One of the best comic book shows in the world happened last weekend in Charlotte, NC! If you've never been to Heroes Con, then you must next year. I've been going since about 2006 or 2007 and love it. A true comic book convention that is well respected and attended by pros/fans alike. As usual, I was attending with my podcast COMIC NEWS INSIDER! With that said, here are the ramblings of your favorite drunken podcaster! (p.s. Me).
After a night of no sleep, I arrived around 10am in Charlotte. As always, the awesome Doug Merkle was manning the airport pickups. And once again, Jeffrey Brown and I were shuttle buddies. This time we planned to do an interview for sure. Super happy for his success with Darth Vader and Son and looked forward chatting. After arriving at the Westin, I quickly changed into the suave and debonair (note: I put on a tie and vest and nice pants) Jimmy Aquino of Comic News Insider that you know and love. Well, some of you do. I'll stop fishing now.
I found my table in Indie Island and was a bit dismayed that the podcasters weren't together as we usually have been in the past. But I totally appreciate Heroes giving us said tables and the need to spread them out as cartoonists got top priority. The table serves as a home base and place to do interviews. Though I carry the digital recorder around so I'm able to do them anywhere as well. Friday was spent walking around and seeing where everyone was located and making tentative appointments for interviews all weekend. And, of course, just yapping with a ton of friends in attendance.
For a Friday morning/afternoon, I noticed how crowded it seemed. Busier than last year. Not crazy like the next day, but still quite busy! I love the set up as well. Easy to maneuver as rows/aisles are quite spread out and everyone is easy to find. So well organized from badge pick up to concessions. Speaking of, I heard the concessions hot dogs were some of the best around! I didn't partake as there was a Bojangle's in the convention center outside of the Heroes show and I gots to have my chicken biscuit! You could walk the floor in an hour and take your time to check out each table. As usual, retailers up front and those bled into the massive tables held by cartoonists. The big companies like DC and Marvel don't have booths there but their presence is felt as many of their creators are present. Image usually has a booth but backed out this year. Still, plenty of Image creators were on hand. While it would be nice if they all had a small booth there (Valiant is back and represented) just to be on hand, it does give people more of a chance to meet their comic writer/artist heroes at their own tables or in the special signing areas.
The Man himself, Stan Lee, was in attendance also though I never saw him. You had to pay a billion dollars and give up your first born to see him but I imagine it's worth it. I hear a touch from Stan can cure leprosy and that he can make you pregnan if in his presence longer than 2 minutes. I think we'll see a lot of little True Believers in about 9 months.
And again, dear friend Faren and her daughter Faith, drove up from South Carolina to be my official photographer for a couple of days. Faren does that picture thing for a living so get to hiring her! Faith is a budding cartoonist in her own right and met many folks who gave her some great advice. Thanks to all that took the time to chat with her.
I was also tasked with moderating a few panels that weekend. Due to scheduling conflicts, I only ended up doing 2 of them but they were awesome. On Friday, I was set to moderate a panel called Vertigo Visions with Scott Snyder and Bill Willingham. As I arrived minutes before the panel, I got a serendipitious surprise. Adam Hughes was going to join in the panel! Great! I love Adam's work. However, I wasn't prepared to have him as all of my notes/questions went as such: "So, Scott" or "Now, Bill". Actually, not as condescending as that sounds but you get the idea. It worked out swimmingly though as Adam is quite funny and piped in whenever he could. It ended up being a really fun panel and they all let me know it went well after. Phew! I like to do my panels like my normal interviews. Just conversations. And it works well on a panel as it's just a few of us up there talking and there happens to be over 100 people listening in. I recorded the panel as well and you'll be able to hear it both on partner site The Beat with Heidi MacDonald and later on the podcast as well. Really great turnout and thanks to all who attended and had questions.
