Channel the entity "Jeff Parker" from beyond the Ether

Friday, June 25, 2004

Heroes Con 2004: Charlotte 


It's never really a good idea to drive to a show the morning of, but a new addition to I-85 that avoids Greensboro was open, and that made the trip go by much faster than usual. Soon we're checking into the host hotel Westin and marvelling at the feather bed in our room. Normally I'd go into the hall early and jaw with the guests and retailers for a while before the doors opened, but this time I decided to act all responsible. Charlotte is also where the offices of Baker and Taylor are, the distributor that handles lots of orders for Interman for the country's libraries. I took the rest of the morning to go meet the people who handle my invoices and send me checks, and that's always time well-spent. I learned a lot more about their operation, too. Thanks to Wendy Pierce and all the nice people who popped out from their cubicles to say hi.

I get back at the convention around noon, and see the man of the hour, Shelton Drum. We catch up and I let him go because he has a show to run and fires to put out. In Artist Alley, Shelton has placed me with my old studiomates Richard Case and Mike Wieringo. Over to the side there you can find Mike's blog on my list, check it out. I never tire of reading his praise of Karl Kesel that's been up for almost a year now. It's like an old friend, that I can always count on to be there for me when I click his blog. Actually, Mike did a nice little photo essay of this show on the message board he DOES maintain regularly, right here. Board hosted by Comic Book Resources.

Between Mike and me is Ford Gilmore, doing the show for the first time. Actually I should say some of his Illuminati sketchbooks and Dave Johnson's SPORK books that he brought along were sitting between us, with Ford dropping by from time to time to ask "could you watch this for me?". On the other side of me, Richard Case is doing one awesome commission after another, I wish I'd got him to get copies that I could have put on here. He may not browbeat people for scans like I do though.

Hey, there's another pal, the talented Randy Green. Randy shows me pictures of his dang cute kids, and I show him mine in real time, as Allison makes Jill help her toddle all over the room. Later Jill (who is a good artist and thus qualified to deliver this blow) comes back to that table and announces "Some of these artists are really bad!". There, I didn't say it, and I don't know who she was referring to, so you can't blame me. Randy however, good-- though he seems to be scared of cameras.

Dinner was a miserable evening at Uno Pizzeria, the closest walking distance restaurant. The managers weren't warned a convention was in town, a convention full of people who probably have an inclination towards pizza. So they were overwhelmed and understaffed, and the air conditioning went out. Not worth doting on. Much neater was on the way back walking through the mini-park that had sculpture shaped like book pages and short conundrums set into the sidewalk. Also a squirting fountain you can walk through, though it wasn't on. We all ruminated on what a nice downtown Charlotte has. Then it was time to check out the scene at the Westin Bar.

The nice thing about Heroes now that the host hotel is right behind the convention center is that it's a one-bar show again, where you can find everyone paying way too much for beer. Five smackers a bottle, aiee! I only hang out for about a half hour because all at once people all over the room decide that it's the mid 90's again and smoking cigars is back. So all these a-holes with fuming dog turds between their teeth are making my eyes water, but I tough it out for a bit because Tommy Lee Edwards is telling about Batman Begins. Tommy has been doing movie-related artwork for it, but the studio is being ultra-secretive about giving out images or info, as if people into comics movies might go put things on the internet or somesuch. So they flew Tommy to England so he could see the Batcave and the car and all kinds of neat stuff. That trumps the hell out of my being at the shoot of Nelly's "Ride Wit' Me" video.

I see Hulman and Sun, better known as The Pats, and try to talk to them, but they're both focused on the game of Texas Hold'em going on at one of the tables. Those plucky Nate and Steve creators were in the frey, wearing their best poker faces. Their chips were shrinking fast, but check them out, they make excellent comics. Good thing, 'cause they'll never make a living playing poker.

Now my clothes stink from all these Stuckey's novelty cigars everyone has, so I hit the double-nozzled shower and go to bed. Oh, that double-nozzled shower....


Are you familiar with the magic that happens when you haven't had coffee in a few weeks and then you suddenly get one, say a nice latte? I felt silly-good, and it came through in my sketches. Just the brief sketches I do in the front of readers' books were coming out nicer than if I'd taken an hour.
A muscular couple make the rounds in costume as Electro and ... the Black Cat? Is that right? Wait, there's an X-belt... so she's... White Storm? I give up. I was too focused on the fact that the guy had worked a grill lighter into the finger of his costume so he could actually make a little electrical arc. He also enjoyed making threatening gestures at every kid wearing a Spiderman shirt, so points for that too. Later I find out this couple make the costumes for sale, and work through several in a day. That afternoon they reappeared as Hawkman and Hawkwoman.

The next day they popped in once more as Mr. Fantastic and Sue Storm, but I guess I didn't get a picture of it. In fact, lots of my shots didn't come out, normally I'd show a lot more hijinks. But I used a disposable, because I'm tired of waiting for my old digital camera to boot up and capture the moment after the moment I wanted. Later I remember that I'm supposed to provide some thoughts on the legendary Romitas for an upcoming book about them, so I head over to the dealer table ran by Big Earl Shaw and Charles Lawrence. They lend me some early Spiderman, around #40, when John Sr. was still emulating Ditko a bit and transitioning the book into his own style. That helps me get some thoughts together, and I'm so grateful I even returned the book. I'm quite a guy, yes.

