The cosplayer talent at Big Wow! 2014 was a sight to behold.
I especially enjoyed the group pictures taken downstairs in the foyer. Bill Watters set the groups up, gave directions, and rotated photographers in and out.
(Bill deserves muchos kudos for giving the cosplayers a great outlet that also considers accessibility for the photographers. I had an amazing time, and Mr. Watters did not discriminate between DSLR holders and point-and-shoots. I recommend it for any professional, budding, or amateur photographers next year!)
That provided for some keen photographs, and I had a great time snapping shots.
Big Wow! is only an hour away from me, but I’ve never been.
Why? I don’t know. But this year, I saw what I’ve been missing.
Before the convention, I gathered some information on what I should expect from Big Wow! — I was told it was artist-friendly, a bit more intimate, and less frantic. I checked out the impressive list of attendees and guests — notably, at least for me, Bin Furuya of Ultraman fame and Kenpachiro Satsuma, one of several men who’ve donned the Godzilla suit. Greg Rucka who grew up in my city and Michael Lark — co-creators on my favorite modern comic Lazarus — would be on hand as well along with Humberto Ramos, Buzz, Joe Rubenstein, Mark Brooks, and Stephane Roux.
(The list was a lot longer than the ones I got to meet.)
I started off my first trip to Big Wow! by getting on commission lists before my buddy Joaquin and I walked the floor exploring booths, shops, and artist information. Joaquin came with me to be a second pair of hands because the delicate nature of comics means having to watch out for tape while bagging and boarding — or unbagging/unboarding — and doing things as efficiently as possible without damaging anything. I caught the commission/signature/grading bug at my first convention, and I’ve treated comic-cons as work as much — or more so — as pleasure. Not that I’m there to flip everything I buy, but I have goals I want to meet. Blame it on my obsessive-compulsive nature.
(By the way, I’ve yet to sell any of my sigs or commissions — and besides a few I had Desert Wind Comics do that were multiples and through an artist who was fine with it, I might be holding on to them all, or most of them, for a very long time before some hands me a $1-million.)
If I had to describe Big Wow! to a person who had never been there — it’s got a vibe unlike any other convention I’ve been to. It wasn’t as packed as WonderCon or Wizard World Sacramento when Stan Lee and Chris Hemsworth made their only appearances on a Sunday, so it was easy to snag an autograph or chat for a while. I had conversations with Norm Rapmund who was surprised to find San Jose was farther from Los Angeles than he thought and Buzz who told me he’d hook me up on a commission of Spider-Man. I got a commission from Buzz before at another convention, and I knew what kind of quality he puts into his work. When I picked up my Spider-Man commission, I was floored. Again.
Meeting Rucka was a little nerve-wracking, seeing as how he’s a former Salinasan. I didn’t know if it was a subject I was allowed to approach, but when the area in front of me cleared, and I moved forward to shake his hand, his friendliness opened the doors.
“Hello, Mr. Rucka. I’m from Salinas, too.”
A big smile spread across his face, and he told me how much it surprises him to find people from his hometown. And when I told him I see his father’s commercials — Mr. Rucka’s a lawyer — Greg seemed wondrous. “He’s still doing that?” he asked.
I told him Lazarus was my favorite current book, and then I got my issues signed by Rucka’s boothmate, Lark, who earlier delivered my commission. Lark seemed very sweet, and I thanked him again.
“Which commission did I do for you?” he asked.
“The Batman rising up in the rain.”
Between walking the floor, complaining about being hungry, and shopping, I went to check on Bridgett Spicer, Ace Continuado, Chris Arrocena, and Ray Zepeda, Jr. — fellow Salinasans who had booths. At one point, Ace and Chris let me man their table while they went to check out the convention. I’ve had dreams of writing my own comic for a while now, and I definitely liked the idea of one day being able to talk to comic fans from that side of the booth as a creator.
As for Bridgett — she shared a space with Betsy Streeter — they looked like they were having a blast. Their booth, renamed the Fun Booth, garnered plenty of attention.
“I’m definitely doing this again next year,” Spicer said.
“Better than APE?” I asked.
“Oh yeah,” she said, nodding her head, furiously.
And while I was mainly there for the artists, I did have a chance to meet and shake Bin Furuya’s hand. There was an awkward mixup when I went to the wrong booth to get a ticket — Steven Skyler of Power Rangers Samurai graciously corrected my mistake, telling me: “This is a totally different booth.”
When I found the person handling tickets, the man in front of me in line bought 12 autograph tickets with his pick of 12 photographs. The ticket handler threw in a couple more photos which Mr. Furuya signed politely. For an octogenarian, Furuya looked great, and he signed cards and thanked each person after each signing. While I waited, I snapped a photo of Mr. Satsuma as he posed for the camera.
