J. Scott Campbell Head Sketch – G.I. Joe Baroness

J. Scott Campbell 2007 Sketchbook

I got an awesome surprise today!

Our close friend, and well connected comics enthusiast David Wray called on Saturday to let both Christine and I know that he had a surprise for us. He got us the 2007 J. Scott Campbell Sketchbook at the Wizard World Chicago convention.

But, then later on in the day he found out that J. Scott would be doing sketches tomorrow, and he was going to try to get in line.

Well, turns out that they were just quickie sketches, but who cares. He stood in line to get one and was able to score one for the both of us! How exciting is that!

J. Scott Campbell G.I. Joe Baroness Sketch

David is networking, trying to break into the comics business as and Editor I believe. I wish I could do more for him in that arena, because he always takes care of his friends without asking. He is always thoughtful, and looking out for others best interests. I have to believe that would translate really well to being an editor. Working with the different artists, being a liason between them and the company.

He hasn’t been doing networking for too long and he has already made a ton of progress. He also has a great resume having done Public Relations for a comics periodical based out of Cincinnati, OH.

Well, either way, I could sing his praises all night. Thanks David, you’re the best.

Rotheblog Mulling It Over Button
Rotheblog Mulling It Over Button

Thoughts on Dragon*Con

I am certain I have liberally thrown around the term “adventure” when talking about our con trips. Ah, but never has the word been more appropriate than in reference to Dragon*Con.

The eight hour drive passed quickly. Sure – because I wasn’t driving & the magic of portable DVD has made thinking autonomously unnecessary. Yeah, I’m a punk – I’ll admit I had it easy.

We drove in Thursday because my traveling companion, David & his friend Andie had been invited to Adam Hughes & Allison Sohn’s second annual house warming party. After a quick shower at the hotel & swinging by to pick up Andie we were off.

Allison was the perfect hostess & really outdid herself on the food – it was all fabulous. Next to the bar you also had the opportunity to spin the wheel of drinks & take your chance on what you got from the bartender. I played it safe & opted to try a highly recommended “Pineapple Upside-Down Cake” & was not disappointed.

Many had gathered in the living room to play an X-box game that involved creating a car crash. The bigger the pile-ups, destruction & mayhem caused – the bigger the score. It was hysterical to watch them play.

After the real gamers had taken their turns even I tried it out. This is where you must know an important fact – the last game I had any mastery of was Centipede, so we are looking at a near 20 year gap in my gaming experience. Plus I’ve never even held an X-box controller. As you might well image I sucked in epic proportions. It didn’t diminish my fun though.

But mostly I engaged in my favorite party activity – I met and chatted with lots of very friendly folks. I had a great time & I’m sure I could go on – but I’m here to talk about Dragon Con, so I’d better get right to it.

Dragon Con Image 1

Dragon Con Image 2

Dragon Con Image 3

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Dragon Con Image 5

Dragon Con Image 6

Day One

We arrived early – David was hell-bent on meeting the cast of Serenity. After making the rounds to offer warm hellos to some of the vendors with whom I’ve become acquainted we went to wait for Serenity cast members to arrive.

I’d call myself a Firefly fan (and a Joss Whedon Freak), but in general I’m not a wait-in-line-$20-a-signature fan. I can’t explain it, but the comic book artists (and creators) just get me more fluttery than the actors do.

For all the crush of people we made it through very quickly. I snapped digital pictures of David with the stars which we would later print out & bring back for signing. Of all the cast – meeting Ron Glass had to have been the most enjoyable.

He was so pleasant. I passed by his table repeatedly throughout the weekend & he always looked relaxed & happy. He took his time with everyone & seemed very down-to-earth.

After the Serenity tables, we proceeded on to the Star Trek row because David wanted to get his picture with the guy who plays Tripp on Star Trek: Enterprise. Again, I’m a Star Trek fan, but I never got into Enterprise, so I stayed on the periphery.

