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.
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.
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.
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).