"Aren't all relationships dysfunctional and volatile?"
The words of Peter Bagge explaining why the protagonists in so much of his work seem to be in relationships that are just that. That may be the case with for humans but as far as the chemistry between Boston and the Boston Comic Con, it's anything but.
To be fair, the show should really be called "Artist Con", the big names and special guests almost entirely artists (rather than writers). The biggest names of the weekend, some of the heavyweights from EC/Mad, Al Jaffee, Al Feldstein and Paul Coker Jr. Add to that roster names like Peter Bagge, Simon Bisley, Kevin Eastman and Bernie Wrightson and it's clear that the Boston Comic Con isn't the Con people are lamenting when they gnash their teeth and moan, "Oh none of the conventions are even about comics anymore."
And that's what makes the Boston Comic Con easily the best convention in the north eastern section of the U.S. I'll even do you one better, as far as comics go, actual, real, hold-em-in-your-hands comics go, Boston trumps New York easily.
Tom Franck, when performing as part of the acclaimed comedy group "Comics on Comics", even remarked on the noted absence of convention regular Lou Ferrigno joking that Ferrigno is now more famous for signing autographs at shows rather than turning green, huge and angry. It's funnier when he says it, trust me.
With a smaller, more focused show like Boston, not only is there elbow room, but you're not vying for chairs with confused, shrill teenagers only interested in catching a peek at an HBO heartthrob (there really are so many these days). The hall isn't deafening with the enormous explosions of "Generic War Game 7".
There are still dealers and there are still deals. There might not be the same absurdly impressive cosplay that you find at the bigger shows, but the cosplayers I saw were plenty impressive in their own right. The Flash's Rogues Gallery was beyond charming (just like in the book!), the Mr. T, (though noted by many attendees to be a slight step down from last year's) yelled, pitied and photographed his way through the floor. I talked to a 6 year old who told me he was "the one from Young Justice" when I asked him which Robin he came as. "Well as long as you don't go in for any of that Jason Todd nonsense." I said to the befuddled child as his dad laughed.
And if you have a favorite artist and they are at the show, you're going to have no problem talking with them. Well, unless they're Kevin Eastman, who drew enormous crowds all weekend, a testament to the lasting popularity of the Turtles whether they be teenage mutants or adult aliens. Or having sex with pizza delivery boys and Shredder as in the gay porn parody comic I picked up in Artist's Alley.
Written and drawn by Jose-Luis Olivares the comic will teach you the secret of the ooze.
Skottie Young seemed genuinely happy after hearing kind words on his writing of the recent Magneto miniseries, "Magneto: Not A Hero" and teased that he's got several other pitches he's delivered to Marvel but wouldn't say what, because of the characters they involve, making me wonder what the Marvel Universe is going to look like post AvX.
Peter Bagge talked about a British adaptation of "Apocalypse Nerd" that never made it past the pilot, though there's still a possibility of it finding life in Hollywood as a feature film. Also apparently at one point Ben Stiller was interested in adapting it…until the issue where Perry eats a baby.
"Ben Stiller will stop calling if there is baby eating."
He also said that in future "Hate" stories we're going to see Buddy turn into an even bigger crank, which I can't even fathom as being possible. When asked about his 1980s right wing radio host character Studs Kirby, and as to whether or not the current political climate of America might see him out of retirement Bagge said that "you can't make a cartoon character crazier than the real people".
Sean Murphy was only too happy to talk about his upcoming Vertigo book "Punk Rock Jesus", the story of a Jesus clone and his IRA bodyguard (and punk rock). I happily said that it looks like all of those rumors (those never ending rumors) that Vertigo is going to get shutdown are just that to which Sean responded with "cautious optimism". Citing a recent opening of a Vertigo office in LA solely for the adaptation of books to films and the impending 20th anniversary of the imprint he said that things do look good at the moment. Murphy went on to cite the current state of the industry and the recent Marvel firings as examples of why his optimism is "cautious". Murphy also said that Vertigo initially didn't want the book, but after doing the excellent "American Vampire" mini, "Survival of the Fittest" they agreed. He also cited "The Walking Dead"'s continued popularity as helping a black and white book find a home at Vertigo.(So buy it when it drops this summer! And show Vertigo that a title that isn't connected to Fables or The Sandman can thrive.)
I've been to a lot of shows, but this experience was different. For many years I've carried a two page back issue list in my back pocket, with the titles and numbers of all the issues I need to complete various runs. I've carried it with me everywhere (because you never know when you're going to run into a sale) and it's helped me amass a collection of 8,000+ comics in the last decade.
