Another year is done and in the books. I have been coming here every year since 2008 and have not been disappointed. Within that time, I have grown from someone who was renewing his love with comics after a 20 year absence to someone who is excited yearly with the talent lineup that comes to Baltimore. Likewise, I have watched this show grow from an intimate 2 day con to a show that lasts 3 days and attracts con-goers worldwide. Let’s look at what makes this show a growing popular con, some interesting things I’ve learned this weekend, and why you should come.
Family and familiarity
The biggest reason, why in my opinion, this show grows yearly is it’s not lost its identity. Baltimore has always been about comic books. It’s also been about fans and creating a safe environment for families to bring their kids. Unlike some other shows that switched their focus, Baltimore has always focused on bringing out the best in creators whether they are independent artists and creators or some of the bigger names. Fans of all ages can find something to enjoy and those with small kids can find fun in the Kids’ Alley, which is becoming a cornerstone at the con. I also had the honor and pleasure to judge the Kids’ Cosplay contest and I was amazed at not only the amount of kids that participated but the costumes as well as the age range of all who participated. I am also very happy that each year when I come to this show, I see so many more families attending. I am also happy that I see so many familiar faces with not just the creators who come, but the staff who are always friendly as well. Every time I come, I feel like I am home. It’s the time I get to find out, in person about who has gotten or planning to get married, how life and business is going, who has added to the family and who we lost along the way.
So, what did I learn?
Much of what is here will come out in detail this week but hanging around some of the creators always creates opportunity. I got a chance to speak with Mark Waid and JG Jones about their work on the comic Strange Fruit and found out that the timing of the first issue’s release was pure coincidence. JG Jones has been working on this idea for a little over 2 years and he showed me the covers to the 2nd and 3rd issue with issue 2 dropping this week. I also heard from an extremely reliable source that there may be a change of costume for a DC character that may occur before the end of the year. Hey! Sometimes classic is classy or sometimes you just need to stick what was already working. So, keep your eyes open. I also saw what may be a variant cover for that same character which may also drop. If you want an idea who it is, I would say ask my colleague Pete Roberston and see if he will tell! Also fun (and a reason why getting to places early is a winner) was catching Mr. Edward James Olmos on Sunday morning before the rush began and sharing a few moments with him and asking him about his upcoming projects, El Americano and Monday Nights at Seven, two projects I look forward to. The biggest treat for me this weekend was talking to Brian Stelfreeze, a perennial guest at Baltimore Comic Con, about doing work on the new Black Panther book slated for next year. One of the questions I asked of him was about the status quo of T’Challa in Wakanda and if you want to hear what will happen, you just have to tune in to the video to see. But as always, I had an enjoyable time meeting some many people and doing so much that I almost hate Mondays after the show because I feel like I missed something.
So why should you come?
I could start this by asking, “If you are a comic fan, why wouldn’t you?” I always tend to hear people who look past Baltimore to NYCC. While NYCC may be the last biggest con of the year, I caution anyone don’t look past Baltimore. Some of the creators that you may only get a glimpse of at NYCC, you will always get a better chance to chat with in Baltimore. Charles Soule makes a lot of time to chat with fans, The Simonsons will never disappoint with their stories about the comic biz, hang around and watch Cliff Chiang knock out some great commissions, Dean Haspiel is usually available to talk over what he is doing with Dark Circle, and so many more. As I stated earlier, Baltimore Comic Con has an intimate feeling when it comes to hanging out with creators and fans that you just don’t get at NYCC. Now don’t get me wrong, NYCC is a great con in and of itself but it’s a different vibe that Baltimore doesn’t have. And the cosplays? That grows every year. The people that show up and show out are part of the reason why I do it.
So, that’s my experience. Come to Baltimore Comic Con and bring your kids. When you come enough times, it becomes like a homecoming of sorts. You will run into old friends, make new ones, get some interesting news, and you get to do it in a place where you’re not just a face in the crowd. I am honestly humbled by the amount of people who I meet yearly, who in many ways are much bigger names that I am, but they know me. In the past few years, it’s nothing like having George Perez or David Finch to stop what they are doing to take a picture with me, It’s a good feeling when people like Gail Simone looks at my cosplay and gives great compliments to my wife at her work. Best of all, there is nothing like having come a stranger in 2008 and watching as all of us have created a family of sorts who come together yearly to help this show grow. Make a reason to come next year, bring your kids, and bring a friend. Baltimore Comic Con is a place you have to experience at least once.