I sort of freaked out when I placed my Ultraman #1 — I can’t believe I had one in my collection — down in front of Mr. Furuya. I don’t know if he’s ever signed comics, and he asked me, “Doko, doko, doko?” as he searched for a place to sign his name. I opened the cover, and he signed it on the inside.
“You sure that’s where you want it?” the CGC witness asked, “You won’t be able to see it when it’s slabbed.”
I slapped myself.
“Can you please sign it here?” I asked Furuya pointing to the slip over the cover.
He did, and then he signed a small card that had a picture of himself with his arm cradling the Ultraman helmet that he was the template for.
“This is the only one in the registry,” Mike of CGC told me, “He never does these shows.” Checking the CGC registry now, I can see there’s only one that’s ever been graded at all. Mine would be the second to get a grade, but it would be the first to be graded for the Signature Series.
I scored commissions from Stephane Roux who told me to return during the last hour of the convention on Sunday for quick sketches. My coworker is the biggest Harley Quinn fan I know, and I wanted to get him something.
I also received a Spider-Man from Joe Rubinstein — he holds the Guinness Book of World Records record for most inks over artists’ pencils — and I got an amazing Spider-Man for my Amazing Spider-Man #1 sketch cover. It was pretty much a Spider-Man weekend as I sort of shelved my Batman project to get various covers for my Amazing Spider-Man #1s. Ramos was the last commission I picked up — it seemed right to have the interior artist give me his own original for the outside.
I got a good number of souvenirs that I’m trying to figure out how to display without light damage. It’s a comic problem that I’m willing to take input on, so if you know of a way to show off CGC books without worrying about UV damage, please leave a comment.
Quin and I didn’t attend any panels until Sunday when we were reunited with a long-lost friend we haven’t seen in years. James and his son stopped by the convention and found us in line. It was great hanging out with the both of them — they were interested in action figures and other toys. James got a commission from Stefano Gaudiano, which seemed like a steal for what he got and how much he paid.
We ended the last day of the convention with a screening of the Batman Chronicles, hosted by Anthony Misiano with a Q&A panel at the end. Misiano made a great impression on me as he kept us entertained even when the projector and sound continued to malfunction. Instead of reacting to the problems with negativity, Misiano displayed a sort of humor and joviality that made a lot of fans, myself included.
The screening and Q&A ended 15 minutes after the convention was over, and I thought I missed my opportunity to get Josh a Roux quick sketch. James somehow got back in, and I chased after him. While Joaquin went to thank Ramos for a commission, I went to find Ace and Chris who were already gone. On the way back, I saw Mr. Roux talking with a few others. I approached him, thanked him for the commission, then asked if he had five minutes.
“Sure,” he said, “Do you have a Sharpie?”
I took out a Batman #29 sketch cover and a gold Sharpie.
“This will be the first gold Batman I’ve ever drawn,” he said.
“Actually, my coworker is a huge Harley fan.”
“Well, this will be the first gold Harley I’ve ever drawn,” he told me.
One of the others that Roux was talking to said, “Check this out. You’re going to see some magic.”
“I saw some magic earlier,” I told him, “Roux did a commission for me.”
“Was it on the sketch cover?”
“Yes,” I said.
“That one was awesome,” he said. We both nodded at each other as we saw a familiar face appear on a once-blank page.
Stan Lee was sick and didn’t make any appearances Friday or Saturday, so Sunday was the day to get an autograph.
I didn’t expect the Sacramento Convention Center to be as packed as it was, but with the perfect storm of Stan Lee and Chris Hemsworth appearing on the same day — just getting to the Desert Wind Comics booth was an ordeal.
I would highly recommend going through DWC for a Signature Series grade on a comic signed by Stan Lee. Not only will they stand witness — CGC has a no-wait policy which means you have to send someone to call a witness when you’re close to getting your book signed — they have special arrangements with Mr. Lee’s handlers and the booth. And if you’re not able to get the book signed, they’ll take your book and have it done at another convention for you.
It took a lot of patience and a long while to finally get in contact with one of the DWC staff members with all of the stuff coming back from Mr. Lee’s booth for authentication and certificates. Lines were forming every which way, and when I finally got in contact with a staff member, she took a couple of us to Mr. Lee’s booth where the famed creator, still looking a bit ill, autographed my X-Men #1 (1991) before taking a break.
I carefully put the comic into another Mylites2 bag and decided to have DWC handle the signing of my Greg Horn books. It would be an extra fee, but I didn’t want to wait in anymore lines for a long, long time.
