Sunday, October 25, 2009

Boston Comic Con Showverview

Long time readers no doubt noticed a curious and perhaps frightening lack of activity at The Vault over the past two days. Desperately -- and correctly -- needing their fix, these stalwart champions have likely begun to worry about my safety. What could be so important, so serious and potentially deadly that it could possibly keep me from talking about comics? Was it an earthquake? Was the server attacked by thirsty monkeys? Was I accidentally shunted into a dangling subplot that only Mark Gruenwald could rescue me from, twenty years after the fact? Well, rest easy, friends, because although your concern is appreciated it is unwarranted. The truth can be revealed: I was getting ready for this weekends comics extravaganza, Boston Comic Con.

Held for some reason in the basement of the Back Bay Expo Center (though I was assured that it is moving to larger and more prestigious facilities before the next show), this year's Boston Comic Con was a two day affair and featured appearances by a horde of creators both famous and unknown. It also had a decent, if somewhat compact, dealer room that provided some interesting bargain hunting; and perhaps most importantly, it provided fans of comics to let their hair down or, better yet, pull it up under a cowl or or themed headpiece. Thanks no doubt in part to the proximity to Halloween, this year's show bordered on a costume party that included not one but two female Captain Americas as well as what appeared to be a themed date night (best costumes and couple of the night was a toss up between an excellent Green Arrow/Black Canary team and an equally impressive Scarlett/Snake Eyes duo which managed to top the film versions by excluding unnecessary gigantic fake lips).

But the highlight of the day was undoubtedly the creators in attendance. Among the many notables were Cliff Chiang, Khoi Pham, Geoff Darrow, David Mack, Mike McKone and Tim Sale. However, the highlights for me involved two of the more old school artists in attendance: Herb Trimpe and Walt Simonson. Simonson, who was accompanied by his equally acclaimed and lovely wife Louise Simonson (and before you ask, no, I didn't have a copy of House of Secrets #92 for her to sign), was nice enough to spend several minutes discussing the origin of his unique signature, which he designed to look like a Brontosaurus after his mother suggested the dinosaur theme to him as a kid. Trimpe, meanwhile, talked at length about the creation of Wolverine, chalking it up to luck of the draw; out of the dozens of Hulk villains he helped create, Wolverine just happened to go on to become super popular. He also lamented the fact that Wolverine had now overshadowed the Hulk himself, even in terms of the commissions and sketches he does at shows, because he feels the Hulk is a much more complex and interesting character, more a victim of circumstance than a hero or villain, while Wolverine is just one-note by comparison. Both gentlemen were generous with their time and friendly to both hardcore fans and those new to comics.

This was evident because both of those conversation took place thank to the attendance of a friend who has never read comics much less attended a show before. While she enjoyed the creativity on display and the seemingly universal friendliness of the pros we talked to, there was one less inviting aspect of the show on display as well -- the juvenile and and many instances inappropriate depictions of women on display at just about every turn. This deserves a longer discussion (which you can expect in a future essay), but though the convention was actually well attended by women and girls, there's also no doubt that steps could certainly be taken to make both the shows and, more importantly, the comics themselves more welcoming to women readers and attendees.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the day was, as you may expect, my trip through Artists Alley. As always, I spent a good deal of time talking to the lesser known creators who self publish or work on small press books and who continue in the business because they just love comics; these people, after all, are the creative center of the art form and it is from this group of creators that the talent of tomorrow will arise. One of the highlights was mys discussion with the creators manning the Comicbook Artists' Guild booth. The CAG is an organization where independent creators meet to discuss the theory of comics craft and the practicalities of self-publishing comics in both print and online. It also acts as a way to meet with potential collaborators and get your work peer reviewed in order to hone your craft. For up and coming creators like myself, it may be an avenue worth looking into, especially if you are in the New York or New England areas, since they hold regular meetings in those locations.

Lastly, a special shout out must be given to longtime friend of The Vault, inker Bob Almond, who as always was in attendance to promote The Inkwell Awards. If you happen to be at a show with Bob, I recommend stopping by his booth with your purchases so he can diagnose at a single glance what art team -- and inker in particular -- worked on the cover. It is a singular skill that helped make this convention one of the more interesting and educational that I have attended in recent years.

Tomorrow: But wait, there's more! What would a show be without interviews with some of the creators who make comics so great? That's right, beginning tomorrow it's another batch of interviews with the Voices From Artists Alley, including a more detailed talk with the people at the Comicbook Artists' Guild.

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