baltimore comic con

Geek Out Online: The 2020 Baltimore Comic-Con

When the COVID quarantine began to drag on through the summer, I made what was a real bummer of a choice–to not attend this year’s Baltimore Comic-Con. I’d already canceled two trips for the year and was holding out hope that I could at least go somewhere other than Costco, but it wasn’t looking great. But my thinking proved fortuitous when the organizers of the convention announced they were going online and were offering up a full slate of programming along with virtual experiences that were much like what you’d expect on a convention floor.

Aside from catching some panels from shows like San Diego, New York, or DragonCon on YouTube or various podcasts, I’d never experienced a comic convention–or any convention for that matter–online, but as the lineup was posted in the time leading up to this weekend, I had to check it out and I couldn’t resist also blogging about it. It’s such a great comics-centered show, but would they be able to re-create the experience of being there through streaming feeds?

Spoilers: They did.

Now, much like the live convention, it was nearly impossible for anyone to attend every single minute of every single event; much like my experience with the live convention, I wound having to pick and choose what I wanted to attend. I guess the difference this time was that I didn’t run around trying to talk to different creators and get books signed, although signature packages were offered, and there was plenty to shop for at the Artist’s Alley Page. More on that later, as I’m going to start by looking at the specific programming that I watched.


I’ve done a few panels here and there over my years at going to the con, although they tend to be the first thing I skip in favor of getting those last signatures, roaming the floor, or going to lunch. This time, I viewed panels almost exclusively, hitting three of the creator panels, one full and one partial Kids Love Comics panel, and the retailers showcase preview on Thursday night. Two of them were on Friday night, which was a huge treat for me, especially since I never have the chance to go to Friday because I’m always headed up to my in-laws’ after work. Plus, the convenience of AirPods allowed me to put my iPod down and just listen to the panel while I did the dishes.

Okay, this review is getting boring. Let’s get to the panels.

Justice League: BWAH-HA-HA!!! with J.M. DeMatteis, Keith Giffen, and Kevin Maguire

I admit that this was my whole reason for watching on Friday night. I came into comics when this era of the Justice League was starting its third act and while I have yet to read all of it (trust me, it’s on my list), what I have read over the years has been absolutely fantastic. Plus, I’ve had the chance to meet all three of these creators over the years and have them sign my copy of the Justice League: A New Beginning trade. Keith Giffen wasn’t on the panel when I was watching it (I had to hop off to eat dinner during the second half), but what DeMatteis and Maguire had to say could have filled two panels.

And you could tell they were old hat at this, having done a number of these panels before and therefore came off as old friends reminiscing (which it essentially was). Even though I’d read and listened to quite a bit about this era of the Justice League over the years, I learned a few things, namely that they were given the characters as a result of the Legends crossover and that DeMatteis was not one of the original writers, having been given the book to help Giffen when he was in the middle of the Justice League job he’d been hired for–killing off JL Detroit.

They also talked about how the creative freedom offered to them in the 1980s allowed them to create characterizations and relationships between characters in a way that developed organically as opposed to some of the forced dynamics that comics can sometimes have, and it made me wonder if that’s something that we’ll ever get nowadays considering how many superheroes are considered more like intellectual property owned by a parent company as opposed to characters in a story. But hey, maybe me as an old-man comics reader is too narrow minded to think that this sort of lightning in a bottle is unlikely to be caught again. Then again, these guys didn’t think it would be as legendary as it has become, especially Maguire, who commented, “It’s odd what sticks” during a conversation about his artwork, especially the oft-homaged and repeated cover to Justice League #1.

Brian Michael Bendis and Gerry Conway

Whereas three old friends were getting together with a moderator (and I should mention that John Siuntres from Word Balloon did an excellent job hosting the BWAH-HA-HA!!! panel), this was a conversation between two comics legends across generations. Bendis was essentially putting a spotlight on Gerry Conway, who wrote Justice League of America #200, an issue that Bendis admits to chasing for pretty much his entire career, especially in recent Legion of Super-Heroes issues (a series that is amazing, by the way, and you should add it to your pull list yesterday). But they not only spent a lot of time talking about the various characters that Conway has worked on over the years, they talked about the creative process as well as what happens to the characters after they leave the page.

