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Monday, February 09, 2009

New York 2009 Comic Con Report

Today will be my report on the New York Comic Con, which just wrapped up yesterday!

The NY Comic Con folks were generous enough to grant me a "Press" pass, so I figure the least I can do is talk about the show and my experiences at it (I would do it anyway, even I paid to get in, but shhh, don't tell them that!)

sgAnyway, last year when I showed up to get my credentials, they had no record of me, so I didn't get an actual badge with the Shrine's name on it.

Luckily, this year things went more smoothly, and I got handed an official badge with the five magical words on it--"Rob Kelly", "Aquaman Shrine", and "Press." Ya-hoo! I would've bought one of those old-style Press hats from 40s movies, if I had thought of it. (I passed my pal, F.O.A.M. member, and fellow comics blogger Glenn Walker on the way in, who kept me from wandering the bowels of the Jacob Javitz Center, looking for the Press Room).

I got there around 1pm on Friday, and unfortunately the massive crowds had already started to gather. My main "targets" for Aquaman sketching duties were Brian Bolland and Jose Luis Garcia Lopez. Both of them being meticulous artists, I had doubts they'd even be doing sketches, but I thought I'd ask.

And it was here that I ran into the first of many signs that the show was going
to be packed--by 1pm, Bolland was already basically filled up with sketch requests. I asked him if he did commissions by mail, but he politely said no, thereby ending my chance to get a Brian Bolland sketch. They said something about starting the list over on Saturday, but I figured unless I sat at Bolland's table at 9am, waiting for him to arrive, the sketch list was going to be even longer that day, so I moved on.

Next was Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, who was not yet at his table. As I was waiting, I ran into fellow blogger and
F.O.A.M.er Richard Bensam, who is a wonderful person to walk a con with (not everyone is good at it, from my experience). I spent the first few minutes bitching to Richard about already feeling like I got to the con too late, so he accompanied me back to Lopez's table, to see if he had arrived.

When we got there, he was just setting up, pulling things out of his portfolio, and I didn't want to get in his face before he even sat down, so Richard and I wandered off for a moment. When we returned, there was already four or five people in line, so there weren't my moment! (Turns out Jose wasn't doing sketches, so I didn't really miss my chance)

We then ran into Paul Kupperberg, Patron Saint of the Aquaman Shrine (don't tell his Rabbi), who graciously took me over and introduced me to comics legend Len Wein, giving me the chance to thank Len for doing an interview with me for my
JLA Satellite blog.

One of the things I noticed at the con were how many people--even on Friday, the traditionally quiet day--came to the con in costume. Now, as many regular con attendees know, many of these costumed con-goers are women, usually dressed in some sexed-up version of their favorite superheroine.

There was one woman I saw walking the con floor dressed as Supergirl, and she was, frankly, just about perfect--pretty much a walking, talking comic book drawing come to life. But even though I admired how perfectly put together her look and costume were, I'm shy about asking someone like that to pose for a picture--it feels a little pervy to me, asking some young woman to pose (who am I, Irving Klaw?), so I generally just walk on by.

Asking these guys to pose was more my speed:

...I mean, how many Solomon Grundy fans can there be out there? As you might guess, I'm a fan of the "B" characters, so when I see someone love Kid Flash so much they make a homemade costume, it makes me smile. (Later, I saw these same two on Saturday, which made me want to ask the Grundy guy, did he sleep in that outfit, or wash it all off and put it all back the next day?)

I went back to my sketch hunting, and came across the table of Chris Giarrusso, the artist behind those great Mini-Marvels strips and books. I asked him to do an Aquaman sketch for me, the result of which will be seen here tomorrow.

I wandered around Artist's Alley some more, and managed to make arrangements with two other favorite artists of mine to do Aquaman sketches, but I'm keeping those names a secret for now--I like still having a surprise or two here on the Shrine!

One of the nicest moments of the con for me was when I visited Kevin Maguire's table. After talking to Kevin (whose work I've always loved), Richard and I started to walk away, when a dapper-looking man walked past, and Kevin yelled out "Hey! Isn't that J.M. DeMatteis?"

In fact, it was, and he turned around to say hi to Kevin. I stopped in my tracks and waited, because J.M. DeMatteis, in addition to being a superb writer, has been another comics pro who has been extraordinarily generous with his time towards me and my blogs, having done two interviews with me for the Shrine (see sidebar) and one for JLA Satellite.

I waited until he was done talking to Kevin, then introduced myself. When he saw my badge, his face lit up, and he said something to the effect of "Wow! Great to finally meet you!" We talked for a few moments, then I got him to autograph a copy of Adventure Comics #475 I had with me, which features his first Aquaman story:

We shook hands and departed, and I felt elated. J.M. DeMatteis was happy to see me--me? Someone who read the above comic off the newsstand at age nine?

Later, Richard introduced me to the blogger known as Redhead Fangirl, who is as sweet in person as her blog persona
. She looked over my sketchbook and we talked about famous redheaded comics characters. I couldn't help but think when I made an Insect Queen joke and she laughed, where were women like this when I was single?