Okay, pausing for evil, snarky girl moment. Down the row Marina Sirtis (Troi from ST:TNG) was setting up her table. The top she was wearing was so wide open in the front David & I both Literally jumped when she turned around. But that’s not the snarky part. Disclaimer: This is pure gossip & I should be ashamed of myself. I have nothing more to base this on other than the fact I am a large busted woman over the age of 30. But believe me when I tell you – those are new. ‘Nuff said.

Finally I had a chance to roam around & check out all the tables. There was so much cool stuff for sale.

For the uninitiated (which up until a week ago included me) Dragon*con is an enormous con that takes place in three adjacent hotels. It is not so much a “comic book” convention. In fact I remember thinking as I drifted off to sleep after the first day that I needed to check to see if there were even any vendors selling comics, because I didn’t remember specifically seeing any. (I did find a few tables on Saturday.)

I’m not sure I’d label it Sci-fi either – maybe “Fantasy” is the right word. There were comic books, science fiction stars, a teeny-tiny artist’s alley & role playing card games, but the vendors were heavy on costuming.

And costumes were the big thing. Not only were there an abundance of fictional characters being portrayed by con guests, but I have never in my life seen more corsets & bustiers in one place at one time.

Sidebar – just so you fellas know; pulling that off all day is no picnic. A tight bustier is difficult enough to manage, but those lace-up corsets – yeesh! Who wants to breathe or digest food anyway? I overhead a corset wearing gal in the bathroom groaning that the salad she had just eaten was about to cripple her. All right, back on topic…

The costumes cut a wide swath across genres, media & personal proclivities. There were superheroes, movie & television characters, literary characters, period costumes, fairies & fantasy – I could go on all day. It’s practically useless to describe – it’s something you need to see. I hope Jeff will be able to post some of the pictures we brought back.

At the end of the day Friday we stayed in the lobby & took pictures of the endless parade of costumed & otherwise lavishing dressed (& undressed) con patrons. We re-grouped later with a bunch of friends in the hotel restaurant. We commandeered a large corner table overlooking the lobby where costumed con attendees had gathered. We ate, drank, talked & watched the parade pass by. I am a people watching junkie. It was nearly 1 am when we left but the throng of people in the lobby still packed the area end to end.

Day Two

We got a later start on Saturday. After getting nice 8×10 glossies of yesterday’s photos printed we returned to the con. I left David on his own to get his signatures. The area where they had the celebrity signings was a zoo. It was packed, movement was limited & it was HOT. I preferred to get out & prowl around on my own.

The dealers were amazing. I was fascinated with all the headdresses, jewelry, cloaks, ornate dresses, replicas of TV & movie costumes, etc. I’m telling you if I had money to set on fire I would have been coming home with bags of that stuff. A lot of it was hand crafted & the workmanship was exquisite.

I got to spend more time in artist’s alley too. I said “hi” to Adam & offered him a granola bar. He’s always working so hard I think he doesn’t get to eat sometimes – it makes me go maternal. Then I headed around the corner. They had Andy Lee, Stuart Sayger & David Mack all lined up in a row. All that cuteness, all in one spot – it’s almost more than a poor fan-girl can take.

Oh & I picked up Stuart’s new sketchbook that weekend too. I love it! My gosh, he is so good! Great news too – my Wolverine is in this edition. I never got it into the scanner before I got it framed. Now those who possess the sketchbook can all reflect back to my earlier essay about my love affair with this picture & see how completely right I was.

The rest of the day passed in a nanosecond. Suddenly we were out to dinner with one of David’s friends, and then it was party time. This seems to be another proud Dragon*con tradition – there is a heck of a night life attached to this con.

The first party had kind of a weird vibe. It was an invitation only suite party. They had the door roped off & bouncers & everything – I know, could I possibly sound like more of a yokel? I didn’t know a soul there, but I’m pretty gregarious so I did make an effort to communicate but it was challenging.

I think I was talking to Peter David & I think I unwittingly referred to someone who may have been related to him as surly. Yeah, that got things off on the right foot. It was definitely an interesting setting but as soon as we felt safe that our next party was underway we moved on.

