I went to this year’s HeroesCon with $150 in my pocket and a mission to buy one comic book. Specifically, this one:
I left with nine dollars and didn’t have it.
That’s right: Wild Dog Special #1, which, while I’ve read it, is the only part of the Wild Dog saga that I don’t actually own. Unfortunately, the only one I could find was $2.50, and seriously, there is no way I’m paying that much for it, especially since I passed up on getting it last year for two bucks flat. It’s the principle of the thing.
Admittedly, I probably could’ve found another one, but I was busy with other stuff. And what, exactly? Well, thanks for asking, rhetorical question!
Friday began with Team Hard Ones heading out from Chad’s place for the drive up to Charlotte, rocking out to the mixtape Jay made for the first issue. One thing about my friends: We are some mixtape-makin’ mofos. The Hard Ones has a grand total of six pages in the can, and we’ve got soundtracks for at least the first three story arcs. Suffice to say that when Chad says it became a singalong to “Mama Said Knock You Out,” he’s right.
Once we were at the con itself, I found Fraction to say hi–’cause, you know, we’re best friends until the end of time and space–and then spent the rest of the day bumming around the con, shaking hands and handing out ashcans.
In addition to the guys I talked about last night, I also got the chance to say hi to Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt, the guys behind the great supernatural noir thriller, The Damned, and Rob Osborne, of The Nearly Infamous Zango. All three of those guys were not only really nice, but also took the time to thank me for writing good reviews about their comics, which I wouldn’t have done if their comics weren’t already, you know, really good. So that was pretty nice.
Also, at one point, a man dressed as Dashiell James pulled an ashcan out of a racing helmet and asked if I wanted to read about NASCAR Heroes, a question to which the only possible answer is “Of course!” Seriously, say what you want about the comic and how they are not very good, but that’s a sales pitch that’s hard to turn down.
After the show closed, though, the area around the Charlotte Convention Center went from hosting the industry’s most family-friendly convention to the scene of the kind of sweet-ass bacchanalia that you can only get from a crowd that’s really into the Justice League.
For my part, the evening started in the hotel room, where I mixed up a Wake-Up Call (Kahlua, Cream Liqueur, Vanilla Rum and a Starbucks Double-Shot) to recover from a long day of conventioneering and Dr. K pointed out that the actual name of that drink is something that ends in “-tini.” I told him that if I was going to make a Girl Drink, I should at least be allowed to give it a manlier name. It was then decided–and this took me, Dr. K, Chad, Trey and Jay–that by that rationale, a Strawberry Daquiri with extra whipped cream, cherries and a pineapple stick should be called a Cock Sword Machinegun Pickup Truck Volume 2: The Metal Years. Tell your friends!
After that, it was down to the bar in the hotel lobby, where I talked to Fraction about obscure Punisher characters and learned that Rick Remender (writer of Fear Agent) is probably one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. This, of course, led to gambling on the street, and that in turn led to… something that I cannot talk about. I will say this, though: You know how they say that the only things that happen after 2 AM are either legendary or horrible?
Sometimes, they’re both.
Also, at one point, Dr. K, Brandon and I walked up to Jann Jones–the DC editor in charge of their kids line and the upcoming Ambush Bug: Year None–to ask where our Showcase Presents: Sugar & Spike was. Well, that’s what Dr. K asked. My question, after she told us that it didn’t look likely, was “Well do you like money?”
But more on that in a second.
On Saturday, HeroesCon was packed, and after briefly krumping my way through an impromptu dance battle with Matt Wilson’s crew, I made time to hit up the DC Nation panel, which, with the exception of finding out that Matt Sturges was going to do a story about an outdated super-hero-themed mini-golf course in Blue Beetle, was just lousy.
Be advised, the following section contains my opinions on The Industry™ and while I’m a reader and a retailer, I’ll be the first to admit that I only know, at best, a very small part of what goes on behind the scenes, and this is really just armchair quarterbacking. So, you know, grain of salt and all that, and feel free to skip it and come back after the next picture.
Now, I don’t have the hate for Dan DiDio that you see from outraged fans who need a figurehead on which to pin their frustration over having their fan-fiction invalidated, but there are a couple of things he said that bothered me.
The first was when he said–and these are as close to his words as I can remember–that the DC characters are “bulletproof”; Batman and Superman and Wonder Woman were here before anybody working there was and they’ll be there after they’re gone, and so their job–and this, I do remember–is to act as “stewards of these great characters.”
Now, the first part of that, I have no problem with whatsoever, but it’s the bit about stewardship that sets me off. If the characters are as bulletproof as he says–and they are–then they don’t need caretakers. They need someone who’s going to take them out to the back yard and blow them up with firecrackers.
Instead, it seems like DiDio and a lot of the creators at DC are overly concerned with doing the same thing that we’ve seen again and again and again in an effort to keep things just the way they were when they were kids, and while that’s a problem in the comics industry as a whole, it’s inescapable at DC.
And when they do get someone who wants to take their indestructible toys out and have some fun with them, they end up shooting themselves in the foot in an effort to squeeze every last bit of nostalgia–and, not coincidentally, money–from the characters. If they’ve got Grant Morrison writing Final Crisis and he wants to open it with the dirty, gangland style murder of the Martian Manhunter to illustrate a more brutal wave of super-villainy with a callous disregard for life, then why do we need an oversized one-shot by Peter Tomasi that’s all about what the Martian Manhunter was doing ten minutes before he was killed?
And Death of the New Gods, which was meant, according to DiDio, to be the “last great adventure” for the New Gods before they were reintroduced three weeks later… well, let’s just go to Grant Morrison’s interview in the latest Comic Foundry for this one, shall we?