The latter is where I came in and Conway was addressing the appropriation of The Punisher by the police and those carrying out acts of aggression in way that is contrary to the actual mission of the character. Bendis shed some light on the more positive side of that particular phenomenon by talking about the success that Miles Morales has had. But for all of his frustration about the use of the Punisher, Conway seemed grateful to have a stake in the character, and feels that he has a voice in the matter.

The conversation about the creative process is something I’d see echoed in other panels later on, and I found it fascinating to hear how one can get pigeonholed as a television writer (Conway has written a lot of mystery story-based television) and appreciated how they talked about doing the work to read, research, and get a character right.

Inside the Comics Studio: 1985 with Howard Chaykin, Walt Simonson, Denys Cowan, and Bill Sienkiewicz

Now if the Bendis/Conway panel was two generations of comics men talking shop and the Justice League panel was three friends reminiscing, this panel was the equivalent of a corner table at a bar as the night wears on. And it was so much fun. The four of them, who were work mates at both Marvel and DC and in their own studio, spent an hour talking about where they were in 1985 and Dean Haspiel, did a pretty good job of keeping the conversation from going completely off the rails and even keeping it interesting despite some streaming lag and freezing on Sienkiewicz’ part. Like I said, this was like listening in on a conversation and I confess that I stopped taking notes early on just so that I could listen and laugh along.

Creator Spotlight: Terry Moore

My main draw (no pun intended) was Terry Moore, whose table I regularly visit when he’s at the Baltimore Comic-Con (I’m very close to getting all of my Strangers in Paradise trades signed) and I know that he’s got a new graphic novel coming out named Ever, which is a dark fantasy book (that I’ve already preordered, so I’m pumped). Plus, as he announced at the panel, he will be publishing Serial in 2021 starring Zoe, the fan-favorite 10-year-old serial killer from Rachel Rising.

Amy Dallen hosted and was outstanding, bringing the enthusaism of a fan of Moore’s work as well as the knowledge and professionalism of a good host, interjecting where she can but spending most of the time sitting back and listening to him talk about his career. And one thing I really appreciated was how he talked about where he gets some of the motivation for his writing and some of his themes; furthermore, he made this great point about how after the 9/11 attacks, he set out to make sure that all of his stories had some semblance of hope. That’s not something we often get in our stories these days, as our culture seems to equate intelligence with cynicism. There’s something incredibly genuine about him and it really came across in the interview.

Kids Love Comics: Jeff Kinney

My son–who is now 13 and has been reading the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books since he was in elementary school–and I came into this one at the end because I had been doing some lesson planning all morning and he’s turned into the type of teenager who rolls out of bed close to noon on a Saturday. Despite that, it was pretty cool to hear him talk about how amazed he is at the impact that his books have had, and I have to hand it to the convention organizers because this is the type of person I could imagine having a Todd McFarlane-sized line of kids at his table.

Kids Love Comics: Kazu Kibuishi

So if you remember the first time I had my son with me at the convention, we met Kibuishi because Brett is a huge fan of the Amulet graphic novels and I bought a couple of GNs that Kibuishi then signed. We also went to a panel where he talked about what was coming up for the books as well as his creative process. Now that it’s several years later, Brett is really interested in drawing and was excited to see him talk again.

What was also cool about the panel was that it was hosted by Jamar Nicholas, whom we met a couple of years ago when he was selling Leon: Protector of the Playground at a table in the Kids Love Comics area and we interviewed him for the show. And he’s just signed with Scholastic, which is huge, and that’s great, because you love to see that type of success for someone writing great books for kids (and who is especially nice to boot).

As for the interview, it was also very well run with each question projected onto the screen, and I could clearly see that both creators as well as the KLC coordinators knew their primary audience was because the conversation was geared toward the kids in attendance. At the same time, neither of them talked down to the audience, which I appreciated. Kibuishi talked about how he got interested in drawing, how he had support from his parents and gave some really good advice, saying that he likes to stay independent as an artist and not connect himself too much to the business side of things, even though that’s necessary. Oh, and they both joked about how they can’t–and so many others can’t seem to–draw horses.

