Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Comics & Cheez Whiz
Twenty-four hour room service was music to my ears when I checked into my hotel late Thursday night. And flying across country can lead to a very empty stomach too. The hotel's menu was pretty limited past eleven, but it still had the one thing I was looking forward to eating: A Philly cheesesteak. And it was delicious too. It was a nice way to start my Wizard World Philadelphia trip and, after a little jet lag, I was off to sleep.
The weather Friday morning started out with a cold, gray drizzle of rain, but I was close enough to the con that it didn't matter so much. The photo above was taken Saturday afternoon when the weather had cleared and fans were still on their way to comic nirvana. For me, one of the fun things about going to these conventions, is meeting friends both old and new. And for this year's show, I was staying with a friend whom I hadn't seen in a year or so and had just flown in that morning.
After dropping his luggage off in our room, we quickly made our way over to the con and went directly to Artist's Alley. Apart from looking through back issues, this is where I spend most of my time at conventions. It's always a surprise to see who's sketching, how much they're charging and who's got the longest line, which sometimes doesn't depend on how popular they are on the comic racks as it does how well and how fast they can sketch at the show. Word can spread pretty quickly as to which artist is doing the best sketches. And it's also much easier to talk to your favorite artists as opposed to the more popular exhibitor booths where the signings are much busier.
One of those busy signings belonged to Jim Lee who was Guest of Honor this year and had a growing line to go along with it. Most fans were pulling out their Batman comics to get signed along with the program itself, which had his Superman on the cover. Jim had also just finished doing another convention in Mantova, Italy, so it must've felt like one long line of fans stretching around the world to meet him.
He also had a "One on one" panel going on later in the day, plus a signing at the DC booth, so his day was definitely full. Everyone's got eat sometime though, so we squeezed into a cab and found the nearest cheesesteak place where I learned the best way to eat a Philly cheesesteak is with some hot, melted Cheez Whiz. Two days in Philly and I've already had two of 'em. So far, so good.
Oh, and I almost forgot. Right before we left the con, I met Jim in Wizard's hospitality suite where he was working on a few sketches to be handed out later to VIP ticket holders. Here's one of everybody's favorite mutant, Wolverine:
I noticed he usually sketches Logan without his mask too and he said it's just more interesting to draw his face. Personally, I think the mask looks much cooler, but of course, Jim's no slouch at drawing him either way.
Jim also brought all four of his Red Sonja/Claw covers straight from Italy for his original art dealer, Albert Moy, who was also at the show. Gabrielle Dell'Otto had painted right on top of Jim's pencils, so this was the first time I'd seen the originals in person and they were beautiful. I was surprised how smooth the art was too, since it looks like Gabrielle's paintings have so much texture to them that they really pop off the originals. I don't think Albert's posted them on his site yet, but be sure to drop him an e-mail, if he hasn't sold them already.
Back in the dealer's area of the show, I saw one guy selling a few 9.8 CGC All Star Batman & Robin #1s for $25 each. I'm not really into the whole CGC thing, but it seemed almost too good to pass up. Unfortunately, by the time I went back on Saturday to buy one for a friend, they were all long gone. I did see another one going for $80 bucks at different dealer's table, but that one sat there throughout the whole con.
On Saturday, it got a lot more crowded, so the day was mostly a blur. More walking around, more signings and more digging through long boxes or as my friend calls it, "dumpster diving." My big find of the day was a Gen13 hardcover, collecting the original mini-series from back in the day, for half off cover price. I've never had one before and it came complete with a cool wraparound cover by J. Scott Campbell.
Another highlight of Saturday was the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund's Sketch Duel. This is always a popular panel where artists help raise money for the CBLDF by sketching in front of an audience and then auctioning off the art right then and there. Jim joined Tom Hodges, Skottie Young and Amanda Conner on the panel and drew several pieces, including this Wonder Woman that went for a whopping $1400 after a heated bidding war:
He also drew another Batman that went for about $700, a Hal Jordan Green Lantern and a funny piece with Amanda Conner that has to be seen to be believed. All I can say is that it involved Batgirl, the Atom, Wolverine and his "Snikt" and will just leave it at that. I'll see if I can dig up a scan of it for later. Anyway, the panel helped raise over $4,000 for the CBLDF and put some nice pieces into the hands of some happy bidders.
After the con, I was lucky enough to watch an International Fight League match over in Atlantic City thanks to Wizard's very own Gareb Shamus. I've barely been getting into the whole mixed martial arts thing lately, so it was cool to see some matches in person. But let me say, I've never heard the words, "Brazilian Jiu Jitsu" so many times in my life. The next day, my friend explained the whole thing to me, but I could see for myself these guys took their fighting seriously with moves like the "rear naked choke hold" and the good ol' fashion fist to the face. Now, that's gotta hurt.
Things were pretty much winding down on Sunday, but Jim was still going strong with a signing at the DC booth, the "Wildstorm Talent Search" panel and another one on "Wildstorm: Ground Zero." There were a lot of hopefuls in the room for the talent search, but ultimately it came down to three talented pencilers with one of them winning by a big show of hands from the audience.
Right after the panel, I also met one of my friends who I've only seen once in the last eight years. He'd read about my new job online and contacted me through this very blog, so it was great to get back in touch with him again over a couple hot dogs at the show. By now, I'd already filled my luggage to the top with comics to take back home, but I saw one more thing I just had to have. I must've walked by it a hundred times throughout the convention too, but never noticed until the closing minutes of the con. It was a box set of the WildC.A.T.s PVC figures that came out back years ago. Unfortunately, Maul didn't make the trip home intact, but I still couldn't pass up the whole set for $5. I also had plenty of time to catch my plane back at the airport, so I had, what else? Another Philly cheesesteak for the road. That should last me until next year's show.