With a mix of popular comics creators from the book and periodical worlds, last weekend's Baltimore Comic-Con was a crowd-pleasing showcase for the recent increase in popularity for the medium. Buoyed by a surge in local media—including a cover story in B, the local alternative paper—and such community tie-ins as having comics artist Jim Lee throw out the first pitch at Friday's Orioles game, the show drew a larger than ever crowd that at times featured the blocked aisles and long lines of larger shows, but at a much more manageable level. This was all the more remarkable because the show features only comics guests, without the media and movie presentations that draw them in at other shows.
Lee, and fellow creators Geoff Johns, Brian Michael Bendis and Mike Mignola drew long, enthusiastic lines, but perhaps the most buzz was for an appearance by Jeff Kinney, the creator of the Wimpy Kids books. According to Abrams' executive editor Charlie Kochman, the line was well over 200 people and the ocean of excited kids was a testament to just how big a phenomenon this series has become.
The programming highlight was Saturday's debate between writers Robert Kirkman and Brian Michael Bendis. Kirkman, who was recently named a partner in Image Comics, which publishes mostly creator owned work, has put out a call for more creators from Marvel and DC to take the plunge on publishing their own creations, and is trying to recruit more big-name talents to take their work to Image. Bendis, while well-known for his creator-owned Powers series, works mostly for Marvel on such titles as Mighty Avenger, Ultimate Spider-Man and the mega-hit Secret Invasion.
Kirkman argued that creators who are able to take the plunge can make better money doing comics they own at Image than continuing to work on books for Marvel and DC. Bendis countered that Kirkman, whose The Walking Dead is one of the few periodical consistently rising in sales, lives in "rarefied air" that few creators could reach. Bendis also argued that his Marvel work increases the audience for Powers. Kirkman responded with slides that showed his Marvel work on the bestselling Marvel Zombies had little effect on his creator owned work.
Besides this much-talked about panel, Image had several announcements, including Kirkman's commitment to getting his books out regularly in 2009: "On Time in '09." To that end, he's hired former Marvel editor Aubrey Sitterson as a freelance editor to keep him on schedule. Image also announced books from all four members of the Man of Action writing collective, the creators of the Ben 10 TV show. The books will debut early in '09. In addition, they have a new music based comics anthology on the way, featuring the English band Spearmint, much in the tradition of the Belle and Sebastian and Tori Amos collections.
Marvel announced a new Avengers book written by Bendis called Dark Avengers, which will spin out of the ending of Secret Invasion. DC had no major announcements, but cleaned up in the Harvey Awards, held Saturday night. (A complete list of winners can be seen here.) DC nabbed five awards, including Best Writer (Brian K Vaughn for Y the Last Man), Best Artist (Frank Quitely, All-Star Superman), Best Continuing or Limited Series (All Star Superman), Best Cartoonist (Darwyn Cooke, The Spirit) and Best Single Issue or Story (All Star Superman #8
). Nick Gurewitch and his Perry Bible Fellowship also won two Harveys—for Best Webcomic and the Special Award for Humor in Comics.
With Friday night's presidential debate and the impending election on everyone's minds, there were a few reminders at the show. A booth was selling t-shirts bearing Alex Ross's image of Barack Obama as Superman and a card for a website called comicsindustryforobama.com were widely circulated.