table gave me hugs all the same. I texted Mike, since we’re buddies, and let him know he won again. He responded with an image of him holding a beer, saying, “I guess this is a celebratory beer, then!” He’s such a joker.
We didn’t win the Harvey Award for Best Online Comic, but we were in great company. Congrats to all my fellow nominees
We went through the rest of the ceremonies, Christina and I guessing who was going to take the prize – and our guesses were mostly the same, and mostly on point with the winners. It was an incredible evening, and one I will not soon forget. After the ceremony ended, we received goodie bags filled with books from the presenters and nominees – some 30-50 pounds of books! – and we all said our goodbyes to those of us who were not attending the bar after.
Red Stylo editor Enrica Jang and I take a selfie after the Harveys have ended. She was nominated for her anthology, The 27 Club
Paul Storrie and I after the Harveys…
…and then I told a bad joke
I went to my room to drop off my goodie bag, and then headed to the bar upstairs where I immediately ran into JG Jones and his wife. We got to talking about our cats, how the two of them met, and how this event felt less like a comic industry event and more like a family get-together. It was really quite incredible. Eventually, an old buddy is his stopped by, so I took my leave and started talking to Paul Storrie, Rich Johnson, and Justin Jordan about projects, the show, and life in general. Without realizing it, 3am had come and gone and suddenly I excused myself so I could get a little bit of sleep before the final day of the show.
Baltimore Comic Con was already turning out to be a unique and incredible convention experience. All of my friends had been talking about it for ages, and I hadn’t had the chance to go before this weekend…and now I was questioning why I took so long to go in the first place.
Friday morning I got up and found a message on my phone from Constance. She had seen my message online about the chair with the mystery stains on it, and had gone downstairs to complain to management about it on my behalf. This was super sweet of her (so much for that low maintenance status I was going for), and I thanked her and ran downstairs to the gym. The room was kind of small, but had everything you needed for a workout: bikes, treadmills, a few machines, and free weights. I went into lifting, and ran into a guy that works in Valiant’s Marketing Department. Valiant had a number of Harvey Award nominations this year, so he was very excited for the show. We got to chatting about cons, and then he broke off for the treadmill and I was joined by Joe Rivera – father to Paolo Rivera, a famous penciler. Joe was inking a lot of work for Valiant, and we got to talking about the con, the industry, and our mutual places where we live.
After a while, Howard Chaykin came in and he and Joe started chatting. I finished up my routine and headed off to the room to shower.
Now, I know I said there was a questionable stain, but upon going into the shower I also found a number of paint chips in the tub that were clogging up the drain. I quickly cleaned up, packed up my stuff, and went to the management desk to see if they could get me another room. They said they could, but wanted to inspect it first after what I had encountered. I said that was fine, and I would be by after the con to get the new key.
I headed to breakfast, sitting with Fred Van Lente and his wife, Dean Haspiel, and my good pal Paul Storrie. Our conversation last later than I had anticipated, so I headed straight for my room to grab my set up items, and then headed across the street to the convention center.
My table was in the Kids Pavilion (fitting, since Albert the Alien is for younger readers). I was next to two very incredible creators: one one side was Mark Stokes, and on the other was Alexis Frederick-Frost. Across from me was Justin Castaneda, Franco, and Jimmy Gownley. It was an incredible isle to be in, but also a lot more eye-catching talent than I consider myself to be!
The table is set up and ready to sell comics!
I made friendly with my table neighbors, all great guys, and eventually they let in the VIPs. Then the rest of the attendees. I was told this show used to be a 2-day show, and therefore adjusted my expectations for Friday traffic. It was Labor Day weekend, after all, I and hear there was a baseball game. But despite all that, the floor was quite packed! I kept selling to people as they passed by on their way to artist alley, introducing a lot of new readers to the books. People were in very high spirits, and were quite impressed with the Harvey nomination we received. I even ran into a cosplayer, Han Pan, dressed as a character from my buddy Alan’s Evan’s webcomic series Rival Angels.
Was visited by Han Pan, cosplaying as Ultragirl from Rival Angels
“What do you mean Brooke is your favorite character in Rival Angels?” She asked as he punched my lights out!
