The Booze, Pony Art And Bomb Sniffing Dogs Of C2E2

Peter G went to C2E2 for Bleeding Cool;

Well, here we are back home, with me soaking in a hot bath to get the muscles in my legs to uncoil (I ain’t gonna be dancing the polka anytime soon). It was a busy busy busy weekend at C2E2 in Chicago, and full of lots of amazing stuff. Onward, into the trenches, and I’ll tell you all about it.

(By the way, if you are wondering why there are no cosplay pictures, my camera is on the fritz right now. I have spent two hours pleading with the stupid thing to do something, ANYTHING, to transfer the pics, and nothing is happening. Technology is a beautiful thing. If this keeps up, I’ll post a listing in the forums about “Camera — for parts or repair. LOTS to repair.”)

PRESS TO PLAY – I have long held out on getting any sort of pro credentials to get into a comic convention. I’m a small presser, and the last time I had a comic in comic shops was 2009 (and no, I don’t count the Hannah Singer books. Those aren’t comics). It just seemed to me that calling myself a pro with my present situation was kind of padding the resume. But with five articles contributed to Bleeding Cool in 2012 and one so far this year, I decided I could get myself a press pass this year and keep a clean conscience.

I got the email saying I had been approved, and read the instructions carefully. It became the most important part of my pre-journey checklist. Confirmation email? Tck. Photo ID. Tck. Tin of Altoids? Tck. (Well, that’s NOT a requirement, but it ought to be.)

The biggest perk of the press pass was the press lounge. Five circular tables with nine to ten chairs each, four tables with two chairs each, and a set of tables with computers and a color printer. It was quiet as a library, too. The number of people never hit a point (at least, while I was there) that hit “encroaching on your personal space” levels. It also had the best wifi reception in the entire building, enabling me to check messages, emails, news, and such (the signal from the convention floor still sucks wee-wees).

One excellent touch was each table had a number of convention programs on them to thumb through. Looking up information on the fly without having to dig out my program from my pack was great. I didn’t even bother carrying one, I just left mine at home and looked up what I needed to as I camped.

PRIME TIME TV – There were two stages set up this year, the usual for comedy acts, filkers, and costume contests, and one in the Artist Alley. There was a camera aimed at a drawing desk and artists would periodically go up there to do a sketch. Others could see their techniques and learn from them.

I have a minor suggestion – if they do this next year, I would like to see a big name artist up there, and they would be given a heretofore unseen page of comic book script. The artist would then talk us through the process of visualizing the page, laying it out, and so on, from blank piece of page to inked and finished product. I’ll bring some popcorn.

THE BIG BOSS DOG, YEAH, I HAD TO DO THAT – The first hint that the Boston Marathon Bombing was just a little over a week ago came as I was entering the floor for the first time.

I saw a guy walking a dog.

I took a closer look. The guy seemed just fine, so that did not appear to be a service animal. He walked over by the entrance, and the dog sat.

Bomb sniffing dog.

Getting through the door, I saw another right on the other side.

They were there, popping up every once in a while, but they were definitely working the floor. Police, bag and weapons checks, and a US Marshall were there as well. Talking with a couple of cops, it seems there’s a few assholes out there who think it’s sooooooo funny to say they are going to bomb the convention, and the police have to investigate because, let’s face it, who wants to be wrong about something like this? I’m not complaining about the increased security, I’m just sad that this is necessary now.

The vigilance continued on the floor. At strategic places were signs telling you a number you could text information about anyone or anything suspicious. The initial assumption was it was just for thieves, but given the heavy security presence, it’s obvious what it was for.

If you can, please spare a thought for the police and agents. Their job is to keep us safe. That means what we run away from, they run towards. They put their lives on the line for us and deserve our thanks.

BLACKBALLED WIZARD – It’s nice when there is something pretty fundamentally agreed on, where people unite across all sorts of cultural differences.

And it appears the newest one is, “Fuck Wizard World.”

I would ask people that I knew went to Wizard World Chicago if they would be there this year, and they acted like I offered them a turd sandwich. After last year’s fiasco, even those who said they were going were clearly not thrilled. I’ll be keeping a close eye on it – they apparently have someone new running the Artist Alley there. But it doesn’t look good.

Most interesting were the people who didn’t just tell me they weren’t going. More than a few pulled out their Blackberries and iPhones and Androids to show me the emails they were sending back when asked if they wanted to go. It was almost like a badge of honor to have told off Wizard.

