Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Wizard World Tulsa: A miserable trip but a wonderful show

I generally go to ONE comic convention a year, primarily due to financial constraints. That convention is usually Wizard World St. Louis, which has been an annual tradition amongst the friendly local media personalities for three years now. But when I found out the "Secret Wars Reunion Tour," which reunites writer Jim Shooter, penciler Mike Zeck and inker John Beatty, was going to make a stop at Wizard World Tulsa, I knew I'd have to save my errant couch change and start plotting a course westward.

After much deliberation, I ended up deciding not to go for the whole weekend, and opted to head up on Sunday instead. My reasoning was twofold, both due to finances. First, Sunday tickets were cheaper, and secondly, the vendors would be packing up to go home and would therefore be more inclined to make a deal.

I convinced my friend Kyle to make the pilgrimage with me, and with the promise of a photo op with Norman Reedus we made plans to set out before dawn that Sunday.

What I didn't count on was catching a flu bug that had been wafting around the house for the better part of a week. I was fine until Friday, but then--BAM! Instant misery. There was much DayQuil and Kleenex to be found for the rest of the weekend, and although I still felt miserable Sunday, there was no stopping me at that point.

The drive to Tulsa is actually quite pleasant. Once you get out of Springfield, it's easy-cheesy all the way to the city. The bad news is when you feel like dirt, even an otherwise-pleasant drive can feel awful. I also learned the joys of toll roads, and learned that if I have to pull over to get gas, there's surely ANOTHER toll booth awaiting just off the exit. Clever, Oklahoma. Very clever, indeed!

Also clever: this sign near the convention center.

Once we arrived at the convention, the first thing we did was get our Norman Reedus photo op ticket exchanged for a handy-dandy voucher card. I'd learned my lesson from previous conventions, and got that done post haste. Then, since we still had a bit of a wait, I ventured over to artist and painter Mike Mayhew's booth. Mayhew is one of the finest painters in comics, and he is most famous for drawing comic book women REALLY well--so well, in fact, that he was listed in good company in a 2005 issue of Wizard along with Greg Horn, Frank Cho, Adam Hughes, Greg Land and Terry Dodson. I had already obtained their autographs at the inaugural C2E2 event 2010 in Chicago, and Mayhew's was the last signature I needed to complete the set. He happily provided it, and I also scored some great prints.

MAN, he's good!
He also signed my copy of Avengers: Finale, which also boasts signatures from Mark Morales, David Mack, David Finch and Steve McNiven.

I still couldn't bring myself to shell out $30 for Neal Adams' signature (which is unfortunate, because he drew the cover), but I'll probably cave next year. I did, however, have Adams sign my copy of Avengers #96 ... which was WELL worth it.

Gorgeous, gorgeous art, even if the book itself has seen better days.

Meeting Mr. Reedus (of The Boondock Saints, The Walking Dead and Blade II fame) was great, even though, as per usual at conventions, we were herded in and out like cattle. He's a really nice guy, even though I'm guessing the sunglasses were due to a late night at the nearby casino.

We're not worthy!

I also met Marvel and DC penciler Mike McKone, and even though I went to his booth only expecting to say "hey," get a couple of signatures and be on my way, he proved to be one of the nicest, friendliest creators I've met over my years of convention-going. I had a couple of blank-cover comics on-hand and, after talking with him a bit, requested a basic Wolverine head sketch. He said it'd be about 90 minutes, so I wandered off for a bit. When I came back, THIS is what awaited me:


Let me make something perfectly clear: all I asked for was a basic head-sketch, with maybe a bit of red marker scribbled in for blood effects. This work of ART? This magnificent, detailed, full-color masterpiece? That was out of the goodness of Mike McKone's heart. I will hereby sing his praises forevermore. He is TRULY a class act.

I also met Neal Adams' son Joel, who was a character designer for King of the Hill during its early seasons. I had a blank Batman '66 cover which, combined with a moment of inspiration, resulted in this glorious commission:

Bask in the glory! BASK IN IT!!