Next was the Linsner post-Dawn Contest party. We hooked back up with a couple more friends & took a lovely white-knuckled glass elevator ride way, WAY up to his suite. I’m not that bad with heights, but boy did we have a bunch of people crammed into that little elevator.

This was much more relaxed & social party. I still didn’t know anyone other than the folks I came with, but this time I had no trouble finding interesting conversation (which is the equivalent of Nirvana to me). This again reaffirms my belief that the creator & con community is very friendly as a whole. Plus I think you have to be a little brighter than average to appreciate comic books – but that’s a whole different essay.

We headed back to the hotel late & left early the next day.

Overall Impressions

In a nutshell – Dragon*con is a blast, a non-stop, free-spirited party. The convention itself has more to look at & do that you can get to in a weekend. I could see attending all three days & not getting bored. If I’d had more time or had gone on my own I may have sought out more panels. They had quite a few that looked interesting. I hear the “Buffy Track” had speed dating – how cool is that? Oh & there was music too & I missed out on all of that, maybe next year.

What set this con apart for me is the social scene. The only things I bought were Stuart’s sketchbook & a couple souvenirs for my kids & my Dad – everything else was about people. It doesn’t end when the exhibitors’ doors close for the day. There are things do around the clock.

This gets a big recommendation from me – pffft! Like anybody cares what I think. *laughing*

My plans for Baltimore fell through so my next convention will be Mid-Ohio – back to where it all started. So I’ve been on the con circuit almost a year now & every trip I learn new stuff. Maybe after that show I’ll take a minute & figure out just what it is I learned. Until then – thanks for listening!


Thoughts on Wizard World Chicago

We’re back from the Windy City & I must say I’m still reeling from my fist time at an industrial sized gi-norm-i-con. I’ve made a pledge to use this forum to talk about things I like, but this might be a mixed bag. Not that I see this taking a negative turn, but my experiences there have provided quite a bit of fodder for rumination.

The trip begins

Jeff, Sarah & I arrived Friday night so we could join David (who had been there since Thursday) for an early start on Saturday. Sarah opted to yield to siren song of the Ikea store, so Jeff, David, the very charming Andie & I strolled through the doors around 8:30. Even during this “quiet” pre-opening time it was still bustling.

The DC booth was is the supreme attention grabbing spot – it was the first thing you saw the minute you entered & impossible to miss. “Booth” is an understatement too. Let’s call it the DC industrial complex. There were MANY tables & stations with different themes, give-a-ways & promotional events.

The front section near the door was devoted to several of these oversized corporate booths. Past them were the normal sized retailer & publisher booths. Then, over hill & dale, artist’s alley was all the way in the back.

Everyone drifted in separate directions. I thought I’d do a quick lap to get my bearings before the crowd descended. It was a good thing I said “hi” to some people early because I never found their tables again. That is either a comment on how Habi-trail like it was in there or on what a wretched sense of direction I have.

The announcement was made that the con was open for business and, in a flash, a jaw dropping mass of people flooded the hall & quickly formed a line of which I could see neither the beginning nor the end. This was the start of a game I played all day – “What’s everybody lined up for?”

Taking it all in

As a newbie tourist to the whole con scene this was a fascinating phenomenon to me. I imagine this was what it must have been like in the Communism’s heyday. People wandering around asking people in line what they were waiting for & hoping the end of the wait held that for which they were looking.

Seriously, I can’t imagine how anybody figured out how to get ANYTHING at this con. Here’s my first bit of commentary. This is only based on this one experience mind you – but WW Chicago overall seemed hopelessly disorganized. Oh, there were pockets of organization. There were several gentlemen at the DC booth who were consistently helpful, but overall I don’t know how the average visitor would have any idea when & where con events were occurring.

Thank goodness for David. He’s been to so many of these things he knows how to find out where to be & what the drill is. I feel sorry for anyone who goes to an event like this for the first time without a tour guide. I’m certain I would have missed out on all the signings without his guidance. At least at the smaller cons I found information easier to come by, event times & locations better marked & the staff much more informative & helpful.