Brett told me that he really liked the advice of not being super money hungry and that Kibuishi has things he likes to do in order to disconnect from work, take a break, and reflect–mainly mountain biking (my son likes to read and hike). Plus, he felt pretty inspired hearing that he didn’t have to have the most expensive equipment when he’s just starting out.

Retailers and Artist’s Alley

Spending a huge wad of cash at the convention is a big part of it for me, and while I was able to sate my desire for back issues by going to my LCS on Friday, I did miss the rush of flipping through bins and looking for a hidden gem. But the Artist’s Alley setup on the site that featured links to most of the exhibitors’ websites was great and I bookmarked four or five artists from whom I’ll be buying something once I get paid this week.

Also really useful was the Retailers Showcase, which was hosted by The Great Legend and Anthony Snyder and featured a number of the more high-profile retailers that exhibit at the convention. It was shown Thursday night and even though it was some retailers talking about what they sell, it was so comics-centered and so pure to the tone and purpose of the convention that it set everything up nicely. I mean, I can’t afford anything that the Heritage Auctions guy was showing us, but my jaw still dropped at the sight of a high-grade Golden Age comic. But I am looking forward to buying a comics portfolio from Fine Comics Collectibles–who would have thought of that for those of us who bring a ton of books to have signed at a convention?

Next year’s show is scheduled for the same time in October and it’s my hope that it will be live and in person because even before I saw the guest list, I was ready. Still, the convention organizers did a great job with the virtual con and I hope that this possibly means that they’ll expand the experience to include some online offerings or maybe some recorded or livestreamed panels next year. Yunno, for those of us who will be just so happy to be back on the floor flipping through those bins.

Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 102: A Whirlwind of Geek — The 2019 Baltimore Comic-Con

Episode 102 Website CoverIt’s time for my annual coverage of the Baltimore Comic-Con!

This year’s coverage features coverage of what Brett and I bought and what we thought of the convention, plus interviews with comics creators Steve Conley (The Middle Age), Thom Zahler (Love & Capes, Warning Label), Brenden Fletcher (Batgirl, Robotech Remix), and William Rosado (The New Titans).

You can listen here:

Apple Podcasts:  Pop Culture Affidavit

Direct Download 

Pop Culture Affidavit podcast page

Here are some links to the convention and the people I interviewed.

The Baltimore Comic Con.  Go here for any information about the convention and be sure to add your name to their mailing list.

The Middle Age.  Steve Conley’s hilarious webcomic is available here to read and you can order the hardcover collected edition.

Thom Zahler.  Go here to pick up Love & Capes, Long Distance, Time & Vine, Warning Label, and all of Thom’s work.

Brenden Fletcher.  Website of Robotech Remix writer Brenden Fletcher.

William Rosado. Website of Will Rosado, penciller of The New Titans among other titles.

2019 Baltimore Comic-Con Recap and Review

Being that this is now my eighth year covering the Baltimore Comic-Con and the twentieth convention overall, I feel like I’m kind of an old pro at it.  After all, I have my whole system of con prep, arrival, and departure that allows me to maximize my time on the floor.  And I’ve brought my son, Brett, along with me for the past four years.  Still, I find that the convention can be full of fun surprises even though it’s reliably consistent.


Easily one of my favorite photos from the convention and not just because I caught these guys in peak Spider-pose.

The biggest change this year was in the date and some of the challenges that came with it.  Whereas the con’s been taking place in September for the past few years, the date was moved to the weekend of October 18-20.  This didn’t cause much of an issue for me when I was planning things until I found out that the city had allowed the Baltimore Marathon to take place that Saturday, which is probably the busiest day of the convention.  Now, I place the blame squarely on the city (having gone to college in Baltimore, I’ve come expect such moronic mishaps from the city), but all it really did for me was make me change the location of my parking garage via SpotHero.

Why no real inconvenience there?  Well, the organizers of the convention saw ahead of the problem and sent a well-detailed email to their subscribers with information about road closings and where to find available parking.  And while I realize that there were many people at the con who were  staying the whole weekend and had a hotel room nearby, there’s a lot of regional visitors who are only “day traveling” from the Maryland/DC/Virginia area (sorry, I refuse to refer to it as “The DMV”), so I appreciate the communication that made me slightly less anxious than I usually am.  You know, so that I could focus on what I might get anxious about.


