comics

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.

Panels

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 111: Time Traveling Teens from 1988

Episode 111 Website CoverGet on your bike and grab your sack of morning editions! This time around, we’re back to looking at comics as Stella and I take a look at the Eisner-winning series “Paper Girls” by Brian K. Vaughn and Cliff Chiang. We give a summary of the book–with and without spoilers–and then talk about why we both think it’s required reading (even if that’s usually on our other podcast).

You can listen here:

Apple Podcasts:  Pop Culture Affidavit

Direct Download 

Pop Culture Affidavit podcast page

Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 110: Smile

Episode 110 Website CoverWith 1.5 million copies in print, Raina Telgemeier’s Smile is one of the most successful graphic novels of all time. So, in this episode, I take a look at it and not only give it a good review, but also talk about how a graphic novel that’s meant for middle school girls could possibly relate to me, a 43-year-old guy.

Plus … listener feedback!

You can listen here:

Apple Podcasts:  Pop Culture Affidavit

Direct Download 

Pop Culture Affidavit podcast page

Some bonus stuff after the cut …

(more…)

Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 109: JLMay 2020 — The Return of Donna Troy

Episode 109 Website CoverIn 2004, DC Comics released ‘Countdown to Infinite Crisis,” and set in motion a six-month buildup to what would be the most monumental crossover in recent DC history, Infinite Crisis.  This May, that ‘countdown” and buildup to Infinite Crisis is the topic for the annual JLMay crossover.  It is “The Event Before The Event.”

In this episode, I step in to take on the only miniseries from that time that you’d expect, which is The Return of Donna Troy. But in order for you to actually understand how and why Donna Troy is returning (and where she went in the first place, you need to know the answer to the age-old question … “Who is Donna Troy?”

And trust me, the answer is complicated.

Join me as I look at Donna’s origin and history through its most important phases–the swingin’ ’60s original Teen Titans, the Wolfman-Perez classics “Who is Donna Troy?” and “Who is Wonder Girl?”, and even the Nineties where she was the victim of crossover shenanigans and John Byrne.  And that’s just a warm-up for my coverage of the four-issue miniseries that’s written by Phil Jimenez, penciled by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez (praised be his name) and inked by George Perez.

You can listen here:

Apple Podcasts:  Pop Culture Affidavit

Direct Download 

Pop Culture Affidavit podcast page

This episode is just one part of a huge podcast crossover for JLMay 2020.  Be sure to check out the following shows over the course of May to continue the epic coverage of the event before the event.

Also, if you are listening to these shows and digging this podcast crossover, be sure to use #JLMay2020 if you’re sharing these episodes on social media.

Fallen Walls Open Curtains Episode 2

Is This TomorrowIt’s the second chapter in a podcast miniseries that looks at the fall of the Iron Curtain and the popular culture of the Cold War. To start us off, I look at what happened in Eastern Europe after the wall fell, beginning in November 1989 and ending in February 1990 with a special focus on the revolutions in Czechoslovakia and Romania. Then, Luke Jaconetti (Earth Destruction Directive, Get Back to the Wrestling) joins me to look at 1950s Cold War comics.

You can listen here:

Apple Podcasts:  Pop Culture Affidavit

Direct Download 

Pop Culture Affidavit podcast page

After the cut, here are some extras from this episode …

Luke and I both talked about Comic Book Plus on this episode. It has a ton of public domain comics that you can read and download for free.  Check them out here.

And here’s direct links to the comics

World War III

World War III Comic

Atomic War!

Atomic War Comic

Is This Tomorrow

Is-This-Tomorrow-000a-Front-Cover

Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 106: It was the Nineties

Episode 106 Website CoverWe came.  We saw.  We read Wizard.  We bought what Wizard recommended.  Thirty years later, we can get what Wizard recommended for a quarter.

We have regrets.

This episode, I celebrate 30 years since the dawn of the Nineties with a look at the decade of comic excess via Wizard: The Guide to Comics #29 and I confess whether or not I actually got sucked into the speculation boom’s vortex.

You can listen here:

Apple Podcasts:  Pop Culture Affidavit

Direct Download 

Pop Culture Affidavit podcast page

And just for fun, here’s the cover of Wizard #29

Wizard 29

Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 104: Festivus 2019

Episode 104 Website CoverIt’s the most wonderful time of the year again! Continuing a podcast tradition, I am joined by Rob Kelly of the Fire and Water Podcast Network to celebrate Festivus 2019! We begin, as always, with the airing of grievances where we discuss what has annoyed us in popular culture this year. Then we move on to the feats of strength, which means reading and reviewing a Nineties comic. This time around, it’s Armor #4 from Continuity Comics.

You can listen here:

Apple Podcasts:  Pop Culture Affidavit

Direct Download 

Pop Culture Affidavit podcast page

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.

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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.

20191019_112207

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.

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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).

In Country: Marvel Comics’ “The ‘Nam” — Episode 100

IC 100 Website CoverIt’s time to head back to the world!

That’s right, it is the FINAL episode of “In Country”!  And in this one, I am taking a look at the last issue of The ‘Nam, which is The ‘Nam #84.  Written by Don Lomax with art by Alberto Saichann, “The Letter” follows several NVA and VC fighters through the jungles of North and South Vietnam and centers around a letter a little girl wrote to her father, who has been fighting int he war for years.  After doing my synopsis and review, I then look at the ads and the last lettercolumn of the series, which includes an editorial farewell, and give my final thoughts on the series and this podcast.

You can download the episode via Apple Podcasts or listen directly at the Two True Freaks website

In Country iTunes feed

In Country Episode 100 direct link

Nam 84