Saturday’s the Baltimore Comic-Con. Took me a while to get in ‘in the mood’ for it.
Normally, I’m all about the Comic-Con. I love the ‘Artist’s Alley.’ Not the ‘real’ Artist’s Alley, which is slam-full of Guys Of Whom You May Have Heard. Naw, I like the self-publishers. The self-publishers who AREN’T making autobiographical comics featuring anthropomorphic ‘prey animals’ recounting their terrible upbringings and navigating the turbulent seas of Life In One’s Twenties. The self-publishers who make shitty zombie comics, who want so badly for you to commission a Batgirl or a Starfire with, how do I put it, ‘pop-up meat thermometers.’ The self-publishers who hire cheap models to draw attention to their tables. How cheap? Cheaper than Pulaski Highway. Cheaper than North Point Road. You guessed it: Haven Street.
Last year, everybody in the ‘Artist’s Alley’ was flying high. Which bummed me out. I like to see ‘creative’ people make public displays of primal doubt and mortal fear. Last year was unusual. Previous years, you could walk up and down Artist’s Alley and just read everyone’s face; if you paid attention, you’d see them thinking to themselves, “I love this, but I gotta get outta this racket. I’m going nowhere fast. I love to draw, but Photoshop’s had me bent over a barrel for years. I don’t wanna take up the tattoo gun. I’m thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiissss close to torching my drawing table, teaching my self to make dull conversation about sport, making an effort to fit in with onionheads, putting on a smock and going to work in the lowest echelons of retail.”
I haven’t had much time to devote to comics. I visit my local shop every two weeks, mainly to have something to do with the kids on a weekend. The book my son and I loved most to read together, Batman: the Brave and the Bold, was discontinued. A new book, Super Dinosaur, came out, and it’s almost as good. My daughter fell in love with the art in the Tiny Titans books, but that was discontinued, replaced with ‘Superman Family.’ Superman Family is ok — it’s reaaaaally steeped in Richard Donner Superman movie lore — but the Superman Family color scheme’s got nothin’ on the wild variety of Tiny Titans. I’m just a dad trying to get through bedtime storytime as best I can; goddammit, National Periodicals, stop being assholes and help me the fuck out over here!
Last year, Two Morrows Publishing didn’t even rent a table. For those of you who don’t know or care, Two Morrows publishes Back Issue, a magazine devoted to the Plywood Age comics of the mid-70s to the mid-80s. I couldn’t even get a magazine full of fond write-ups of the crap for which I’m soft in the head, but haven’t the time to search out and read.
I tried to take a few hours for myself this past Labor Day weekend and re-read my Tomorrow Stories comics. I miss the ‘funny’ Alan Moore who gave us Splash Brannigan and the First American; it had been several years since I’d read them. Half my Tomorrow Stories, I got them after work on a Thursday and would read them waiting for luckless assholes to come see me at the Full Moon Saloon early shows. They came out that long ago. There have been four shitty movie adaptations of Alan Moore’s ‘serious’ work since then. Mainly, I was bummed that there aren’t any comics like Tomorrow Stories coming out on a regular schedule. Criminal went on some kind of hiatus last year; outside of Futurama, I got nothin’. Although — and it pains me to confess this — those Dark Horse Star Wars comics are pretty good. The middle-schooler who answers the phones at the takeout place around the corner has a big stack of ’em; once you get over the burning, intense shame of liking something so nerdy, they’re damn good. And punctual.
My son surprised me by expressing an interest in this year’s Comic-Con; we’ve gone to them together for the past three years now. Oddly enough, my son remembers what the hell it is we’re supposed to scour the vendor’s stock for: old-school Mattel Cylons and whatever Indiana Jones action figures are left that a) we ain’t got and b) don’t cost much. And my daughter wants to come along, too. I hope they still have stacks and stacks of unwanted kid’s comics like they’ve had for the past several years; if we can snag a dirt-cheap pile of Tiny Titans, we’ll be in clover. Oh yeah, and they wanna go in costume, too. Come on out, point, and laugh. I’ll be the paunchy Indiana Jones, sucking in his gut.