Trying to navigate the main floor wasn’t easy. There were so many people that I decided to hold off on taking pictures of cosplayers because space was limited.
Since I had time to burn, I made my way to Paolo Rivera’s booth for one more try on getting a commission. He looked pretty busy, and I figured I’d at least thank him for being patient with me throughout the weekend. To my surprise, he said a lot of progress was made on the other pieces, and it was very possible he could have mine done by the end of day.
With that, I moved a few over to Ethan Van Sciver’s booth where he handed me a pre-New 52 Batman.
“I colored it,” he said. I was awestruck and fumbled out a “Thank you!” before I rushed over to Hot Flips to get a case for it.
There wasn’t much to do except check out panels and shop, so I scheduled a visit to the artists roundtable discussion — a panel with Eric Nguyen, Jimmie Robinson, Paolo Rivera, and Humberto Ramos with Danny Fingeroth moderating. Fingeroth went through slides of artwork for each artist, and then he opened it up for a Q&A at the end. Each of the artists talked about their processes, their current projects, and other pertinent topics.
On Ramos working on the new Amazing Spider-Man title soon to be released, he couldn’t give any details about how Peter Parker returns to the suit.
“Ryan (Stegman) is working on those issues, so I don’t have any idea how Peter Parker comes back,” he said. Ramos said Marvel could have gone with a more famous artist, but he really wanted the project. (Personally, I think it’s a good choice — Ramos has done 25 issues of Spidey, and they’ve been very well received.)
Jimmie Robinson talked about the difference between creator-owned projects and working with publishers on IPs. Though he makes a bit less for his creator-owned properties, he does retain all future rights. Robinson also discussed having to write and draw a comic based around a super-villain (Bomb Queen) who runs her own city — “I have to basically write down all the things I would never do.”
Rivera, having won the Eisner Award for Daredevil, discussed his transition from doing interiors to doing exteriors. The audience got to see a cast poster for Iron Man which was very limited in print and handed out to cast members for the movie. Rivera mentioned the possibility of doing interiors this year, and how his work output increased when he moved over to digital.
Nguyen also discussed doing digital — the benefits of efficiency and speed vs. not having original pages for sale on a secondary market. Nguyen stressed he was more about quality and getting the art done right rather than focusing a little on cashing on art sales. He also said his favorite projects were ones that had no determined look or parameters that left him free to create and define at his own will.
After that panel, I spent the rest of the day shopping. I picked up a graphic novel, a couple of t-shirts, and participated in a raffle for some electronic goodies. At the end of the day, I picked up my Rivera commission, thanked him, then left the convention minutes before the doors would close. It was a productive weekend, and I was eager to get home and get some more commissions on the wall.
Previous Article: Day Two — Wizard World Sacramento Comic-Con 2014
Where the line ended was out the door, around another building, and spiraling back towards the front of the line.
When the doors opened for day two of the Wizard World Sacramento Comic-Con, a flood of visitors marched into the Sacramento Convention Center proving the Comic-Con a huge success.
I spent the first part of the morning standing in line for a Humberto Ramos commission with a purpose. One of my top priorities at the convention was to get James Hong’s autograph, and since I had nothing to get signed, I thought I’d get something one-of-a-kind.
While I waited, I had a great discussion with the others in line. We shared commissions, stories, some gossip, and I found out Jim Lee took some private commissions a few years back. (There was a screenshot, so there’s proof.) There were also some horror stories — I spoke to at least two fans who had lost their sketchbooks at conventions. One of them got theirs back after a year or so, but with great pain.
When Ramos’ handler showed up and took down our requests, I let him know mine wasn’t conventional.
“I want a Lo-Pan. Can he do that?”
“Ramos can draw anything. We just need a great reference.”
And it would be the first one that Ramos had ever done.
At 12:15pm, I went over to the film festival to find out when Ghost Light would be screened. Ghost Light’s cinematographer is Tim Kang, a friend of mine who couldn’t make the showing because he’s in Chicago working on a documentary. PJ, the director, and Patrick, production designer, would be there, and they were expecting me.
I also got word that Ghost Light had already been designated best in show — “Don’t make the announcement until the official announcement,” I’d been told — and I wanted to be there to congratulate PJ and Patrick on a job well done.
I got a bit of background from the panel, and I had the opportunity of hanging out with PJ and Patrick for a short while. Ghost Light began as an idea inspired by American folklore from the Midwest. As a fan of Tales From the Crypt, PJ wrote the story with a little bit of horror infused into the short along with some 80s sci-fi influences. The result was a 20-minute short (including credits) about a father and son who encounter a ghost light and end up in a strange diner hidden along Route 66.