I also had an awesome time talking to Jim Shooter about the appeal of the original Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars, and commented that it's a shame we never got to see a black-costumed version of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Spider-Man balloon. Shooter grinned and informed me that he was the one who designed the balloon, shortly after he had been "let go" from Marvel (Shooter is a bit of a polarizing figure in the comic book industry, rather like Neal Adams. But, like Adams, his positives have vastly outweighed the negatives in retrospect. Here's a great read about his methods, which really makes me feel bad for him, and also inspires me more than a little bit). Legendary Spider-Man artist John Romita, Sr., had initially been brought in to provide input on the balloon, and the result was a scrunched-up figure that looked like a scrunched-up, ugly baby. Shooter said the problem was Romita was "too nice," and backed down when the sculptor told him a proper-looking Spidey balloon "couldn't be done." Shooter, on the other hand, told the sculptor upfront what needed to be done, and wouldn't take no for an answer. The result was the now-legendary, awesome balloon, and once it was sculpted, Shooter said, Romita himself provided the intricate web design, showing the painters how to apply it.

Even when seated, he towers over me.
I asked Jim if he'd be willing to do a quick Spidey head-sketch on my copy Secret Wars #8. He politely declined, citing his shaky hand, and that was fine. It was a pleasure just to meet him, speak with him, and shake that hand.

He did, however, sign my comic, as well as my copy of #1. Again, I can't stress enough, he's a legend in the comics industry, and one of the key reasons I drove almost six hours to Tulsa, flu symptoms notwithstanding.

LOVE it. 
These are also signed by Zeck and Beatty. 

You know who else was at Wizard World Tulsa? KEVIN CONROY, the voice of Batman himself! And you know what he did as soon as he walked into the signing area? He climbed up on his chair, spread his arms and bellowed, "I am VENGEANCE. I am THE NIGHT! I ... AM ... BATMAN!"

I might have fangirled just a little bit.

Maybe a lot.

He was very pleasant, and clearly enjoys his job. What's funny is I shelled out $40 for his autograph fully intending to flip it later when I opened up my very own comic shop (which is happening ... soon). But as soon as he asked, "Would you like me to make this out to you?" ... well, there was no doubt in my mind when I said "yes." I'm framing that sucker and keeping it forever!

He even signed it "Batman." BATMAN!!! :) 

Zeck and Beatty were awesome as well. I bought several prints from Zeck, including one of the classic Captain America Annual 8 to go with the comic I also had signed.

What I love about this issue is it's the one where
an angry Cap tells Wolverine he'll NEVER be an
Avenger ... and 20 years later, he becomes an Avenger. 

Michael Golden was also available to sign my copy of Avengers Annual 10, which is best known as the first appearance of Rogue (she thrashes the Avengers mightily).

Traded for this beauty at Oz-Con earlier this year. 

I met Jai Nitz by accident. Kyle and I were walking past his table and I thought he said something to me, which prompted me to say, "Huh?" He replied, "What?", and after ten minutes of listening to him talk about the industry and the influence of legendary professionals, he convinced me to walk away with two volumes of his series, Dream Thief. I honestly didn't expect to enjoy it, but I fought off the effects of my NyQuil long enough to get through the first volume last night, and I've got to say, it was VERY hard not to stay up and devour the second volume. It takes a very unlikable character and makes his story and evolution as a not-quite-hero quite compelling.

It's DARK. But it's good. 

I also went on a joyful search for assorted swag, and came up very happy. First off, how 'bout dis Riddler figure?

Based on Greg Capullo's "Zero Year" design.

How about this sweet Joe Kubert Ghosts cover, just in time for Halloween?

Valuable? Nah. Awesome? YES. 

Then there's the convention-exclusive reprint of The Walking Dead #1, with a spiffy cover by Good Charlotte guitarist Billy Martin. Although it's a little odd that Rick still has his hand even though Carl's missing an eye ... it's still a fun cover.

Mr. Martin was very nice as well, by the way. 

