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Boston ComicCon
Review by Daniel Dern
 
Date: 06 June 2011 /

Although I've been to over a hundred science fiction conventions -- mostly Boston-area ones, plus a dozen or more WorldCons (the SF world's annual world science fiction convention), which have included panels and signings by many of my favorite comic book writers and artists, like Phil Foglio and Bill Willingham, I hadn't attended any all-comics events. Until this past weekend, when I went to the 2011 Boston Comic Con, held Saturday April 30, and Sunday May 1, 2011,

2011 was Boston Comic Con's first year at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston Back Bay (next to the Prudential Building in Copley Square) -- a bigger venue, I gather, than in previous years. Admission was $20 for one day or $35 for both days (plus a $1.49 or $1.86 fee).

One of several nice things about holding events in the Hynes (and the Sheraton Hotel, home to Boston's Boskone science fiction convention for many years) -- there's lots of good, affordable sit-down and to-go eating both within the convention center and within the several block radius. (Being right between two MBTA subway stops is another.) Plus there's a Trader Joe's, admittedly a small one, right across the street, good for buying lunch or party provisions.

I've been reading comic books since I was only a single-digit old, and still buy and read them (see some of my reviews and other articles). (Mostly DC, a few Marvels and independents.) (Noted, while I've enjoyed reading them, I'm looking to sell 95% of them -- they're for reading, not investing, few older than the First Crisis.)

So I thought I'd go. I didn't have any particular shopping list. It looks like there's another 10 issues of Oz Squad that I haven't read, and some runs I'd like to have in book format for keeping and re-reading, if I ran into serious bargains. And there were half a dozen autographs I was hoping to get. But for the most part, I was just interested in checking it out.

I wasn't expecting anything on the scale of the Comic-Con International: San Diego a.k.a. San Diego Comic Con, of course. The Hynes is a short trip by Boston's MBTA public transit (a.k.a. "the T") for me, I don't even have to change trains.

I'd already spotted a likely fellow attendee on the T. He was wearing a Batman-logo baseball cap and a bright red shirt with a Superman S-shield. No need to be the world's greatest detective called for here. So I reached into my pocket for my Red Lantern plastic ring (yes, Power Rings now come in a, ahem, rainbow of colors. See the Wikipedia's entry on Blackest Night.) and asked whether he, too, was headed to Comic Con. And of course he was.

The weather Saturday morning was crisply-cool spring, slightly overcast -- perfect weather for waiting in line, and a good thing. I got to the Hynes around 9:30AM, half an hour before the con opened, and the line from the Hynes street-level door had already snaked around the side.

At this point, the crowd looked pretty mundane, that is, not obviously a bunch of comic book geeks. But as we waited, people in costumes began filling up the line -- a Tank Girl, three version of Robin, a toddler in a Batman uniform, a fishnet-stockinged Zatanna, and more.

Despite the fact that many of us had pre-paid, pre-printed-out admission tickets complete with bar code, it took around half an hour from when the door opened at 10:00 AM before I was actually in the con -- and even then, I saved probably ten minutes by being one of the people with a two-day pass, which let us slide at some point to a slightly shorter sub-line. I don't know what took so long -- lots of people helping steer and guide, but not enough people with bar-code readers or whatever. I'm sure many people on line at 10 AM didn't get in until at least 11 AM. Tsk.

Especially "tsk" since Boston Comic Con is primarily a dealers' room, meaning full of companies and shops there to sell comics, graphic novels, and related paraphernalia, and, presumably, most of the attendees have come to shop. I've seen this in too many other circumstances; there's an event, or trip stop, intended to let us shop -- and then an hour or so of our time is wasted waiting. Tsk.

All the SF conventions I've gone to have had extensive "programming" -- sessions, interviews, presentations, slide shows, readers, demos, etc., often along with gaming areas and video rooms. The 2011 Boston Comic Con had a single "track" of panels (including a costume contest), meaning one room -- a relatively small one, with, I'll estimate, between 100 to 150 seats -- for a panel, interview, slide presentation, discussion or whatever.

Outside of that, the con space was one large dealers' room -- I'm guessing slightly bigger than the one at Arisia 2011, in the lower level of the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel (adjacent to the Boston Convention and Exposition Center).