So he wasn’t interested in the panels we were there for, but he did help with crowd control.

All right, keeping a twelve-year-old boy entertained while standing in line to meet comic book creators and getting podcast footage isn’t something to be that anxious about, especially considering Brett’s on the podcast episode that is going to come out next week, so we can hear about the fun he had.  But if I’m making suggestions to the convention organizers, it would be to consider what is there for that “tween”/”young adult” demographic.  We absolutely love the efforts they take to make sure that the convention is family friendly and the Kids Love Comics area was a favorite for the past three years, but now he’s at that age where he’s between the kids comics and the more adult stuff.

One of his first years there, he met Kazu Kibushi, who is the best-selling author of the Amulet graphic novels and went to his panel.  But beyond that and other creators who write for kids in the upper elementary/lower middle school grades, it’s hard to suss out what’s going to pique his interest or figure out what he’s not too old or too young for.

And I’m totally nitpicking here because he was totally psyched to cosplay again this year and had a great time shopping for comics, posters, and pop figures, but it would be great to see some more panels devoted to YA-level stuff.  Perhaps the convention could spotlight a few YA authors like they did with Kibushi?  Who knows, they might get Raina Telgemeier or someone like that one year (hell, I’D stand in like to get Raina’s signature).  Those tween years are such a weird age and mainstream comic books (i.e., the big two) have had a hard time holding on to the kids who loved superheroes, often losing them to other companies such as Scholastic’s graphic novel lines and a mountain of manga.  So as much as we need old geeks like me getting all “Chris Farley Show” with Marv Wolfman, we need those twelve-year-olds with their copies of Amulet, Drama, or Wings of Fire.


One of my favorite things I saw for sale:  Dark Helmet!

But like I said … nitpicking.  Plus, if anything, I saw the programming schedule and wished that I had taken a day off from work and gotten a hotel room because some of the panels were incredibly interesting.  Aside from the always appreciated creator spotlights (Brian K. Vaughn, Howard Chaykin, William Stout, Clinton T. Hobart, Ty Templeton, and Jim Lee, among others) as well as some very useful “how-to” panels (writing, drawing, and publishing comics were all highlighting, although I think there’s room for a “reviewing comics” or “podcasting about comics” panel or two … hint hint), there were topics that I never thought I’d see at a convention.  Had I been there on Friday, I would have gone to “Depression and the Creative Mind” or Sunday’s “Loading Snacks: Being Comfortable Being a Geek.”  Those are some heavy topics that can be deep discussions and I really hope they were well-attended because while I wasn’t able to go, they’re the types of conversations that we so need in our community.

So if anything, I’ve got incentive to return and maybe take on another day if I can spare the money and time.  It’s a show that gets bigger every year but has not lost sight of the purpose of a comic convention and while I admit I had a few moments of “I’m overwhelmed and don’t know what to do next” while there on Saturday, I never had a dull or bad moment.

Next year’s convention will be October 23-25.  For more information, you can go to the convention’s website and sign up for their mailing list so you can know who’s going to be there.  If you’re interested, I recommend going.

Stay tuned for episode 102 of the podcast, coming this weekend, where I get into more of my con experience as well as Brett’s, and I talk to Steve Conley (The Middle Age), Thom Zahler (Love & Capes), Brenden Fletcher (Robotech Remix), and William Rosado (The New Titans).

Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 90: Geekfest! The 2018 Baltimore Comic-Con

Episode 90 Website CoverIt’s that time of year again! I go back to Baltimore for the 2018 Baltimore Comic-Con. And this time, I’m not alone! Join me and Brett as we meet Tom Grummett, Karl Kesel, Mike Zeck, and Terry Moore. Plus, we get to talk with author Andrea Rose Washington, author and artist Javier Cruz Winnik, artist Luke Daab, and spend the day with fellow comics podcasters Gene Hendricks, Stella, and the Irredeemable Shagg! It’s one of the most jam-packed convention episodes yet and it’s here just for you!