Disco nap time and then off to the festivities! It was dinner time at the famous soul food spot that we all love so much, Mert's. Dinner companions this year were Faren and Faith, Jill Thompson, roommate Ben Templesmith and good pal Molly. There were several other friends having dinner in the same room so it seemed like a big party! Highly recommend this spot if you are ever in Charlotte. Back to the Westin Hotel after to take over the lobby bar for drinks til the wee hours. And that we did.
Saturday was a big interview day. I ran about finding folks and discovering others. Chatting up with even more. No panels this day as I spent most of it doing some research for interviews and running around getting them. It was a big day for the cartoonists as many were finishing up pieces to be auctioned off later in the big annual art auction.
Also, it was the annual Dubz car show in the other side of the convention center. The dopest whips and hoons! Girls in tight dresses, high heels and the like ogled at the cosplayers and vice versa. And you could hear and feel the bass booming in some of the panel rooms. I wonder if it happened to Stan Lee? I'll be he had a story for that too. "I remember my first hooptie had 24" rims and we used to blast 2 Live Crew with the bass booster as we cruised down the block. Excelsior!"
The disco nap lasted longer than usual so I missed dinner with friends but did check into the auction. It's a mad house as people are bidding away on amazing art pieces. If I had more money, I would have bought sooooooooooo many of them. I ran off to Fleming's steakhouse to grab a quick bite as I had to get to the surprise birthday party for good pal Becky Cloonan that her fiance Andy Belanger was throwing down the street. Super fun and Becky was quite surprised. We had a blast throwing some drinks back and celebrating with her. Such an amazing talent and great friend. Back to the Westin for more drinks til the wee hours. Hung with various friends all over and shut it down around 3:30am. Again.
Sunday was another big interview day. Also, my last panel to moderate. I panicked a bit as my notes for it were suddenly gone and I had to put some together at the last minute. All good! The panel was with Steve Niles and Bernie Wrightson and mostly covered their new comic book,Frankenstein Alive, Alive! But we did drift into Swamp Thing and many of their other works. I've known Steve for awhile but had never met Bernie. But they are old friends so the 3 of us just had a great conversation. Smaller but nice turnout and all seemed to enjoy. Again, I recorded it all and it'll go up as a podcast this week or next. There were 4 really good panels at the same time that day (including the big Marvel one) so fans loyalties were split. Hopefully, they can book the big ones separately in the future. Though to be fair, so many of the panels were big!
Old co-host/CNI founder Joe Gonzalez was in town to visit family and we got to hang a bit that day as well. I continued my massive interview tour all the way up til the show started wrapping up at 6. As usual with a lot of conventions, people begin packing up early. I totally understand if people have flights and need to get home or whatnot. Some legit reasons for sure. But, I'm betting there are several fans who show up to the con late on Sunday as that's the only time they have and perhaps get disheartened that their favorite cartoonist had to bounce. Not a knock on the cartoonists, of course. They have lives too!
Speaking of that. A quick sidebar rant. Now, I've never been one to get comics signed or even autographs for that matter. Just don't see the appeal but many do. That's fine. At comic shows, I'm astounded how people will roll up with their entire collection in a suitcase and pull out 100 books to get signed by one person. And usually, that person is gracious and will sign all of them. So, the fan really has no right to get mad if they don't. I witnessed one fan get a little grumpy. He had missed the signing of a creator by 15-20 minutes. Said creator had sat there signing for 2 hours and had signings all weekend. I was chatting with the creator who was still at their table but heading out to lunch. Sure enough, a fan rolls up and pulls out about 50 comics (no exaggeration) to get signed. The creator sighed and explained that they just did a 2 hour signing and had another one in a few hours. The fan's response? "Well, I don't think I can make it back then!". The creator apologized again and just said he couldn't as he needed to get lunch. The fan walked away very upset and mumbling under his breath. Okay, 1...that is bullshit! The creator has a life. This creator and most others love the fans and love doing signings. If you missed the allotted time, then too bad. You are now intruding upon their personal time. Sorry to be harsh, but get over it. I totally understood when the same creator asked me if we could postpone our interview for another time as I knew how exhausted they were and needed their "me time". As a fan, you have a right to meet your favorite creators and get them to sign things. But you don't have a right to demand them to do it whenever YOU want them to do it. Rant over. Maybe. Sorry if I came across harsh, but I see this so often and I can only imagine how the creator must feel.
