My second year at HeroesCon as a volunteer began with a crowd control assignment like last year. But this time there was such a high amount of three-day pre-registration that there was a huge line of people waiting to check in and get their attendee badges. After finally breaking for lunch I attended my first panel:

GET GRAPHIC AT THE LIBRARY
Graphic novels and comics are an important and popular literacy tool for the modern library. This panel ANGEL TRUESDALE, Adult Services Specialist, KAPIL VASUDEV, Senior Library Assistant LARISA MARTIN, Children's Services Specialist and MARK ENGELBRECHT, Library Manager will share the history of graphic novels at Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, the importance of the format with regard to literacy development and programs and materials offered for free at the library. We'll also discuss challenges aiming to remove graphic novels from library collections.

This is my former employer (I knew one of the panelists from my time there). A pretty good overview of comics in libraries, although most of it was not new to me.

Then over to:

IMAGE PANEL 
Comic News Insider Host/Producer JIMMY AQUINO talks to an eclectic group of Image Comics brightest talents: NATE SIMPSON (Nonplayer), TOBY CYPRESS (The White Suits), MIKE NORTON (Battle Pug), MATTHEW ROBERTS (Manifest Destiny) and JAKE WYATT (Necropolis).

The interesting thing about this group of creators is that they are all artists. So in addition to talking about how they got started with Image, they talked about craft issues like being fast enough to make monthly deadlines. Aquino is a really fun moderator--I've seen him do this before--smart, personable, and enthusiastic.

Then I got a text message to meet Jason and the Commander, which Jason posted about here.

After we chatted awhile, I headed off to find artist Ryan Kelly, who drew a lovely quick sketch in my hardcover copy of Local

Did a little shopping, and picked up these trade paperbacks of $5 each:

Paul Pope: Monsters & Titans (an oversized art book from the Battling Boy touring exhibition)

David Lapham: Stray Bullets: Killers

Zomnibus Vol. 1-2, digest omnibuses of IDW zombie stories [with one of the greatest titles ever]

Made it back to the panel area in time for:

COLORING FORUM FRIDAY
Come join a panel discussion of the under-appreciated craft of coloring comic books with MATT WILSON (Thor), TAMRA BONVILLAIN (Pisces), KELLY FITZPATRICK (Peter Panzerfaust), JASON LEWIS (Hell Yeah) and JUSTIN PONSOR (Star Wars). MARISSA LOUISE (Broken World) will cover what it is and what it adds through a side by side comparison of work and influences.

A really interesting group of panelists, who were seriously hobbled by the lack of visual aids. The tech staff never were able to get the computer slide show to work. A real shame.

Artist Klaus Janson is only signing books during the first and last hours each day, so I opted to spend the end of the day standing in line for him. He remained pleasant during the marathon signing, signing right up to closing time. My copy of The Dark Knight Returns now bears his signature. Totally worth it.

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Nice write up Mark. This is a great show. Glad your were able to get Kelly's signature.

Saturday at HeroesCon started early for me, a little before opening. My interest in panels got me assigned to handler duty: getting panelists to the panel room on time. This involves giving them a 15-minute warning, then accompaning them to the room if they want. My first assignment was getting Ming Doyle, Babs Tarr, and Ben Coldwell to a DC Comic panel. Nice bunch, and since this was their first panel they opted for the full door-to-door service. It's surprisingly difficult to find creators on short notice, even knowing their booth location. Editor Michael Eury didn't have a fixed location, but I looked for him before his panel. Finally checked with the panel moderator, and he had already checked in with her.

 
I chatted briefly with artist Christopher Mitten yesterday. Today I remembered to bring some books for him to sign, mostly recent horror titles. But I also brought the Oni Press title Last Exit Before Toll, his first published work. He was absolutely delighted, and inscribed it "for Mark -- For going all the way back!" When I asked for a sketch of his choice, he opted for a noir Batman. Nice sketch, and only the second superhero in my sketch book (since I only ask artists active in creator-owned work).


Artist Dave Johnson left word he was already headed for his panel on Cover Design. Then I escorted Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook to their Horror panel.


I was able to attend most of the panel LIFE AFTER FABLES: CHRIS BRENNEMAN talks with BILL WILLINGHAM and CHRISSIE ZULLO as they have the last word on FABLES and then discuss what plans lie in these two creative artist’s future. The first 400 in attendance will be guaranteed a Happily Ever After. I just realized, I've got a Happily Ever After guaranteed to me. Anyway, it was an interesting discussion for any Fables fan. Willingham pointed out that although he was done with Fables, Zullo (and the rest of the art team) still had work to do before the final published issue, as well as some other related things. The final issue #150 is 150 pages long, and Willingham thinks it really is the final story. He and Mark Buckingham started plotting the final arc, and realized that it was the logical place to end the series. He had thought about taking the series to 301 issues--to beat the record set by Dave Sims' Cerebus--but decided the story had come to the stopping point. Nothing detailed about the conclusion, other than in involving very long spans of time.


I was only able to stop in briefly to AT THE JUNCTION OF WORDS AND PICTURES: THE TENTH ANNIVERSARY OF THE CENTER FOR CARTOON STUDIES For this year’s MEGA-PANEL, cartoonist BEN TOWLE and critic CRAIG FISCHER celebrate the first decade of the Center for Cartoon Studies (CCS), the influential school for comics artists located in White River Junction, Vermont. One of my great regrets for this year's con, because these Mega-Panels are consistently some of the best programming all weekend.