Taking up probably half to two thirds of the space were, established brick'n'morter and online comic sellers, with everything from old to new, three-for-a-dollar boxes and $100-and-up comics, bagged batches of comics, graphic novels and other trade and hardcover comic collections. Plus there was some original comic book art available, prints and paintings of known characters and others, some collecting supplies, and a surprisingly small number of paraphrenalia and other merchandise (figurines, lunchboxes, cards, T-shirts, and the like). Plus there were several dozen other vendors, mostly artists, small press and self-published, hawking their wares.

In the hall space just outside the big ball, there were a number of New England area organizations, like Ghostbusters of New Hampshire, plus some of the autographing was being done out here.

According to the online flyer, over 200 comic book artists (and writers) expected to attend, including Joe Kubert, Frank Quitely, Adam Hughes, Darwyn Cooke, Art Adams, Howard Chaykin, Frank Cho, Tim Sale, and Matt Wagner, to name a few.

I'd brought a short stack of comics in hopes of getting a few autographs, although I expected some would requiring waiting in a long line.

By the time I was in, the space was already reasonably full and hopping -- people looking through the stacks and boxes of comics and of books, moving along the increasingly filled-up walk spaces. Pleasantly, it wasn't noisy, there was no trouble talking with anybody at any of the tables.

I did a complete sweep of the room, including some thumbing through the bargain boxes. I ended up getting three comics for two dollars, one for a buck (which it turns out I'd read), and the other two for another buck, plus one more comic from the free pile in the hall. Not a big spending day for Dern.

Lots more hall costumery showing up. An amazing Pirates of the Carribean pair, not just the Johnny Depp character but also the squid-faced guy. Plus Mister Miracle and Big Barda, Batmen and Jokers, a Catwoman or two, Pamela "Poison" Ivy, Sinestro, and more.

(Here's a great slide show Boston ComicCon 2011 costumery at DigBoston.com.)

Some of the autographing was being done in the main hall. I was on line for one artist... but as I got closer, I saw that this particular artist was charging ten bucks just for an autograph. (Or you could buy one of his books, and get the autograph free.) I stepped back out of line.

In the hallway, I looked at the line to get an autograph from Frank Quitely, whose artwork has graced four-issue miniseries FLEX MENTALLO and his incredible must-read 12-issue run of ALL-STAR SUPERMAN (both written by Grant Morrison)... but the line was too long.

Then I noticed that Arthur Adams had a very short line. I got signatures on two issues of TOM STRONG'S TERRIFIC TALES which have Jonni Future stories in them, the New Mutants Special taking place in Asgard, and a cover he did for a recent issue of WARLORD OF BARSOOM: DEJAH THORIS. If I'd thought of it, I would have also brought the first issue of Longshot. So it goes.

So it's a merely 12:30, and I'm already ready to go... but I'm walking past the events room, and hear that the Howard Chaykin panel will be at 1PM. As in, the creator of AMERICAN FLAGG, illustrator for IRON WOLF, the guy behind a redo of THE SHADOW, not to mention Verigo's AMERICAN CENTURY series, a great Blackhawks graphic novel, a nifty Angel & the Ape mini-series, Cyberella, a Challengers of the Unknown miniseries... to name some of what I'm most familiar with.

Chaykin did a fabulous talk, I'm glad I stayed. And I got my first volume of the American Flagg original trade paperback autographed.

So I left happy enough.

Barring changes in what I'm interested in, or in what the Boston Comic Con does, I don't expect to go back next year. Or if I do, I'll know to only buy a one-day pass.

But that's me. The con delivered exactly what it promised. Most of the people on line clearly had been to several of these before. One father-and-son had come in from upper New York State (also planning to catch a ball game). If I'd thought about it, I would have asked random attendees what brought them there, and whether they were being successful. People were happy, and seemed to be moving around purposefully.

So if you know why you want to go, and believe that Boston Comic Con -- or any other comic con -- is a match, consider going.

On the other hand, I will say this. I enjoy going to my local comic shop (The Outer Limits, in Waltham, in business since 1983). I like browing the bargain bins. But this was in some ways too much -- comic book overload, if you will.

And hey, dealers, it's hard to browse those boxes of comics if they're so full we can't see what's in them. Give us a few inches of space so we can skim through. You did bring them to try and sell, didn't you?

And, in the words of Stan Lee, 'Nuff said!

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