The Boston Comic Con has been growing steadily from its origins as a small hotel comics convention centered around buying comics to an event that features top-name guests but still has the intimacy of a hometown comics festival. While the show is smaller than a big-city convention, it is growing fast. BCC press liaison Colin Solan said attendance this past weekend was 6,000, a big increase over both last year’s attendance of 4,100 and the show’s 2009 attendance of 2,800.
Last year's Boston Comic Con was at the Westin Hotel on the Boston waterfront, and that was a huge leap forward from a much smaller venue the previous year. This year, it was held at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston's Back Bay, April 30 and May 1, and while it didn't pack the Hynes and the surrounding area the way Anime Boston does, it was a respectable size.
What was more than respectable was the lineup of visiting creators, which included superhero creators such as Neal Adams, Frank Quitely, and Dave Johnson, as well as a varied range of indy and alternative creators that included Stan Sakai (Usagi Yojimbo), Darwyn Cooke (Parker: The Hunter, DC's New Frontier), Andy Belanger and Anthony del Col (Kill Shakespeare), Terry Moore (Strangers in Paradise), and Scott Wegener (Atomic Robo). DC Art Director Mark Chiarello was even doing portfolio reviews.
The exhibit hall was bleak even by convention-center standards, with a concrete floor, cinderblock walls, exposed ducts, and glaring fluorescent lights. However, the lack of ambience was more than made up for by the opportunity to talk to talented artists without having to stand on a long line. And despite the ticket price of $20 for one day, $35 for both days (also up from last year), people were buying comics. While business looked fairly slow at the dealers' tables, which took up about a third of the floor, the artists in Artists Alley seemed pleased with the show.
The big debut of the show was Teenage Satan, a digital comics and media package created by Darwyn Cooke's wife Marsha, his niece Candis, and Stephanie Buscema, who also comes from a comics family (she is the granddaughter of longtime Marvel artist John Buscema). The comic, which will be downloadable as an app or from the web, is a light-hearted teen comedy about the travails of Luc Satan, a "sparkly emo Satan" who is the son of Lucifer, the Prince of Darkness. Luc has to endure the usual indignities of high school, including having a crush on a girl who likes someone else, and he in turn tortures his father by wanting to be good (the worst possible outcome if you are Satan). Marsha Cooke said the app will update daily with puzzles, comics, and other content, and will run from September 2011 to December 2012.
Independent artists and Webcomics creators abounded in the Artists Alley. Sam Costello had the newest compilation of his horror webcomic Split Lip. Thom Zahler was signing single issues and IDW's collections of his superhero rom-com Love and Capes. At the Agreeable Comics table, Kevin Church pitched his comics Lydia, The Rack, and She Died in Terrrebonne. Tak Toyoshima talked about how his life changed when his webcomic Secret Asian Man was picked up for newspaper syndication—and why he chose to leave the daily newspaper grind a few years later. Daniel Govar, whose comic Azure was one of the winners of DC's Zuda competition, talked about making the transition to the iPad when DC ended Zuda and took down the page. Jason Viola sold charming, handmade mini-comics about manatees and amoebas. And of course, the Boston Comics Roundtable had a plum spot at the end of an aisle to promote their anthologies and minicomics by local artists.
The panel room held about 100 people, making for a fairly intimate experience. Stan Sakai sketched characters from Usagi Yojimbo as he talked about the creation of his comic and told stories about his life in comics. Darwyn Cooke discussed his work on the upcoming Parker: The Martini Edition, dropped a hint that he was working on a big project for DC, and said that the book he would most like to adapt into a graphic novel is Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead. "That's kind of a dream project," he said, "and I'd like to do it as a skyscraper, a big book that you would lay out on a table. We have been sort of talking about it loosely, and that might be the big thing I might do for the next decade, in my 50s." Other panels included one on comics in the classroom, another of female creators, and a how-to panel by Frank Cho titled "How to Draw Comics Like a Bad Ass." Spotlight panels included Howard Chaykin, Matt Wagner, and Joe Kubert.
The crowd at the con mirrored that at C2E2 in Chicago, just a few weeks earlier, in makeup if not in size: Mostly adults, with some young children, all of them having a good time. There were very few teenagers. As is often the case, there was an impressive array of costumes, from simple superheroes to a giant Transformer.
Boston Comic Con was a good example of a small con at its best, with an excellent lineup of creators, a solid Artists Alley featuring up-and-coming local artists alongside more established creators, and a visitor-friendly venue within walking distance of restaurants and local color (as opposed to larger, more isolated convention centers). Without the noise and distraction of larger cons, it was the purest sort of comics experience: Creators and readers, in the same room, talking comics.