I visited my friend Geoff Grogan, who I first met at last year's con when he was selling his treasury-sized book Look Out!! Monsters, which I admired immensely. He has a new series out now called Nice Work, set in the 1960s and all about the Rat Pack and JFK, and I picked up the first trade. We spent most of the time talking about treasury-sized comics, a topic I never grow tired of discussing.

After stopping by the legendary Joe Staton's table and picking up a Scooby-Doo commission for my nephew, it occurred to me that my sketchbook, in my attempt to collect fantastic pieces of artwork all within its covers, has become a little too beloved an artifact for me now to feel comfortable giving it to anyone to keep overnight, which is pretty SOP for most of the comics pros I seek sketches from.

Having a book with originals by Aparo, Cardy, Infantino, Fradon, Hamilton, Staton, Austin, Gleason, etc., is simply too precious to me to leave with anyone for too long, so now I have to resign myself to mostly getting sketches on separate pieces of paper and then adding them to the book. I just can't bear to leave my baby with strangers!

By this point it was around 5pm, and I had to head back. I made plans to meet up with Richard again the next day and headed back to the Port Authority to make my way out of the city.

The next day, the Saturday crowds made the Friday ones look like a matinee of The Spirit. Every single aisle was packed within an inch of its life, and as we all know, not everyone is as polite as we'd like them to be. Just getting from one end to the other was a grueling ordeal, at least for me.

There were even more amazing self-made costumes on display, and I got a little more comfortable asking for pictures. Like when I saw these two:
I mean, that Catwoman...wow. Just getting in that thing must have been a feat of engineering.

(Looking back at this picture, it occurs to me I probably weigh more than both these women combined. Note to self: hit the WiiFit when done writing this post)

There was also this amazing two-some:
Not only did the Chewbacca stand about seven feet tall, but the guy playing Han Solo managed to keep the perfect bored smirk that Harrison Ford had all throughout Star Wars. Well done, fellas(?).

I always like to try and get a sketch by one artist who I've never heard of, just from spotting their work and liking what I see. I did that again this year, with DC Comics inker Derek Fridolfs. While DC seems to just use him primarily as an inker, he has a style that to me looks like a cross between Paul Pope and Bruce Timm, and I liked it immediately. I told him if he ever did the pencils and inks on a book, I'd buy it regardless of the story.

Bonus was that he was fast, doing sketches as you watched, so I actually got him to the piece in my book, and I was thrilled with it. It will show up here soon!

Around this time, I ran into F.O.A.M. member Vince Bartilucci and his charming wife Billi. Having never met Vince, or knowing what he looked like, it was up to him to spot me, which he did when he some guy clutching an Aquaman sketchbook to his chest. He flagged me down and we talked for a few minutes, and compared our con experiences. He even bestowed on me a small Aquaman-related gift, which will be the subject of a future post.

Shockingly, he then tried to steal my sketchbook and make a break for it! But luckily Billi stopped him:
Good catch, Mrs. B! (Btw,...like my Batman TV show-esque angle on the photo?)

I stopped by Geoff Grogan's table again. I had read the first half of his Nice Work trade Friday night and liked it, so I came back to pick up the second issue. It felt good to be able to go right back to someone and tell them you liked what they did, and were back for more.

By this point, the crowds were really started to get to me, so I decided to make my way out the door. But I wanted to run into Richard one more time, and I did, by the TwoMorrows table. Richard shamed me into admitting I had not even been to the other side of the Javitz Center, to see the other half of the con I was attending! I was like the Comic Con equivalent of one of the SoHo snobs.

Richard wanted to take me to the table of a dealer whom he thought might have some good Aqua-Swag, and on the way we stopped at the Mattel booth and saw some amazing new figures making their way to Targets all over this, er, great land:
I'm excited to see a Tala figure--the first Phantom Stranger-related character for the JLU line--plus the addition of Super Friends Apache Chief, Samurai, and Black Vulcan--wow! Meanwhile, Cyborg apparently suffers some technical difficulties.
I also got shots of the new History of the DC Universe Aquaman figure, a JLU-styled Aquaman but featuring the original costume, as well as a line of mini-Brave and the Bold features, including Aquaman and Black Manta! As Richard pointed out, when is Ocean Master going to get some injection-molded love?!?

Finally we got to the dealer in question, and while they didn't have any Aquaman stuff I didn't have (except for a Mint Yellow Card Aquaman, which I wasn't even going to ask about), it was here that I made my traditional, one-per-con Useless Purchase.

I guess one could argue every purchase at a con is a useless purchase, but go with me on this. Every con, I buy something that catches my fancy, that, in that moment, I really want, even though it doesn't tie in to any specific collection I'm maintaining (Aquaman stuff, Bob Dylan bootlegs, treasury-sized comics, etc.). And this time, it was this:
I've always loved Ray Harryhausen's movies, and I still remember my Dad taking me and my sister to see Clash of the Titans. So, for whatever reason, a foreign-carded Perseus figure was exactly what I wanted at that moment. (Note to all my friends: if you ever see a carded COTT Charon figure, please pick it up for me. I desperately want a "Death's Boatman" action figure!) Anyway, the price was right, and I clutched my newest con prize to my chest.