One of them told me Wizard was selling them on the number of attendees from last year. According to them, Wizard was saying they had 700,000 people in attendance. I didn’t see that many. Must have been ninjas.

The ones most likely to go were the ones who had low cost merchandise to sell. The buyers at WW tend to be bargain hunters (prints tend go quick, but commissions and original art aren’t as in demand. C2E2 is the opposite. Keep this in mind if you’re weighing which show you are going to do), so if they can tap that cultural zeitgeist, they’ll probably make table. But even they were less than enthused.

I got a bad feeling this year’s WWC is going to be the least comics-involved ever.

THE SOUND AND THE FURRY – Longtime readers are aware that I have a sense of humor that can be charitably described as “warped.” The likelihood of me intentionally doing something stupid and/or embarrassing hinges on two questions:

1) Will it be funny?

2) Can I get a good story out of it?

If both of these conditions evaluate to true, sign me up. And this leads to some very interesting actions….

So, last week, in Iron Man #8, it was revealed by the iron armor AI that Tony Stark used to be a furry. A few people I know found this to be quite mind-blowing. I, however, felt like a kid with a new set of Lego bricks. There was something in there, I just had to put it together.

And then, this week, I knew what to do.

Among the things I had at C2E2 was a blank Iron Man #1. My objective was simple: find an artist willing to draw upon it a parody of the “Demon In A Bottle” cover, but instead of Tony wearing the iron armor, he’s wearing a fursuit while looking in the mirror and going, “What have I become?”

The question was, who was I going to get to draw this? My grade-A first draft choice was the one and only Ethan Van Sciver. I’ve been a fan of his since Cyberfrog and his musical talent with songs like “Wolverine Is Gay”, so I’m very familiar with his kick ass sense of humor (#BeLikeEVS). He would have been perfect. Unfortunately, EVS is also the kind of artist whose sketch schedule books up quick – if you don’t get to him first thing in the morning, you’re out of luck. So he was out.

While spinning around the floor, I found someone. His name is Alfred Trujillo, and once he stopped laughing about my request, he couldn’t wait to do it.

And so, ladies and gentleman, my current favorite comic book cover:

Iron Man Cover

People I showed it to on the floor thought it was a riot. And about half of them recognized it as Grumpy Cat. This worked out better than I could have hoped.

In a way, I’m almost sorry Deadpool #7 came out when it did. Can you imagine Deadpool, who has been shown to dabble in being a transvestite (GLX/Deadpool crossover, Deadpool Team-Up with Frankencastle), and the smack talk that would have resulted between the two?

MY LITTLE BOTTLE – DRINKING IS MAGIC – Another con where open alcohol is being served. Friday was pretty fine.

But Saturday? Holy shit.

By 6PM on Saturday, the line for booze was stretching out, and a number of people on the floor were clearly buzzed, including one guy I was betting could run his car by breathing in the gas tank. I even saw people with bottles, which surprised me – I’m guessing they were contraband based on the small numbers of them. One guy who was feeling no pain was talking to his buddies, looking over a menu and saying, “Wouldn’t it be great if there was a place you could just call up and get six pizzas delivered to you?” I wanted to say, Dude? This is Chicago. There are pizza places every twenty-five feet here. I’m reasonably certain there’s at least one that delivers around here. (In fact, I saw whole pizzas coming from the Connie’s Pizza stands on the show floor.)

In the back of my mind, I started running odds on who would even show up the next day and who’d be hung over (it did affect my decisions of who I would commission sketches from). Most everyone showed up the next day.

CONFIDENTIAL TO THE GUY I WAS TALKING WITH ON SATURDAY – That wasn’t a cosplayer. That was just a football fan. Jeez-us.

MISSING IN ACTION – I knew I should have gotten a sketch from Jamal Igle last year. I was checking the web site almost every day and then checking the aisle postings on the show floor.

Although the biggest no-show of the con was DC. As Mr. Johnston has covered elsewhere, DC likely didn’t feel it was worth the hassle of putting up and taking down a big multimedia display. If so, it’s a mistake. They practically ceded a blue ocean to Marvel, which they don’t need with everything riding on the Man Of Steel movie this summer. Some sort of presence would have been advised.

STAY GOLD, PONY BOY – Several of the people who work on IDW’s My Little Pony – Friendship Is Magic comic were there. Most of them were in a straight line, starting with Katie Cook, then Andy Price (who managed to survive the epic disaster that was Las Pegasus Unicon and clearly doesn’t relish the memories), then Tony Fleecs, and Amy Mebberson. On the other side of the delightful Miss Cook, I saw Jill Thompson. Thompson was signing books, but requested a donation to be made to Hero Initiative for doing so, whatever you felt was appropriate.