Anyway, after the show closed up, we all decided to rest a bit before heading to the annual Dead Dog party at the comic book shop. My good friend, Angie, drove in from Chapel Hill for the day and we hung a bit. Becky, Andy, Angie and I grabbed a small bite/drinks at the Westin bar. Try the chicken and waffle sliders next time. DO IT! Angie headed out and the rest of us hopped in the shuttle to the bash. Always a fun and laid back wind down after the show. Shelton Drum and crew provide a lovely BBQ/drinks for guests of the show and it gives us all a time to just hang out.
After much hanging, Jill Thompson drove a couple of us back to the hotel for more drinks and ran into a zombie horde Kenny Chesney concert being let out with a bunch of drunken fans filling the streets. I would have preferred the zombie horde. More drinks back at the Westin bar and a big wind down til the wee hours again.
I got to sleep in a bit on Monday and hung in the lobby with the likes of Cary Nord, Nathan Edmondson, Jeremy Bastian, Doug Merkle, Chris Moreno, Templesmith and a few others. Then it was shuttle time back to the airport for us! Thus ending Heroes Con officially for me.
You'll probably notice no mention of the stripper nerds. Alas, we didn't make it down to the club that gentlemen frequent. For those that remember, we went years ago and found out a few of the girls are big comic book nerds and come to the convention every year. If they were there this year, I didn't see them due to my busy schedule. Sorry I missed you, ladies! I still think they should capitalize on the convention in town and have a special superhero themed night. Or even show up in costume at the show. Call me, girls. We'll organize it for next year.
Oh, you're probably wondering about the interviews I got. I chatted with Amy Mebberson, Brockton McKinney/Bo Fader, Chad Cicconi, Charles Soule, Christine Brunson/Melanie Florencio, Francesco Francavilla, Ian Flynn, Jay Potts, Jeffrey Brown, Jonathan Hickman/Ryan Bodenheim/Nick Pitarra, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Keu Cha, Nate Cosby, Rachel Pandich, Steve Niles/Kevin Mellon, and Tom King. And as mentioned, I also recorded the 2 panels I moderated. Expect to see the Francavilla intervew and Vertigo panel go up on The Beat this week and the week after on Comic News Insider. All others will be on CNI this week or next as well.
I can't thank the show organizers enough. Starting with founder Shelton Drum. Rico Renzi, Carla and Andrew for helping with my table, panels, and more. I always have massive coverage after Heroes Con and will have about 4 shows worth of material! If you can, go to this show next year before any other one. And if you're thinking of running a show, go on down and see how it's done proper.
I hung with way to many friends to mention but I'll attempt a few (and no it's not name dropping if they are your friends, ya punks). Fun times with Becky Cloonan, Andy Belanger, Ben Templesmith, Ben McCool, Heidi MacDonald, Francesco/Lisa Francavilla, Paul Maybury, Mike/Jen/Oliver Maihack, Kevin Mellon, Ming Doyle, Jeremy Bastian, Mongoose Dog, Adam and Comfort, Jill Thompson, Faren and Faith, Angie, Bobby Timony, Danna Bremer, Doug Merkle, Dustin Harbin, etc. And great meeting/hanging with so many folks like Brockon McKinney, Bo Fader, Rachel Pandich, Jay Potts, Paige Pumphrey, etc. Yes, I know I left tons of people out but I'm doing this quickly. Sorry! You know I still love you all. Well, almost all of you.
For all pictures, visit my Flickr site. Most are by Faren but some are by me and my little iPhone. You'll be able to tell. Hers are way better and more professional. Enjoy!
And check in at the Comic News Insider site for interviews from Heroes Con!