Okay that was too close to negative for my tastes – let’s get back to the fun, cool stuff that happened. J. Scott Campbell…Eeeeeeee! That was my girl-squeal of excitement that I got to meet him.

My first ventures into buying comics were utterly random. J. Scott’s work was the first that I could actually pick out over other artists (no big surprise that Jim Lee was next) & awakened me to the idea of appreciating the individual creators. So meeting him was a huge deal for me.

The morning passed quickly with the majority of activity centered on getting to meet J. Scott. First we got wristbands that permitted us to line up to meet him. Yes, we waited in one line for the privilege of waiting in a second line – another big-con concept that was lost on me. I get that it keeps things orderly, but it was still weird.

We were close to the front of the second line so we got there fairly quickly. I gushed about how fabulous he was & asked him to sign two Danger Girls issues & a copy of his sketchbook that David had miraculously procured for me. The sketchbook was AWSOME! I read the thing like it was a novel – pouring over every page. It was a great experience. Good gosh I love his work!

As excited as I was it was nearly as much fun to step back & watch Jeff take his turn. Jeff can be an enigma. He’s a big goofy kid when you get to know him – but it takes some time & effort to get past his “coolness”. It was DELIGHTFUL to see him chatting so animatedly with this guy whose work we both admire. I got to witness a Jeff fan-boy moment – priceless.

How the time flies

Meeting J. Scott was truly about the only thing we accomplished before noon. David & Andie went to procure lunch & left Jeff & me to wander aimlessly – and that is a pretty accurate description of what I did. The sensory overload was mind numbing.

Even when I made my way out of the retail areas & to artist’s alley I had trouble finding folks because there was so much to see. I visited with some of my favorite guys.

Now hold onto you hats – I’m going to go all subjective here.

I got the feeling that a lot of these artists were as worn-out & (for lack of a better word) “shell-shocked” as I was. Take for example – I stopped by to chat with Stuart Sayger (Shiver in the Dark), Art Balthazar (Patrick the Wolfboy) & Bill Wilkison (Wha? & S.O.S). (Go give them money – they are marvelous!)

Based on past interaction, these three in particular are exceptionally funny, dynamic & I’d even go for flat out charming. All of them seemed more subdued than I recall and they weren’t alone. A lot of the creators had the whole penned veal aura about them.

And this is absolutely no reflection on the talented artists who were there – it seemed like a WW phenomenon. Here’s what a gleaned from my table to table chit chatting.

The atmosphere was the cause for many social behaviors

First, people were not spending. I can back that up. For me – it was a simple matter of it being back-to-school time so I brought almost nothing to spend. But that didn’t account for everyone. The crowded, cluttered environment was not at all conducive to shopping and browsing.

Case in point – Jeff was off agonizing about getting a fair trade on the books he brought so I told him I was going across the aisle to look at toys. That lasted all of ten seconds. The sizeable crowd made it difficult to navigate toward the booth. Then when I did make it near, the swirling sea of humanity that continued to ebb & flow on all sides made it nearly impossible to hold ground long enough to examine anything.

And if the experience of other attendees was similar to mine – I lost the whole morning to meeting one (fabulous, incredible) guy. That doesn’t leave much time for perusing.

The second hurdle for the artists was what appeared to be utter apathy from WW about taking care of them. I’m puzzling how to do this without sounding gossipy. The two common themes I heard were – disorganized & unhelpful.

It seems as though lack of information from WW made it difficult to find the right table in some cases. People were in the wrong spot, double booked or just giving up & setting up randomly. And without going into too much detail – WW’s treatment of Adam Hughes was nothing short of disgraceful.

The final drawback was competition for attention – there was so much to see that conversely there was so much to overlook. It was inadvertent, of course. I consider myself to be very disciplined, but even I felt all ADD. I couldn’t make it continuously down any aisle in a straight line, so I am certain there were many things I missed.

Continuing with the day

Well, enough of that – this grows over-long; let me round out the day. I stopped by the Desperado booth several times to visit their ever delightful creative director, April Doster. I also picked up the second issue of “The Atheist” which was probably my favorite title that I initially picked up from Desperado in Charlotte .