Somehow, Richard and I made it through the throng to a relatively quiet spot where we talked about Human Civilization's genetic need to hunt, and how that still manifests itself, all these eons later, even when looking for action figures. It was all very high-falutin' considering we were at an event featuring people dressed like Darkwing Duck.

By this time, I decided to head out, and made my way home. Another successful comic con has come and gone!

There was a point around 2002-2005 where I didn't attend many comic cons. The friends I had gone to SDCC with weren't around, and I hardly knew anyone at local shows. I wondered if going to cons at all was something I would just phase out of my life.

But now thanks to my blogs (mostly The Aquaman Shrine), I now get to meet up with lots of people, get to shake their hand and say hello, and make a connection beyond the 1s and 0s of the internet. It truly is a marvelous thing, and now I look forward to each and every comic con I can go to.

Next year's New York show isn't until October 2010, which seems like a long ways away...


Wings1295 said...

Wow - sounds like quite an experience! Glad you had fun and met some cool folks!

Plaidstallions said...

Nice read Rob, I feel like I was there!

I'm with you on the whole personal meeting thing through the blogs, it's very rewarding.

BTW, totally jealous of your Canadian carded Perseus.

Anonymous said...

Wow, sounds like you had a great time. Thanks for sharing. I can't wait to see your Chris Giarruso; I got something from him at the Mid-Ohio Con that is adorable. :-)
I also met Len Wein and I was wearing an Aquaman t-shirt; he actually told me he likes Aquaman a lot. He was a heck of a nice guy.

Anonymous said...

Sounds great, Rob - congrats on your Cred!

(I just can't bring myself to pay That money for Those crowds anymore...)

-Craig W.

Vincent Paul Bartilucci said...

I would have gotten away with it if it wasn't for that meddling wife of mine!

Seriously, I had a wonderful time at the show (my first in many, many years). I scored some cool sketches, spoke with some folks whose work I really admire, and got to meet two of planet Earth's coolest Robert's - our host Mr Kelly, of course, and TV's Robert Culp!

I know it's not Aqua-related but shaking the hand of the man who played Kelly Robinson on I Spy (best spy show ever!) was an absolute thrill.

Doug said...

Awesome coverage Rob!

I've read nothing but great things about this con, which makes me hopeful that the Chicago one planned for next April is as well done.

Just out of curiosity, so I can start saving my nickels and dimes now, how much was Kevin Maguire charging for a commission?

The Irredeemable Shag said...

Great recap, Rob! Makes me feel like I was there!

Looking forward to seeing all those sketches!

The Irredeemable Shag

Adama said...

Wow, sounds like a great show! If you're concerned about waiting a year and half for another con, you could always join Luke and I at Heroes in June!

Richard said...

I kept my eyes open for Vince Bartilucci but never spotted him, much to my disappointment. Sorry Vince, but we've got to hook up next time!

Rob, I'd have said about you all the things you said about walking the con floor with me. My shyness can be almost pathological in situations like this...so hanging out with cool folks like yourself and RF gives me the chance to enjoy a convention in a totally different way and meet even more cool people I'd never interact with otherwise. Reading this brings back many happy memories of the weekend, and here's to more in the future.

RedheadFangirl said...

Great con coverage! I will certainly be checking in at the Aquaman Shrine more often.
Your sketchbook is certainly a jewel, hang on to it tight!
And it was so nice to meet you too!

rob! said...


you should be jealous of the Perseus figure, its sweet. :)


Maguire charges $100 for headshots, but they are astoundingly detailed, fully drawn shots, so its worth it (to me). he had a Hawkman one sitting at his table that was fantastic.

get to him early; his sketch sheet fills up fast!


yep, it makes a con so much better having someone to hang with. glad we managed to stumble across one another, which is pretty remarkable considering how many people were there!


Jersey Comic Nerds Unite! :) Will you be at the WW Philly show?

The Irredeemable Shag said...

Hey Rob - If you ever consider going to Dragon*Con in Atlanta over Labor Day, give me a shout. I'm there every year. Love it! Not a ton of comics, but a really great con.

The Irredeemable Shag

Vincent Paul Bartilucci said...

Sorry I missed you RAB. Maybe we should make our own little F.O.A.M. badges so we can ID one another at future cons.

Anyone going to The National in November?

rob! said...


I was thinking about getting t-shirts made up, but the move to February killed that idea.

I like the FOAM badges though--easy, cheap, and can be worn no matter when the con takes place. I'll definitely consider that when the next NY con comes around.

Unknown said...

So glad to hear what a time you had, Rob. As opposed to the stuffy panel and news reports that most Con articles are, I really cherish ones like yours that are personal experiences. These are the ones that make us remember why we love comics in the first place. Good to see you, man, and as ever, the Shrine rocks!