Monday, September 19, 2005

Blogging from Baltimore

Marc Nathan knows how to put on a show! This was my 3rd time at the Baltimore Comic con as easily the best one I attended and my favorite con this year, really the best I've been to in a while. Hey, I love San Diego, especially for the awesome weather, but that show is so huge, such a tactical nightmare at times and it seems it really isn't that much about comics now and it can just beat you down financially and endurance wise. But Nathan's show was all about the hobby. That's right, I called it a hobby, bro. Buying, reading and collecting comics is a hobby, something I think is really overlooked now. Something that is missed, like the throngs of new kid readers we used to get every few years.

Besides Mick Foley, AKA Mankind the wrestler, who was in attendance to also promote a comic, there was not one aging TV star or movie star. No Hulk, no Beast Master, Mike TV, no Buck Rogers or chick from Galactica. Nope, just people selling comics, buying comics and people who draw and write comics, and you know what? It was great, like an old time con I'd go to 20 years ago, like a comic con from my youth, where you could actually go up to people and have a conversation, no loud theme music blaring from booths. There were a few dudes and dudettes in costume, even a whole family dressed like the Matrix. The con was bigger this year, and there were definitely the usual mass of babymen trawling the floor, but it somehow seemed way, way way less smelly and oppressive than many recent shows, so while it was pretty slow at times where I was and I didn't make as much dough as I would in San Diego, I did more sketches, signed more books and smoozed with more fellow Pros than I did in SD. Wizard could also take some serious lessons from Nathan also on how to keep the "fun" in a show and treat people not on their "Top 10" list.

Marc comped many artists table, including me. Now this used to be a common practice, artists and comic creators were given free tables as we are/were the draw for the con. Step up and get a stack of books signed, get a sketch , critique etc. But in the last decade that courtesy has mostly been discontinued at many shows. The "Hollywoodization" of comics has often for my $$ taken the fun out of comics and made too much like a cheaper version of Hollywood where everyone scrambles for their 15 seconds of camera time. It often seems more about deals, doing deals, than it is about what got us all into comics anyway...they are a lot of fun! Fun to write, draw and read. I think the blossoming of self publishers and wanna-be's also attending shows has forced there to be less freebies too. As shows get bigger and more expensive I'm sure there has to be lines drawn and hard choices made, but still, a free lunch, a free table can really make the difference at a show, makes it sometimes go from being affordable to not being possible for many professionals.

Another reason I had a good time was that a lot of my peeps were there. Jamar Nicholas, Ande Parks, Alberto Ruiz and his familia, Matt Haley, Scott Neely, John Gallagher, Rich Faber, Thom Zaller, Mike "Ringo", Mike Hawthorne, who was passing out some great tasting cigars at the Marriott bar Saturday...The "hang" as I call it after the show was also good and a lot less stressful than the insanity of San Diego's Gas Lamp district. Had a nice conversation with the Beat's Heidi McDonald discussing the new Diamond rules on solicitation and ordering minimums which I think will clean a lot of bottom feeders out of the biz, maybe some who need cleaning, but some of the lowly today will be the mighty tomorrow and I think it shows again where the real weak chink in this business is, the retailers....they have us all by the short hairs buddy.

For me it just continues to show in a crystal clear way that the new blood in this business in clearly outside of the walled City of Babymania, known to you as the direct market. The publishers like Top Shelf and Adhouse had a good crowd, and that crowd is made up of a lot more girls and people with wider reading habits...and you know what that means?

Drawing Batman will not get you laid!


Now Baltimore is a "good eats" town and a town that is pretty rough and can get you rolled for a stack of dimes. The seafood is good, especially the crab. The inner harbor is a bustling place which was chock full of people Saturday night, but we managed to squeeze our group in and bellied up to the steam bar at Phillip's all-you-can-eat restaurant. Oh the agony! The slaughter! The butter!

While the food was so-so, not terrible, not great, I had a good time and so did the gang and we got to see a crazy slap fight between what appeared to be some homeless people and mimes? It was a whirl of slap-fight hands and shoes, some of which were left behind as the fight careened along the harbor promenade. Kookie! Don't fuck with mimes baby!


I was able to get to talk to many cool people at the show like Carla Speed McNeil who does a cool comic called Finder and I also chatted with Chris Pitzer, Bryan Lee O'Malley , Hope Larson
SALAMANDER DREAM at the AD House Books table, Adrian Salmon who draws a cool comic called The Faceless.

Bonaia inking on her comic in my studio.

I was up late Friday night rushing on my Venture Brother board and helping Bonaia finish her first mini-comic for the con, print out business cards, etc. This was her first real big show where she is trying to break in, so it was really great that there were cool people like Carla, Chris P and many others who were there to give her some good feedback and pointers on her work.

Carla giving Bonaia some golden words of wisdom

It was along day and after the show Bonaia, her boyfriend Allen and I crashed out in the hotel room at the Days Inn before we headed out to dinner. The lack of sleep caught up with Bonaia, but I was sort of wired...that tired but jerky feeling you get.

I didn't get a lot of stuff at the con, but I did get score cool comics, especially Scott Pilgrim, which I am reading and really enjoying now. I had been hearing such good things about it I was really looking forward to grabbing a copy. Bryan only had copies of NO.2 with him, so I'll still have to track down NO.1.

And the best news of the weekend was that the Katrina Relief sketchbook John Gallagher and Rich Faber rushed together and I participated in raised $4000 for Habitat for Humanity's "Operation Home Delivery," creating low-income housing for Katrina's survivors. Congrats John and Rich!


John Beatty said...

Good post, Mike! Thanks for the report and pics.

I'd like to visit a Baltimore show one year myself!

Rich Faber said...


Great description of Marc Nathan's show, his generosity, and the overall atmosphere of the Baltimore Comic-Con. It's my favorite con of the year.

As for Drawing Strength, the sketchbook John and I produced for Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, first, I want to once again thank you and everyone else who contributed. It's all of you who really made this book, and we couldn't be more grateful for your contributions, or more pleased with the generosity of all of the amazing people who bought the book.

For those that didn't attend the show, you can still get your copy online, by visiting the website John Gallagher and I set up:

We only printed 500 copies though, so you better hurry over!

Thanks again to everyone!

Rich Faber

Mike M said...

Hey Bigbeatty! No time long chat!

I think you'd like the show, the relaxed atmosphere and of course to good company and seafood.

Rich you and John deserve a nice pat on the back from Jimmy when you hand him the giant check!

Rich Faber said...

Thanks, Mike. I *so* want to have a big check to hand out! =)

By the way, we sold another 40 copies of Drawing Strength off the website, just since yesterday!


Scott Neely said...

Drawing Batman won't get you laid???? Who'da thunk it!?! Can it be so??

Maybe doing the X-Men, or maybe Spider-Man will? Nah....comics are a cruel fate. Hahaha

Alan said...

Awesome post indeed. Thanks so much for sharing.

John Gallagher said...

Mr Manley--

Thanks for the cool report-- i agree, Marc Nathan loves comics, and this may be the last real comic-centric show in the US (Charlotte may be the one other, I believe)

BTW, "Drawing Strength", the Katrina Benefit book you and Bonaia graciously contributed to, raised over $4000 for Habitat For Humanity (rebuilding after Katrina) in Baltimore, and we have raised another $750 this week by selling it online at The Sky Dog Press website.

Everyone, if you want to get a great sketchbook, by some very cool artists, includinhg Mike, please come by the site and check this out!

thanks again for the rundown-- I feel like I was there-- oh wait, I was!

john gallagher
John Gallagher

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