Expanding to three days and a bigger hall did not prevent the Baltimore Comic Con, held September 5-7 at the Baltimore Convention Center, from remaining the same friendly, informal event that many in the area have come to love. While organizers did not release attendance figures, show runner Marc Nathan, owner of Cards, Comics & Collectibles in Baltimore, estimated attendance was up about 20%.
Baltimore is one of the most popular stops for creators, offering a friendly, diverse audience and ready access to crabcakes. While held on two days in the previous years, BCC expanded this year to the whole weekend, and moved to the larger of the facility’s two halls. The new area led to some snafus with signage and confusion over booth placement, and a light Friday, however such things did not affect the generally genial vibe.
Among the show’s big guests were a large contingent of creators from the UK, including Dave Gibbons, co-creator of The Watchmen; Alan Davis, a legendary artist from Scotland, and Mark Buckingham, best known for his work on Fables. A two-hour Fables with creator Bill Willingham drew a large crowd for “The Last Fables Panel” as the book is ending early next year with issue #150.
Baltimore’s biggest draw for attendees is ready access to artists that is unavailable at bigger shows, and most artists had brisk sales of original art. For publishers, it’s a chance to meet fans in a more relaxed arena.
Dynamite Entertainment seldom sets up at conventions, but as they are celebrating their 10th year, they went big and showed up with a stellar line up of guests including Gail Simone, John Casaday and Garth Ennis all of whom drew long lines.
Valiant also set up, and James Asmus, writer on Quantum and Woody, was a big draw. While expanding from their superheroic base, a spokesman noted that Q&W is really more of a sitcom than a superhero book, as it follows the misadventures of two unlikely goofballs who get superpowers.
Boom! Studios was nominated for 17 Harvey Awards and sold out of a new collection of the current hit The Woods. Lumberjanes, an all ages book about a group of spunky girl scouts who investigate supernatural threats has created quite a fan base, becoming a symbol of comics evolving demographics. Boom!’s kids line, anchored by Adventure Time, continues to lead their sales, but their new creator owned periodicals are also doing well, with Dan Abnett’s Wild's End getting stronger than expected numbers, helped by a cover by Mouse Guard’s David Petersen.
Comics from the more indie end were also represented. UK-based Nobrow Press set up for the first time. According to US sales and marketing director Tucker Stone, while it didn't seem obvious for an indie company like Nobrow to set up at a more mainstream show, it was a good opportunity for outreach. "You can't just talk to the same people over and over,” he observed. "This is a way to reach new buyers. ”He noted that the show hosts several retailers who are big Nobrow accounts, including Third Eye, Laughing Ogre and Big Planet.
Nobrow did particularly well with their line of Leporellos—fold out books that showcase the colorful, illustration-influenced art that the house is known for. “Once people see them, they want one,” said Stone, while unfolding one.
Perhaps the book of the show was the lone copy of Little Nemo Dream Another Dream published by Philadelphia’s Locust Moon Comics. (Look for an interview with Locust Moon’s Andrew Carl and Josh O’Neill on an upcoming episode of PW Comics’ World’s More To Come podcast.) The crowdfunded book is in the vein of Peter Maresca’s oversized comic strip collections, and features a giddy array of variant visions by contemporary illustrators and cartoonists for Winsor McCay’s fanciful dreamer. The final effort is breathtaking.
The Baltimore show was capped by the Harvey Awards on Saturday night. Saga, the smash comic by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, won three wards for Best Writer, Artist and Continuing or Limited Series. The Fifth Beatle by Vivek J. Tiwary, Andrew Robinson and Kyle Baker, continued an impressive awards run winning Best Biographical, Historical or Journalistic Presentation and Best Original Graphic Novel. Paul Pope won for Best Cartoonist.
Tiwary, a Tony-winning theater producer who got into comics recently, delivered a pair of emotional acceptance speeches, recalling his love of comics from childhood on, and great moments from such comics as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and declaring “I wanted nothing more than to be a comic creator.”
The keynote speaker was Gail Simone, who went off her original script to deliver a talk touching on some of the recent aggression against female fans and journalists. Simone recalled growing up a comics fan, but getting blowback for her seminal “Women in Refrigerators” Project—spotlighting the huge number of female comics characters who are killed or maimed— which she launched 15 years ago. “Imagine that your website gets national attention and makes the whole industry look like sexist jerks….Imagine how popular you would be. Your inbox would look like ebola hit krakatoa. I got hate mail and I still do,” she said, also recalling how she once asked a publisher what percentage of his readership was female and got the response “I don’t know and I don’t care.” But now things are looking more hopeful, she said, with Lumberjanes, Ms. Marvel and other female-friendly titles finding an audience.
Three special awards were presented: Charles Schulz won the first Harvey Kurtzman Hall of Fame Award; the late Stan Goldberg won the Dick Giordano Humanitarian of the Year Award; and Marvel veteran Herb Trimpe was on hand to receive the Hero Initiative Lifetime Achievement Award.
Complete list of winners:
Best Letterer: Terry Moore, RACHEL RISING, Abstract Studios
Best Colorist: Dave Stewart, HELLBOY: THE MIDNIGHT CIRCUS, Dark Horse Comics
Best Syndicated Strip or Panel: DICK TRACY, Joe Staton and Mike Curtis, Tribune Media Services
Best Online Comics Work: BATTLEPUG, Mike Norton, http://www.battlepug.com/
Best American Edition of Foreign Material: ATTACK ON TITAN, Kodansha
Best Inker: Wade Von Grawbadger, ALL NEW X-MEN, Marvel Comics
Best New Series: SEX CRIMINALS, Image Comics
Most Promising New Talent: Chip Zdarsky, SEX CRIMINALS, Image Comics
Special Award for Humor in Comics: Ryan North, ADVENTURE TIME, KaBOOM! Studios
Best Original Graphic Publication for Younger Readers: ADVENTURE TIME, KaBOOM! Studios
Best Graphic Album Previously Published: MOUSE GUARD VOL. 3: THE BLACK AXE, BOOM! Studios/Archaia
Best Anthology: DARK HORSE PRESENTS, Dark Horse
Best Domestic Reprint Project: BEST OF COMIX BOOK: WHEN MARVEL COMICS WENT UNDERGROUND, Kitchen Sink Books/Dark Horse Comics
Best Cover Artist: Fiona Staples, SAGA, Image Comics
Best Biographical, Historical or Journalistic Presentation: THE FIFTH BEATLE: THE BRIAN EPSTEIN STORY, Vivek J. Tiwary, Andrew C. Robinson, and Kyle Baker, Dark Horse Comics
Special Award for Excellence in Presentation: BEST OF COMIX BOOK: WHEN MARVEL COMICS WENT UNDERGROUND, John Lind, Kitchen Sink Books/Dark Horse Comics
Best Original Graphic Album: THE FIFTH BEATLE: THE BRIAN EPSTEIN STORY, Dark Horse Comics
Best Continuing or Limited Series: SAGA, Image Comics
Best Writer: Brian K. Vaughan, SAGA, Image Comics
Best Artist: Fiona Staples, SAGA, Image Comics
Best Cartoonist: Paul Pope, BATTLING BOY, First Second
Best Single Issue or Story: Pizza is my Business, HAWKEYE # 11, Marvel Comics