Saturday, October 3, 2015


When I traveled to Atlanta in 2004 with my buddies for Dragon-Con, one of the attractions was the fact that Warren Ellis was crossing the Atlantic for the first time in years.  Ellis had an early signing the one day we attended the show, so we hopped in line first thing.  One of those ahead of us in line was also a writer (I will assume published, but I don’t know) and remarking about how she was unable to read books for enjoyment anymore, because she knew what it was like to sit down to write a story.  She just couldn’t find it in herself to be a fan of authors anymore.  Because……why?  o_O 

It was a frustrating discussion to listen to, and though I concede that might be some writers’ reaction to doing the work, I have trouble believing it.  It reeks of an elitism that turns my stomach.  And it’s interesting to note that all of my favorite extant authors—Harlan Ellison, Neil Gaiman, Toni Morrison, among others—seem to revel in sharing newfound literary gems.  If it weren’t for Joe Hill’s enthusiastic blog posts and tweets, I never would have discovered the work of David Mitchell.  Harlan Ellison turned me onto W.S. Merwin.  With that in mind, despite being some elitist “auteur” behind the table in Baltimore, I definitely set out onto the floor to meet with some of my favorite creators, and it was a blast. 

Two of my favorite comics from the 80s, when I first got into this habit, are Suicide Squad and Grimjack, both written and co-created by John Ostrander.  This was the first time I had a chance to meet him—one of the best comic book writers you haven’t heard of.  Why Ostrander isn’t in the discussion of great comic writers always boggles my mind.  I might need to remedy that, at some point, here on the blog.  Ostrander was generous, speaking with me about his work on these two titles, including the major status quo shake-up that occurred around issue 55 of Grimjack, which is the only major reboot of a comic that’s ever worked for me.  Ostrander said it was risky, when they decided to do it, because it was such a radical departure, up to that point in the series.  But it works so well, and the introduction of a new artist, Flint Henry, certainly helped things, I believe.  Worth checking out, if you’ve never read it.

John Totleben, an artist whose work is just plain beautiful, and whose delicacy of linework is only matched by the likes of P. Craig Russell or Charless Vess, was seated just down from Ostrander, and he had no line (huh?).  I had my original copies of the first Swamp Thing trade and the third Miracleman trade, both written by Alan Moore, with pencil art in the former by Stephen Bissette.  And Totleben seemed genuinely appreciative to have them to sign and to have the chance to discuss them a bit.  I shared with him how I lent out my Miracleman trades to others in the graphic novel discussion group I was a part of a dozen or so years back, not realizing the exorbitant prices they went for due at the time.  He chuckled at this and was just happy that people still appreciated the work.  If you haven’t read the updated printing of Miracleman (and I can’t relate how the new coloring works with Totleben’s linework, if they revised it), you should definitely seek it out.  The whole thing is great, but the Totleben issues are some of the most beautiful comic art you’ll find. 

Scott Snyder.  This guy was swamped, and he was super generous with his time.  I’ve read a number of his comics, and they’re pretty good—entertaining while I read them, even if they don’t stay with me too long afterward (though Wytches is a series that has lingered)—but I am definitely a fan of his prose work.  I brought along a copy of the One Story edition of his short narrative, “Happy Fish, Plus Coin.”  Snyder was excited to see a copy of what was only his second published story.  We chatted quickly—the line was long—and I forgot the question I wanted to ask him.  But, still and all, a great interaction with another in a long line of creators who felt like he enjoyed being there interacting with fans. 

I also got a chance to speak with Carla Speed McNeil (her series, Finder, is one of my favorites), Franco (of Aw, Yeah Comics and Teen Titans Go), Rob Venditti (X-O Manowar, Surrogates), Greg Pak (Action Comics), Jamal Igle (Molly Danger), Jim Starlin (Dreadstar, Death of Captain Marvel), and they were all great—kind and generous with their limited time.  And there was one creator who seemed ambivalent about his attendance, who was charging 5 bucks for his autograph.  Wish I’d known that before he began signing my Kraven hardcover (note: not the writer or inker), but it was on the sign at the far corner of the table, away from where he sat, at the bottom of a price point sign for his prints…maybe he should have had it up front like Neal Adams.  Ah, well. 

Which made my experience meeting Charles Vess so much better.  The man draws beautifully, and his linework is so soft and feathery you wonder how he manages it.  Vess has worked on a lot of important comics for me, including two of my favorite Sandman stories, as well as his lushly illustrated edition of Stardust with Neil Gaiman (also the Sandman writer), and many high fantasy tales.  In recent years, Vess has moved more into illustrating children’s books along with a variety of novels and is currently working of fully illustrated versions of Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea Chronicles—one color plate and fifty black and white illustrations per book.  And, as he was signing the few books I had for him, without asking he opened up my Sandman: Dream Country hardcover and did a quick sketch for me.  More than I could have expected.  The man is an artist and a gentleman. 

I took some time to browse comic boxes at the many vendors, too.  And I hit a jackpot.  Got roughly two dozen Rom issues I needed, all for a buck or two bucks a piece, with the exception of the first issue, which I found in really good condition for well below what I could find it for online.  So, I’m close to finishing off that run and looking forward to discovering the wonders this Spaceknight from that stars. 

Anyway.  It was a great show, as a comic fan, and I’ll be back tomorrow (hopefully) with my final reminiscence on Baltimore Con 2015.  Thanks.


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