Then the new 52 happened. Then AvX happened. Then I turned 30. It seemed like the universe was giving me a message and that message was "It's time to move on." So for the first time I ignored every long box and every "5 for 1 Dollar" sale and I spent all of my time (and most of my money) in Artist's Alley, picking up whatever I came across. Approaching each table, pointing to a book and saying, "What's the story with this guy?" Unsurprisingly every artist and creator I spoke to lit up and immediately gave me the run down on their projects, posters and pins.
The Christian Sager penned and E.C. Steiner drawn graphic novel "Think of the Children" is a gorgeous piece of work that really cements the artistic superiority of a comic you can hold in your hand versus one that you read on a screen. It comes in hardbound 1/4" davey board covers, set on cloth bound hinges with a sculpted resin seal embedded in the front cover as well as laser etched line art on the back, to say nothing of the fact that it comes with library cards in the back with the names of the kickstarter donors. Oh and it's a horror/exploitation comic about the fall of EC comics and the creation of the comic's code. Comicsmakekidsevil.com is the place to go to find out more.
"Cold Wind", put out by Ninth Art Press, described by the author Dan Mazur as "Dashiell Hammett teamed up with Hans Christian Andersen" is one of the most interesting, fun, gorgeous books I've read in a long time. It'll speak directly to fans of "Fables", "Joe The Barbarian" or anyone else who enjoys their old school fantasy with some new school violence. It reminded me of "Our Love Is Real" in so far as it's a self contained story that is a tantalizing look at a rich mythology, with instantly relatable characters, plot twists and beautiful line work.
"Cold Wind" is drawn by Jesse Lonergan who also wrote and drew "Joe and Azat", a graphic novel based on his experiences in the Peace Corp in Turkmenistan. The work has already garnered rave reviews from the Smithsonian to The Wall St. Journal and it's easy to see why. The story is engaging and the art is moving, combining cartoonish sensibilities with real world drama and pathos. I also bought a split comic he did called "The Sex Sex" which should be the back up story in all new issues of Phonogram.
"Coping With Death" is a small, fun little read that appears to be the brain child of Edward Gorey and Bryan Lee O'Malley (in actuality it's local Maris Wicks) and the book goes from surreal, to fun, to sad, to moving so smoothly and so naturally, it's a comic that refuses to be categorized yet should be owned by everyone.
At the table where I got "Pizza Boy" (the aforementioned torrid turtles tale) I also picked up two issues of "Brain Parts" by Holly Foltz (one issue I received gratis for gifting Ms. Foltz with some fruit snacks from my Convention Readiness Snack Sack). A graduate from the Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont, Holly shows an impressive gift for character, telling short, funny anecdotes from her work and personal life, including one fairly surreal dream in Issue #0 that shows there's more going on with her than just the humorous realism. And cat jokes. But I love cat jokes. So for me, this was an excellent find. I also picked up an anthology by Foltz, Olivares and Matt Aucoin called "School Pencil" which, like "Pizza Boy" has a cover that would be difficult to show here unedited.
"All Of Them Witches", a collection of short, surreal comics by Patt Kelley features a gorgeous and disturbing "Rosemary's Baby" tribute cover (sans accordion monkey, that was drawn special for me) and title. Patt's comics walk the line between hilarity and heartbreak with the best of them. It's the way uncomfortable kids make friends in high school, you open up, then cover with a joke. "Bad Prom Pictures 2006" is an especially funny one page strip that is exactly what it sounds like, but taken to hilarious and surreal extremes. Why this isn't being published with a Fantagraphics logo in the corner, I do not know.
I also picked up comics from 215 Ink, Free Lunch Comics (which brought about a reunion of sorts between creators I first met over a decade ago at a now defunct monthly local con in Connecticut), Liz Prince, Brian Connolly (Boston bred punk rock hilarity), Ken Bastard, Elizabeth Neronski (Corpses+Cupcakes=cute), Jennie Wood (spies, sex changes and adolescent angst) and Stock Pile Comics (with one of the greatest comic covers I have ever seen for "Man-Gull" which is exactly what you think it is). I'd love to write reviews for all of them, I've barely slept and the coffee is low.
The point is this. Boston Comic Con is special. It's a place to come and actually connect with actual artists. You won't have to force a smile at a cast member from the original Battlestar Galactica as you're awkwardly pressed up against his table while trying to find a bathroom. You won't have to wear yourself out with snarky quips at the expense of well meaning yet ill informed booth babes. You'll discover new comics, you'll talk to your comic heroes, you'll be around a lot of like minded people who are really interested in celebrating the same special art that you are. And smoking cigarettes while dressed like Batgirl. There's always that too.