The show floor was only open for a handful of hours (kind of like a Preview Night), so after I headed back to the hotel to sort out my room situation. They hooked me up with another room (this time with no mystery stains), and then I headed out to dinner at Kona Grill. Since I was a last minute addition to the show, many people had already made dinner plans – while I didn’t want to impose, so I headed out solo.
Dinner at Kona Grill – macadamia nut chicken
After dinner I met up with my old high school friend, Katie Cook, and we had some drinks down at the bar. A gentleman (who had had a few already) was kind enough to buy us our first round, and we chatted him up for a bit before slipping away to a booth and catching up. I hadn’t talked to her in any meaningful way for a long time, and it was good to reconnect and talk about how different our lives are now versus when we used to hang out in art class.
After a few hours, they closed the bar so everyone headed upstairs for more drinks. I ran into Paul Storrie and Justin Jordan, chatted for a bit, but then called it a night early – because it was only day one, and the next night would be a late night. AND the Harveys….
The view from the Pieces room, top of the hotel
So I had never done Baltimore Comic Con before, even though it was on my radar and my comic-creator friends had spoken so highly about the show. In fact, they down-right LOVED this show, which kept it coming back to me and kept my interest piqued year after year. But for one reason or another, I was never able to make it to the show. And then, last year, Albert the Alien got nominated for his first Harvey Award.
This was a big deal. Industry recognition by our peers – creators nominate, creators vote for the winners – that the web comic Gabe and I were producing was worthy. And the company we were in was top-tier: Mike Norton (BattlePug), Brian K Vaugh (Private Eye), and more! It was a veritable who’s-who in comics. But, sadly, due to personal conflicts, I couldn’t make it last year. So fast forward another year, and we were nominated again (this time up against Bloom County, and Battle Pug again). Nominated once could have been a fluke, but twice in a row? We were doing something right, me thinks. But I was on the fence about going to the show because my wife was going to be 2 weeks from her due date for our first baby, and I was nervous about being a 2-3 hour flight away. So we talked about it, and she told me to go (just book everything refundable). So I reached out to the con and asked if it would be possible to get a table and a hotel room this late in the game. They worked hard, and were able to accommodate me very last minute – which was super awesome, and much appreciated.
And because of that effort, I bring you this convention report from a brand new con: Baltimore Comic Con 2016!
Tons of leg room in my economy plus seat. Necessary for people with long legs, like me
I took the full day off from work, because flights were WAY cheaper in the morning, and headed off in a cab to O’Hare to catch my flight to Baltimore. Now, my only experience with Baltimore was by watching the HBO series The Wire, which does not paint a great light on the city (but tells an interesting and compelling story), so I want to stress that my expectations were low. But arriving in the city, I saw a lot of amazing sights. I was met at the exit of the plane by BCC staff, including the guy who worked so tirelessly to get me the table and accommodations, David Jeffrey. I was very excited to finally meet in person, after having exchanged e-mails with him for the past several weeks leading up to the con – and he created a very welcoming sense that helped set the tone for the rest of the weekend.
I also had a chance to meet one of the other helpers at the airport, Olivia, who kept me company while I waited for the shuttle to the hotel. I also met Roger, who runs the con’s panel programming. We shared the shuttle together to the hotel, talking about the con and how long he’s been running programming for the show.
Upon entering the hotel, I checked into my room and was greeted on the other side of the escalators by the friendliest staffers, including Constance and Shelly, who were hugging folks and handing out name badges. Even thought it was the first time we were meeting, they gave me hugs too! I made a joke that I would be the easiest, most low maintenance guest they were going to have all weekend – to which they immediately told me I was already talking to them too much for that title. Drat! I was going to have to be even more chill and low maintenance than that! There was competition for being easy going….
I took my stuff up to the room, which was already available for me this early in the morning, and dropped off my stuff. I opened the curtains and noticed a milky-white stain on the chair – which was strange, because the bed was made and I was told the room had been cleaned. I tweeted out that I thought this was gross, and then headed out to the convention center (mostly to figure my way around).
