We have all had the experience of having a piece of art speak to us, whether we realize it or not. And when that happens, you may not only want to find a way to make that art a part of you somehow, it could be very exciting and meaningful to meeting the creators of that art.
On the short walk to the Baltimore Convention Center, I find myself behind a woman also representing Krypton in a red cape with the yellow S emblazoned on the back. She appears to have hooked up with a member of the Orange Lantern Corps. Seems a bit greedy to have already swept up the Girl of Steel for himself, but now I have arrived at the entrance to the convention center and I am immediately distracted.
The convention center itself is a huge structure, with 1,225,000 total square footage, and it appears to be absolutely overrun with all manner of characters. While not an unusual description for a typical day in Baltimore, this particular crowd does seem to be colorful in a different, perhaps more whimsical, fashion.
I walk inside and immediately look for an out of the way place to stand while I gain my bearings. I ask for directions to the press booth from an orange-shirted “Comic-Con Minion.” After heading up the escalators and picking up press badges, I finally spy my partner and photographer for the day, Carlos Guillen.
Carlos and I had not met before this, but especially with the excitement surrounding us in every direction, we connected immediately and quickly decide to first head down to the exhibit floor on the bottom level. After passing by several, already tired-looking attendees resting along the back wall of the lobby, we enter the exhibition floor proper.
Entering the exhibition space, there are rows upon rows of tables, and the crowd is almost claustrophobic. Somehow everybody squeezes in, though, and while some attendees are in street clothes, many are in costume. Fans of all shapes, sizes and ages are eagerly moving from one booth to the next. The only unifying factor in the crowd seems to be a love for all things comic book, fantasy, scifi, and even horror-related.
After a good bit of wandering and simply taking in all the sights, Carlos and I arrive at the back where I see the guest I was personally most excited to spot: Joel Hodgson, creator and long-time host of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Not to be outdone, at the table next to his, is the one and only Peter “Chewbacca” Mayhew. I admittedly took a few selfies with each in the background, to show that we do, in fact, inhabit the same universe.
Taking a break from the exhibition floor, we head upstairs but don’t get much further than the lobby. It’s there I am not only introduced to volunteer coordinator Brian, but run into my friend Tim Wallace, who is also working as a volunteer. I ask him, what draws people to volunteer for this event; Is it just for the opportunity to be here? He widens his eyes and nods, as if that should be obvious. He explains, being able to be near and perhaps even talk to the creators of their favorite comics is enough to keep volunteers coming back year after year. As if on cue to drive the point home, Tim points out a man walking by us as Cully Hamner, the artist/designer of the newer incarnation of Blue Beetle (Jaime Reyes), which Tim just happens to run a blog devoted to called Kord Industries.
Also, standing next to Tim is Lauren Hawhee, another volunteer who has traveled all the way from Florida just for the opportunity to participate in the convention. Clearly, the Baltimore ComicCon is one of those rare events that is truly run by and for fans. And that philosophy goes straight to the top, including founder Marc Nathan, owner of Cards, Comics, and Collectibles in Reisterstown MD.
I’m told that unlike other Comic-Cons, Marc actively has tried to keep this event very comic-creator-central. While almost impossible to stem the flow of related genres, and all the packaging and commercialism that comes with it, the people behind this Comic-Con seem to be doing their best to stay true to original purpose of these types of events: Connecting with the actual makers of the magic.
After letting the volunteers return to their official duties, Carlos and I consider the long list of panels taking place in the various conference rooms on the middle levels, but eventually we decide to return to the exhibition level, specifically to cruise Artist Alley. It’s there I run into another friend of mine, Brett Pinson, probably best known as co-creator of the comic series Boomtown Scabs. We also discuss the pros and cons of the diversity of genres and vendors represented at Comic-Con. There certainly are advantages to being open and welcoming to other similar art, even if not strictly comic-related. A wider audience can also mean more money and, while the topic of coin may seem sordid, it is necessary for survival and growth for an event such as this.
As we walk along, we pass many cosplayers, which is a very popular way for fans to express their love for a particular character that has spoken to them. Many truly consider it to be an extension of themselves. And in fact, they do become a part of it all. Many are asked to stop and pose for pictures. In that moment, they are that character.
As we continue along, Carlos introduces me to a friend of his, Daniel Govar, who is currently illustrating Grimm for Dynamite Entertainment, as well as doing storyboards for Marvel comics Infinite comics (as well as various other artistic projects). While chatting, he is busy sketching, and eventually suggests a couple of other people that we can talk to: the one and only Jim Starlin as well as David Petersen, best known for the comic Mouse Guard. Neither are at their booths as we pass by, though, and it has already been an amazing yet exhausting experience, so I vow to speak to them another time.