Whad a weekend. As I write, I’m fresh off the buzz from a visit to the Baltimore Comic Con and Small Press Expo—better known as SPX—and a whirlwind tour of the comics creators’ tables.
To make the visit even more special, my good friends Tony Esmond and Adam Falp were visiting from the UK. Esmond and I, along with local comic artists and good guy Matt Strott wandered the aisles on Friday at Baltimore Comic Con. There’s nothing like having a few mates with you to add excitement and a little trepidation to a con visit, especially when it’s their first visit.
I’m happy to say that both Strotty (as he was nicknamed by Esmond) and Riptide (I’m not entirely sure where Esmond’s nickname came from) loved the event as much as I did. I’ve expressed my love for the con in previous columns because of its focus on comics, rather than the multimedia razzle dazzle you find at other conventions.
As passionate as he is about the comics industry, Esmond is a hard man to please when it comes to conventions, with high but not unreasonable standards. I was thoroughly pleased to hear him proclaim in his gravelly London accent, aggravated by constantly having to shout over the noise, that it was one of his favorite cons of the year and that he had accomplished his mission of meeting more personal industry heroes.
Baltimore Comic Con HighlightsRude interactions … I interrupted Steve “The Dude” Rude, artist of “Nexus” and legendary industry editor, writer and publisher Mike Gold’s conversation to gush like a greenhorn fanboy, then spent the last half of the conversation apologizing for intruding on their conversation . “We’re here to be interrupted,” Rude countered as he shook my hand. What a guy.
King of Artists Alley … It’s not often I’m stopped by an artist’s open portfolio, but Neil King happened to be open to an illustration of “2000AD”‘s “Judge Dredd.” Next to King was a sign with spot commissions of $20 in color and $10 in black and white. No books. Only his portfolio. If you’ve ever come across commission pricing, you’ll know that it’s not often offered on the spot and certainly not at the price King does or with the same kind of quality. I immediately bought the “Judge Dredd” and asked for an illustration of Esmond’s original character, movie star Tony Osmond (yes, it’s a thinly veiled portrait). King delivered a stunning take less than two hours later.
#Shirtgate … Why am I the way I am? I asked myself after walking up to superstar Northern Irish writer Garth Ennis — he of “Preacher” and “The Boys” — and saying out loud, “Okay, Garth? Nice shirt.” He was, in my defense, wearing a nice green Hawaiian short-sleeved shirt. “This is a Hawaiian shirt that was actually bought in Hawaii,” he explained as I gagged my annoyance. I don’t want to hear the end of it from Esmond and Falp…
Small press exhibitionFor SPX. Again, another wonderful convention, dedicated to indie and small press comics, attracting legends of the indie industry.
Esmond worked on the table for Nobrow Press, a great publisher from the UK (Really check out their catalog. It’s packed with great work, and I’m not just saying that because Tony is one of my best friends). I was able to hang out with him and Nobrow co-founder Sam Arthur, and also stand behind the incredibly talented Tyrell Waiters as he inked and signed his newest release, “Vern, Guardian of the Universe.” He is a truly talented young creator whose career I will follow with interest. I also sat next to him at dinner.
Arthur was also kind enough to give me some books on Sunday afternoon so he didn’t have to send them home. Score.
It’s worth noting, Steve “Dogboy” Laffler, Denis “Kitchen Sink Press” Kitchen and Eddie “From Hell” Campbell were all at SPX, and I worked my way up to each one. Laffler even came to dinner with a group of us, which was a dream come true. He’s possibly one of the most underrated guys in indie comics today—though, fair warning, his output is definitely in the 18-plus range.
Anyone who knows me knows I’m a David Bowie fan. At the same time, it makes me the perfect brand when it’s both Bowie and comics, so the vibrant pink and purple cover of Berlin, Germany-based Reinhard Kleist’s “Starman: Bowie’s Stardust Years” immediately got me hooked. Even better, Kleist was an SPX guest, so I hunted him down for his signature.
One of the nice things about Europeans attending something like SPX is that they bring their signature tradition of adding a little sketch to the book. Usually – and shhh, don’t tell them – American artists charge for even the smallest drawing. So Kleist drew perfect little illustrations in both the books I bought from him. (So did Eddie Campbell, who used a children’s pencil and pen he had to buy from a local store when he forgot his artists’ tools.)
As Kleist drew, he patiently chatted with me about all things Bowie, even recommending a photographer who had taken pictures of the superstar in his Berlin years.
Now, that’s how you win a fan for life. Kleist is working on his second graphic novel about Bowie, which charts his years in Berlin. It will be on my list to buy when it comes out.
Or maybe I’ll buy it from him at SPX next year and I’ll get another Kleist sketch.
RECOMMENDATIONS … Read more in-depth insights into the Baltimore con and SPX at Esmond’s “Never Iron Anything” website, neverironanything.com.