I see Craig Zablo of Stallone Zone.com again, and look at the new renditions of Sly that he's getting at this show. Stallone needs buy Craig a car or something, he provides a website better than Demolition Dredd deserves. Then I see my old college-days collaborator Micah Harris at his table, meeting his public. Micah and Michael Gaydos recently put out Heaven's War, which did really well for Image. I feel like an ass because I bought it recently and it's still on my To Read pile next to my desk-- hey, I been busy. I see a new project that Micah's writing that's really cool and deserving of its own entry, so I'll talk about it later on as it comes together.


That night a big batch of headed out to the place I talked about in last year's Heroes report, Lupie's. Southern cooking with a hipster vibe. Again, it still wasn't Chicken n' Dumplings night, consarn it, but I had me some barbecue. Allie was happy because she had kids to play with. Casey and Laura Jones brought Li'l Audrey, and Chris and Krista Kemple brought Li'l Mallory. Rich Case felt unprepared since he has as many kids as all of us combined, but didn't have any on him this weekend. Scott Hampton finds kids amusing, but never showed much interest in owning one. As usual, he wanted to tell ghost stories. And finally, I got to see Scott and Casey see something they've been waiting for for freaking ever. Chris finally found the NASA Ghost Picture his aunt took when visiting Cape Canaveral years ago. I think I've mentioned this before-- you've really gotta see it to believe it, or don't believe it, be that way. But it's really cool and weird. Casey, who recently got me into listening to Coast to Coast AM (formerly the Art Bell Show) was telling some fun conspiracy stories and the bit about the Russian Drillers who recorded Hell (sorry I can't find the audio), but I think I saw him go through epiphany when Kemple broke out that picture. He's promised to scan it and send to me, so I'll finally show you this thing when I get it. Then you along with a select few can say, "What the hell is THAT?"

We ate and ate and ate, and then we ate Banana puddin'. Lupie's is really close to Shelton's flagship Heroes Aren't Hard To Find store; if you're in Charlotte, patronize their business.

Back at the hotel the girls go to bed, and I grab my markers and head down to the Westin bar to see everyone and work on commissions. Much less smoky tonight, I guess it wasn't a-hole night. People are looking over my shoulder, confused by the commission I'm working on: Enik the Time Travelling Sleestak from the Past (though he thought he was from the future) from Land of the Lost. It was for that pesky Zack Smith (see the 2003 San Diego con report) who couldn't make it to the show, but sent a friend to collect the piece for his Krofft Superstars sketchbook. This "Greg" character never showed up Sunday to take the piece, so now I gotta mail it. Here it is below, along with the Tesla Strong I did in the book of another online staple, John Popa.

Artist Thomas Fleming asked me how I was able to pull Chaka out of my head, but I asked him: once you've seen Chaka the monkeyboy's mug, how could you ever forget it? Then a few of us debated the name of the baby brontosaurus that followed Holly around and ate those giant strawberries she laid out for it. I think we finally agreed that it was called "Dopey". Below are writer Duane Schilz and the overly muscled Fleming. He can't help it, his body doesn't produce Myostatin, the protein that inhibits muscle growth. See German Superchild, two posts earlier.

I like working on sketches at bars, it keeps me too occupied to blow a lot of money on drinks, and I hear interesting discussions because I'm not talking. I sat between Neil Vokes and Patrick Hulman, and they got on the subject of samurai movies. I could have never hung with them in this discussion, they went beyond the ones I'd seen in the first few seconds. The best I could do was chime in "I like samurais" every few minutes. Vokes finally justified his entire existence as I was working on a Poison Ivy piece, when Hulman pointed out that I was doing the exact same shot I did for an auction piece a few years ago. Boy, what a small bag of tricks have I. I kept sketching other poses, and Neil couldn't help but work on it as well in his mind, as does any artist worth their salt when someone else is moving a pencil around in front of them. Finally he showed me a neat concept where Ivy was popping out of a blossoming plant, and I went with that. It turned out great, but I'll just have to wait until Terry the Ivy Guy decides to send me a copy. Sorry to build it up so much and then not show you. Here's a picture of my daughter driving a tractor in North Carolina instead.

Okay, I failed this year and didn't produce an auction piece. I still had commissions to finish, so that took up the rest of the day. And the auction this year was a lot sleepier than usual. Not a surprise, the economy is bad, and it still really needs George Perez to come back and be the auctioneer. I'm not really a big fan of his work, but man, the guy could sell a blind artist's sketch of Sad Sack for a profit. Maybe the thing needs to move to Saturday, before a lot of people leave town for the weekend. This has to be solved, because the Heroes auction is one of those special events that everyone should go to at some point, and it must remain great. Wieringo's Fantastic Four piece got the highest bid at $900, and close behind was Brian Stelfreeze's Mary Jane painting. Third was Scott Hampton's Batman.

The end of the show always has all the pros convening at The Graduate, a bar a little south of town. This time the Graduate was unavailable and instead we all went to the Thomas St. Bar ( I think), and I liked that place even better. The free pizza (Thanks Cynthia Drum!) was delicious, and we were able to sit outside in a big deck area. I was catching up with Cully Hamner and Jason Pearson when Allison toddled up and started playing in the ice bin where all the beer was. The bin was the same height as one of her toy boxes and seemed just like the kind of thing she pokes around in, so she got busy taking beers out and putting them on the deck. This amused pretty much everybody around, and I realized that no one else brought their kids to the bar. I took the li'l barmaid over to the ping-pong tables and Jill and I played a few rounds while trading off holding the baby.

That was a good time. Heroes is ALWAYS a good time, it's one of America's great comics shows. If you've never been, you should really do it once, you'll be surprised at how relaxed it is and how many great guests turn out for it.


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