“Back in 2006, I requested a moratorium on the New Gods so that I could build up some foreboding and create anticipation for their return in a new form… instead, the characters were passed around like hepatitis B to practically every writer at DC to toy with as they pleased, which, to be honest, makes it very difficult for me to reintroduce them with any sense of novelty, mystery or grandeur.”
Another example: Infinite Crisis and Civil War. Don’t get me wrong, Civil War was not very good, but at least it’s a story, more or less. Infinite Crisis, on the other hand, is just a pointless, navel-gazing exercise in dragging things back because the average reader would rather have familiar mediocrity than forward momentum.
And that’s why you get the Groundhog Day that is the DCU. How many re-told origin stories have we gotten in the past year? How many are completely unnecessary because of books like Green Lantern: Emerald Dawn and Batman/Huntress: Cry For Blood? I mean, he opened the panel by asking us about “Batman R.I.P.,” and asked us who we’d want to see in the costume if Batman actually died. But here’s the thing: We’ve already seen what happens when Dick Grayson becomes Batman. It was called Prodigal, it was written by Chuck Dixon, and–surprise!–it was not very good. We’ve also seen what happens when a darker, edgier character becomes Batman, which was called Knightfall, which we’d already seen the first time when it was called Blind Justice, and guess what? That ain’t so great either, and the first time around, it had the advantage of being fresh.
Then again, judging by the excited crowd response when he asked who wanted to see Jason Todd as Batman, I guess the public gets the comics they deserve.
So yeah, all that from five words. It’s decompression, folks!
Second problem with DiDio: The guy just doesn’t listen.
Now this one, I don’t even really blame him for, because I’m pretty sure that if I had to listen to people asking the same questions over and over at every convention, I’d shoot someone in the face. Seriously, you can ask any question you want to the guy who runs DC Comics. You can ask for Hitman trades, you can ask if there’s any progress on that Suicide Squad Showcase, whatever you want. And instead, we got “when’s Vampire Batman coming back?” and “What’s your favorite color lantern?”
To be fair, though, there were a few good questions, like the guy who asked if James Robinson’s Justice League was going to involve Jack Knight at all, but for a lot of the questions, he just skipped over pretty relevant parts to give a very dissatisfying answer. For example, one guy asked “What’s the status of Superboy?” Clearly–clearly–this guy is asking about the legal case that prevents DC from using the character, which is a shame because there are so many great stories that could use a reprint. DiDio’s response, in total: “Still dead.”
Ditto for my question, which was this time phrased as “I’ve got two questions: First, do you like money, and if so, where’s the Sugar & Spike Showcase?”, which got us called out by Jann Jones for asking her in the bar the night before. DiDio’s explanation–which no doubt resulted from residual confusion over being asked about the current status of Arrowette–was that they weren’t going to do one, because DC is very protective of the characters and they don’t want anyone else messing with Sheldon Mayer’s creations.
Well dude, neither do I! I don’t want new stuff, I want the old stuff in an affordable reprint! And if I’m the only one, then why the heck was there a guy on Aisle 800 selling the digests for sixteen bucks a pop?!
Like I said, I don’t hate the guy, and his answers are a hell of a lot better than the ones I’d be giving if I had to deal with people who wanted Spoiler to come back to life to be their magical imaginary girlfriend, but it all added up to a pretty frustrating hour.
Huh. Didn’t mean to go all crazy like that. Suffice to say that I’m pretty sure we can all agree that the best thing to come out of the DC Nation panel was this:
A sketch of ROM by Jay Potts, artist of The Hard Ones. And I know: I was surprised I didn’t have reference material either.
Also of note on Saturday was the fact that the Charlotte Convention Center was also hosting a car show sponsored by DUB Magazine. Dr. K’s got the skinny on that–right up to the report on confiscated firearms that Chad overheard, which was my favorite part–but I’ve got to say that I really regret not just buying a Cadillac, as I could’ve easily had some D’s thrown on that bitch.
Sunday was a lot more laid back–as it usually is–and so I’d set aside that day to go after sketches, talk to people and spend the last of my cash, and I’m glad to report that I was pretty successful on all three counts.
For the sketchbook, I was able to net an absolutely gorgeous One-Punch Goldberg (from Biff Bam Pow!) by the hilarious Evan Dorkin…
…and a lot of other great ones, one of which may–may–have included OMAC riding Devil Dinosaur. Just sayin’.
I also got to talk with some of the guys from Oni Press, who were just amazingly friendly. I mean, I know I’ve said that before, but you’ve got to believe me: everyone was that nice.
They even went so far as to briefly introduce me to Chris Schweizer, who has a book called Crogan’s Vengeance that should be solicited in today’s Previews that looks like it’s going to be absolutely amazing. He also gave me a copy of his Smokers of the Marvel Universe print, which is now hanging in my office.
As for the shopping, well… I had to fill that Wild Dog shaped void in my heart somehow.
Highlights include both trades of Dr. McNinja–sadly unavailable from Diamond or Amazon–which I bought from inker Kent Archer and Freddie & Me by Mike Dawson, both of whom were nice enough to do sketches in the books. I also picked up a short stack of singles that will most likely find their way to the ISB before too long, including the issue of Josie and the Pussycats where Josie gets possessed by the Devil.
This, for those of you who were wondering, is probably the greatest comic book of all time.
So all in all–and despite the diatribe about DC that represents the most text I’ve written at one time since I dropped out of college–it was a great con and a great weekend.
Now if you’ll excuse me, this run of Punisher 2099 ain’t gonna read itself.