We talked about the set — a sudden snowstorm destroyed it forcing PJ to make the decision of bringing in comic-book style transitions — and working with Ahmed Best (Jar Jar Binks) as producer — “I would work with him again,” PJ told me.
PJ and I split at the autograph booth for Billy Dee Williams, and I was off to Ramos’ booth to check in on the Lo-Pan. Another request had been given priority because the one making the request had to leave early. Since mine was a simple black and white, I was told to come back in half an hour.
I circled the floor a few times, then I was off back to Ramos’ table. James Hong was scheduled for autographs at 3:00pm, and I wanted to make sure I got an autograph — Stan Lee was scheduled for Friday and Saturday but fell ill, and I didn’t want to miss my chance, especially with a commission of one of Hong’s most famous characters.
“He’s working on it right now.”
I walked behind the booth and looked over Ramos’ shoulder. While I oogled, Ramos turned around.
“Oh, hey!” he said, recognizing me from Portland. “Is this yours?”
When I came back to pick up the commission, they requested I come back to tell them what Mr. Hong thought about the piece. At the autograph booth, a sign said Mr. Hong would be back in 10 minutes. I decided to wait behind three other women who I assumed were in line, but when I asked them if they knew how long it would be, they turned out to be members of Mr. Hong’s family. I got a quick tour of the booth along with some tidbits of information about Kung Fu Panda and the possibility of a sequel.
When Mr. Hong came back, his family brought me forward, and I handed him a letter I had written — I didn’t want another Adam West geek-out moment so I planned ahead — and he read it on the spot. He signed the Ramos commission — “What color do you want?” he asked, and I chose gold — adding what I’m assuming is his Chinese name down the right side and tagging it “LO PAN” under his signature.
I got a picture with him, thanked him again, and returned to Ramos’ table.
“He loved it,” I told them.
With one thing off my list, I worked on the others. I decided to visit Eisner Award winner Paolo Rivera who was trying to fit me into his schedule for a commission. Rivera was busy accommodating visitors who wanted simple sketches and autographs, and he was gracious to me the entire weekend even when I felt I was bugging him a little too much. I think I checked in with him about seven times total, and each time he showed me where he was at with the work that was currently on his plate. I could have just let it go, but Rivera told me he wasn’t planning on anymore conventions in California for the rest of the year.
Once I got the okay to check back in another couple hours, I went to Buzz’s table to see what the status was for a Batman commission I requested earlier in the morning. Buzz was great to talk to, and he told me the most time-consuming part of drawing a commission is finding a composition that he’s happy with.
For the next few hours, I wandered the main floor taking photographs of cosplayers, shopping for comics and collectibles, and waiting for the cosplay contest. I picked up a copy of Watchmen — finally! — and read it while I waited in line to get into the cosplay contest room.
There were over 100 contestants for the contest which was hosted by Eric “The Smoke” Moran and judged by special guests Ivy Doomkitty, Ryan Frye, and Vegas PG. Some of the contest highlights were the Spaceballs group, RoboCop, a duo of Predators, and MechaGodzilla, though every one of the cosplayers deserved recognition.
The first day of Wizard World’s first Sacramento Comic-Con is over, and it’s one for the books.
Tickets for today were sold out days ago, and the Sacramento Convention Center was packed, packed, packed with visitors. Several times, I overheard someone on the verge of being overwhelmed — “There’s so much!” — and there were likely many first-time con attendees whose heads were similarly spinning out of control.
Unlike Wizard World Portland’s Comic-Con which started off really laid back on its first day, Sacramento’s Convention Center was stuffed with geeks, fans, cosplayers, and their children. Over at Chris Claremont’s booth, one attendee’s daughter caught the famed writer’s attention with her outfit. The parent mentioned to his daughter, “I’ve read everything this man’s ever written.”
Lines were long for Amazing Spider-Man artist Humberto Ramos, animator legends Phil Ortiz and Tom Cook, as well as the legendary Neal Adams. Several of the artists I approached about commissions had their lists already full less than an hour into the con.
I started off my day with a quick trip to CGC. Then, I went hunting for commissions, scoring some information from Eisner Award winner Paolo Rivera and placing a request from Ethan Van Sciver for a black and white Batman. Tomorrow, I’ll be back with a vengeance to get on at least a couple more lists.
For autographs, I got my X-Men #1 signed by Mr. Claremont with the hopes of getting Stan Lee’s signature on Sunday. In case I don’t get on Rivera’s commission list, I’ll at least end up with a signed Magneto #1.