You can listen here:

iTunes:  Pop Culture Affidavit

Direct Download 

Pop Culture Affidavit podcast page

Here’s some links for the people I talked to at the show …

eacd16_ef2867debee740e298c7771813b9299dmv2Andrea Rose Washington, sci-fi/fantasy author:

company-logoLuke Daab, artist:

loveandcapes_stripThom Zahler, writer and artist:

7a58278b0805d1e2569c6eed9d89e177_originalJavier Cruz Winnik, writer and artist:


Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 79: Adults Love Comics at the 2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

Episode 79 Website CoverYou heard from the kids, now it’s the grown-ups’ turn!  Join me and Gene Hendricks (The Hammer Strikes) as we recap our time at the 2017 Baltimore Comic-Con.  We talk about creators we met, comics we bought, and our chance meeting with Darren and Ruth Sutherland of the RaD Network.  Plus, you’ll hear me talking to comics legends Marv Wolfman, Michael Golden, Jerry Ordway, and Joe Staton.

You can listen here:

iTunes:  Pop Culture Affidavit

Direct Download

Pop Culture Affidavit podcast page

Some pictures of our quick podcast meet-up, a picture of Brett with Walt and Louise Simonson, and the comics I had signed and some that I bought.


Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 78: Kids Love Comics at the 2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

Episode 78 Website CoverFor the second year in a row, I took Brett to the Baltimore Comic-Con.  This time, dressed as Captain America, he once again conquered the Kids Love Comics pavilion as well as sat in on a panel about the Amulet series of graphic novels.  Hear what we learned about creating comics, who we met at the con, and what we bought!

You can listen here:

iTunes:  Pop Culture Affidavit

Direct Download

Pop Culture Affidavit podcast page

And here are links to the creators featured in this episode:



Leon, Protector of the Playground by Jamar Nicholas


Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi

And here’s a photo gallery of cosplay from the con!

A quick note:  My apologies for my rather lackluster voice in my segments; I’m fighting that beginning of the school year thing where I come home with a perpetually scratchy voice.  And I hope the echo in the Amulet panel segment isn’t too distracting–the room was quite large.

Tune in next episode for part two of my coverage, when I talk to Gene Hendricks about our con experiences!

Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 67: Geek Recap Summer 2016

episode-67-website-coverMore con talk! I wrap up my coverage of the 2016 Baltimore Comic-Con by sitting down with Professor Alan to talk about our experience at this year’s convention. We discuss con prep, creators we met, what we bought, and what we thought. Then, join me, Stella, and The Irredeemable Shag for a conversation over Mexican food during Shag’s recent visit to Charlottesville. Plus … listener feedback!

iTunes:  Pop Culture Affidavit

Direct Download

Pop Culture Affidavit podcast page

Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 66: Like a Kid in a Comic Store

episode66websitecoverIt’s that time of year again–time for the Baltimore Comic-Con! And this time, I’m not alone!

In the first of two episodes covering this year’s convention, I am joined by my son, Brett, as we take a look at the Kids Love Comics portion of the Baltimore Comic-Con and he experiences his very first convention. Along the way, we have footage from the “Create Your Own Superhero Logo” session as well as the “Scribble Scramble” competition. Plus, creator interviews with Franco (Aw Yeah, Superman Family Adventures, Tiny Titans) and Alexis Fajardo (Kid Beowulf). AND … Brett winds up on TV! Come check it out; it’s loads of all-ages fun!!!

iTunes:  Pop Culture Affidavit

Direct Download

Pop Culture Affidavit podcast page

If you’re interested in the people who were on the podcast, either as panelists/session hosts or who were interviewed, here are some links to their sites:

Carolyn Belefski, who hosted the “Draw Your Own Superhero Logo” session.

Mark Mariano, host of the Scribble Scramble

Franco, artist of many comics including Tiny Titans.

Kid Beowulf by Alexis Fajardo

Plus, below the jump are some pictures of cosplay and the convention from this past Saturday. Thanks again to the Baltimore Comic-Con for putting on such a great show!


Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 56: Geek Out … Again! (Summer 2015 Recap, Part Three)

Episode 56 Website CoverMy recap of the summer of 2015 concludes with a look at this year’s Baltimore Comic-Con! I take you through all of the tedious prep, talk about the comics I had signed, and gush about what I bought!