Two people who work on the comic were separate from the group. The first was Amanda Conner, who drew one of the covers. (And did a great job. She had never seen the show before, but the staff at IDW thought she would be perfect. She watched a bunch of episodes to get the personalities down, and I think she nailed it. Twilight’s pissed off expression is priceless). The second was Thom Zahler, who writes and draws Love And Capes for IDW and wrote and drew the Twilight Sparkle one-shot.

Price, Fleecs, and Zahler had original art from the series for sale. Price’s prices were minimum $500 per page interiors, some reaching $700. This is pretty much what I expected – some pages went up on eBay after the first issue came out. A two page backup written and drawn by Cook went just north of $400, interior pages by Price were hitting over $700 and some closing in on a grand, and the cover pages hitting, IIRC, somewhere in the $1.5 – $2K range. The fandom may be collapsing, but not enough to drop the prices. Fleecs’ prices were closer to my threshold, $200 to $300. Unfortunately, it was still a little outside my finances.

Zahler’s pages, though, were $150 each, and this was for the story with my favorite character on the show. I started thinking how I could get one, maaaaaaaybe two if I juggle my finances right….

Zahler then unhelpfully pointed out, “I also have the cover for sale.” And he turned the portfolio to it.

There before my eyes was the original black and white art for the cover. I love the cover because of the mastery of distorted perspectives exhibited in the landscape, something I just love about real cartoony art. At the top was the price — $400.

My brain started racing. God, I think this piece is beautiful. It’s my favorite character. And I know the price is nothing to bitch about, it’s a cover, and cheap for an MLP piece that has seen publication.

Zahler then further unhelpfully pointed out, “I do take credit cards.”

Shit.

I told him I needed to think about it, but I think he knew he had my number. After a few hours of hemming and hawwing after I made further notes of places to hit on the show floor, I came back with my credit card and simply said, “Gimme.” I walked around the floor, a bit nervous as I was aware I was carrying $400 under my arm.

I have quite a few original art pieces, but other than all the Dresden Files pages I have, they are smaller, cheaper pieces, either because the iconic character isn’t doing anything actiony and is too ordinary to be worth much (Supergirl) or indie stuff (Archie pages not by Dan Parent) or just flat out no one else wants it (Blast Corps or Brute Force).

Remove the Dresden Files pages, and this one cover is worth more than most of the rest of my pages combined.

This just in – My Little Pony has Peter G by the balls.

AS THE SKETCH TURNS – Okay, so maybe Mr. Igle not showing up at the con wasn’t such a bad thing for me this year.

Needless to say, between buying the MLP cover and the Iron Man sketch cover, I didn’t get as many sketches as I would have liked.

The immortal Joe Staton and the great Christopher Jones did my characters from Sound Waves, and Serena Guerra did my characters from Head Above Water. I wanted at least one sketch of a character other than my own, and Phil Moy agreed to draw Sailor Venus rocking out with an electric guitar.

GIVING THE PUBLIC WHAT THEY WANT – I saw a lot of prints of Supergirl in her skirt, and only one or two of the current design with the collar and red diaper. I wonder why that is?

ONE DAY AT A TIME – Josh Gillam was there. Gillam is a local guy who was hurt in Iraq and now spends his days in a wheelchair. Gillam, however, loves comics. And he was at C2E2 trying to figure out how to approach his dream.

Gillam is looking to make theraputic comic books for soldiers returning from duty. The situation in Iraq doesn’t just create PTSD, it also undermines the unconscious knowledge of society. When you live in a world where potentially ANYTHING is a danger, how do you adjust when you get back stateside? The Army has been experimenting with VR gear, so former soldiers can explore a world and rebuild their confidence. Research into the psychological aspects has accelerated to an amazing pace.

But the problem is getting people to go for treatment.

Gillam’s comics are simple character examinations. The soldier who is the focus of the story acts as a proxy for the readers. He experiences all the thoughts real soldiers do, as his therapist addresses the concerns. The goal is to use the unique immediacy comics achieve to help others make that first move to rebuilding their lives and themselves. He’s even getting interest from the Armed Services about helping make this happen.

Gillam is a great guy. I hope this comes together for him, and I’ll be keeping a close eye on his progress.

