Ed’s Saturday At Baltimore Comic-Con 2011

by Ed Sizemore

Johanna and I made our annual daytrip to the Baltimore Comic-Con (BCC) this year. My focus was on getting at least one commissioned sketch of Astro Boy and Superman done. They are my two favorite heroes, and I wanted a couple pieces of art with them together.

I began Saturday walking around Artist Alley looking for someone I thought could draw both a good Astro Boy and a good Superman. It seemed Artist Alley was a bit smaller this year. I can think of at least three artists I bought comics from last year that I didn’t see this year. One positive aspect of this shrinkage was a noticeably smaller presence of zombie-themed works. The big negative was some of the diversity that independent artists bring was missing.

It appears that most of the zombie booths were replaced with people focused on fanart of superhero comics. There were some really good artists, who did professional-quality prints and posters of various members of the DC and Marvel universes. Unfortunately, there were also the artists doing nudes and near nudes of female superheroes. My impression was that Artist Alley was more about superheroes this year than original creations.

My first commission of the day was from Andy Runton, the creator of Owly. He was doing sketches of Owly as any person you wanted. I couldn’t resist getting a sketch of Owly as Superman.

Owly as Superman

I’m happy that BCC chose to put most of the kid-friendly artists in one place. They called it the Kids’ Comics Pavilion. BCC did this last year, too, and I’m hoping it’s a permanent feature of the convention. The pavilion included a little ‘diner’ area where kids could sit down and draw. It’s a great way to encourage a new generation of comic readers and creators.

The Kids’ Comics Pavilion is where I spent the rest of my money. Based on a recommendation from Rob at Panel Patter, I went over and checked out Mike Maihack’s booth. He’s the creator of a webcomic I love, Cleopatra in Space. That turned out to be bad for my wallet but good for my art collection. Once I saw his Princess Mononoke and Superman prints, I was hooked. I’m very happy he was willing to do an Astro Boy and Superman commission for me. I also picked up several of his prints. Maihack really needs to do an artbook of all his prints, because I don’t have the wall space for all of them.

Astro Boy and Superman

To Maihack’s right was one of my favorite kid’s artists, Frank Cammuso. At his table was a very pleasant surprise, the newest Knights of the Lunch Table book, The Battling Bands. I wasn’t aware the new book was out, and I quickly snatched a copy. I couldn’t wait to get home, so I read it during one of my breaks from the convention room floor. I’ll have a review up shortly.

To Maihack’s left was Jason Horn, creator of the webcomic Ninjasaur. I liked the art and decided to pick up two of the comics, Ninjasaur versus Professor Deadbones and Ninjasaur: The Ghost in the Library. Both were quick and enjoyable reads. If you buy into the premise of a dinosaur who’s a ninja, then you’ll most likely enjoy the webcomic. I have to say this is the nicest paper I’ve ever seen a comic printed on.

Well, one hour into the show and my budget was gone. So I decided to tag along with my friend Ron (aka Twitterless Ron) as he bought comics.

The dealer’s section of BCC was crowded. I’ve come to the conclusion that no matter how wide you make the aisles at a comic show, they will always be jam-packed. You have people with bulging backpacks hunched over long boxes, and usually another person with a backpack looking over his/her shoulder on both sides. So even if the aisles were thirty feet wide, you would get someone looking over the shoulder of someone looking over the shoulder of someone looking through a long box. Regardless of the starting width, in the end the actually amount of walkway will always be six inches.

I was surprised at the number of $5 trade paperback books for sale. I was even more shocked to see recent titles like Bakuman volume 6, One Piece volume 58, and B.P.R.D: King of Fear on the $5 table. It appears that Borders closing is good for discount comics and manga sellers. If you don’t need to read a comic the day it’s released, comic shows are the best way to buy your books at significant discount. My friend Ron has gone this route.

I attended one panel this year. It was an informal conversation between Jeff Smith and Stan Sakai. I have to confess I only know the two men by name. I’ve not read any Bone or Usagi Yojimbo. I will be rectifying that oversight. It was obvious they had known each other for several years. They shared some anecdotes from a tour they were a part of. After ten minutes, they opened it up to audience questions.

Two things stood out during the panel. First, they both are unusual among comic creators in that they write, pencil, ink, and letter their own comics. This one person appropriate to comic creation is very rare among established artists. They both continue to do their own lettering because they believe the lettering should match the artwork. I love hearing people talking about the craftsmenship of comics and being intentional about every aspect of comic creation.

Second, when asked what advice they had for comic artists, Sakai said to learn to draw from life and not comics. He said that a young artist should attend drawing classes and study anatomy. If you learn to draw from comics, then you don’t know how to draw. It was hard not to jump up and scream, “Amen!” It’s the very rare genius who can pick up a pen and draw well without any formal training.

I enjoy the Baltimore Comic Con a lot each year. I wish I had better budgeted for the show, and I’m hoping the organizers will do more to encourage independent artists to attend next year. As it stands, BCC is a great show for lovers of superhero comics and kids’ comics. Both were well-represented this year. I always enjoy the artists I get to meet and the people I hang out with at BCC. I’ll be back again next year.

7 Responses to “Ed’s Saturday At Baltimore Comic-Con 2011”

  1. Johanna Says:

    I know what you mean about the prints and the zombies (I still saw plenty this year) filling up Artist Alley. On the plus side, it was easy to skip over tables that didn’t have any actual comic material available.

  2. Bill D. Says:

    I love Mike Maihack’s work, too. I just bought a print from his off of his website (the Vulcan girl), and I already want to buy more. An artbook would be a great idea. I’m jealous that you got an original sketch from him. I’m hoping he’ll be at NYCC this year so maybe I can get one, too.

  3. Chris McClelland Says:

    Hi Ed. I’m glad you enjoyed the show. I helped set the layout for this year’s BCC and I can tell you that we actually had more artist alley tables this year than last year, the most we’ve ever had. Artist Alley keeps growing every year and we try to fit in as many as we can. We don’t turn anyone away that requests a table based upon the work they create. The only reason we would turn someone away is because we are sold out which happens to be what happened this year! And several independent artists ended up sitting with their publishers like those in the AdHouse and Top Shelf booths which you know as you found Andy Runton at the Top Shelf booth.

    We’ve had the Kids Comics Pavillion for several years running now. We, too, think it’s a great idea. I’m pretty sure it’s a permanent fixture at the show now.

    Hope to see you next year.

    Chris McClelland
    Registrar – Baltimore Comic-Con

  4. Ed Sizemore Says:

    Johanna, There was definitely still zombies there. Last year it felt like every other table was zombies. This year it felt like only one in three or four. So maybe the tide has finally crested.

    Bill, I still don’t know where I will display all the pieces I bought this weekend. I might create my own inpromptu Maihack artbook.

    Chris, I didn’t do a table count, so thanks for the correction. Perhaps Artist Alley felt smaller because there were fewer artists I found interesting. I walked around it several times thinking, “Is that all there is?”

    I guess I should clarify my terms. When I say independent, I mean self published. I don’t think of Andy Ruton as an independent artist. (But that’s just me.)

  5. Johanna Says:

    Ed, there was one point at which I got completely lost in the midst of Artist Alley — I was trying to leave, to take art to the car, and I couldn’t find the exit! — so maybe that layout with a corner in it led to misleading impressions. I know I didn’t get all the way through it, which disappointed me.

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