Here’s where to listen:

iTunes: Two True Freaks Presents Pop Culture Affidavit

Direct Download

Two True Freaks Presents: Pop Culture Affidavit podcast page

The 2015 Baltimore Comic-Con Recap

A Ninjak cosplayer who was in line to meet Jimmy Palmiotti.

A Ninjak cosplayer who was in line to meet Jimmy Palmiotti.

I can’t tell if after four straight years of attending, I can consider myself a “seasoned veteran” of the Baltimore Comic-Con. But I certainly have enough experience to evaluate it. I attended on Saturday, September 25 and was there prior to rope drop until around 5:00. I’ll have a much longer look at the con in episode 56 of the podcast a few weeks from now, but for now I wanted to offer my quick take on what I thought were its five most notable aspects.

1. Logistics. It seems silly to start out a review of a comic convention talking about the way the con is put together or handled, but I am sure that I’m not the only person who takes notice of these things and will criticize (sometimes loudly) when they’re not done well. Fortunately, I’m not going to criticize much here. If anything, things have improved during the last two years since the convention was moved to the larger hall on the corner of Pratt and Howard Streets. Much of the line is contained indoors (and conveniently near a restroom) and one featured added this year for those of us who are “commuting” the con and not booking a hotel room is that the convention planners have partnered with an app called Parking Panda, something which allowed me to find and pay online parking for the entire day for the incredibly reasonable rate of $15. Granted, I’m sure that I could have done my research and arrived early enough to snag this by myself but the convenience of having this done for me and ahead of time made even getting to the convention a pleasure (the less said about traffic on I-95 in the Washington, D.C. area the better).

The crowds at the con have gotten larger in the last few years and it has expanded to three days and the convention planners are obviously taking all of this into consideration and doing their best to plan around it. Personally, I’m curious as to what goes into it. I have an extremely limited amount of event planning experience (I once worked a trade show booth), but I think that an inside look at what goes into the planning of something as large as a three-day comic convention would be fascinating. A great podcast episode topic, perhaps? Not that I’m fishing for someone to contact me and make me that offer …

2. Kids Love Comics. Next year, if he’s still into superheroes, Star Wars, and the same books he’s been reading, I am going to take my son Brett along with me for that Saturday because I think he’ll be old enough to handle the crowd (he’ll be nine and will have had two Disney World trips under his belt), and he’ll be able to take full advantage of the Kids Love Comics section of the con. I hovered around the area and picked up a few things for him this year and noticed that it has expanded in the last couple of years to not only include activities and contests as well as chances to meet the creators of various all-ages comics, but it also has expanded to include young people who create comics. My very first year at the convention, I saw a young woman named Mary Jane DeCarlo, who was selling copies of her comic “Just Fly.” She was probably the youngest person behind a table there. This year, I noticed an entire row of tables with teenagers and kids who were producing and selling comics. This included John, Will, and Jack Gallagher from whom I bought a copy of E.P.I.C. Bros. for Brett to read.

Back toward the beginning of the year, I was a guest on episode 50 of The Quarter Bin podcast and one of the topics that we discussed was how the comics industry is going to survive in its current climate. One of the points that I made was that the Big Two in the comics industry needs to shore up their lines of all-ages comics. The Irredemable Shag, in the companion episode of Relatively Geeky Presents, added to that point by saying not only should they shore up their all-ages lines but look at distributing them where the kids shop as well as allow those all-ages comics to be a loss leader. Additionally, they need to look at what is being done here, which is not only encouraging kids to come to a comic convention, dress up (there is a kids’ costume contest), and meet people who produce some of their favorite comics (props to Kaboom!, whose booth is always excellent), but also learn how to create their own. Here’s just a sample of what was available during the weekend:

  • Haiku 101: learn how to write your very own cat-themed haiku poem
  • Pixel Portraits: a digital storytelling workshop
  • Create Your Own Superhero Symbol
  • Superhero University (create your own character, cape, and mask)

If you want to cultivate another generation of comics fans, this is how you do it. I’m actually looking forward to taking Brett next year because it’ll be his first ever convention and I’ll be able to experience this is in a completely different way.