I stopped by writer/artist Ed Piskor's booth to remind him about his upcoming panel, and he was ready to take care of it himself. Same for writer/editor Tom Heintjes (of Hogan's Alley), who left word he needed no handling.


So I was able to get to SOUTHERN BASTARDS: Pull up a pew and join moderator JOE RAUCH, your friends from the internet, as he talks to Southern gentlemen JASON AARON and JASON LATOUR, the acclaimed creative team behind one of today’s best comics. This was a total treat for any fan of the comic. The creators talked about their storytelling aims and process, which often involves setting up genre expectations, then subverting them. They emphasized that the book is very much a joint creation. It's not a matter of Aaron writing everything and Latour simply illustrating. In fact, Latour is writing a forthcoming issue. Being creator-owned allows them to tell the story any way it develops; even the length of an issue can be changed if necessary.


Had a nice dinner with Jason before the annual Art Auction in the evening. I have always intended to attend this, but never felt up to hanging around for two hours after the Con closing. Once the auction actually started (after announcements and a documentary in process about HeroesCon), it was pretty fun. Interesting to see the bidding spiral out of control for some pieces. I opted to not even register a bidding paddle, which turned out to be the right choice, as most of the items wound up completely out of my price range. I decided to bail after an hour or so, as I still had a long drive home. I'm glad I finally experienced an Art Auction, but I doubt I'll repeat it. Maybe I didn't have enough to drink to fully appreciate it. ;)

The art auction was fun. It's the main event for the con. After Mark left I picked up an auction paddle and purchased a few high dollar pieces under Mark's name. ;)

Last day of the Con started late for me. I wasn't on the volunteer schedule until 1 (show opened at 11), so I slept in and had a good brunch and arrived in time for one of the 12:30 panels:

INKING PANEL -- our annual tradition presented annually every year give or take. BRANDON PADGETT AND TERENCE HOSKINS talk inking protocol with an all-star inking squad: JOHN BEATTY (Secret Wars), KLAUS JANSON (Daredevil), DEXTER VINES (Amazing X-MEN), KARL STORY (Action Comics) and TIM TOWNSEND (Wolverine and the X-MEN). Careful, this looks to be a shady bunch.

Quite an all-star group! The first question was how they broke into comics. Despite some generational differences, it all broke down to finding a mentor to learn from and to make introductions. One of the panelists summarised: "find someone local." There have always been pockets of comics artists scattered around in places other than New York City (e.g. Connecticut, Atlanta, Florida). There was considerable trash talk about editors. They tend to call artists they know, so making those connections is essential. But a bad editor can make an artist's life hell, and they are frequently not transparent about their plans to change creative teams on a title.

There seems to be a lot more attention payed to the coloring process recently: colorists are getting more cover credits, and are frequently found with their own tables at conventions. My second panel was another one devoted to coloring:

COLOR STORYTELLING There's an Easter Egg in every piece of entertainment you read or watch: color. Come listen to LAURA MARTIN (A-force), DAVE McCAIG (American Vampire), BRIAN REBER (XO Manowar), and NOLAN WOODARD (All New Ultimates) discuss how some of their favorite color-storytelling moments in movies have inspired their work in comics.

Very interesting panel (and it helped that the visual projections worked this time). The description says "movies," but the examples actually included TV shows, animated movies as well as live action, and video games were even touched upon. Fascinating to see how live action movies use color to animate a scene--even something like a spaceship storage hold can look much warmer with blue lighting, tension-filled with red lighting. Indoor lighting can emphasize greens or yellows, depending upon the light bulbs used. I had no idea so many visuals in all mediums emphasize orange and teal.

After that I went looking for a couple of artists I wanted sketches from. Tyler Crook signed a BPRD trade for me, and did a quick pencil sketch.  I found a $5 copy of the reprint of David Lapham's Murder Me Dead, a Stray Bullets-style crime noit graphic novel I missed back in 2002. Brian Hurtt was very busy doing sketches in deluxe editions of Sixth Gun, but he found time to squeeze in this one for me:

This was by far the best convention I've been to. It was very well organized. Also, I liked that this was comic book focused. A lot of cons are focusing on TV/Movies which I fine but I prefer the comic centric focus of this con.

 

I did not go to any panels. I wish I had. I spent my time on the floor. I've gotten to know several artists who I've met at other conventions so I spent time chatting with them.

 

I got to meet a lot of my favorite writer/artists. The first day I met Jonathan Hickman. For being one of the best comic writers and given the material he writes, he is a super friendly person. I expected him to be serious. He's quite the opposite. I had the action figure variants of Secret Wars for him to sign. He had not seen those covers yet and was very excited when I put those books in front of him. He laughed and picked up one and stared at it. He was sitting next two Nick Dragotta and Ryan Bodehiem who are his artists on two of his Image books. Jonathan showed the action figure cover to Nick Dragotta, who was not impressed.

 

I'll probably post a more detailed account on the Heroes and Hops blog along with pictures!

 

The highlight was meeting Mark Sullivan and Commander Benson. I spent more time with both of them than I anticipated which was nice. As I mentioned in another thread, there was no awkwardness it was like we were old friends. I walked around the floor with the Commander for a little while Friday and Saturday. Mark met up with us and chatted a while on Friday. Saturday I went to dinner with Mark and then to the art auction which was a blast. I saw Mark again Sunday afternoon right before I left. I'm planning to make Heroes con an annual tradition from now on.

Great sketches!!!!!

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