It was 2003. I was in college, still living at home, and didn’t have a lot of spending money. Despite all that, I decided to attend my first real comic convention: Wizard World Chicago. I flew out and met up with a few friends, and we spent the weekend hanging out, talking about comics, buying comics, and reading comics. I went a little over board on my spending, but still had a great experience and wanted to do it again. Unfortunately, timing and the fact that most of my comic loving friends live in other parts of the country, kept me from getting back to a con, until now. This past weekend, I drove down to Charlotte, North Carolina with my roommate to attend Heroes Con 2014.
I spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday hanging out at the Charlotte Convention center, surrounded by comic vendors, comic creators and other comic book geeks like myself. When I first arrived, I had to wait briefly in line to pick up the badge that identified me as someone who pre-purchased a three day pass and a wristband that allowed me onto the convention floor. Not sure why I needed both, but those were the rules. That’s also when I got a choice of two commemorative prints and a most invaluable tool: the convention program. Then, since I was early in arriving, I had to wait in a much longer line to actually get to the exhibition area. When I finally got into the room, I was almost overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the show. There were comics, toys, games, posters, books and people everywhere! The vendors were in the front half of the hall and Artists Alley was in the back half, both spanning the entire length of the hall.
My roommate and I both wanted to get some original art at this con. The one artist I decided I really wanted to get a commission from was Francesco Francavilla, and a little online research done ahead of time told me he only took a limited number of commissions each day, on a first-come, first-serve basis. The same was true of Tim Sale, who my roommate desperately wanted to get some Batman art from. So upon entering the convention hall on Friday morning, we split up to find our respective targets. Fortunately, we were both able to get on the list for commissions. I ended up getting a really amazing John Constantine from Francavilla, who completed the piece by the end of the day. Francavilla was delightful both in person, and in interactions on Twitter after the con.
A little later on, I went to the CBCS (Comic Book Certification Service) booth that was in the middle of the hall. CBCS is a new comic grading company that is owned by former CGC president Steve Borock. The company will officially be in business when their website launches sometime in July, but they were taking pre-submissions for grading at the convention. Borock was there to meet collectors and talk about his new company, and was kind of enough to give me a few minutes of his time to answer a couple of questions. When I asked him why he wanted to open his own grading company he gave me several reasons. He said that it was something he had wanted to do and that people had been asking him about for years, but he was unable to find the right partner. Now that he was finally ready to create the company, he wanted to provide full transparency in the grading process. Finally, on a personal level, he just wanted to own something that was his. Perusing the FAQ on the CBCS website, thumbing through the pamphlets that were being distributed at the convention, and talking to Borock, it seems clear to me that CBCS wants to meet the needs of collectors, and address outstanding complaints about current grading processes. They promise lower prices, no membership fees, and quick turn around times. I spoke with Borock and his associates multiple times over the course of the weekend as I dropped off several comics to be graded. I even got deputized as an authorized witness to verify that books were actually signed by creators before being submitted for grading. A good number of other people were submitting books all weekend besides my roommate and me. I look forward to getting my graded books back and seeing if CBCS can hold to their promises.
The rest of the day Friday I bounced around meeting other artists, getting a “Five Minute” sketch of Spider-Man 2099 from Ryan Stegman (Superior Spider-Man, Wolverine). I met Mitch Gerards (Punisher) and Yale Stewart (JL8) briefly when I tagged along with my roommate so he could get commissions from them. I also ended up passing by Yanick Paquette‘s (Swamp Thing) table and decided to ask him for a drawing of Swamp Thing. I love his “battle” design for Swamp Thing and couldn’t resist the chance to get an original piece of it. I picked it up Sunday afternoon and was beyond pleased.
One of the high lights of Friday, and of the whole con, was meeting Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky, the creative team behind Sex Criminals, which is one of my favorite comics right now. I got them to autograph my copies of Sex Criminals #1 (regular first printing and fifth printing [or second printing of the fourth printing, as they refer to it]). I also purchased a convention exclusive hard cover collection of the first five issues of Sex Criminals which Fraction splattered with white out in order to mimic certain bodily fluids. Fraction and Zdarsky are both genuinely nice guys and are just as hilarious as their Twitter feeds would have you believe.
On Saturday I went back to stand in Chip Zdarsky’s line so I could get a commission from him. He was only doing head shots, but he drew me he happiest Venom I have ever seen, and I love it. Most of the rest of Saturday was spent checking out vendor booths and seeing what sort of cool comics I could find. I managed to dig up some key issues I had been looking for, a few cool variant covers, and some other random stuff that I didn’t even know I wanted until I saw it.
When I wasn’t hunting for comics, I was seeing what else the con had to offer. There were dozens of artists: pencilers, inkers, colorists, folks that worked in water colors, on canvas or digitally. Creators that work on high profile books, and others that work on indie titles, web comics, or even self publish. There were plenty of cosplayers. I saw a bunch of Deadpools, Doctor Whos and Harley Quinns. I saw a few Spider-Men, at least two Batmen, and an Iron Man. I saw one couple dressed up as Alana and Marko from Saga. There were multiple people dressed up as anime characters that I didn’t recognize. Well known cosplayer Riddle was even in attendance. While strolling the convention floor I saw an Ecto-1 from Ghost Busters, whose siren could be heard every so often. I also saw the Mystery Machine from Scooby Doo. There was a statue of Batman standing atop a stone column and across from it was a giant inflatable Spider-Man bounce house.
At the end of the day on Saturday, my roommate and I decided to go to Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find, the comic shop that is behind Heroes Con. The store is only about a mile and a half from the convention center so it wasn’t hard to find. The first thing I noticed upon entering was the giant Doctor Octopus hanging from the celing, a pair of tentacles attached to the counter in the middle of the store. Another tentacle was being webbed up by a giant Spider-Man who was perched atop a glass display case full of statues and busts. It’s a large, open store with an excellent selection of new and recent books on shelves, and older books in long boxes. They also have a pretty extensive selection of graphic novels. There was only one guy working that day, presumably because everyone else was manning the booth at the convention, but he was very friendly and helpful.
On Sunday, I picked up some completed art commissions and spent more time looking for actual comics. I also made it to the one panel I really wanted to attend: Sex Criminals Sunday. Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky sat down and talked about working on Sex Criminals and answered audience questions. It’s obvious that they have a great working relationship as well as a personal one, as they kept cracking each other, and the audience, up throughout the panel. At the end of the panel they invited a pair of cosplayers dressed as Jon and Suzie from Sex Criminals to come up front. They asked the audience to keep perfectly still in order to simulate the characters’ time-stopping powers, while the duo went around “stealing” things as Zdarsky filmed. After a couple of minutes of this, the two went on stage and “Jon” proposed to “Suzie” who immediately said yes. The audience instantaneously unfroze and applauded. The rest of my Sunday was spent trying to finish up a few things I wanted to do.
After the con was over, I realized there were creators I didn’t get to meet and comics I forgot to look for, but I still had an amazing time. The writers and artists I did meet were truly appreciative of the fans, and seemed to genuinely enjoy getting to interact with us. I got to talk passionately about comics with other fans that I wouldn’t have met otherwise. All in all I had a great time, and I’m already looking forward to going back next year.
Want to go? Keep an eye on the Heroes Con home page so you can plan for 2015!