The rest of the floor was loaded with vendors — so many vendors selling a variety of things. If Portland is Wizard World’s Carmel-By-the-Sea, Sacramento is Black Friday. There were 50% off sales, huge collections for the comic starter, and cosplay row, featuring Ivy Doomkitty, Eric “The Smoke” Moran, Ryan Frye, and
At 5:00pm, real-life superhumans Lou Ferrigno and Sacramento’s own Urijah Faber were front and center for the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Several media outlets were there to capture it for the evening news and get some interviews with the cosplayers who also attracted a lot of attention.
After taking some photos of the two Predators (one of whom snuck up on me and growled in my ear), a Daenarys, and an anime cosplayer (my anime-ese begins with Akira and ends with Cowboy Bebop), I spent the rest of the day watching short film after short film during the film festival. The film festival is an awesome experience that feels very homegrown. There were some locally shot films with some panels sprinkled throughout whenever the cast and crew for a particular film was present. I’ll admit some of the films went over my head, and some I just didn’t get, but each one had a thing to say, and there’s something for everyone.
There was stop-motion with action figures, a little puppeteering with Power Rangers parody, voodoo horror, a kidnapping mystery, some beautifully-shot fantasy, and an awkward short that captured a microcosm of geek-life with a discussion on Game of Thrones over a backdrop of a board game night.
Right now, my eyes are ready for a good night’s rest before I get up early tomorrow to go for another round. In addition to getting some commissions, I’m hoping to get an autograph from Lo-Pan himself, James Hong. I’ll also be roaming the main floor in between panels to get some photographs of cosplayers, so if you see an Asian guy with a huge camera, feel free to stop me if you want to be on our gallery.
Hall of Famer Neal Adams, legendary X-Men scribe Chris Claremont, Superior Spider-Man penciller Humberto Ramos, and the Zombie King Arthur Suydam — just to name a few — will be on hand for panels, autographs, and commissions.
Fans are encouraged to head to the Artist Alley at the Con where they can meet with the likes of Phil Ortiz, Greg Horn, and Michael Golden. It’s a great opportunity to get in touch with the people responsible for producing your favorite comics and to purchase books and art directly from them.
The list of artists makes this year’s first Wizard World Con at Sacramento an even bigger occasion to go along with appearances by Chris Hemsworth, Norman Reedus, William Shatner, Bruce Campbell, and James Hong.
SACRAMENTO, Calif., February 18, 2014 – Eisner Award Hall of Famer Neal Adams, writing legend Chris Claremont, Eisner winner Paolo Rivera and nominee Ethan Van Sciver are among the more than 50 leading comics creators scheduled to attend the inaugural Wizard World Sacramento Comic Con, March 7-9 at the Sacramento Convention Center. Adams, perhaps best known for having revived the “Batman” and “X-Men” franchises and Van Sciver (“Green Lantern,” “Action Comics”) will appear all three days, while Claremont (“Uncanny X-Men,” “Spider-Man”) and Rivera (“Daredevil,” “Avengers”) are scheduled to attend on Saturday and Sunday, March 8-9.
Among the other internationally-known artists and writers to populate the first Sacramento Comic Con Artist Alley are Phil Ortiz (“The Simpsons,” “Muppet Babies”), Humberto Ramos (“Amazing Spider-Man,” “Impulse”), Greg Horn (“Walt Disney,” “Guardians of the Galaxy”), Michael Golden (“Batman,” “Hulk”) and Arthur Suydam(“Marvel Zombies,” “Army of Darkness”).
Eisner Award Hall of Famer Stan Lee will also appear in the celebrity autograph area, along with superstars Norman Reedus of “The Walking Dead,” Chris Hemsworth of Thor, “Star Trek’s” “Captain Kirk” William Shatner, WWE® Superstar Sheamus® and many others. Wizard World Sacramento Comic Con is the third of 16 events currently scheduled in the 2014 series produced by Wizard World, Inc. (OTCBB: WIZD) and will also feature a variety of activities, exhibitors and special attractions.
Wizard World Comic Con events bring together thousands of fans of all ages to celebrate the best in pop-fi, pop culture, movies, graphic novels, comics, toys, video gaming, television, sci-fi, gaming, original art, collectibles, contests and more. Wizard World Sacramento Comic Con show hours are Friday, March 7, 3-8 p.m.; Saturday, March 8, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m., Sunday, March 9, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
A first-class lineup of topical programming takes place all three days at the event, with celebrity Q&A’s, comics-themed sessions, costume contest, movie screenings, evening parties and more. Sunday, March 9, is also Kids Day, with an array of activities and programming specially designed for the younger Wizard World fans.
Sacramento Comic Con is also the place for cosplay, with fans young and old showing off their best costumes throughout the event. Fans dressed as every imaginable character – and some never before dreamed – will roam the convention floor, often stopping by the Show Stage, the ideal place to see and be seen.