Then there's this awesome book from the '70s JSA resurgence, by Paul Levitz and Joe Staton. A copy of this was one of my very first comics, but I read the thing ragged. I'm glad to have a fresh copy because Staton is going to be at Comi-Conway in November, where I'm going to have vendor space. I'm looking forward to meeting Staton and I might just see if I can convince him to do a sketch of the classic Earth 2 Flash.

Before there was Wolverine ... there was Wildcat!

I picked up Batman #10, the penultimate chapter of the "Court of Owls" yarn, and also the one issue I yet lacked of that series.

Capullo goodness!

And, of course, the one I've wanted for years but never thought I'd own ...

And now you want it too. 

The drive home was miserable, in large part due to my flu symptoms and also as a result of the Volcano Quesarito I had for dinner. But I'd do it again in a heartbeat (except for the Quesarito part). The show was a lot of fun, as all the conventions I've been to have been. It was low-key and friendly, and I loved interacting with the various creators. I also got to see my friend Amber, who has volunteered for quite a few Wizard cons, and does a great job of it.

Some people might complain that the Wizard World conventions place to big a focus on celebrities as opposed to the comic book aspects, and to an extent that's true (Mike Tyson of all people was on the guest list for a while before he had to cancel due to other engagements). But I love the diverse crowds and the many different ways many different nerds from many different walks of life can come together and nerd out.

Will I go back next year? I'd like to. Like I said, I might not be as financially stable as I am this year, and I might only be able to go to one (and if that's the case, I'm going to St. Louis, because it's closer, and more of my friends would be able to go). But if business is booming, I'll gladly make the trip to Tulsa once more. I just hope I'm not sick. And I'll probably stay the night somewhere.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The NYT Modern Man examined and revised.

The recent New York Times article "27 Ways to Be a Modern Man" article by Brian Lombardi has stirred quite a wide range of responses, some positive and some negative. Although I found myself in agreement with several of the concepts and sentiments listed, I nonetheless took issue with quite a few as well.

The crux of it is this is "a" modern man, but not necessarily "the" modern man. Masculinity encompasses a broader spectrum than the article gives credit, and some of Lombardi's assertions are all well and good for an affluent urbanite but don't necessarily apply to those who wear collars of blue or live far from the nearest Neiman Marcus.

Here is my two-cent deconstruction of the "modern man."

1. When the modern man buys shoes for his spouse, he doesn't have to ask her sister for the size. And he knows which brands run big or small.  Well, naturally. But shoes are a tricky subject––does the modern man also share her sense of style? Perhaps it is wiser to fund a shopping-and-spa day instead.

2. The modern man never lets other people know when his confidence has sunk. He acts as if everything is going swimmingly until it is. Hmm ... so much for being honest with his feelings. I understand the concept of "faking it until you make it," but if you need help or support, wouldn't the "modern" approach be to seek it?

3. The modern man is considerate. At the movie theater, he won't munch down a mouthful of popcorn during a quiet moment. He waits for some ruckus. How noisy is this popcorn, anyway? It's a theater––all those present took a calculated risk that there might be sodas slurped or popcorn munched at inopportune moments. The gentle sound of popcorn munched shouldn't be that big an issue. But he should probably wait a moment before sucking out the last droplets of Pepsi.

4. The modern man doesn't cut the fatty or charred bits of his fillet. Every bite of steak is a privilege, and it all goes down the hatch. Excuse me? Now you're telling me how best to enjoy my steak? Have you seen how fatty or badly-burnt some steaks can be? Just because I'm a gluttonous gourmand who eats whatever is placed in front of me doesn't mean every man must do the same.

5. The modern man won't blow 10 minutes of his life looking for the best parking spot. He finds a reasonable one and puts his car between the lines. Clearly the author has never parked in a busy lot. In college I had to blow 10 minutes of my life because there wasn't anywhere reasonable to park.

6. Before the modern man heads off to be, he makes sure his spouse's phone and his kids' electronic devices are charging for the night. That's a nice gesture, to be sure, but shouldn't this be a learning opportunity for the kids to take responsibility for their own stuff?