From left to right: Deathstroke, Harley Quinn, Mr. Freeze, and Catwoman.

3. A Focus on Comics. And I should add a subtitle here, which is: “despite the absence of the big two.” Talk to just about anyone on the convention who has been there for a few years running (and I ran into at least a few people that I’ve seen a number of times) and one of the biggest items of praise they will give the convention is that it’s still focused on comics. The Baltimore Comic-Con started back in 1999 and I believe it was first held at the Sheraton in Towson (the hotel where my parents used to stay when they visited me at Loyola and where my friend’s wedding reception was held) and since that first year has attracted some serious talent for signings and panels. This year, Mark waid was the guest of honor (and I had great timing in that I was able to get to his table when he was actually there) but there was also a spotlight on Jules Feiffer, and artists and writers like Neal Adams, Marv Wolfman, Jim Starlin, Mike Grell, Ethan Van Sciver, Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner, Walt and Louise Simonson, and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez (praised be his name) to name a few were there to sign and sketch. I’ve never personally done the New York or San Diego Comic-Cons, but I have heard that the major complaint about New York is that it doesn’t handle the crowds very well and that San Diego seems to be shoving aside the comics in favor of it being an entertainment industry expo. Here, you’ve got people who are both experienced and new in the comics field and they are mostly front and center. And I’m not just saying that because I’ve had the chance to get a bunch of comics signed. I’m saying it because it does seem to satisfy a lot of comics fans. Furthermore, many of those creators appear on part of the Hero Initiative and the CBLDF has a big presence. Which leads me to …

4. Celebrity Guests. Though there is a presence of comics, the last two years have featured celebrity guests. Kevin Smith had special programming a few years ago and last year, Peter Mayhew made an appearance but this year there were five: Paul Blackthorne and Katie cassidy from Arrow; Raphael Sbarge from Once Upon a Time; and Edward James Olmos and Ming-Na Wen from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (among many other movies and television series). They’re all obviously comics or sci-fi/fantasy focused but the autographs and photo ops came at a pretty steep cost (about $50-$60), something I wasn’t exactly prepared to pay. Additionally, the area with the celebrity guests was completely separate from the rest of the floor, which definitely helped with the flow of the room and didn’t make it feel too crowded, but I couldn’t tell how successful this endeavor was. If it wasn’t, perhaps the convention will continue to limit the number of media guests; if it was, will it expand and by how much? Do hardcore comic book fans start worrying that this is the beginning of Baltimore becoming more of an entertainment convention like San Diego has become or is it just an added feature?

Cobra Commander 2016!

Cobra Commander 2016!

Danaerys Targaryen cosplay.

Danaerys Targaryen cosplay.

5. Programming. There’s a lot of cosplay at the Baltimore Comic-Con. Especially Deadpool and Harley Quinn (seriously … I think you could go next door to Oriole Park and have all of the Deadpool players play the Harley Quinn cosplayers). There are panels about cosplay, even for kids. Beyond that, there are creator spotlights and panels that discuss comics as well as issues in comics or put the spotlight on comics companies. I’ve been to a few over the years and they’re put on very well, but I’d personally love to see more nostalgia-focused panels. This year, there was one about the New Mutants, The Spirit, ads in comics, the Silver Age, and action figures, but perhaps the con could add some more with either creators or fans running panels about specific eras of comic books or comic book characters, or taking a look back a much-loved comic or toy line from the past.

I’ve had the pleasure of listening to panels from other shows run by podcasters such as Scott Gardner and Michael Bailey that covered Marvel’s Star Wars, 1980s Batman comics, Transformers, and G.I. Joe, among other topics, and they have always been as entertaining as their podcasts. In fact, with all of the “how-to” panels, perhaps a panel on comics podcasting could be added to the programming. I think that this is the area in which the convention has the greatest potential to add and diversify.

You’ll hear more from me about the Baltimore Comic-Con in a few weeks when I dig deeper into my coverage on episode 56 of Pop Culture Affidavit. In addition, I have posted my pictures to the Pop Culture Affidavit Facebook page. And finally, look for a clip from Jimmy Palmiotti in an upcoming episode of In Country, my podcast covering Marvel’s The ‘Nam.