Wizard World (OTCBB: WIZD) produces Comic Cons and pop culture conventions across North America that celebrate graphic novels, comic books, movies, TV shows, gaming, technology, toys and social networking. The events often feature celebrities from movies and TV, artists and writers, and events such as premieres, gaming tournaments, panels, and costume contests.
Wizard World 2014-15 Schedule
March 7-9 – Wizard World Sacramento Comic Con
March 28-30 – Wizard World Louisville Comic Con
April 4-6 – Wizard World St. Louis Comic Con
May 2-4 – Wizard World Minneapolis Comic Con
May 30-June 1 – Wizard World Atlanta Comic Con
June 19-22 – Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con
August 1-3 – Wizard World San Antonio Comic Con
August 21-24 – Wizard World Chicago Comic Con
September 12-14 – Wizard World Richmond Comic Con
September 26-28 – Wizard World Nashville Comic Con
October 2-4 – Wizard World Austin Comic Con
October 31-November 2 – Wizard World Ohio Comic Con
November 7-9 – Wizard World Tulsa Comic Con
November 21-23 – Wizard World Reno Comic Con
January 9-11, 2015 – Wizard World New Orleans Comic Con
January 23-25, 2015 – Wizard World Portland Comic Con
I remember seeing ads for comic-cons in various comics and magazines when I was a kid.
Chicago. New York. San Diego.
2014 came along, and I decided to finally pull the trigger and go to a con. I wanted to make this year a big year for Hyper Geeky, so I bought two three-day passes for the Wizard World Portland Comic-Con.
The trip was part business and part vacation/birthday present to myself. Since my wife couldn’t make it because she got a full-time teaching job, I messaged a friend and told him I’d be putting him to work if he wanted the extra ticket.
I wanted to write this article as a sort of how-to for first-timers. Whether it’s your first time going to a con, getting your books graded, meeting your favorite artist/writer, or going to a panel — I wanted to share my experiences so others could know what to expect.
1. Be prepared.
Figure out what you want to get out of the comic convention.
Start with the big picture.
Let’s say you’re going shopping. You’ve got almost a full run of Uncanny X-Men at home, and you’re hoping a dealer will have the obscure issues you’re missing.
As you start to plan for your day at the convention, take it one step at a time, becoming more detail-oriented as you go.
Since you’re obviously going to need something to carry those books in, think about how much weight you’re willing to lug around from booth to booth. It may not be the most convenient thing to lug around a long box or even a short box which can be jostled every time you bump into another attendee or while you wait for a group of photographers to finish taking pictures of a cosplayer. A backpack might do the trick, but you don’t want that $6,500 Avengers #1 floating around and getting its corners bent.
Mylars, folders, binders, and hard cases might do the trick.
I put the comics I wanted autographed in Mylites2 mylars with Half-Backs. Since the backing board is longer and wider than the comic, I wasn’t too concerned about the corners getting bent out of shape inside my messenger bag which I padded with a clipboard, some extra Mylites, and the con’s program guide.
And while we’re on the topic of autographs — there’s several ways to do it if you’re concerned about damage while signing, and you’re going to CGC them. Cutting a hole in the bag with some masking tape for reinforcement — the masking tape can also be written on to point to where you want the book signed — will keep your comic in the bag where it’s safe and sound.
For more information, check out the CGC forum board.
Being prepared makes the day less stressful for you, and it gets things done.
2. Go to the CGC booth. ASAP.
This one’s for the graders.
I had a short box of about 75 comics I wanted graded. Carrying it around was stressful because I kept thinking of possible scenarios that could have put me in a sour mood. Being at a con with thousands of people walking this way and that while I’m holding onto a box that could lose its bottom at any moment — well, it’s the stuff that nightmares are made out of.
Find out where that CGC booth is. Look on the con’s website for a floor map, or check the program that you get when you enter the facility. When those doors open, make a beeline to the booth. Don’t get distracted. Sure, you might not be the first to stand in line for Neal Adams or Humberto Ramos, but you’ll be glad to have that load off your shoulders and out of your tired hands.
Once you’re at the booth, ask questions. Some of you will be glad you didn’t go off getting your books signed because — guess what — without a witness, you won’t get those yellow tabs certifying your books with the Signature Series label.
If you’re tuning in now, and you’re interested in getting your books graded with certified signatures, the yellow label is what you want. You may have seen signed books in CGC slabs with the green Qualified label and a 9.8 grade, but Qualified means it’s been given that grade in spite of the unverified autograph which can actually be considered a flaw if you decide to get another signature with verification.