CROSSOVER BLUES – While talking with Thom Zahler, I decided to get an update on a crossover that I would love to see and hasn’t happened yet.

As reported by CBR last October: last year at Baltimore, Zahler was on an IDW panel, and the editor was talking about the then-upcoming Mars Attacks! Crossovers. Zahler quipped he would like to see a Mars Attacks!/My Little Pony crossover. The editor challenged Zahler to write it out by the end of the panel. He did.

The plot was the Martians would arrive, but because of Celestia using her magic, their weapons wouldn’t work. As the Martians tried to figure out what to do now to conquer them, they started learning about love and tolerance and friendship and basically converted. The Martians then return home to tell the other Martians what they’ve learned. The other Martians don’t know what to do with them, and kill them all.

I asked him if there was any forward movement, and he shook his head sadly. Which is a shame, the story sounds like it would be a hoot.

COSPLAY CONFIDENTIAL – We have an undisputed winner for most popular costume of the con. Fin from Adventure Time. There was Fin. There was his female version. Men. Women. Boys. Girls. Didn’t matter what the division, Fin was the winner. I don’t think all the other cosplayers put together equaled their numbers.

There were a LOT fewer Doctors in attendance than I’ve ever seen at a Chicago convention, especially odd seeing as how one of the Doctors was an actual guest. Deadpool put up some pretty impressive numbers in the male and female character catagories, and the pony cosplayers also represented.

Personally, my favorite was the return of Sailor Scouts. On Saturday, I counted three different people/groups. A single Sailor Jupiter (my fav), a Moon and Jup, and a group of four of the five Inner Senshi (Ami didn’t make the cut). Sunday saw a family with their little girl dressed like Moon. If the pattern repeats, it’ll probably be a few years before the Senshi return. As long as the infamous Sailor Bubba is not filling in, I’ll be happy to wait.

HEROES LIVE ON – His name was Erik Martin. He lived in Seattle. He had liver cancer that took his life when he was just 13 about a year and a half ago.

A little over a year before he died, the Make A Wish Foundation asked Erik what his wish was, and they would do their best to make it come true. Erik wanted to be Electron Boy, a superhero he created. Make A Wish rose to the occasion, giving him the day of a lifetime where he saved a soccer team, a public works employee, and fought his arch enemies on the observation deck of the Space Needle. Accompanied by a police escort that actually shut down the highway, Erik was interviewed by the press, given the key to the city, and a comic book of himself on what he unapologetically called “the best day of my life.”

To this day, it is hard for me to think about that kid without tearing up. As I went around the C2E2 floor, I saw something that made me stop and shake my head.

It was an Electron Boy comic book.

The company that made the comic Erik got is CCP Comics out of Texas. They are continuing to sell the comic, and the money goes to the family and the Make A Wish Foundation.

Yeah, I bought one. I’ll read it when I feel I can handle it.

INTO THE LION’S DEN – While Marvel’s booth was huge and severely noisy, the one just past it appealed to my minimalist sensibilities.

It’s a new company called Lion Forge, based out of St. Louis, MO. Done with lots of cool blue, muted grey, and art deco sensibility, they were there to try and shake up comic expectations. They are experimenting with comics in the digital realm, creating their own app for viewing. Everybody involved in the company was there, and they were low key while still enthusiastic and appeared to be getting plenty of attention from the con-goers.

CONGRATULATIONS ARE IN ORDER – Onrie Kompan has spent the last several years making and selling his comic Yi Soon Shin, about a Korean warlord who could not be beaten (it’s historical, by the way). His stuff isn’t listed in Previews, so he goes to shows, hawking the books. He never sits at his table, he stands in front of it, working the crowd as best as he can.

Kompan was at C2E2, and we caught up a little. The first issue of the second miniseries just came out. His initial sales?

6,000.

For a comic that is not available in comic shops, only at places he shows up at.

That is phenomenal.

Dude? Keep up the great work. I look forward to seeing the whole story.

SOMEDAY MY PRINTS WILL COME – Also at the con, which I am mentioning for anyone out there fighting the bite of the self-publishing bug, was Print Ninja. They are a new comic printer in the traditional vein as opposed to digital print-on-demand. Their prices are very competitive in that regard. If you are looking for options besides Morgan and Brenner, give them a peek.

Peter G’s newest Hannah Singer story collection, “Hope Springs Eternal”, is not only available now from Amazon, but all three books are also available in the UK, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain.  Previews of each story available at the sites, as well!

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