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.

1 comment:

  1. I'm tagging along on one of your trips to Wizard World! Jason Mewes was at WW Tulsa AND WW St. Louis this year... and I MISSED HIM!!! :(