A yellow Signature Series label means the book was signed in the presence of an official CGC witness. To get a witness, you need to talk to a CGC staff member. Someone will follow you or plan a meetup with you where you’ll be getting your book signed or sketched. Again, be prepared by knowing where the artists/writers are. If you’re getting a sketch done, the witness needs to see the sketch pass hands from the artist to you.
It might sound a bit complicated, but remember the first lesson. Be prepared. If you’re adamant about getting your books graded right, do what it takes to make it happen.
3. Artists and Writers are people too.
Be polite. Don’t be sensitive.
Meeting your childhood heroes can change your life — for better or worse.
Take, for example, my meeting with Adam West.
I grew up watching Mr. West play Batman, and I wanted to get his autograph along with Burt Ward’s on my Batman ’66 Mattel variant cover. It was an expensive get, but it was something I really wanted.
I stood in line for Mr. West, and when it was my turn, I paid the handler the fee, and he asked for my name.
“It’s Ji, spelled J-I,” I said.
“Two letters, Mr. West,” he said, pushing the book towards my hero. I could tell I was shaking, but I couldn’t feel my body. I had gone numb from the nervousness.
Mr. West signed my book, To Ji – Adam West. I forced myself to say something, something along the lines of, “I grew up watching you, Mr. West.”
Mr. West’s expression changed, and he leaned forward and said, “Why, thank you.”
I offered my hand for a shake. He gave me a fist bump instead.
I was a little heartbroken.
Why did he deny me a handshake? Aren’t fist bumps a little informal? Did he think I was a smelly fanboy with sweaty palms?
After I got my CGC stuff done, I asked my buddy what he thought, and he basically said I was over-reacting.
Sure, we have expectations, but we’re also geeks. The stereotype of the rude and unstable geek is based on some form of truth, and I was reinforcing it by jumping to conclusions and making it about me. Sometimes, fans get way too sensitive when things don’t go as planned. Whether it’s an artist picking up his cellphone during an autograph session, or an agent butting into a conversation to remind a fan that commissions aren’t free, I think fans should expect nothing and be open to everything. And by that, I’m saying — approach the situation with an open mind and give the person you’re meeting some leeway. Imagine having to sit for eight hours with a constant stream of fans, some nicer than others, asking for autographs, your life story, a photograph, or even to say, “Hey, your last comic sucked!”
Be less rigid, and flow with the situation. If you have a long line behind you, come back later to show off your portfolio. Artists and writers have to contend with how the public views them, so they might have to make an unpopular decision by saying something you might consider rude.
Chill out. Have fun. And try to be positive in negative situations.
4. Read the signs.
Before you rush over to an artist’s booth and throw your comics all over the place, look for signs or cards. Some artists and writers charge for autographs. Some sell prints, books, and other merchandise which they’d like you to buy before they even consider doing anything for you.
Now, before you start ranting about your belief that artists and writers should be obligated to autograph your beloved comic, realize many of them spend hundreds of dollars to appear. How willing are you to spend eight hours a day during a weekend doing your fans’ bidding at your own cost?
Artists and writers need to eat too, and some of them are very well off. Still, that doesn’t mean they aren’t allowed to make a living.
At Portland, Arthur Suydam said he would sign any and everything if I bought a print. Neal Adams charged for autographs, and some artists had a Hero Initiative box — a great charity, by the way — for donations. Many of the other creatives signed books for free without asking for a thing, and some of them have portfolios with original art that they will gladly sign for you.
Take a more deliberate approach, and you might even be surprised with where you’ll go with good communication.
At Jonathan Case’s table, a card listed his prices for prints. It also said to inquire about commissions. I figured why not and asked, “Mr. Case, how much for a commission of Batman?”
He showed me a commission he was finishing up, told me how much it would cost for something similar, and I jumped at the chance to get something ordered.
At Josh Burcham’s booth, I saw a stack of Transformers issues with sketch covers ready for some pencils and inks. That could save someone a trip through the retail spaces.
Read the signs. They’re there for a reason, and if you show the creatives respect, it could go along way towards making the experience a good one for the both of you.
5. Artists want to draw for you.
This doesn’t go for every artist — it won’t hurt to ask — but that childhood hero of yours may be open to drawing a sketch just for you.
I went by Humberto Ramos’ table and asked about a commission. There were several options, but there were no more slots left for the day. They told me to come back the next morning because his schedule fills up really quickly.
Artists have different methods of obtaining orders for commissions. They also have a schedule that’s filled with more than drawing what you ask them to.
Some artists will take a list on the first day, and some will take orders each day. Some will take orders online and bring the finished commissions to the convention.
Depending on how popular the artist is, how they fast they can create a piece, and what you’re asking for — a head shot, a torso, or a full body pose — the price and finish time for a piece can vary.