The view from the hotel room
The inside of the Hyatt in Baltimore has some incredible architecture
I walked to the con center, which had a lot of pathways blocked at noon on a Thursday. I couldn’t go in the skywalk doors, and the path to the back of the center was not accessible (there were large chunks of concrete cut out of the walkway, filled with water). I eventually found my way inside, but the place was still being set up. Tables weren’t even all up at this time, much less name tags on the tables. I figured I would return later, since set up had only just begun.
I went to the local restaurant, Kona Grill, and grabbed a sandwich. Dan Didio was in there having lunch, likely attending the retailer summit that was going on at a nearby hotel.
After lunch, I headed back to the hotel to work on some sketch cards. I put a towel down on the questionable chair, which was the only place to sit, and began to work for a few hours on art. After a while, I got up and decided to head back to the convention center to see if tables were done being set up yet. It was almost the end of set up time, so I figured it would be a good time to pop in and see the progress. The floor was mostly together, although some of the artist alley tables still didn’t have place cards yet – which was fine, because I was planning to bring my stuff over in the morning, anyway.
Baltimore Comic Con – it begins tomorrow!
I went back to the hotel and texted some friends I knew were attending the show, to see if they had dinner plans. I heard back from Dean Haspiel that he was coming in, and waited (working on more sketch cards in the meantime). Once Dean arrived, he grabbed a group of friends together – including Howard Chaykin! – and we all headed to McCormick and Schmicks for some sea food at the Inner Harbor.
Conversation at dinner was an interesting affair, since Dean used to intern for Howard. Howard was a very outspoken guy, but very sarcastic and funny. The kind of blunt funny that I enjoy. We hit it off.
After dinner, we opted to take a walk around the Inner Harbor (it was GORGEOUS outside), and we grabbed some ice cream at a local shop. Dean wanted to show us dinosaurs at the (closed for the night) museum at the end of the pier, but since we couldn’t get in he instead climbed up by the window and started pointing out the various dinosaurs and the cool sights inside. Not wanting to get arrested on my first night in town, I kept my distance and eventually we all headed back to the hotel for a quick drink and then to bed.
Dinner with the gang, then out for a walk by the inner harbor. From left to right: Jason Goungor, Dean Haspiel, Bradford Tree, Christa Cassano and Howard Chaykin
The final day of the con, I packed up my stuff and checked out of my room, and headed to the Expoteria for a quick breakfast sandwich before walking to the table for set up. I had a few minutes to relax and eat before being joined by table neighbors Steve Horton and Russell Lissau – who had also stayed up too late the night before. But perhaps not quite as late as I did. And they also had less bumps and bruises from balancing on stacked chairs….
The show opened and the morning was a bit slow, but picked up as we got closer to the afternoon. I was visited by several friends, including The Nicoles, and continued to sell books until my afternoon panel.
Only a few books left on the final day of the con!
Visited by the Nicole’s at my table….
…and whenever the Nicole’s are around, things get sassy!
12:30pm, Dean Haspiel and I lead a Making Webcomics panel – another well attended affair with some engaging questions. Dean and I have very different backgrounds in webcomics, but very similar sensibilities in our work ethic and approach to making content. We mostly answered questions, which is a format I tend to enjoy and the attendees seem to find a lot of value in, and told some fun and engaging stories to help motivate the young creators in the room to make their own stories. Dean and I both like to inspire young minds, so we continued to play off each other and encourage the attendees to thank their favorite creators, and – if they had passion for storytelling – to find a way to make their own comics.
After the panel ended, there were only a few precious hours left to sell through the remaining stock I had brought. The Channel Awesome crowd came by the table again, this time joined by Honest Trailers voice over guy Jon Baily. Sadly, I didn’t ask for a photo.
Before we knew it, the floor had closed and it was time to say our goodbyes. I packed up and rushed around to my friends before they could leave so give hugs and wish them luck on their next convention adventure. Wizard World Chicago was a show I had skipped last year, due to personal conflicts, but this year provide to be a great time and a great success. I really enjoyed myself this year, and I hope to do some more Wizard shows again next year and beyond!
Saying goodbye at the end of the con. From left to right: Dean Haspiel, Lauren Marie, and myself
Saying goodbye at the end of the con. From left to right: Me, Clint Hobart, and Dean Haspiel
Saying goodbye at the end of the con. My plus one for the weekend takes her leave
How to unwind at the end of a con: Chinese food and Spaceballs!