This book is penciled by John McCrea & written by the incomparable Phil Hestor. The writing in this is phenomenal. I’m already totally intrigued with the titular character. The story is smart & engaging. Oh & I can’t wait for issue two of Stardust Kid – another Desperado title that caught my interest.

Later in the afternoon we managed to snag wristbands that allowed us to stand in line to meet Alex Ross. I was completely unprepared too! I didn’t expect to have the opportunity to meet him. David came to the rescue once again with a cool Alex Ross postcard for him to sign. Mr. Ross was the perfect gentleman – very polite & gracious. I’m so glad we had the opportunity to meet him.

Then a mere 15 minutes before we were about to leave I ran across Eric Adams’ table – proving once again how crazy it was in there. I probably walked by that same space countless time & didn’t even notice his prominent banners until the crowd thinned a bit. But now I have issues 2 and 3 of “Lackluster World” – Yeah! I love the bold artwork & the cutting satire. I can’t wait for issue 4.

We rounded out the day with a leisurely dinner at a steakhouse across the street. It was nice to unwind after a packed day of activity.

So – overall impressions…

In retrospect, I can see that one day is probably not enough to see everything I wanted to see at a con this size. Next time I’d be curious to see if attending two or three days would dilute the feeling of being overwhelmed & the nagging sensation that I didn’t accomplish much of anything.

I think the keys words though are “next time”. I guess there will be a next time. Even though the smaller cons attract guys I idolize, I must reluctantly concede that playing on Wizard’s turf still may be the only venue I have for seeing some of the big name “stars” of the industry.

So I’m not totally keen on the idea – but I believe I will give it another go before I completely pass judgment. After all it WAS a comic convention – how can you not have some fun. It’s always a pleasure to have an opportunity to make new friends and interact with the nice folks we’ve already met.

It was so much easier to write about other cons I’ve attended this year. I cannot WAIT to go back to Mid-Ohio or Heroes con! But I think a little Wizard World is going to go a long way for me.

Maybe I’m biased too – I’m always rooting for the little guy. So I’ll probably be saving my time & money to support them over them over this leviathan of a con.

Thanks for listening!

Comic Store : W. Michigan Comic Connection

Rothe Blog Comic West Michigan

Location : Grand Haven, MI

I went into this comic store soon after I started collecting for my first pass in the sixth grade. They would have great sales on books I was looking for, and the whole experience was generally upstanding. But I was young, and at the time, two chronic smokers that were in their 120’s didn’t bother me. The store moved within one strip mall four times, and I grew tired of the old owners.

Eventually the store was bought out by two other guys. They are two individuals who treat their customers like they don’t need the business. I had orders that were not fulfilled, without a explanation as to why or a notification that I wouldn’t be getting my books, and they ran the store with the idea that every person in the universe loved role playing games with figures. I know that comic stores can be a little quirky, but do believe customer service should come first, and here it comes last. It is truly a store owned by two guys living their dream, and their dream is to try to make money playing with tiny painted characters all day long, and ignore everyone else from the genre. Not good business sense.

Comic Store : Queen City Comic And Card Co.

Rothe Blog Queen City Comic and Card Company

Location : Cincinnati, OH

I really liked this store. A cool old corner intersection building that is misleading when you first walk in, Queen City Comics is a very spacious store with plenty to choose from. They had all of the trades I was looking for that day, and the one single issue of Tomb Raider too. Two rooms large, this store has a ton of selection and back issues, and the guys who run the store are nice, not too geeky, and very helpful.

Comic Store : Caveman Comics

Rothe Blog Comic Caveman

Location : Springfield, MO

It is always fun for me to stop at a store out of state. The adventure of finding it and the unknown. I don’t know what about the unknown excites me, but this store is a great example. With everything from music, to movies, to an extensive original transformers collection for sale, this humongous store was a dream come true. The staff was helpful, the guy at the register even giving me a comic out of his box since they were all out of it, and there was a girl that worked there that was the hottest comic book girl I have ever seen.