Commissioning art is an amazing experience. My first sketch was a Batman head shot by Matt Wagner who did one on a backing board for a donation to the Hero Inititiative. I enjoyed watching Mr. Wagner work with a Sharpie, and other artists use different mediums.
For my Ramos commission, I came back the next morning and was second in line. When it was my turn, his handler asked me, “What do you want?”
“Can Mr. Ramos draw me a Batgirl?”
“He can draw you whatever you want, however you want. He can draw anything.”
“I want a Cassandra Cain Batgirl.”
“The Damian Scott one?”
“The one with the covered mouth,” I said, motioning with my hands.
I came back a few hours later and looked over Ramos’ back while he penciled. I recognized Batgirl’s eyes towards the top left of the page. From what we could gather on what pencils we saw, the piece already looked pretty amazing.
“That looks sick!” I told my buddy.
We came back hours later. “Hold on,” the handler said, “I have to take a picture of this. Ramos went to town on this one. What do you think?”
I was ecstatic.
Not only did I become an owner of an original piece, it was something customized for me. That art sheet had one of my favorite characters on it by a superstar artist.
In the end, I had commissions from Ramos, Jonathan Case, Josh Burcham, and Matt Wagner. On the way home, I was just overwhelmed by the quality of work, and my buddy said it was probably the best investment, even more than the comics I was sending in for grading. In a way I agree with him. Owning the first appearance of Spider-Man would be amazing because of the value of the comic and the cultural significance.
But having Jack Kirby draw you a commission of Spider-Man — that’s something personal.
6. Go to panels.
I didn’t go to a lot of panels during the weekend, but I did check out a few. There was the panel on breaking into comics by the founder of Committed Comics, the Sons of Anarchy panel with Ron Perlman and Kim Coates, and a panel with Bruce Campbell and Ted Raimi which turned into a show.
Panels get you off the showroom floor and into another setting where you can engage in discussions with actors, creatives, and experts. For the Sons of Anarchy panel, two microphones on opposite sides of the room were open for people to come and ask the actors questions.
It’s an amazing experience that’s educational and inspirational. It might be difficult to see everything you want to because panels overlap, but it’s up to you to find out the schedule and figure out what will interest you the most.
You can haggle prices in the shops. You might come across more resistance on the first day of a convention, but as the weekend goes on, you might have a better chance of knocking down an extra $10 on that New 52 Batman #1 sketch cover.
8. Look but don’t touch.
There were a lot of cosplayers around. A lot. There were a whole bunch of Doctors from Doctor Who, plenty of Deadpools — male and female — and various iterations of Harley Quinn. None of the cosplayers ever rejected me when I asked for a photograph even though some of them looked plenty busy.
That doesn’t mean you should interrupt a conversation they’re having that looks serious, or you should bug them in the middle of lunch — which I happened to do.
Use common sense. On the showroom floor, ask away. If they say no, don’t try to sneak one in.
Realize that not all cosplayers are paid professionals, and you shouldn’t assume that someone who’s cosplaying is there to get exposure. Some just want to enjoy the day and aren’t in the mood to be distracted while they’re trying to make their way to Stan Lee’s signing booth. Gauge the situation on a case by case basis, and be courteous to them. Cosplayers don’t owe you anything, and none have ever asked me to take their picture. A photograph will likely start and end with you, so ask nicely and thank them for their time.
9. Food is expensive.
Pack a lunch if you can. A burrito cost me $8, though I didn’t regret spending the cash to get something to eat.
Bring water and snacks. Stay hydrated and please, please, wear deodorant.
10. Some conventions are better than others.
My CGC witness was a great source of information for me.
Apparently, not all conventions are the same — duh. Guests, number of attendees, facilities, wait times — these can differ wildly from one convention to the next.
Being able to get an autograph from Neal Adams in a few minutes as opposed to a few hours, or standing behind four rather than 400 for an Adam West signature — I had it relatively easy at Portland Comic-Con. Friday was easy, and so was Sunday. Saturday was a lot more hectic, though the amount of attendees and the queues weren’t as crazy as Comic-Con in San Diego.
If I had gone to the Chicago Comic-Con or the one in New York, I may not have been able to come home with the commissions I obtained. I might have spent more time standing in place than freely roaming the showroom floor.
I’m glad it was the Portland Comic-Con that I went to first. It was an experience that I’m grateful for, and I’m already looking forward to the next one.
If you’re planning on going to a convention for the first time in your life, prepare yourself to be in the presence of amazing, intelligent, talented, and geeky beings. You might find yourself making eye contact with your favorite actor or favorite comic writer. Have fun, be safe, and treat others with respect.