7. The modern man buys only regular colas, like Coke or Dr. Pepper. If you walk into his house looking for a Mountain Dew, he'll show you the door. Way to be an anti-Pepsico shill, Lombardi. I'll drink what I see fit, whether it's Orange Crush or Cranberry Splash Sierra Mist.

8. The modern man uses the proper names for things. For example, he'll say "helicopter," not "chopper" like some gauche simpleton. There is a time and a context for everything, you sanctimonious twit. Por ejemplo:

ALWAYS appropriate in polite conversation. 
9. Having a daughter makes the modern man more of a complete person. He learns new stuff every day. Right you are. But sons can be fun, too. Kids in general are a definite learning experience.

10. The modern man makes sure the dishes on the rack have dried completely before putting them away. This is common sense for the modern everyone.

11. The modern man has never "pinned" a tweet, and he never will. Never crossed my mind.

12. The modern man checks the status of his Irish Spring bar before jumping in for a wash. Too small, it gets swapped out. So it's okay for the modern man to be wasteful of his soap, but not his steak? I also detect more corporate shillery afoot.

"That's why I use Mighty-Whitey toothpaste ... because
I want my teeth to look ... Amazing." 
13. The modern man listens to Wu-Tang at least once a week. How about NO?

14. The modern man still jots down his grocery list on a piece of scratch paper. The market is no place for his face to be buried in his phone. I do prefer paper, but whatever works. Adapting to modern circumstances and such.

15. The modern man has hardwood flooring. His children can detect his mood from the stamp of his Kenneth Cole oxfords. Again with the brand-naming? And although hardwood floors are lovely, and make for some excellent Hot Wheels racing, there's nothing wrong with a nice berber here or there.

16. The modern man lies on the side of the bed closer to the door. If an intruder gets in, he will try to fight him off, so that his wife has a chance to get away. Yes, this is good, but why not lie on the side of the bed closest to the baseball bat? Or the handgun? Then there will be no need to get away at all.

17. Does the modern man have a melon baller? What do you think? How else would the cantaloupe, watermelon and honeydew he serves be so uniformly shaped? Let me ask you this: how often does the modern man eat melon? Does he have constant access to good melon? Because I sure don't. Save your money ... buy a pizza cutter instead.

18. The modern man has thought seriously about buying a shoehorn. But clearly he hasn't. Guess he doesn't care that much about properly affixing those Kenneth Cole oxfords.

19.  The modern man buys fresh flowers more to surprise his wife than to say he is sorry. Why doesn't he grow her fresh flowers? Give her a whole garden, I say! She deserves it!

20. On occasion, the modern man is the little spoon. Some nights, when he is feeling down or vulnerable, he needs an emotional and physical shield. But what if that's the night there's an intruder and she needs to get away? And wouldn't that reveal that things aren't going "swimmingly?"

21. The modern man doesn't scold his daughter when she sneezes while eating an apple doughnut, even if the pieces fly everywhere. Can't I at least wrinkle my nose and say "eww" as I fetch the paper towels?

Missed a perfect ad placement opportunity, guys.
22. The modern man still ambles half-naked down his driveway each morning to scoop up a crisp newspaper. The modern man should put some pants on.

23. The modern man has all of Michael Mann's films on Blu-Ray (or whatever the highest quality thing is at the time). Uhhh ... duh?

It's always a good night for Collateral
24. The modern man doesn't get hung up on his phone's battery percentage. If it needs to run flat, so be it. The modern man clearly doesn't live in the 21st century. Charger at the house, charger in the car, charger in the office. Always.

25. The modern man has no use for a gun. He doesn't own one, and he never will. Hey, everybody! "All-you-can-grab" sale at the modern man's house! I hear he's got a melon baller and a wide array of Coke products!

26. The modern man cries. He cries often. There there, little beta-male ... there there. There's nothing wrong with crying, but again, it sounds like things are not going swimmingly. Unless he's swimming in his own tears.

27. People aren't sure if the modern man is a good dancer or not. That is, until the D.J. plays his jam and he goes out there and puts on a clinic. Darned right.