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